Thursday, November 4, 2010
Creating this gift was very inexpensive but did take several months to complete. This is not something you want to pull together at the last minute. I found it worked well to think about different topics when I became "stuck." (vacations, holidays, daily life, pets, etc.) An added bonus was allowing my children to read the memories and know more about me as a child. This is a gift my parents really enjoyed and I enjoyed my walk down memory lane.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
My favorite toys are construction toys or toys that can be put together in different ways. Nothing holds a child's attention more than something they can create themselves and do differently the next time. Many of our favorites are classics that have stood the test of time. We enjoy Legos, Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs at our house. I recently went downstairs to discover that my 10, 12 and 14 year old daughters had constructed a Lincoln Log village.
Pixel blocks are tiny cubes that can be stacked to make 3-D creations or attached horizontally to make a picture. They come in many different colors. Here the girls made lots of different pictures and attached them like a patchwork quilt. One of their most amazing designs was a scene from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I found a set similar to ours at Amazon.
My girls have also enjoyed this geodesign board and pixel blocks. Both of ours are from Discovery Toys, but neither are currently available. I found a wooden geoboard I like a lot (and may replace ours with it) at Hearthsong.
Wedgits. (Ours had been put away for awhile. When I got them out to do this post, the kids literally fought over who was going to play with them first. ) Wedgits are both a construction toy and a puzzle. On the most basic level it is a construction toy. My 18 month old can stack them, knock them down and stack them again. My 3 and almost 5 year old can build purposeful towers in a multitude of ways. The Wedgits set comes with a set of cards for the older children. Each card has a picture of a figure the child is supposed to replicate. The cards are labeled according to difficulty. The easier ones are straight forward however the higher levels are more challenging and require thinking "outside the box" in order to recreate the shape.
Kathryn (almost 5) built this tower.
Will (7) and I worked on this card. It's not as easy as it looks!
We like puzzles. Traditional 100-500 piece puzzles are a favorite with Ravensburger being our preferred puzzle maker. I often buy them on eBay. We also enjoy puzzles that must be solved. Rush Hour has been enjoyed by several at our house. It comes with plastic cars and a set of cards. On one side of each card it tells you how to arrange the cars on the board. The object is then to get the red car out. If you aren't able to solve it, or need help, the solution is on the back.
Playmobil is another favorite company. Their products have provided my children with many hours of enjoyment setting up scenes and acting out stories. Last year we gave the castle set to all of our children as a shared Christmas present. Even my then 13 year old was thrilled. The one thing I don't like about Playmobil is all the tiny pieces. I sometimes get tired of the tiny guns, flashlights, small basket of carrots and even cuffs for some outfits that I find lying around. I try not to vacuum them up, but I must admit I have done it on more than one occasion. We try to keep each set sorted into different boxes. This is a job I definitely leave to the kids, because I have no idea if a particular sword belongs to a knight, a pirate or a Roman soldier!
Hayley (10) purchased this small house/barn with money she received for her birthday. If you aren't familiar with Playmobil, this should give you an idea of how small the pieces are but also how detailed your scene can be. Playmobil is pricey but well made. We've made several Playmobil purchases from eBay and even found sets at yardsales.
Even older girls still enjoy dolls. When our girls are 7, they may select one of the large 18" dolls. So far we have Kirsten and Samantha from the American Girl Company and Liberty from Vision Forum. My girls have really enjoyed these dolls and the books about them. Ashley (at 14) still has Kirsten in her room. I suspect she will be retired to the attic in another year or two and carefully saved until she can giver her to here own daughter.
Will is a University of Tennessee fan. When he was 5, we gave him a set of Football Guys in UT uniform for his birthday. He has enjoyed them immensely. We have since add the Hockey, Baseball and Soccer Guys to our collection. I rotate our children's toys from time to time to keep them "new", however these sports figures have remained on the shelves since they were received. One of the boys will often get them out when watching a game on TV to recreate what's happening. I've also seen them be creative by putting baseball cards or their Safari animals on the field/rink.
Several years ago Will started collecting animals from Safari. At first I though they were cute but didn't really see them as being a toy that would get a lot of attention. Boy was I wrong. Luke (9) and Hayley (10) have joined in collecting them and I think someone in our house plays with them almost everyday. I've seen them do normal things like set up a zoo and strange things like create 2 teams of animals to play football! These animals are well made with good attention to detail. The picture below shows a small sampling of our current collection.
So now you've seen what's popular at our house. We've owned our share of toys that have lots of lights, sounds and talk to you, but they don't tend to be the ones the children go to time and time again. Toys that allow them to use their imagination and their own creativity seem to be what make successful toys at our house.
Friday, October 15, 2010
Blueberries for Sal
I love cuddling on the couch with my young children and reading a good book. I love it even more when a little one brings a book to me saying, "read." Today I'm going to share with you some of our favorite board books. These are the books my children ask for so often I have memorized them. We've discovered a few new ones a long the, way but many have been in our home since our first born. I'll be hanging on to them to share with my grandchildren some day.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Brown Bear, Brown Bear and others by Eric Carle
The Big Red Barn
Guess How Much I Love You
Barnyard Dance and others by Sandra Boynton
I Love You As Much
The Mitten and others by Jan Brett
We're Going on a Bear Hunt
The Snowy Day
Ten Little Lady Bugs
So Many Bunnies
What are your favorites?
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Monday- muffins and yogurt (One of my daughters makes muffins each week and we freeze them.)
Sunday mornings are crazy enough with all of 10 of us getting ready for church without the hassle of an extended breakfast preparation. However our worship service runs longer than most and then our family enjoys a lengthy time of fellowship afterwards. It's usually around 1:30 before we eat lunch, so we need a hearty breakfast. I often use recipes I can make ahead. With 3 sous chefs in the house, one of them is usually assigned one of the following recipes as a Sat. chore.
In a large skillet, cook bacon and onion until bacon is crisp; drain. In a bowl combine the remaining ingredients; stir in bacon mixture. Transfer to a greased 9x13 dish. Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes or refrigerate overnight and then bake. (may need to extend baking time)
Grease a 9/13 dish. Place bread on bottom (I usually add an extra slice or two, if the bottom isn't covered.) Place cooked sausage on top of bread. Cover this with cheese. Mix remaining ingredients and pour over the cheese. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes.
Line unpricked pastry shells with a double thickness of heavy-duty foil. Bake at 400 for 5 minutes. Remove foil; bake 5 minutes longer.
Divide ham, cheese and onion between the shells. In a bowl, whisk eggs, cream,salt and pepper. Pour into shells. Cover and freeze for up to 3 months. Or cover edges with foil and bake at 400 for 35-40 or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Let stand for 5-10 minutes before cutting.
Mix together and bake in a greased 8x8 at 350 for 35-40 minutes. (Or tightly cover and refrigerate overnight) Cut and serve warm, with a little milk over each square if desired.
We often add frozen blueberries and for the kids' birthdays I throw in a few chocolate chips!
Mix all but crescent rolls. Pinch off dough and place in greased mini-muffin tin pan to form cups. Fill with mixture. Bake at 350 for 15 min.
Sometimes we bake these ahead and heat them in the microwave. However, my husband LOVES these and prefers them hot so we usually mix up the ham and cheese the night before and assemble them the next morning.
Combine the first 5 in a large slow cooker. Melt together the next 3. Pour over oatmeal and stir to coat. Cook on low 1 1/2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes.
Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker. Cook on low 7-9 hours or on high 2-3. Serve plain or over vanilla yogurt.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
(Oops. The shape sorter should be in the next group)
Some of my favorites at this age are shape sorters, peg puzzles (love Melissa & Doug products), Duplos, building blocks, beads to string, Lauri products (wonderful crepe puzzles and an incredible stacking peg set) and Fisher Price Little People sets. We have added to our Little People collection over the years and now have enough to create a small city.
These Lauri items have kept my preschoolers engaged for hours. If you loose a piece, Lauri will replace it for fifty cents.
One of the many Melissa and Doug peg puzzles we own.
Will made this creation today before I even decided to do this post. I would get rid of almost all of our toys before I would get rid of the blocks. We have a wooden set and a foam set. Many of our wooden blocks have faces drawn on them because the children would pretend they were people and then build a house for them. My 10 year old currently has a 3 story house built with the wooden blocks for her Playmobil family.
So, what are your favorites?
Monday, October 11, 2010
Luke is an all around good kid. He does well in school and loves to play sports (although most of it is done in the backyard). He played baseball this summer and did very well hitting and playing 3rd base. When he's not in the backyard with a ball in his hand, he loves to read, play with Playmobil and play chess.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
3 pods red pepper
black pepper to taste
Saturday, September 4, 2010
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
In order to study birds, we needed to be able to see birds. We have set up several bird feeding areas in our yard. We hung a thistle feeder to attract goldfinches. We used an empty soda bottle to make a feeder filled with sunflower seeds. To attract insect-loving birds, we made suet. We mixed together oatmeal, peanut butter, lard, cornmeal, sugar, raisins and birdseed.
Next we placed the suet in zip top bags and then in the freezer to harden. Once the suet was hard, we removed one block from a bag and placed it into our suet feeder. The suet is now hanging in our backyard. It took about a week for any birds to find it, but we have had several visitors this week.Before we began this study, birds in our yard didn't receive much notice. Now as soon as someone spots a bird whatever else we are doing stops, the kids grab the binoculars and the guide book and start trying to make an identification. So far we've seen a Blue Jay, male and female Cardinals, Song Sparrow, Eastern Wood-Pewee, lots of Mourning Doves, Cedar Waxwing, Northern Mockingbird, Robin, Wood Thrush and the Carolina Chickadee.
My resolution for this year is to make school more "fun." When I taught public school my students didn't use a textbook and at least 1/3 of my lessons were hands-on. When I first started teaching my own children, we did a lot of hands-on projects. As our family/school grew those types of activities began to fall by the wayside. Somewhere I became more concerned with "getting school done" than with making learning come to life. Now I don't think everything a kid does needs to be fun. Not all of life is fun. It happens to be a lot of work, and school is a place where kids should learn to be diligent. However, that doesn't mean we don't need to mix in fun projects along with memorizing multiplication facts and writing reports.
I think a lot of my hesitation about doing projects/activities is related to my "Yes Mom" post below. I don't like messes. I don't like being inconvenienced. I don't like getting side-tracked and not accomplishing my "to-do" list for the day. Notice a pattern? All of my excuses are about me, me, me. Christ asks us to die to self and serve others. This year I'm going to try to die to my own selfish desires and do the things that I know will help my kids have wonderful memories.
So quiet down textbooks, spelling tests go to sleep
I'm making memories with my kids...memories they will keep.
Monday, May 31, 2010
1)Is there a real reason to say no? (dangerous/destructive)
2)Are they supposed to be doing something else? (schoolwork/chores)
If they answer to both of these is "no", then I am trying to say "yes." Tonight I let my kids go out and play in the rain. Some might wonder, "What's the big deal?" For me, it was a huge step. They had fun and I enjoyed watching them have fun. Maybe next time I'll take an even bigger step... and join them!
Friday, January 1, 2010
Brian had planned to leave work early that day. When he left work at 2:30 it had just begun to snow. He ran a few errands and picked up the girls at 3:30. He went by the grocery store to pick up a few items and then headed home. When he was about 2 miles from home traffic stopped moving. Evidently vehicles ahead of him were unable to climb the small hills. He called to tell me he was stuck and not sure what to do. He eventually gave up on that route and turned around to try getting home a different way.
An hour later I called to check on his progress. He told me he had given up on route A and was having no better luck with route B. Again cars were unable to navigate the a hill and no traffic was moving. He parked in a nearby parking lot. He felt his only choice was to walk the 2 miles home. My heart sank. Neither Kathryn nor Ashley were dressed for that type of weather. Neither of them had hats, gloves or heavy coats.
I hung up and prayed for God to get them home safely. I tried calling Brian again to tell him just to drive back in to town and stay with friends. He told me they were on their way home. As soon as he got the girls out of the Suburban to begin walking, a gentleman drove up and offered them a ride. He was a native of the area and knew of a 3rd way to get them home. I am SO thankful for God's answer to my prayer.
Once Brian and the girls were safely home, we settled in to enjoy our snowy week-end. Our power blinked several times, but each time it came back on. Around 10:00 it went out for good. We went to bed hoping it would be back on in the morning.
We awoke on Sat. to a cold and dark house. We don't have an alternate heat source, so we put on lots of clothes. We couldn't let the kids play in the snow ,because we had no way to warm them up when they came inside. The "fun" of being Laura Ingles Wilder was quickly dissipating (at least for the grown ups). We spent the day snuggled under blankets, reading books and playing games. At one point I decided to clean the kitchen as there wasn't much else to do and working made me warmer. After a cold breakfast and lunch, Brian knocked the snow off the grill to cook dinner. Having warm food again was wonderful. Finally around 8 p.m. our electricity was restored.
The temperature in our house had remained in the 50's while the power was out. Once it was back on the heat pump began getting things back to normal. I awoke at 4 a.m. however to find Brian getting dressed. He said the heat pump wasn't working and he was going to check the unit. He couldn't find a problem with the external unit. A call to our former neighbor and heat/air guy gave Brian some more things to check. Problem was our friend was out of town. It would be 2 more days before our heat was back on and we could all finally thaw out.
All of this sounds bad, but we were some of the lucky ones. We had friends who didn't have electricity for 4 days. Others in neighboring areas were without for almost 2 weeks! This wasn't exactly the way we wanted our Christmas break to start, but we are thankful for God's provision.