Friday, July 6, 2018

Good, Clean Summer Fun: Backyard Hand Washing Station

My kids love playing outside in the dirt. The boys have been known to dig holes for no reason. April digs through the compost pile to find roly-polies. I love the fact that my kids enjoy spending time outside interacting with nature. But I do not want that nature coming into the house. A few years ago I set up a hand-washing station in our front yard. They kids love the ease of being able to wash their hands outside without having to come in the house. I love the ability to say, "Don't come in until your hands are clean."

If you'd rather watch a video tutorial, here you go. Otherwise, keep scrolling. (Sorry for the WeVideo logo--I'm still trying out different free video editors for the video production class I will be teaching next school year.)

Outdoor hand-washing stations are easy, inexpensive, and quick to set up. All you need is a pair of old tights, bar soap, and scissors.

1.  Cut the legs off of the tights.

2.  Insert bar soap into opening. Bonus: this is a great way to use up soap scraps.

3.  Push soap to foot of tight leg.

4.  Tie around outside faucet. I have one in the front yard and one in the backyard.

5.  Let the hand washing commence!

Monday, July 2, 2018

Keeping Summer Activities Organized

Remember the fabulous backpack center I made during the school year? If not, you can check it out here.

It definitely kept our backpack area clean, homework time and mornings a little less stressful, and Mommy a little more sane. I should have done it years ago!

Well, now that it is summer, the backpack center has transformed into the summer activities center. The backpacks have been stored away in the kids' closets until August and replaced by our outing necessities. I find that I am a lot more likely to get the kids out of the house if it takes less effort and work to get ready to go. Most of our activities involve the pool, so I keep all the pool essentials organized and ready-to-go at any moment.


Snack bag: The kids are always hungry, especially if they are being active at the pool, park, or beach. I take a variety of snacks on every outing to avoid hangry kids. I make sure any fresh fruit is cut for ease while at the pool. And I always take a stack of little paper cups to divvy up blueberries, goldfish crackers, grapes, and other small items so wet hands aren't fishing around in the containers. If we will be somewhere that doesn't have a water fountain, I also toss water bottles in the snack bag.

Grapes and blueberries in a non-squishable container.

Grape tomatoes in a non-squishable container.

Small water cups allow me to serve up snacks without wet
hands reaching into the snack containers.
They love fruit!

Blankets: We generally take two blankets--one designated as the "wet blanket" and the other designated as the "dry blanket." The old bed quilt is the wet blanket and the water-proof picnic blanket is the dry blanket. The water-proof bottom of the picnic blanket keeps moisture from the ground underneath from wicking up to those who wish to stay dry. And the lack of a water-proof layer on the wet blanket allows the water from the kids' bodies to drain through to the ground underneath and not pool up on the blanket.

Dry blanket on the left; wet blanket on the right.

This fantastic picnic blanket was a gift from my dad's cousin.

You can find them on Amazon or on the Tuffo website.

Folding instructions sewn in!!

Supplies bag: Goggles, sunscreen, snack money, pool information, books, pool toys, hair bands, etc. I keep every pair of goggles we own in the pool bag even though we don't need them all. Very often, the kids will make friends at the pool and will offer them a pair of our extra goggles. I also try to keep at least two bottles of sunscreen in the bag. Normally, I prefer to have only one of each such item, but it just makes sunscreening four to six people a lot faster to have two bottles.

My purse: When we head to the pool, I just transfer the few things I need from my purse to the supplies bag and leave it at home. Keeping my purse next to the supplies bag helps me remember to transfer items back and forth as necessary.

"Where are the towels?" you might be wondering. Each kid is responsible for his/her own towel. Before we leave for the pool, water park, or beach, they each grab their own towel and take it to the car with them. Mommy and Daddy do not carry kid towels. As soon as we return home from our outing, they each hang up their wet towel on the designated hook in their rooms. Of course, my kids are real kids and sometimes the towels don't actually make it to the hooks. When I find towels that are not put away, the culprits owe me a load of laundry washed, dried, and sorted. It won't take them long to learn to remember to put their towels away as soon as we get home.

Of course, this type of system will work with any type of activities. You may not be a pool family, but perhaps you have gymnastics, Tae Kwon Do, basketball, summer school, day camp, or music lessons. Designating a central location for activity supplies will make getting out of the house and to those activities more efficient.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Kids' Summer Cooking 2018, Week 2

This was a busy week with swim lessons for all four kids, doctor and dentist appointments for all six of us (some of us had multiple), pet sitting a bird, a gymnastics competition for April, a concert in San Francisco and youth group for Keanna, some bowling time for all the kids, an A's game for all of us and my parents, and a family outing to the opening of a community dog park.

Even with all the busyness and activity, we still required each kid to prepare one dinner. This week's menu was really fun and delicious:

The challenging one this week was April's menu. She specifically requested to make homemade French fries and not start with frozen ones in a bag. I knew that I would have to do the actual frying for safety reasons and that is a task that needs full attention, so I recruited Bapa (my dad) to help April grill her burgers in the backyard. Of course, the grill was also too hot for her to actually handle the meat on it, so we gave her as many jobs as we could so it was still her meal. For the French fries, she cut most of the potatoes.

April cut.

I fried.

They were soooo delicious!

For the burgers, my dad taught her how to evenly season the meat, how to avoid cross contamination when working with raw meat, and how to form patties.


Notice April's hanging out in the trampoline while Bapa does
the hot work of cleaning the grill.

When the meat was just about done, he let her put the cheese slices on the patties.


Hopefully in the near future, I'll have time to blog the process of making chimichangas. They are so easy and so good!

This coming week, the kids have double duty. Not only do they have to make one dinner, but they each have to make something to take to a 4th of July celebration. I'm looking forward to seeing what they all pick!

Monday, June 25, 2018

April's Summer Fruit Salad

My kids are frugivores (animals that eat fruit). We have to ration the fruit so they don't eat themselves into some serious tummy troubles. Our staple fruits are apples (Fuji and Granny Smith), bananas, and oranges. I buy those all year because they are almost always reasonably priced. But now that it's summer, other fruits have gone down in price! This week I bought peaches, nectarines, cherries, blueberries, and strawberries. The kids are loving the variety.

About two weeks ago, April wanted to "make something with fruit." So I gathered what fruit we had at the time, and we threw together a fruit salad. It was an instant hit, and she has since made it two more times. The great thing about April's fruit salad is that you can use any fruit you want or that you happen to have on hand. Besides the fresh fruit I mentioned above, she has also used canned mandarin oranges and frozen peaches.

One thing to note is that you will want to adjust the amount of brown sugar depending on your personal preference and the sweetness of the fruit you use. You can also substitute other types of sweeteners if you prefer not to use brown sugar.

As the salad sits in the fridge, the juices will start to come out of the fruit so be sure to eat it within a few hours or up to one day of mixing it.

Regardless of how you make it, this fruit salad is sure to be a great addition to any summer meal.

April's Fruit Salad
5 c. bite-sized fruit pieces
1 c. Greek yogurt
2-3 Tbsp. brown sugar (or more or less depending on preference and sweetness of fruit)

Put all ingredients in a large bowl. Gently and thoroughly mix until brown sugar is dissolved into yogurt and all fruit is evenly coated.

Knife skills are valuable for children to learn.

Beautiful colors! This batch contains pitted and halved cherries,
blueberries, strawberries, Granny Smith apples, and Fuji apples.

April loves it when she has properly packed the brown sugar
and it retains its shape.

Stir gently so the fruit doesn't get smashed.

Enjoy the fruit salad of your labor!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Kids' Summer Cooking 2018, Week 1

Summer vacation!! Woohoo!! After a whirlwind of a finish to the school year, a graduation celebration, and a couple road trips, we are settled into our summer routine. More about all that later. But that means the kids are cooking dinner! Each kid is cooking one dinner each week.

Week 1
Keanna: creamy pesto with bow tie pasta and Greek salad (Kimiko's salad recipe here)
Lukas: pancakes (see Kimiko's recipe here)
Koda: pizza with homemade dough (focaccia as the crust!)
April: baked potatoes, chili, and broccoli

Meanwhile, as the kids are enjoying swimming lessons, summer reading time, play dates, and more time outside, I am preparing for next school year. For the fist time, I will be teaching a video production elective. Consequently, I'm having to produce some example videos to show my students what my expectations for them are. Using pictures I had readily available on my phone, I threw this video together while experimenting with Adobe Spark. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Taming the Kids' Dishes

I actually enjoy doing dishes. Most of the time. The warm water. The clean kitchen afterward. It's rewarding to me. But that doesn't mean I want to be doing dishes all the time.  During the school year, I have very little time at home with my family. As much as I like clean dishes, I was saddened by the fact that I had to say "No" to other things to get them done. Yes, ideally, my kids should be doing all the dishes by now. But due to our season in life and our daily schedule, that's just something we can't do right now.

A few months ago I finally got fed up with the amount of time I was spending on dishes, and I took a drastic step--I donated all the plastic kid dishes.* Seriously. We had about a dozen Pampered Chef plastic plates and various Ikea kid dishes. That was one of the problems. We had too many dishes. With so many dishes in the cupboard, the kids felt like they could get a dish out any time they wanted. We had trained them to rinse their dishes and put them in the dishwasher (or the sink if the dishwasher was full/clean/running). But I still spent so much time unloading the dishwasher, hand drying the plastic stuff that didn't dry in the dishwasher, reloading the dishwasher, and hand washing all the dishes that didn't fit in the dishwasher. With our crazy schedule, there were always dishes in the sink.

"I donated all the plastic kid dishes."

With my cupboards empty, I replaced the old kid dishes with nine new kid dishes. Each of the younger ones has exactly one plate, one bowl, and one cup. These are the only dishes they are allowed to use. After each use, they hand wash, dry, and put their dishes away. Each kid has a different color so there is no arguing about who left their dishes out or who forgot to clean theirs. Keanna is old enough to use the real, grown-up dishes so I didn't buy her a set.

"Each of the younger ones has exactly one plate, one bowl, and one cup... After each use, they hand wash, dry, and put their dishes away."

Kid dishes go in the lower cupboard for
easy access by little people.

I bought these at Target for $0.79 each. They have a lot of color, size, and style options. All of them seem to stack very easily and neatly.

There was some whining and complaining the first couple of weeks, but now they know what is expected and they do it with happy hearts. An added bonus is that they kids now think twice before using any dishes. It is very rewarding to see my kids learn the skills they will need as an adult and take ownership over a small part of dish duty. And it's nice to be able to spend time the extra time doing things with my children.

*I actually did keep a few of the old plastic dishes for when the nieces and nephews and neighbor kids are here,but they are out of sight, out of reach of my children. I am considering getting rid of those and getting a few more sets of these Target ones in a different color.
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