Saturday, May 30, 2009

Happy Anniversary

My husband and I just celebrated our fifth anniversary. I can't believe its been five years! We decided to make some big plans for the day and luckily my husband was loving enough to indulge my joy of gardening.

First we went to a plant sale and purchased a plant together to be planted in the yard so that every year we can recelebrate this small milestone in our marriage. We got heirloom poppies that are the most beautiful lavender color with the prettiest fringing on the petals.

Then we got the grand parents to watch the kids while we took off for Toledo, Ohio where we rented a hotel room for the night. We spent the day just driving around Toledo, stopping where ever we wanted and then we went to the Toledo botanical gardens.

This was perfect timing since I am wanting to add plants to my garden which will bloom around this time, so I just took pictures of every plant that I liked, which was a lot.
Here is my favorite, campagna peony. The center is as big as a softball. It is a very unique peony.

The grounds were absolutely beautiful and if you are ever in the area, you should visit.

Here is my husband taking in a little culture.
We finished by going to our favorite restaurant, Mancy's Italian. We have been known to drive over an hour just for dinner. Yep, its that good. Overall, it was a wonderful anniversary and I am so glad that at five years that I can happily say that I am looking forward to the next five.

I do have to add that we are definitely blessed to have parents who are willing to watch the kids for us so that we can get some much needed alone time. we couldn't have done it without them. Love you guys!!

Friday, May 29, 2009

I'm Back!

Yay!!! We have internet again. Part of me wonders if it was a good thing that we didn't have internet. I was actually able to read a book, which I haven't done in a while. I may have to rethink how much time I spend on the computer.

During my time off, I did a lot of thinking and I decided that I really wanted to use my children's real names. I don't see any harm in it and I would rather use their beautiful names. So....

I'd like you to meet Elijah David


And this is Esther Grace
When I was in college I had a friend by the name of Esther. I thought it was a beautiful name and I decided that if I was to ever have a girl, I would name her that. When I shared this with my husband he said that was fine by him as long as we could name the boy Elijah since he always wanted a son by that name. So our children's names were picked out even before we were married! It is just coincidence that they are both bible names and that they start with the letter E. Now you know their names, and the story behind them.
There is much to catch up on, so I have written several posts and scheduled them throughout the next week. I hope you enjoy them.

Blessings

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Computers....

What did we ever do without the internet? Well, I get to find out. We have been having problems with our internet, which is why you have not heard anything from me. A technician is coming Friday, hopefully it will be fixed then. Unfortunately I don't think I will be able to post anything until everything is up and running. A 6 month, and a two year old sitting quietly in the library while mommy types, not a pretty picture. I hope all is well in everyone elses worlds. I'll have a lot to catch up on when I get back.

Blessings

Monday, May 18, 2009

Zoob-Zoob

My most recent thrift store shopping has led me to a wonderful product called Zoob. These are interlocking plastic pieces like I have never seen before. Their unique shape and design give them countless possibilities. I was concerned that they would be too advanced for Star, but she seems to really enjoy them.

She is only able to connect them end on to end, but she is trying to learn how to cross connect them. I think it will be a little while before she can create actual designs from them. Right now, besides just playing with them, I am using them to reinforce concepts like shapes and her alphabet. I will construct a letter and if she correctly identifies it, she gets to break it apart. Right now she is totally into breaking things apart.

In my opinion, this is a wonderful tool for open ended play that will last for years and years. Here is the link to their official site. Zoob by infinitoy

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Unexpected Smile

Earlier this week, Star and I had been having a difficult day. I was tired, she was tired. Patience was nonexistent. I sent Star to her room, to calm down a bit. (both her and me ) After a few minutes I went to her room to have a heart to heart. When I looked in, this is what I saw...

All the tension just melted away and we shared a good book together. Now this is Bliss!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Tot School, Gardens Galore

Tot School
Star is 29 months old

We had a very, unstructured Tot school for the past two weeks. We went to the Toledo Zoological Gardens (A.K.A. the Toledo Zoo)

Also, here in lower Michigan, Mother's Day is the official day you can start planting your garden, so much of our time has been outside. I taught Star how to plant seeds, gave her her own seeds and her own square foot of garden.

I honor of planting season, we read the book, "The Carrot Seed". Star loved this book. I found her "reading it to herself" (she was narrating the pictures out loud). We also did a lapbook for this book from Homeschool Share.

We did have one day where it was too cold and windy outside so we did some planned activities.

We played with Do-A-Dot markers (click here for where we got the picture)


Made Rice Crispies treat sculptures

And Stars all time favorite, pouring water using a funnel. I know you all have seen children pouring water, so the following video probably isn't all that interesting, but I added it for my mother (Hi Mom!). Kids are so cute when they are doing something they really enjoy.
video

That was our two weeks, to see what others did for tot school, click the link below.
Tot School

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Home Cleaning

I have had a lot on my mind and heart to share, but it seems there has been many other things requiring my time. Luckily today is a rainy day and Butterbean is napping while Star is busy playing with the game ker-plunk. Before I go any further though, I want to explain that by no means am I an expert at housework. If fact I'm really not that good. My house isn't a pig sty, but I wouldn't classify it as clean either. This has led me to seek out advice and support, which I am going to share.

I really do want a clean house, but I will admit that it is really easy to get discouraged. Keeping your home clean really is an unending battle that can become tiring if you don't have a good outlook or mind set. I have found myself looking around me and thinking, "what's the use, it's just going to get dirty again by the end of the day." And yes, this is true, but what I have found is that when it comes to cleaning your home, the difference isn't really with the change in the house, but the change within me and my family.

For the past two weeks my husband and I have made a real effort to clear our sink every evening and make it shine. (more on this in a little bit) And while our kitchen has been cleaner, the biggest change has been in our attitudes. When I wake up and walk into the kitchen, I can't help but to smile. I know, it sounds silly, but it's true. I also have noticed that there is less tension and more joy between me and my husband as well as the kids. This is now what motivates me to clean. This is also the reason I now call it home cleaning instead of house cleaning because when I do it, it makes my house into a home.

Now, like I said, I'm not perfect. If fact I will admit to the fact that my daughter is currently not wearing any underwear since we ran out. (don't worry the wash is going right now) I still get discouraged sometimes or even distracted by other things I would rather be doing. When this happens I go to the following websites for encouragement as well as a little boost to get going again.

The Fly Lady
My husband and I joke that the Fly Lady is a little excentric, but she does know her stuff. Her number one thing that she says everyone should do is shine their sink. I was a little skeptical, until I did it. There are some nights that I decide that the sink will have to wait until morning, but most nights, it does get shined before we go to bed. The rest of her website is filled with lots of other tips. I personally have not signed up for her e-mails, so I don't know how good they are.

Copperswife
This is the blog of a lovely lady that I stumbled on not too long ago. This link will take you to her homemaking page, while this link will take you to her blog. She writes from a Christian perspective, but I think that even if you weren't a Christian, her words could be an encouragement to you. I am always motivated to do more in my home after re-reading what she has written.

I hope what I have shared has been encouraging. I think I'm going to go clean my bathroom now.
Have a blessed day!

99 cent book sale

A neighbor shared this website with me for bookcloseouts.com. They are currently having a 99 cent book sale. I haven't had a moment to really check it out yet, but it looks like there might be some really good deals. I thought I would share. She also said that their scratch and dent area has some great deals as well.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Alphabets and Bunnies - a book review

Star is absolutely in LOVE with the book Alphabet by Matthew Van Fleet.

I had originally seen the book Tails by the same author and thought it was cute. Then, I happened across this book in our local Marshalls and decided to get it. I didn't realize what a great book this was until I got it home and Star wouldn't put it down. The idea behind the book, is that each letter of the alphabet is represented by pictures of three different animals and one plant. The back of the book is a reference guide to all the names of the animals and plants pictured. The pictures are enhanced with textures and moving parts. There are a total of 17 different textures, three moving parts and 5 flaps. It also comes with a poster of the alphabet with even more animals and plants. Plus the poster itself is interactive. Just lift the flap and there is a pop up animal to greet you. All of this leads to a lot of fun for your fingertips.

This book is great for little ones. Butterbean (5 months) really enjoys the textures. Star (2.5) is intrigued by the pictures and moving parts. She is constantly asking "what's that?". When she is older it is perfect for learning her beginning letter sounds. And for me, I find the pictures amusing. The author seems to have depicted just about all the emotions that we as parents seems to find ourselves experiencing with our kids. The only downside, unless you find it for discount like me, the book can be pricey.

My book pick for the week is The Whispering Rabbit by Margaret Wise Brown.

I picked this one up at the Good Will. I had never heard of it, but I recognized the author. (The Runaway Rabbit, Good Night Moon) The story is of a little rabbit who swallows a bee while yawning and now can only whisper. She spend the book trying to figure out how to wake up the bee who fell asleep so he would fly away and she herself could go to sleep. Why do I like the book so much? It is a quiet book. You spend most of is whispering, which makes the child concentrate even more. I found it to be perfect for right before nap time.

Thats it for the book picks this week. Happy reading!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Tot School - A new beginning

Tot School
Star is 2.5 years old
Phew!! It's been a long two weeks. I have been totally re-organizing tot school while doing tot school at the same time. I realized I had a lot to share, so I decided to write a few different posts and I will link to them so that if you are interested all you have to do is click the link.

First, the re-organization has been great. Check it out here! I've decided to loosely follow the curriculum given on the website ABC Jesus Loves Me. I'm sure that Star doesn't recognize any real difference, but I feel more organized now that I have a basic outline to follow. I really like their bible lessons as well as the finger plays and little songs they have for leaning things like how to draw numbers and learning bible verses.

The past two weeks we have focused on the first three days of creation. We ate oreos for day one (light and dark). For day two we made a picture of cotton ball clouds and colored salt for the water. (see this post for instructions for the salt)


For day three we made salt dough mountains and valleys since the bible version we were using used these terms and Star didn't know what a valley was.

We also went to the local arboretum to look for flowers and explore the different plants there were.



While we were there we decided to explore the pond. We caught a frog, but he jumped away before we could get a good picture.


Here are some of the other activities from the week.

We sorted small, medium and large pom poms

We painted with sponges

which led to fingers

and surprisingly led to using paint brushes. I've been trying to give star differnt options while painting to inspire her creativity.
I have been saving little boxes for quite some time now, so I was finally ready to put together an activity. Star was given the boxes as follows.

And this is what she found....
Her favorite item was definitely the lock. She liked mixing up the boxes and finding other items to put in them.

We tried learning about patterns using our rubber frogs

but Star preferred to line them all up and count them

Then we sorted and "graphed" them
I am slowly learning that sometimes the best education occurs when there is less structure. A few months ago I would have been frustrated by Star not doing the activity "properly" and probably would have put it away when she started to play with them. If I had I would have missed all of the great learning and fun that followed. Plus, who wouldn't want to play more with these cute little frogs!
If you want your own cute frogs, check out your toy section in Walmart.

Star also took some time to teach Butterbean his letters. Very Cute!

This week we also drew people for the first time. Star has tried before, but this is the first time I could recognize actual parts of a person. This is a picture of me and Star.
We had a couple of surprise 80 degree days, so we got to play with our new sand and water table,
which is where we spent the rest of the week.

There was lots more, but I will leave it for your imagination. Thanks for stopping by and checking out what we did. To see what others have done click the button below.
Tot School

Re-Organizing Tot School

Since starting Tot School last December, my plans, tools and storage have changed several times. I think I finally have everything in just the right place that works best for us. I thought I would share since some of my ideas came from seeing what other have done.
We now start everyday with our calender. Actually we start by looking out the window and deciding on the weather. We then choose the picture that best fits with the weather outside.

We then attach it to the correct day on the calendar. The purpose of the calender is to help Star begin to understand the passing of time with words like yesterday, today and tomorrow, as well as being introduced to other terminology like Monday, January, week, etc.

To create the calendar, I bought the base and header from the Dollar Tree store. I then added two pieces of Velcro to each square.

The top piece is for the date and the bottom piece is for the moving weather icon. We use these to mark what day we currently are on.

I also printed other icons for church, the library and Grandparents house. This way Star will see what is coming up in the week and hopefully will start to understand the relationship of time.

Then there is the dreaded "s" word.....storage. As you other moms should know quite well, once you have kids it seems that your house gets smaller and smaller and your possessions just keep increasing with no end in sight. I am quickly learning that this applies to homeschooling as well. My storage works as follows...

All tot tools are stored in bins on a shelf. They are broken generally into three categories. Math readiness, reading readiness and writing readiness. I try to choose at least one from each box each week.
Yep, it's just a jumbled mess. As long as I remember to dig to the bottom every once and a while the system seems to work well.
When I choose activities for the week, they are placed in these bins.

I know they look like workboxes, but really they are trays in box form. The workbox system is a great system, but not right for my home just yet. Definitely in the future I will probably use it. Right now I need some form of organization that doesn't take that much room, but I still want Star to have the freedom to choose what she does and when she does it. She can choose any of the boxes whenever she wants. If she doesn't like what I have put in one of the boxes, then she doesn't have to do it. The top shelf has a drawer system from Ikea. It holds pencils, crayons, white paper and construction paper. Again, Star has total access to these things. The bottom shelf holds the library books that we have checked out for the week.

When we complete an art project it gets hung on the blinds to dry.

By the end of the week if there is something that I think we should hang on to, it gets moved to the cupboards.

Right now, they're a little bare since I just removed all the Easter stuff. When we sit down to a meal, Star's chair faces these cupboards, so she sees what is hanging there quite often. It is my opinion that the more a child is in contact with a subject, even just glancing at it a few times a day, the more they will remmeber and understand it.

I have a few more ideas I want to implement, hopefully in the next few weeks, but this has been a great change for our home so far.