Look what I found for little Star Wars Fans!

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I was really excited to be given the opportunity through Tomoson to try out this great Millennium Falcon Laptop sticker for a discount. My boys are crazy about anything Star Wars, so this was an exciting addition to their lives! The sticker is nice and thick, and we have plans to put it on our car, because honestly…its awesome.

This sticker measures about 8 by 6, so it has an impact and the boys think it is super cool. What fun! If you have Star Wars fans like I do, check this out! http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00PILF9NY?ref_=cm_rdp_product

 

 

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Seven Easy Ways to Help your Child’s Teacher Start Sane

Sometimes, I feel like a veteran mom. My oldest is 22 years old this year, and I feel like we have had children in school FOREVER! We kind of have…and when I am not having a pity party about how much older I feel than most of the parents in our youngest two children’s elementary school, I feel like I have a leg up on some of the secrets to staying sane for back to school time.

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But, more important than me staying sane is helping my children’s new teachers stay sane. This starts at home, WAY before that first bell on that first day. With these seven tips, you can help your teacher start the year off just right with your child. We all have visions of that “perfect” teacher. You know the one! He or she is just the right mix between loving, firm, and fun. All teachers have that potential, but what you do going in to the school year can make a big difference in helping that teacher shine.

1. Think about schedules. Before school starts, think about what your child’s daily schedule will look like. What time does their grade eat lunch, when are they allowed to have snack, and what time will they be home each day? Start looking at the schedule in your home the same way if at all possible. This means instituting a bedtime and getting up near the time they will get up for school. This means having a good breakfast, similar to what you will offer on school days. We start this schedule near the beginning of August, about 3 weeks before school starts. It works…every.single.time. You will not only help the teacher’s sanity…you will make a huge impact on your own!

2. Practice, Practice, Practice. Musical instruments, math facts,, reading, politeness, and patience. Practice it all. Whatever habits you have let slip all summer (and we ALL do!), it is the time to start thinking about getting that brain in gear and ready to go back to learning.

3. Sit Down with a Calendar. If your kids are very busy with after school activities, now is the time to sit down with that calendar and think about what you have time for and when those activities will be. Make school a priority by allowing time for homework. Make family dinners a priority as well. Don’t overschedule just because you failed to plan. Look at this now before the activity sign-ups begin.

4. Look carefully at school supply lists. Don’t put this off until the last minute, or you will be standing in the aisle wondering why there are no number 2 pencils. Worse yet, on that first day, your child will not enjoy being the kid whose parents forgot the glue sticks. Get ahead of this now. Label what needs to be labeled, pack it away in that shiny new backpack, and enjoy the last days of summer with your kiddo without this hanging over your head!

5. Tell you children education is wonderful. Even if you are that teary mom standing on the sidewalk, start NOW to talk to your child about education. Be excited for the journey that happens at the beginning of each school year. Talk about all the wonderful things to do, see, and learn. Go to the school playground if possible and make it a BIG deal that your child has this amazing opportunity. Don’t make this about you, Mom…this is wonderful and an opportunity that children all over the world are not always able to attain.

6. Support that teacher. I tell my children at the beginning of every school year that my ears are always open, but that they are expected to follow the rules of their teacher. He/She is the boss of that classroom. They need to respect that authority. Throughout the year I continue to drive that message home to my perfect little darlings (ahem!). What if something happens to make you doubt the teacher or if you think that teacher is wrong? Deal with it directly with the teacher or school, out of your child’s earshot. You can discuss the issue with the child later if needed, but don’t be so busy playing the hero to your child that you don’t listen to the other side. Be prepared to be fair, even though you feel a huge desire to defend your cub!

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7. Be excited and proud. Take pictures, laugh, be silly, and show your child how excited and proud you are for them. This is a big deal, but school is also a ton of fun. Take a few minutes for a special back to school dinner, go to school sponsored back to school activities, and enjoy the moment. Don’t underestimate the power of your excitement to help your child get excited as well. Every year is a moment in time that you will never have again: embrace that.

Much Love,

Dusty Boots

Beware the Mental Zombie!

I was driving home from Scouts one night with my 9 year old, when he piped up with these words of wisdom, “We have to watch out for the mental zombies!”. Ok, I thought…this is his little imagination kicking into overdrive. He is my sensitive one, and in many ways my hard one…so I thought I should follow this up with something.

“What’s a mental zombie?” I asked, careful to moderate my voice to sound unscary.

“Oh, its like a regular zombie,” he said, “but it eats your brain and makes you super tired.”.

Hmmm, teachable moment here.

“Well, there is no such thing as a zombie,” I assured him, “So, we don’t need to worry about that anymore.”

But…wait. Do we? As I sat there thinking very hard about what this little man had just told me, I realized that Mental Zombies do exist. Sometimes they are another parent at school, sometimes they are a friend, sometimes they are a neighbor, and sometimes they are your very own family. They may not be “zombies” in the textbook sense of the word. But, they do drain you…and make you tired..and make you feel as though your brain has been eaten right out of your head. The worst part is that you can’t see a Mental Zombie coming, but they hit you like a freight train.

Though I can laugh about his little moment of hyper imagination, I also think back to this a great deal. How does a person handle a Mental Zombie?

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Can you simply remove them from your life? Not always. But, you can make their mental zombie-ness less burdensome on you and your family by deciding you simply DO NOT CARE what they have to say or what they are doing. You can end conversations, politely, that are sucking your energy and your brain. And if they are not a relative, and sometimes even if they are, you can say goodbye if that’s what you really need to do.

The thing is, mental zombies THRIVE on making other people unhappy…or uncomfortable…or mad…or even sad. Since that day, I have paid much better attention to the people in my life and all but eliminated my personal mental zombies. Some were drama kings or queens, some were attention-seekers, some were panic-stricken overwhelmers…but all are not missed. I am polite, friendly, and kind to them but I do not welcome them into my personal life. And I am better for it, in every single way. Getting rid of the mental zombies can make you a better parent, spouse, and person. Plus, when you answer this question from your own little person..you can honestly say:

“Mental Zombies do not exist..at least in our lives!”

Much love,

Dusty Boots

The Lego 8th Birthday

I love parties. I know they can be stressful and expensive, but I love hosting them. This one was one of my favorites.

We were able to keep this party pretty inexpensive by creating as much as we could on our own. Lego party supplies are difficult to come by and can be expensive, but luckily, Lego’s are primary colors..so you can get creative on the cheap. Here are a few ideas that were simple to create, but gave us a big bang for just a few bucks.

Personalized Water Bottles

You are probably buying bottles of water for your party anyways, so why not step them up a notch and personalize them to help your birthday child celebrate the day. All you have to do is  find some clip art online and create labels in word or PowerPoint! Simply measure the label on your bottles, then make these simple labels to fit. I tape mine on with packing tape around the entire label..making them waterproof and very professional looking. You can buy labels online…but why spend the cash on something SO simple?

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Lego Party Pinata

My kids love a pinata! I actually looked around for a quick pinata fitting the theme to buy..but no luck. So, this is a box from Amazon and two old empty brie cheese containers. I simply wrapped and glued red crepe paper on them, pieced them together, filled it up and made a hole for hanging. Viola! Total cost? Maybe 99 cents for the crepe paper. I filled ours with rubber bouncy balls and other various toys. Since the kids are older at this party, they had a blast chasing those balls around the house when this burst open!

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Keep Your Table Simple!

My number one rule for easy parties that don’t drive you crazy is to keep it simple wherever you can. We used primary colors and balloons for a simple table. The balloons are simply tied to jars filled with Lego. Kids don’t need it to be complicated to have a good time!

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On the table, goldfish crackers, trail mix, and these adorable white chocolate Lego men, made with Wilton candy pieces and a mold I bought on Amazon!

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Food is Fun!

We continued the “building theme” by letting the kids make their own individual mini pizzas. We just popped those into the oven while the kids carried on playing Lego themed games (build the tallest tower, theme building activities, etc). Very simple. For a quick sweet treat, we served up Lego on a stick. This snack is easy. You need: Rice Krispie treats (make your own or buy them), Wilton yellow candy coating, yellow M&Ms, and a long lollipop stick. You could change up the colors as you wished. You just melt the candy coating, frost the treats, add M&Ms, let them dry, then stick them on that stick. Done!

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You can order a bakery cake, of course. But, this Lego cake was pretty simple. I simply baked up two round cakes and a cupcake. I stacks the cakes, just like you would normally do (I used whipped cream filling between layers) and added the cupcake on top. I simply covered this in store bought fondant that I colored yellow, them used back sugar sheets to make the expression on the Lego mans face. I added stairs made of fondant then used our (clean) Lego figures to have them “climb the cake” to try to get to the candle. This was my first experience with fondant on a large cake, but I was fairly happy with the result!

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Creative Tablescape

In keeping with keeping things simple, I raided our kids Lego area for lots of inspiration. I used duplos (found in a tub in the garage from when my kids were little!) to make the birthday boys name in Lego for the window sill.

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Then for fun I did his age, too. Yes, that’s supposed to be an EIGHT!

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Then I used some duplos to create a utensil holder as well!

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I found some Lego storage in the boys room (these are Box 4 Blox brand) and used them to bring color and height to the drinks area.

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You can see I also drew Lego faces on some yellow party cups (with Sharpie, of course!)

We had some great building fun, yummy food, and a great time with our friends. The best part? This was a pretty stress-free affair. Though we had some games set up. It was clear that the kids really wanted to enjoy building from the big bowls of Lego I had set in the playroom.

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I had Lego Shaped crayons (I really got my mileage from the different molds I bought..though you do not want to use the same ones for food and crayons) by using old crayons, melting them down, then molding them. These were on a table with coloring sheets (printed from the internet) for any kid who might like to use them. They were a hit with all the kids, young and old.

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Do you have a favorite party theme or one that you most remember throwing for your own kids? I would love to hear about it!

Transformation: Boring Nightstand to Brilliantly Bookish Accent

As the weather here prepares to take a turn towards a February Blizzard, I always turn back towards projects in the home. This was one of my favorite projects. It is fun, and easy, without a lot of complicated components. I am often shocked how a simple change can give an item a whole new life and feel.

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I was given a VERY basic nightstand by a good friend, because she knows how very much I love to play around with techniques and change. I love to reuse items whenever I can. Many of you have read that I don’t want my home to look like the pages of a Pottery Barn catalog..and that remains true. But I DO take inspiration from some of those same manufacturers. This style was actually “stolen” from ideas I saw in similar stores.

What you need:

~an old (or new) boring nightstand

~An old book with lots of character (I used a 1937 history book found in an auction box that had been water damaged and could not be salvaged).

~Sandpaper

~gloss enamel paint of your choice.

~mod podge

~Shellac or polyurethane to finish

This project cost me a total of $7.76 since I only had to buy mod podge and bought a can of clearance enamel! A great deal!

Step one: Remove any drawers from the table. Remove hardware. Rough up with sandpaper.

Step two: Paint main frame of nightstand with paint of your choice. I chose gloss black. This may take a coat or two, depending on paint color and quality.

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Step Three: Apply pages of old book or magazine with mod podge to the top and drawers. I used the pages whole on the top and focused on parts of the history books about the Old West, as this item was for my Moms Bunkhouse Guestroom! On the drawer fronts, I tore the pages to fit.

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Final Step: Allow everything to dry for several days, if you can. Apply additional mod podge as needed, in places where it seems like there is not enough adhering happening. If you get a bubble of air under a portion of the mod podge, prick the area with a tiny pin, allow air to escape and then apply some more mod podge. You really can’t make a mistake, since it dries clear. It is by far one of my favorite products! When completely dry, apply poly or shellac over mod podged areas for extra protection.

That’s it! You now have a gorgeous, one-of-a-kind piece that looks great in any room. It adds loads of character!

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What’s your favorite trash to treasure success story? Share a link in the comments so we can check out your creations!

For The Record Man Cave Snack Bowls

A few years ago, I was lucky enough to inherit some really cool old records. Some were usable and in great shape…but others were scratched up and not really playable. I kept these on a shelf for awhile, and really thought of just tossing them. But, I hate to be wasteful. I knew I loved the cover art and so I framed some to enjoy above an old stereo situated in our “man cave”.
I loved that. Now, I was left with a pile of old records of no real value…except sentimental. After hours of scanning pinterest for something easy, I kept coming back to the idea of making bowls out of old records. I thought they would be a neat addition to the man cave, but wondered if it was really as easy as it looked. It is! This was one of the fastest and easiest crafts I have ever done.
Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. You will need old records, an oven proof bowl, and oven mitts or heat resistant gloves. I used clean barn gloves since it was difficult to handle the record with an oven mitt. Make sure you pop open a few windows…ventilation is a MUST! Center your record on an upside-down oven-proof bowl (I used stainless steel) and place both on a baking pan.
I recommend you do not use your nice, new items for this…because you never know. Nothing got ruined in my making of bowls, but one can never be too careful. Now carefully slide your creation into the oven.
Now…all you have to do for a few minutes is watch and wait. In just a few minutes, your record is going to start to become all “floppy”. There is no exact science to this. Just watch and wait. When your record starts to look like this:
It’s time to remove it from the oven! Now, some sites say that you can go ahead and pinch and shape your bowl on the upside-down baking bowl. I found that this left me with a creation that was a bit too flat. So, instead, I lifted the floppy disk (ha!!) off and placed it inside ANOTHER stainless steel bowl. I then shaped and pinched as it cooled.
The result, when cooled, is a great little fun bowl perfect for holding wrapped snacks in our man cave. So easy, and so fast. I had ten record bowls completed in less than an hour. It was fun!
How would you have repurposed these old records?

How an Autism Diagnosis Made Me a Better Mother

     This is my baby…my first born…my challenge…the light that made me decide I liked being a mother. I know, he doesn’t look like a baby in this picture. He isn’t. He is now a grown man with plans, and hopes, and dreams. He is an Eagle Scout. He is a college student. He is a boyfriend. He still challenges me. He also has Asperger’s Syndrome.
     When Jack was little, there was no doubt that there was something different about him. He was so smart, with an amazing vocabulary. He understood things well beyond his years. He picked up on nuances of noise, light, and movement that we didn’t even notice. Even as a small child, he only wanted one or two friends. Everything was so black and white to him. You were either his friend…or his enemy. There was no in between. He made us laugh and sometimes his brutal honesty made me cry.
     When he started school, the teachers often had trouble with him. Another child tapping their pencil would drive him up a wall. A buzzing light would render his brain unable to do his math. In one unforgettable event, after reading the word “beep” in a children’s book, he “beeped” at his teacher all day. She was not pleased. She was frustrated.
     Each September, his teachers would tell us he had ADHD “or something” and that we should have him tested. We talked to doctors. He didn’t fit that profile. So, each and every year, I would say to his teachers “Please wait until Christmas and then get back to me. If you still think he has ADHD I will follow-up again.”. Each and every December, they would tell me they really didn’t think that “was it”, but there was “something wrong with him.”
     Later, making friends was hard for him. He would have one or two friends who he would get close to, but so many people in his life shied away from him. He stayed smart. He tried. But, he said he was bored. He said he didn’t understand what people were saying, he said no one liked him, he said he wanted to die.
Yes…he said he wanted to die. He was 12.
     The next day, we went to the doctor. He referred us to a counselor. That counselor was the first person who said, “I think your child should be tested for Asperger’s”. We did. It fit. I spent a great many days feeling sorry for myself, sorry for him, and a little mad at the world. Then, I put on my work boots and got about the business of making this work.
     There were drugs suggested to tame his impulses. I declined. I didn’t want to give this 12 year old child a cocktail of chemicals. I wanted to figure out another way. I HAD to help…this was MY job. So, I researched..and researched…and researched.
And, then, I got mad.
     Everything I found went on and on about the “problems” with Asperger’s kids. No one said anything about their intellect, their honesty, their incredible desire and profound creative talents. No one mentioned their sense of responsibility, their loyalty, or their desire for safety. Had they met these kids? Did they care? And worse, did these children BELIEVE that they were nothing but a problem?
     So, we attacked this a different way. We put routines into place. Many, many routines. We sat down to dinner and talked. We asked questions, we required socialization. We required eye contact. We expected our child to be who he was, but to be able to work within the parameters of the rest of the world. We rewarded good behavior and dealt with bad, just like any other parent.We looked at the chemicals in our home, the dye in our foods, and everything in between. We cooked more together. We ate more together. We took every possible avenue to make his life easier…but, not too easy. We knew, someday, he would have to be out in this big world alone. Without us. Without excuses.
     We sat in classrooms. We sat outside classrooms. We got called to the principal. We rode out suspensions, restrictions, and issues. We followed up. we followed through, and we followed our hearts. We didn’t stop hoping, and dreaming, and believing that it was possible to have a wonderful, successful life with Asperger’s.
     When we heard he was not “smart” or that he could not do something, we called his bluff. “Your brain processes things faster…that is not an excuse.” We said this over and over again. We never let ANYONE dumb things down. This child was smart. As smart, or smarter, than those around him. We asked teachers to challenge him more. He rose to most challenges. He never did anything to please anyone else. For him, success would never be measured by a number on a test, but it COULD be measured by success and achieving your dreams.
     We challenged him to try new things. We white-water rafted, rode horses, climbed rocks, met new people. We moved him around every three years in our military lifestyle. He became an Eagle Scout, he graduated High School, he found a girl he loves, he went to college, he learned to challenge himself.
Did we “cure” him? Nope. Do we want to?  Nope.
     Sometimes, you are who you are. Sometimes, other people need to be OK with that. He doesn’t have a million friends. Some people drive him crazy. But, he has dreams. He has plans. He is planning for his future. He is excited about what is to come.
     As a mother, I learned patience. I learned the importance of reliability and routine. I learned to let go of things that don’t matter. I learned to fight for what I needed to fight for. I also learned to write an AWESOME beginning of the year letter to teachers. He taught me each and every day.Were there struggles? Yes. Are there still struggles? Yes.
     If you are a parent with a child with an autism diagnosis, don’t read the websites and lose hope. Embrace your child, embrace the differences. Learn to see the light. It’s there.
     My child is grown. He is now an amazing big brother who we only see at the holidays. He is busy starting his own life. Isn’t that what ANY mother wants? Does it matter that he is “different”?
 Not one tiny bit.

When Life Hands You Lemons

I have a very special relationship with the lemon. Weird, I know. I love big bowls of lemons heaped on a table, fresh lemonade on a hot summer day, the smell of citrus in the air any time of year. In part, this comes from a conversation I used to have with my Dad on a semi-regular basis. He loved to talk about turning your lemons into lemonade. It made me chuckle.
This spring my Dad died, and I miss him every single day so very deeply. We always lived far away from each other during my adult life, but every day I would speak to him while he drove home from work. What I would not give to hear “How are things going, Kid?” just one more time. For awhile, there didn’t seem to be any lemonade to be made. Then, via my mother-in-law, a giant bucket of lemons landed, literally, on my doorstep. So, we set about making lemonade…and that just didn’t seem to be enough. So we juiced those 100 lemons, we froze juice in perfect 1/3 cup servings, and we made beautiful candied lemon peel. When I make a buttery poundcake with candied lemon peel this Christmas, I will think of my Dad and smile. Sometimes, you just have to find your lemonade…sometimes you just have to take the bitter parts of life, add a little sugar, and make the best of them!

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How to Candy Lemon Peel

Use a vegetable peeler to remove the peel from the lemon in vertical strips. Try to remove only the yellow zest, avoiding as much of the white pith as possible. Save the lemon for another use.

In a small saucepan, combine the peels with 2 cups cold water. Bring to a boil, then drain off the water. Again add 2 cups cold water, bring to a boil, and drain. Repeat the process a third time, then remove the peels from the pan and set aside.

Measure 2 cups of the sugar into the pan and add 1 cup water, whisking until the sugar dissolves. Add the peels and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until the peels are tender and translucent, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain the peels and let cool.

Measure the remaining 1/2 cup sugar into a medium bowl and add the peels. Toss to coat. Using a fork or your fingers, remove the peels one at time, gently shaking each to remove excess sugar. Store in an airtight container. The peels will keep for several weeks.

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Read More http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Candied-Lemon-Peels-232352#ixzz1fZxhXVOV

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