Thursday, January 3, 2013

Lego "Lab"

In 2012, we were blessed with adding an addition onto the back of our house.  The original layout had NO STORAGE downstairs.  I'm talking none!  There is a circular closet in the foyer.  Circular closet means no GOOD storage due to no shelves fitting in, no closet bars, nothing.  And that, my friends, was the only closet downstairs.  So I KNEW I was going to utilize every inch of this addition for storage anywhere I could.

Once we talked about a staircase and adding a second story, I said, "I want a closet under the stairs!!!"  I was going to make this into a Lego closet.  Somewhere along the way my kids named it the LEGO LAB.  In fact, when we went to dedicate the foundation, the kids wrote this on the foundation at the entrance to the closet.

So now we have the "official Lego lab" in our house.

The closet is shaped like an L.  You walk in and there is some space and then turn to your right and the ceiling begins to slant down as the opposite side has stairs that are going up.

I hate to even tell you where I got the things for the Lego Lab.  Solely because whenever I go to a blog about organizing something and they say this store, I gag.  We don't have this store where I live.  And this store is awful at shipping (unless you are buying over $500 at a time).  But, it's true...I got the supplies for this Lego lab at IKEA.

I started with two of the TROFAST systems.  You can find them on IKEA's website {here}.  I thought two would be plenty as that is 12 drawers...but I need to go back and get a third.  Who knew we'd have so, so, so many grey Legos?  However, I don't have an IKEA in this city, so that third system will have to wait.

Anyway, starting with two TROFAST systems, they were mounted on the wall.  I used my Silhouette Cameo to label each drawer.  Right now, we have blue, black, yellow, green, orange, purple, brown/gold, grey, white/clear, red, battery packs, and mini figures.  When I get the third set, I'm going to add a 2nd grey drawer and a 2nd mini figure drawer, plus a drawer for wheels and Ninjagos.  I realize there are tons of ways to store Legos and lots of people just dump them in a huge container and let their kids dig.  Let's be honest, if you need that tiny piece at the bottom of the huge container, it can be difficult to find.  However, if you know that the tiny piece is white, at least you have somewhere to start with these drawers.  Honestly, you have to find what works best for you.  This works great for us.

Once the systems were hung and the drawers were labeled, we began filling the drawers.  The kids use the tops of the systems to display projects or hold containers with pieces they are using in progress.

I don't have a ton of rules about the "Lego Lab" other than when they are done, I want everything off the floor.  So they can set pieces "in use" on their personal table (I'll show you those in a minute) or on the tops of the system or if they are done, they can put the pieces back into the correct drawer.

Over in the corner, I have a Rubbermaid drawer where the boys keep the design books/guides.  In the khaki container, the boys will store projects in work.  Right now, they have a Lego City set in there.  If you are familiar with the larger Lego sets, then you know they come in multiple bags.  While they are working on bag one, this container is a good place to hold bags two through eight.
 The boys each have a personal Lego table.  These also came from IKEA (yikes) and can be found {here}.  Using these LACK side tables, I added 4 Lego building plates to the table.  These can be found at Lego's website {here}.
 Then I added casters to the legs of the table.  This makes it easy for the boys to roll the tables in and out of the closet.  Although they often just stay in the closet to work.
 Now I know you are thinking, this is WAY too clean for boys to be actually playing, building, creating.  I would have to agree.  This is Maddox's table.  He has been very tied up in his new iPad Mini from Christmas and not that interested in playing with Legos the past week.
 However, this is Brewer's table (see below).  And he has multiple projects going on at a time!
The tables roll in and out of the closet.  I've thought about putting shelves up above the tables for the boys to display their finished pieces.  For now, Brewer likes to put his finished pieces in his room.  He says they are "safer" up there.  And I tend to agree.  We have kids in and out of our house all week long (which is wonderful to be the house where people want to come and play).
Below is a shot I took from the corner (as the ceiling is lowering).  This is our LEGO LAB.  Again, the only rule I have in there is that the Legos have to be off the floor when they are finished playing.  It has worked great for six months.  Hoping it will continue!
The closet isn't that big but on new year's eve we had a party and 5 kids were in there at one time.  It was tight, but kids make stuff like that work.

Thanks for letting me share.  Legos are wonderful for kids but can be stressful on parents if they are laying all around your house.  You have to find what works best for you.

Oh, and I think I want to add some fun Lego art on the walls.  I'm still considering adding those shelves.  And don't forget, I have to add a third Trofast system at some point; I've got to make it to IKEA first.  ...always a work in progress.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Advent - Random Acts of Christmas Kindness - 2012

Today we did one of my favorite advent activities of the season - R.A.C.K., Random Acts of Christmas Kindness.  We did it last year for the first time, you can read about it {here}.

This year, we hit the ground running.  When the boys found out we were doing RACK, they cleaned out their playroom toy closet and found things to donate.  Maddox decided he wanted to "paint pictures for people."

So we did a little bit of prep work at home (cleaning the toy closet & painting) then headed out.

1. At lunch, Maddox decided he wanted to give one of his paintings to our waitress.  She hadn't smiled much while waiting on us.  After the painting, she smiled every time she came to the table.

 2. After lunch, we went and donated our two bags of toys.  I truly do hope these toys will be blessings to others.

3. We went to Publix and bought a FOOD FOR SHARING meal for someone else to have food.

4. When we arrived at Publix.  First, we collected carts in the parking lot and took them in for the baggers.

5. We taped quarters to a Coke machine, so strangers could have a drink on us.

6. Brewer asked if we could take cookies to the fire station.  What a great idea!  And you know what, those firemen were WONDERFUL and even gave the boys a treat with a tour of their truck.

We had plans to go through a drive-thru and pay for the person's order who was behind us.  But our kids were "done" with this project after the fire station.  They really seemed to enjoy the afternoon, so I didn't want to push the issue.  After all, we can go and pay for someone's order any day.  I hope we do sometime soon.  The boys can be reminded of this simple act of kindness and realize it can be done not just at Christmas but all year long.

If you would like RACK cards to print, here you go.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Yeah! for

Here is a trick that many people will want to know about.  I'm so happy, excited, thankful for it!!! now lets you make a collage!!  It's wonderful!

Here's what you do:
- Go to

You'll get this screen that I'm showing you above.  On the left, there are three boxes, select the third box, "CREATE A COLLAGE".

- You'll be taken to this screen:
On the far left you'll see an icon that looks like a group of mountains.  This is what you select when you want to upload your photos.  Below that there is an icon that looks like some blocks.  This is the format you will want -- two photos, horizontal/vertical; three photos; four photos; etc.  There is even a selection on here for your FB COVER.  The third icon looks like an art palette.  Here you will be able to size the boxes for your photos, add a background color, round the corners, etc.

- So start playing and see what you can come up with.

Here are some things I've done with it so far.
A. One of my favorite things is when I want to post two photos on FB but have them under the same post.  For example, I was asking for suggestions for our new playroom on displaying kid art.  I was able to make this collage and show what we have now vs. what we are thinking of doing and get feedback from people comparing the two.
B. I also made a new FB COVER photo.  
This is a great new feature of  Oh, and did I mention -- IT'S FREE!!!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Jake and The Neverland Pirate Party

Back in November, Maddox started talking about his 4th birthday party.  He wanted it at Pump It Up (a bouncy place we have locally), and he wanted it Jake and The Neverland Pirate theme.  I wasn't sure how I was going to combined the two, but it ended up working out great.

I can tell you with 100% certainity and well-researched, there was NOTHING out in the stores for Jake and The Neverland Pirates back in November 2011.  So became my new best friend. I found some centerpieces on etsy. You can order them {here}.

I also found some shirts on etsy.  You can check them out {here}.
Maddox was eating his cupcake like a pirate in this photo.  I posted it, because you can get the best view of the Jake shirt.  Maddox's brother had a Captain Hook shirt.
I ordered from both of these places before Christmas.

Then in the new year I kept looking...still nothing.  I ordered his invitation and thank you from etsy found {here} and had them printed locally.

Thank You Note
When I called to book Pump It Up, they were offering an add-on package of either Superheros or Pirates.  Well, the pirates would be yes, I booked that!

Pump It Up was supposed to have pirate music but when they called to confirm the week before the party, the girl told me the CD hadn't arrived from the head office.  So I made a pirate mix on our iPod and took it in for the party.  This way the kids could JUMP-JUMP-JUMP to pirate music.

I looked from November to February for some type of party favor.  I knew I could always fall back on the Pump It Up water bottle of treats.  But I wanted something pirate and specifically something Jake and The Neverland Pirate.  Pump It Up was giving the kids eye patches (as part of the treasure box find).  I ordered (from etsy found {here}) these Jake headbands.

And then I found these Jake plates at  The site now has several things to choose from but a few weeks ago, this was about it.  Yet, it was a perfect favor to give a group of 4-year-olds.  I added a "thank you" tag to the plate.  The tags can be found {here}.

So the kids got to take home a Disney plate, an eye patch, a headband, a swirly straw, and a Jake tattoo (I found those at Walmart also).

And wouldn't you know four days before the party, Walmart got their Jack and The Neverland Pirate party plates, napkins, etc in their stores.  Yipee!  We had some Jake stuff.

I purchased plastic cups and lids (I knew the drink they were serving was going to be red; hence, the lids), added a Jake sticker to the cup (a name tag sticker worked great because I could add the kids' names to the cups), and got swirly straws.  The tags for the cups can be found {here}.

Pump It Up did a great job.  The party host was dressed like a pirate.

The pirate's parrot came to visit us during the party.

And the kids searched for clues during the party so they could locate a key that would open the treasure box.

After jumping for 80-ish minutes, we went into the party room to eat pizza (Maddox's request), have cupcakes, and FIND THE TREASURE BOX!!!

These cupcake toppers are so cute. I found them on etsy (surprise, surprise).  You have to print and cut them yourself.  I would NOT suggest buying them if you do not have a Silhouette.  It was so easy to cut them on the Silhouette.  However, I would not want to hand cut these.  You can find the cupcake wrapper and toppers {here}.  The cupcake stand was found at HomeGoods and worked perfectly as it mimicked the top of a ship.  UPDATED TO ADD A NEW LINK FOR THE CUPCAKE WRAPPERS: {here}

The Happy Birthday banner was found at Walmart when I found the plates, napkins, & tattoos.  It all came together well.

Best of all, Maddox had a great time at his party.  Argh! Mateys! 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Man, I've Got Your Back

February 1st was a day that rocked me.  I had a call that my dad was being taken to the ER due to his right hand not "working".  It was a day that could have been filled with fear, a feeling of loneliness, or distress.  Instead, I was at peace.  Before I stepped into the ER, I had already talked to a few friends as I was trying to get the afternoon for my kids situated.  Those people stopped what they were doing and went to take care of things for my kids...providing them lunch, childcare and more.  Those people started praying for me.  I emailed a group of girlfriends and texted some others.  Messages of prayer were pouring in.  That night, Dad was put in ICU.  Messages continued to pour in.  People wanting to know if they could help with the kids, provide meals, grocery shop for me, go to the house so Lou could meet me at the hospital,...Offer after offer were pouring in.  Everyday the support was amazing.  People showing up to hug us in the hospital, bring us meals, take my kids.  Generosity was pouring in.  

At the one week mark, the messages hadn't stopped.  The offers hadn't stopped.  The generosity hadn't stopped.  The prayers hadn't stopped.  

We're on day 9 and to be truthful, I'm exhausted.  The haul of the regular day plus spending large parts of the day in the hospital with Dad are starting to wear.  But I still have text messages asking what I need.  Encouraging emails popping up throughout the day, cards in the mail, baskets of food being delivered, offers for child care.  It has been tremendous.  Honestly, people may never know what an email that simply says, "Thinking of you" can do for a person's boost in the day.

Have you ever heard the saying, "Man, I've Got Your Back" or what about, "When times get rough, you'll know who your real friends are"????  Well, the last week had a huge blessing in the midst of this difficult trial.  When I stand with the unknown in front of me and my focus has to be on my dad, I turned around and there was a wall, a wall of friends supporting me.  A wall of friends standing shoulder to shoulder making sure everything was taken care of so that I could focus on my dad.  Praise God that these people had my back.  Praise God that these people didn't run when times got rough. Praise God (insert laugh) they still answer the phone when they see my number pop up because chances are, I'm not calling to talk about their day.  I'm calling for a favor (mainly for my kids to be taken care of).

We have a long recovery ahead of us with Dad.  But I know I don't have to go through it alone.  I have an army of friends...real friends...standing shoulder to shoulder with me.  Ready to help me take on this season of my life.

To those of you who have been there for me -- THANK YOU.  Words will never seem like enough to tell you how much I appreciate all you've done for me and my family!

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
 9 Two are better than one,
   because they have a good return for their labor: 

10 If either of them falls down,
   one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
   and has no one to help them up.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A New Year with the Gift of Time


A few years ago, Lou and I implemented a date night for the two of us.  It has worked great and been something that we both look forward to.  Some nights our dates are special things such as a concert or show but most of the time it is playing tennis or trying a new restaurant or shopping or seeing a movie.  It really doesn't matter to us; we just like being together.

To kick off 2012, we gave dates to our kids.  Each month the boys will get a date with either Mom or Dad.  While Lou and I get plenty of time with the boys, this one-on-one time with the parent and child is important and something we don't get as much of.  Our boys have already opened their January envelopes and are super excited about their "dates".

The dates/outings throughout the year will be: go to the movies, go to the park, bake something of your choice, go to Adventure Landing, go to the book store, go out to breakfast, etc...  None of the activities "out of this world" but this time will be special for each of us.

Looking forward to having this one-on-one time with each of my kids this new year!

*This idea was not my own.  I saw something similar and tweaked it. :)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Allowance -- oh, what to do, what to do...

I've wondered about allowance for awhile.  Brewer is 6-years-old.  (Well, he'd correct you to say his is 6-1/2!!)  He wants everything he sees.  I want to instill the value of saving to him.   I believe saving for kids has two meanings:
1. Saving where you SAVE UP for something.  For example, you want a $50 Imaginext toy.  You have $20 from your grandma.  This means you need 30 MORE dollars before you can buy it.  So you'll need to save your $20 plus start to save other money you receive until you reach the $50.
2. Saving where you are actually putting money into a bank account, and saving it there.  This is not the type of situation where the boys would be allowed to go to the bank to withdrawal money.  This would be a true savings.  (No withdrawal system.)

So I started to research allowances about a year ago.  I still haven't found the "perfect" system.  Growing up, I didn't have an allowance.  The jobs we did around the house were expected, because we were a member of the family.  We were not compensated for these jobs.  I understand this school of thought.  And I've read plenty in my research of situations where others believe this as well.  However, where does the money come from when teaching a child to save?  In my research, I've seen all kinds of systems for allowance, dollar amounts, etc.  While searching and searching, nothing was perfect to me.  In the meantime, Brewer started asking for an allowance.  The timing of allowance was beginning to align.  I was researching; he was asking.

As we close this year and start 2012, it seems like a good time to start a new system in the house.  I modified a couple of different allowance systems I liked and came up with our own.  The majority of what we are doing is based on Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace Junior.  You can find out more about it by clicking {here}.  We have the full set from Dave Ramsey include the chore chart, the children's books, the three banks (giving, saving, spending), etc.  We aren't using all the pieces, as we are using what works for us.

I ordered chore cards from an etsy seller.  You can click {here} to see her listings.  Of course, I had to make changes to this as well so that I could really make it work for our family.  I requested she put magnets on both sides of the cards.  I hung the chore cards on a magnetic board in our kitchen.  When the chore is showing, this means the chore is available for Brewer to do.  When he finishes the chore, he can ask me for "approval".  Once I approve his work, he can flip the card to the star side to show he has earned the money.  Each chore card has a money amount on it.  He can decide how much money he wants to make in a day.  

There are three cards at the top of the magnetic board that do not have a money value associated with them.  These are jobs that Brewer is asked to do, because he is a part of our family.  We all have to do our part to help our family.  If he does not do these three each day, then at the end of the day he cannot get paid for the other jobs completed.

With the system set up right now, we'll have to pay Brewer at the end of every day.  I don't think I want to do this.  So I'm going to have to come up with some type of tally chart for us to tally his daily earnings; we can pay him on PAYDAY.

When Brewer does get paid, he'll have to take 10% of his total and put into the GIVE bank.  Then he'll take the remaining money and divide it in half.  Half will go into the SAVE bank and the other half will go into the SPEND bank.  I don't like that it is called a SPEND I want Brewer to realize he is saving this money too but that he can eventually spend this money.  Another part I still need to tweak to make work for us.  There is a workbook that comes with Financial Peace Junior.  So we worked on numbers today with it.  (Brewer loves math so this helped make it fun.)  In the workbook example, Dollar Bill (one of the characters in the book) earned $8.  We figured out that 10% of $8 is $0.80 and that money went to the GIVE bank.  This left Dollar Bill with $7.20.  We figured out that half of $7.20 is $3.60.  Therefore, $3.60 will go into the SAVE bank and the other $3.60 will go into the SPEND bank.  When the GIVE bank is full, we'll let Brewer choose a charity or our church to give the money.  When the SAVE bank is full, we'll take it to his savings account at Wells Fargo.  He will be allowed to use the money in the SPEND bank, when Lou, Brewer, and I agree on something that he wants to buy.

This is newly implemented in our home.  We'll see how it goes and make tweaks to it along the way.  I'm also willing to match Brewer dollar for dollar in his SPEND bank if he is working hard for a big dollar item.

What do you do for an allowance?  Any ideas to can pass along to help us in the process??