Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Unexpected Break

My grandmother, the last of my grandparents, and M’s Great-Grandma, passed away yesterday.  We were expecting it for a few days, so it was not a complete surprise, but the sense of loss is very great.

So, we are racing around today, packing, doing laundry, going shopping for car snacks and coloring books, and for a while forgetting to be sad. 

We’ll leave this evening and be back sometime early next week, but I’m not sure when I’ll be back to blogging.  There’s a lot that needs to be done and I don’t foresee blogging for at least the next couple of weeks.

Take care, everyone! 

Magz Giveaway Winner!

The winner is Sewing Chick – # 27!


Congratulations!!  I’ll be in touch with you to get your address. :)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Book Review – Wild at Heart by John Eldredge

imageThe subtitle for this book is “Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul”.  Well, what woman with husband and son wouldn’t appreciate knowing the secret of a man’s soul?!  I was really looking forward to reading this book.

The main point of this book, as I see it, is that men and boys have the need to be the hero.  They want to be brave and strong and adventurous.  This is all well and good and it has helped me understand my husband’s “need” to go hunting each fall, as well as my son’s need to play just a little on the dangerous side sometimes.  They want to be challenged, and know that they are up to the challenge.

However, the author went a bit overboard in my opinion.  His tone throughout the book seemed a bit derogatory towards “nice guys” who go to church – suggesting that they are bored, and that you can tell this simply by going to church and looking around.  Honestly, what is a man in church supposed to be doing that would make him seem more manly?  In my opinion, simply being there and being a role model to his children, is manly.

He mentions Mother Teresa in a couple of passages.  Once, when talking about the fact that many portraits of Jesus show him as being gentle and kind - “Kind of like Mother Teresa.”    Then he writes, “Telling me to be like [Jesus as pictured], feels like telling me to go limp and passive.  Be nice. Be swell. Be like Mother Teresa.”  How limp and passive was Mother Teresa??  I found this very insulting, and also proof that the author knows nothing about Mother Teresa and her courage.  How “nice” and “swell” was she in her Nobel award speech?  She had to have great courage to go among the poorest of the poor, tending lepers and other outcasts.  He does go on to say that Christ is the incarnation of tender mercy, but also brave enough to take on the Pharisees when they needed correction.   This, I suppose, is what all Christians are called to be – tenderly merciful when needed and brave when needed.  There were several things in the book that I felt were thoughtlessly written, but I don’t have the room to put them all down here.

The book was peppered with movie quotations and scenes, used to help explain the author’s view of what lies in a man’s heart… movies like Braveheart, Legends of the Fall, and Gladiator.  I haven’t done a count, but I feel like he used movies much more often than scripture passages to make his points.   It seemed a little strange to me that he would use movies made by fallen humans to describe God’s intention in creating men. 

Unfortunately I can’t recommend this book, unless one is willing to skip over half of the nonsense in it in order to learn something worthwhile about the men in their lives. 

Thank you to Thomas Nelson Publishers for sending me a free copy of this book to review.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Art Box – June 21, 2010

More great picks from M last week for his art box – he chose part of an egg carton, a box of collage thingies, feathers, electrical tape, a small paint roller, dot stickers… and a lot of other things I can’t recall.  He’s an art maniac.  I’m sure this phase will pass though, so I’m trying to enjoy it!
Here’s a taste of what he made…
Remember how I couldn’t get him to do many bug crafts a couple of weeks ago?  Well one was a caterpillar from an egg carton.  He was not. interested.  No way.  But of course when it’s his idea, he’s all over it.  He thoroughly enjoyed making this caterpillar.  If you can call it a caterpillar, because, you know it has feathers and two faces.  But ok, it’s a caterpillar.may  2010 007
Front face:
may  2010 012
back face:
may  2010 013
He also had a fun time making tape resist paintings with the electrical tape.  I did this one time with him as a structured art project, and he’s never forgotten it. 
may  2010 004    may  2010 009 may  2010 010
Thanks you for all the encouraging comments last week.  I was honestly expecting to hear that no one is interested, and your comments really meant a lot to me.   I’m feeling very blessed by all my online friendships.  Thanks, everyone, I appreciate you so much!

If you have a post you’d like to link up, look below!

Have a beautiful day! :)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Construction Toys – Review and Giveaway!

The great people at CSN Stores sent me the following 3 construction toys to review.  Their shipping was super fast and I’ve had no problem with their customer service.  One other product is on back order and they’ve been keeping me up to date on a regular basis, which is so much nicer than having to call or email them!

imageFirst off, something I’ve wanted to get M  for a long time – a set of magnetic construction pieces.  There are several to choose from, but I opted for this one because the pieces stick together well and there’s enough in this small set to keep a him happy and interested for a long time.  There are very small pieces, so this is definitely not a toy for someone still in the “put everything in my mouth” stage.  There are a lot of other sets made by Magz that we’ll be adding to this one as we go through birthdays and Christmases… it’s great to have sets like this that can grow along with your child and hold their interest as they get older.  M is fascinated with magnets, and this is a fun way to let him explore the many things magnets can do!


imageimageWe also received two other construction sets – a box of Duplo blocks, and a Kid K’nex Railroad Pals set.  We already have many small Duplo sets to go with this 33 piece one, and M LOVES playing with these.  They are the perfect size for his hands and while they work those fine motor muscles, they aren’t so tiny that he finds it frustrating.  And Kid K’nex – well, what can I say?  We all love them.  We bought a set of Kid K’nex Buddies for M for Easter and we all had a blast putting them together and making all kinds of interesting creations.  And the great thing about this new set (Railroad Pals)?  It is compatible with Duplo!  Some of the pieces for the trains are similar to Duplo blocks and sure enough, they fit together.  So now we have a fantastic collection of various building materials to use in just these two sets! 

Now, for the giveaway part. :)  I am going to send one winner a set of 56 Magz, just like ours pictured above.  These are for ages 5 and up, but I feel comfortable letting my soon-to-be 4 year old play with them under supervision.  The contest is open to U.S. addresses only. (I know.  Sorry!) 

To enter, leave a comment below letting me know your favorite construction toy.  For an extra entry follow me (or let me know you are a follower/subscriber), and leave a comment letting me know.  For another extra entry, blog about this giveaway, then leave me a comment with the post url.

I’ll be picking a random winner on June 23rd!  Make sure to leave me an email address so I can reach you!

Have a beautiful day! :)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Do Simplicity, Focus, and Recollection Characterize your life?

No?  Huh.  Mine either.  But it kind of sounds nice, doesn’t it?

This is a question that I’ve been thinking about lately, and it came from a list that is used as an aid in an Examination of Conscience. 

An Examination of Conscience is pretty much what it sounds like – taking a few minutes at the end of the day to think about the choices and decisions you’ve made throughout the day, as well as your thoughts and actions, and seeing how they line up with what you believe is God’s will for your life.  Some things are pretty easy – the next time M sprinkles glitter all over the kitchen floor I’ll try to remember gentleness and patience are a better path to take than yelling and turning into Crazy Mommy.  And some things take a bit more soul-searching – did I spend my time wisely today?  Did laziness keep me from completing all the *reasonable* duties of the day, or was I honestly trying to do too much? 

It’s nice to do this on a daily basis – improvement in our (my!) spiritual life will only happen if we are conscious of our weaknesses.  

The main thing to remember in order to not get discouraged when I have several bad days in a row is that there is always grace.  Grace to start over again, and get back on track. 


Moderation in all Things

This aid in an Examination of Conscience was written by Joseph Michalak, and based on the virtues (patience, love, temperance, hope, faith, etc.).  It asks a series of questions for each particular virtue, and assists one in thinking about the day.  This particular question comes from the section on temperance, or balance – something we are always talking about and striving for, right?  That elusive balance that will make everything go smoothly and everyone happy forever and ever.  The end. :)

There are several other good questions in this section too; questions like…

  • Do I live a blanced and integrated life?  Do I recognize the signs of imbalance?
  • What is a healthy pace of life for me?
  • Am I gentle, especially in teaching and in giving correction?
  • Do I find myself preoccupied with what others think of me?
  • Do I aim at excellence in those things God has given me to do?
  • Am I at home with silence?


Tranquility of Mind

But the one in the title of this post is the one I can’t stop thinking about.  Do simplicity, focus, and recollection characterize my life? I wasn’t even sure what was meant by “recollection”.  Here’s the definition:

Main Entry: rec·ol·lec·tion

Pronunciation: \ˌre-kə-ˈlek-shən\

Function: noun

Date: 1624

1 a : tranquillity of mind b : religious contemplation

Life never seems simple, but why shouldn’t it be?  Why shouldn’t we be tranquil and given to contemplation?  Why should it be so hard to just say no to some things? 


Having a Plan

I love to plan.  I actually have been known to spend so much time and energy in making plans that I’m worn out before we even begin doing anything.  I think having a plan for our days is a good thing, to the extent that it brings a sense of order to our life and our home, and leads to simplicity and peace

However, this is seldom the case with my planning, and I know I’m not alone here.  Why does having a plan have to mean enrolling my child in every available activity this summer, and then spending time rushing around everywhere?  Sometimes we moms even get anxious if we are facing time alone with our children and have no set plan. 

Well.  I’ve started taking some decisive actions to begin living this kind of life.  It won’t happen all at once, and I’m sure things will have to be tweaked here and there, but I’m aiming for peace in my heart and in my home.  A lot of this will be changing habits, creating a more orderly home, freeing up time, being quieter and more thoughtful throughout the day, focusing on what’s important and trusting that God will help me do what’s necessary each day in order to meet this goal.  Or at least get close to it. ;)

I guess that’s my teaser for the series I’ll be writing detailing these changes.  Stay tuned!

Have a beautiful and peaceful day! :)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Homeschool Classroom

The Homeschool Classrom

I was recently asked to begin writing a monthly post over at The Homeschool Classroom (I was told the inspiring Amy at Raising Arrows recommended me – thank you so much, Amy!).  My first post is over there today, so please go check it out.  I’m very honored to be a part of the great group of ladies there!

Have a beautiful day! :)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Craft Time – Father’s Day Salt Ceramic Paperweight

may  2010 027
Father’s Day is less than a week away, and so today we got ourselves in gear and made little mosaic paperweights for Daddy, Papa, and Grandpa.  Who doesn’t need a paperweight, right??  So – they are not only cute, they are useful too! ;)

I found the recipe for this salt ceramic mixture in MaryAnn Kohl’s book Preschool Art.  She didn’t mention using it to make a paperweight, but she did say it will dry “rock hard” without baking.  Perfect.

Mix 1 cup of salt, 1/2 cup of cornstarch, and 2/3 cup of water together in a saucepan.  Cook and stir over medium heat until it looks like this:may  2010 015

Take it out and plop it onto some foil.  Let it cool.  It’s very hot, so to reduce cooling time I flattened it out:may  2010 021

After it’s cool, knead it several times until it’s pliable and soft.  It will be a tiny bit sticky,  but that’s ok.  This recipe made a ball about the size of a large grapefruit.  I separated it into 3 parts and rolled each part into a ball. 

At this point, M decided he wanted lunch first, so I placed the dough in a baggie to keep it from starting to dry out.  Here’s how I had the project set up for him (I put everything on wax paper so the dough wouldn’t stick to the table):   may  2010 022

I gave him a variety of items to press into the paperweights – buttons, sea glass (from a stepping stone kit we did a long time ago), seashells, flat glass pebbles,  and colored macaroni.

We took the balls of dough out of the baggie, then slightly flattened each one.
M had a great time choosing things to press into the dough.  He got a bit more elaborate with each one.may  2010 025 
Here’s the one for Daddy (done first):may  2010 030
Papa’s:may  2010 027

And Grandpa’s:may  2010 029 Let’s hope Grandpa really, really likes seashells. ;)

These really turned out nicely.  You can’t tell in the photos, but the salt gives a bit of a sparkle.  The sparkle, along with the whiteness of the dough, makes it look kind of “beachy”, so the shells and sea glass really look nice in it.  They are like mini beach-scapes.

The men in M’s life are really going to love these… but not as much as we love them. :)

I think this “salt ceramic” would work nicely for handprints too, and could even be painted after it dries.

Have a beautiful day! :)

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Art Box – June 14, 2010

Another week of letting M choose his own art box supplies… I am going to have to limit him to 4 or 5 items per drawer (so 8 to 10 items total) I think, because he just grabs and grabs and grabs, and it ends up looking like this:may  2010 055And honestly, I’m not sure what all was there!   He was a busy, busy boy!

He was in love with the little sticker roll he’s holding in the above picture.  He called it his “sticker machine” and used up the entire 200 stickers.  Yep.  200.  Thankfully I’ve had them for ages, not knowing what to do with them, and they only cost $1.00.

I’ve been thinking of ending my little Art Box series on here because, really, how interesting is it (to someone other than Mama) to see hundreds of paintings and collages made by a 3 year old?  And interest in the link-up seems to have waned (which is fine, I’m just sayin’)… but I realized what  wonderful memories of this time I have from these posts.  M has been nothing if not a creative and artistic little guy; I remember when he was 1 year old and hopping mad about something (who knows what) and after crying and screaming about it, all he wanted was “paint!”  “red!”  :)  He expresses himself so easily with art, and I love looking through his artwork and seeing how he’s progressed. 

Also, I have to say, it’s soooo much easier for me to pitch a bunch of it in the recycling knowing that I’ve got photos of it on here!  ;)

Speaking of recycling, sometimes it irks me a bit when he uses entire sheets of foam in a collage, like this:may  2010 068 or those perfectly good pipecleaners, or whatever.  I must say if it’s not a work of art that we intend to keep I eventually strip it of all useful and reusable items before tossing it.  He has no idea how many times he’s used those buttons and craft eyes, etc.

So, on to business…

This week he made the following masterpieces -

Glitter, macaroni, eyes, and buttons:may  2010 061

Tissue paper circles:  may  2010 063

Sparkly pens, flat marbles, buttons, colored glass pieces, shells, pasta, eyes, oh my:may  2010 065

And he tried out some new stencils with his dot markers:may  2010 062

I think he’s leaving the painting phase he was in forever and entering into some new and glorious collage phase. :)

Thoughts or opinions about continuing to make this a linky?  Let me know in the comments!  I’m fine with these posts being  just for my memories, with the hope that others will get ideas of what to supply their preschoolers with.

If you do have a post you’d like to link up… it’s below!

Have a beautiful day! :)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Book Review – She Walks in Beauty, by Siri Mitchell

imageThe golden age of New York, the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, has always captured my imagination.  Balls and gowns and opulence… lots of pretty, sparkly things. :)  I loved this book.  It made me laugh and cry, and if you know me, you know there is no better recommendation.

Clara is a young and somewhat naive debutante, who in fact becomes the debutante of the season, and while she is supposed to be pursuing the heir to a well-known family’s fortune, she is drawn to his younger brother instead.  The story is a mystery as well as a romance – Clara is not completely sure why her family is pressuring her to reclaim their honor by marrying the heir, and she learns some unpleasant things about her father’s life and the death of her mother. 

There is a social commentary going on in the book as well.  It describes the gap between the wealthy of the city and the very, very poor who reside in dirty tenements and live like animals; as well as the status of women as decoration and no more, made to fit into a too-tight corset both literally and figuratively.

I could criticize a few areas… the suicide of one young man comes as a bit of a surprise and the way in which it’s treated seems a bit unrealistic.  It’s mentioned in passing, in one paragraph, and seems mainly to be an attempt by the author to get rid of a minor character that has served his purpose, and for whom she could not think of a better conclusion.  Clara brushes the death off lightly, which seems completely out of keeping with her character.

At other times I felt that the story was a bit contrived to suit the purposes of the author, and some of the characters weren’t as well developed as I had hoped they would be.  However, all in all, it was a fantastic book that I could not put down.  The romance between Clara and Harry was played out very well, and ends very satisfyingly.  There were lots of sighs and tears here as I read the final pages. 

There’s nothing like a good love story, and this one is very good.

Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for sending me this book to review free of charge.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

3-D Nature Art

M has a “nature basket” that he just adores.  Anything interesting that he finds outside is lovingly placed in his nature basket.  Quite often it’s mainly full of leaves and I empty it every once in a while (he doesn’t seem to notice).  This time, however, it had lots of really cool things in it – a group of leaves still clumped together on a stem, several pieces of bark (he’s taken to sawing the bark off of our fire wood), some maple seeds, and some tiny pinecones.  I decided these were keepers and set up an art activity for him one morning.

Here’s what we used:may  2010 071
His nature basket, an egg carton, and some playdough that we need to use up so we can make a new batch.

(As an aside, this playdough has been around since Valentine’s Day – seriously!  And it is still in perfect condition!  I am loving our homemade playdough.  I know I posted our recipe at sometime… I’ll have to look for that link!)

M was really excited about this project, even more so than I expected him to be.  He rolled small portions of the playdough into balls and set them inside the egg carton sections, pressed them down a tiny bit, and then stuck his nature treasures into the playdough:june2010 (3)
We didn’t have enough playdough for 2 of the sections, so he decided to leave the two sections in the center empty.  We've noticed he's very symmetrical with things like this - is that odd for a 3 year old?

Here’s what his final product looked like:june2010 (5)

And the view from the side:june2010 (7)
M was very proud of it, and I absolutely love it!  It looks so neat sitting on a table in our breezeway.

Have a beautiful day! :)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Preschool Corner / Weekly Wrap-Up – Bugs!

We finished our bug unit a couple of weeks ago, but… life intervened and I haven’t had a chance to write it all up until now. 

I use the term “bugs” to mean any creepy crawly thing, so although we talked about how spiders are not really insects, we still included quite a few spider-ish activities. 

I wrote about the bug books we read in this post,  and a couple of bug crafts we did here and here, in case anyone is interested. :)

To begin, I set up a sensory bin that was full of Easter grass, and hid 20 plastic bugs in it.  M had to find them, then use the tweezers to pick them out and place them on the grid.  I also had his little bug viewer out in case he wanted to examine some of them more closely.  (The grid was used so he would know when he had found all the bugs).may  2010 010may  2010 012M has been using his bug viewer (Target!) quite a bit outside – capturing bugs and them looking at them.  I’m… let’s say – not exactly a bug person… and somehow I always end up worrying about them escaping and getting on me and forget to take pictures.  But, believe me, M has spent plenty of time outside looking and learning about real bugs (even telling caterpillars that they are going to turn into butterflies – so sweet!), there just aren’t many photos to prove it. :)

We talked about the names of the various insects, then sorted them by color onto a color wheel:may  2010 013
For a fine motor skill, I showed M how to wrap bugs up in yarn… like a spider wraps them up in order to save them for eating later.  He had so much fun with this!  He had a little spider web and a plastic spider from a community center activity we’d done recently.   So he played for a very long time, pretending a bug would get in the web, then he’d wrap it up, then along would come the spider and eat them all up.  It was getting pretty gory, let me tell you, and M had a ball with this ! :)may  2010 017may  2010 018
At our nature center M did some pond dipping with the other kids… using a net to scoop up interesting things and then examining them in a bowl.  My pictures weren’t great, but he caught a damselfly, a dragonfly nymph, and a tiny snail, along with lots of plant life:nature center (1) may  2010 008     We also saw this lovely spiderweb, which fascinated him:may  2010 006 
I found an amazing bug book at a garage sale over a year ago.  It includes a tray of bug parts that snap onto each page.  You can create the bugs that are described, or use the pieces to make a weird bug creation all your own.  M had a blast with this book!may  2010 009
I’ve also been holding onto some beautiful bug flashcards I found about a year ago.  Here’s a sampling of them:may  2010 016
There’s 36 in all, and I have 2 sets.  I split them in half and placed 18 of them in a circle on the floor around the room.  The matching cards were placed in a pile.  He took a card from the top of the pile and had to find its match, by moving the way that particular bug moves, as he went around the room.  So here he is hopping like a grasshopper:may  2010 036
Crawling like a spider:may  2010 037
Wriggling like a worm or caterpillar:may  2010 038
And flying like a butterfly (with a bit less gracefulness) :may  2010 039He really worked up a sweat with this one!  But he had so much fun, he begged to do the remaining 18 the next day! :)  If only I could think of activities like this for everything we do… he is such a kinesthetic learner, and I am such a non-kinesthetic kind of mama.  {sigh}

I found some storyboard pieces here that go with the book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle.  I made them into magnets and M had fun retelling the story with them.  may  2010 002
I made a file folder game, inspired by this one at Mama Jenn’s blog, but using butterflies from Prekinders that I had already printed out.  may 016
The idea was to match up the halves.  We talked about how butterflies are symmetric, meaning each wing is a mirror image of the other.  M understood this, but was completely NOT into this activity.  I’m not sure if the more muted colors were not to his liking, or if it was a bit overwhelming – it is a pretty tough visual discrimination activity, with many looking almost alike, but not quite.  Or maybe he’s just tired of this sort of thing. 

He loves doing “what’s different” activities, so I made up these little cards for him  (you can download them here):may 015may 014They were laminated, so he could use a dry-erase marker and erase them – something everyone loves, right? ;)

I put these little foam capsules out for him and he enjoyed watching them open up in warm water.  This time we used pretty hot water and he took them out with tongs.  They dissolved so much more quickly than they have in the past with only lukewarm water.   These were all bug-shaped and we identified each one, then made them into stamps by gluing them onto peanut butter lids.may 013
We played some basic grid games using bug grids that I made and printed out.  These can be downloaded here.  These are great for math and reading skills!  Going from left to right and top to bottom mimics the movement of reading.  He loves doing these – we just roll the die and stamp out that number of bugs.bug grid game
I found the following two activities online, and thought they were great ideas.  M did not like them.  Not one little bit.  Maybe he wasn’t in the mood, I don’t know, but they were huge flops! However, I still think they are good ideas so I’m sharing them anyway. :)

First, a ladybug visual discrimination activity from Making Learning Fun:bug activities
And a phonics activity from Sparklebox, using caterpillars.  I wrote all the letters of the alphabet on 26 flat glass marbles from Dollar Tree, and the idea was to match them up to the beginning sound of the objects pictured on each caterpillar section :bug activities (1)
Look at that face… bored out of his mind! :)  Oh well, I try to not let this kind of reaction discourage me.  Writing these posts helps with that, because I can see how many things he really enjoyed and learned!

I’m linking this post up to Preschool Corner and Weekly Wrap-Up – check them both out for some great activity ideas!

Have a beautiful day! :)


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