Monday, January 30, 2012

Who knew Pattern Blocks could be so much fun?

When my eldest daughter turned two, she received a large bucket of pattern blocks from my aunt who is a Montessori teacher.  The pattern blocks come with a set of pattern cards which you can place the blocks on to make designs of objects such as birds and flowers. 

I had never seen pattern blocks before and wasn't quite sure how my two year old would use these blocks and corresponding pattern cards. 

Well, at two years old..she didn't.  But...what she did do with them was SO much cooler!  She would lay the pattern blocks out in long long patterns in our basement and call them her caterpillars!  It was so creative and she took so much time placing the blocks just so.  Here's a couple flashback pictures of my eldest (now 5) in December 2008 when she was 26 months.

Three years later and this same bucket of pattern blocks is still a hit!  I keep these blocks stored away and I bring them out on rainy (or snowy) days when we are stuck indoors.  The girls will literally play for hours with these! 

Since the blocks just "lay" on the cards they can be bumped off fairly easily.  This is why, when we do this activity, the girls sit on opposite sides of the table so that they don't "accidentally" get into each others way (which any parent of young kids knows would elicit a meltdown of epic proportions!)

Sofia (5 years old) loves making the more intricate patterns on the cards..and she also enjoys making the pattern just by looking at the picture. 

Maya (3 years old) got  a little frustrated at first trying to get the pattern blocks on the cards without them all shifting.  My little girl is so independent though that she would not let me all!

But after a little time...and a lot of patience....she did it!

I'm always amazed at how the simple toys are the ones that the kids enjoy most over the years.  The pattern cards are very sturdy and have a laminated finish to them making them easy to store without bending.  The creative possibilities are endless with dump a bucket out for your kids and see what they come up with!

Monday, January 23, 2012

March for LIFE...understand your CHOICE

The March for Life.

It has been deemed the largest and longest-running peaceful human rights demonstration for the unborn.  More than 100,000 are expected to attend today in Washington, DC.

Never heard of it?

I'm not surprised because it isn't being televised or talked about for more than a few seconds on the news.

Wow, abortion issues being kept silent?  I'm shocked.  Not really.

It seems easy for me now to say I am pro life...because having a "surprise pregnancy" now would be no big deal.  I'm married, we have a home, we have the means financially to support biggie.  Instead of preaching about being pro life....I just want to be sure that people who are pro choice KNOW what their choice involves.

If you visit the planned parenthood website you can read a little "blurb" about what happens during an abortion.  They state that the "contents" of the uterus are gently removed.  Now this is what I thought happened in an abortion.  

They have done their job right? They have told a woman what will happen to her "product of conception" right?

Hmmm, maybe not.

It wasn't until I heard an OBGYNs graphic description of what really happens during an abortion that I realized that most people have no clue how horrible this process can be.  It sounded like a horror movie hearing it described.  Babies...yes babies...being removed from their mother limb by limb.  The doctor told of how the heart continues to beat sometimes even after multiple limbs are removed.  Removing the head is another makes me want to scream.

Why isn't this information shared freely?  Why isn't this information part of an informed consent?

Do the parents get a choice of what information is presented to them?

In today's day and age where every surgery has been televised... I do not know many people who have actually seen an abortion performed on TV.  This is strange because the pro choice movement claim it is legitimate medicine and a part of women's health.  Instead of calling it what it is, abortion is watered down with words like "products of conception", "gently emptying" etc. 

And to the question whether or not it is a baby...take a look at these pictures of first trimester abortions.  They are gruesome and I warn you in advance.  I could not even bring myself to look at pictures of second trimester abortions.  

My heart aches for the women who are being sold this false idea of an easy abortion.  I pray today for the mothers and  fathers of children who have been aborted that God will bring them healing and will reunite them one day with their children.

Lets join our prayers for a culture of LIFE. 

And when people talk about pro CHOICE...lets make sure they really know what their choice is.

How can there be too many children? That is like saying there are too many flowers.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Ivory soap EXPLOSION!

I have to give thanks to my friend from highschool, Monique, for giving me this super fun "science" experiment to do with my kids!  

Have your kids watch in amazement while a simple bar of IVORY soap doubles in size and changes consistency in your microwave (or magic machine as my kids now call it!)

First off, start with a bar of IVORY soap.  It has to be IVORY, if not it won't work (or won't work as well.)

Next, cut the bar of soap into quarters.  You will only use 1/4 of the bar at a time in the magic machine...err, I mean microwave.  Fight the urge to use the whole bar.  Fight it.  Trust me.

Place the 1/4 bar of soap into the microwave on a microwave safe dish.  Put the microwave on for 3 minutes (although you will NOT need all that time) and let your kids peek in!

Can you see it popping up?  It looks like a big huge cloud!  Now, the plate will be hot..but the soap won't be!  You can scoop it up and give it right to the kids!

Then you can let them go to town with it!  You can keep the soap and let them rip off piece by piece to use to wash their hands.  Or, you can do like my kids and play with it until it disintegrates!

The picture above it a bit blurry because I had to make a mad dash to the baby who reached in for a big handful to EAT!  Ivory soap explosion, great fun to play, not so great to eat!

Now the science behind it!  I put the word science in quotations earlier in this post because my kids did not care one bit about the explanation behind it.  They could barely hear me warn them about putting it in their mouths or eyes...they were having that much fun! But for the rest of the world here it goes:

Ivory soap (and all soap actually) contains water.  This water is both found in the chemical component of the soap and also trapped in the vapor state inside pockets of air inside the soap.  As the soap is heated in the microwave it causes all the water to vaporize and cause air bubbles.  The water found in the soap also expands.  The heat softens the soap and allows it to expand easily.  When the heat source is removed, the soap hardens again!  Very similar to what happens when popcorn pops!

OK, go on and be the coolest mom in the world and explode some soap tonight!  Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Wisdom from my pantry

Tucked inside my cramped pantry is a little paper I have taped to the wall.  It is a Bible verse I came across that says:

Whatever you do, do it wholeheartedly as though you were working for your 
real master and not merely for humans. It is Christ
your real master, whom you are serving.
-Colossians 3 23-24-

I am in and out of my pantry a million times a day and each time I get something, I take a quick glance at my verse.  It used to be only written in pen, but I have since highlighted it as well to make sure I take note of it every time.

When my eldest daughter was an infant, she was a difficult baby.  She needed to be held constantly, she cried when she was put down, she didn't like to eat, she didn't like to get the picture right?  I used to get so frustrated...because her "behavior" was getting in the way of me becoming the mother I wanted to be.  Sounds ridiculous huh?  It wasn't ridiculous to me at the time though.  I resented the fact that I had a "difficult" baby, I did not enjoy her personality at the time because it didn't fit into the way I wanted things to be.

Then someone told me something that changed things for me.  When my daughter was particularly difficult and waking up every 1.5 hours a night..someone told me to imagine that it was baby Jesus I was holding.  Imagine rocking and consoling baby Jesus in my arms.  

I did just that.  

And things changed.

Flash forward five years and two kids later, I find myself needing the same reminder.  

This week I have been off my game.  My lesson plans are not done, my laundry is behind, my house is messy and we have eaten out a little more than I would like to.  I have been feeling like I am missing the joy that can come from keeping a home.  Instead of seeing many tasks I can offer to the Lord, I am seeing mundane chores that I feel to lazy to tackle.  Instead of seeing opportunities to teach my children how to be holy, I am seeing children who are testing my last nerve.

A trip to my pantry is in order.

I think this Bible verse is going to be my verse for the year.  I can see how easily I can become burnt out and overwhelmed when I'm missing the BIG picture.  With each chore and lesson I do, I'm going to really think about doing it as if I am serving God...and I am going to try to do it joyfully.  What a simple shift in thinking...but what a powerful one it can be!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The most expensive crayons on the block

Please tell me I am not the only mom who has a bucket full of half used crayons.

Our crayons are the art supply that get used on a daily basis.  We literally have hundreds of them, many of the same color, all dumped into one tupperware.  Since a box of new crayons costs only a quarter during back to school time, we have quite the collection!

Recently, I was searching for art supplies from Amazon when I came across a tin of Stockmar beeswax crayons.  The price at almost $21 for 16 crayons was a shock at first!  After reading the positive reviews, I decided to see for myself what the fuss was all about. 

The crayons arrive in a nice tin case with all 16 colors lined up inside.  The actual crayons are larger than your typical Crayola crayon but are still easy to hold for a small child.  I had Sofia use them first because I wasn't sure that $21 crayons were something I was ready for our 3 year old to get her hands on!

When Sofia got a hold of these crayons she could not put them down.  She literally colored for hours.  The beeswax crayons have such a vibrant hue to them that they make every picture look so bright and fresh.  They even have a lovely smell to them.  When drawing on paper, the crayons make a sort of glossy finish that is totally different than regular crayons.

What was even more amazing than the beautiful color and quality of the crayons was the fact that my girls seemed to know that these were not your typical crayons.  Even my 3 year old, Maya, has been taking exceptionally good care of these.  After using a crayon, they return it to it's rightful place in the tin.  Unlike the bucket full of regular crayons that get peeled and dumped and dropped and forgotten...the beeswax crayons have become the girls' favorite art supply!  I am so pleasantly surprised that every time it's time to color, they bypass the million crayon tupperware in favor of the 16 beeswax crayons.  Quality not quantity...for crayons too!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

I'm GOING to the 2:1 Conference!!!

A couple of days ago, I shared a little goal I had in the New Year.  My husband challenged me that if my blog reached 25,000 hits by March 1st of this year then I could go to the 2:1 Conference!

Well, get your checkbook out dear husband because as of this morning....

2:1 Conference Button

Thanks to the many friends and bloggers that shared my link, re-tweeted my challenge and gave me such kind comments...I was able to achieve my goal in only TWO DAYS!!  Wow!  I am incredibly humbled and in awe of the support of the online community...and I just CANNOT wait to go to Washington DC and meet some of these wonderful people in person!

My flight is BOOKED, hotel I'm just going to wait to see if I won a contest I entered from Raising Arrows to win a ticket to the conference!  Head over to her site by this Friday to enter her giveaway..maybe you can join ME at the conference too!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A little challenge for the New Year

2:1 Conference Button

My blog is fairly new.  I started it in July 2011 as a way to organize some of my thoughts on our family, our decision to homeschool and all the other tidbits of our family life.  A couple years ago, I didn't even know what a blog was!  It was by chance that I stumbled upon my favorite homeschooling blog Raising Arrows while using my new BlackBerry at the time.  I was hooked.  I could not stop reading her blog.  Her stories were so uplifting, so honest and at times so painful.  I remember being at my in-laws home reading her pages one after the next and telling my husband "Omigosh, you HAVE to read this". 

I continued to read her blog and my list of favorite blogs began to grow. As I began my back and forth decision to homeschool, I thought that maybe if I blogged about it I would finally be able to make a commitment to homeschool.  So began this blog.

There is a conference coming up in April of this year called the 2:1 Conference.  It is a conference for homeschooling bloggers.  I have been eying this conference for a while but have had a hard time committing whether or not I should go.  My blog is tiny compared to the ones I read.  I barely know how to use twitter and other social networks that help promote blogs! 

But I love blogging.  And I really want to go.

So my husband made me a challenge that if my blog can get 25,000 hits by March 1st then I can book my flight to Washington, DC and go to the conference!  So far I'm about 5000 hits away from that.  This is a really small number for most bloggers...but my blog is new so it could still be a challenge!  We didn't want to make this challenge impossible  for me, because I do really want to go!

So cross your fingers for me and say a prayer that I can be disciplined enough to write regular blog posts to get me closer to my goal! I'll keep you all posted!

Monday, January 9, 2012

When homeschool doesn't sparkle

I had a good friend visit our homeschool today.  She is contemplating homeschooling her son who will be in in Kindergarten next year.  We've been planning this visit for a while, but with busy schedules and the craziness of the holidays we have been pushing it aside.  This had given me a lot of time to think about the visit.  What could we do to make her fall in love with homeschooling?  Should I have my house sparkling clean with classical music in the background as the children sing their Bible verses (don't laugh...I didn't say this was possible!)  Would my kids decide they did not want any part of the lesson?  Would the baby be clingy and take so much of my attention that Sofia would be left alone to figure out her phonics workbook?

Just a little pressure.

Then I got thinking to when I was in her shoes last year.  I was a reluctant homeschooler (just ask the Catholic school that had our deposit already paid for Sofia's Kindergarten!)  Slowly, I began reading homeschool blog after blog after blog.  I was mesmerized by their nature-loving, self-learning, super-crafty kids.  I loved how creative the parents were in their lessons.  Reading these blogs it would seem like homeschooling rocks every single day.

But it doesn't.

Today wasn't a bad day at our homeschool...but it certainly wasn't exciting!  Thanks to a wonderfully busy weekend, I did very little lesson planning.  There was no craft to compliment our history lesson, I stumbled over teaching her math lesson and my daughters seemed more interested in each others lessons then their own.  It was a day that was not blog-worthy...nothing like you usually see on the homeschool blogs!  When my friend left, I worried whether "real-life" homeschooling would drive her in the direction of public school!

Then I got to thinking that maybe seeing a typical day like we had today is a blessing.  While it is great to have days where we learn outside of the box, we also have many days where we just "do school."  On good days...the girls will usually take an interest in something we're learning and ask lots of questions about it.  They may even surprise me with a craft they come up with on their own on the topic.  But that didn't happen today (of course).

My friend had to leave before our lessons came to an end.  What I wished she could have seen was that after we finished school...the girls got bundled up and spent hours outside together building their outdoor fort and "gathering wheat" (which are really weeds).  During lunch we invented a story about a village in Maya's belly who needed noodles to encourage her to finish her chicken noodle soup! 

Sometimes homeschooling isn't about the sparkle of the lessons or the size of the crafts.  Sometimes the beauty of being home is just being together...and if that came across in our visit today, then we did a pretty good job of showing a successful homeschool day.

Friday, January 6, 2012

If you're going to buy ONE cookbook....


This, my friends, is the cookbook that has changed my outlook on serving home cooked meals that actually taste good and don't take me 2 hours to make!

When I first got married, I did not know how to cook.  This is a shame because I come from a family of amazing cooks but I never took an interest in learning.  When my husband met me, it was not uncommon for me to eat pancakes two meals a day (I sometimes even made chocolate chip pancakes for dessert after eating regular pancakes for dinner..sigh).

I bought my first cookbook one week into our marriage.  I went to our local Barnes and Noble and found the recipe book with the least amount of instructions and with as few ingredients as possible.

This is what I came up with:
 I bought the Bridal Edition of the Betty Crocker Big Red Cookbook!  For a couple years this had been my go to cookbook.  The recipes are abundant, easy and are made with ingredients you find around the house (or at least at a regular grocery store!)  Things were okay...I was learning to cook, my husband appreciated having home cooked meals and I was beginning to think I had this whole cooking thing under my belt.  Problem was, taste wise the meals were...just barely okay.  We found ourselves craving take out food, wanting to go out to restaurants...ANYTHING just not to eat out of this cookbook every single night.

Then one Christmas, my sister-in-law bought me a cook book with THE MOST AMAZING recipes you have EVER tasted.  Seriously.  Imagine having the recipe to every gourmet meal you can ever dream of right at your fingertips!  The cookbook was The New Best Recipe Cookbook.

Sadly, the recipes here are intense to make.  Although I still use this cookbook now and again (for very special occasions)...I need to have the kitchen all to myself to make it.  It's not the kind of cookbook where you can make the recipes with a baby on your hip and a toddler asking you to get gum out of her hair.

Fast forward to my birthday a few years back and my same sister in law bought me The BEST 30-minute recipe book!  This cookbook is from the editors of Cook's Illustrated, the same editors as the cookbook I mentioned above.  Now in this book, you can have the same amazing tasting meals in literally 30 minutes!!!

I currently menu plan one week in advance.  This week, every single meal I cooked came from this cookbook!  My favorites are: Tortellini Soup (which got my kids to love spinach...yes I did say LOVE spinach!), Vegetarian Bean Chili (which got my meat-loving husband to actually prefer this dish over it's meat counterpart!), Skillet Lasagna, Sopa Seca (A Mexican dish with toasted noodles) and Skillet Tamale Pie.  Am I making you hungry yet?

It is actually a pleasure to cook from this cookbook...I love having these delicious meals that my family raves about and I especially love that I can whip them up right after naptime and have dinner ready before the kids (and I) get cranky!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New Mass Responses Book for Kids (and adults too!)

Are you struggling to remember all the new changes to the mass?  Luckily my children are just learning the parts of the mass, so without a doubt they will catch on to the new responses easier than I will!  Lacy, at Catholic Icing has put together a free printable Mass Response Book that you can use for your children.  What a great way to encourage children to participate in mass! We will be going through this book as part of our homeschool and I am making these booklets for my Kindergarten CCD class!

Download this great resource here!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Our Christmas Card Wall

My favorite Christmas decoration has to be our Christmas card wall!  As the days to Christmas get shorter and shorter our wall gets busier and busier!  Usually the cards reach the floor, however, with our mischievous little Emmy we had to keep them above her reach!  

I love the way it is so easy to make photo cards now.  I would say about 90% of our cards are photo cards and they are my absolute favorite kind.  Most of the people we get them from are from out of town and it makes it so special to be able to see their families growing.

But the BEST part of photo cards is what we do with them in our family.  At the end of the season, we keep each and every picture card in a little Santa basket.

We have, in this basket, cards from the past 5 years!  Every year I also add in one of our Christmas cards to add to the collection.

When we take out our Christmas decorations after Thanksgiving, we LOVE LOVE LOVE the part when we take out our Santa basket and see just how much all the families have changed!  

I know this post is late for Christmas...but this week as we slowly start taking down our decorations, I'll be taking down the cards one by one and tucking them in our basket to be enjoyed for years to come! 

For all the families who send us a Christmas card...can any of you spot your card?