Friday, August 28, 2015

Summer Studies

I've seen statistics about how much knowledge kids "lose" over the summer.  The premise is that once kids are out of school for the summer, if they don't keep up with academic activity, their brains basically rot and the material that they learned during the previous school year seeps out at an alarming rate.  I believe it....Big Boy seems to forget everything (including how to add!) immediately after the last day of school.

I decided to avoid brain rot this summer - I planned to have the boys do a little bit of "homework" every day.  We followed through with this plan!  About 6 days a week, the boys worked on workbooks.  Little Boy worked on printing his letters and math while Big Boy worked on his times tables and advanced addition and subtraction.  Then Little Boy read a couple of BOB books every day (more on his reading later).  Big Boy practiced his musical instrument.  Big Boy loves to read so he continued to read for fun.

At first the boys thought the workbooks were fun.  They eagerly sat down the first couple of days and worked through the pages.  Then, they got annoyed when they figured out their friends didn't have to do workbooks.  We continued to do the workbooks so they got over being annoyed.  After a while they challenged themselves to do better work (get a better score, etc.) than the day before.

The entire homework routine took about 20 minutes a day.  This was not a huge time commitment and I think the boys benefitted - from practicing their school curriculum, and also from learning to sit down do some work each day without procrastinating.

In addition to our home studies, Big Boy also participated in the ACE Learning programme at his tennis lessons.  During this programme the kids worked on language arts, math, and logic problems.  He had a lot of fun at these classes.

While the older boys were working away, Baby Boy would colour or make pictures with his stamps.  Sometimes he just played, but he usually wanted to sit and work with his brothers.

Here is a picture of the workbooks that Big Boy and Little Boy completed this summer.  There are also some partially completed books - I didn't include those.  

As you can see, I prefer Kumon books.  Kumon books are well organized and the material is set out in a clear and interesting manner.  I'm sure there are other great workbooks, but the Kumon books I've purchased have been consistently excellent.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Nap Pillow

It's new year, and Little Boy needed a new pillow for classroom naps.  

In previous years my favourite pillow was the baby pillow from Ikea, called the "LEN Crib Pillow" ($5.99).  We've had a few of them and they usually last through a school year.  When I bought our last LEN, I could not buy a pillow case for it without also buying a blanket (it was a set) and we didn't need the blanket so I had to sew a pillowcase.  I found that annoying.  I also found that last year's LEN washed flat quickly and the stuffing separated into little "balls" inside the pillow so it was uncomfortable.

I looked for an alternative and I found the Walmart Travel Pillow ( - now it's my favourite!  It's the perfect size for Baby Boy at night and Little Boy for nap.  So far they've washed well and are still "puffy" after a few weeks of use.  Walmart also sells a matching zip-up pillow case (  The pillow is sold for the very reasonable price of $3.48 and the pillowcase is $2.24 so for $5.72 you have the complete set.  The pillowcase on the link is a plain one, but in store there are more designs.  Baby Boy picked out a bright chevron print that he liked.  Unfortunately, Little Boy didn't like any of the patterns of the ready-made cases so I agreed to sew him one.

I took my coupons and Little Boy and I headed to the store where I like to buy my fabric.  We looked around a bit and he found a print he liked right away.  We shuffled through the rest of the section but he was set on the first print he found.  I had the fabric cut and we paid - it cost a grand total of $2.71.  I had leftover fabric for the contrast trim from the Creature Power Suits (  

I made the pillowcase with a fold-over contrast trim that has no seam showing.  Some people call this the "burrito method" or the "pull through method".  It was simple and quick, although I reached a bump in the road when my half-yard of fabric only measured to just barely 17" (maybe it shrunk when I pre-washed??  but only in one direction?) - next time I will add more of a cushion when I'm buying fabric (haha....see the pun?).

Anyways, here is a picture of the finished project....are you surprised at the print he picked?  I'm not!

Ballcap Buddy - Amazing!

Wanna see something gross?  How could you possibly say "no" to that?

This is Little Boy's cap after playing tennis wearing it for a whole summer:

Yuck yuck yuck!  Those are sweat stains....even on the brim and embroidery.  

I wasn't sure how to clean a cap so I checked with my good friend Google and I quickly found many descriptions of cleaning methods involving a toothbrush or nailbrush.   I was not into doing that!  I looked into gadgets and found the "Ballcap Buddy" - a device that allows you to wash your ball cap in the dishwasher or washing machine.  I picked one up in our local Academy store for $3.99.

The Ballcap Buddy looks like this:

It's basically a supportive cage for your hat.  I put Little Boy's hat in, inserted it into the dishwasher, turned on a quick cycle  and crossed my fingers....

I am so pleased with the results!

Here is how it looked when it came out much better already.

I left the cap to dry inside the Buddy because the internal cage holds the cap in shape.

Here is a picture of the completely clean and dry hat.  It is so clean.  It looks a little more worn than when it was brand new (because he's worn it for a year or so and intensively this past summer), but otherwise it is as good as new and not sweaty at all!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

First Day of School Interview - Little Boy and Big Boy

This year, Little Boy and Big Boy are going to the same school (hooray!) and therefore they share the first day of school.  We start tomorrow but I'm assuming we will have a household of chaos in the morning so I interviewed them a day early.  

Little Boy is nervous about school.  It's a new school for him and he doesn't know any of the other children in his class.  He will be in a dual language programme where English is not the main language of instruction and that will be a big challenge!  He will work on learning Spanish.  I hope he has a great day tomorrow but I'm worried he will cry and cling when I drop him off.

Little Boy - About to Start Pre-K 4

1.  I am 3 feet and 7 1/2 inches tall and I weigh 42 pounds.

2.  My favourite thing to play is:  Lego

3.  My favourite colour is:  Orange and Blue

4.  My favourite book is:  Jake and the Flumflum Tree

5.  My favourite TV show is:  Star Wars

6.  My favourite food is:  Turkey

7.  My favourite activity is:  Riding Bike

8.  I really like:  School

9.  I really don't like:  Broccoli 

10.  My favourite thing about myself is:  I am smart

11.  This year I want to:  Make new friends

12.  When I grow up, I want to:  Be an engineer

Big Boy is returning to his school and friends.  He has a new teacher and he is excited to be in a different part of the school with the "big kids".

Big Boy - About to Start Grade 3

1.  I am 4 feet and 3 1/2 inches tall and I weigh 58 pounds.

2.  My favourite thing to play is:  Star Wars

3.  My favourite colour is:  Green

4.  My favourite book is:  Percy Jackson and Harry Potter

5.  My favourite TV show is:  Ben 10

6.  My favourite food is:  Potatoes au Gratin

7.  My favourite activity is:  Playing hockey

8.  I really like:  Reading

9.  I really don't like:  Onions

10.  My favourite thing about myself is:  I am fast

11.  This year I want to:  Learn a new game

12.  When I grow up, I want to:  Have a car

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

First Day of School Interview - Baby Boy

Baby Boy has the first "first day of school" in our family this year!  Here's what he had to say about it:

Baby Boy - About to Start Mother's Day Out

1.  I am 36 inches tall and I weigh about 30 pounds.

2.  My favourite thing to play is:  Batman

3.  My favourite colour is:  Blue

4.  My favourite book is:  Tabby McTat

5.  My favourite TV show is:  Lego Batman

6.  My favourite food is:  Sushi

7.  My favourite activity is:  Play

8.  I really like:  Batman

9.  I really don't like:  Going to school

10.  This year I want to:  Play

11.  When I grow up, I want to be:  Batman

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Shaun the Sheep Movie

Yesterday we took the boys to see the Shaun the Sheep Movie.  It was brilliant!  I loved it.  If you want to see the trailer here it is:

Shaun the Sheep Movie is a kids movie based on the T.V. show.  The film is just like the show, which makes it an unusual film.  It has no talking at all.  The characters express themselves very well but there are no actual words.  It's a stop motion (claymation) film so it doesn't look like an animated (or computer-animated) film either.  

The story is funny and it moves at a good pace.  It was simple enough for my 2-year old to follow but it held my interest as well and had some very clever bits.  You have to pay attention to this film by actually looking at it because of the lack of dialogue.  Nothing was particularly scary in the film although there are a couple of darker bits.

The kids liked it and we all thought the Rizzle Kicks song at the end was really cute.  It's on YouTube if you want to watch that bit:  Spoiler alert (maybe not really), the YouTube video has scenes from the movie.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Sof Sole No Tie Laces

This summer Big Boy and Little Boy played tennis 4 days a week.  Little Boy did not have any sneakers that fit (and didn't have holes in them) at the beginning of the summer, so we made a trip to the shops to pick out some shoes for him.  He picked out a pair of red lace-up Nike sneakers.  He really wanted them.  I liked that they were on sale (for very very cheap) but I did not like that they were tie-ups and not velcro shoes.

I decided that I could live with the tie-ups.  I knew I'd have to help him put the shoes on, but it's not that often and not really a big deal.  I was right.  Every day I helped him into the shoes but it was no real trouble to tie them up.  I double knotted the laces so that they would not untie during his tennis lesson.  He loves the shoes and they are in fairly good condition after a summer's worth of wear.  He has been learning to tie his laces, and he can do it by himself but he is very slow and the laces are slack when he is finished.

Now we are heading toward the school year.  It's not just a matter of me double knottting the shoes onto his feet each morning on school days, because he will remove his shoes for nap and then put them back on after nap.  I'm certain his teacher doesn't want to have to fiddle with his laces every afternoon.

So I picked up a pack of "Sof Sole No Tie Laces" for about $2.00 in Academy last week (here is a link to the product page:  They are wonderful!  No Tie Laces are curly laces that you thread through lace-up shoes and essentially turn the lace-up shoes into slip-on shoes.  They work well and look cute.  With these laces in, Little Boy just pulls up the tongue and slips his foot into his shoes.  The shoes tighten up around his foot creating a snug (but not too snug) fit.  You can adjust how fitted the shoes are by pulling the laces tighter or leaving them looser.

Here is a picture of the laces in his shoes, and a shot of the packet that they came on.  I didn't think to take a picture of the laces before I installed them on his shoes, if you want to see what they would look like at the store, check out the link above.

These laces could be used for a variety of purposes.  Little kids who can't tie yet, people who have trouble bending down to tie, people who have issues with tying (finger stiffness, etc.), or people who just want slip-on shoes.  In the airport they'd be quicker to put back on after security.  I know that when I used to wear my Baby Bjorn a lot, I always wanted slip on shoes.  I'm sure there's lots of uses I haven't thought of!

I think I will buy another pair for my "camping" sneakers.  These are my old sneakers that I wear to muck around in a campsite.  I am frequently frustrated because when I exit the tent I can't just slip them they're a real pain.  When I'm camping I don't want to be dragging laces all over in the dirt or mud, so each time I leave the tent I have to pause and tie up my shoes, even if I'm just walking a few feet.