Sunday, December 11, 2011


Bright Snowflake Frame Christmas
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Sunday, December 4, 2011


Rainbow Greetings Christmas Card
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Monday, September 12, 2011

Leaving Less to the Imagination

First things first.  I've updated the Week at a Glance page with meal plans and more!  Go check it out!

Now, on to my thoughts for today,..

It's been almost a year since I decided to get serious about doing more with my time.  I started with a basic framework based on a teacher's plan book and using routines suggested  by The Fly Lady. As I've worked within this framework, I've started every week with an understanding of the bare bones schedule.  However, that left some details that sometimes hung me up when it came to fleshing out the plan.  (I spend more time planning/blogging on Monday than any other day of the week.  Not good when I have so many other things to do just to get the week started.

I decided I needed to shore up this early framework with some additional structure.  I started by designating types of meals for each night.  The girls have dance lessons on Tuesday and Thursday, which means we'll be home a bit later those days.  So, Tuesdays and Thursdays are great Slow Cooker nights.  Mondays are usually pretty predictable so that's my night to try a new dish that might take extra time to prepare.  Next, the hubby asked for more "regular food"a few weeks ago.  He's not a big food adventurer so I've been trying to make meals that aren't too fancy and that I already know he likes.  With that in mind I filled in Wednesday and Friday as "Regular Food" nights.  Finally, Saturday and Sunday will be a grab bag of whatever strikes our fancy.  Sometimes we make elaborate meals, but more often we either go out on the weekends or fix whatever is on hand. 

Next I took a look at my mornings.  I had a general idea that I wanted to spend time with Mr. A doing activities I know will help get him up to speed for the preschool program I've chosen.  Since the girls went back to school, I've just been spending time with him, usually doing whatever he wants but occasionally making suggestions.  We've spent a lot of time admiring his massive Hot Wheels collection the last few weeks, but now I want to move in a more directed direction.  Mondays are now set aside for doing puzzles and playing structured games - like Candyland or Alphabet Bingo.  Tuesday will be his day to lead.  If he wants to look at all his cars again, fine.  Mr. A leads the play.  Wednesday is a good day for a craft.  The girls come home from school early, but still at different times, so if I plan it right, I can make something appropriate for my three year old then my five year old and then my eight year old all before it's time to clean up for dinner.  Thursday is the day I'll make plans to play outside.  Mr. A loves playing in the yard, but he's often playing alone while I do yard work.  I realized some time ago that Mr. A wasn't really swinging in a big kid swing the way he ought to be this summer and immediately felt bad.  He just lights up when I actually play with him in the sand box or take him down a walking trail.  I can see it's something he wants more of.  He hasn't had enough mommy time on the playground so whether we visit a park or just hang in our own yard I'm vowing right now to spend at least one morning a week outside playing with him.  Finally, Friday will be our day to push the academics.  I'm not a mom who wants push my child way beyond their peers, but I want to make school easy for them.  I want them to know I value the things they learn at school.  The best way to do that is to spend time doing similar things at home.  The girls have their homework so I'm automatically doing academic activities with them.  I want to do the same with Mr. A.  Of course right now that means simply encouraging him to pick up a crayon - which he has almost no interest in right now - and finding fun ways to learn Nursery Rhymes or the alphabet.  This isn't the age for drills, but there are many ways to bring in school skills through fun. 

Using these new guidelines did make planning my week easier.  Instead of having so much up in the air, I knew right where to start.  I love it already! 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Tender Hearts and Dog Books

Miss E has a tender little heart.  She's always been very sensitive.  She hates getting in trouble, she's pretty good at putting herself in another's shoes and oh, fights with friends just absolutely kill her.  I got a sweet reminder of what a softie she is last night and and that I am as well.  She was looking for book for me to read for her bedtime story.  I have boxes of books left over from my teacher days, so I periodically put new ones in the kids' bookcase.  Miss E loves finding something new, and she's so my child that finding a book she hasn't read yet can completely make her day.

She smiled when she found Love That Dog by Sharon Creech.  It's one of my favorite children's books about a little boy mourning the loss of his dog and learning to communicate through and love poetry.  I think it's a truly beautiful book, but my heart dropped a little when I saw she had chosen it for me to read to her.  I tried to read it with a class of fourth grade students once and bawled all the way through.  I'm afraid I ruined it for them because I'm just a big ol' softie myself, especially when it comes to dogs.  And sad kids.  I still feel kinda bad - those kids surely thought I was nuts.  I obviously decided Miss E was old enough to read the book when I put it in her shelf.  In fact, I remember hoping she'd pick it up, thinking it would challenge her.  I wanted her to read something beautiful because at the time she was loving some drivel based on a tween Disney show.  I didn't count on her choosing it as a read aloud though.  Gosh, I'm not ready for that.  Watching her mother weep openly over a small book of poetry probably isn't the way to show my tender hearted eight year old how wonderful books can be.

So, I warned her.  I told her the book was beautiful but very sad.  She asked why it was sad - it looks so cheerful on the outside...  I asked her what she thought could make a book about a boy and his dog sad.  She immediately knew the dog died, and she frowned.  I reassured her that it was one of my favorite books, that I thought she was grown up enough to read it.  Then I told her "but you should know, I'm going to cry when I read".  She asked why I loved it when it made me cry.  We had a little conversation about how one of the best things about books are the way they stir our emotions and it's not  bad to feel sad.  I told her I loved this book because it's simply written, but really well done.  I loved it because it can show kids ways to open up about their own sad feelings.  Most of all I loved it because I've felt that way about pets myself so the story really appealed to me.  She decided she wanted me to read something less emotional for her bed time story, but she took Love That Dog to bed with her.  I hope she reads it.  When she does, she's going to cry, but I think she'll love it.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

ARGH!!! The Flu!

Yes, I mysteriously disappeared from the blog again.  I have been trying really, really hard to get our back to school routines in place but I have been stymied again and again by The Flu! Miss E brought it home from school, then Mr. A picked it up, then I took my turn and now Miss M has it.  Fortunately it's not a nasty, truly disgusting version but still, it's keeping us from our normal lives.  That's incredibly frustrating this time of year when there's already so much changing.  Oh well, what'cha gonna do but live through it.

Today's original plan was to hit the grocery store with Mr. A and then head to the park for a little bit before we met Miss M at her bus stop.  That's obviously out the window.  Instead I'm going to try to tackle the never ending list of easily overlooked household jobs.  I noticed the other day that the ceiling fan is particularly dusty/furry these days, so I'll start there and move on to cleaning all the vents and sweeping down cobwebs and dust bunnies.  If I manage to finish that along with all my regular stuff I'll feel really good about myself and spend the rest of the day playing.  Miss M so far doesn't seem to be suffering too much, so I'll bet she'd like it if we spent some time with the puzzles and blocks today.  In fact, I've been trying to spend more time doing things like that with Mr. A.  I've been thinking of it as his preschool time because while he's old enough for preschool now, he's not quite ready for it.  (The school I like requires kids to be fully potty trained and basically follows a kindergarten outline.  He's neither completely potty trained nor really ready for that much structure.)  I'll write more about preschool time another day though.  Today I'm going to go pamper my little sickie, clean my house and see just how tall I really can build a block tower.

Oh, and if you're interested, this week's meal plan is basically last week's carried over with a couple of new additions.  With all the sickness we didn't really have regular meals last week.  So, since I already have all the supplies on hand, I'm keeping the same plan. Of course you can see the meal plan on the Week at a Glance page.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Routine Ready - DENIED!

Miss M started kindergarten yesterday.  I have been sad about her being so big, but really looking forward to settling in to a morning routing with just me and Mr. A.  I had big plans for taking him out for a walk with the dogs, then spending a little time just hanging out with him, maybe reading or doing puzzles or playing in the yard.  Then Miss E woke up with a stomach ache.  After breakfast it was apparent she wasn't in any shape to go to school.  That meant a change in plans for Miss M's first day on the school bus, and spending time out and about with the boy and the dogs. 

Thankfully, we have the cutest little neighbor girls.  They were literally fighting over who got to hold Miss M's hand and help learn about the bus.  She was the star of their show this morning and she totally loved it! 
Miss M and the cutie pie neighbors.  Notice they're holding her hands?  I love them!

As for me, Miss E, and Mr. A, we're more or less sticking with the plan.  Instead of walking w/ the dogs I'm on the treadmill, but otherwise we'll still do some fun stuff.  I'm going to make Miss E rest before lunch, which allows Mr. A and I a chance to play in the yard.  He loves swinging and the sand box so I think they'll both be in our future.  Then we'll do a little school time.  I'll print some handwriting pages and multiplication tables for Miss E, and Mr. A and I can build something cool with his blocks.  (Yes, I think of this as an appropriate preschool academic activity.  Blocks are very educational and a fun way to help kids develop focus, small motor skills, planning abilities and creativity.  I'm a big, big fan of blocks both as a teacher and a mother.)

Here's to a happy Wednesday!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hey - There's also a meal plan!

Dinner's ready!
In addition to reveling in my calendar triumph, I also updated my meal plan!  You can check it out here

Also, I realized that I'm really stumped for ideas on simple, quick healthy meals that are yummy.  Anyone have any favorite stand by meals they'd like to share?  Please comment below!

A Mom Needs a Calendar

A Mom needs a good calendar.  Once a child is old enough to interact with the world, it taxes a mommy brain too much to rely on simple memory for obligations like playdates, doctor appointments and snacks for soccer practice.  Add more than one child to the mix and unless you are super woman, forget about being sharp enough to stay on top of everything without writing it down.

I've tried all sorts of calendaring methods in my life.  The old Franklin/Covey Day Planner method was too complicated and I never remembered to open the stupid thing up anyway.  A plain old calendar on the wall was dummy proof, but still too easy to forget to update or check every day.  I wanted something on my computer since I'm on the dang thing every day anyway.  I wanted something that would either be part of my email or home page on my browser, something that would put my calendar in front of my eyes automatically.  I tried several options, always chasing that elusive perfect program.  Yahoo's calendar is convenient since I prefer My Yahoo as my home page, but the calendar itself is more complicated than it needs to be.  Google's calendar is user friendly, but I don't use Google for more than this blog and tool bar searches so it isn't convenient.  FlyLady endorsed Cozi online calendars and I must say, they are super simple to set up and use, but again, I had to remember to log in to it every day.  I liked it, but I didn't love it.  I've spent more time than I want to admit setting up online options, only to default back to the old paper grid on the wall.

The Holy Grail of calendars?
Then I got a MacBook Pro.  It came with iCal, which syncs with my email and all the various online calendars I've set up over the years.  It's taken me three years to make a priority out of syncing all my calendars, but last night I finally spent 20 minutes figuring it all out. Wow!  Was it worth it!  I finally have everything - including the girl's school's calendar -  in one place and the best part is that it's right on my dashboard to see before I even launch my browser.  If I decide I prefer adding events and updates with my Cozi calendar - which really is the most uncomplicated calendar program I've found - I can log in there, add my updates, and have them automatically show up in iCal on my dashboard.  With a little more time I'll learn how to sync my calendar with my email so each day's events are also right there with my new messages.  Isn't that great? 

Oh, and for the record, I keep a cute dry erase calendar on the wall for the girls.  I put their events on it so they can help keep track of everything.  It's a simple way to teach the concepts of months, days and seasons to my little ones, and helps Miss E be accountable for her own responsibilities.  It's their space though, and I'm still jazzed about possibly finding calendar nirvana for myself.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Dentist is Your Friend

My husband is one of those people who hates the dentist.  He's come a long way since I first met him, but he still avoids check ups like you or I might avoid a pushy door to door salesman.

happy teeth = happy kids
I've never had a problem with the dentist.  Maybe it's because my mom was a dental assistant, but I've never thought a trip to the dentist was any big deal, even when I've had to have not so enjoyable work done.  In fact, now that I'm a mom I look forward to the dentist because it's an hour where I can just lay down and not have three little voices calling for me.  A check up is actually quite relaxing.

My kids, fortunately, have picked up on my attitude.  (Their dad has been careful to always frame trips to the dentist in a good light, even if that's not how he really feels.)  All three of them are scheduled for check ups today, and all three are happy about it.  It helps that we have an awesome dentist.  He's not a pediatric dentist, just the same guy I've been seeing since I was fresh out of college, but he's really terrific with kids.  He's friendly and positive and very relaxed.  In fact, Miss E once had to have a bunch of fillings.  After careful consideration, our dentist decided he could fill them with out even a shot of Novocaine.  Since the shot was the part Miss E was most afraid of, she didn't mind at all that he was working on her teeth.  When I see friends who's kids have to be sedated even for check ups, I'm so grateful my kids actually look forward to the dentist.  I hope that feeling lasts their whole lives!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Discipline: Punishment Intended to Correct or Train

My cute grandparents, circa 1982ish.

My grandparents raised six children.  They were polite, cheerful, well groomed and hard workers.  They weren't this way through threat or intimidation, either, although Grandma and Grandpa were both champions when it came to discipline.  My dad was fond of telling how when the kids would bicker, Grandma sent them out to weed the (huge enough to feed 8 people) garden together, or clean the chicken coup.  And heaven help you if Grandpa caught you doing wrong because he'd assign the big jobs.  They learned not to fight, or at least do it quietly lest they be given extra chores.  When you're a kid on a farm plenty of work is already expected.  Extra duties were especially onerous.  When I was a child my dad employed the same approach and you'd better believe my sisters and I obeyed every rule when he was around. 

Now that I'm a mother, I have discovered for myself the beauty that is work being done by misbehaving children and the lessons they can learn while they work.  Rather than time outs or yelling, I have my girls do extra jobs for bad attitudes, fighting and overall worse than expected behavior.  My kids do have a handful of regular chores and they typically trot off to do these with a simple reminder.  Also, as I've written earlier this summer, they've  been volunteering to extra jobs to earn money for big toys.  I don't think I'm teaching them to feel all work is a punishment, but you'd be impressed with how quickly an extra little job or two can correct a problem, especially if it's done in the service of another.

My kids generally get along wonderfully.
As an example, yesterday Miss E was complaining because I told her I expected her to sit with Miss M on the school bus and make sure she learned the way to her kindergarten class.  Miss E really didn't want to do it and was quite mean as she made herself clear.  We didn't have time to resolve the issue before she went off to school, but I told her I expected her attitude to change and we'd talk more in the afternoon.  When the time came, I took her aside and told her to do one of Miss M's regular jobs.  I told her that while she worked I wanted her to consider Miss M's feelings if she had over heard the things that had been said that morning.  I also reminded her how good it made her feel when the older neighbors looked out for her in new situations.  By the time she was finished with the job, she had changed her tune.  She said she would make sure Miss M felt special as she walked her to class, and that she'd watch out for her on the bus.  I won't know how well the lesson will stick until Miss E actually has to perform at school, but for now I feel really good about the whole thing.  A little punishment, a little teaching time and all is well.  I feel like a discipline champ myself!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Getting Organized for the Week

It has been suggested that I write a post detailing how I get started planning each week.  So, here goes!

Get yourself a calendar.   Make a schedule.  You'll thank me.
First of all, I have a permanent calendar which I save with routine items, like my Daily and Weekly Basics.  I haven't used an hourly time line so far because I am afraid it will make me feel guilty if I stray from it, and then confined when I don't.  So, for now it's a general Morning, Afternoon, Evening layout.  As new things come along it's easy peasy to add them.  (FYI: While I don't post every little detail of my schedule here for a variety of reasons, having general skeleton of it out there in public is quite motivating.  After all, now my friends know I'm scheduled to clean my floor at least once a week.  If they come over and it's crunchy they know where I got off track.) 
Next, I plan our dinners.  (This week's meal plan is posted here.)  When outlining my plans for the week, I've found it's easiest to get into organizing/planning mode by starting with a meal plan.  Then I'll move on to making my shopping list (so easy with a custom Pocket Mod!)  I also know how urgent it is to schedule the grocery shopping  for the week.  I generally put it off as long as possible, but if I have a meal I need several ingredients for I know I have to shop before that day so I schedule a trip to the store.

After that I think about things I want or need to do with the kids. Whether it's a special homework project or simply knowing someone needs a little extra time, I make a little note in my schedule reminding me about it.  Then, I think about my own projects or jobs that have suffered from my procrastination.  I decide how urgent they are and pencil in the really pressing ones.

Once those things are filled in, my schedule is pretty complete.  It's really not hard and having things like meal plans or special things for the kids in writing really helps me make sure they happen.  I must say, after Miss M was born almost six years ago I really developed some bad habits.  It's been quite a dig out of them, but organizing my time through this type of scheduling has done more for me than I could ever explain.  If you're struggling to juggle all the demands of a family or just to get out of a rut I highly recommend a written plan of your own.  I think you'll be pleased with the results!

Monday Already?

Okay, I know my week off is over.  I'm meal planning and mentally blogging right now!  Hope to have a post put together soon!  :)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

If I thought last week was busy...

Last week I published a short photo series documenting my favorite things of summer.  It was a fun post every day that didn't take a lot of time to write.  My sister and her family are visiting from across the country so last week I was busy with family reunion type activities and didn't want to spend too long blogging.

This week I don't think it's going to be a matter of wanting to spend time blogging, but I won't have time to blog.  My sister leaves today, but school starts in two days, with all it's accompanying craziness.  I think I'd be a fool to spend my time indulging in blogging when I have more pressing business at hand.  So, see you next week SAHMplans!

Friday, August 12, 2011

My Favorite Things pt.5

My favorite thing today is my kids' photography.  Digital cameras have enhanced everyone's lives.  It's wonderful to take picture after picture with out wasting film.  It's incredible to be able to see your picture instantly so you can quickly take another if someone blinks just as the shutter clicks.  I also love handing my kids a camera so I can see the world through their eyes.  I'm always delighted by their pictures.  They often literally make me laugh out loud and it's amazing to see how artistic they can be as well.  

Marigold by Miss E

Beautiful Sculpture created and photographed by Miss M

Thursday, August 11, 2011

My Favorite Things pt.4

My fourth favorite thing from this summer is my muddy hands after "working" in my garden.  Puttering around in the plants and the mud always makes me happy.
How you know I've had a good day.  Photo by Miss E.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

My Favorite Things pt.3

Today's featured favorite thing is nothing unusual at my house.  There's something about a bathroom that inspires Miss M.  It's not unusual to walk into a bathroom to see random bathroom contents artfully arranged.  It's one of my most favorite things ever.
Artistically arranged bath toys.  "Bathagami"

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

My Favorite Things pt.2

 Today's favorite thing is coming home to find the babysitter held a fashion show while I was out, and photographed it so I didn't totally miss the fun.  (The best part was simply finding the pictures on my camera a few days after the fact.  They were a funny surprise.)

Miss M clearly goes for the fantasy side of fashion.

Miss E, the fashionista.
Accessories make the fairy.
Work it!

Monday, August 8, 2011

These are a Few of My Favorite Things

Rain drops on roses, and whiskers on kittens....  la dee dee da de, la da dee dee da dee.....

I have a really busy week (or two) coming up.  Mr. A visits the doctor for his three year check up tomorrow.  Everyone gets back to school hair cuts on Wednesday.  Back to School night is a week from Tuesday then school starts the following Thursday.  AND, my sister's family will be visiting from Maryland beginning tomorrow.  Soooo....  It's safe to say I won't have a lot of time to sit around blogging.  Never fear though!  I've come up with an idea so I can still post every day but it won't take long to share my thoughts.  

This week I'l feature a photo series of my favorite things about summer.  I'll kick things off with Mr. A eating peas fresh from the garden.  I've been taking my coffee and relaxing in the garden while I wake up.  For some reason staring at tomato plants with a little light breeze and some bird song just starts my day so nicely.  Often, one -or three- of the kids will join me and we rummage through the pea patch looking for fat round pods just the right size for eating.  Very few peas actually make it in the house to be included with meals because we're so fond of settling in and eating them where they grow.
Mr. A loves peas!

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Kids are Tired

Ready to go shopping!
Apparently, we've been having too much fun.  Last night Miss E asked if we can do nothing today.  I think she was worn out from the excitement of shopping with her friend yesterday, and then getting used to her new bike.  I can see why she'd be tired.  You've never heard such giggling and general silliness than two little girls trying on Twinkle Toes and honking bike horns.  Then of course they had to ride the new bike up and down the street a thousand times.  By the time her friend went home, Miss E was beat.  She took a long, late afternoon nap and still went to sleep as soon as her head hit the pillow at bedtime.  It seems to me this would be a good day to let everyone relax a bit.  So, today's fun plan is to hang loose and enjoy having no plans.
Showing off on her new bike.
Miss E's own flower pot.

 And, as promised earlier in the week, here are some pictures of the craft we made on Monday.  The girls painted these flower pots last summer and had a great time choosing flowers to plant in them again this summer.  Now they love having their own accessories to compliment the plants since they are almost finished blooming for the season. 

Miss M's own flower pot.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Shoes and Bicycles and Sleep Overs: Ways to Mark Your Child's Growth

I'm feeling a bit nostalgic this morning.  During last night's play date I went through my last four boxes of baby clothes and sent three of them with my friend for her new niece.  It feels really good to send them on to a new home, but at the same time I'm sad because it drove home how tiny my kids once were but are no longer.  Then I realized more events that are happening today just underscore how big my kids are. 

First of all, we kept one of our little friends for a sleep over last night.  I'm one of those moms who doesn't allow sleep overs with just anyone.  If I don't know the parents as well as I know myself, my kid won't be sleeping at their house.  Nor will other random kids sleep at my house.  But this little girl has been Miss E's good friend literally since the day she was born.  In fact, she's only six days older and they spent most of their first few years playing at least once a week.  Her mom has been one of my best friends since 1996.  She actually introduced me to my husband back in 1997.  The idea that we our kids are old enough for sleep overs feels like we've entered some sort of time warp.  Honestly - the speed with which we got to this point is mind boggling. 

Second, we're buying new shoes for school today.  For some reason seeing my kids progress through shoe sizes is a bit depressing to me.  I don't know what it is about wanting them to stay little forever, but knowing that Miss E has officially moved into Big Kid sizes really brings me down.  Miss M is hot on her heels and I don't like it. 

Third, the girls have been working their tails off to earn money this summer.  At first they both wanted to save up for a new Leapster Leap Pad (a tablet computer for kids that I'm as excited about as they are).  Then Miss E decided she'd rather have a new bike.  We looked at the bikes at the big box store yesterday and I again couldn't believe she was ready for a 20 inch bike.  I know it's been four years since she took her Christmas money and chose a bright pink 16 inch model that is now comically small for her.  Still, four years isn't that long.  The little bike is still in very good shape.  How is it she's ready for a bigger one?  It might actually break my heart a little to buy that 20 inch bike today.

Part of me says I should celebrate all these milestones because it means my kids are healthy and growing and progressing as they should.  It is fun and rewarding to see them grow more into themselves every day.  But another part of me is mourning my snugly little babies.  I wish they stayed little at least a little longer!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Refining Grocery Shopping

In the last six months or so I've been a little obsessed with how quickly we can complete our grocery shopping.  I've spent a few more minutes organizing my shopping list, and I challenge the kids to guess how long it will take from the time we enter the store till the time we exit.  For some reason just asking them how fast they think we can finish makes it so much easier to zoom through the store without stopping to look at every little thing.

We have to hit the store today, and have a pretty big list.  I'm guessing it will take us about an hour but I'm really hoping it will be much less. I'm organizing my list and coupons right now, and I'd love shop and return home before lunch.  The faster we get this out of the way, the better!

I've written about shopping with a Pocket Mod before (here and here).  Today I customized the shopping list Pocket Mod I made last month a bit more.  I used my scrap booking software to add headings organized by section of the store I shop most often.  I figured the headings would make organizing my list that much faster.

I think you can click this image then drag it to your desktop so you can print it for yourself.  Visit Pocket Mod to make your own and for folding instructions.
I am really in love with these little booklets.  They honestly do help me speed through the store, and since I've started using them I haven't overlooked a single item on my list or just decided to buy something on the next trip because I don't want to go back to a section of the store I've already left. 

Later today we have friends coming for a play date and dinner.  We're all very excited!  It should be lots of fun!

*I receive no compensation for continuously writing about Pocket Mods.  I just think they're awesome and have had lots of fun with them.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Playing School in the Summer

My kids are so funny.  They love playing school.  They also love hearing about things I did with my students when I was a teacher.  This weekend I was telling Miss M about the summer I taught summer school kindergarten.  I described the ways I helped the kids learn to spell their names, including the time I gave the kids a bunch of Smarties to arrange into the letters in their names.  Of course when she heard those kids literally got to eat their names she wanted to do the same thing.  We got out our bowl full of miscellaneous candy, she chose a baggie full of favorites, and sat right down to spell her name in sugar.  She's been writing her name for years, but I am pretty sure she's never enjoyed it this much!

That gave me an idea for our fun time today.  They really do love playing school, and like all kids are motivated by fun and candy.  I think I'll get out some old teaching supplies today and be a teacher again.  It doesn't take a lot of creativity to turn learning into fun, especially if I have a big bowl full of candy to hand out.  It won't hurt a thing to brush up on their skills, either.

Here's a list of ideas I've come up with.  Of course I'll also ask the kids what they think our "class" should learn.

  • Flash card races - I can't expect my five year old to really compete with my eight year old in math, no matter how good Miss M already is at adding and subtracting.  I'll use a stop watch to have them race themselves.  I'll give them a piece of candy for each second they shave off their times.
  • Handwriting pages - We have a nice supply of grocery store workbooks (yeah, mine are the nerdy kids asking for them at the check out line) and there are also a billion web sites with printable practice pages.  I love this one because it has blank pages for plenty of practice room.  It only has cursive instruction pages, but that's okay for us because Miss M knows all her letters in manuscript, and the one thing Miss E is really excited about in third grade is learning cursive.  She's been practicing in her little workbooks, and I know she'll like some different pages.
  • Jumping Letters - We have an alphabet floor mat that we continue to find fun ways to use.  The kids build everything from forts to doll houses with the squares.  We've also created a fun game we call Jumping Letters.  We make the letters into a big mat, sometimes in ABC order, sometimes not.  I call out a letters and the kids jump to them.  Both girls loved learning the alphabet that way when they were very little and I think Mr. A will have a great time with it today, too.
  • Reading - Of course we'll have story time, too.  Since three of us can read, I think we'll each take turns reading to each other.  It will be interesting to see how many books Mr. A has the patience for.  He's usually a one book and go kinda guy, but if his sisters are reading he might sit still for more.  
  • Educational Games - The girls both bring Scholastic Book Club order forms from school which often have simple board games that are just right for their levels.  Naturally we've bought our share.  The games are actually pretty fun and can be played in just a few minutes.  We'll play these today, because what game of school would be complete without Sight Word Bingo anyway?
I will also ask the girls what they think their classes will be like at real school this year.  I think Miss M has some pretty funny ideas about kindergarten.  If she comes up with something really good I'll make sure and share it here.

Painting stars!
* Yesterday, I promised to share pictures of our finished crafts.  We still have to glue them together, but I will post pictures when we have them.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Three Weeks Till Back to School?!?! GULP!

August 1st.  Wow.  It's official, summer break is almost over.  Well, I'm glad I've already made the decision to take a break from all the scheduled activities we hustled to last month.  It feels good to have some wide open free time before the girls start school.

Spotting Dragonflies.
Last week I made a list of activities we either haven't done yet or haven't done very often this summer.  On Thursday we took a nice walk down a trail, taking our dogs to a little pond where they can swim and the kids got to admire the hundreds of dragonflies dancing over the water.  Then on Friday we had an all day play date with a little friend.  We spent the weekend being as lazy as possible.  Now, we're ready to get this week rolling!

Make patriotic yard art!
Because the girls each have one last tumbling class this afternoon, I thought today would be a good day to do something lower energy this morning.  I think we should use up some craft supplies left over from July.  I bought this stuff to make flower pot decorations with my nieces and nephews while we were together over Independence Day.  The kids were all having so much fun together though that I decided it was better to let them run around playing their games instead of sitting down to craft.  When we returned home my girls remembered we didn't use the supplies, and have been asking when we can finally make flower pot decorations, so I decided this is a good day to do just that.  (Miss M has been dying to use the glitter spray.  I know I'm going to have to hide that can well when we're finished or she'll glitter everything she owns with it.)  It shouldn't take them long to paint their little stars.  Then, once the paint is dry we will glue them to the sticks.  By the time we return from tumbling this afternoon they should be ready to spruce up our flower pots.  I'll post a picture when we're finished!

Star Yard Art Craft

  • wooden stars, assorted sizes
  • wooden dowels, assorted diameters
  • wood glue
  • craft paint (Young kids sometimes have trouble making decisions if they have too many choices.  This is very true for Miss M.  If I want her to finish a project, I help her focus by limiting her choices.  Even though we have a box full of paint, I'm only making red, white and blue available for this project.  She won't know the difference, and can mix these choices if she really has something else in mind, but she won't spend the day trying to choose between three shades of pink.)
  • spray glitter
  • spray laquer (not pictured)
  • paint shirts - this paint is not washable!
  • Divide stars & paint among kids.  Kids paint stars as they wish.  Let dry.
  • Spray stars with glitter.  Let dry.
  • Spray with laquer if art will be exposed to elements.  Let dry.
  • Arrange stars as you would like them to be on the dowels.
  • Turn stars face down, glue to dowels.  Leave 2-4 inches at the bottom to press into soil.  Let dry.
  • Spray with laquer again if desired.  Let dry.
  • Push dowels into flower pots, flower beds, walk ways, etc...  
Oh yeah - My meal plans are updated on Week at a Glance!