Monday, September 20, 2010

CogAT 2010

Hello! I'm still working through last week's displacement but the world still goes on and CogAT testing has started for 1st and 3rd graders!! If you need some great test snack ideas click here. This is a pretty "small" test as standardize tests go, but it's important because these scores are used to determine if your child is a candide for FOCUS (or the gifted program). This week I asked parent volunteers to send in 2 cases of bottled water, bananas, clementines and healthy cereal bars.

On Day 1 - I sent in pretzels, colby jack cheese sticks, strawberries and grapes for class snack.
On Day 2 - I sent in homemade granola for the pre-test breakfast and then I sent in cheddar crackers, string cheese, carrots and sliced cucumbers for the class snack.
On Day 3 - I sent in hommade mini blueberry muffins for the pre-test breakfast and then I sent in cheddar cheese sticks, whole wheat crackers and grapes for the class snack.

Each day I pre-packaged each snack in individual quart size bags (each quart size bag contained a snack bag of pretzels, a snack bag of fruit and a cheese stick) so it would be easy for the teacher to pass out and the kids to eat. I know it might sound like a lot of food but the teacher already e-mailed me and said the kids were starving and ate it all up!!

Also, WhatACuteIdea! has these adorable CogAt survival Kits available for purchase for your teacher. Are they not adorable!!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Displaced and Disheartened

Today was horrible. My Kindergartener's teacher is getting displaced. It sucks, it's ridiculous that a school system can say that they have the children's best interests in mind and then 5 weeks into the school year go in tomorrow and tell a class of Kindergarteners that they will be reporting to a different teacher and an already existing class on Monday. My daughter is devestated and so am I. But more importantly I'm thinking of our poor teacher caught in the middle of all this.

So what is the proper etiquette for displacement? I say don't gloss over it - call it like it is. I took a "Pity Party" pack to school today and left it on my teacher's desk during recess. I filled it with her (and her para pro's) favorite candy, favorite soda and a gift card to their favorite restaurant for them to go out and have some refreshments on me this week because they deserve it. I wrote them a short card that said I was sorry and that if anyone deserved to have a pity party it was them!! I'm praying that no one else is having to tuck their babies into bed crying tonight because they are upset, confused and scared of being the "new kid" in class when they did NOTHING wrong. But sadly, I'm know I'm not the only one and I think we need to keep in perspective how hard this has to be on the teacher that this is happening to as well...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Candy Pumpkin Bracelets

Happy Monday everyone! If you are a friend of Room Moms Rock on facebook then I already told you to go on over to for the "Spooktacular September". Each day a different guest blogger lists a Halloween craft. There are some fabulous ideas!! Here is one from this past weekend - Candy Pumpkin Bracelets. Are they not adorable? I whipped this out in about 5 minutes with a thick needle, non flavored dental floss, candy pumpkins and ribbon. Total cost for me was 3 bucks to buy all the supplies and I could probably make 4 or 5 bracelets from one bag of candy. You can click here to see how they are made:) What are you waiting for?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Shrinky Dinks

Remember Shrinky Dinks? I had Strawberry Shortcake themed Shrinky Dinks when I was little. They were basically coloring pages copied onto this clear plastic sheet. You would color them with crayons or markers and then cut the shapes or figures out, bake them for what seemed like an eternity (when it was really 2 minutes) and they would shrink into these little hard plastic figurines - mine even had a stand for them. I LOVED watching them bake. They would curl up around into itself and then slowly unfurl as it baked - like it was alive.

Well, I still love them - only now I've outgrown the Strawberry Shortcake theme (and right as it was coming back into style;). You can purchase these sheets of paper off the Internet and create any theme "shrinky dink" you like! Now I know what you are thinking - what in the world can I make with this crap. Well, I've made charms for jewelry, in class we've made charms and threaded ribbon through to make book marks, key chains, fan pulls, zipper pulls, luggage tags, ornaments and recently I made gift tags with them:) The possibilities are limitless!!

Step one is to google Shrink Paper and choose the kind that works best for you. I bought white, because that's how I roll. But there are clear shrink paper sheets, clear colored shrink paper sheets and more!

Now please make sure you read the directions for the paper you purchase. And don't be intimidated - most of these directions are common sense.
The paper I purchased can be printed on from a computer printer - or you can just draw on it. Or you can do what I did and do BOTH! I decided to make tags for our themed bingo baskets. I thought they would be cute additions to the baskets and the kids love them. So, I first printed out what I wanted the tag to say and then I traced the shape around the words I printed. See....

Then I added the other words and shape to the page so I wouldn't be wasteful. Then I colored the images with colored pencils. Now I could have printed everything on the paper from the computer but I wanted this to look whimsical and I think I achieved my goal.
Next I cut the shapes out leaving a small white border around the image. It looks better this way and it ensures that the whole image will be seen once it shrinks. Sometimes the image can get warped when shrinking so it's always a good idea to leave a little border.
Then I punched a hole in the paper where I want to string or thread ribbon through to hang the tag. I took a picture of these tags prior to shrinking them so you can see how big they are related to the scissors and hole punch.
Next you place your image on a clean cookie sheet...or in my case a clean cookie sheet that looks dirty because I bake a lot which is why I'm trying to lose weight and trying to run now but it isn't really working because I'm hungry and so I keep baking more crap and OH yeah, the shrinky dinks.....
I placed them in the oven at 375 degrees for 2 minutes and watched them very closely. Now don't panic because (just like when we were little) they still curl way up into a ball and rock back and forth in the oven. Then they start to unfurl again and lay flat. Once you see the shrinky dink has stopped moving completely take it out. I usually have a very thick potholder or towel in my hand and I press down to make sure the shrinky dink is flat. These are very pliable when they are coming out of the oven but they begin to harden quickly so you want to "flatten" it out as you are bringing it out from the oven. And presto here are the tags shrunk. See how small they are compared to the scissors and the hole punch now?
Here are all the things my children made from the scraps of the sheet we used to make the tags above. We made a birthday charm to go on a present for my daughter's friend. We made a best friend's charm to go on a bracelet my other daughter is making. I wanted you to see how the colors become darker and more intense when they are baked. The scrap of paper above the best friend's tag is the original color before it was shrunk. SO, be careful you use lighter colors when coloring!! We practiced making an Army "dog tag" for my son and we made a charm for a key chain.
Next we decided to make a Christmas ornament. These are GREAT holiday crafts to make with your kids. You can actually attach them as gift tags that can then be used as an ornament. Below I again printed the words off the computer that I wanted on the ornament. Then I traced the ornament template around the words. I used the whole sheet because I wanted it to be the size of a regular ornament once it was completed.
Then my daughter's and I colored it in. We liked polka dots for this one. Next we cut out the shape and punched out a pretty big hole to later thread ribbon through. Again, I took a picture for you to see the size before we shrunk the ornament.
And here it is after it's been baked and shrunk. All it needs now is some cute red ribbon!!
You can also use this paper to print photos on and then shrink them to make ornaments, charms, puzzle pieces, game pieces...whatever you can imagine!! What crafts have you made with your shrink paper?

Friday, September 10, 2010

"Store Bought" Snacks from Scratch

Kids LOVE to cook! It's a great activity for them on so many levels!! It's spending TIME with them, teaching them about nutrition, teaching them lifelong skills AND gives them a set of tasks that they must concentrate on and complete in a set period of time!!

I have always loved to cook and bake, and so even when I was in college I liked to make homemade food with real ingredients (and less mixes or crap from a can). Now that I'm a mom, not only do I feel better about making homemade snacks because I know exactly what's in them - but they are usually cheaper to make myself. I also think it's really important to educate our kids about food and what is IN the food they eat so they themselves can make better choices and have a hopefully better relationship with food as they grow. Below are some of my favorite "store bought" snacks that we make homemade at our house. What are some of yours?

Pop Tarts
This recipe came from Smitten Kitchen and I was SHOCKED to find that the brown sugar & cinnamon recipe really does taste JUST like a Pop Tart! Now, you can basically use any pie crust dough recipe as the pastry for the pop tart. The trick for the brown sugar and cinnamon is to LOAD that sucker up - it really does get moist and it is SO yummy!! You can also make these with any fruit spread or jam and then you can make a glaze as "icing" on the top!
For the Pop Tart recipe click here.
Glaze Recipe:
3 cups powered Sugar
1/4 cup Milk
1/2 Tbsp PURE Vanilla - or you could add 1 Tbsp of the fruit spread or jam you used to flavor the glaze

I LOVE to make granola! We make it all the time. Sometimes with nuts, sometimes with chocolate chips, sometimes with craisins - whatever we feel like. This recipe actually can be adapted so that children with peanut allergies can eat it - which is a HUGE deal because usually children with peanut allergies can NEVER have granola (due to the fact that it has the possibility of nuts). I like to make this as a breakfast item or as a snack for Testing. The kids always LOVE it and the teachers are usually surprised how much the kids like it!! This makes a BIG batch and is SUPER CHEAP to make. Click here for the recipe and how I make it.
My recipe is adapted from Ina Garten's and she now has a granola bar recipe as well. You can click here for the bar recipe:)

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pudding
Everyone's mom growing up made JELLO pudding from the box. I always would eat it freshly made, but then something happened to the consistency when it was refrigerated for a while and it was just well, lumpy and gross tasting. This is a GREAT recipe. I got this recipe off Bakerella who got it off someone else's site (see how this works:) and it's actually a pretty kid friendly recipe. (For those with peanut allergies just omit the peanut butter.) It's very quick to prepare and my girls LOVE to help make it AND eat it (even a day or two after it's made;). It says to use Dutch Processed Cocoa powder- but in a pinch I've used GASP Hershey's and my girls loved it just the same. You can even top it with homemade whipped cream and then your husband might keep you around forever:)
For the recipe click here - you can even make the ADORABLE chocolate cups to put the pudding in!!
Homemade Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tbsp PURE vanilla extract

"Easy Bake" or "Break & Bake" Chocolate Chip Cookies
I love chocolate chip cookie dough. I can eat a lot of it. In fact, usually when I'm waiting to put the next batch of cookies in the oven - I end up eating more of the dough then I bake!! And when I'm done, I have so many cookies and I end up throwing them out before we can eat them all which is SO wasteful. I always LOVED the "easy bake" or "break & bake" cookie dough you can buy in the store. To me, the cookies always bake better than when I make them homemade. I love to read recipes and I stumbled upon a cookie book one day that said ALL chocolate chip cookie dough should be chilled for at least 15 minutes prior to baking. SO, that day I pre-scooped my whole bowl of cookie dough out to chill. I realized that hey - I didn't just eat all the dough AND I baked what I needed and then stuck the rest in a ziploc bag in the fridge and had them all week to bake after school. It's helping me with something called "portion control" it's new concept for me and my obsession with chocolate;)
You can use any chocolate chip cookie dough recipe you like. I rotate mine around, right now I'm obsessed with Ghirardelli's. You can click here for the recipe. Once you make the cookie dough, use a small ice cream scoop (this one is a 2 Tablespoon size) to scoop the whole bowl out onto a cookie sheet. You can cram the cookie dough onto the sheet here because you are just going to chill them like this (not bake them). I even press down just a bit on the pre-scooped balls so they look more like the "store bought" dough. I chill mine for 15 minutes (while I preheat the oven) and then I bake what I need and store the rest. And presto you can have fresh cookies every day that week!! Enjoy!!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

13 Things Your Teachers Won't Tell You Article

Today is my birthday:) And Yahoo had an article just for my blog today!! These are definitely words to live by:) Enjoy!

Here is the link to the actual article:

And here is what the article says:

13 Things Your Child's Teacher Won't Tell You
Reader's Digest Article - Interviews by Neena Samuel

A look inside a teacher's mind could help you understand lesson plans and maybe even guide your child to perform better.

1. If we teach small children, don’t tell us that our jobs are “so cute” and that you wish you could glue and color all day long.

2. I’m not a marriage counselor. At parent-teacher conferences, let’s stick to Dakota’s progress, not how your husband won’t help you around the house.

3. We’re sick of standardized testing and having to “teach to the test.”

4. Kids used to go out and play after school and resolve problems on their own. Now, with computers and TV, they lack the skills to communicate. They don’t know how to get past hurt feelings without telling the teacher and having her fix it.

5. When I hear a loud belch, I remember that a student’s manners are a reflection of his parents’.

6. Your child may be the center of your universe, but I have to share mine with 25 others.

7. Please help us by turning off the texting feature on your child’s phone during school hours.

8. Guys who dribble a ball for a couple of hours a game can make up to $20 million a year. We educate future leaders and make about $51,000 a year.

9. We take on the role of mother, father, psychologist, friend, and adviser every day. Plus, we’re watching for learning disabilities, issues at home, peer pressure, drug abuse, and bullying.

10. Kids dish on your secrets all the time—money, religion, politics, even Dad’s vasectomy.

11. Please, no more mugs, frames, or stuffed animals. A gift card to Starbucks or Staples would be more than enough. A thank-you note: even better.

12. We love snow days and three-day weekends as much as your kid does.

13. The students we remember are happy, respectful, and good-hearted, not necessarily the ones with the highest grades.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

B-I-N-G-O Baskets

There was a class
who had to make
a basket for the game night,

Seriously, the school year is in full swing and so starts the school wide social/fundraising events. Some schools host auctions and each class is responsible for a basket, our school hosts BINGO night. It's a great event and families really enjoy it together! At our school each class is responsible for donating a themed basket that will be awarded to a lucky BINGO winner. They try to keep the value of the baskets the same - usually around $15. The PTA assigns a gender so that they don't end up with 50 Hannah Montana baskets. Below is a picture of the basket I did a few years ago. It was a reading/writing basket theme for a 1st grade boy.
Here is a Fancy Nancy basket I did for a Kindergarten girl theme:

I tend to stick with academic themed baskets because, well, it's in my DNA. But there are TONS of different themed baskets at our event. Below are just some of the themes I've seen over the past few years:
  1. Reading/Writing Basket- I usually pick up a few books for the gender/age I've been assigned and then I ask parents to send in anything that's reading/writing related, children magazine subscriptions, such as pencils, book marks, timer, notepads, stickers, you get the picture.
  2. Water Basket - Right now there are tons of summer items on clearance but it's still so hot outside. Ask parents to send in any items related to summer or water activities like water guns, floats, beach ball, slip-n-slide, sprinkler, etc.
  3. Craft Basket - This would include small craft kits (you can usually find some in the dollar section at Target or Micheal's) , paper, stamps, stickers, glue, coloring books, patterned scissors, crayons, markers.
  4. Art Basket - Pick up a small canvas, paint brushes, paint, and a book about how to paint or famous artists.
  5. Movie Night Basket - Pick up a popular children's movie (or a blockbuster card or movie theater tickets) and ask parents to send in a popcorn, candy, a popcorn bucket/container to display it in and anything related to that movie (like books, stickers, pencils, t-shirts).
  6. Drive Through Basket - Ask parents to send in $5 gift cards to local fast food restaurants.
  7. I-Scream/ You Scream/Ice Cream Basket - Pick up a coupon book or a small gift card to Bruster's, get a cute sundae set or small bowls, an ice cream scoop, toppings, sprinkles, cones etc.
  8. Snow Cone Basket - Pick up an inexpensive snow cone machine or kit and ask parents too send in syrups, snow cone cups, silly straws, etc.
  9. Game Basket- You can ask each child to send in a small inexpensive game, there are lots of card games under $5, board games, hand held games, domino's, jacks, etc.
  10. Picture Perfect - Get a disposable camera and then a small scrapbook, stickers, paper,and other items to crop the photos and fill the scrapbook.
  11. FAME Basket - This would be a basket centered around a certain character (like Hannah Montana, Spiderman), famous person (a musician, sports icon) or a show (Phineas & Ferb, Transformers). Parents would just send in anything that has to do with that character or show - notebooks, pencils, t-shirts, posters, DVD's, CD's, games, etc.
  12. Science Basket - Ask parents to send in anything science related including books, experiment kits, magnifying glass, microscope, telescope, etc. - you could take this a step further and specify a certain science theme Astronomy, Chemistry, Geology, Biology.
  13. Gardening Basket - You could include a child gardening book, gloves, spade, rake, shovel, terracotta pots, seeds, etc.
  14. Cooking Basket - Include a children's cookbook, apron, measuring spoons, measuring cups, rolling pin, etc.
  15. Backyard-Again Basket - You can include sidewalk chalk, jump rope, kickball, really anything for the backyard or outside.
  16. Travel Basket - This would include a travel pillow, travel games, a lap pad and anything else kids might use in the car.
  17. Accessories Basket - You could include hair bows, head bands, jewelry, SILLY BANDZ.
  18. Sports Basket - You can choose a specific sport such as baseball, football, basketball and ask parents to send in any item related to that sport, like trading cards, water bottle, a book about that sport, any of the equipment from that sport, stickers, pencils, etc.
  19. Team Basket - Choose a specific team, like a college team, a high school team or a professional team and ask parents to send in anything that is that team theme related, shirts, pictures, magnets, notepads, stickers, etc.
  20. Music Basket - Ask parents to send in items related to music, books, inexpensive instruments (like recorder, harmonica, tamborine), lessons if you know someone that could give lessons.
  21. Sewing Basket - A book about sewing, a sewing kit, fabric, thread, needles, sewing box, etc.
  22. Knitting Basket - A book about knitting or a kit, yarn, knitting needles, etc.
  23. Camp Basket - Pick up a child's tent and ask parents to send in items related to camping, a smore's set, campfire skewers, flashlight, bug spray, etc.
  24. Puzzle Basket - Ask parents to send in all kinds of puzzles, including piece puzzles, word puzzles, word searches, suduko, etc.
  25. Animal Basket - You could include tickets to the local petting zoo, books about animals, animal SILLY BANDZ, sticks, etc.

Below is the letter that I send out each year to get the parents on board. Feel free to cut and paste and edit it for your use, any of the words in italics should be replaced with your class specific information!

BINGO Basket Letter

Each year the SCHOOL NAME hosts a BINGO Night. This year’s BINGO Night will be held on DATE. It’s a great event for the children and helps raise money for our school. Each class is responsible for drinks and for putting together a themed basket that is then awarded as a prize to a BINGO winner.

Our class will provide two 12 packs of SODA and a THEME basket for a GENDER. Please send in a small item appropriate for this basket – some ideas might be LIST ITEMS THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE IN THE BASKET! You may also choose to send in a small money contribution in lieu of an item for the basket. All items for the basket must be received by DUE DATE. If you have any questions or suggestions, please contact your room mom, YOUR NAME, by e-mail at YOUR E-MAIL or by phone YOUR PHONE NUMBER.