Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 New Year's Eve Balloon Countdown for Kids

It is almost time for our 5th Annual Balloon Countdown! (This link will take you to our past countdowns:

Here is our lineup of activities: 
Make noisemakers-1:10
Make toilet paper confetti poppers-1:45
Spa party time--paint nails, do the foot bath, facial masks, etc-2:05
Make a wishing wall-2:45
Hot chocolate bar-3:17
Make homemade soft pretzels-4:15
Make a snowstorm in a jar-5:05
Make paper fortunes for each other-5:45
Make 2018 cheese bread-6:00
Make a Foosball game out of a shoe box-6:22
Make fire ice cream-7:15
Make a positive comment jar-7:25
Pain your "one word" on canvas-7:35
Complete the traditional New Year's questions-8:02
Photo booth time--dress up and pose-8:15
Visit the concession stand-8:45
Do milk firework experiment-9:05
STEM challenge--make something New Year's related (noise maker, disco ball, crown, sign, clock)-9:20
Pick a resolution game-10:00
Make play dough fireworks-10:20
Scavenger hunt-10:40
Glow in the dark game-11:00
Minute to win it games: Cotton ball game, marshmallow toss, ping pong peanut butter, and that's a wrap-11:10
Get out the "Good luck food"--grapes, noodles, pomegranate-11:45
Get ready for the toast and the balloon drop-11:55

For the past couple of days, we have been making things out of cardboard boxes. These games will be filler for any down time we have.

Here we have skee-ball and a marble run (you place a marble in any of the top slots. The marble will go to one of the cups below. There are points written on the cups. This reminds me of The Wall game show.)

This is our prize box board. Behind each piece of tissue paper is a small prize each kid will receive. There are 12 boxes per child. 

This is our cardboard box claw machine. Using one of the claw picker upper tools, the kids stand behind it (they can't see what they are reaching for) and try to grab a toy and get it in the drop down chute. I used tablecloth to cover this. 

The concession stand is also made from a cardboard box. The kids will visit this later in the night. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Winter STEM Family Night

It was too cold to go anywhere today, so we came up with some fun activities to do together at home. We decided to make our theme "Winter STEM". I wrote up 8 challenge cards and we took turns picking a number to find out which challenge we would do next. We broke up in boys vs. girls teams to do each challenge.
(We have a makerspace area in our home, so we used a lot of the supplies I have in there:

Challenge #1: Draw a maze that will get the snowball to the snowman. I hot glued a magnet to a little Styrofoam ball and hot glued another magnet to a large Popsicle stick. We each drew a maze on a piece of paper and tried each other's mazes out.

Challenge #2: Build a sled and a ramp using any materials in the makerspace. We came up with very different designs for this!

Challenge #3: Build an igloo using any materials in the makerspace. 

Challenge #4: Make a geoboard snowflake

Challenge #5: Make a snowman using toothpicks and marshmallows. 

Challenge #6: Guess how much water is actually in snow. (We filled this bottle with snow and drew our guesses on the bottle. We let it melt while we did some of the other challenges.) 

Challenge #7: Make an exploding snowman (Draw a snowman on a ziplock baggie that has baking soda inside. Add vinegar and seal immediately. The bag will fill with pressure and pop.) 

Challenge #8: Design a snowflake--we had hole punches, paper, and scissors to create our best snowflake design. 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Weighted Blanket

I have been wanting to make a weighted blanket for a while. Here is what I came up with...

I bought some Poly Pellets from I found the 10 pound box to be the cheapest. I also got some stuffing from Walmart. The only other thing you need is the fabric you want to make the blanket out of. I bought a yard of fabric for the top and a yard for the bottom. The amount of fabric just depends on how big you want to make your blanket. For a 4-5 pound blanket, the yard of fabric was more than enough.
For the width of the 4 pound blanket, I just cut the fabric in half. The length was about 48 inches. You can really make it as wide or long as you want. The next ones I do, I will make a little wider. 

Start by putting the top and bottom pieces of fabric together. You want to pin them together so they are inside out. You will flip it right side out later. (At this point, the bright sides of the fabric should not be visible on the outside.) 
Sew both sides together. The top and bottom of the blanket should be left open. 

Now, flip the fabric right side out. The colors and prints are now visible, the sides are sewn shut and the top and bottom should remain open.

Sew a horizontal line across the middle of the blanket. If you look at the picture above, you can see where I pinned the middle line. I used a pencil and a ruler to make sure my line was straight.

Next, decide how many columns you want for your blanket. For this size blanket, I divided it into four columns. Pin and sew three vertical lines down the entire blanket. (If you are making a larger blanket, you will want more columns.) 

The next step is to mark out the rest of the horizontal rows. I decided to do 4 rows on each half. I used a pencil and a ruler to mark out each row. Each square measured 5x6 inches. 

Each square has about 1/2 cup of poly pellets and a handful of the stuffing. I didn't measure out the stuffing; I just tried to grab about the same amount each time. 

I added the pellets and the stuffing in each column. Use your hand to evenly place the stuffing. Then I pined the fabric at the line I had already drawn. I sewed the row to create four squares. 

You repeat that process until the rows on that half of the blanket are finished. (It is important to sew a line down the middle so you can reach your hand in the column to smooth out the stuffing in each square.) 

Flip the blanket around and repeat the process for the second half of the blanket. 
This is what the finished product looks like. The hardest part is sewing the ends together. Make sure you pin it before you sew it. I did a double stitch at the top and bottom of the blanket. 

Here is another one I made where the squares were a little bit bigger. (5 1/2 x 6 1/2 inches). 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Little Caesars Arena Gingerbread Arena

Two years ago we made a Palace gingerbread arena. ( The link provides the recipe I used for the gingerbread dough and frosting. 

This year we decided to update the arena and turn it into the Little Caesars Arena. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Pumpkin Bread

I found this recipe online yesterday and decided to give it a try. It is absolutely delicious. (

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 sticks of butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 15 oz can of pumpkin

Place the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl. Whisk the dry ingredients together. 
In a separate bowl, whip the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time. Then add in the pumpkin. 
Beat the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just mixed. 

Grease and flour two loaf pans. Add the batter. Cook for about 55 minutes at 325 degrees. 

The bread is incredibly moist.

I'm Thankful For...Craft

We made "I'm Thankful For..." Popsicle stick fans tonight. 

Start by taping five sets of two Popsicle sticks. 
Flip each set over and tape the five sets together. 

It will now fold up like a fan. 

Write I'm Thankful For on the top stick. Then we added eight things we are thankful for. The kids colored the sticks with markers, tape, and stickers. 

You can fold them up and tie them with a ribbon or pipe cleaner if you want to make them into an ornament or hang them somewhere. 

Turkey Craft

For this craft, we used cardstock, a toilet paper roll, tissue paper, and google eyes. Rachel painted the white cardstock brown, picked colors for her feathers, and glued on tissue paper. She then decorated the turkey body with google eyes, cardstock, and markers. 
It is now the tree topper for our Thanksgiving tree. 

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Halloween Scavenger Hunt and Dinner Party

We decided to have some Halloween fun tonight. We had a Halloween-theme dinner, a scavenger hunt, and did some Halloween crafts and activities. 

For dinner we had spaghetti, bone bread sticks, jack-o-lantern mac and cheese cups, and purple people eater drink (ice cream and grape soda). 
I had some glow-in-the-dark balloons, so I attached each scavenger hunt clue to one of the balloons. Here are the clues: 
Starting clue: Halloween; a spooky time. Clues are written so they rhyme. Start this quest with great fear. Clue #1 is near Root Beer. 

Clue #1 (with 6 rolls of toilet paper): This TP will wrap two mummies. But they 1st need to fill their tummies. Candy can be found at your next stop, Which is where bags go after we shop. 

Clue #2 (basket with movie candy): Once the sweets are eaten, calories to burn. So Mom has a game where points are earned. Before anyone can take the 1st turn, you'll need to report where a fire (kinda) burns. 

Clue #3 (Slime game): Shooting is fine but your brain needs to grow. Putting things together makes your neurons flow. Lego kits are great but you gotta find it. Maybe consider what can make Franklin stop to sit. 

Clue #4 (Vampire Lego set): This ghastly hunt is almost done, But we are only starting the fun. The final prize is great for "chunkin" So, I'd go look inside a Pumpkin. 

(Final prize was items to make a catapult and fire candy corn into the glasses.) 

For this hunt, we turned off all of the lights and used little lanterns. Each clue had the glow-in-the-dark balloon by it too. 

We took turns making each other mummies. 

We made little ghost lights out of a tea light and ping pong ball. I cut a little slit in the ping pong ball and the kids drew a face and put it on the tea light (found at the Dollar Tree). 

We also played "roll a pumpkin". We used dice to roll a number. The numbers told us which part of the pumpkin to draw (1=pumpkin, 2=left eye, 3=right eye, 4=nose, 5=stem, 6=mouth). 

We also made some glow-in-the-dark Frankensteins. I found these storage containers at the Dollar Tree. I filled them with glow-in-the-dark filling I found at Michael's. We glued on eyes and drew on a face. 

We played some of the other games from the Scavenger Hunt and finished the night watching a Halloween movie. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Leaving a Legacy

This week I had to say goodbye to a woman that meant so much to me and my family. While reflecting on her life, I realized just how much she impacts the way I live my life. 

The things we do each day and how we respond to others is what leaves our legacy. A question I ask myself and encourage my children and students to think about is, "How do you want to be remembered?" This is how I will always remember my Grandma...
It is said that your legacy is determined by the number of hearts you touch within your lifetime. Well...Grandma Ross definitely left a legacy that most people can only dream of creating. The memories she created with each of us here are numerous and vivid. Almost all of my childhood memories have Grandma Ross in them. I can’t begin to describe how grateful I am that our family was so close and living in close proximity made it possible to see Grandma and Grandpa almost every day of my life.  But it wasn’t just the fact that she did everything she could to see us and spend time with us. She made it her mission to make every moment special for each of us. The traditions she created and cherished will always hold a special place in my heart.  It wouldn’t have been Thanksgiving season without the pomegranate she always dropped off for us, it wouldn’t have been Christmas without seeing the treasures she carefully chose for each of our handmade bags or displaying the ornaments she made for our tree. It wouldn’t have been Easter without our hand stitched basket displaying our name. And everyone could always count on a special calendar for Christmas and a Hallmark card with a magazine subscription for our birthday. Jenna still can’t buy a card without checking to make sure it is Hallmark. Grandma never missed a birthday, anniversary, or holiday and marked them all with the most heartfelt cards you could find.

I don’t think there is a family member here that didn’t have a hat or piece of clothing made by Grandma. She always knew just what design fit each of us. And most of the pictures from my childhood are marked with one of the shirts Grandma made me. Whether it was a sweatshirt with a troll that had yarn hair, a shirt with glow-in-the dark puffy paint, a three-on-three shirt she created, or a handmade holiday dress, Grandma had all of that covered. And who could forget the beautiful Barbie clothes she crocheted for us. I felt so special having her one-of-a-kind creations. And I know we all will hang our stockings with a little extra care at Christmas. I can’t even begin to think about the number of hours she spent creating things for her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

And speaking of hours spent on us, there is not a moment in our lives that was not captured and saved by Grandma. Grandma saved every memento from our lives and created numerous scrapbooks for each of us. It wasn’t just pictures, but it was newspaper clippings, the number of points we scored in each game, napkins from special parties, report cards, certificates, everything...If they were special moments for us, they were special moments for her and she saved them so we would always have them.

There probably isn’t a person in this room that didn’t learn something from Grandma. Most importantly, we all learned how to love from her. But it went beyond that... she made it a personal mission to teach others valuable skills.  Her crafting store and classes taught so many of us how to crochet, how to sew, how to craft. Her skills will never be matched by anyone. And when I held her hand last week and told her how much I treasured her and those hands because of all of the things they showed me, she simply replied that she didn’t feel like she was ever doing anything special. She showed us those things because they were important and they meant we got to share those moments. That was just who she was. She never felt like she was ever doing anything extra...those were just the things she thought made a life worth living.

And now, as I sit here reflecting on the legacy Grandma left for me, I realize she has truly shaped me into the person I have become. Traditions and making everyday special are so important to me now because that’s the foundation she created. Crafting, crocheting, and sewing are the things I try to teach my own kids because those were the things she took the time to teach me. Collecting stamps and coins and other artifacts from our history are rooted in my own children because those are the things she did with me. Setting up a Christmas village will forever be a tradition in my home because it was in hers. And if it wouldn’t have been for her showing me a love for reading by buying me more books than I could begin to count, I wouldn’t be an English teacher today sharing that love for reading. I don’t think the things I do are special either, they are just the things that make a life worth living….It is safe to say her legacy for me is great. And I know that is the case for each of you sitting out there today. I only hope I can be half the woman for my kids that she was for me.

Jen said it best last night, “Grandma was always there! At everything, supporting us all. She lived for we just have to remember to take her along for the rest of our ride.” We need to continue the traditions and think of her everytime we see or do something we learned from her. Grandma, I hope you know you will always be with me. Almost everything I do reminds me of you. You will forever hold a special place in my heart and will be with me forever. And I’ll try to make your ribbon jello salad, because it wouldn’t be a party without your signature dish!

Thank you Grandma for being you, for loving us for who we are, and for leaving a legacy that can’t be matched. We love you.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Jan Thomas Book Birthday Party

Rachel's favorite author is Jan Thomas. We read at least one Jan Thomas book each night at bedtime. Last night she picked, A Birthday for Cow. While we were reading, we noticed Cow's birthday is Oct. 17th! So, naturally, we decided we must celebrate Cow's birthday. (Throughout the book, the characters spend time making the perfect cake. All duck wants to bring to the party is a turnip. It turns out, Cow loves the turnip best!)

We finished the cake tonight for Cow's Birthday Party tomorrow. The kids are very excited to celebrate tomorrow. (Anything to get kids excited about books!)