Monday, December 20, 2010

Taking a break...

Hi fellow moms and friends,
I'm going to China in three days, and we'll be meeting our daughter in one week!!  So, I'm going to take a break from my Mom Thoughts blog for a while.  Once we are back home and settled in a bit, I'll begin blogging again.  Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Day 8, Homemade Note Pads

Ana's recent comments on Day 6 have inspired me to share a homemade gift idea.  You can make adorable note pads from jr. legal pads that have been cut in half.  Go to Staples or Office Depot and purchase the pads there (rather than cheap ones from elsewhere- they fall apart).  At the office supply store's copy center they will cut them in half (vertically) for you.  They may charge you a couple of dollars per cut, so have them put as many notepads as possible in the machine at once.  Then, just pick out some cute paper or cardstock to decorate them.  I also stamped an image and adhered it with 3-d adhesive foam to the top.  If you've got time on your hands, you can stamp the bottom of each page.  I've made bunches of these in the past as stocking stuffers.  Usually, I tie a ribbon around the middle and tuck in a nice pen to make it more of a gift set.  Sometimes I put magnets on the back so it can be used on the fridge.  Here are some photos of the finished product that I made last year.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Day 7, When the Weather Outside is Frightful...

Well, I wasn't planning to post today.  However, we had so much fun inventing games this morning that I thought I'd share the ideas for all the moms with stir crazy kids.  Does your child (or children) get bored easily?  K sure does.   I think part of that is due to not having a sibling to play with yet.

After breakfast, K wanted to play chase.  It was 7:30 am and I was still waking up, and I didn't want to run anyway because I just ate.  (I am not a morning person!)  My husband and I were trying to chat but K wanted to do something active, so he asked daddy to play catch.  Dad was trying to drink his coffee, so no go on the game of catch.  I noticed a round laundry basket nearby and two balls, one large bouncy ball and one smaller nerf ball.  Wanting to stay in my chair and let my food digest, I invented a game to keep K occupied: laundry basketball.  At our direction, he pulled the basket to a safe place to throw things and then worked on his shooting skills.  We cheered from the sidelines, aka couch & chair.  Soon, he was passing a ball to Daddy (who was still sitting on the couch).  Then Mommy got a ball too (I was lounging in the chair across from the couch).  We all had a blast trying to get the balls into the laundry basket while the adults were still sitting.  My husband suggested using folded up socks instead; then it would truly be laundry basketball.  Sorry, no photos...I was too lazy to go get the camera!

Once the food had settled, K and I did play chase.  K pushed his shopping cart and I ran behind him trying to toss the nerf ball into the cart.  Later, the shopping cart became a stroller of sorts.  We crammed pillows into it and then K sat on the pillows.  I pushed him round and round the house, going faster and faster.  It was great exercise, and fun to pass on a game that I used to play as a child.  My Gram had a similar shopping cart which we used for all kinds of great entertainment like go cart races.

Ok moms it's your turn- please share in the comments some fun activities that keep your kids busy when the weather is too cold to go outside and play.  We also watched two videos today, so that's fine to share favorite dvds too!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Day 6, All I Really Want is Simplicity

As the adoption of our daughter is about to be completed in a few weeks, I have to confess that my heart isn't in to the usual Christmas traditions this year.  (It's rather ironic that I'm doing a 12 days of Christmas blog.)  We're going to be in Beijing on Christmas day!  I can hardly believe it!!  There will be no Christmas tree, or presents to unwrap, or special dinner with all the trimmings, no carols, or holiday classic movies.  It will just be my husband and me touring the capital city of China.  As far as I know, they don't celebrate Christmas there.  But, I'm ok with the break from tradition.  All I really want for Christmas is simplicity.

That's what I've wanted for years actually, especially the five years that I taught full time at a grade school.  One year I seriously thought about planning a vacation and going far away from the Christmas chaos.  December can get too crazy with all the extra activities and festivities going on.  So this year I am finally getting my wish for simplicity.  It's cool, and I'm really excited about it.  However, it's bittersweet because our son won't be traveling with us.  He'll be celebrating Christmas with his grandparents; a plan that we thought would be best for all of us.  Still, it won't be easy to be away from him, and each day that goes by I'm feeling the sting of it a bit more.

So with all that's going on in our household and the impending changes in our family, I've been very pensive.  Basically I'm doing a lot of soul searching.   I don't know if you have had similar ponderings about your holiday traditions.  Do you ever stop and ask yourself, "Why am I doing this?"  Recently I have just been longing to slow down, be still, and think about the first Christmas.  So this morning I just sat in the quiet (the few precious moments of it before K got up) and thought about the gift God gave us when He sent His son to earth.  Even if we never received another Christmas present, that One Gift would be enough.  However, God is so generous, that He continues to give us gifts above and beyond that first Christmas Gift.

This year, He has blessed us with a daughter.  There are no words to express the wonder of it.  The usual holiday festivities pale in comparison in my mind.  I am so completely overwhelmed by all that is unfolding in our lives right now.  Meanwhile, I'm trying to get things done here at home: packing suitcases, purchasing and wrapping gifts for family, scrambling to get our plane tickets, etc..  So I don't know that I'll continue to do 12 blogs as I'd originally planned.

If this is my last Christmas blog post, then I want to say, "Merry Christmas to you!"  Treasure the gifts that God has given you, especially your family.   I hope you will find time to savor some simplicity this year.

In spite of a the busy rush to get everything done before we head to China,
I am determined to find quiet moments to appreciate the gifts God has
given me.  One gift was fresh snow and a perfect leaf all alone.  
Ah, simplicity!  It's what my soul is longing for.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Day 5, The Star of Bethlehem

This is a must see DVD!  You can even watch it on YouTube for free.

Last year, I decided to read the Christmas story in all four gospels.  I did this right before Christmas as a way to keep the true meaning of the holiday at the forefront of my mind.  As I read the stories, I began to ponder the star that lead the wise men to find Jesus.  The big question was, why didn't everybody else notice it if it was so obvious?!?  Our modern day depictions show a huge star that touches earth right at the manger scene.  I actually talked to God about my question and wrote in my prayer journal asking Him to some day explain it to me, thinking maybe when I got to heaven He could answer that one for me.  Much to my amazement, He answered my query a few days later when my parents arrived to spend Christmas with us, and brought with them a video for all of us to watch: The Star of Bethlehem.  Apparently, somebody else had the same question about the star and he began to do in depth research about it.  This video is a result of his research and then presenting it to his Bible study group.  So many requested to hear the presentation that they recorded it onto DVD.  As you watch you'll learn that with modern technology and computer programming we can see what the night sky looked like thousands of years ago.  In the midst of all the scientific evidence given on the video, I found myself amazed at how stunningly poetic, romantic, and beautiful God is with the messages He sends to us through the things He's created.  I highly recommend this DVD whether you believe in God or not.  It's fascinating and will truly encourage you.  It will also remind you what Christmas is really about.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Day 4, Handmade Christmas Ornament

Welcome to day 4 of the 12 blogs of Christmas!  One of our Christmas traditions is to get a new ornament for the tree every year.   Often we'll buy an ornament when we are on vacation.  I love to decorate the tree each December and recall the memories the each ornament represents.

Last year, we adopted our son from Rwanda.  What an amazing journey that was!  I do have a small basket from Rwanda that we hang on the tree to commemorate our trip to get him, and to celebrate his birth country.  However, I wanted an ornament that shows how Africa has been woven into the fabric of our family.  Out of the blue, I got inspiration to make my own ornament in the shape of Africa with the use of a cookie cutter.  (I found the cookie cutter on Copper  I used two colors of Sculpey clay to show how even though we have different skin colors, we're still one family.  Rwanda has three official languages, one of which is French; so I used a rubber stamp (from Stampin Up!) with French script on it to add visual interest and texture to the ornament.  Finally, I placed a brad in the shape of a heart to represent Rwanda.  (I baked the ornament according to Sculpey clay's directions.) The finished product exceeded my expectations.  I've made four more since then as gifts, but this first one is my favorite.  Each one looks different since the clay molds together in unique shapes.

My original idea of an ornament that represents our family.  
You can use polymer clay to make all kinds of ornaments.  This would be a fun activity to do with grade school kids.  You only need a few items to make them: clay, cookie cutters, a rolling pin, a straw to make the hole at the top, ribbon, and some embellishments.  Give it a try!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Day 3, Treat Gift Bags

Wow, I'm scrambling to get ready to go to China!  We're going to be there for Christmas!!  So today's post is going to be short...

This is for those of you who like to make homemade gifts.  Listed below is a great video tutorial from Dawn's Stamping Thoughts on how to make adorable little treat bags (3" by 5" when complete).  I made seven of them in an afternoon.  It took me three tries to get it right, but they were easy after that.  I filled my little bags with delicious Dillettante chocolate mints from Costco ($9.99).  Each bag will hold approximately ten chocolates.   I'm planning to give them to the nursery workers at church, and to my co-workers.  Of course, I'm sampling the chocolate liberally!  I love chocolate mint!!

Here's the link:  

Completed treat bags.  The paper & ribbon are retired items from Stampin' Up.
Paper is called Holiday Thyme.  Ribbon is Cranberry Crisp.  You might find
them on Ebay since these items are no longer being sold by SU.  

See you tomorrow for day 4 of my 12 blogs of Christmas!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Day 2, Peanut Clusters

See below for directions on how to make these delicious treats.

Peanut clusters are super easy to make- just three ingredients.  This is a great recipe that only takes about 10 minutes to complete, longer if you have a three year old helping you.  The clusters freeze well and are also perfect for mailing.  We make them every Christmas as that's the only time we can find the almond bark at the stores.  I also stock up on the bark so I can make clusters whenever.  They are an easy treat to make for last minute get togethers or as a gift for someone.  Today's batch of clusters went to work with my husband where his co-workers happily devoured them.  (Of course, we kept a few at home for us to enjoy too.)  Here's the recipe...

Peanut Clusters
2 cups (12 oz.) semi sweet chocolate chips
1 package (16 oz.) candy coating or almond bark {It's basically like white chocolate in large blocks}
1 jar (16 oz.) dry roasted peanuts {We prefer unsalted}

1. Pour chocolate chips and candy coating into a large microwave safe bowl.
2. Heat in microwave for two minutes.
3. Remove bowl with hot pads and stir chocolate.
4. Repeat steps 2 & 3 twice, (You'll heat the chocolate for a total of 5 to 6 minutes.)  Mixture should be smooth with no lumps.
5. Add peanuts to the melted chocolate and stir until nuts are well coated with chocolate.
6. Drop mixture onto wax paper lined cookie sheets.
7. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm.
8. Store in air tight container, no need to refrigerate.

Makes 2 1/2 to 3 dozen clusters.

How to make peanut clusters with a three year old:

"Ok, are you ready to make peanut clusters?"

Pour in the chocolate chips

Add the candy coating, and now you're ready for Mom's help.

Have your mom put the bowl in the microwave.

Now it's time to goof around while we wait.

Have Mom stir it cuz it's hot!

More goofin' while we wait for the chocolate to melt.

Oops, we put the peanuts in early, but they're supposed to
go in after the chocolate is all melted!

Now the clusters are ready to go on the cookie sheets.
"I hope I get to sample them soon!"

You can help Mom make the clusters if you are careful.

Now they're ready for the fridge.  I can't wait to try one!

It was a bit of an upset for K, but he had to wait till after dinner to have a cluster.  He did get to lick the spoon after all the clusters were made though.  Yum!

See you tomorrow for Day 3 of my 12 blogs of Christmas.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Day 1, Advent Calendar

Happy December 1st!  I've decided to post something Christmas related for the first twelve days of December.  Glad you could join me for day one.

When I was little, we always had some sort of advent calendar to help us count the days till Christmas.  My mom made a candy count down for us one year.  She used a long strip of green felt, attached 24 strips of red ribbon, and tied a peppermint to each ribbon.  That was a fun way to count down to Christmas.  We also had a 3-D cardboard manger display that had a little window to open each day.  I think there was a Christmas story or part of a verse to read behind the window.  For whatever reason, I always got a kick out of the daily activity of opening a new window or removing a candy.  I wanted to pass on the tradition to our son.

To keep things simple, I decided to use an old classroom calendar to help K see the progression of days till Christmas.  The teacher in me can't pass up the opportunity to teach him about the days of the week, the concept of months, and counting!  Each morning we're adding the date to the calendar and then counting how many days left until Christmas.  Nothing fancy, but I love that he's learning and there's no candy involved!  Also, this will help him understand the passage of time when we are away in China.

This year's advent calendar.  Nothing fancy, but K thinks it's fun.
I did see a cool and crafty idea for an advent calendar using a mini muffin pan.  Perhaps next year when K is older and I'm not preparing for an international trip we'll try it.  If you are feeling creative, or want a new way to help your kids count the days till Christmas, I've found a great blog tutorial to help get you started with the mini muffin tin idea.  You can get step by step directions here:
I don't know the owner of this blog, and just stumbled upon it by chance, but I love her ideas.  Hopefully she won't mind that I'm giving you a sneak peek of her project picture here.  The fun thing about the muffin tins is that you can put whatever you want behind the magnetic circles: a treat, a message, a poem, a promise of a fun Christmas activity to do that day, or part of an on-going story.  If you try it, leave me a message or a link to your blog so we can see how it turned out.

Sneak peek of the mini muffin tin advent calendar.
Photo borrowed from Sumo's Sweet Stuff

See you tomorrow for day 2 of my 12 blogs about Christmas.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Do you have a good read to suggest?

I'm still here!  Preparing for and then hosting Thanksgiving took a lot of time and energy, so I've not had motivation to blog in a while.  However, tomorrow is December 1st, and I'm going to try and post something every day for 12 days.  We still don't know when we are traveling to China, so this will be a great diversion for me as I'm liable to go a bit nuts waiting to find out our travel dates.

Anybody read a good novel lately?  With the holidays' busy hustle and bustle, and the prolonged wait to meet our daughter, I'm finding that I need to be more intentional about stress management.  Often, I'll read while K is taking a nap as a way to unwind.  Lately I haven't been able to find a good book to read, so I thought I'd ask my fellow moms for some suggestions.  What do you like to read?  Please leave a comment about your favorite author or book. What genres do you enjoy the most?  I prefer historical fiction, mysteries, and biographies.

A series that I've really enjoyed reading is Red River of the North by Lauraine Snelling.  It's followed by three more series about the same people: Return to Red RiverDaughters of Blessing, and Home to Blessing.  These novels follow the lives of several families that immigrate to the states in the mid 1800s.  If you enjoyed Little House on the Prairie when you were a girl, then you'd probably like these stories.  I began reading these books when my grandma was still living.  She had lost her ability to speak after a stroke.  Her mobility continued to degenerate, so mostly she spent her days sitting.  She lived several hours away from me, so I found that sending her books was a way I could show her I cared.  I sent her each book in all three series and would check the same book out at the library.  That way, we could read the books together and then have something to talk about in our letters.  She passed away before the fourth series came out, but I'm still reading it as the books are published.  It's a special way to remember my Gram and feel a bit connected to her.  Here's the author's website if you'd like more details on the books:

Book 1 in the Red River of the North Series

Friday, November 19, 2010

Potty Training Update

Well, we're just not quite ready to potty train.  K is much more willing to use the toilet this time around, which is great.  However, he's not fully invested yet.  He'd rather play than stop to use the potty.  Honestly, I'm not ready to commit to it either.  We are about three weeks away from finding out when we'll travel to China for our next adoption.  Sometime in Dec. or Jan. we are going to be gone for a couple of weeks, and then home with a new baby.  I don't want to add potty training to the list of transitions when we get home.  However, if he wants to use the toilet we are all for it.  Yesterday he volunteered to use it a couple of times.  So awesome!  I think once we are somewhat settled in with his new sister, we'll give it serious attention.

The best thing I've learned from our trial with potty training is to not care so much about the outcome.  This summer, I was so insistent on it and didn't want to fail.  Now, I don't really care one way or the other as I know that eventually he'll get it.  Our son is a strong willed little guy.  When he wants to do something, he will.  So, we told him he's the boss of his own pee and pooh.  He likes the concept of being the boss of somebody, or something.  Now that he's the boss of his own potty needs, rather than being forced to bend to my will, we are all a lot happier.  Funny, in all the potty training manuals I read, nobody ever mentioned this.

More posts to follow as we make progress in this area...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Hidden in My Heart

On my Christmas wish list: Hidden in My Heart cd with lullabies for all ages.

I recently heard about this new cd through our MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group.  Here's a link to the Hidden in My Heart website:  You can listen to samples of the songs and watch a video about it.  

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A great read: The Hiccupotamus

Our favorite silly story for this week.  Check it out!
We made another trip to the library and found a plethora of great books.  This one topped them all: The Hiccupotamus.  It's hilarious, ridiculous, and just plain goofy fun to read aloud.  We all enjoyed the story and illustrations.  The author, Aaron Zenz, has also included a mock list of cast "bios" after the story.  K didn't get the cast bio jokes, but my husband and I found them to be very amusing.  Enjoy!

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Sweet Thank You

My husband made some awesome cookies last night!  I'll share the recipe soon.

I wanted to give some of the cookies to our neighbors as a thank you for taking
 family photos for us yesterday.  

Supplies for thank you gift bag: paper lunch bag, clear bag for cookies, cranberry card stock (3" x 11"), decorative card stock (2 1/2" x 11"), ribbon, adhesive (I love Staples' permanent glue tape), thank you stamp, stamp pads, and 3-D foam tape.  I stamped the sentiment, cut it out with a Creative Memories' oval template, and sponged the edges of the oval with brown ink by Color Box.

The finished product before I tucked it into the gift bag:
cookies and a gift card for coffee.  I also included the recipe
for the cookies in case anyone has food allergies.  

The idea for this gift bag came from a Martha Stewart magazine.  It was simple to make, and nice to use items I already had at home.  When my husband arrived home with the gift card, I was delighted that it matched my color scheme.  He sarcastically claimed that he did that on purpose.  Men just don't get it, do they?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Reading Readiness pt 2: Phonics

Once K had learned the alphabet, it was time to teach him the sounds that the letters make.  I wish that I could say I used all kinds of clever hand made games and crafts to teach the sounds.  However, the truth is he learned it from a video!  My friend, Kelly, told me about The Letter Factory DVD by Leap Frog Learning.  It is engaging, clever, and teaches phonics in a fun way.  Plus, at $8.99 on Amazon, you really are getting a great deal!  (The tutoring company I work for charges a lot more than that per hour!!)  In about two months, our son knew all the sounds.  The vowels seem to be the hardest for kids, especially differentiating between short vowel "e" and short vowel "i" sounds.  I still mix them up myself, like when I say ten it often comes out as tin.  A quick review for those who may have forgotten what short vowels are: apple, elephant, igloo, octopus, and umbrella are the short vowel sounds.  The long vowels sounds are the actual names for the vowels like: ape, eagle, ice, over, and use.  We'll tackle long vowels later.  For now, K is only aware of the short vowel sounds.

I also got him Talking Words Factory as a follow up DVD to The Letter Factory.  The sequel teaches how to put the sounds together to make words.  Talking Word Factory does a great job of teaching the concept of how words are built.  It focuses on the basic consonant, short vowel, consonant (CVC) words like CAT or FUN which is perfect for beginning readers.  They do introduce blends, but it is a brief part of the video.  With K, we are only working on the CVC words at the moment until he really gets comfortable with sounding out these basic words.  We have been doing all kinds of fun activities to help him learn how to read.  I took pictures of some of our "home school" assignments so you all can see what we've been doing, and maybe inspire some of you to give it a try.

I created a simple worksheet on the computer leaving blanks  (like ___ ot) for  K to stamp a letter.  All of the words in the first column end in "ot".  The second column is all "et" words.  Rather than giving him the entire alphabet stamp set, I only set out letters for him to use that would create real words.  Once he's more proficient, he can figure out which letters make real words and which ones don't.  For now, he has fun discovering what new word he's just spelled.

We practice his new words whenever he's in the mood.  Since it's at his height,  he sees them often and enjoys going through the list of words.  At first, I folded the sheet in half and we covered up all the words except one.  That way he wasn't overwhelmed by a whole sheet of new words to tackle at once.  (This worksheet has "at" and "an" words.)

Practicing our "at" words.  Notice I gave him a selection of letters at the bottom that will all make real words when paired with "at".  We sometimes do this activity while he's eating a snack or lunch.  Other times, K will just pick up the letters on his own and start making words to proudly show off to whomever is near by.  I'm finding letters all over the house!

Since K just turned three, he's not able to write letters yet.  He was constantly hounding us to write out words for him.  We got him a Magna Doodle for his birthday and I had an "ah ha!" moment, "We can use the magnetic letters and he can create words on his own!"  Sometimes we'll write words on his Magna Doodle for him and he can read them to us.  This is a fun activity to do in the car, or at a public place where you have to sit and wait quietly, like a restaurant.

Here's a great beginning reader book.  The pictures are fun, and the words are all CVC so they are perfect for our little reader.  We've practiced and practiced the words in this book.  He wasn't able to just breeze through it the first time.  There are three sections in the book, we usually get through only one section and he's done reading for a while.  

Same series, obviously.  I was so pleased to find these two books at the library.  It's very rewarding for new readers to have a book that is at their level.  It's very exciting for them to open a book and be able to read every word in it.  With K, we go slow, encourage a lot, give some hints with sounding out, and keep it fun.  If it's too hard or not enjoyable, we stop and come back to it later.  
One more observation...When we go out, K's always aware of letters and words that show up on signs or wherever.  He's eager to point out words he knows.  Sometimes he'll see a word he knows as part of a larger word for example, "material".  He'll say, "Look, that spells MAT!".  I'm always quick to praise him and then show him that the whole word says material.  My son is teaching me that kids are much more alert than I thought!

In the future, I'll share more as we progress in our journey of teaching K to read.  Thanks for visiting my blog!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Help! Potty Training, Again?!?

O.k. fellow moms, I need your advice about potty training.  We gave it a valiant effort this summer, but K just wasn't ready.  We went back to diapers and quit talking about it, figuring he'd let us know when he was ready.  Today he completely surprised us by declaring he needed to use the potty.  He did and then I gave him the option of underwear or diaper.  He chose underwear.  He did a great job in the morning of telling us that he needed to pee, and only had one accident on his way to the bathroom.  After nap, he still told us, but he was already peeing while he stood on the carpet.  He had three accidents in a row, sigh...  I don't know what to do at this point.  What worked for your kids, and what didn't?  How long did it take for them to truly be trained and not having daily accidents?  Did any of you go back and forth between diapers and potty training?  Thanks for your advice!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

My Apologies!

Dear blog reader,
I need to apologize.  I allowed Google to place ads on my blog as a way to help raise funds for our upcoming adoption.  If someone clicked on an ad, I was to receive a small compensation from Google.  The ads were supposed to correspond to what I'm posting about.  However, today I saw two ads on my blog that I completely disagreed with and had nothing to do with me or what I write about.  One was a political advertisement endorsing something I oppose!  I was so furious that I immediately removed the ads.  I apologize if you were subjected to ads on my blog that offended you.  It was not my intention whatsoever. And, for the record, I never got paid for the ads.  I didn't have enough clicks to even earn six dollars.

I love sharing my thoughts on Mom Thoughts.  I truly appreciate the comments that all of you have shared.  I look forward to continuing my blog, and now ad free!

It's a Matter of Perspective

I'm also thankful for my husband; he washes the dirty dishes!

Thank God for dirty dishes,
they have a tale to tell.

While other folks go hungry,
we're eating very well.

With home and health and happiness,
we shouldn't want to fuss,
for by this stack of evidence,
God's very good to us.

-Kirsten Emmerton
from Taste of Home Oct/Nov 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Author Spotlight: Sandra Boynton

One of the first books given to our son was Snuggle Puppy by Sandra Boynton.  That was our introduction to a wonderful and quirky author that has become a family favorite.  Young toddlers can connect with Boynton's funny characters, simple rhyming text, and colorful illustrations.  Adults will appreciate the humor.  The amazing Ms. Boynton- author, illustrator, and composer- writes songs to accompany some of her books.  The songs are incredibly goofy and fun; we love "Barnyard Dance".  You can download several of her songs for free at:  "Personal Penguin" is one of my favorites; give it a listen.  We own seven Sandra Boynton books including: Snuggle Puppy; Barnyard Dance; Belly Button Book; Fifteen Animals; Hey! Wake Up! Blue Hat, Green Hat; and Oh My Oh My Oh Dinosaurs.  Plus we've checked out many others from the library.  It's hard to choose a favorite, so I won't try.  These board books are a perfect way to share the joy of reading with a young child who has a short attention span.  Besides being entertaining, Boynton's books are also educational as they introduce: counting, colors, opposites, animal sounds, and much more.  It's sad, but our son who is three now, has sort of outgrown these books.  I'm looking forward to revisiting them with our daughter once we bring her home from China in a couple of months.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Reading Readiness

I have been an educator for 12 years now.  I started out teaching full time in an elementary school, and then seven years ago I switched to tutoring for a well known tutoring agency.  (No need to give them free advertising :)  I love teaching, especially helping kids learn to read.  Of course, being a teacher, my son gets taught at home whether he wants to be or not!  Thankfully, he's three and wants to learn about everything.  He began to show an interest in learning to read when he was two.  He picked up the alphabet thanks to Dr. Seuss's ABC and began asking what letter words start with.  That was a huge sign to me that he was ready to learn phonics.  Now he is starting to sound out some words on his own and it's so much fun to watch it happen! I wanted to share with my fellow moms what I've learned so far. 

It's really not hard to teach a child to read.  When they are young, interested, love repetition, have no concept of things being "too hard", and motivated to achieve new things...that's the perfect time to introduce phonics.  As long as it's fun, and there's no pressure, I believe in giving them the opportunity to learn how to read.  I don't believe that there is specific age that constitutes ready to learn.  I think it's more according to their interest.  If you are sharing the joy of reading with them on a daily basis, they will most likely want to learn to read.  

Some suggestions for teaching your child to read:

1. Start by reading to him or her every day. We read before nap and bedtime, as well as random times throughout the day.  We visit the library often.

2. Include in your reading some books that teach the alphabet. (There were over 6000 suggestions when I searched on Amazon!) Here are a few I like:

· Dr. Suess’s ABC (My son learned his alphabet from this book!)

· Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

· A to Z by Sandra Boynton

· Richard Scarry’s Cars & Trucks from A to Z

· Curious George's ABCs

3. Sing the ABCs during the day: diaper changing, brushing teeth, in the car… I like to chose a singing style: opera, country, jazz, whatever.  It’s fun for everybody!

4. There is a multitude of toys that incorporate the alphabet to heighten awareness. Some that we own are: wooden ABC puzzles, an alphabet placemat, stacking blocks with letters, and magnetic letters with a wipe-off/ chalkboard. We’ve also created letters with play dough, so you can use what you have to make letters too. My son even started making letters on his own with string or a strip of paper, and sometimes his food!

5. Purchase some magnetic letters for the fridge and make easy words together like "cat" or "dog", and spell out names of people in your family. That way your child sees that letters work together to make words. Plus they're learning that we read from left to right.

6. Flashcards are a great way to quiz your child and see which letters they know. Make sure to get (or make) cards that include lower case letters separately. You can play a matching game to find the capital and the lower case letters that go together.

7. Your child will probably be pointing out letters everywhere you go by now. Have fun with it and start talking about beginning letters of words, like: “Costco starts with C!” We have an on-going game to see how many words we can think of that start with a particular letter. Names of people are favorites with my son.

8.  Read text to your kids wherever it pops up, like brand names on their clothes.  They will begin to recognize the font or logo and feel proud that they can "read" the words.  (Like: Gymboree or OshKosh)

There are lots of other possible ways to introduce and teach the alphabet, so please share in the comments other ideas and suggestions.  As a teacher, I'm always looking for new and fun methods to use with my students.   In a future post, to follow soon, I'll share how we taught phonics to K and the simple steps to take from there so your child can begin to sound out easy words.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Need a Song?

I've decided to add a new topic to Mom Thoughts: ways to manage stress.  Seems like I get worn out all too often being a mom.  Know what I mean?   The most important thing I've learned is that I need to be proactive in finding ways to de-stress and recharge so I can keep giving out to my family.  Here's my solution for an instant "stress-lift":

The song "You Are For Me" by Kari Jobe is my favorite.

Listening to the song "You Are For Me" by Kari Jobe helps to melt my stress away. (Click on the song's title to hear it on YouTube.)  Its peaceful piano & orchestral accompaniment and Kari's ethereal voice recharge my soul as the words flood me with hope.  The lyrics remind me that God loves me and will help me with whatever circumstance I'm dealing with.  Awesome!  

Do you have a favorite song that helps to lift you up when you are worn out?  Please feel free to share it in the comments.   I love hearing from you all!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Cream Cheese Pumpkin Bars

One of my favorite things about autumn is the flavors of fall like pumpkin pie spice, and apple cinnamon; they are so inviting and comforting.  I've been making a lot of fall themed foods lately.  We've made pumpkin pancakes.  (Found the recipe in this month's Taste of Home magazine.  Yum-o!)  Yesterday I made a pumpkin chicken soup.  It was actually quite good.  However, the best pumpkin recipe this season came from my mom, of course!  My mom is the go to source for great desserts.  Give this recipe a try and let me know what you think.  We loved it!

Pumpkin Bars:
1 c. butter, softened
2 c. sugar
4 large eggs
1 c. pumpkin
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. almond flavoring
1  1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1  1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. chopped pecans

Beat butter and sugar first in large bowl.  Then add eggs and pumpkin and stir until blended.  In small bowl, mix together dry ingredients.  Then pour dry mixture into wet ingredients and stir.  Finally, fold in pecans.  Pour into a greased 9x13 pan and bake at 350 F for 30 minutes.  Frost when cool.

Cream Cheese Frosting:
6 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 c. butter, softened
2 c. powdered sugar (add more for thicker frosting)
1tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. almond flavoring

Beat cream cheese and butter until smooth.  Slowly add sugar and stir till well blended.  Finally, add vanilla and almond flavoring and stir thoroughly.  Enjoy!

Mommy & K making pumpkin pancakes.  

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Introduction to Rubber Stamping

Hi fellow moms.  I thought I'd share a demo of a card I made this past week.  I try to do something crafty every Sunday, although that doesn't always work out.  But this week, I had some fun with a new little stamp set I picked up at the craft store.  I love spending time in my craftroom.  It's a surefire stress reliever for me, plus I end up with something creative that I can give away.

I found this cute stamp set for $1.00 (regular price) at Jo-Ann Fabrics.
Don't let the $1 stamp set fool you, stamping is not a cheap hobby!
Here are some of the supplies I used for this project.  I also used a
paper cutter, glue stick, ribbon, and scissors.

First: adhere your clear stamp to an acrylic block & stamp the puppy.
Then stamp your sentiment with a different color.
Clear stamps make it easy to get the words in the right spot every time.

Then color in your image.  I used a watercolor technique with
a waterbrush and two brown stamp pads, one lighter than the other.
Use the brush to pick up the color from the stamp pad.
Make one side of your image slightly darker for a shading effect.

Now stamp your background paper for extra visual interest.
All the card stock I used is from Stampin' Up.  Love their products!

Add ribbon for extra pizzaz.  I got this twill ribbon at Wal-mart.
Adhere the red square and white square with 3-D adhesive like
3M foam tape.  Then your image really pops!
The finished card is 4 1/4 x 4 1/4 inches.  

Friday, October 8, 2010

Update on mural

I finally got an overhead to draw the airplane for K's room.
Thank you Lindsay!!

Work in progress...thought it would be fun for K to "help" a bit.

So, this project has intimidated me.  I've never painted an airplane before, nor have I painted something this large.  I've been procrastinating for weeks.  However, K's birthday is this week, so I got a fresh wave of inspiration to work on the mural again.  It's not done yet, but I am happy that my son likes it and my husband thinks it's cool too.  Even though it's going to look far from professional, I'm glad that I'm doing this project for K.  He's going to be a big brother, and maybe this room makeover will help him understand that he is still special and important to us.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Our Trial with the Clock

What in the world is this?? Read below to find out!

Our son likes to wake us up way too early.  My sister has a friend who put a clock in her child's room.  They taped over the minutes and told their son that he could get up at eight.  It sounded like a good idea, and I was willing to try just about anything.  I am not a morning person! So, about three weeks ago, we gave the clock idea a try.  It's worked out brilliantly!  Our son is allowed to get up at seven each morning.  He might wake up at 6:30, but he'll play in his room until seven and then promptly come to our room and proudly announce, "The clock says seven!"  It's been absolutely wonderful to have that little clock in K's room.  He knows when his nap is, what time to get up from nap, what time dinner is, and when he's supposed to go to bed at night.  His understanding of our daily routine has expanded greatly thanks to our digital clock.  Plus, we noticed he feels much more at ease and a sense of trust has deepened as he was able to comprehend when things will happen.  It's sort of like he feels a bit of control or comfort in knowing what time things occur.  We also use the clock to tell him when he can watch his daily video, or have a snack.  That way he doesn't keep pestering but just waits till he sees the promised number show up on is clock.  Soon I think we'll peel the paper off the minutes and put an arrow over the hour, so he can see the incremental progression of each hour.  

It's eight, time to get ready for bed!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Super Sale at Kohl's: cute stuff for $1.00!

We stumbled onto an amazing sale at Kohl's on Sunday: up to 90% off summer clothes for kids!!  Seriously, I purchased shorts, skirts and tanks for one dollar each!  It was crazy fun.  I went back today and there are still lots of items available.  Every department in the store had clearance racks, but the infant and toddler section had the best selection.  This is a great opportunity to stock up on clothes for next summer, or to pick up adorable outfits for future baby shower gifts.  We are getting close to a referral for a baby girl, so I grabbed lots of cute skirts, tops, and shorts for our future daughter.  My mom, sister, & niece were with me, and we had a blast finding adorable outfits for our little girls.  I also got my son a few items too, but there wasn't a lot to chose from in size 4T for boys.

90% often do you find amazing deals like this??  

Adorable shorts, skirts, and tops for $1 at Kohl's