Monday, September 24, 2012

On a personal note...

Some of my readers may have noticed I have rarely been posting anything lately.  Unfortunately this has been a result of lack of time, not lack of ideas.  Let me give you a glimpse into what I have been up to lately.

Let me start at the beginning.  2 years ago my husband got a new job.  I decided to quit my job at a local software company and leave my steady income and great health insurance to stay home with my little girl.  Best decision ever - but also a decision that made things very hard.  We went from 2 pretty stable incomes to 1 income (the type of income people start out in hopes of getting something better, not the type of income you use to support a family of 3, a cat, and a mortgage.)

I was torn.  I wanted to help support my family in a way that made a difference, but it was very important to me to be able to stay home with Lily.

I looked into a few options, including making crafts and selling them, which I ultimately decided would be too time consuming with not enough payoff.  I wasn't willing to do anything to make money that involved selling things to my friends or family, or "take a gamble" on a paycheck each month based off of how much of something I had sold.

As I was thinking about this one day I remembered someone I used to know who supported her family doing Medical Transcripting from home.  I won't go into the details of how it all happened, but I will tell you I was definitely prompted and guided to eventually choose to go back to school to become a medical transcriptionist.

I chose Career Step because I had heard that they were one of the best schools out there, so often times a company that needed to hire would go directly to Career Step and ask for recommendations from their recent graduates, making it much easier to find a job after graduation.  It felt right, so I went for it.  I am so glad I did.

School was completely self-paced and online, so I ended up putting it off for a while due to some other priorities in my life and picked up again seriously just this summer when I finally finished.

I found out I had graduated with honors, and then just 10 days later I had an offer for a job.  I had applied and tested for a lot of companies on my own, but Career Step was actually the one who found me the job I took doing just what I had heard about, recommending me to a company who had come straight to Career Step looking to hire.

I got my dream job - the one I worked so hard through school to get.  The job I got lets me choose my own hours - and even how many hours I want to work which can vary week to week.  They just pay me for what I do.  It is the perfect home-based job for a stay-at-home mom looking to earn some extra money.

So that is why I haven't been on much lately.  I really do have intentions of posting how-to's for the list of projects I still have to post about .  I am still planning on making that happen.  Posts just may be inconsistent.

**After graduating and getting a job I have had many friends ask me how to get into this.  I really do totally recommend it.  Please email me at jessica@utahcountymom.com for more details - I have a lot of useful information to share if you are interested!!  I know it may sound "too good to be true" but I promise you it is not.**

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Live Butterfly Kits

This summer was a busy one, but one of our favorite things we did was getting a Live Butterfly Kit in the mail.
Our butterfly kit came with a habitat, food, and live caterpillars.
 
 
The kids loved holding the caterpillers and watching them eat and grow.
 

 I couldn't believe how big these things got so quickly!

 
Eventually they crawled to the top of their container and hung upside down to form chrysalides.  Once they start hanging you aren't supposed to touch the container for 24-48 hours while they change.

 
Once hardened you take off the lid and put it in the butterfly habitat to wait for them to emerge.

 
Just a few weeks after they arrived they were already butterflies!  The kids loved watching them change and learned a lot.  They would sit and watch them every day and talk about it all of the time.

 
Once we had them for a day or two as butterflies we decided to let them go.  They were very friendly and sat with us a while before flying off.

For the next few weeks we would see them around our yard from time to time.  This was a great educational activity for kids (and adults) of all ages, and took very little effort on my part to make it happen.  I definitely recommend getting your own butterfly kit to try.
 
Butterfly kits are sold many places, but I got mine here.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

BYU Game Day Outfit

Are you ready for the big BYU game this weekend?  Lily is!
 
 
It's not too late to make an outfit for your little one.  Remember this outfit I made last year?
 
 
The shirt honestly only took me 5 minutes so you still have plenty of time if you have the supplies.
 
For a complete how-to on how to make this outfit as well as a link to the Fresh Living TV show on it, see my post from last year here.

Fall Bucket List

I saw this cute bucket list and decided to create a similar one for us. I do well with lists, and am excited to enjoy my favorite season with my favorite tiny girl.

 

Feel free to use my FREE Microsoft Publisher Template to personalize a list for yourself!

I will try to be more diligent at blogging as we do these fun activities!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Provo Library Summer Reading Program

We signed up for the Provo Library Summer Reading Program!  Did you?


Rules (Borrowed from their website)
  • Each child will be given one Summer Reading Log.  If you lose your log, you must start over.  Please don't lose your log!
  • Make your own goal of how many minutes you will read each session and write the goal on the reading chart.
  • Read books checked out from the Provo City Library. The number of books checked out helps us to monitor the success of our Summer Reading Program.
  • Read six days a week.  You may read ahead or catch up if you get behind. You may read more than your reading goal, but you can only collect one set of prizes.
  • Bring your half-completed Reading Log (up to the blue star) to the library the week of June 25 - June 30 to receive a halfway prize.
  • Bring your completed Reading Log to the library July 23 - July 26 to pick up your prizes! The library will be closed on July 24, 2012.
  • Collect a Dream Passport from the Children's Desk. Attend a Canopy Capers, Toddler Time, Spanish Story Time, or a Make and Take Crafts program and receive a sticker on your passport per session attended. Collect at least eight stickers. From July 23 - 26, turn in your sticker-filled passport to receive a ticket to the Trick or Treat in July Party on July 28, any time between 10 am and 12 noon in the Provo City Library Ballroom. Children are invited to wear Halloween costumes!
Prizes:
Prizes for Summer Reading 2012 are a free book and a ticket to the End of Summer Reading Party!

End of Summer Reading Party:
  • Thursday, July 26, 8:30 pm - 10:00 pm
  • Exclusive pool party and treats at the Veterens Memorial Pool, 450 West 500 North, Provo, for children who complete the Summer Reading Program.

Provo City Library stresses the importance of a relaxed but consistent daily reading.  The goal is to establish a regular daily habit of reading.  There are no rules as to number of pages, numbers of books, or specific genres of books.  Simply read each day, six days a week at your own speed. Parents and older siblings can read to children as well.


Monday, June 11, 2012

Baseball Game

Going to a baseball game was on our summer bucket list, so the first Saturday of summer we took the kids to a BYU baseball game.  It was the last game of the season, but if you are interested in going to a summer game the Orem Owlz are about to start their season.


I don't especially love baseball - in fact I can't make myself pay attention long enough to even see more than one play.  Still there is something exciting about sitting at the field with family or friends so I try to go once a year.


The day we went it was raining really hard.

Tips for outdoor activities with kids when it's raining:
Bring ponchos.  They sell crap ones that are good enough to use once at Walmart for 88 cents.
Bring hand warmers.  You should be able to find hand warmers for around $1.  Totally worth it.  Keeps those little hands warm and out of trouble.
Dress warm.  Cold kids are not happy kids.
We brought blankets too (that we didn't care about getting dirty or wet) for extra warmth.  Smart move on my part.  I'm a firm believer that there is no such thing as being over prepared.


Even though it wasn't ideal weather we still had a great time.  What's on your summer bucket list?

Nickel City - Orem

On day 4 of having my two nephews live with me everyone was especially well behaved, so I let them choose the activity for the day.  They chose Nickel City in Orem!


I had never been there, but it was a great place to take kids and wasn't very expensive.  They had games for people of all ages, so the 2 year old, 6 year old, and 10 year old all had enough to keep them busy for a long time.


Lily's favorite were the little rides.


If you haven't been to Nickel City - You just pay $2.25 per person to get in, and then everything costs a nickel to play.  Before we went I stopped at the bank and got everyone a roll of nickels ($2 for 40 nickels.)   Each kid had enough nickels to last them about an hour and a half.


They kids earned tickets to win prizes.  Both boys spent all of their tickets on candy, but Lily opted for a pink sparkly bracelet instead.

I definitely recommend trying out this place if you are looking for games like at Chuck E Cheese's or Provo Beach Resort for a much lower price.

Nickel City
http://nickelcityorem.com/

1515 S. State Street
Orem, UT 84097

801-802-8555

Monday-Thursday - 11 AM - 11 PM
Friday/Saturday - 11 AM - Midnight
Sunday - Closed

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

One-on-one time

Every kid needs a little bit of one-on-one time once in a while.  After a particularly emotional day with the kids, I decided to get a sitter and take each kid on a 30 minute date to get a treat and talk about whatever they wanted.

I left 2 of the kids with the sitter and took the other one to get a treat of their choice, and then after 30 minutes switched.  It worked great.  It was just what these kids needed.
 

This cute 6 year old wanted a donut, so I took him to Krispy Kreme.  He loved it.


Jamba Juice was the treat of choice for my favorite 10 year old.

My sweet Lily wanted a "pink shake" so I took her over to McDonalds for her treat.

I am so glad I did this I may make it a weekly event.  It's amazing what a little one-on-one time does for a kid.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Homemade butter and muffins

For our fun activity on this day we made homemade butter and muffins together.


I let them choose the muffin mix when we went grocery shopping together at the beginning of the week.  (They chose Lemon Poppyseed.  These muffins were incredibly delicious.)  Then I let them each do 1 ingredient, and each take turns stirring.  They loved putting the muffin liners in.


Once the muffins were in the oven, we started on the butter.  I couldn't find lids for any of my tiny mason jars (which I highly recommend using) so we used Tupperware containers.  It worked, but leaked just a few drips one time.  I simply poured some heavy whipping cream in and told them to shake shake shake.


I let them watch a show while they shook (with a blanket under in case it leaked).  It takes 10 good minutes of shaking, but since they took breaks as they got tired, after the show the butter was ready to go.


It worked!  They used the butter they had just made to spread on their muffins.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Giant "water bed" outside sensory bag



One of my favorite things about working at my dream job is that I get to do fun things like this with my kids during the day.

I saw this idea here and decided to try it out.  I bought the plastic drop cloth and duck tape at Walmart for under $10 for both.  I bought the drop cloth that is in a 10' roll that rips off into ten 10' squares.  I bought the teal duck tape because I thought it was cute.


Originally I was going to use food coloring like the blog said, but after I thought about how it was likely this thing would leak and I didn't want to ruin 3 kids' clothes by them splashing in food coloring water, I decided to leave the food coloring out of it.  (Good call on my part.)

Despite that my husband didn't think this would work very well, it was a HUGE success!  Everyone loved it, and what I planned on being an hour or two activity literally turned into an all day thing because it was such a big hit.

I started out by unrolling the tarp I bought and taping the perforated edges to prevent water from leaking at them.  I made two 40' x 10' tarps, and folded them each in half to make two 20' by 10' double layered tarps.  I double layered it because my tarps were about the thickness of garbage bags and I was a little skeptical they would hold up with 3 kids running and jumping on them.  (Again, good call on my part.)

I put the 20' x 10' double-layered-tarps on top of each other, and rolled the edges and duck taped in place.  I left a hole at one corner for the hose.  This whole process took about 40 minutes.

Once taped I stuck the hose inside so there were 2 layers on bottom and 2 layers on top, and started to fill it up.  I had the kids show me where the initial leaks were.  We patched them up (there were only 1 or 2) and filled the whole thing up.

Things I learned while filling this up:
1. This thing works best on flat ground.  If you start out on a hill, even a little one, one side will be far more full than the other.
2. Once this starts filling up you really can't move it without it tearing.
3. Once it's filled it's pretty sturdy.  The kids can run, jump, roll, and slide on it and it holds up for a long while (a couple of hours) before it starts leaking enough they are really getting wet.
4. Before it's filled it isn't too sturdy.  Their feet tended to get caught on the plastic and drag and stretch and tear it.  I discovered this quickly and made them wait until it was filled to play on it.
5.  You really don't need food coloring, in fact I wouldn't recommend it.


 This could be the best outside toy I have discovered so far.  They LOVED it.  At first they didn't get wet at all, but the cold water kept them cool in the hot sun.  I told them to go for it and play as rough as they wanted because it was there to have fun, and if it popped we could always turn it into a large slip-n-slide.


They would run across the yard and slide on it.  They would roll and watch the ripples go all the way across what they called the "water bed".

After a couple of hours we started getting a few leaks.  I didn't bother taping them up because they weren't too bad.  The bag stayed full enough to be squishy and fun to run across the yard and jump on all day but after a few hours there was just enough water on top to make it splash as you ran or rolled across.


 This picture (above) was taken after 6 or 7 hours of rough play on it.  You can see where it is leaking and wet, but it still squishy and fun.  Everybody loved it.


We paired this activity with lawn chairs, a couple of rounds of popsicles, a kiddie pool, and a water gun fight.


I heard the boys say multiple times that this was the best day ever, and one of the funnest things they have ever done.

Adventure Time Boys Room Reveal





 When I found out my nephews were going to move in temporarily, I knew I wanted to give them an awesome room to call their own.  The boys love the show Adventure Time, so I decided to give them an "Adventure Time" themed room to make the transition a little easier for them.  Here is the "before" shot of our guest room...




...and the after.  We switched the queen bed for bunk beds to give them each their own space.  I put tons of pictures of them with their family above each of their beds.


The bunk beds have comforters I made to resemble Adventure Time characters Finn and Jake.  They are each reversible so both boys have each character, one on each side.  I embroidered their names on the edge toward the bottom so they know whose is whose.


Here is the Finn side of the comforter (above.)  See the resemblance?


Here is the Jake side of the comforter (above).  Detailed instructions on how to make this comfoter can be found here.


I brought in some cheap plastic drawers for their clothes, and added an Adventure Time poster I found at Walmart.


On top of the drawers I put pictures of our family and an alarm clock.


I put bins on these shelves holding the "boys toys" we have.   I love bins for toy storage because it makes for such easy clean up.


Adding pictures of their family really made the whole room come together.  Pictures really do so much in making a room feel inviting and warm.

The boys love their Adventure Time room!