Horse Theme Party

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For Miss Optimism’s ninth birthday party, she wanted a horse theme party.  She loves horses, though with her allergies, she cannot actually ride them.  Having two kids with December birthdays is always a challenge, but I was so fortunate this time to have The Ferrari ice the cake for me.  I am a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to certain things including cake decorating, so when I ice the cakes myself, it can take me anywhere from two and a half to four hours to finish, but as long as someone else is doing it, I don’t much care whether it’s perfect or not, so having him do this for me saved me hours of work.

This was The Ferrari (who is 15)’s very first time ever piping a cake and he did an amazing job!  What an amazing gift for his little sister and for his mom!  This is the finished product:

Decorations were pretty easy.  I had ordered horse plates, napkins, cups, banner, and blowouts.  I didn’t get a tablecloth, as I thought the wood table would be best.  I found a plastic bucket at the dollar store that looked like a tin feeding bucket.  I put the treat bags in the bucket and placed it in the middle of the table to build a centrepiece around.  I propped up some carrots with stalks on the bucket, propped up a foam cowgirl hat, and placed an apple next to that.  So simple, so inexpensive, but it worked well.  I placed little plastic horses on the table, which the party guests were able to take home after the party.

For activities, the girls at the party coloured white cardboard horses and they decorated the foam hat from the centrepiece with foam horse and cowgirl theme stickers.  We played “Trainer Says” which is like “Simon Says” but horse themed so the girls pretended to be horses and I said things like “trainer says swat the flies” or “trainer says trot”.  This went over well.  I had another game planned, but the girls decided to play a make believe barnyard game instead.

For food, I of course served carrots and apple slices and the birthday girl’s request of macaroni and cheese. Here is a picture of the happy birthday girl.

I can still hardly believe that the baby girl who came to us at 4 lbs. 14 oz. is now 9 years old! We love you like crazy muffins Miss Optimism!

Penguin Theme Party

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It is no secret that Granola Girl’s favourite thing in the world (next to God and her family) is penguins.  For her sixth birthday, she asked for a penguin theme party.  This one is not as easy to pull off as themes where the cake pan and decorations are ready made, but I was up to the challenge!

For the cake, I baked a cake in the 3D mini bear pan, cut off its ears and feet, made a beak out of part of one of the ears and glued it on with icing, moved the feet to the front and iced.

Then with the remaining cake batter, I poured it into a glass bowl and attempted to bake an igloo cake.  This one didn’t really turn out because it stuck to the bowl really badly and came out in pieces so I had to use the other side of it, so it wasn’t very round, but six year olds didn’t care. I sprinkled icing sugar over everything to look like snow and voila – penguin cake!

For activities, the kids did races with a balloon between their legs, like the dad penguins carrying the eggs, made a penguin craft, and made sugar cube igloos. The kids who stayed later also got to watch the movie “Happy Feet”.

For food for the penguin party, the kids ate Penguins of Madagascar pasta, fish crackers, Oreos (because they are black and white), and drank blue punch (for the ice cold water that penguins like). Granola Girl had a great time!

A Mickey Mouse Birthday Party

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For his birthday party, our son Snuggle Puppy chose a Mickey Mouse theme.  The cake was a big hit!

For the cupcakes, I made a spice cake, iced with buttercream, and then cut three circles out of fondant to make a Mickey Mouse head on the top of most of them.  I don’t usually make a cake AND cupcakes for the kids’ parties, this party was extra special as it was Snuggle Puppy’s first real birthday party ever.

I made Mickey Mouse shaped Rice Krispie treats on lollipop sticks and displayed them by hiding a Kleenex box inside a gift bag and poking the sticks in holes in the bag and box.  I handed them out to the kids as they were leaving.

The birthday boy loved the celebration just for him.  We had fourteen kids here, plus our seven, and seventeen adults.  For food, we served Mickey shaped hamburgers with the fixings, a layered dip, potato salad, Asian salad, devilled eggs, crackers, cheese, pickles, pickled asparagus, and cheese dips.  It was a beautiful day, so the kids played outside most of the time and I didn’t need to organize many activities.  We played Mickey-Mickey-Minnie (like duck-duck-goose) and I had Mickey party colouring sheets for the kids with markers set out.  It was an easy theme to work with as far as colours and decor go.  Most importantly, Snuggle Puppy absolutely loved all of it!!!

A Fresh Start

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A new school year is upon us and with it comes big changes for me.  My oldest son is going into the tenth grade and starting school this year, a real full day brick and mortar school.  This was a decision that was years in the making and is the right one for him and for us.  So far, so good.  He has attended for one week and has survived.

Later this week, I will embark on a new homeschooling journey with the rest of the kids.  I will be attempting to do what I have always avoided doing and am, in theory, somewhat opposed to doing.  I will be structuring things like “school-at-home”.  I will be following the lesson plans I have made, teaching in our newly decorated homeschool classroom, being scheduled and structured, and having the kids do bookwork.

The reason for this change is very simple.  It’s what my kids need.  Perhaps there will come a time when I can go back to being a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants spontaneous homeschooler, who gives the kids the freedom to learn just by living, but for now, this is what they need.  Our thirteen year old son has been asking for about a year now for more bookwork, more learning, more predictability.  I think he will take to this rather well.  It’s the three eight year olds though, that I truly made this change for.  Two of them have special needs that cry out for routine.  The other is learning English as a second language and his learning needs to be more purposeful for this to be effective.  Last year, I just assumed that he would magically learn a new language and a new alphabet and we could go on our merry way.  It didn’t happen.  This will also probably benefit the two five year olds as well.  Part of my plan will include teaching FOUR kids how to read this year!

None of this will come naturally for me and is a big step out of my comfort zone, but this will be a year of many changes, so I’m adding this one and am going to make it work.  There will be a lot of prayer that comes with this and my intake of chocolate may increase!

Here is the new homeschool classroom:

this “world wall” has a map of the world, quotes, a holder for the kids’ lapbooks, clocks with times set to our local time, the time in Ethiopia, and in Nova Scotia (where friends of ours live).  The best part is the Africa decal with a cut-out of Ethiopia, the birth country of two of our children!

The bookshelves and games cupboards…notice how organized the books are – there are even labels on the shelves – they won’t stay this organized for long!

a view of most of the room – the table is where we will do most of our schooling

This used to be a fireplace that made the house drafty.  With my mom’s help, we put some insulation in there, and covered it with cork.  Now I have a huge corkboard to display craft projects or theme units on.  The mantle works perfectly for setting out the books and models for the theme we are studying at the moment.

The reading corner is my favourite.  It’s already been getting a lot of use.  The bean bag chair is a great place to snuggle up and have some one-on-one time with each of the kids.

All the wall graphics in the room are from Peel Monkey.