Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Kindergarten Homeschool: Handwriting

I've been wanting to share about our homeschooling curriculum, but it's hard to find time to post these days!  Today I'll focus on our handwriting workbook.  A big part of kindergarten is learning to print.  We are really enjoying A Reason for Handwriting.  The pages are in color.  Each one features an animal to color on one side, and lots of room to practice the letters on the opposite side.  The lines are spaced well so a beginning writer doesn't have to write tiny letters.  Also, they introduce letters according to how they're written rather than alphabetically.  That way the same motions are being practiced for a while before learning something completely different.  One other thing I like is that the pages can be torn out so he doesn't have to battle keeping the book open while he's trying to write.  My son always has a positive response when we pull out the handwriting book.

Next year, the 1st grade book will introduce writing out scripture verses.  Once the child has written out a verse, he or she can send it to someone as a way to share God's Word and also show off their best handwriting.  I would highly recommend this series of workbooks (K-6th) for non-homeschooling families as well.  It could be something to do at home for more practice, or over the summer to keep their skills sharp.  Today I chatted with a mom whose kids are in public school.  Her daughters' school is no longer teaching cursive, so she's planning to get this series and teach her girls cursive at home.  Love it!  I think cursive is still important and should be taught.  What are your thoughts about that?

This is my son's kindergarten handwriting workbook.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Thanksgiving Tree

Long time since I've posted here...sorry!  Things are going well, but it's busy home schooling the kids and keeping up with the daily stuff as well.  I thought I'd share our latest project in case someone else might be inspired by it.  I wanted to do some sort of art project for Thanksgiving with the kids that would focus on the reason for the holiday: gratitude.  So, I pondered for a while and came up with the idea of a Thanksgiving Tree.  It was easy and fun to do.  We had a great time and actually didn't get extremely messy, which was good since we were not in paint clothes!  While the kids were "napping" in their rooms,  I painted trees onto the back side of wrapping paper.  I used FolkArt paint from Wal-mart.  It dries fast and washes off easily, plus it's only .97 cents per bottle.  Once the trees were dry, I painted the kids' hands to make the leaves.  We put twenty two "leaves" on each tree since Thanksgiving is on the 22nd this year.  Each day, starting November 1st, we'll write one thing that they are thankful for on a leaf.  Then, on Thanksgiving day, the kids will have a tree full of blessings that we can talk about while we enjoy our turkey dinner.  Here are some pictures in case you want to make your own.
I painted the trees onto the back side of wrapping paper.  Older kids could paint their own tree.  If you want to make it into an art lesson, have them observe trees outside to see how the limbs look without the leaves.

Next I added a bit of grass at the base of the tree so it didn't look like it was floating on the page.  I also added a title so we'd know whose tree belong to whom.  Before we started painting our leaves, I asked the kids to look outside at the variety of leaves on the trees in our backyard.  We named the different colors we saw so the kids would know why we were using the variety of colors I chose for this project.

Time to get messy!  I folded the paper so the kids could reach the limbs of the trees without ripping up the paper by crawling on it.  I opted to do one kid at a time, and just one hand painted at a time.  Marisa wanted to try painting her own hand.  I let her for a couple of leaves.  She did amazingly well for not even three years old!  (We did eleven leaves with the left hand then washed and took a break so those could dry.)

While Marisa's eleven leaves were drying, Kieran had a turn to do some leaves on his tree.  I did most of the painting on his hand, but let him try a couple on his own.  He was a bit more enthusiastic with the paint, but only got a bit on his jeans.  It washed out no problem.  Once his eleven leaves were done, then sister had a turn again to do the rest with her right hand.  The key for these guys was to do one kid at a time, and only one hand at a time...making sure to escort them to the sink so we didn't paint the whole kitchen.  :)

Here's Marisa with her finished project.  (She loves her "Penny the Penguin" from Koala Brothers.)

Here's Kieran with his Thanksgiving Tree.  (Love that smile!)

Both trees are on the wall in the dining room where we do our home school lessons.  We'll write one thing that we are thankful for on a leaf each day in November till Thanksgiving.  Then while we eat our meal, we can review all the amazing things God has blessed us with this year.

Next it was time to let the kids photograph mom.  Kieran decided to go artistic and slant the camera while he snapped the picture.  I think it turned out well.  :)

With a bit of trepidation, I let Marisa (the two year old!) hold my giant camera.  She actually got a decent photo of Kieran and me.  Everybody was all smiles after having a good time painting.  There were tense moments, but overall it was just fun.  I'm eager for November to arrive so we can start writing on our leaves.

Parenting is hard work, and not every day is all smiles and silliness like we had this afternoon.  However, it's the moments like these that I blog about so I can remember and know that there are a lot of good times mixed in with the tough ones.  Perhaps my blogs are a kind of Thanksgiving tree for me. How do you help your kids (and yourself) develop grateful hearts?  I'd love to hear from you.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Koala Brothers DVDs

With the "too hot to play outside" afternoons, we have been finding ourselves looking for indoor fun.  So, we've been checking out DVDs at the library this summer.   There are A LOT of lame movies for kids.  It's a rare treat when we find something that everyone enjoys watching repeatedly.  The Koala Brothers DVDs are awesome!  The message of each episode is: "Always try to help others".  What could be better?  The characters are cute, they work together to help solve problems, and they have adorable Australian accents.   My son has a Fisher Price airplane that he's crammed two of his stuffed animals into.  Then he zooms his airplane around the house looking for anyone who needs help, just like Frank & Buster (the Koala Brothers).  I love that my kids are copying the show and looking for ways to be helpful.   My husband and I actually like watching the shows too.  Your preschool kids will love it, and moms you probably will too.

There are four DVDs that I know of:
Meet the Koala Brothers
We're Here to Help
A Day in the Outback
 Outback Christmas
All are available on Amazon for about $8 each

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Potty Training Again

Our big girl is now sporting big girl more diapers during the day!
It's potty training time again.  I'm finding that already having been through this with our son is making this time around a bit easier. (Just a bit, a tiny bit.)  The reason being that I know eventually my daughter will be potty trained.  However, my kids are just about as opposite as can be so M is not behaving at all like K did.  I feel like I know nothing, and am not sure how to best help her!  After all the drama we went through with our son and potty training- we were on again and off again until he was three and a half!- I wasn't eager to start training our daughter.  But, she has a problem with holding her pee in all day.  I've been concerned about bladder infections, etc... The doctor suggested that maybe our daughter is ready to potty train.  Ha!  Both of my kids love(d) diapers and were not willing participants to graduating to big kid pants.  I will say, M is doing well overall. We've only been training for three days now.  She's peed in the toilet twice, in her pants three times.  Pooped in her pants three times, none in the toilet yet.  Mostly, she pees in her night time diaper when she's asleep.  We don't put the diaper on her until she's sleeping though.  The girl just doesn't go often...which makes it easy on clean up, but she's not getting much practice.  Today was a complete failure, no potty victories but I really don't care. Wish I'd been this easy going with our son!   My new philosophy on potty training is: it's not so much about the kid as it is about the parents being willing to persevere.

Oh, I have to add a P.S....We are having great success with her sleeping through the night now!  She's moved from the floor to her mattress.  Somehow, she's learned how to sleep more calmly and doesn't thrash around and end up falling off her bed or crashing into the wall.  Hallelujah!  We are now getting some much needed rest.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Recipe: Outrageous Cookie Bars

If you like chocolate, coconut and will LOVE these cookie bars!  

I discovered a recipe on the back of my Nestle chocolate chip bag for Outrageous Cookie Bars.  (We buy our chocolate chips at Costco in the jumbo bag... a ridiculously huge package of chocolate chip morsels!) The recipe claimed they were quick and easy, plus I had all the ingredients so I decided to give them a try.  These bars need a better name...they are so scrumptious that I found myself tonight scraping the empty pan hoping to gather up a few crumbs with my spoon.  (Yes, we devoured the entire batch of cookies in less than 24 hours!)

They only require a few ingredients, and are simple enough that the kids can help you create them.  Want to sample them?  Here's the recipe:

Outrageous Cookie Bars

½ cup (1 stick) butter
1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
2 cups (12 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Melt butter in 9 x 13 inch baking pan in oven; remove from oven.  Sprinkle graham cracker crumbs over butter.  Stir well; press onto bottom of pan.  Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over crumbs.  Sprinkle with chocolate chips, coconut, and nuts.  Press down firmly.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until light golden brown.  Cool completely in pan.  Cut into bars.  Makes 2 to 3 dozen bars.

Absolutely delicious!!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

100 Ways to be Kind to Your Child

A quick post today...check out this great link for some fresh inspiration and ideas on how to show your kids that you love them:

I tried #79 today and just sat and watched while my kids did silly little dances to their favorite song.  (It was hilarious to see them try to boogie!)  I found it refreshing to slow down and just observe them, and it also rekindled the wonder and awe of being blessed with these two little miracles.

My #100, be more patient and let them know it's ok to make mistakes.

My little miracles...having a blast with their water table.
We added some dish soap to the water for a fun new way to play outdoors.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Sleep, or the Lack Thereof

Our daughter is delightful, but she doesn't like to sleep.  I think this might be normal for some kids.  We don't know much about her first eleven months of life, but I often wonder if nights were a rough time for her.  Maybe that's why she struggles now.  Or perhaps she'd have the same issues with sleep if she had grown in my womb.  Anyway, we've tried all kinds of things to help her sleep through the night...with the goal of all of us getting some much needed uninterrupted sleep.

Here's our most recent sleepless adventure...
Last night our dear daughter woke me up at 3 am with a soaked diaper.  I changed the diaper and escorted her back to bed.  As she started to protest, I gently reminded her that she could play in her room if she wasn't tired, but I needed to sleep so she must stay in her room.  She chose to play in the hallway outside our bedroom door and I guess she got bored, so she popped back into my room at 4 am.  Lovely.  That time she got a consequence and I calmly returned her to her bed.  I was proud of her that she didn't melt down but accepted the circumstances.  She finally went back to sleep in her room and slept till 8 am.  At nap time today, she opted to skip the nap and played in her room instead.  By dinner she was exhausted and took a brief nap while I got the meal prepped.  I woke her- have to admit it was sort of fun to wake her since she woke me twice last night!!- so she could have dinner with us.  She was an angry bear!  But, finally she ate and we went through our normal night time routine after eating.  Funny thing, while we snuggled and read books she repeatedly told me, "I'm not tired!"  But all her body language shouted, "I'm exhausted!"  My husband and I laughed and laughed.  I figured at bedtime she'd drop off quickly.  Nope, an hour later she was cruising the halls again- which she is not supposed to do.  I reminded her that a consequence awaited her if she roamed around again.  As I write this, all is quiet and our sleep fighter has finally given in to slumber.

Our sweetie in her toddler bed. The bed didn't last long as she kept falling out in her sleep. Not fun.

Like I said, we've tried so many different "solutions" in the 18 months that our daughter has been home from China.  Some things work for a while, but then we revisit the struggles all over again and new solutions have to be found.  I've read the books, and I've dialogued with other adoptive moms from our travel group.  Still, I'm reaching out again to see if there's an idea that we haven't tried.  (Please share your thoughts in the comments section!!)  Also, having her out of the crib is still quite new and presenting a whole new set of "adventures" for us to figure out.

Here's our list of trial and error attempts to help our girl rest well:
-stick to a night time routine
-night light and ocean sounds in room
-no night light (now she has one again)
-bottle before bed (when she was a baby)
-no bottle before bed
-rock her to sleep in desperation
-investigated food allergies (none we know of)
-bumper in the crib
-no bumper in the crib
-parent sleep on the floor in the room (when we are desperate)
-change diaper around 10:30 or 11:00 pm
-scripture lullabies playing in room
-daughter sleeps in our bed (she thrashes around, chats, and nobody sleeps!)
-switch from crib to toddler bed in her own room
-switch from toddler bed to twin mattress on the floor
-she prefers sleeping on the floor since she rolls off the mattress in her sleep
-digital clock in her room so she knows what time it is (still learning her numbers)
-sleeping on the floor in parents' bedroom...a solution when we are desperate
-allowing her to play with stuffed animals in her room until she's tired
-snuggle with her till she falls asleep, another desperate measure
-always...we pray.

The one thing that is working for me is to stay calm in the midst of loud crying in the middle of the night.  I tend to get really ticked when I don't get good sleep, so this has not been easy for me.  I know God is using this whole experience to smooth the rough places in me and make me more like Jesus.  I also know that this is only a season.  Eventually, our daughter is going to be able to sleep through the night regularly.  Still, it can be really rough being in the midst of it.  That's why I so appreciate conversations with other moms.  We usually discover as we chat that our life experiences are strikingly similar at times.  Sometimes one mom will have a brilliant idea that is so helpful.  Other times it's just a balm to have somebody to talk to that can honestly say, "I know what you mean!"  Thanks for listening to me babble on tonight!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Scripture Lullabies

How do you create a peaceful atmosphere in your home?  The quickest way I know of is to put on peaceful music.  Our "go to" peaceful music is Scripture Lullabies.  We now own both volume one and two.  They are excellent, and have blessed our family in many ways.  When the kids are cranky or tired, when I'm stressed and trying to get a hot dinner ready for the family, when we are in the car and wishing we'd already reached our destination, when my daughter can't sleep...Scripture Lullabies has been a source of comfort and help to us.  Many times, my son will even request to listen to it. (His favorite song is Bless the Lord from Vol. 1.  He insists we all sing along to it :) I love that my kids are learning God's Words as they hear the music.  It's beyond awesome to hear them quoting scripture!  Plus, I find myself singing the songs in my head and being reminded of so many good things that God has to say.  Anyway, enough said...check out their website, watch a video, listen to sample songs, and if you like what you hear then use the 20% off coupon code listed below.  This would be a great Mother's Day gift to yourself or get one as a gift for an expecting mother.  However the music is really for any age not just little ones.  I know you will be blessed by it!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Not on my "To Do" List

It was a usual Tuesday morning.  We needed groceries, I had my list, and my son asked to come along for the ride.  He promised to ride in the cart, not complain, and be on his best behavior.  I agreed to take him along.  As soon as we got inside the store, he began to resist getting into the cart.  Ok, time to employ the boundaries lessons I've been learning: "You can either ride in the cart, or you can go home."  He chose to go home...but then changed his mind when he realized I was serious.  "Fine, but remember you promised to not complain and be on your best behavior."   I wheel to the first aisle on my list and my son started misbehaving!  Ok, I put the item back on the shelf and wheeled for the exit.  Once he realized I was seriously going to take him home, he begged me to let him stay.  Alright, last try...we go back to the aisle and I pick up the same item off the shelf.  He whines, "The store is BORING, I want to go home."  Item goes back on the shelf, and we begin wheeling for the exit again.  Thanks to the Boundaries with Kids book, I'm staying calm but this is all very annoying to me.  My son is feeling rather triumphant that he is getting what he wants.  That annoys me the most.  As he climbs into the car he looks across the parking lot to neighboring store and comments that Costco is not boring.  I mention casually, "It's too bad you decided to go home, you won't be able to go to Costco."  Then everything falls apart once he realizes he might be missing out on something fun.  The whole drive home, my son- four and a half years old- wailed loudly.  He did not want to go home.  I kept calm (on the outside) and eventually stopped responded to his cries to not head home as he wasn't listening to me at all.  Thankfully, my husband was home so I was able to get his help in calming our son down and deciding on a proper consequence.  I was ticked, by the way, that I'd lost about an hour and a half of my time because of my son's misbehavior.  We decided he'd miss out on a movie and have to sit it out in his room while sister watched.  I'd lost a lot of time so he'd have to miss out on something fun that mattered to him.  Furthermore, I took his sister to the grocery store with me while my son stayed home with my husband for a discussion about being considerate and respectful.  (Thank you, God, for blessing me with a great husband!)

I was in need of some sort of treat after that craziness, which was so out of the ordinary for my sweet but strong willed son.  So, I took little Miss M on a date to the coffee shop.  I let her pick out a donut for us to share.  I got a chai, and she had a milk.  She was wearing an adorable little dress, and her hair was in piggy tails with bows to match her dress.  M was so darn cute, and was absolutely golden on our outing.  (I wished I had my camera with me!)  As we sat there enjoying our snack, I realized this was the first time I'd actually done something fun like this just her and me.  It was a special time for both of us.  After our treat, we went to the boring store and I got all my groceries without any fuss.  I was thanking God for my daughter, and showering her with kisses and praise as we shopped.  I arrived home refreshed and feeling merciful toward my son.  He was in a much better frame of mind, apologized, and all was forgiven.  He even got to go to Costco a few days later, and he was very well behaved!

Later on Tuesday, I had time to process all that had happened.  I realized that my "to do" list for the morning had been to get groceries and make a healthy dinner for my family.  Instead, the Lord was asking me to take the morning to teach my son how to be considerate of others and to respect and obey his parents.  Parenting can be tough, especially when the misbehavior is on display for the general public at the grocery store.  But, parenting is what I'm supposed to be doing in this season of my life.  Every day it stretches me.  I make a lot of mistakes.  Often I feel overwhelmed by the responsibilities on my shoulders.  However, God is teaching me that He will give me the grace and strength to be a mom.  The main thing is, I need to ask for His help.  I just finished reading Kisses from Katie (by Katie Davis), and her story has been a great reminder to me that we can do amazing things with God's help.  Well, I've gotta run... there's a little lady down the hall that just started crying in her crib.  (It's 9:40 pm, and she's still awake!)

My family...blessings each and every one.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Book Club: Kisses from Katie

Want to read along?  I've been waiting for this book -Kisses from Katie- for a few months.  What a sweet surprise to find it on the hold shelf at the library today.  Usually I don't even try to read when the kids are awake.  However, I couldn't wait till bedtime to start reading this one, so I read (somewhat successfully) in the midst of the kid chaos.  This is a book that is going to challenge me, but in a good way.  It's about a young lady who visited Uganda for a three week missions trip during her senior year in high school.  After she graduated from high school, she returned to Uganda planning to stay for a year and teach at an orphanage.  A year turned into years and now she's adopted over a dozen girls and continues to do what she can to help the people around her.   If you have read it, or decide to read with me, please let me know!  I had so many great responses (via comments, email, or in person) from the last book, Choosing to SEE by Mary Beth Chapman.  I love hearing from you all and finding out your perspective on the books I'm reading.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Boundaries With Kids

I've read quite a few parenting books.  None of them have been super helpful...I don't know why??  However, I recently checked out another parenting book with hopes that maybe this one would shed some light on the struggles of parenting a four year old & a two year old.  Yep, I found the book! Boundaries With Kids by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend. This one is a winner!!  I'm seeing results as I implement the suggestions, hallelujah!  The biggest one for me is giving consequences while showing empathy instead of anger...that has been very effective with my four year old son.  You can read about showing empathy while giving consequences starting in chapter 4: The Law of Sowing and Reaping.  I think I'll need to read the book over quite a few times to let it all sink in because I need to change my perspective and how I approach certain situations with my kids.  I wish this book had been required reading instead of some of the other books I had to read before we adopted. (Yep, they require that you read parenting books if you want to adopt!) What I love about this book is that the authors are Christian psychologists (they understand how people tick), they incorporate scripture into every chapter (so I know they are giving wise advice), and they give lots of real life examples that make sense (which keeps me interested and connected to the text).  Of course, I'm also learning a lot about myself and areas where I need to establish better personal boundaries.  I checked the book out at my local library and then decided to purchase a copy on Amazon for around ten dollars.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Four-Leafed Clover...

For me, seeing was believing...  I found this in my backyard last summer.

Happy St. Patricks Day to you.  Did you do anything fun to celebrate?  We didn't (not even green eggs!)...but all of us wore some shade of green today.  I'll never forget the time I went to school (in the first grade) without green on my clothing and got pinched all day.  I told my son about the silly tradition and he was quick to remind my husband to put on a green shirt before he left for work.  :)

About the picture of the clover...I'd never believed that there was such a thing as a four-leafed clover.  During elementary school recess, we'd sit in a giant soccer field and look for clover with four leaves.  We never found any, therefore I assumed that it was a myth just like pots of gold at the end of the rainbow.  Well, in July I happened to be sitting with my kiddos in a patch of clover.  Remembering the long ago hunt for four-leafed clover, I looked down and the first thing I spotted was a real four-leafed clover!  Although I don't believe in good luck, it was such a rare find that I decided to photograph it.  It got me to wondering, how many other things in life have I written off as not real because I'd never seen living proof?  

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Green Eggs and Ham

St. Patrick's Day is coming up on March 17th.  Here's an idea to try with your kiddos- green eggs and ham.  I've been on a health kick trying to sneak a fruit or veggie into every meal.  Recently, I was making scrambled eggs and the thought popped into my head to add some mashed avocado to the eggs.  My kids love avocados, so I thought they'd probably eat the eggs.  It turned out to be a success, although the eggs needed some spices since the avocado is sort of bland.  (Maybe pepper, salt, garlic, or onion powder?)  I'm certain that part of their willingness to try the eggs was that we'd been listening to an audio version of the Green Eggs and Ham book by Dr. Seuss not long before.  Once again, we brought a favorite book to life and had a fun time trying something new.  

Our Green Eggs and Ham experiment, with green plates too!

Will she like them?  "Try them, try them and you may!"

Another participant in the green egg experiment...

He approves!

She likes them too!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Kentucky Fried Chicken Books

Some books that I read are just for fun.  The content is seriously lacking in depth, the plot is implausible, and the characters have "super powers" that those of us who live outside the pages of fiction don't possess. (Like they live on three hours of sleep, eat candy bars for breakfast, and the lead male seems to be able to read the lead female's mind at just the right moment.)  Nevertheless, every now and then it's fun to read a book like that.  I've affectionately dubbed them Kentucky Fried Chicken books.  I guess because they are sort of the junk food of literature.  I find myself reaching for KFC books when I'm really stressed out, or on a long plane ride, or on vacation- who wants deep, heart-wrenching books at times like that?!?

Well, the three books I recommended in my book club post (Want to Read Along?) are not KFC books.  Recently at nap time, I found myself craving a KFC book as I just wanted to unwind after a cranky morning with the kids.  However, I don't have any shallow and vapid books to read!  Bummer.  Instead I chose to read Choosing to SEE.  Actually, it was probably just what I needed as it reminded me that the moments I have with my (sometimes cranky) kids are fleeting.  This book has also helped me to slow down a bit and not rush through the nap and night time routines with my little ones.  Plus The Read Aloud Handbook has reminded me to not short change the reading times with the kids as reading aloud to them is so beneficial.

Anyway, I was just pondering how some books can add so much to our lives, and others are just a source of entertainment.  When I was a teen and in my early twenties, almost all the books I read were KFC type books.  Now that I'm getting "older", I find myself choosing literature that will enrich my life rather than just entertain.  But, we all need balance and some time to just let our brains rest from real life now and then- right?!  Here are a few fiction writers I've enjoyed reading, some are KFC and others have more depth... Dee Henderson (extremely KFC but enjoyed her O'Malley series), Kristen Heitzmann, Lynn Austin, Francine Rivers, Tamera Alexander, Julie Klassen, Lisa Samson, Jane Kirkpatrick, Lauraine Snelling, Tricia Goyer, & Elyse Larson (Women of Valor series is a favorite).  If you have any fun KFC books (or good fiction writers) that you'd like to recommend, please share in the comments.  I look forward to hearing from you!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Friendship Day

Friendship Day by Nancy kids love it, I don't know why.

My kids have a book that they love to hear over and over again.  Friendship Day is about Winnie the Pooh and all his pals.  From my perspective, it's sort of an insipid little story but my kiddos think it's awesome!  So, I've gotten a lot of mileage out of it.  We were trying a new recipe at dinner tonight.  It was called Hobo Stew, but I told the kids it was "Friendship Stew" just like Rabbit was making in the story.  They bought it, and ate the stew without complaint.  But that's not the point of this post.

The weekend before Valentine's Day, I invited my friend and her two little ones to come over for an early Valentine's party.  As the kids and I prepared for their friends' arrival, we decided to dub the party "Friendship Day" just like the above mentioned story.  Then, the day took on a whole new meaning and we had a great time copying one of our favorite books.  It went off so well, I wanted to share the idea with other moms.  Maybe this book won't resonate with your kids, but find a favorite story and make it come to life.  It's a blast!

In the book, Piglet makes his friendliest "haycorn" cookies.  We made heart shaped sugar cookies and everybody got their own cup of frosting.  We also had sprinkles in a variety of colors for them to choose from.  In the book, Owl reads stories about friendship during their celebration.  So, while we happily munched on our cookies, my friend Brittany read Friendship Day to everyone.  (She is a preschool teacher and was right at home reading to our little group.)  After the story, I had a surprise for everyone...newspaper hats, just like the ones Christopher Robin gave to his friends.  We had some fun with the hats for a while, then we turned on some music and danced.  (We had to do something to channel the hyperness brought on by all the sugar they'd just consumed.)

Here are some pictures of our very first, but definitely not the last, Friendship Day.

Little Miss M, friend Miss A and her mom, Brittany

K and Mommy having fun frosting our sugar cookies.

K's buddy, G, is fastidiously frosting his cookie.  Good work!

That's a whole lot of cookie for such a little lady!

K feels proud about frosting his own cookie for the first time. 

Moms and daughters...picture taken by Mr K.

Everybody dancing after consuming large quantities of sugar.

Monday, February 13, 2012

S'more Valentine Idea

Need a last minute Valentine idea?  My friend, Amy, made all the ladies in our Craft & Chat group the cutest little Valentine treats.  She got the idea and a free printable download (Check it out!) from The Domesticated Lady blog.  Thank you, Amy for the adorable idea and for the tasty stress reliever.  Ah chocolate, always a balm for weary mommies.  :)

Picture "borrowed" from The Domesticated Lady.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Want to Read Along?

Hi friends, how about a virtual book club?  I love to read, and have three books that I'm enjoying right now.  If you are interested, you can read along with me....

Choosing to SEE by Mary Beth Chapman

Wow, this is a good book.  I've already read 169 pages in two days!  Some parts are tough- really tough to read- other parts have had me laughing out loud.  Mary Beth is the mom of six children, so all moms will relate to some part of her story.  She's adopted three daughters from China.  (We adopted our daughter from China a year ago, so I've greatly enjoyed the stories about China.)  Mary Beth also shares candidly about her struggles with depression, self-image, and dealing with grief and the loss of her youngest daughter.  She is married to the well known Christian musician Steven Curtis Chapman and shares interesting stories about their life together.  This book is ultimately a message of hope and points the reader to God who holds the whole world, and each of our stories, in His hands.  I think you'll enjoy it.

The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease

I originally purchased this book for the recommended reading book lists in the back.  Once I cracked the book open though, I got sucked into all the interesting facts and findings about what causes some students to succeed and others to fail.  (Surprise!  The common denominator for successful students is that they were read to on a regular basis.  Thus, the reason for the book.)  Mr. Trelease gives lots of facts, details, and anecdotes to prove his point.  It's not a dry book at all as he shares personal tidbits often to keep it real.  He also gives some great recommendations of how to read to your kids at each age level.   But, he is so passionate about his subject that sometimes I feel like he being alarmist, or ranting a bit.  I don't agree with his feelings that the government should shame and bully parents into reading to their kids.  To me, that's extreme and not the way to go about things.  I have only read two of the nine chapters in this book, so I'm not sure if my opinion on the author's tone will change or stay the same.  All in all, I've already learned a lot from this book, and I've found the research and study results fascinating.  This is probably because I'm a teacher and helping kids learn- especially learn to READ- is one of my passions.  This book will not appeal to all moms, but it's worth checking out at the library to get some good read aloud suggestions.  The books are organized according to age groups so it's easy to find a section that would be applicable to your children. 

This is a devotional study on the names of God.  I am really excited to embark on the journey of getting to know God better.  A friend of mine recommended this book to me, and already after one day into it (I'm on page eleven)...I'm recommending it to you!  I've always loved mysteries and as a girl I spent my summers reading Nancy Drew books.  So, I'm realizing that I'm excited about this book partly because God is a mystery to me in many ways.  I want to know Him better.  Each section of this book is peeling away a bit of the mystery and revealing more of the truth about our Maker.  Another reason why I bought this book is because being a mom has showed me on a whole new level how much I need God's help.  He has all the answers, and I definitely don't!  Also, I want my kids to know God and find comfort and hope in Him too.  The better I know Him, the better I can parent them and teach them about their Heavenly Father.  Finally, this book is very encouraging.  It's full of truth and life because it's filled with scripture.  This book is like eating cheesecake- I take a bite and then savor it.  I read a bit and then mull it over and ponder the truth for a while.  Soon I find myself hungry for more and jump back in for another bite.  Oh, it's so to my soul!  Why not join me in this Bible study?  

Friday, January 20, 2012

Handmade Thank You Cards

Back in November, I posted about painting with veggies.  We started out using celery, apples, and carrots to put paint to paper, but we ended up finger painting and making painted handprints too.  Messy fun!  Anyway, I tucked away the kids' painted 12x12 papers with thoughts of somehow turning their artwork into a keepsake.  Then December rolled in and we got swept up in advent calendar activities and prepping for Christmas company.  Once life settled down at the end of December, I thought about making thank you cards with the kids so they could thank family and friends for their Christmas gifts.  That's when I remembered the veggie paintings, and an idea for a quick card making craft was born.  

I trimmed the 12x12 pages into 4"x 5 1/4" rectangles.  Then I adhered the painted rectangles with double stick 3-D foam to 4 1/4 x 5 1/2" cards.  To finish the look, I stamped "thanks so much" in black ink.  To give added dimension, I also stamped "thanks so much" to a coordinating colored cardstock and punched it out.  I adhered the punched out phrase with more 3-D foam, and stood back to admire the finished product.  In a short time, I had 12 handmade cards- each one unique.  

When it was time to actually write out the thank you's, I interviewed my son about his gifts and wrote his own words in each card.  Some of his descriptions were hilarious! (Lil sis is too small for much commentary yet.)  I enjoyed getting feedback from the recipients of the hand painted cards.  My sister was inspired by our little project and sent us a thank you card with my niece's handprint on it.  I'm definitely keeping that card!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Recipe: Snickerdoodle Muffins

Snickerdoodle Muffins, they are worth every single calorie!!!

One of my bloggy friends, Ana, posted a recipe for Snickerdoodle muffins on her Life's a Beach blog.  Her photos made the muffins look absolutely delicious, and I was eager to taste them.  I printed out the recipe, but never made them until now.  We've had snow for the past three days with more on the way.  Snow always puts me in the mood to bake something sweet and yummy.  Today seemed like the perfect time to try out the new recipe...with the slippery roads we certainly aren't going anywhere.  Oh my goodness, these muffins are good.  Thanks, Ana, for the fabulous recipe!  (I'll be working off the calories by pulling my kids up the hill in their sled.)

Snickerdoodle Muffins

2 sticks butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs, room temperature
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp cream of tartar 
3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 1/4cup sour cream
1/2 cup of sugar with 1 tbsp cinnamon mixed in...set this mix in a small bowl and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350F and grease muffin tin(s).  

1) Cream the butter and sugar until soft and fluffy in with electric mixer, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Add the vanilla.  Stir.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well until each is incorporated.

2) In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cream of tartar and ground nutmeg.

3) Add the flour mixture and the sour cream alternatively to the egg-butter mixture--start with flour, mix, add sour cream, mix, add flour, etc, etc, until you're ending with flour.  Scrape the bowl occasionally.  

4) Using an ice cream scoop, scoop out a ball of batter and drop it into the sugar/cinnamon mix.  Roll the dough ball around in the mixture until it is completely covered in the yumminess of cinnamon and sugar.  Place the batter into a sprayed muffin tin.  Repeat this until the batter is gone.  You should get between 12-18 muffins.  (Makes a huge mess, but worth it!!  Your finished muffin will have a crispy sugar coating all over and taste so much better than if you just sprinkle the sugar on top of the muffin.  I know, because I tried it both ways.)

5) Bake (at 350F) for 20-22 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean.  Set on wire rack to cool, and then keep in an airtight container until all have been consumed...probably 18 to 24 hours later... best when warm!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Math Lesson: Adding to Ten

With the holidays over, we have been back into the swing of things with homeschool.  We did a lesson recently on ways to add up to ten.  My goal is for K to memorize all the math facts that add up to ten.  We'll get there eventually.  The introductory lesson for this was something I made up using ten cars and a homemade "math board".  For the math board, I glued two pieces of yellow cardstock to a bigger piece of cardboard.  I wrote a plus sign in between the yellow papers and an equals ten on the right.  Easy!

At the beginning of the lesson, we counted out ten cars.  Then we took turns placing a random number of cars on each piece of yellow cardstock.  We counted them (ex: 7 cars on the left and 3 cars on the right) and wrote down the "new" way to add to ten (7+3=10).  My son was more interested in driving his cars around, so I had to make up little stories as to where they were going in order to finish the lesson. (These five cars are driving to Costco, and these five cars are going to Red Robin for burgers and fries!)  I didn't think that he was really connecting with it, and was sort of disappointed with the end result.  However, about a week later he was watching a LeapFrog video (Math Adventure to the Moon) and there is a segment where Tad & Lilly find all the ways to add up to ten.  He quickly pointed out, "Hey, they are adding up to ten!"  Cool, he really did get something out of the lesson!  

After the introductory lesson,  I made flash cards and we review them now and then usually at meal times.  Of course, he's figured out the answer is always ten so I threw in a couple that don't equal ten just to make sure he's paying attention.  For our next lesson, I'm planning to make a worksheet with the problems written out like this: 4 + _____= 10.  Then I'll know if he really knows the answer and isn't just saying, "ten" to everything.  Most likely, we'll pull out the goldfish crackers to help as counters for the problems he doesn't know the answers to.  In my experience, kids tend to like math a lot more if there is food involved!  

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Next Steps Towards Learning to Read

So, your child knows the ABCs and the sounds that they all make.  Now what?  Start putting together three letters words with a short vowel in the middle.  The curriculum I used with my son focuses on one ending sound per lesson.  I've listed them below so you can see the progression and use it if you want to.  Overall, the strategy is a simple one and it works because it's phonics based.

Lesson 1: -at (bat, cat, mat, sat, etc...)
Lesson 2: -an
Lesson 3: -ap
Lesson 4: -ad
Lesson 5: -am
Lesson 6: -ag
Lesson 7: -ab
Lesson 8: -ig
Lesson 9: -id
Lesson 10: -it
Lesson 11: -ip
Lesson 12: -im
Lesson 13: -in
Lesson 14: -ix
Lesson 15: -ill
Lesson 16: Add -s to the end of words

In my post Reading Readiness Part 2: Phonics, I shared a bunch of activities that you can do to practice the various endings I've listed above.  Also, if you want a good book that will guide you in teaching your child how to read, check out The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading at your local library.  I am not using that book, but have read through it.  It doesn't have fancy graphics, but will give practical guidance.  I chose not to use it because I wanted a workbook driven program that would have glossy pages, nice illustrations, and little to no prep work for me.  (I am definitely a visual learner!)

In our reading program, Hooked on Phonics, there are also sight words that are introduced along the way. They are simple words that show up often in daily reading, so it's a good idea to have your child memorize them.  Some of the sight words can be sounded out with the phonics rules, but others don't play by the rules and it's just easier to memorize them.  (For example, the word "THE" is impossible to sound out.)  You can introduce the sight words two at a time, or three at most.  The goal is to not overwhelm the child with things to memorize since we want them to focus on sounding out words.  I made flashcards for each word and we reviewed them during meal times.

Here are the beginning level sight words:

Now I'm Reading! Series
Finally, kids love to be able to use their new reading skills to read a real book.  It's hard to find something they can read immediately after they learn "at" words, but I have a few suggestions for you.  Check out from your local library the Bob Books.  These books are very basic, the illustrations are underwhelming, but the text is perfect for the beginning reader.  My son was not inspired by them, but maybe your child will be.  We had more success with Pig WigWet PetStop Pop, and Quack Shack by Yukiko Kido.  (Warning: Crab Cab has some gross words and pictures ie: snot pot-- so you might want to avoid that book in the series.) The books have eye-catching illustrations, some cut-outs, and one or two words per page.  We really like them and have checked them out several times from the library; I'm thinking of purchasing a few.  The other series that I would highly recommend is called Now I'm Reading! for Beginning Readers by Nora Gaydos, illustrated by BB Sams.  We own the 20 book set called Animal Pals, but I can not find it on Amazon.  They seem to have split it up into two 10 book sets.  Anyway, the books all contain simple short vowel words, with vivid and silly illustrations.  The books start out easy and slowly become more complex as you progress through the series.  The only drawback is that they are more wordy than the other books I've mentioned.  One tactic that works for books like these is to share the reading and you read page one, your child reads page two.  That way you can get through the whole book without your child feeling overwhelmed.
Pig Wig by Yukiko Kido: Perfect for readers who are just beginning to learn how to read.

If you have found some good beginning reader books, please share the titles in the comments.  I am always looking for books for K to read.  Also, you can have your child help you make up stories using the words he or she knows how to read.  We haven't tried that yet, but it sounds like fun.  Sometime in the future I'll share more about our reading program with the next level of word endings and sight words. Until then, let me know how your little readers are doing.  :)

My little reader.  He's pretending to read this book:
Diamond in the Snow by Jonathan Emmett

My pre-reader.  She loves to look at books
and listen while we read to her.