Friday, March 30, 2012

Art Journal (1) - Making Sentences

Before Christmas, I noticed a post on my favorite teaching art blog about art journals.  I made sure Santa knew that I wanted two art journals (and I was painfully, brand specific) for the big girls.  Now that we've finally started journaling, I wish I had one for myself, too!  :)  Don't worry, I'm about to order it.  I have every intention of journaling as often as possible.

Today was our first, official, journal entry (inspiration).  The girls really enjoyed it, even though it was fairly simple.  I am borrowing these journal ideas from  Check it out!

First, Hubby and I scoured the newspaper for some kid-friendly articles.  Ack!  There's a big, bad world out there!!  ;)  We gave each girl a clipping from separate articles with simple directions:  highlight words to make a sentence...the words can't be next to each other and the sentence has to be coherent.  I gave them an example and then said, "But you can't use mine!"  haha!

I was really impressed with the outcome for both.  Sunshine loves to draw, Belle is coming around.  She constantly compares her drawings to her sister's, who happens to be 3.5+ years older.  We remind her that when Sunshine was her age, the drawings were quite similar.  Practice and patience...

Belle's -- age 8 (grade 2-ish)

Sunshine's -- age 11 (grade 6-ish)

Thursday, March 29, 2012


We wanted to make Punky some little toys that she can squeeze without hurting or breaking.  I was cleaning out the pantry and found some leftover rice flour.  We have no need for the flour and it has approaching expiration date.  I picked it up and felt just enough resistance when I squeezed the bag.  And it hit me...squeezies out of balloons and rice flour.  Perfect!

With the help of my wonderful hubby, we made a few squeezies.  Our process developed and by the last one we had it down.
1.  Use a funnel to fill a water bottle about half full of rice flour.

 2.  Blow up a balloon and place over the opening of the water bottle.

3.  Turn balloon/bottle over and gently squeeze bottle to force flour into the balloon.

4.  Remove bottle from balloon, allow air to flow out (can make a bit of a mess), and tie off balloon.  Remove end of balloon.
5.  Stretch another balloon and force flour filled balloon inside.  Stretch out and cut opening off balloon.

Now you have a squeeeeeezie, too!  This is great for fine motor development, but also good if your kiddo is a squeezer and looking for just the right amount of resistance.

Growing itty bitty muscles.

I'm a handwriting snob.  There, I said it.  I like my handwriting, I notice the handwriting of others.  I push my kids to use their best handwriting (although most think that is yesterday's news because we can all text and type now).  I teach them the proper way to write letters, we learn to print...then we learn cursive...and I insist they write legibly.  (I'm also a spelling snob, but that's another post for another day.)

I can name, off the top of my head, dozens of fun activities, toys and games that help develop the itty bitty muscles within the itty bitty hands of my kiddos.  My kids can even tell you what activities they can do (fun activities) that will help strengthen their FM muscles.  Sunshine's favorite activity is crocheting.  Belle's favorite activity is playing her guitar.  And Punky...well, she will do almost anything I put in front of her, as long as I keep variety.

Today I spent a little while making new toys for Punky to revitalize our stash.  Sometimes you just need a little spice.  I'm fortunate to have quite a collection of craft supplies and materials, and we were able to make several new toys without even hitting the store.

One toy is this new lacing game.  All we needed was a long ribbon, felt squares, a needle, thread & scissors.

To put it together, I snipped a little slit in each piece of felt just wide enough for the ribbon to slide through (and lay flat).  Then, I sewed the ribbon on the back side of one piece of felt, so now it acts like a stopper as she laces the ribbon through the remaining pieces of felt.  I also folded the threading end of the ribbon over to a point and stitched along the frayed edge.  This way the ribbon stays "clean" and keeps a point, which offers a little more help to her as she learns how to manipulate this floppy ribbon thru the floppy felt.  To simplify this activity for younger kids. have them thread a chopstick or other rigid object through the hole.

Another very quick activity is feeding the pipe cleaners to a water bottle.  She loves to twist and bend pipe cleaners (great FM work) and feeding them through the bottle opening is helping develop hand-eye coordination.  This is a great activity that I can throw in my bag to take with us, too.  The lid contains the pipe cleaners until we're ready to play with the toy.  It isn't noisy at all, either.  Win-win-win!!!  (This is just a small, pint-size water bottle, and the pipe cleaners are cut into thirds.  I twisted them around pencils before I gave them to her, but she has since straightened them out and made them her own.)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Movie a bottle!

I could use this post to write an "If you give a mouse a cookie..." story.  I let my kids loose on my Pinterest boards (while I watched over their shoulders).  Sunshine had an invite to a birthday sleepover.  They were looking for a gift idea.  And they found it.  So cute, so simple, and Sunshine and I put it together in no time at all.  Have I mentioned my love affair for Pinterest?  Oh, 30 minutes ago?  haha!

Sunshine wrote the how to for this...and I'm also linking to the blog that we found via the pin.

Sunshine's directions for Movie Night in a Bottle:

The first step is to get an empty, 2-liter soda bottle.  With a pair of sharp scissors or a knife, cut open a little trap door.  Stick in some soft tissue paper that goes well with your color scheme.  Add some yummy popcorn and candy on top.  Next, add Tootsie Rolls, Smarties, Nerds, and other small candies around the soda bottle.  Then, wrap a strip of pretty paper around the trap door and stick on a nice label.  Attach a gift card to the movie store to the neck of the bottle with a string or strip of fabric.  There is your movie night in a bottle!

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Why am I here?

This isn't a philosophical post.  Nor religious.  I promise.  I just wanted to take a few minutes to reiterate why I am here.  Why I am in the blogosphere.  Why I take time out of my day to blog (which turned lazy because Belle had a mishap last night and is nursing a swollen foot today = no soccer, stay home day).

We are a busy family.  Do I technically have time for this blogging nonsense?  Not really.  Do I lose sleep, give up cleaning time, waste my days blogging?  Maybe.    Should I quit?  Hmmm...I don't know.  Will I?  I hope not.

There is a method to my madness, a reason for my nonsense.  A few reasons, to be exact.

1.  I blog for my kids.  Someday, I will be able to show them this blog and they will say, "Oh, I remember that!!" and "We made some great memories with you, Mom!"  I hope.  This is my personal journal of sorts.

2.  I blog to share with family & friends.  We have moved a lot.  We have family and friends scattered across the country...and in other parts of the world.  I used to send emails loaded with photos.  This way, people can look at the blog on the interwebs without bogging down their inbox.  Some of my family has subscribed to email updates courtesy of Feedburner.  You can do that up there to the right.  If I post, you get an email with the contents of the post.  You can read it on your phone, email, etc.  Or you can click the link and you come to the grand interwebs.  I recommend that if you actually want to see the pictures.

3.  I blog to share with other teachers/homeschoolers.  I have several friends who read now and then to see what we're up to.  We steal share ideas.  That's how good teachers find success.  I love it, I'm happy to share, borrow and steal.

I love to know who's reading and how you found our family's little journal.  I know a few people have listed us in their blogroll.  That makes me smile.  

Leprechaun Craft Time!

We spent Fun Friday (the day before St. Paddy's Day) doing tons of leprechaun crafts and lucky activities!  :)  Most were inspired by Pinterest and/or other activities I found in the blogosphere.  Have I already said how much I love Pinterest and reading others' blogs?  It really is like sharing ideas with colleagues, one of the few things I miss about being a classroom teacher.  ♣  (Pinterest links below collages.)

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Red, purple, two, thirty-seven, sweet, pretty, thoughtful, sassy...


We have spent quite a bit of time over the past couple of years learning what adjectives are, making lists, playing games, and adding spice to our writing.  It's just not enough!  I love spicy writing, and my kids know that.  I encourage my kids to use colorful language...but not that kind you may think of!  Ha!

I found this cute, homemade adjective poster on Pinterest (we can discuss that love affair later).  I decided to recreate the poster on cardstock.  Surrounding the large word there are several descriptions of what adjectives could be.  I covered those with post-it notes, then presented my homemade poster to Belle.  She pulled the post-its off, one-by-one, and used the description to think of more adjectives.  Then, she glued the post-its on a piece of black paper.  We put both pages into plastic sleeves and taped them together.  Laid flat, they are a perfect poster, and folded in half they can go straight into her learning notebook.  This was just the first of many adjective activities, which I happily borrowed (and bought) from the same blog where I found this poster.

FYI (because many ask):  We do not have/use a language arts curriculum.  I have a language arts book, purchased from Half Price Books, that I use to help with scope and sequence for Belle's language & grammar development.  We used it for a while, but she quickly tired of the activities.  We prefer more hands on, less worksheet/fill in the blank.  

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Princess Bed!

About two months ago, our Punky learned how to throw her leg over the crib rail and climb out.  Impressive, and our first out-of-the-crib climber.  It was also scary.  I never knew exactly how she did it, but there was always a risk of falling and injury.  I also didn't have a safe place to put her anymore.  A wandering toddler!  Ack!!

We promptly removed the rail on her crib to make it a big-girl bed.  She wasn't impressed.  She said, "I want a big-girl bed like my sisters!"  With the help of her grandparents, we were able to get our pint-size toddler bed out of storage and to our home.  A quick trip to Home Depot to replace a few pieces of missing hardware, and Daddy was ready to assemble the bed.  She helped him with the assembly process and then helped me make the bed a bit more princessy.

It's a wonderful feeling to be able to save these items, pass them from one chid to the next, and know that all three of my sweet girls have had peaceful sleep in this little bitty bed.  Now...if we could just get Punky to STAY in bed ALL NIGHT LONG!!!  

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Monday, March 19, 2012


Something that I've always struggled with is whether or not I can be a "Yes!" mom.  I'm not.  Somedays I really want to be, but not every day.  And some days it's just not practical.

You know what a "Yes!" mom is...she's the one who never tells her kids no.  Ever.  Some of these moms are afraid to tell their kids no because they don't know how their kid will react.  But she may be that way because she truly believes it encourages confidence in her kids, it encourages them to share their new ideas, to discover and explore, to think creatively, to learn and grow.  And I agree, it can do all of those things.  But I have also seen many occasions where it teaches the kids that they are equals, they can talk back, they can disrespect, they can interrupt, ignore others, demand, expect in excess and have a sense of entitlement.

In parenting my kids, one of my goals has always been to find a happy medium.  To say yes as often as I can, meanwhile maintaining a semblance of order and security.  To say yes within the limitations that provide for safety and encourage out of the box thinking.  I strive to have a good rapport with my kids.  I want them to be able to talk to me, to tell me anything and everything, to trust me and know that I'm always here when they need me.  I also want them to know that I am their mom, and I expect a certain level of respect in this role.  

I try to say yes as often as possible.  I want my kids to live freely, to know what it feels like to be a kid, to avoid being bogged down by the unrealistic expectations of many adults...experts...who have forgotten that kids can grow, develop confidence creativity, that kids can LEARN on their own.

Several years ago, I stumbled upon an idea in a parenting magazine that inspired me.  I created a "Yes!" jar for my kids.  It comes in handy on days when I have a million things on my to do list, but their budding curiosity doesn't have a "pause" button.  They come to me and ask if they can do something, I tell them, "Today isn't a good day, but add it to the 'Yes!' jar."  They pull out a slip of paper, write their idea down, and deposit it into the jar.

Fast forward to a day when we have a bit of free time (we're finding more of that these days due to my New Year's resolution), a rainy day when an outdoor field trip has been canceled, or a day that I mark "YES!" on the calendar.  This is the perfect time to dig into the jar and find something fun to do.  Some days I randomly pull a card out.  Other days I let them choose, or if we have time I let each kiddo choose something.

These days are fun, but my favorite days are those that are so empty of obligations that I can say, "Yes!" right away.  Especially the days when they have friends over and ask to do the experiments in the Disgusting Science activity kit.  I say, "Yes!" and they all stare, wide-eyed, to make sure I wasn't bluffing.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Fruity rainbows!

Happy birthday, Texas!

After our busy day celebrating Dr. Seuss, we topped it off with a down home Texas meal.  The menu was inspired by all things Texas:
~chili (the state food of Texas)
~cornbread muffins
~pecan pie with Blue Bell ice cream
~Shiner beer (and root beer for the kids)

The girls thought it was cool that we served their "beer" in a bucket, and they enjoyed my spicy chili.  There's just something to be said for some Texas home cookin'.

My hubby is a native Texan and so are our kiddos.  This is something we find great pride in.  And, as they say, I wasn't born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could!  To quote one of my favorite songs, "When I was two I moved to Texas, sad to leave the United States..."  haha!


Dr. Seuss' Birthday Celebration

March 2nd is the anniversary of Texas' independence from Mexico.  We celebrated, of course!  But we started that day by celebrating something else that has impacted millions...the birthday of Theodor Geisel...Dr. Seuss.  That day is also dubbed Read Across America Day.  A fellow homeschooling mom coordinated a celebration for a group of about 30 kiddos at the local library.  Each family sponsored a booth that correlated a Dr. Seuss story.  The family was responsible for providing a game or activity for each kid, and when the child completed the activity they received a stamp (sticker) in their Seussville Passport.  At the end of the event, when the passports were full of stickers, the kids received an honorary degree in Seussology.  It was a lot of fun and very minimal work, considering the numerous great activities my kids had at their fingertips.

Our family was responsible for Thing1 & Thing2 handprints.  I was inspired by Pinterest and planned to do these with my kiddos, so I just expanded my plan.  Honestly, it went much better than I anticipated.  Our organizer's mom attended the event, and she helped each kiddo wash their hands in the adjoining kitchen as they completed their handprint activity.  Whew!  She was a lifesaver!!!

After the birthday party, we went on to IHOP for some Lorax themed lunch.  Green eggs & ham, Truffula Tree pancakes, Cat in the Hat French Toast...delicious and perfect with our theme!  We followed our lunch with a trip to the theater to see The Lorax in 3-D.  Punky even wore her glasses the entire time (and eventually fell asleep).  We munched popcorn and Swedish Fish (One Fish, Two Fish...).

Before our Texas themed dinner, we had time for one more birthday treat.  Truffula Tree cupcakes.  I grabbed some store-bought mini cupcakes, used paper straws as tree trunks, and cotton candy became the puffy top.  The kids loved them, and I was pretty proud of my creation.

I decided to collage our pictures from this day because we had so many cute ones.  I love making these memories with my girls!

Rockin' Pepper Prints!

We love any excuse to celebrate, because our celebrations include some learning and lots of fun.  Isn't that the way it should be?  If you're Irish (which I happen to be) then you may celebrate St. Paddy's Day, too. For me, more than anything, this day is an opportunity to learn more about my ancestral heritage, and a chance to pass some of that knowledge on to my kiddos.  This week is full of activities that will help us learn more about Ireland, the story of St. Patrick, and just have fun creating.

According to our studies, it is believed everything good in Ireland comes in threes:
Crone, Mother & Virgin
Love, Valour & Wit
Faith, Hope & Charity
Father, Son & Holy Spirit

We always hear that 4-leaf clovers are lucky, but the true shamrock of Ireland has 3 leaves.  So, head over to your produce section at the grocer and pick up a bell pepper with 3 humps around.  Cut it in half, and you have a shamrock stamp!

I suggested using green paint on black for some fun contrast.  Punky said, "I need poi-ple paint!" (translation: purple, of course!)

In addition to our shamrockin' pepper, I picked up one with several humps to show my kids the difference (I wanted them to try and guess the shape that would be printed before we actually started stamping) and also provide them a different shape so they could do some patterning, if they chose.  I'm trying to decide if we should turn these into a multi-step project, or if we should just leave them as is and enjoy the bright colors.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Home Library

Last summer we rearranged our house so we reclaimed the larger front room as a family room, and turned what's meant to be the family room into a library (which we also use as our primary eating area).  You can catch a glimpse of our arrangement here.  We've gone back and forth on what we call this room, but the name that seems to stick is the library.

We are avid readers.  My girls would rather read a book than watch t.v. (in most cases).  We have those electronic devices that other parents curse (Wii, DS, etc) but my kids so rarely play them that we don't even have to set limits.  We collect books.  We read them, and read them again.  And we have a 2 year old who is a master shelf-clearer.  These things, in combination, may frustrate some.  We have a system.

One of the shelves is left empty as a re-shelving area.  When it fills up, I pick a kiddo (depending on our time frame) to sort, alphabetize, and re-shelve.  My oldest can do this fairly quickly, so if we're strapped for time she takes the job.  However, I like it when my 8 year old (2nd grader) uses this as practice alphabetizing, sorting books by genre, etc.  All of the non-fiction books are on the top of my shelf (this is basically referred to as the science & social studies section).  The second row is fulllll of picture books, which are sorted by theme (holidays, animals, farm, new baby, birthday, transportation, etc).  The bottom row: chapter books/junior fiction.  These are alphabetized by author.  

Today, Belle sorted, alphabetized and organized our books.  She needs just a little direction (McCoy comes before McDonald...and then which comes first?  Ellie McDonald or Megan McDonald?), which I can give while prepping lunch.  It's a good situation all around, and I love knowing that my bookshelf is organized, dusted and ready for eager readers.