Tag Archive | oriental trading

Teacher appreciation week; May 1-5

In my family and friends group, there are quite a few teachers.  Miss Math and I talk regularly and I get the teacher POV on things and I routinely go to the school board and PTO meeting.  My grandfather was a teacher for 30 years in some of the rough inner city areas (by choice) and my aunt is a teacher for the deaf.  The college I attended had a teaching specialty so countless friends were studying education all around me constantly.  Can’t help but pick up a little second-hand teacher from all that exposure..

Before I had kids I basically had teacher side knowledge of the ‘job’ of teaching.  However, I did not know just how much each teacher really does for each child until I was on the parent side of things.  I know how my 3 can be learning a new things or just managing them all day from activity to activity.  The fact that teachers do that x20 or more is amazing, fantastic, unimaginable!

I mentioned that I go to our local school board meetings, I have gone to nearly everyone for a year, and I see that we have a real situation in our town with money.  One may think that there is fluff in the budget, that there are fat administration salaries or waste somewhere…  From what I have observed in ours there really really isn’t but every year there are cuts that have to be made.  This year 10 teachers lost their job as well as quite a few support jobs because the budget just didn’t stretch.  This is why I personally went to the legislature to talk about why we need more funding.  Despite all that, it is a high achieving, high test score area and that is mostly because the teachers are really dedicated.

This is a long way to go to say that when Oriental Trading Company offered me product credit in return for a post about Teacher Appreciation Week I could not say yes fast enough.  I asked at our last PTO what teachers would want and the #1 thing I heard was “fidgets”.

What is a fidget?  Well, according to my kids, they are a small thing you can hold and move around in your hands (not play with) so you are not tempted to touch other people and are able to focus on the teacher.  According to the teacher, it is a tool that some kids need all the time but most kids need some of the time and having a supply of little things would make their life easier.

Say no more, to Oriental Trading Company I go!  I was quite surprised when they actually had a section dedicated to fidgets already.  The other thing the teacher asked was that it not be ‘annoying’ so I reviewed the list with a critical eye and took some of their suggestions but also went out on my own a bit.  I got stress balls, large braided beads (very tactile and not bouncy), erasers shaped like brains, bean bags… I used every cent to the best of my ability.  I must have done it right because when I got the box and asked my kids what they thought I got for the teachers they yelled “Fidgets!!!” (and then all picked one to keep and they really do love them)img_2628

These are things that are useful but not in any budget at all.  They come out of teachers pockets most of the time and I am very glad that I could facilitate this gift to my teachers and hopefully inspire you to do something similar for yours.  We have all read the ‘please don’t give us mugs’ lists by teachers around the holiday/end of year gift giving season so if you ARE looking for something to give your elementary school teacher, I have it on good authority that fidgets are a good option.  When I brought them into school it was a happy day and I’m glad to be a part of it.

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Thank you, Oriental Trading Company for helping me show our teachers that they are appreciated!

And… because that box was free in return for this post (that I’m sure you can tell is full of only my own opinions) I will also be participating in the teacher breakfast next week too!

Easter and Birthday

I should actually put that the other way around since the Birthday party was 3 days before Easter but either way I’m about a week past due to post about either so I’m not sweating the details.  (This is a long post so settle down or hide in the bathroom)

Today I finished the thankyou cards, usually, I do them faster but I have been in a fight with my computer and phone and pictures talking nicely to each other but I finally got it done.  I know I like my thank you collages, but, I now have proof that the kids (at least one) likes it too since when I was snapping pictures and asking each kid to pose with their birdhouse the two that have been guests before actually mentioned ‘knowing why I take so many pictures’.  Anyway, this 9th birthday was a bit of a turn in the road for us in birthday planning because instead of a BIG party with MANY people invited this was a tiny party with very few invited because it was a sleepover.  I like both styles, but, I’m glad we went small this time because I was able to do some cool things with them.

  1. IMG_6114First is something I think is pretty clever and not an absolute Pinterest thing (but inspired by) – I made envelopes that had each activity on a paper inside.  I had the stack displayed on the table and it instantly drew in the kids.  The first one was opened when everyone had arrived – it made a bunch of activities really feel like they had a ‘theme’ and it was so easy, I just wrote on plain printer paper and folded it into an envelope and numbered the envelopes.  Took me about 5 minutes and very worth it
  2. Activity #1; We made our own pizza!  This is the easiest thing ever if you even have the most basic knowledge of dough.  I made enough dough for 2 full pizza’s and that was plenty for 6 personal pizza’s and 1 pretty big one (mine!).  I suggest just buying a jar of pasta sauce pre-seasoned with basil and/or garlic, it is WAY better than the ‘pizza’ sauce they sell in the store.  I made the dough in advance and they had the fun of shaping and adding sauce, cheese, and toppings.  There were some very creative designs in the end.IMG_6077
  3. While the Pizza cooked the next envelope  pointed them downstairs to decorate some bird houses.  Paint and glitter stickers are a universal love of all and they happily created while I got the next batch of things ready. IMG_6088
  4. Everyone totally enjoyed their pizza, something about making it custom makes it taste better.  Once the pizza was done we moved on to the very important cake portion of the event and as the sun was going down they devoured the rainbow cake.IMG_6081
  5. The setting sun was actually a closely noted thing for me because it was key for my next activity – we took a little drive to a local park and I broke out 100 glow sticks for their entertainment.  You would think that 100 might be excessive but it was about perfect and it indulged all their creative building of things that glowed.
  6. Then a small road trip to bring one of our guests home, this was actually her first party altogether and a sleepover was totally pushing it with her parents.  I hope they let her come to future parties because she had so much fun!IMG_2562
  7. Home again and another envelope.  While they were reading it I actually pulled out a premade basket that was full of face masks, soda, snacks, and a movie.  The note had a minor treasure hunt to find the basket and that was icing on the cake.  They gladly tucked in to snacks and floats and I painted their faces with gack that they could peel off (peel off is more fun than wash off) while they watched Moana.  It was a bit late but they were all good and ready for bed at 10:30 when they all brushed and crashed.

With just 2 extra kids I was able to have cozy mattresses for them made of our big pillows and our tot bed mattresses (those things come in handy so often).  I also went to bed because I was beat too and as I read for a half hour I could hear some giggles but they all drifted off.

The next morning we had pancakes and hanging out until parents came and all declared it a total success.

The next two days were rather a low after the party high.  Lars had a trip so he was gone, the overtired kids got in a cycle of arguments and not listening, and at a particularly low point, I listesd them for sale on Facebook.  We managed to do the two things that were necessary for holiday prep; easter egg dyeing and Figoli decorating.  They were bright points actually, surrounded by lots of breaks and deep breathing and attempting to keep it all together.   My mom called me when I listed them for sale, knowing that I was probably at the end of the road, and I’m glad that I have a good mom.  She isn’t close enough to come over and help but she is intouch enough to know when to call and what to say.

I created easter baskets in relative peace as the kids were put to bed, exhausted, and fell asleep well.

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Our easter bunny tradition is to put puzzle pieces in each plastic egg that the easter bunny leaves with us.  It is a fun way to fill the eggs that is not full of candy or some other thing that would be unequal unless egg finding is too closely supervised.  I have well over 100 eggs so they get to find tons and then they are all combined to make the puzzle.  This year I also added a few geode eggs, both in their baskets so they would figure out what they were before they found rocks in their hunt and dump them in the yard.  I got the geodes from Oriental Trading ages ago and it was worth the wait to hear “I got a rock?!?” from Zoe as she opened eggs of candy and toys in her basket.

The day was bright and pretty and it was a very Easter rebirth type of day.  They enjoyed the hunt and smashing geodes and doing the puzzle and friends came over and it was a very nice day.  I suppose without the low the high does not feel as good…  I just closed my eyes to the mess and decided to deal with it all on Monday and enjoyed the evening with everyone.

That is our birthday easter adventure weekend.  It feels like a month ago given all that we have done since.  I have posts coming out my ears so much is going on so get ready for some long reading over the next few weeks!

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Baby time – Party time

The friends that had a baby last week are fairly private about social media so I’m not posting any of the cutie pie pictures of him.  Just imagine a chubby cheek, fair skin, dark hair, semi-skeptical of the world baby and you get the idea.

What I can share are some of the sweet decorations we made for his baby shower.  The shower was a collaboration from the family and friends and we had it at a local community center.  Community centers are great, but, not all that easy to decorate.  I got put in charge of table wear, not the most exciting but still very necessary for a together looking party.

You want to know the easiest way to make a pretty party table?  10 clicks on Oriental Trading and I was done.  I was told the theme and colors and that was actually a relief because they had about a million options.  I’m happy to say that choosing blue for table cloths, napkins, plates, cake plates, cups, and utensils – despite being from different collections – they all matched. I ‘splurged’ on fancy fox table cloths for the buffet table and they matched the blue really well too.

 

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All my matching blues!  

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The woodland creature theme (that is also in the nursery) is an easy theme to follow, I could not resist these little guys, although I was supposed to only be on table wear, I was confident I could work them in.  It was hard to resist all the other cute charms and things on Oriental Trading but I was resolved to only buy things that I could actually use for the party.

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They nested nicely on the tables and in the center pieces of cut lavender and went home with the kids attending the shower (including mine).  I also used some 2d cardstock animals from another site that matched the banner etc.  Wall decor was not my department this time, but, I was happy to integrate the bits.  The lavender btw was grown by the parents of the dad so this is a very nice mix of mom side, dad side and friends.

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I also did a little finger print guest book – I talked about it as I was doing it but I’m happy with how it turned out.  Now that he is born I can add his actual name!  I’ve found that holding on to random largeish pieces of scrap book paper comes in super handy for sign making. Offcuts look official when you use pretty washi tape and have nice handwriting.

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The party itself was fun and the Mom to be was happy.  I think she is more happy now with him on the outside, enjoying the world.  I’m looking forward to seeing both my friends as parents and for the little guy to join in the fun.  Niamh has already declared herself as his babysitter in 3 years – no understatement, this kid is loved.

Oriental Trading has been awesome to work with and this post completes the batch of blogs in return for the product that we agreed upon, however, I would love to work with them again!

National Rubber Duck Day is tomorrow

1-day warning!

Oriental Trading is known for many things, but, for me, there will ALWAYS be rubber ducks.  When Niamh was a little little girl and I had night classes a friend watched her, to ‘pay’ I sent a duck with Niamh every week to give to her daughter who was 2.5 and not into sharing her mom.  That started my duck collection because I couldn’t just send the same duck each week, I needed variety!

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my 2008 attempt at ‘stitching’ a picture.  To make up for it, below is a picture of baby Niamh in that bumbo.

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“I can’t sit up, but, in a bumbo I can!”

Then I had friends with kids with allergies and I learned that there are more options than candy on Halloween.  I got ‘spooky’ ducks and they went first, everyone wanted a duck more than candy.

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we had candy left over…

When I found out there was actually a HOLIDAY for rubber ducks I could not let it pass.  Oriental Trading partners with bloggers and I’m lucky enough to be one of them and they gave me ducks in return for this post.  (fair trade, I’ve already given them tons of money for ducks).

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that baby has eyes only for ducks

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I decided that for duck day, I would share the love of ducks.  I ordered 11 dozen ducks with the goal to give them all away.  Ok, I’m keeping some, there are some cute ones.  So I’m giving away 10 dozen ducks!  This is easier said than done and it is going to take a while but since I got them last Friday;

Sunday we went to the MN Science museum and I handed out ducks to any kid I saw being nice.  I also sent the kids out to hand out ducks too, nice lesson in random kindness.

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see that little unicorn duck on the top right of the earthquake table? #ducktheworld

Tuesday I saw an acquaintance in the grocery store, I handed him a duck and while I said it was for his baby, you know who is going to be playing with that duck.

Yesterday and today I didn’t actually leave the house much other than the gym so operation #ducktheworld was on hold and since tomorrow is the day I thought I should get this posted so if you feel so inclined to celebrate tomorrow, you have adequate warning.

My pocketbook is stocked with ducks and my plan is to give them away to good kids (or sad kids).  I like to reward good behavior and now I have stock to do so.

If you have any cool rubber ducks, post them tomorrow #ducktheworld and I’ll be joining you too.  If you don’t think you need any, consider adding them to your holiday table or basically any occasion since there is a duck for just about everything.

Edit to add- I just got an awesome direct link to some coupons.  Enjoy!

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The ducks were our place cards, I think they add a festive flair.

 

Christmas crafting

Today’s post is based on product given to me by Oriental Trading company in return for a post.  I almost feel bad because they are so fast and shipping and I’m comparably slow at posting.

*in my defense, they just pull from a warehouse and ship the next day, I have to wait for my heard of cats to be in a crafting mood. *  Lucky for me, they inherited my love for crafting gene so far 🙂

I got quite a few things this order but my first goal was to get things that the kids could create gifts with.  There is a TON of jewelry options but I settled on 2 kits and then some charms and cute lampwork beads, one that looked like apples and another set that were just pretty.  I also got a few basic supplies like wine charm wire loops and necklace chords.

 

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Tried to keep the title and item number visible, price etc will probably be dependent on when you go look.

 

The older two were enchanted with the box of what can only be described as treasure.  Both dove in to create teacher gifts and with zero guidance from me created wine charms with bits and parts I was not expecting them to use.  It was ABSOLUTELY within their level (of age 6 and 8) to not just manually make it happen but to put together something pretty.

The Santa kit from the picture is actually too hard for them.  I plan on doing them myself and they will find their way to some lucky family members.  (here is where I hope my sisters are too busy to read my blog)

 

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The final thing that I want to highlight is, according to Oriental Trading, another Christmas craft, but, I’m planning on wearing it year round.  The safety pin in this picture actually also comes with a tiny nativity scene but for me, this is going to indicate my willingness to help anyone who needs it so I’m going to use that charm elsewhere.  The safety pin symbol , I think, is a great idea in its simplicity.

I was very impressed with the overall quality.  Makes me wish I had time to just sit and play with beads all day.  I will settle for the time I have and I’m double grateful for the fact that I can put a pile of supplies in the hands of my kids and let them create.

Thank you for Stickers

Remember when Oriental Trading Company asked if I wanted a few things, no charge, from their website for Halloween in return for a post?  Well, they liked me well enough to offer the same for Thanksgiving!  This post is made possible by the lovely free things provided by Oriental Trading Company (who I also regularly give my money too)

In the spirit of ‘giving’, I looked at the selection of things on the website in the Thanksgiving area with an eye toward what I could share.  I also remembered to check HOW MANY of a thing come in a pack this time (lesson learned….) and decided on a little thanksgiving scene  kit that is a blank background and a ton of repositionable stickers.  I sent them in with Zoe (teacher oked) and they used them yesterday in their thanksgiving journal project.  They already write daily, this day just got special stickers!

Here is Zoe’s journal and another child’s.  It is crazy to see how different two kids, both around 6, took on this assignment

img_0987img_0986-0This seems to say; Pilgrims came inside two ships.  When they got there they couldn’t survive.  The Indians helped the pilgrems.  And that was how Minnesota came. 

So given that she isn’t really all that up on the story, she was informed by the stickers about how many ships there were.

We may also have to work on some geography of where the pilgrims actually landed because it was not the shores of Minnesota…. (we are dead center of the north American continent).  She has driven from MN to the actual coast of the country and knows how long that is, but, I don’t think she has a clue that pilgrims came from Europe and landed on the closest land to Europe.  I do like that is looks like the Native Americans were setting up a nice buffet including pie and squash soup as the pilgrims were on their boats.

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The other child also seems to have no reference to the actual semi-historical story but he does a good job describing his picture.  “Today as you can see there are 7 peoples enjoying chickens, potatoes, turkeys, pies, corns, and grapes and pumpkins.  He nicely pairs up some people with no regard for gender or race, I’m very cool with that and I hope it never changes in his brain.

I personally love 1st-grade spelling.  Zoe is completely phonetic, the other child has a love of the possessive form instead of plural.

These come in packs of 12 so there were 3 extra that I gave to my girls.  They are enjoying the longer term use of the pictures by changing them around now and then. The repositionable stickers are fun for moving but frustrated the school kids because they didn’t just stick like a normal sticker.   img_0988-0

We have them hanging on the wall in our upstairs hall so we pass by all the time.  The top one is Niamh’s, she decided that the women were cooking, the one man was bringing wood and the other man was taking a nap.  She also filled the buckets with produce, nicely using storage….

Zoe is copying Niamh’s napping guy but decided to seriously focus on pies.  At one point, everyone had a pie on their face.  She also enjoyed lining up the pumpkins.

Fiona’s picture is next and I love her turkey riding the sun.  She went more natural with the pumpkin placement but she does not care for corn, so, there is none used.  She has actually played with hers most and has the little people talk and move around.

I’m happy with the quality, the stickers are a bit easy to rip as you take them off the sheet, especially the ships, but the majority are fine for even little 4-year-old fingers.

We got a selection of other things but I plan on using most closer to thanksgiving.  I did want to get this up early enough so if you were so inclined to get this as an activity for thanksgiving day, or, to even use as kids placemats so they can play while they eat, you have time for shipping.

img_0985One other thing I got that I want to share is this cute set of craft bags.  We are constantly needing to bring something somewhere, like to school, that should not get smashed into the backpack/bag so I usually use bags that I’m ok with never seeing again (but could totally reuse!).  The fall decoration gives them a good lifespan for us, they are a more sophisticated version of a gift bag and could easily hold a bottle of wine or holiday cookies.

Oriental Trading Company, thanks for helping us look more classy!  In looking for the link for the bag I noticed many other cute bags for other seasons.  I think I’m making a shopping list now….  ::sigh:: free goldfish syndrome.

I’m glad to have this post to write today.  I’m moving on from yesterday and election day.  What I can do is what I’ve always done; support my local schools and town, keep an eye on the big picture, and know when I need to shout about something.