Archive - March 2007

Happy Fries
They Just Make Me Happy
Purging the Toys
Homeschool Blog Awards 2006
Working on the Playroom
Fed Up


My life is just so interesting, I can’t even bring the clean laundry upstairs without getting bothered by ducks.

The children were all outside in our backyard when our friendly, neighborhood mallard couple came wandering by. “Mama!,” Boo yelled through the screen door. He yells this twenty times a day, so I wasn’t really paying attention. “Yes, Boo,” says I, heading upstairs with the laundry. “Mallards! In the backyard!” “Ok, Boo,” I said, halfway up the stairs. When I reached the bedroom, I had to stop to think. Did he say ‘Mallards in the backyard?’ I looked out the window and there were all three children, peering through the fence at something I couldn’t see. Not wanting to miss out on the chance to fill ya’ll in on the insane details of my life, I grabbed the camera and went out to see what all the hubbub was about.

Sure enough, mallards in the backyard. It’s important to note that my children are properly homeschooled children and called them “mallards”, not just “ducks”. In a couple of more years I expect that they will be calling them by their Latin, scientific name. Or at least make up some scientific sounding names like mallardus quackus. So anyway, the mallards were walking through the backyards. Some neighborhoods have stray cats or wild turkeys, our neighborhood has ducks and geese wandering through.

I went to get crackers with which to feed the ducks (which I located quickly and easily, thanks to my Wonderful Pantry of Love) and we went in pursuit of Mr. and Mrs. Mallard, who by this time, were now 2 houses down. Here’s some pictures.




Bip walked around, both nibbling the cracker and throwing it at the ducks, saying “Cack, cack, cack.”


Ok, duck fun over and now it’s back to the laundry…


Boo’s Wolf Den has been working on earning the World Conservation Award.  HisStfrancesbirdfeeder_3

project for this week was to chart the birds he sees during the week.  We decided to make the project a little easier for him and bought some birdseed from the PX.  For $2 and a Rubbermaid lid, we have a durable little bird feeder.  I would rather have a St Francis bird feeder, but this one works for now.

First we had the birdseed on our picnic bench, but Bip was able to climb up and sample some.  Boo was quite indignant about this, but Bip was no worse for the wear.  We moved the seed to a higher location, out of Bip’s reach, with the added benefit that it seems to attract more birds this way.

By far, the most frequent visitor to our yard has been a common sparrow.  We see the same little bird every day.  I think he and his mate are building a nest nearby.  We’ve seen mourning doves a couple of times and driving to church along the Potomac we spied seagulls.  Sunday morning, the male and female mallard who frequent our housing area were looking for breakfast in our front yard.  Today, this happy guy was partaking of the birdseed.  I hope he’ll be back.


We’ve had a lot of fun looking for birds and trying to identify them with the field guide.  While we’re pouring over the books, looking for the right bird, Bip will go over to the bookshelf and grab a different field guide, bring it to the living room, and sit and "read" it.  We were so surprised when he first did this.  The books are an unusual size and shape, but I didn’t think he ever noticed them, let alone knew where they were located.  But he wanted to do what we were doing and knew exactly where to find the guides. 

We were able to identify every bird we saw, except one.  It’s a little black bird with a yellow beak.  They seem to stay in flocks all over the base, snacking in the grass.  We couldn’t find it in the field guide.  I thought it was a European starling, but it is not iridescent.  An internet search proved fruitless.  Any ideas?

Happy Fries

Sandy asked me about the Happy Fries.  Unfortunately, they aren’t a recipe, I bought them from the store!

They are actually called Smiles and you can go visit their website and see if and where they sell them in your area.  I think they are generally sold in the Northeast US.  We first discovered them with the kids meal at our bowling alley and then we found out they sell them at our commissary!  They’re fun and tasty, but will pretty  much blow your low-carb diet in one 8-smile serving.

Purging the Toys

Alright, here I go,  I’m Purging the Toys!.  Anything that is clearly trash or broken and unfixable is going.  I’m working section by section, a little every day. To aid my efforts, I set up a big bin to toss all the toys that were not put away when I found them.  This way I didn’t have to stop and put them away myself, but while I work they are out of the way. 

The first area to get purged was the books.  My children love books and people love to give books to them.  I can hardly object because I love books, too and have many, many shelves of them.  But they’ve outgrown many of the books on their shelves and Bip the Baby is too young for them still.  Those well-loved-but-outgrown books are going to get packed up for a few years.  Already the shelves look better.  The top three shelves in the playroom were actually my books.  I straightened them up and was able to shift things around a bit and confine myself to the top two shelves.

Next I hit the puzzles and games.  Most of the puzzles have been outgrown.  That was easy.  Again, the good ones (Lauri puzzles) will get packed away, the others will be given away.

Then the toy bins.  These were mostly OK, with only a few items out of place.  The toys here are probably their most used things.  I just straightened them up a bit.  I did have to take some time to go through Pumpkin Girl’s personal bin.  She had a lot of stuff just thrown in there that really belonged somewhere else.

I also went through the dress up clothes.  Again, lots of little things at the bottom of the box that don’t even belong in there.  I moved the clothes into a larger, sturdier Rubbermaid box and I will have to have the children help me sort out what fits and what is too small before I am finished.  I think I will get little bags for all of Pumpkin’s tiaras, another for her bead necklaces. That should help her find them easier.

The craft bins were next.  They have one craft tote that holds pencils, crayons, rubber stamps and stamp pads.  This is one item that actually works for them!  They know how to use it, like using it and so I had nothing to fix.  But we also have a small 4-drawer rolling cart that holds coloring books, paper, notepads, stickers and a stationery set.  This needed a lot of purging!  Most of the contents of the drawers were co-mingled.  Part of the problem here is that the drawers are not labeled.  I got everything all sorted out and purged. I even left them one drawer for any artwork they feel like keeping.  It’s one of the smaller drawers, so by necessity we’ll have to empty it on a regular basis. Another drawer is for coloring books. We have a lot of coloring books.  I kept all of them because I want the children’s help to purge them. Pumpkin Girl has a subscription to Hidden Puzzles and I found several books in there, completely untouched.  I have canceled her subscription and will see if she notices.  When and if she finishes up the puzzle books she already has, we can talk about starting the subscription back up. 

Which brings me to another problem area: magazines.  We have 5 years worth of Ladybug magazines and 2 years of Spider magazines!!! We all love these magazines and past issues are read over and over again.  Throwing these away would be like throwing away favorite books.  I thought and thought about this situation.  What would be the worst thing that would happen if we threw these out?  I think we’d all regret it very much.  However, I have been noticing that lately Pumpkin Girl likes to read Boo’s Spider magazines.  I checked the age range of Spider, and sure enough, she’s right there at the lower age.  I checked the age for the level up after Spider, which is Cricket.  Boo is 6 months shy of that age, but a very strong reader.  It occurred to me to bump both children up one level, essentially canceling Ladybug, keeping Spider and adding Cricket.  I don’t mind these magazines coming in the house one bit.  I enjoy reading them to the children, even past issues.  We will take our beloved Ladybug issues, repair them with packaging tape and save them for Bip.  When he is ready for them, I think Pumpkin and Boo will be just as excited to share them with him as I will be.  It’ll be like finding old friends!  I discussed this with both children already, and Pumpkin’s only request was that she be allowed to pick out her favorite Ladybug issues and keep them.  I thought was reasonable and agreed.  They are both looking forward to being bumped up to the next level magazine.

The biggest culprit of toys not put away is Pumpkin Girl.  I found a pile of toys that were stashed near her bed on the Day I Closed the Playroom.  I told her to return them to the playroom, then put them away.  Her idea of this was to stash them behind the baby cradle.  This is a recurring problem for her, which is why her job is to clean their bedroom while Boo takes care of the playroom.  She does understand how to put things away and is physically capable of doing it, so this is a character issue for her.  We’ll be working on that, too.

This second bookshelf was hiding behind the cradle.  It’s hard to see in the before pictures, but it was a prime area of dumped toys.  It was overflowing with books, games and other junk.  Keep in mind, this room is still a work in progress.  My next challenge is to evaluate what this room needs to make it work.  I hope to involve the children in this part as much as possible.  They need the room to organized in a way that works for them.  Which isn’t necessarily the way it would work for me.  We’ll just see how it goes…



Pumpkin Girl, from inside the laundry room:  Boy, it’s dark in here.

Boo: Don’t you see the light switch?


Pumpkin Girl:  Boy, it’s light in here!

Working on the Playroom

Thank you for your suggestions and support about our playroom!  I have used some of the suggestions, as well as ideas from I’m An Organizing Junkie and the book Organization From the Inside Out.  I think I’ve developed a plan.   I’ll be posting my progress so you can cheer me on!

Here’s the plan.

1. Sort and  Purge.  I will do a good portion of this myself.  However, I don’t want to scar my children forever by getting rid of some much loved toy, so I’m sticking mainly to the obvious trash and toys I know they’ve outgrown.  Then they’ll have the chance to help me purge.  As we go through process, items will be grouped with like items.

2.  Evaluate the needs of the room.  With what is left in the room, sit down with the children and get their ideas for what they want the room to be.   Divide the room into zones.

3.  Assign a home to every toy, based on the zones.

4.  Containerize.  I know we already need to get a second tall bookshelf in there and some wall shelves for display.  We have to figure out something to do with Pumpkin’s Polly Pocket-type Disney Princesses and their half a million pieces, too.  She’s also got a bunch of other small toys that need some sort of bag to live in.

So that’s my plan as today.  I may adjust it if I need to.  So on to step one…Purging the Toys!



Bip would like you all to know that he has new shoes.  Here they are, from his view.


They are the new Disney Crocs and we actually found them at our PX!  I found them in his size and he walked up to Pumpkin Girl (who got a pair in yellow), took them out of her hands and insisted on wearing them right away.


Don’t they look cute?


Here he is pointing to them and saying "shoes."

Fed Up

Yesterday I made the children’s playroom off limits.  Yep,  closed the door and forbade them to enter without permission.  Threatened to give everything to Good Will if they disobeyed.  I’ll spare you the details because it doesn’t reflect too well on any of us.  Let’s just say that despite our best hopes and efforts, the playroom is Out of Control.  Rather than sweep it all into the trash, I just closed the door on it.  I really don’t know what to do next.  It’s clear that a Major Change is needed, but where to start?  We have too many toys and books,that’s for sure.  We need to get rid of stuff, but it’s not going to be easy at all.  Just the thought of it brings Pumpkin Girl to tears.  But we can’t continue like this. 

I’m really going to humble myself and share pictures of this mess.  Maybe it’ll help hold me accountable as I try to figure out where to go from here.  I’m open to suggestions, too, as long as they are helpful!  No laughing!!!


This is the room looking in from the door. There are even more toys in those stacked moving boxes.


Turning a little to the left, you can see the couch, train table and cradle.


To the left of the couch, next to the train table is this mess of a bookshelf.


Here’s the cradle, the little bookshelf behind it and the (white) box of dress up clothes.


Here’s what’s hidden in the first picture.  The white drawers have Playmobile pieces and crafts.

I spared you some of the stuff on the floor. 

It’s almost time to call in Clean Sweep.

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