Saturday, December 31, 2011

Hatch or Go Bad

I grew up in a culture where confidence was valued, the mantras often being repeated...."be yourself," and "never change who you are."

I went to a private all girls school, where you would think that uniforms, strict schedules and rules would increase conformity, but it did the opposite.  We struggled to increase our uniqueness, to stand out, to be different, to be remembered.  We prided ourselves on being strong women who knew who we were, who weren't afraid to stand up in what we believed in.

But here I am, 10 years later, struggling with the juxtaposition between a culture that says "Be yourself" but also the deep desire to be well liked, to fit in, to have harmony and unity within all of my relationships.

I watch girly girl movies, read girly girl books.... often that have the theme of being true to yourself.  Don't be afraid to be who you are!  I pump my fist in the air and defiantly think.. that's right!  I don't need to change who I am.  I can be proud to be who I am!

Then I spend a weekend with people who aren't at all like I am, who don't appreciate people who talk too much, stick their foot in their mouth occasionally, make sarcastic jokes, raise their voice when they are excited and/or angry....

And I realize being "myself" can't be an excuse to be rude, to make others uncomfortable, to dominate conversation.  Being "who I am" can't be a constant.

Leo Tolstoy said "Everyone thinks to change the world, but no thinks to change himself."  I have a suspicion that we don't think to change ourselves because we don't want to admit that there's something that needs changing.  It's to admit that there might be something wrong with me and not them.

I think this is a principle that can be best illustrated with our spouses.  It's obvious to women that their husbands can't stay in their natural state. They can't use the reasoning "I have to be myself" to avoid romantic gestures, or kind words that don't come naturally to them.  They can't use their love of sports to avoid helping with the kids on Sunday.  They can't use their "silent" personality to avoid important conversations with their wife. Or their "shyness" to avoid social dinners, business meetings, or family functions.

Carl Jung said, "If there is anything that we wish to change in the child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could better be changed in ourselves."

My children are wonderful.  I love them dearly .... but, I see things growing in my children that I wish I didn't.  They clearly mirror insecurities and imperfections that I see in myself, fully bloomed.

And to use a defense of "This is who I am," holds little weight when raising up children.

It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad. C. S. Lewis

Monday, December 26, 2011

Being Fully Present

I'm a laundry washer, folder, and put away-er.  I am an unprofessional chef, a personal shopper, and a maid. I'm a personal attendant in the bathroom, a dog walker, and a best friend.

As a mom, one of my strengths is being able to to multi-task.  It's one of the great divides between my husband and me. I think that if you are a wife and a mother, it's a necessity to be able to do more than one thing at a time.

Yet recently I'm wondering if my strength isn't also one of my flaws as a mom.

So often, I begin playing with the kids, just to "be back in a minute" to check dinner just as we have started.  Or my phone rings, and I rush off to check if it's important, or I hear the laundry bell ding, or I hear my computer alert me to a new email.

I tell myself I can multi-task.  After all, I am playing with the kids, throwing a load in the dishwasher, baking dinner in the oven, while balancing my computer on my arm to double check the recipe with my phone tucked between my ear and my shoulder to talk with Audi.

Meanwhile, the kids begin to whine because I'm not really playing with them (even though I said I would...) and of course my frustration begins to take root. It blossoms quickly into anger when I have a child hanging on my leg while I try to open the oven door, and it is in full bloom as I lose my temper because why can't they ever let me just get something done?

There is a balance, sure.  As a full time wife and mother, and home keeper, I have to get the laundry done.  The load of dishes do in fact need to be washed, and I probably shouldn't wait too much longer to clean up the juice spilled 8 hours ago.

But, I also need to learn to be solely focused on my kids when I'm really with the kids.  They deserve my undivided attention.  Not all of the time, no.  But at least more than I'm doing now.

I suspect that what drives me crazy about Gibbs... his concentration, his willingness to be committed wholly to whatever he is doing, to be able to drown out the outside world while engaged in a task... is the very thing I need to learn.  And definitely want my kids to learn.

"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all of your might." Ecclesiastes 9:10

Lately, I've been suffering a disconnection with God, and as I sit writing this, it is becoming rather obvious that in this God is showing me that this is also my problem with Him.  I do my bible study, read the verses, but I'm keeping an ear open for the dinner timer, getting the babies one more drink of water, and answering the phone in the middle.... I'm hardly spending the time with Him that He deserves, and that I need.

Luke 10:38-42 

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Day 20- The VERY last one. A Dramatic Retelling

I have a flare for the dramatic, so it's no surprise to me that my children also love drama :-)

Last night, I was putting D to bed and at his request for one more story, I chose to retell the Christmas story, but in a rather detailed fashion....

It included details that are not included in the Gospel accounts of Jesus' birth, but I don't think God would mind overly much.

Tonight, for the very last challenge, I encourage you to retell the Christmas story. But not just by the book, REALLY re tell it.  Use puppets, or dolls, or better yet, use your FAMILY to act it out.  Encourage the kids to have natural responses by asking questions....

As an example.... last night I said to D...

Look, there's a hotel!  It's so fancy, and has a pool and a hot tub.  Mary, wouldn't you like to rest there?  (no room, on to next hotel)  Oh well, this hotel still has a pool even if there is no hot tub... would you like to stay here? (no room....)  Well.... maybe that little motel there?  There isn't a pool or a hot tub, but it does have a warm bed with a comfy pillow....

By the end of the story, D was SO sad! Not that I'm encouraging you to make your children cry, but it really made him realize how hard it must have been to stay in a barn!  I think up until last night, my kids thought it was kind of a cool, fun thing that Jesus was born in a barn!  Not realizing the sacrifice that was made to have a King born in a stable.

I am hoping that tonight as I retell the Christmas story to the kids.. dramatically of course....  that you are doing the same thing at your house.  Even more than that, I hope it can become a Christmas tradition that you and your children look forward to on Christmas Eve.

Merry Christmas from my wonderful family to yours.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Day 19 Challenge- Oat Dough Sculptures

As I presented my kids with this play time, K & D both asked me "What is a sculpture?"    I guess I haven't exposed them to real art very frequently!!

Oat Dough is so easy:
1 cup of Rolled Oats
2 cups of Flour
1 cup of water.  Mix it up until it's nice and doughy but not too sticky.

This was a fun part for the kids.  They love measuring, pouring, and mixing.  Although D was worried that his hands were getting too sticky.  Go figure.

Then I asked them what they wanted to add to decorate their sculptures.  I had a list of options for them and they chose to cut up pieces of straws (other ideas: googly eyes, gemstones, toothpicks)

This was really quite a fun project.  It has a different consistency than other things we've tried, and it actually DRIES out and hardens!  So on Saturday they will have a sculpture to paint!

I let them take the lead on what they wanted to make.

 C was making a birthday cake, using the straws as candles and blowing them out.  K helped out a bit with the blowing :)

Have you ever seen the Veggie Tales episode with a dragon who has Larry in his belly? Then Larry goes through the hatch door in his belly to get out?  Well if you have/haven't... that's what D's is.  He wanted to make the dragon from Veggie Tales.  So the little hole you see in the middle is where Larry escaped from.

This is K's!  I don't think hers requires an explanation, but it's Frosty :) She did ask for some help rolling the balls, and she is probably the most excited to paint hers tomorrow... though it's already white!

They have insisted that they paint and wrap these as presents for daddy for Christmas.  I'm not convinced that Gibbs will appreciate them the way that I do, but I guess they can go on his desk anyways :-)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Day 18 Challenge- a lesson in Science

Tomorrow's activity is a little more involved but I really challenge you to DO this one.  I think this is the most fun activity we've done in quite awhile, and can be adapted in a hundred different ways.

It's a great activity to teach kids some beginning physics language, and start building their skeletal knowledge of pendulums.

Materials we used:
A Tennis Ball
A bar of some sort (we used an old wooden beam)
Two chairs to balance the bar on  (the other way I've seen this activity done is hung by the beams on the ceiling if you have a ceiling that has tiles, we don't unfortunately!)
Recycling boxes/cardboard tubes/any recycling material or light blocks

So I helped D build this, but here is my word of caution: if you have younger children, set up a separate activity for them while the older ones build their towers.  When D built his tower, C continued to knock it down with his hands, throwing balls at it, etc.  It was quite frustrating for D.

It was really fun to talk about how the pendulum works, other examples of pendulums (D asked me if a Tiger is a pendulum.... I said no, and he said, well what about his tail? it's like a pendulum.....  hmm... something I had to think about...)

He had to use different amounts of "force" to get it to swing the right direction and be able to knock the entire tower down.

Another really fun activity I've seen done to continue building on this concept would be "pendulum painting"

We haven't done this activity yet, just because I haven't had the time to build a contraption.  But here is an example of it:

So cool, and it is QUITE entertaining for kids.  If we had left this up in our house, I am sure D would have continued to use it for days.... but since it was in the middle of my living room, it didn't last as long!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Day 17 Challenge- Sensory

This activity is designed to keep your kids busy for a little bit while you finish wrapping/cleaning/packing for Christmas :-)

It's so easy, and the most entertaining part of preschool for almost every kid I've ever met.  Sensory Bins!

All you need is a rubber maid container.  Any size works, though one with a little depth and not too long is usually best.  Kids like being able to "dig in" 

Currently we're using a large storage tote that Gibbs had his CD's stored in previously.....  I think they work just fine in a box though :-)

Add flour, spices, measuring cups, spoons, maybe a cake tin or two, and that's it!

Variations:  We currently have "cloud dough" in our bin.  It's 8 cups of flour, 1 cup of oil (baby oil for scent, but any oil works)  It is sort of like moon sand.  It is sifty like flour, but can pack together also.

Noodles.  ANY noodles work.  If you have cheap spaghetti noodles on hand, put them in!  If you cook them first with a little food coloring, it's REALLY fun! The kids can sort by color, or just have fun with the new texture.
Of course my personal favorite: Water Beads!  Found in the floral section of Walmart, or Michaels, they are so easy and really really amazing.

I get asked a lot from parents at preschool what we put IN the bin to entertain them...."What are they supposed to do in the sensory bin?"

Anything! Everything!  Most kids just love digging around, getting their hands messy.  Dumping, sorting, packing.  I let the kids decide what they want in it also.  If they want people in it, let them bring their dolls.  If they want it to be a zoo, let them grab some toy animals. 

Honestly, it's a little messy, but the hour you have to get stuff done without crying, whining, or fighting, is WELL worth the mess!

Day 16 Challenge- Snowglobes/ISpy Jars

Only a few days left until Christmas!  I'll post the next few days' challenges all tonight, so you can choose which ones you want to do, and discard the rest.

Just another note on why I'm doing this...  I really believe that families that play together strengthen relationships. Not only will the kids benefit from one on one (or one-on-five attention) but parents really gain appreciation of their kids through play.

I recently visited a cute store in town and saw that they are selling "I Spy" Jars for 20 dollars!!!  I cannot believe this because all you need to do this at home is a recycling bin, some old rice/water/shampoo/anything really and some tiny toys that you no longer have use for!

I have been saving up (read: hoarding) old spice containers, washed spaghetti jars, baby food containers for awhile now.  So there were lots of options for my kids to choose from.

Then you can allow your kids to choose if they'd like a transparent material or an "ISpy" material (or both!)

If they want something to use as a snowglobe, some fun ideas are hair gel, which allows things to seem suspended in motion, vegetable oil, colored water, plain water, shampoo.  If they want to make an ISpy bottle they could use: rice, orzo, couscous, shredded newspaper, old packing peanuts...anything small.

Add a small toy hot glued to the container lid (we used a small old doll that the kids didn't play with)  Then add glitter, any beads that your kids want to include.  A friend used her old bracelet and cut it up and used the letter beads to spell out her grandson's name!  So cute.

Don't forget to hot glue the lid to remain closed!

This is a cute example I found online, and no, ours did NOT turn out this fancy! :)
Ispy Bottles:
Fill up the bottle with 5-8 "things" you want to hide.  I recommend broken toys, crayons (identifying color activity) pennies, nickles, quarters...  Then add rice!  Voila!  It's done.  The kids have so much fun shaking it up and seeing if they can find everything in it!

It's extra fun if you take pictures of the objects FIRST, then have a piece of paper with the pictures on it so the kids know exactly what they are looking for.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Day 15 Challenge- Make your own Puppets

Somehow I think puppets have gotten lost in the excitement of new fun toys.  Toys that make music, or light up, or make shooting noises fill up the shelves.  But despite my childrens' LOVE of all things loud, they still love puppets!

This morning I asked D if he wanted to make his own out of socks, you should have seen the look on his face!

He quickly ran down to the basement where our sock basket is and chose dad's largest socks.  Ssssshhh.... Gibbs will never notice!

I asked him what he thought we should use to decorate them with.  Let me just insert here that I had it in my mind how this was going to go:  I was going to guide him into wanting to make fabric ears (envision lamb chop here...)  and sewing on buttons for eyes, etc.   But he thought quietly for a moment, and then SHOUTED "I have a GREAT idea!  I can use the permanent marker for grown ups!"

So ... we did it his way :-)

He then asked for some of the "beautiful stones, and cotton balls" to add on with glue.

In the middle of his sock puppet project he said, "Mom, don't you want to take a picture of all of these beautiful things I'm making?  I am working really hard to make them very beautiful."  I guess this is a testament to how often I take pictures of his projects!!

He did end up playing "puppet" with two of his socks, but his more decorated ones he decided would be stockings.  How fun!  I had not even considered that as he was making them.  So we are hanging them up on the fireplace.

Try it and see what fun things your kids come up with!  It takes almost zero prep work, doesn't get messy, and my personal favorite perk of the project: less socks to fold tonight :-)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Day 14 Challenge- A new Gingerbread House

Yes yes, we do love candy at our house, maybe too much... so this challenge is a new take on the old Christmas favorite, making gingerbread houses!

At preschool, we read a lot of awesome books about Gingerbread:  Gingerbread Man, Gingerbread Girl, Gingerbread Family (which talks SPECIFICALLY about gingerbread houses!)  Gingerbread Pirates.  Then we made our own gingerbread houses:

This had the kids busy for DAYS!  I had printed off pictures from the internet of candy canes, lollipops, bubble gum, etc.  Then gave everyone markers and a glue stick.  The kids giggled and had some very serious conversations while making their own gingerbread house.  But it didn't end with decorating!  Most of the kids enjoyed acting out the books we read during their free play time in their gingerbread house!

You don't have to have a HUGE box like we had to make this activity fun.  Most kids will squeeze themselves into a diaper box when given an opportunity.  If you have three-four little boxes, you could connect them even.  The kids could let their dolls be the characters in a smaller version of the gingerbread house.

I love activities that link books and real life.  It really gives them an opportunity to work through the story on their own, and it's a great chance for us to see what they have been taking in!

So find a box tomorrow, read a story about gingerbread, and see how long you can make the fun last :-)

If you're really adventurous, when the kids seem to get "bored" with the gingerbread house, you could add an extra dimension:
Go here to learn how to add Christmas lights:

Friday, December 16, 2011

Day 13 Challenge- Pounding!

I won't be around to post tomorrow's challenge, but I've already been busy thinking about it, so I'm posting it early!

Hammer and "nails" are SO much fun for kids.  We have used real nails, but with K & C I most often let them use golf tees, and toy hammers rather than real ones.  In preschool, we also use tees & toy hammers.

In preschool, we set out the activity during pumpkin week.  We had huge pumpkins, golf tees, and hammers, and let the kids have fun "pumpkin pounding"

Then, I found this awesome activity (at

We recreated this activity with #'s 1-7 at preschool.  All it takes: a styrofoam block, some golf tees (or any nails/screws for older kids) a marker,  and hammers (toy or real, depending on the child!)  You use a sharpie marker to write numbers on the block, with "touch" points on the numbers to have a tactile reinforcement for the numbers (two dots on number two, four dots on number four, etc)

The kids at preschool LOVED This and used about 2,000 golf tees!

This week at home, we had out our play doh, golf tees, and toy hammers, and set it on a cardboard box.  The kids had a lot of fun just pounding the golf tees into the play doh!   I think with a little imagination you could use this activity for just about any theme.... learning address, phone numbers, letters, shapes, pictures.... and the kids will always love it because they get to use a hammer!

Day 12 Challenge- A New Use for Play Doh

I love Play Doh.  I think parents tend to forget how fun play doh can be, since it's been around for so long!

I found this post while I was looking through a preschool website:

So I set out yesterday to re-create the experience.  We didn't have cheerios, but I do have an abundance of colored noodles, and my kids LOVE to play with them.

I set out: play doh, plain spaghetti noodles (thought they would break easily but they really didn't!) and the colored noodles.  The kids right away started threading the noodles onto the spaghetti, and once I stood mine up and declared it to be a sky scraper, the kids followed suit.  Though I believe D's was actually "pirate ship, sailboat, pirate ship, sailboat".  It's a fun way to introduce patterns, and work on fine motor skills for strengthening little fingers!

My biggest surprise was little C!  He LOVED playing this.  He kept playing after the other two grew bored.  I loved watching how hard he was working to get the noodles onto the spaghetti strands.

I hope you enjoy this as much as C did! :-)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Day 11 Challenge- Make your own Board Game!

This post is pretty self explanatory!  Growing up, my cousin, J, was SO creative.  Every time we spent a weekend with his family he would build his own board game.

At my ripe age of 6, the games were fairly simple.  But by the time J was 10 or 12, his games were amazing!  They would often be three dimensional, with trap doors, actual booby traps... it was way more fun to play his games than "real" board games that had become ... well... boring!

For Halloween, we found a printable game that you can color and create a "Spooktacular" Halloween board game, and this has inspired many of our own home-made board games since.

Since we don't have chutes and ladders, we made our own version last week.
Ours is very simple, since it was made with a 3 year old and an 18 month old in mind! All I needed was a piece of cardboard, some markers, and eager children.  D chose the pattern (he is VERY into making patterns!)  so it's a nice blue and white color pattern, with simple chutes and ladders.  D chose which way to climb up and down, where the win and where the start was, and he LOVES playing it.

You could make it way more complicated for older kids to introduce ANY concepts you are learning about.  If you are learning about a certain theme, it could have trivia questions, printed pictures glued on, etc.  Great math concepts are introduced through games also!

You could have flap doors (you take a piece of cardboard, fold a small rectangle of one of the sides and glue that folded piece onto the game board with a hot glue gun....) and use real people or cars or animals as the pieces.

I love fun ways of learning where kids don't even know they are learning!!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Day 10 Challenge- Make your own Stickers

Wow...  A Day 10 challenge means that tomorrow there will only be ten days left until Christmas morning!

This challenge is one that we haven't tried yet.  We have done various fun projects with contact paper though, and the possibilities are limitless!

If this challenge takes you to the store, that's awesome!  Contact paper is pretty cheap, and can be used for LOTS of fun stuff with the kids.

My kids love stickers.  When I am feeling a little under the weather, I usually reach into our sticker drawer and grab a bunch of stickers to give to the kids along with some paper that they can decorate.  This activity allows them to really use their creativity to make their own.

Put a piece of clear contact paper down on the table.  Use masking tape to hold it on to the table, and don't take off the film that makes it sticky yet!  Let the kids draw on the top of the contact paper.  Help draw their names, any characters that you've been reading about, their age....

Then blot off any excess ink, let dry for an hour, and unpeel!  Stick it on to their doors, their walls, windows, wherever.  Make sure to let them peel off some of the smaller pieces and stick to where they want it to be!  It will be fun and rewarding for them to see their artwork on display!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Day 9 Challenge- Forts

I don't know a child under 16 who doesn't love a fort!

We recently purchased glow sticks at Michael's (15 for a dollar!)  and it seems like the perfect toy to introduce with a fort!  That or flashlights, nightlights, etc.  ESPECIALLY if you have a nice dark basement to build a fort in!

Everything you need for tomorrow's challenge you already have!  Ask your kids for ideas for what to use for the walls (we always rearrange our couches and kitchen chairs to assist us....)

What can you use for a roof? (obviously blankets and sheets work the best, but let your children come up with some ideas of their own!)  D suggested we fill ours with pillows inside so he could nap in there.  I thought this was a pretty fun idea, so tomorrow for his FOURTH birthday he is allowed to have his "rest time" in his fort.

Put a stack of books in the corner, some dolls, maybe a tea set so they can have a party.

My kids will go back to the fort all day long.  Quiet play, loud play, games, naps, meals... it's a day long party.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Day 8 Challenge- Computer Off

This is no easy challenge for me, and I suspect for anyone reading this, it won't be too easy for you either!

We are actually doing this tomorrow, and I am going to TRY really hard to do it every day until Christmas.  Then, we'll see :-)

So I'll post the challenge up here, and then do a little thinking below. Feel free to skip everything BUT the challenge.

Challenge 8: Turn your computer off tomorrow.  Go ahead and indulge in an early morning facebook check, make sure there are no emergency emails, and then turn the computer off until the kids are tucked into bed.  I know most of us have instant access on our phones, but attempt to NOT check facebook, don't go google-ing a question that's just burning a hole in your brain.

I am surprised at how much my kids notice that the computer is a central part of my life.

It's my best frienemy.   A way of instant communication, a research tool, an educational partner, a source of entertainment, and the number one distraction in my life.  I will literally ignore the children at my feet to look for a new activity to do with my children!  I will look up organizational tips and ignore the closet stuffed with crap I don't need. Irony at it's worst.  I urge you to turn off the computers, and get done something you've been putting off.  Start that basement closet organizing, get the presents wrapped, finish the laundry that's been waiting at the foot of your bed, and engage your kids in meaningful conversations that don't take place peering over your Iphone.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Day 7 Challenge- Take a Vacation

I am constantly trying to find ways to introduce my children to a broader worldview.  Without having the excess funds to travel, and not living in the most.... cultural town, I have to be a little more creative!

A fun challenge for tomorrow that is more fun with a little preparation: Take a "Vacation!"  Choose a country that you've always wanted to visit.  Google some pictures of the land, the people, some details.  Create your own passports for the kids that they can "stamp" when they get on the airplane.

We chose to go to Australia.  I gave the kids their passports and tickets, had chairs set up as an airplane, and we flew off into the sunset!  On our way we sang some fun songs:

I'm A Little Airplane
   (Tune: I'm A Little Teapot)
I'm a little airplane: (raise arms to side at shoulder height)
I can fly, (turn right arm in front of you for propeller)
Here is my throt-tle; (reach hand out to instrument panel)
Give me a try. (push throttle in)
When I get all revved up (make engine noises)
Then I fly (keep moving forward)
Off the run-way (keep moving forward)
To the sky! (go up on tiptoe running forward)

Then, when we landed, I had pictures taped on the walls that I had the kids describe.  What things looked the same as they did in our town?  Which things looked different?

I had also looked up some games that they typically play in Australia.  

Google is amazing.  I found lots of different game options from different countries around the world.

I also looked up traditional Australian meals.  I didn't actually make one, but you could!!

I also found a national geographic video on youtube on the Great Barrier Reef.  The kids loved it, and hopefully learned something in a really fun way!

I bet you'll learn a few things too! :)  Happy Playing!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Day 6 Challenge- It's the weekend! Have some fun!

One of my FAVORITE Things to do with the kids is having a dance party! If you've never tried it, you have to.  For at least 10 minutes.

The kids think it's hilarious, and who else can you be so uninhibited in front of?

I put on some Christian Rock, or 90's music.  The kids think I'm goofy but they totally get into it and burn as much energy as I do.

Here are some fun ones to try out tomorrow:

Turn it up loud, get your dancin shoes on, and teach your kids how to have a good time and burn some calories :-)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Day 5 Challenge, Tactile Learning Fun

This was one of my favorite projects to do.  At first, I only was going to do it for K, my oldest.

I first cut out a piece of cardboard from an old box.  I wrote "I <3 You"  and outlined them with a hot glue gun.  I thought the tactile reinforcement would help K know when to stop and how to write the letters and shapes.

She loved tracing it with colored pencils, crayons and then highlighters.  She kept commenting when she would hit the hot glue side "oops, stop now!"

Of course then the other boys needed one of their own.  So I made one for D with his name, and he had fun filling it in with markers.

Then we made this one next, for C & Ry!
This evening C traced them all with his fingers, and I would say what the shape was.  I'm not sure if he loved it or K loved it more... we'll call it a tie.

It could be fun to do shapes, a name, a word that they are having trouble spelling at school, etc.  You could also make a road out of the hot glue so that the cars would have a "lane" to stay in...... really hot glue guns are amazing!!  Have fun playing!!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Day 4- Challenge! Not for the faint of heart....

Alright, so has anyone tried the challenges yet?!  I am telling you, it will be WORTH the effort you put forth!  The smiles and learning that will take place will far outweigh the mess they'll make.  Though maybe with tomorrow's challenge you'll disagree!

I call this the "Goo" Challenge

We did this at preschool and it was a BLAST.  We also did this many, many times at home.  Messy, but definitely worth it.

My favorite recipe is for Silly Putty:
1 cup LIQUID starch (I found it at Walmart)
2 cups white glue and food coloring if you want
You knead it for about 5 minutes, REALLY working it, and it is so fun to watch it transform!

D wanted his green.  K wanted hers pink.  How typical my children are!!

 Will this rock stick?

Can we stick together??

Some suggestions:  I recommend getting your kids down to their undies.  And a pair you don't mind getting really yucky.  It does wash out rather easily in the washing machine, but it is REALLY hard to get out of the carpet!

There are really fun learning opportunities with this goo also.  We talked about liquids vs. solids.  The easiest way I found to explain it: Liquid takes on the shape of whichever container it's in, and a solid will remain the same shape.  We put a large rock into a cup, and they noticed it did not change shape.  We then tried play doh.  They were surprised to find out that play doh is actually a solid, and not a liquid!  Then I had both kids make predictions about the silly putty.  It is in fact a liquid.... I hope I didn't ruin the experiment for you :)

The other fun goo:
1 part corn starch
1 part water (plus food coloring)
It is THE most interesting goop I've ever made.  I have other posts about it if you want to refer back to those.  The kids love playing with it.  I give them bowls and measuring cups, and they are busy for an ENTIRE hour at the kitchen table!

If you don't try ANY of the other ones, PLEASE try this one.  For my sensory junkie daughter, it was her dream day.  I also hid little things in it, like plastic coins, little toy animals, etc.  It's SUCH good fine motor practice getting them out of the goo.  Then if you want to label cups with numbers they can place "four coins" in the number 4 cup.  "five coins" in the number 5 cup.  The possibilities are endless.

I guarantee they'll be asking for "more goo!!!" the next day.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Day 3 Family Fun Challenge- Ornaments!

This post will be the TOMORROW challenge, but I thought I'd start posting them at night, so you could maybe have some time to prep the projects!

There are SO many fun projects out there with great ideas on fun ornaments.

My favorite ones are found here:

The glue in the cookie cutter one is SO fun.  My kids thought they were getting away with something the first time we tried this.  You place the cookie cutter shapes on parchment paper, fill with any sequins, beads you want, then fill it up with clear or colored glue!  When it dries, you cut it out, poke a hole through the top, and voila!  A BEAUTIFUL ornament for your tree.

The other one that is very fun is a Salt Dough ornament.  The website above has many examples, but it's so easy to find anywhere online.
4cups flour
1cup salt
1 1/2 cups water .  Add water slowly and knead together a LOT.  Then roll it out, and if it feels sticky, add more flour.
Then let the kids have fun with cookie cutters. Use a toothpick to poke a hole at the top.  Bake at 325 for one hour, and paint away!

Ornaments are a GREAT present that the kids can help make, and a very wonderful gift for grandparents, great grandparents, and for your own tree.  I have some of my husband's ornament projects hanging on our tree that my mother in law was kind enough to save!  These are my kids' absolute favorite ornaments.

And finally... some pictures from our meal :)
K working VERY hard cutting out her pirate flag to glue onto her hat

The presentation.  A pirate straw decoration, the chicken is hidden in uncooked pasta noodles (just fun sensory and not too dangerous if they bite into it...)

Two of the pirate men

The cutest toddler pirate I've ever seen

Day 2 Family Fun Challenge

Try to plan a Themed meal tonight.  You can either surprise your kids, or let them help you plan it.

I'll tell you our plan, but change it to make it fun for your family:   We are doing a pirate dinner, in preparation for D's upcoming pirate birthday party. 

So I'll have pieces of fried chicken buried in a bowl of cooked noodles (plain)  so they can search for their buried treasure.

We'll have slices of oranges as our "gold coins"    

I also have a few cardboard tubes around the house that will be our telescopes, and we're planning a pirate hat craft for this afternoon.

Dig through your costume bin, and see what you have.  Have a "Zoo Meal"  Where everyone in your family has to dress up as an animal. Bring out your old makeup and let the kids decorate their faces. 

Or a Princess Tea Party where you dress up in your prettiest dress, do your girls' hair, serve tea and little cakes, with tiny sandwiches.

Or a Monster Meal.  You could dress up in creepy clothes, use makeup to decorate the face... use brussel sprouts in a cream sauce as "monster eyeballs"   Or Decorate Cookies in the face of a monster for dessert.  Kids have so much fun using their imagination, but I have to say... it's just as much fun as an adult :-)

Let me know what your family tries!  I'll post pictures of our pirate dinner tomorrow! :-)

Monday, December 5, 2011

20 Days Of Better Family Fun-ction

Inspired by the fun activities we've been trying lately, I thought I would kick off the 20 day countdown until Christmas.

I frequently hear parents comment that they wish they had more time, more ideas, more energy... to play with their kids.  So I thought I would throw a challenge out there to any parent, or spouse who still has an inner child like spirit within them!

Each day, until Christmas Day, I'm going challenge you to do a fun family activity at your house.  We'll be doing the activities at our house, even on days that are busy, filled with preschool, and laundry.... because there shouldn't ever be a day that you're too busy to spend at least 15 minutes with your family having fun.

I think you'll find that your effort will be well worth it. Your kids will look forward to a planned activity with you, and I think you'll be surprised how much you enjoy it too!

At the end of each post, I'd LOVE to have people comment, post pictures, send me an email and tell me their family's take on the activity!  Have fun with it, by Christmas you will be filled with the REAL Christmas Spirit that has nothing to do with new toys, fancy clothes, or excessive credit card debt :)

Day 1 Challenge:

Build an ice rink.  It's FREEZING outside, perfect weather for kids to play and learn about ice!  I hate the cold, so I chose to make our ice rink Inside (hah!)  Last night, I put three 9x 12 pans in the freezer, filled with water and a drop of  blue food coloring.  I set out two bowls of different toys that they could play with on the ice (toy men, fish, animals, magna-tiles, cars)

D told me that this "was the most fun project we've ever done"  He played for over an hour. It was SO fun to sit beside him and actually PLAY with him.  We poured warm water on top to see what happened.  Inspired by the ice cracking he asked me if he could use a hammer to make more cracks.... And since I don't believe in saying no for no reason.... I went ahead and let him.  He used a screw, and a hammer, and cracked the ice into little tiny pieces.

He hid orca whales underneath pieces of ice (glaciers he said, and they were a family of whales, a mom, a dad, and only one brother whale named "me")

Sit beside your child, take the opportunity to do a spur of the moment teaching lesson! Talk about glaciers, arctic animals, or just sit quietly and watch :-)

If you have older kids, you could use a kiddy pool outside and let them slide on it.  You could have a barbie ice skating party. Or a tonka truck ice race.

We had some race cars slip all over, which led to a fun talk about what happens when cars drive too fast on ice!

Adapt it to what your children love to do!  And PLEASE Don't be worried about making a mess. It totally ruins the fun!  We had towels underneath our table so that I didn't spend the entire time saying "oh no! Stop! You're spilling!"  Because of course, there was quite a bit of spilling! :-)

Merry 20 days until Christmas

Sunday, December 4, 2011


If you've read a few, or all of my posts, I'm sure you know me well enough to know that I battle with a constant sense of discontentment. It's something I continually struggle with, pray about, come to terms with, and repeat.

This week, I've spent a lot of time considering what I'd like the next step of my life to be. I've prayed, trying to discern God's Will for my life, knowing that He put this passion and drive inside of me for some reason.

What I've realized this week is that there really isn't anything I enjoy more than I enjoy quality time with my children. I don't love it all.  I don't love the dishes, or the laundry, or changing diapers.  I don't love mopping the floor, mowing the lawn, or making dinner while three kids are crying and pulling on my pants.

But, I do love the talks. I love the dinner prayers.  I love the play dates, when I see D learning to make new friends. I love having lunch at school with K, and hearing her tell me about her new friend at recess.  I love cuddling with C, and reading the same bus book that we've already read 7 times. I love finding new activities to do with them, I love teaching them.

I think I'm beginning to see that I can be passionate at home. I can be passionate ABOUT things at home.  I've always looked externally for a solution to my discontentment, but God is showing me that it's an internal problem first.

I often find myself thinking, "if only I could do ___"   If only I could work, and Gibbs could stay home.  If only I could go back to school and do what I am really passionate about, then I would be happy.  But it's much more likely that I'd be discontent even in my "ideal" circumstances.

Paul learned to be happy regardless of what was happening. He knew God was in control of the good times and the bad, and knew his purpose in life was bigger than his feelings in the moment.

God has great things in store for my life.  I don't know what it is yet, but God willing, I can learn to be passionate about it even when it doesn't feel exciting in the moment. Even when there is a mountain of dishes to overcome before I can get to what I really want to do that day.

 I mean really... even if I had the perfect job, I'd come home and there'd still be laundry to do, floors to be cleaned, diapers to be changed!!  But I'd be missing all of the good stuff that makes that crap worth doing!!

If I love to write, what's stopping me from writing at home?  Nothing, except myself!  If I love politics, what is stopping me from running for the school board, or another local position?  Just myself.  If I love teaching, I have THREE able and willing students at my disposal at all times!  I can get as much out of my life as I am willing to put in.

You can be as happy as you want to be.

I believe that knowledge is power.  Knowing that I have control of my own contentment is a revelation to me.  I can't blame my discontentment on staying home, or my husband not being home enough, on God's Will for my life, or the children's constant demands.  I have the power to do the things I love to do, if I wanted to do them.  The thing that stops me is me.

 Ecclesiastes 7:14
When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other.