Blog Posts by Charlene Prince Birkeland, Senior Editor

  • Camp Shine: Get crafty idea no. 4 -- Make a firefly lantern (and read a book!)

    photo credit: thelongthread.comphoto credit: thelongthread.comIt's near impossible for kids to go through preschool and grade school without seeing the beautiful books by author and illustrator Eric Carle. What I love most about his stories is that they inspire children, parents and educators to come up with truly wonderful craft projects.

    If you are looking for an inexpensive way to light up your backyard dining table (or even an inside mantle), check out the firefly lanterns made by the children of Ellen from The Long Thread. Ellen used Carle's tutorial for painting tissue paper to help her kids doll, er, bug up glass jars.

    Supplies will probably cost you less than ten bucks because you'll likely have everything on hand, save for the decoupage and white tissue paper (although I imagine most folks have oodles of tissue paper left over from the holidays). And the actual project takes a good chunk of time to complete (in two steps).

    Another perk? You're kids may end up looking at your Eric Carle collection of stories for more art ideas. In

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  • Are you waiting to have a baby because of the economy?

    Photo Credit: Getty ImagesPhoto Credit: Getty ImagesYou'll always hear people say there's never a "perfect" time to have kids. But being financially prepared does help to ensure you'll be able to afford the costs associated with bringing a kid (or eight) into your family. (If you're curious about how much your kid will cost you over a lifetime, go play with this calculator over at BabyCenter.)

    So is the economic slowdown factoring into a couple's decision to have a baby?

    According to Yahoo! Buzz, it sure seems so.
    Baby-related searches (e.g., queries on pregnancy research and baby gear) "are at an all-time low since 2005." However, searches for information on baby showers is at an all-time high. Weird, right?

    What about you? Are you waiting to get pregnant because of the recession?

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  • Michael Jackson's memorial service: His kids remind us that he was more than a celebrity

    photo credit: AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, Pool)photo credit: AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, Pool)I wasn't glued to a television to watch the memorial service for the late Michael Jackson. I almost hate to admit that I didn't even remember it was taking place today.

    My first glimpse of the coverage was watching a short video of Paris Jackson's emotional words about her father. I felt the tears after about five seconds. And when I saw her big brother, 12-year-old Michael Joseph Jr., gently rest his head on the shoulder of his aunt, Janet Jackson, my heart just ached with sadness for those kids.

    Don't even get me started on the photos of little 7-year-old, "Blanket," Prince Michael II, holding a Michael Jackson doll. He looked lost and scared in most of the photos, and this would make complete sense with thousands of people staring at you on a stage while you mourn your dad's death.

    But the video and photos are a reminder that despite what we may have thought of his parenting skills, his three children adored him. Sandy Cohen from the Associated Press has a good read about

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  • Parenting poll: Do you think kids should have homework over summer vacation?

    Photo Credit: Getty ImagesPhoto Credit: Getty ImagesEvery other day, my son works on a few pages of summer math homework. We also have to keep a reading log, which tracks the seven books he's to read over about 12 weeks. Did I mention he's going into second grade?

    Here's the thing: My kid loves math (for now) and he lists reading as one of his favorite things to do (for now). Summer homework isn't a battle for us unlike last year, where he spent the last two days of his summer break working on his math workbook and completing a journal. (I'd like to think he learned his lesson about procrastination.)

    As a parent, I like that he has summer homework because it helps fosters a love of learning. The homework isn't intense; it's really a review of the past year, just to keep the academic juices flowing. The other benefit is that his homework routine doesn't get completely thrown, which makes it easier for all of us when school starts in late August.

    But I'm sure many of you dread having to ask your kids to do their summer homework--either

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  • Fourth of July craftiness for kids

    photo credit: wildolive.blogspot.comphoto credit: wildolive.blogspot.comOur kids are busy getting their bicycles ready for our town's annual Fourth of July parade. (It looks like we raided our local crafts store and picked up every single decoration that is red, white and/or blue.) We're also deciding on a few crafty projects to make for tomorrow.

    If you're wanted to add to your kid's excitement about the Fourth of July (you know, besides thinking about all the cool fireworks shows), check out some of these cute and easy projects from around the blogosphere:

    A printable pinwheel (pictured) from Wild Olive Read More »from Fourth of July craftiness for kids
  • Camp Shine: Get outside idea no. 2 -- Backyard camping

    photo credit: charlene prince birkeland/crazedparent.orgphoto credit: charlene prince birkeland/crazedparent.orgOur family loves to camp, but sometimes it gets tough to slip away for a weekend in the woods. Campsites seemed to have booked up early this year, which makes sense since more families are saving money on family travel by exploring the great outdoors.

    But if you're not able to go away to camp and your kids are begging you to pitch a tent, just do it...in your backyard. (And lucky for Mom and Dad, Saturday, June 27, is the Great American Backyard Campout.)

    A few tips for your backyard campout:

    • Make it a full outdoor experience -- grill dinner, roast s'mores, use lanterns and sleep under the stars (with the luxury of your home as the outhouse).
    • If you have young kids (under 7), make sure a parent is in the tent with the kids. The night brings weird noises, even in your own backyard. And it's even more frightening when Mom and Dad hear a back door open up in the middle of the night...and finally realize it's just their freaked out kid.
    • Move the tent to a different spot in your
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  • Camp Shine: Get crafty idea no. 3 - Outdoor art

    photo credit: charlene prince birkeland/crazedparent.orgphoto credit: charlene prince birkeland/crazedparent.orgThe 80-degree weather in my hood made me feel like staying in the garden all day. Only with kids home on summer break, it means finding ways to get them involved beyond pulling weeds and having water fights (always more of the latter than the former).

    If the weather is nice in your area, here's a way to bring crafty projects outdoors: make garden art.

    I saw this idea at Sunset magazine's Celebration Weekend and thought it would be a cute project for summer. Also? A fun activity for summer birthday parties and as a gift for grandparents or other special friends.

    You can use any small terracotta planter. Run about 12- to 14-inches of 1/2-inch thick rope through it, and tie a knot on the end that will remain inside the pot. Then, let your kids paint the planter using washable acrylic paint. When the paint is dry, an adult should spray it with clear acrylic spray to preserve the color so it doesn't wash away.

    What do you do with them? Hang them from a tree branch! Or you can take the

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  • 5 DIY Father's Day gifts and cards

    If you want to help the kids make a Father's Day card or gift this year, rest assured that you still have plenty of time to get crafty. We can always count on our favorite craft blogs and sites for ideas that are kid and budget friendly. Check out the slide show for simple DIY Father's Day cards and gifts for the special dads in your life.

  • Camp Shine: Get crafty idea #2 -- DIY purse (with some parental help)

    photo credit: charlene prince birkeland/crazedparent.orgphoto credit: charlene prince birkeland/crazedparent.orgLittle girls love toting around purses. It always helps when that purse is just the right size for tiny hands.

    Skip to My Lou recently highlighted a DIY purse for little girls -- the tutorial was created by the bloggy gal at The Object Project.

    Here's what's awesome about this project: your daughter can pick out her own fabric (and perhaps repurpose a cute pillow case or other piece of clothes at home), help you measure and cut the fabric, and even participate in the actual sewing of the bag. Also, I dig that the handles are small bracelets that canbe used later on when the purse is no longer being used.

    That said, a parent will have to be involved to supervise the cutting of the fabric and the sewing, unless you have an older daughter that has some sewing experience.

    I made the above purse for my 4-year-old niece using 1/4" yard of Tinker Bell fabric (US$3), cute buttons (US$2) and rubber bracelets I found on sale for two bucks at Anchor Blue. The bracelets are sold in packs of

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  • A modern cabana that's for the dogs

    photo credit: charlene prince birkeland/crazedparent.orgphoto credit: charlene prince birkeland/crazedparent.orgI'm on a little staycation this week but I wanted to post a few things I saw over the weekend at Sunset magazine's Celebration Weekend. (I wrote about my visit to the Sunset test kitchen last week).

    One of the big draws each year at this event is the "dream house." This year, it was something called the Modern Cabana, a space-conscious, prefab building that is dreamy and eco-friendly all at the same time.

    The cutest addition to the dream house on display was this dog cabana at your left, an idea that the folks from Modern Cabana just came up with before the event. The dog house is made of wood and the grass and flowers on the roof to help keep the dog house cool while adding a flare of green hipness. I don't have the exact dimensions, but I can tell you my 65-pound Lab could easily make her way into this puppy abode.

    Downside? It's pricey at 500 bucks. That said, I've seen some dog homes and kennels that cost as much.

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