Archive for the ‘1 Summer’ Category

S is for Summer Camps

Whether it be Art, The Bible, or Camping in the great outdoors, the A, B, Cs of summer enrichment programs for children are filled with endless opportunities.  In this post, I attempt to round up as many summer camps and resources as I can, but it is not as comprehensive as I would hope. I encourage readers to let us all know of other summer programs by using the comment section.  I will also include additional resources as I stumble upon them in my weekly “F is for Free and Frugal Family Fun” blog.

Mark your calendars!  The Minnesota Parent Camp Fair, Saturday, February 25, 10 AM – 2 PM, Como Park Zoo and Conservatory, this event is FREE! Now is the best time to get a head start on planning for summer camps. Meet camp representatives from day and overnight, music, science, computer, art, performance programs and more!

Disclosure and warning: The intent of this post is to gather as many summer resources as possible and because I have had little if not any personal exposure to the majority of these programs and therefore, do not assume that simply because I am posting about them here that I fully endorse them.  Because these programs are intended for children, YOUR children, and some cost A LOT of money, I HIGHLY  encourage you to seek as much information as possible about these programs and gather feedback and references from trusted sources before you even sign up your children for these activities. Also, take note, some of these organization do not yet have their summer programs posted on their website. I have provided the link I believe will be the connection to those programs as soon as they are available. Do not hesitate to email or call the organization now and ask for their summer information.


Chess Day Camp
Concordia Language Village
Groves Academy
Academy of Holy Angels

The Art Academy
in St. Paul
Children’s Theatre Company
Dance Endeavors
Edina Art Center

Guthrie Theatre
Minneapolis Institute of Arts – Minneapolis
Richfield Evangelical Lutheran Church drama camp
Stages Theatre in Hopkins
Shell Lake Art Center

Edina Community Education
Minneapolis Community Education
Richfield Bloomington Community Education
Richfield Recreation

Bead Monkey
The Linden Tree

Circle R Ranch
in Long Pairie

Children’s Country Day School in Mendota Heights for ages 2-7 years
Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
Swift Nature Camp
Three Rivers Park
Woodlake Nature Center

Bell Museum of Natural History
Science Museum of Minnesota programs for children ages 3-16 years. Registration for members begins February 20, non-members begins March 5.
Wise Swim School Science Camps

Wise Swim School
Elite Gymnastics

Boy Scouts of America
Girl Scouts

Autism Society
Struggling Teens

Christ Prespyterian  Church VBS in Edina
Oak Grove Lutheran VBS in Richfield
St. Richard’s Catholic Church VBS in Richfield
Richfield ELCA VBS


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Preparation is the key to integrating the alphabet into your summer. Generating ideas ahead of time is a big part of the process that allows for lots of opportunity to get excited and educated at the same time. After you have created a structure to base your activities around, it’s easier to be flexible, spontaneous, and ultimately more adventurous.  You and your child(ren) will be amazed by how their vocabulary grows, their spelling improves, their friendships blossom, and their knowledge of the world around them both widens and deepens.

Step 1: Generate ideas
Half the fun of Alphabet Summer is coming up with all of the things you want to do.  Here are a few ideas for keeping track of the ideas you generate:
1. Use index cards with each letter of the alphabet and tape them to either the inside or outside of a closet door. Keep a pen, pencil, or marker nearby to write ideas as they come up.
2. Give your child a dictionary based on their reading and maturity level to help them come up with ideas and words.
3. Keep a notebook in a central location to write your ideas.  It works best when you write each letter in the top of each page of the notebook.  You may also want to keep another notebook to write ideas when you are out and about such as in the car, purse, or backpack.
4. If you are fortunate to have a library or even a system of libraries near your home, make a list of the names of each library that you would be willing to travel to on a weekly basis to check out book. Same goes for parks, pools, recreation centers, nature centers, favorite restaurants, and ice cream parlors.  This is the perfect excuse to be a tourist in your own town.  Make time for local attractions that out-of-towners are often times more acquainted with than residents.  Don’t forget your camera!
5.  Be sure to join at least one reading incentive program through your local library, book store, or even online if needed.  Often times, there are many prizes and awards given to children who read a certain amount of books during the summer.
6. Consider integrating daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonal household tasks and errands into your alphabet-based schedule.
7. Determine your summer budget based on your weekly and monthly financial needs.  By figuring out your financial abilities and limits on the front end, you are less likely to spend more than you intend.
8. If you’d like to expand your efforts and include friends and family in the fun, consider creating your own craft camps.

Step 2:
Keep it cheap
Alphabet Summer need not be an expensive endeavor.  It can be as simple as listening to a CD, watching a DVD, reading a book from your own personal collection or your local library’s, or even making a recipe that starts with the letter of the day or week.  Other ways to spend little or money is to take advantage of local resources such as libraries, parks, pools, and nature centers in your community.  Be sure to check the restaurant websites of the various destinations you intend to visit to see if they offer online discounts, coupons, or promotions.  Amazon Local, AAA, Groupon, Crowd Cut, KGB Deals, Living Social, Plum District, Restaurant.com, Saveology, Steals from Star Tribune have also been very beneficial for our family if you are able to plow through a ton of unwanted email to find the deals you will actually use.

If you have access to a Chinook Book  or the Entertainment Book in your area, they are both well worth the small investment of purchase to save a substantial amount of money. These coupons books also provide many ideas for your list of places to go and things to see.

Check with your local craft supply stores (like Joann Fabric or Michaels) for online and in-store discounts and coupons. It’s also important to become well acquainted with their return policy especially if you will be doing crafts with a large group of children.  I’ve found that it’s best to over buy products then return the unused items within the allotted time limit with the original receipt.  Once you become more acquainted with your craft supply needs, you’ll find that shopping during the month before school begins will provide immense savings.

Step 3: Get Organized
1.  Start a three-ring binder to place all your ideas, coupons, and craft ideas in sheet protectors.  I rip out and file many of our craft ideas in magazines in magazines such as Disney’s Family Fun, Parents, and Martha Stewart. If you do not subscribe to these magazines and prefer not to spend the money purchasing them, check with your friends to see if they receive these magazines and are willing to let you have them when they are done.  You can also check with your local library or look online.  Most of the crafts that are featured in magazines are also on the magazine’s websites.
2. Make a list of A to Z list of friends and family members you wish to spend time with in alphabetical order by first and/or last name.
3. Alphabetize your personal collection of CDs, DVDs, video games, toys, books (alphabetize either by author or title), and recipes.
4. Place a plastic shoe organizer near the door you use to exit your home to keep your “Going Out Into The World” supplies. This will save you time when you gather needed items as you head out to explore the world.  I like to put socks, shoes, and seasonal supplies such as gardening gloves, bug spray, sunscreen, sunglasses, hats, swimming goggles, water shoes, bubbles, umbrellas, quarters for the bus or parking, plastic bags for picking up dog poop, and a cloth bag to carry all of this stuff.  In the winter I replace the summer items with gloves, mittens, and hats.
5. Keeping track of coupons isn’t hard when you have a system.  On the opposite side of the door, I store our coupon collection in several different colored plastic organizers that include: groceries, entertainment, restaurants, retail, and house/car related coupons.  Every Sunday, I pull the coupons that I think I’ll use and stick them in an open spot. If I stumble upon a coupon I may use at a later time, I stick it in the related compartment.
6. Create a space to place all of your craft and art projects.  I created this art hanger simply using a curtain I purchased at a thrift store.  I sewing several lines of bias tape across the curtain with little dashes of stitches so there would be holes to place clothes pins to hold the art up.  During one of our hikes at the nature center we found a good solid branch to pull through the curtain rod holders.  Lastly, I tied a ribbon onto the middle section of the branch and hung it on a nail.  The wall hanger is hanged at a level where Maddie can easily place her own art.  We tend to remove all items at the end of each season.  I then go through the items and ask Maddie if she’s attached to some pieces and not to others.  I also ask her if she would like to give a few of the pieces to her grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, or elderly neighbors as gifts.  I usually keep one or two pieces to place in her portfolio.

Step 4: Create Your Format
Whether you spend all day every day with your child(ren) or have only a small amount of time between work and bedtime, you can easily plan your summer around the alphabet. Whatever you decide to do, you and your children are bound to be creating a fun and memorable summer. Follow these four simple steps to set up your Alphabet Summer:
1.  Use a monthly calendar to write down the days/weeks you assign each letter.  You will find a weekly schedule example and handout for your own use to organize your planned activities and preparation tasks on page ???
2.  Determine when your summer starts, ends, how many days and weeks your break consists of.
3.  Choose whether you will celebrate all or some of the letters of the alphabet.
4.  Choose the way you will assign letters to your days and weeks:  A to Z, Z to A, or cut up pieces of paper with each letter and pull them out of a hat randomly.  For our first alphabet summer, we went A to Z and started a new letter every Monday and Thursday.  The first letter would start on Monday and finish on Wednesday. The second letter would start on Thursday and finish on Saturday. Sunday was a free day and could be used for the past or upcoming week.  If you have limited time:  choose only one letter per week and one activity such as a game, activity, or destination. You may want to choose “easier” letters, i.e. letters that have lots of options (stay away from U,V, W, X, Y, and Z.

Step 5: Establish Your Rules

Although Alphabet Summer has very few rules and you can bend and shape them as much as you want, it’s important to establish some rules so confusion is avoided.
1.  Determine your format (see above). Figure out when new letters are introduced and on average how many activities and types of activities are you planning to do per letter.
2.  Will you allow make-up days if a scheduling conflict occurs?  If so, how far past the actual day or week of the letter will you allow make-up activities?  You may want to reserve make-up activities for weeks with letters that are more difficult to use such as U, V, W, X, Y, and Z.  We try to do all make-up activities due to scheduling conflicts no more than one week before or one week after the actual week the letter was allotted.  The last two weeks of Alphabet Summer, we try to make up a few more if there is room in our schedule.
3.  In order to sustain a sense of novelty and adventure, we avoid doing the same activity year after year. If it’s something we really want to do nearly every year, such as go to the zoo, we try to find another letter to use for that outing such as G is for giraffes and we put the focus of the visit on the letter G the next year.
4.  Another rule we use is that the activity must start with the letter we’re on and not just have the letter in the word.  However, we have had to make a few eXceptions for the letter X.  Also, this past year when we randomly assigned two different letters of the alphabet for our craft camp, sometimes we would do activities that used both of the letters in one word such as: flowers, guy. In retrospect, I wish I had been a little more aware of this little bend in the rule. I think we could have been even more creative.
Week  1:  Letters R & X – Real Life Rapunzel and a pirate party (Rrrrrrrr!) and X Marks the Spot
Week  2:  Letters E & V  – Elephants and Vincent Van Gough
Week  3:  Letters M & W – Melting crayons and soap into Wild Wild West shapes
Week  4:  Letters C & H – The Cat in the Hat
Week  5:  Letters F & L – Fairies and Lemonade (We also toured flower gardens)
Week  6:  Letters O & Z – Owls, zebras, and Zambia  (Could have celebrated The Wizard of Oz)
Week  7:  Letters D & T – Drum shop tour, decoupage dream diaries and treasure trunks
Week  8:  Letters N & P – Pixie Nooks
Week  9:  Letters B & Q – Bubble wrap painted butterfly book bags (Could have had a BBQ)
Week 10: Letters I & S – Smiley face ice cream sandwiches
Week 11: Letters A, J, & K – Being angels and making kindness coins
Week 12: Letters G, U, & Y – Goofy glittery glasses (and something with our favorite GUY, Dad)

Step 6: Allow for Flexibility and Spontaneity
Once you have your structure set up, it’s easier to be flexible and spontaneous.  Perhaps you can integrate daily, weekly, monthly, and season household tasks and errands into the mix as you think of the chores you need to work on throughout the week.  If you have a scheduled vacation time, you can simply look for words that describe your activities while on vacation to fit the letters of the week instead of structuring your vacation around the alphabet.  I’ve found that it’s the spontaneity of this venture that is often the most memorable aspect for the children and helps their vocabulary grow because they are the ones on looking out for the letters.

Step 7: Document Your Adventures

In the end, being in the moment, enjoying, and savoring each precious moment with your child(ren) is the point of this book as is creating memorable moments that will last a lifetime for your children.  You may want to document your adventures to share with others and remind you of all the fun you had in the future, but it’s important not to let the documentation process overtake the joy of the moment.  Here are a few suggestions for easy documentation that doesn’t interfere with the fun of it all:
1. Have your child use a spiral-bound or composition notebook to create a daily journal about their Alphabet Summer activities.  This notebook can also be a place where they answer the questions listed with the A to Z lists in the following section.
2. Take a few pictures for each letter you celebrate but don’t commit yourself to documenting every single activity and adventure. Some of our fondest memories have no digital foot print and that’s ok!
3.  Use a spiral bound notebook or journal to make quick notes to yourself at the end of the day to remember what activities you engaged in and what you and the child(ren) learned.
4.   My friend Amy uses a recipe box with plain white lined index cards and writes each day of the year on the top of each card.  Each day at bedtime, the kids come up with one or two things they’d like to remember about that day and she writes it on the card for the day.  You can use the same card for many years and it’s fun to look back and see what you were doing the year and years before on that same date.

Step 8: Stay in the Moment
Enjoying your time with your child(ren) should be a top priority and I believe that children need us to be present.  It helps them not only survive but also thrive just as much as the food, drink, warmth, and sleep we all need.  When we are stressed out and worried about all of the obligations we have to meet, children pick up on that even if you are not voicing those thoughts aloud.

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Well, here we are at the very end of our second Alphabet Summer. First Day of School’s Eve is filled with lots of mixed emotions. No, that’s not true. I actually feel like rejoicing and there’s no other emotion present at the moment.

Forget about the separation anxiety we both had when she started kindergarten and the residual that followed it in first grade, now, it’s just good old fashioned happiness that I will have a wee bit of spare time to take a shower without someone barging into the bathroom to tell me something I didn’t want to know and/or something I really should know, like what her baby sister is doing with my sewing thread all over the dining room floor.

I will miss the long summer days filled with sunshine and fun time, but right now, with the air turning crisp, I’ve got fall fever and can’t wait for the shorter days, longer nights, warmer clothes, and trips to the apple orchard.

As a career counselor I worked at a few different universities and I never got tired of that “new dormitory smell”. It always brought back nostalgic feelings and memories of when I first started college. I don’t quite know how to explain that one but it’s similar to the excitement I feel when it’s time to do our back to school shopping. A fresh new year to learn and grow. Brand new notebooks with blank pages to write and draw upon. Anything can happen and it usually does.

So, we officially ended Alphabet Summer today with the letter UUnfortunately, my elder daughter was pretty sick for a few days, we thought it was a UTI that unfolded itself after holding the urge to urinate (DANG! I am on a roll tonight!)  too long and avoiding the BFI-atmospheres at the State Fair, but the test results came back negative and so the cause of her symptoms is still uknown. So we rested most of the day after suffering the ill effects of pain and other yucky symptoms that typically occur with such an infection. Not the best way to end the summer but it could worse.

While we finally have a finished garage and green grass; the house is a disaster and I’m excited to have a little down time to put things back into some order without having a certain seven-year-old tornado following right behind me and undoing everything. At least the 22 month old hurricane gives me a break when she takes a nap.

On Saturday night, our favorite GUY, Daddy suggested a place he’s been trying to get his girls to go to all summer called The Galaxy Drive In.  We finally said yes because the stars aligned (get it? an outer space joke?) and we were on the letter “G” of course.  It was an absolutely gorgeous night. After we ordered, we spotted a jukebox which technically, we were still celebrating the letter “J” so I had to include that here.  I felt a little old as I had to explain to my little girl who was born in the 21st not the 20th century what a jukebox was and what a “vinyl record” was and had a fun discussion with Daddy about how the Country Kitchen restuarants we used to go to had little personal jukeboxes at each booth. Those were the days!

Maddie got turned into a downright goofy goof ball and let me take a bunch of pictures of her with various sculptures:

We also had a great time playing games in the lawn including tic tac toe, checkers, and stress.  It really inspired me to want to install a checker board in our backyard, that way, we’d never have to mow back there again because the garage ate up more than half of our little city yard.

On Wednesday, we had gave our last storytime at Bellies to Babies and I got to shop the whole time.  We had only one audience member, the store owner’s son.  I turned the storytelling duties over to Maddie and I checked out the 2T rack of clothes for the baby who is rapidly growing into a toddler.

Later in the day we backed up the summer a bit and focused on one outing that we’ve been yearning to do for over two years now. We toured the oldest house in our little city called The Barthlemeow House which is less than a mile from our house and we pass it nearly every day on our way to and from various errands around town.  It has very limited hours so it’s been difficult to find a time to visit.  I spotted the OPEN sign on Wednesday morning and decided, that’s it, we’re going to do this thing right now. So we jumped on our bikes and headed out.

We stopped briefly at Maddie’s friend Elia’s house to pick up a few stuffed animals that were left behind earlier and they were game for joining us. So we stuck the littles: Angie and Michelle in the blue Burley and biked over to our local history center.  A gal named Jodi was very kind and generous with her time and gave us a great tour of this house that dates back to 1864.

The girls learned about all kinds of interesting things including something that is just plain yucky to me: hair art. I had no idea about this until the tour but women used to collect their hair from their hair brushes and store them in little ceramic pots, then they would wind up the various hairs into different shapes and make art work with them, frame and hang them up on the wall. That’s just gross. Here’s a picture, just for you, dear reader:

After the tour, Maddie headed straight to the modern bathrooms with running water from a sink and a flushing toilet, we couldn’t quite talk her into using the chamber pot.  Then we headed off to our favorite little library called Augsburg and tipped our hat off to last week by running into school friends Kayla and Karolina. Of course, we had to stop at the park located next door where the girls could have played all day if someone hadn’t needed a nap so much.

Not only are we sad about the end of summer and going back to school, we are downright grumpy that we had to say goodbye to our favorite neighbors the Gilchrist family who just moved last week.  We all got a bit giddy when they stopped over on Wednesday night after their move for a little chat. I gave little Ella a dress that matched Angie’s that I had made last spring to sell at Bellies to Babies.  The girls looked really cute dressed all matchy matchy and I think it’s hilarious how different in size they are. Despite the fact that she is only six months older than Angie, Ella looks like a giant next to my little munchkin. I guess this one is very likely to take after my side of the family.

Daddy took Maddie to the State Fair and all I can say to that is “Yippee!” because I was too tired to trek around the place with a bunch of crazy Minnesotans.  Daddy went on the Tilt a Whirl with his girl and just about yacked.

I’m having a really hard time with the letter “U” this week.  I guess last week’s umbrella purchase is going to have to do. Oh, I know, I’ve been doing U-turns all over the place because of all the construction going on around town.  The city has some major gas line replacement and repair work (as I’ve mentioned earlier) going on and it feels like the whole city is torn apart.  Better than the alternative I suppose, letting everything rot and blow up. Now, that would be yucky! Speaking of yucky, I finally got around to bringing all of our out dated and unused (woo hoo! there’s another “U”, that rhymes) to our local hazardous waste place. I tried to do this back during “T” for toxic week and “H” for hazardous” but it never happened.  I got rid of my 1999 computer ($600, there it goes, boom on a huge pile of other old electronic crap, geez), spray cans, paint cans and household cleaners that others may have a better use for.  It felt really good just to get rid of all that and put it in the hands of people who can find someone else to reuse them or deal with them in a way that isn’t harmful to our water systems. I also started gathering up items for a fall garage sale.

On Friday, our friend Julie and her daughter Bridget and Nick invited us to meet their Grandma Jana at her house and to take a tour of the wonderful miniature worlds she has created. This woman is brilliant and has the most beautiful and engaging creations I have seen.  Julie and I struggled to figure out how we could fit this little venture into the letters for the week and I started to compromise by going back a week to J for Jana and Julie (who also happens to have a sister named Joan and a brother named Jeff – jeez!). But it finally hit me tonight….the word that fits best is GIANT! These miniatrue worlds, some of them are on a 1/4 inch scale make us feel like giants. I always say, we can always find a word to fit the letter of the week and if we can’t, we make it up! I tried to take as many photos as I could of her lovely creations, but I have to admit, my pictures really do no justice to her work.

We spent Saturday with Elia and Michelle while their dad worked at the Renaissance Festival and their mom worked at the hospital.  I found a very uncostly way to get our ice cream fix for this final week by gathering up all the kid’s meal custard coupons for Culvers (meant to go there for “C” week but we had already gone to Cone Brothers that week).  Our school often has fundraisers at Culvers but we don’t eat the custard because it’s just too much for all of us.   So we got free custard from Culvers and hit our last park of the summer by going to Garfield Park which was kinda gross.  There were beer cans and graffitti, old equipment, and worst of all, burs everywhere that kept getting stuck to our clothes, socks, shoes, and even skin. YUCK!  We didn’t stay there long.

On Sunday we celebrated my dad’s 69th birthday. My aunt and uncle from Washington were in town to celebrate the life of my uncle’s mother who passed away on Wednesday.  She was a beautiful and very spiritual woman named Jan.  Their three sons joined them. It was fun to see them as it had been many years since I saw them last. They played a great game of  soccer. I gave my dad a green poncho that I got for free at Menard’s last week, he loves it when I give him thoughtful yet frugal gifts..who wouldn’t want or need a rain poncho?

We finished our second year of counting yellow cars and made it to 262.  Last year we counted 363.  Either there aren’t as many yellow cars on the road this year or we’re driving less.  I’m guessing that we drove a lot less this summer because we did less field trips and focused on our craft camps at home instead.  I also tried to bike more but got thrown for a loop by having my bike in the garage for nearly two months.

Last year we celebrated the letters G, U, and Y by making a gnome home, gettin’ new glowing goggles, singing the Goodnight Song, spending LOTS of time pushing the baby around in the umbrella stroller, singing our song about unconditional love, and counting yellow cars and playing with yo-yos.

The next thing on my list is to have a garage sale and write a lot of letters of gratitude to all the wonderful individuals who participated in Alphabet Summer.  Thank YoU for reading about our alphabet adventures this summer!

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The end of summer is quickly approaching and this week in particular flew by.   We kicked off the week by inviting our cousin Katie (who will be going into 3rd grade although she is just six weeks older than Maddie, that’s what you get when you have an August and a September birthday!) over for a sleepover.  She was a total angel and even played “First Communion” to get Maddie excited for her upcoming sacrament.  We treated Katie and ourselves to a little Jamba Juice action then walked around Centennial Lakes and jumped ahead to next week when we sat in the Gazebo.  Katie in particular really liked the place and said she enjoyed how calm it was with the classical music playing and thanked us for taking her there, like I said, a real angel. However, she is an angel who sleeps like nobody’s business.  The morning after the sleepover we were scheduled to have a new gas line put in to replace our old one and they moved the gas meter from inside the house to outside (oh the joy of living in an old house!).  I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when they pulled the tractor right into my precious green grass and tore it right up. I had been seeding and watering the lawn for at least five week.  The words I used under my breath were not in the least bit kind. I am glad that I kept them to myself and didn’t say them aloud given the fact that these men were working with our gas line!!!!

Back to Katie, the kid slept so hard that she didn’t even awake to the jack hammering right outside the window.  I tried to wake her up so I could bring the kids to Perkins for breakfast. Even though they said the work was perfectly safe, I just thought I’d feel better not being there, what with at least three gas related explosions within 5 miles of our house over the past two years and all….but Katie slept and there were no problem. I guess the angels heard my prayers and protected us that and we had a really competent crew doing the work. Maybe they were the angels, you never know about these things.

I canceled next week’s craft camp because it was scheduled during our school orientation time so this week’s was the very last craft camp of 2011.  We had only 2 kids and 1 helper show up, most folks were AWOL at the State Fair which was fine by me because it was kind of nice to have it be a low key event.The kids worked on kindness coins based on our trip to Tucson, Arizona.  While we were visiting my Uncle Tom at his darling ooo! store right next to the University of Arizona, we stumbled upon this wonderful little courtyard with a blue water fountain and painting stations set up for anyone passing by to paint bells for wind chimes that are handed out every April to unsuspecting folks around town.  The idea is to pay homage to a little boy named Ben who died at a very young age.  The organization is called Ben’s Bells.  If you are the recipient of such a kind act you are simply asked to spread as much kindness as you possibly can.  Ben’s Bells also sells ceramic “Kindness Coins” which you’re supposed to spend when you see someone doing something kind. You give them the coin and tell them that you saw them doing something kind and now it’s there turn to pass it on when they see someone doing something kind.

Using Pluffy clay, the kids rolled it out and used cookie cutters in the shape of a little flower or a heart then we pushed the end of a straw into the middle of it to give it a hole to place a ribbon to connect a piece of paper that said, “I saw you do something kind. Please pass this coin on when you see someone do something kind.”  Then at the bottom of the paper was a quote like this one:  “Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.” ~James Matthew Barrie and this blog address. I baked the shapes for 15 minutes at 250 degrees and then they painted them after they cooled.

While we waited for the coins to bake, we prepared for the Smiley Face party by filling dozens of yellow water balloons.  It was tricky to tie them off, but I finally got the hang of it.  It was a big watery mess and the kids loved it!

The girls also worked on Goofy Glittery Glasses to honor next week’s letter “G”.  This craft was fun to do but was a total flop and the glasses didn’t work to well other than everyone looked like Elton John.

We made HUGE progress this week on ALL of our outdoor projects and I’m filled with joy to announce that we are all done with the garage and driveway as it was approved by the city inspector.  The porchio (patio + porch: thanks Jen B. for the name) was finished thanks in great part to all of the help of neighbor boy Brandon and our buddy Fletcher who both had previous experience with patio pavers.  Our friend Aly came over and stained the inside of the swing set and kept an eye on the baby while I ran a few errands.  I thanked the kids by buying them all lunch from Jimmy Johns.

One of my errands was to return eight pieces of particle boards to Menard’s. Speaking of Menard’s I made great friends with Ashinta at the Customer Service return desk, Justin, and Kevin who helped me haul all the crap I bought and returned.  I must have looked like a real jack ass carrying them in the van. Every time I stopped they pushed the back door open. I could only drive 15 miles an hour and had to cling to the stupid OSB.  Luckily I was able to take side streets nearly the who way there and only had to stop five times to push it back in. Of course, I found our rope and bungie cords later in the week in the basement where many of the contents of our garage have been stored all summer.

Speaking of storage, we finally moved all of our junk out of our neighbor Katie’s garage. She and her husband Paul were so kind to allow us to put so much of our crap in their garage nearly all summer long.  It’s been really nice to finally have all of our stuff in our own garage and to finally start biking around town.  The baby finally got to use her little red Radio Flyer bike that we gave her for Christmas.  She loves it and loves to zip up and down the driveway.

We finally made it to Sebastian Joe’s which is one of my favorite ice cream places.  I wanted to go during our “S” week but never got a chance. We went to the Linden Hills location and despite her lactose sensitivity, I gave in and let the baby eat a whole cone by herself.  The next day is never pretty but it was worth it in her eyes.  There was a lady sitting at the table next to us who looked at Angie and said, “She is doing justice to the ice cream cone, justice.”  I thought that was pretty funny.

After we finished our cones and hosed off the baby, we walked down to the Bibelot (where I used to sell my Meal Magnets) and Creative Kid’s Stuff in search of a new umbrella for those rainy days at the bus stop.  We found rainbow colored umbrellas (in honor of next week…at the end Alphabet Summer the whole thing turns into a big mish mash of letters as we’re trying to get it all done kind of like the grand finale of a fireworks show).  So now we’re all set for those worm filled street days coming up.

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S is for Smiley Faces!  Being a true child of the 19-seventies, I grew up lovin’ the smiley face. We hosted our second annual end of summer party last Saturday night.  Last year we paid homage to the letter “P” by celebrating  “Piggies” this year it was supposed to be during our “S” week but we decided to re-schedule it for a week later so more of our out of town and in-town friends could come.

Despite a few of our friends going to the State Fair instead, it was a big success!  I posted pictures from this year’s craft camps and last year’s Alphabet Summer on those cardboard “science exhibit” boards for everyone to get a glimpse of our activities and adventures. I asked the kids to bring their favorite craft item that they made this summer. I’m not really sure if anyone did.  Maybe next year I’ll be more proactive about saving a sample of each so all the parents can see what the kid’s worked on.

Our friend Denyse provided amazing face paintings for the kids and she sustained a constant line throughout the whole soiree.  Here’s a picture of our little friend Sophie slanting her face to show how it was painted so beautifully.










We had 25 kids and their parents show up to paint their own smiley face t-shirts have a water balloon throwing contest which was a big splash! Big thanks to Sheila who filled up over a hundred water balloons.







The kids decorated stupid little cupcakes (I didn’t make enough and they didn’t turn out well) but the kids didn’t seem to mind because they got to decorate them into smiley faces with frosting – SUGAR!

On a side note, we had also celebrated the letter “I” with “S” last week and I found myself very inconvenienced when I realized that I forgot to buy ice for the beer, so I posted a note onto Facebook and was thoroughly inspired by the speed and generosity of our friends as I received three huge bags of iceI saved 1.5 bags for a party we now must schedule in the near future!

Towards the end of the event, I asked all the kids to pull out a letter from a hat (well, actually it was just a plastic Tupperwear kind of thing) and we assigned them to next year’s calendar. I’ll post the letter assignments for next year’s Alphabet Summer later.  Maddie and I decided that the theme of the craft camps will be Magical and Mythical Creatures.  We asked everyone to generate as many ideas for each letter of the alphabet as they could come up with.  There were some really good ones, but I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do for V, W, and Z…vampires, werewolves, and zombies.  I might have to let those letters drop off the map for the 0-12 year crowd.

When the kids arrived, we asked them to write down something on a piece of paper that was concerning them, then they were to rip it up and place the scraps in a little green bucket with Oscar the Grouch on it so they could “leave their worries behind.”  Later we it got dark out we placed their bothers into the fire pit and roasted s’mores over them. Then we called it a night.  All I can say is it’s been a super summer AND I’m happy I’ve survived it….and I’m now ready for a sabbatical!

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We easily bridged the B and Q week over to S and I by slipping off to the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul with our friends Melissa, her son Bray and his little sister Ella.  We started our visit by bouncing up and down the stairs that make sounds. I remember these from when I was a kid and visited the Science Museum for school field trips. The kids enjoyed nearly every exhibit but the one about the body made me feel kind of sick.  They especially loved seeing their shadows during the spectrum exhibit.

We loved playing in the Big Back Yard’s maze.  I ran into the building and climbed many steps up a few stories to take this picture of the kid’s in the maze where they looked so small. Our little friend Ella got soaking wet while playing with the water exhibit in the back yard.

Maddie continued her second and last week of swimming camp at a super cool swim center where the topic of the week was science. The kids studied various aspects of science including water, fish, rockets, and Isaac Newton’s third law of motion.

On Wednesday we enjoyed a full house at Bellies to Babies Story time.  There were at least eight kids running around the store and some of them even listened to the stories we read.  I forgot all the books I had picked out the night before that started with the letters S & I so I had to be spontaneous and read the books the store had on hand. We brought along our safari hat and binoculars so we could spy on words that started with S & I.

After story time, we stopped off at Jamba Juice which I was saving for next week (J week!) but Maddie insisted and I thought we could certainly find the letters we needed there..or we could just go there and forget about the alphabet for a few minutes. Of course!  Sunrise Strawberry Smoothies.  These things always have a way of working out.

On Thursday we enjoyed smiley face ice cream sandwiches. I started with my little childhood smiley face nightlight. I washed it of course!  Then we used it to press into the sugar cookies before we baked them. The kids had lots of fun putting yellow frosting on them and making the eyes and mouth with black frosting.  I thought they turned out both adorable and scrumptious. The kids loved them!


We had a morning and afternoon group of kids and this change in structure has allowed me to have accomodate more crafting kids without the insanity of a big group all at once. It also got me out of lunch duty and helps me transport Maddie to either morning or afternoon camps.  I really enjoyed the longer days we shared with the kids earlier in the summer, but this change of schedule has been very beneficial for most I hope.

We worked on several crafts this week including little foam smiley face magnets, cutting smiley faces out of paper plates and painting them. We finally got around to last week’s craft that had been cancelled because we were sick with some sort of illness.  The kids stenciled butterflies, bugs, and bumble bees onto book bags and then we sewed little butterfly buttons on them.

The afternoon group whipped through their projects very quickly so we decided to spend some time outside playing in the driveway. The kids used sidewalk chalk to trace their shadows and draw snowman and the kids who had overdosed on sugar raced with each other to see who was the speediest.  One of the kid’s mom’s stopped by during her run to see how we were doing. My goodness, she was very stinky and sweaty so we sent her home to shower.

After craft camp, I had to run to pick up Maddie at her last swimming lesson.  When we returned, there were fire trucks and police cars all around because a crew had broken a gas main less than a 1/2 block from our home. That was just plain scary. We headed to South Minneapolis to enjoy BLTs fresh from my friend Ann’s garden then returned home a few hours later when everything had been sorted out and it was safe again.

Friday morning our neighbor Jan rang the back door nice and early to spring us with a little surprise. She escorted us to her backyard where we saw a HUGE spider and a super sized spider web. Not sure if you can see it in this picture.  It really doesn’t do it justice.

We had to back up a bit on Friday to cover a few things that got left behind last week while we had a little bug.  So, right after that we hopped on the bus with our buddy Bridget and her mom and rode the 4B down to Peter’s Billiards which is a billiards store that looks just like a billiard table on the outside kinda like a visual onamonapia. We had lots of fun looking at all the game room games and even playing with some.  The girls loved the foosball table. I really loved this huge picture of the Beatles that was on one of the walls.

Bridget’s mom Julie really got into the swing of this alphabet thing when started noticing the big black bean bags the girls were sitting on and the Blues Brothers statues on a blue pool table.  She admitted that she had become downright addicted to the whole alphabet summer deal when I caught this picture of Bridget sitting next to a bird. It’s nice to have at least one person understand me.

When it was time to leave, the girls were very brave and took the glass elevator without us while the moms raced down the stairs to try to beat them.  Shortly after that we headed up a block to Bachman’s. This was one of the few things that we repeated from last year’s adventures.

The girls had lots of fun looking at all the blooming flowers. Maddie really had her heart set on buying a bamboo plant but the buyer had not bought any for a long time. I bought a birdhouse for our pixie nook and Maddie used her money to buy a little chair for her pixie to sit in after a long day of golfing. We enjoyed having a little snack at Patrick’s bakery. Bridget picked out a little birdie for her pixie garden and the girls insisted on each getting a gum ball.

I loved seeing this beautiful blue orchid plant and had to take a picture of it….which reminds me that the girls all dressed in blue and I wore black just for the occasion. It was important to remember that we were actually supposed to be celebrating the letters S & I so Julie pointed out that cactus plants are called succulants and I enjoyed seeing this little advertisement for Sturdy, Sassy, Succulants.

The highlight of this trip though was seeing two beautiful monarch butterflies doing… well… how else can I put this…bopping? It was pretty interesting to watch and downright entertaining.

Friday night I found a babysitter and headed out for little down time with the neighbor ladies for our first book club meeting. It was a jolly and silly good time.

On Saturday, Maddie and I snuck away to see the Smurfs movie then I surprised her with a visit to this charming little store called Little Enchantments in Edina which is filled with every kind of dollhouse, miniature, and fairy need you may ever have.  It was so fun and I broke down an bought a tiny little bird bath for our pixie place.

A few more things about this week. I consigned some of my old clothes and made a little money selling them but had a really successful sale with Just Between Friends and worked on Saturday afternoon with the sorting process.

The garage really took shape this week and was finally all shingled and sided. The only thing we were missing  was the garage door. I even set up the electrical inspection for next week. We ended the week by finally getting the swing set fixed and moved so the kids could play on it. I stained it and then felt incredibly sick from the fumes. But it looks splendid!

Lastly, I just had to share this smile because after all that was the theme of the week and my whole purpose in doing this whole Alphabet Summer thing!

Last year we had fun sticking the baby in a safe and surrounded baby jail, eating Sun Chips, going to see the Sousa band with our little friend who ended up sick with strep throat, getting all set for school, attending St. Paul’s Irish Fair and playing in sand, being silly, seeing a super sized sun flower by Super America, Seeing the sunset form the sky, taking a stellar picture of the St. Michael church, selling the saucer, dressing as some kind of super hero, going on a Sponge Bob Safari, setting up a savings account, playing softball, making a scrubby skirt, getting soaked in slimey sand, speedy babyIspy at Ikea,

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We had a relatively quiet week because I tried to quit the busy pace we’ve been keeping this summer.  I started the week off with a bug of some sort or another.  Feeling queasy and absolutely exhausted.  By Wednesday I felt all better but Maddie developed a bad cold and a bit of a fever and missed the last day of swimming camp on Thursday. I also thought it best to cancel B and Q Craft Camp this week so we didn’t spread the bug.

I broke down and called my friend’s boy who’s nickname is Buddy to help me out with my patio porch project.

Hopefully this week we can squeeze in the quilted butterfly busy bags in with our I and S crafts. I decided to live dangerously and went out for ice cream at the Pumphouse Creamery (never made it there for our “P” week). The line was very backed up but no one was the least bit crabby about it and the wait was well worth it but that’s probably because of the company we kept with neighbors Melissa and Ella.

Despite not feeling the best, we did have some fun.  On Wednesday morning, we went to the Q Kindness Cafe (the “Q” is for Quality) for breakfast in downtown St. Paul with our buddy Quinn, his sister Zoe, and their mom Sheila.  Sheila made a couple of Qs on Quinn’s pancakes with syrup. The restuarant was a wonderfully inspirational place.  It was fun to talk to the owner Lisa who’s husband is made our delisious blueberry pancakes and to hear about all the kind acts that happened there when peopled pay it forward for future customers.  After we ate, we checked out the bronze Charlie Brown and Snoopy statue. Everyone seemed to come into the place with a smile including this guy who just stuck his smiley face in the camera so I took his picture. As we got into the car, we encountered a guy who’d definitley had a bit too much booze (by 11:30 in the morning, love downtown!)

On Friday morning our neighbors invited us to go to the Science Museum with them. Although our “S” week starts in a few days, we were able to identify quite a few “B”s during our visit.  We spotted several big fat bumble bees in the Big Backyard exhibit. We stepped back 60 million years to learn about the Age of Behemoths. The girls got to see how big the belly of these beasts really were. We also enjoyed checking out the big bookshelves filled with books about dinosaurs.

Since we moved here, I’ve been trying to tour the Bartholomew House but the hours it is open are so limited.  We’ll have to try again in the future weeks.


We made it to the Penn Lake Library in Bloomington to pick up some more fairy books and even stopped at Augsburg Park library to pick up some books that were in my reserved in my que. The camera broke and I’m unable to use the auto focus feature…oh well, I’m getting better at using manual focus and actually starting to like it.   I worked quite a bit on our backyard this week in preparation for our end of summer party and to be honest, we’ll be pretty much broke after we finish paying for all the work we’ve had done on our garage and driveway this summer. Two last pictures for you I took today: Ella and Angela in their little cars going “beep beep!” and Angela blowing bubbles, her  new favorite thing to do, “out-thide!” Hoping we’re all feeling better this week!

Last year we spent our B and Q weeks by: taking the bus to Bachman’s with McKenna (we’re still hoping to do this with our buddy Bridget this week because she was out of town this week), ate at Quiznos and Q Cumbers,  and made Daddy a Quit Kit.

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