Too Cool for School (Supplies)

From Kojo-designs.com.

From Kojo-designs.com.

Wait. What? It’s September?

My nine-year-old spent the last couple of days of summer vacation in bed, eyeballs glued to Youtube. I was pretty busy having an aneurysm about how to drop off and pick up my kids on opposite sides of town–simultaneously–so I had no clue what was going on up there. But while I tried unsuccessfully to tame my logistical beasts, she taught herself how to do absolutely everything else.

When she wandered downstairs to ask, “Can I make lip gloss out of Vaseline and crayons?” I just stared. “I don’t know if that will work,” I finally said, and she rolled her eyes. “Of course it works,” she responded. “Also, it’s completely non-toxic.” During the ensuing silence, I realized she meant “may I?” not “can I?” which made me feel a bit better. Perhaps she hasn’t completely eclipsed my knowledge base yet.

In all honesty, I had noticed it was September, but being aware and being prepared are not the same thing at all. So when the 11-year-old started complaining about her boring, clunky binders, it was Miss 9 who had all the answers, not me. “Just paint an ombre in a chevron pattern,” she said. “All you need is some acrylic paint and some tape.”

Voilà:

Miss 11's binder project. Whether this is really an ombre effect, or more of a gradient, is up for debate among word fiends.

Miss 11’s binder project. Whether this is really an ombre effect, or more of a gradient, is currently up for debate.

Miss 9 discovered the binder project during her Youtube binge. You can find directions for it about 3 minutes into this video. It was fun, easy, and made all the difference in the cruel world of middle school. We started rooting around, looking for other, cool school-related projects.

What follows are a few of the awesome things we discovered.

Metallic magnets for your locker:

From: http://kojo-designs.com/2013/11/diy-metallic-alphabet-magnets/

Soooo cool and so very simple. From kojo-designs.com.

Book covers with special bonus from the indefatiguable Martha Stewart:

Thanks, Martha!

Thanks, Martha! A way to keep the assignment notebook handy.

She's unstoppable!

Book jacket with pockets. Same link as above.

Got comics? or old calendars? or outdated maps? Slap some clear contact paper on that and go! Awesome.

Got comics? Old calendars? Or outdated maps? Slap some clear contact paper on that and go! Awesome.

Washi tape-covered pencils. Now that Target and Amazon and Walgreen’s are all peddling washi tape…might be time to try it!

Image and idea found on mashable.com. Directions here.

Image and idea found on mashable.com. No-brainer directions here.

Adorable bag for miscellaneous supplies:

Awesome lined bag tutorial from The Creative Place. Please note: I'd advise you to just buy satin cord to serve as the drawstring, unless you like impossible challenges. The rest is easy.

Awesome lined bag tutorial from The Creative Place. Please note: do yourself a favor and just buy satin cord to serve as the drawstring, unless you like impossible challenges. The rest is easy.

Also, I saw directions to make monster bookmarks that were waaaaaay too complicated. Here’s the super simple way I posted a while back:

The easy way.

The easy way.

They did it the hard way, though I love their accessorizing ideas:

From Tally's Treasury.

From Tally’s Treasury–obvi!

Oh and p.s. If you want to make the crayon lip gloss, click here for directions.

Feel free to post links to other interesting ideas in the comments!

Lobestir’s Gone A-Fishin’

We’re taking a much-needed break until Labor Day.

In the meantime, why not revisit some former fabulousness?  Mummify a chicken! Make a cloud at home! Find DNA in a strawberry! Read something fabulous while you wait for Mockingjay to come out!

Please let us know if you could use book or activity advice – we’d love to hear from you, and to meet all your needs come September.

Love, Gina and Beret

Three Car Games for Carsick Kids

posted by Gina

As a kid, my family drove to Tahoe every summer. That’s a long drive from Southern California, and we stopped roughly three times each way for me to throw up. Oh, the magic that is carsickness. Family car trips were rough on me, since everything that might entertain me – books, crayons, notebooks – was out of the question.  Especially in the backseat.

My friend Aliza and I just drove from North Carolina to New York, closing out a delightful mountain vacation. The drive is both lovely and long, and since we both have the carsick issue, there was very little reading, facebooking, texting, or any kind of looking anywhere but straight ahead.

So, for those of you with kids that suffer similarly, I present to you: The Car Games Aliza and I Played While Driving to New York That Were Actually Kind of Fun.

photo

Gina and Aliza leave North Carolina, counting cows.

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This Book is Like Whoa

"Now here is my secret. It is very simple. It is only with one's heart that one can see clearly. What is essential is invisible to the eye." --Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince. Cover art by Tad Carpenter, from http://campusmlk.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/wonder.jpeg

“Now here is my secret. It is very simple. It is only with one’s heart that one can see clearly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.” –Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince. Cover art for Wonder (above) is by Tad Carpenter, image from http://campusmlk.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/wonder.jpeg

posted by Beret

R.J. Palacio’s novel appears to be written for eight- to twelve-year-olds, but is, in reality, a compelling and inspiring book for readers of most any age.

Wonder is the story of August Pullman, a boy born with severe facial abnormalities. He has been homeschooled by his mother his whole life, but when he turns ten, his parents decide to enroll him in a private middle school in New York City. Imagine all of the fear and insecurity, the freaky social and physiological transitions occurring at that time of life, and then imagine having to weather them all with a face that triggers screaming and crying, shocked stares, rude comments, and double-takes.

“I won’t describe what I look like,” August says. “Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.” August emerges as an honest and straightforward narrator, explaining in unemotional terms what it is like to walk through the world as he does. He maintains a sense of humor through many of his struggles, as well as a remarkable tolerance and understanding for the way people relate to him. Usually.   Continue reading

Soap Clouds

posted by Gina

Were you cloud-inspired by Beret’s DIY Clouds? Have you been wishing there were more sort-of-cloud-related activities to do with your kiddos? Have you ever wondered what happens when you put Ivory Soap in a microwave? I am here to help.

IMG_5347

This. This is what happens.

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DIY Clouds

posted by Beret

Ages: 4 and up

For me, clouds recall lazy summer afternoons spent splayed in the cool grass, searching for sky sheep. Since I have moved to the FOG ZONE, however, summers are mostly frigid and gray. On rare clear days, the blue above is nearly always spotless. Sunsets are quick and unremarkable.

Imagine my excitement to discover that I could make my own clouds!

This experiment is fast and easy, but the science and dialogue can go as deep as you wish.   Continue reading

Frolicking About with Bubble Wrap

posted by Gina

First: a disclaimer. I don’t have kids. You likely gathered this already from previous posts, featuring myself and Larry the Cat as Play-Doh and macro lens beta testers, rather than the small folks for whom this blog is intended. This week’s post is not cat-friendly, so I’m afraid my images will feature some other people’s kids, gathered from my trolling about the internets compiling festive bubble wrap ideas.

What’s that, you said? Bring on the festive bubble wrap ideas? Ok then!

enhanced-buzz-19725-1400096268-14

from messforless.net

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Cryptology for kids

spy vs spy from www.strangehistory.net/

Mad Magazine’s spy vs spy from http://www.strangehistory.net/

posted by Beret

Ages:  Any, although kids 8-11 get particularly fired up about secret codes. That’s typically the age when kids decide that a little privacy would be great–especially if younger siblings are involved.

Many aspects of being a spy are, in reality, probably unappealing:  lying, hiding, sneaking–all while your life is in constant jeopardy–plus a boatload of observation, sales, and psychological manipulation, according to former C.I.A. operative Lindsay Moran. Still, the idea of secret messages never gets old, and I’m excited to show you a few simple codes to get kids started. Continue reading

Mr. Wuffles!

I took the photo, but obviously this  image credit--and the others in this post--goes to David Wiesner.

I took the photo, but obviously this image credit–and the others in this post–should go to David Wiesner.

posted by Beret Ages:  5-10+

Three-time Caldecott Medal winner David Wiesner has done it again. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, he is known for crafting wild tales of new worlds–using few words, if any–with enough detail and complexity to appeal to readers of all ages. Mr. Wuffles is no exception.

Brief Synopsis:

Mr. Wuffles is bored. Mr. Wuffles is cranky. Substandard toys line the halls, untouched, as he searches half-heartedly for something worthy of his attention.

But what’s this nestled amongst the fake mice, feathers, and string?

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