Monday, December 7, 2009


I love reading these, so I thought I'd do one too. :)

Outside my window…

It's 1:25pm and snowing lightly--hooray! The grass is still poking through and the houses across the street look like a Christmas card. Now, don't get me wrong. I will be the first to complain about the snow when I have to travel anywhere or do anything. But it's sooo nice to look at.

I am thankful for…
The many years I got to spend with my Grandma Sue...My three wonderful babies and their super handsome and holy father. He's such a blessing, really. Oh, and that Brett Favre fell on his face (several times) during the Viking game last night. That was classic.

From the kitchen...
A delicious sausage dish for the Packer game tonight, homemade egg nog, and molasses cookies. I love me some Christmas food. :)

I am wearing...
An apron, among other things.

To Be Fit and Happy...
The good news--I went on a jog this morning! The bad news--it's my first jog in several (or more) weeks. I really am going every day this week though. Pray for me--the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Especially at 6:20am)

I am Pondering:
The depth of love between siblings--my own siblings and my children. And making blogging a bigger priority because of how it makes me think about my life on a grander scale. Oh, and listening to my kids more--really listening.

I am Reading:
I confessed last week that I'm not reading anything! Well, that's not entirely true. I just finished this book and am paging through its companion, "Beyond the Birds and the Bees." Highly recommend both, although there is some major overlap. I also am plugging through The Forge by St. Josemaria Escriva, and am reading several of his homilies for spiritual reading. I also highly recommend these.

I am Thinking:
St. Nick brought me some gum, but every piece has been unwrapped. Not chewed, just unwrapped. Thanks Joey...

I am Creating::
An updated order with a better cleaning schedule. Trying to sanctify my duties, and smile about it.

Towards a Real Education::
We've taken a break from any preschool lessons and are just filling ourselves with the books and music of the season. We're enjoying each other, trying to grow in virtue, and trying not to yell so much. ;)

Towards Rhythm and Beauty:
Beauty...we'll get our tree tomorrow on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. It works out nicely since Pete has the day off, so we're REALLY going to celebrate, and make a day of it. And we'll even go out to eat. I'm SO excited.

To Live the Liturgy:
We had gingerbread pancakes for the feast of St. Nicholas, and we'll have chicken enchiladas for Our Lady of Guadalupe this weekend. Yum. I love liturgical feasts.

I am Hoping and Praying:
For my newly pregnant best friend. She's so wonderful and all my prayers are with her and her family in this JOYFUL time. :) For the soul of my Grandma Sue, and for our family. For a number of friends who are expecting or have newborns. For my sweet little brother. For a friend reovering from surgery, and another dealing with matters of the heart. For attentiveness, patience, diligence, discretion, and generosity for myself.

Around the House:
After nearly a full week out of town, the house needed a rescue. Pete came through and did five loads of laundry and deep cleaned the living room. What a guy. Still trying to follow FlyLady so I can keep my head above water!

One of My Favorite Things:
Maria shrieking with excitement every time she sees her Daddy. She really is a Daddy's girl, and it's so precious.

A Few Plans for the Rest of the Week: Packer game tonight, play group Wednesday, and lots of peppermint bark from the kitchen. It really is the most wonderful time of the year...

Friday, December 4, 2009


Today, I'm really in the mood to write but I lack direction. So, I'm going to do 7 Quick Takes Friday and blurt out all my randomness in one post.


My Grandma Sue died last weekend. It happened more quickly than I thought it would and although I got to say goodbye, there was no time to linger and enjoy the last precious moments of lucidity that cancer patients often have. I am sad about that. But I am confident that she knows how much gratitude I have for her and the sacrifices that she made for her family. And I pray that God grants her eternal rest.


I did a really awesome Advent schedule for the kids and assigned each day a letter and an activity. We're on the sixth day of Advent, and we've done two activities. Elizabeth's Article helped me feel better about that. You should read it.


I need to get back to my morning jog. My pants are begging me. It's a good thing I don't have the budget to buy new pants every time I go up a size. That could be catastrophic.


I am so grateful for the many dear dear friends whom God has placed in my life. I wish I could talk to them every day. However, that is clearly not my calling, and so I thank God that they are forgiving and loving and don't mind when I don't immediately return phone calls or emails.


My baby girl is so much less "into things" than my baby boys were. That's pretty great. I hope the trend continues. Oh, and she's so cute. I am crazy in love with all three of my kids. Even when they're naughty.


I'm currently not reading anything right now (gasp) except for my St. Josemaria devotional. It's because I have a fine at the library. I can't even go in there because I get all anxious that everyone knows how irresponsible I am. Overreact much? Yeah, I do.

I'm going to family holy hour tonight, which is great because I get to see Jesus and many of my friends. And because everyone brings their noisy, rambunctious kids, I don't have to worry too much about mine. It's a judge free zone. If you don't have a family holy hour at your parish, you need one. Really.

God bless (and thanks for reading)!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Kiddo Updates!

It's been said about parenthood that the days are long, but the years are short.

I'm finding that SO true. First of all, my little bitty baby Maria who I swear was just born last week is CRAWLING! She's eight months old and babbles and claps and now...she's mobile. Paper, small toys--nothing is safe. But it sure is cute.

Joey. Almost almost almost potty trained. Except when he's not. We go through a lot of underpants around here. Good thing he's so cute.

John Paul. He's learning more every day, not as a result of much effort on my part! He loves sounding out words and tries to read anything he can get his hands on. Unfortunately, that also means the supermarket magazines are fair game. So I've been on a mini crusade (inspired by my friend Katie) to get certain magazines out of child's eye level or covered. I think the Pick'n'Save people are tired of me, but they're finally getting covers! Woo-hoo!

And as for me, I'm enjoying life, trying to follow my order, trying to pray more, trying to love better, and all in all--trying. A work in progress. :) That's me.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Family Rosary

First, I'd like to start with a disclaimer. I really love praying the rosary. By myself. Or with other adults.

A few months ago, I was chatting with a friend about wanting to do a family Rosary. Well, actually, about NOT wanting to do a family rosary. My reasons:

  1. I have too many little kids.
  2. My kids are seriously rambunctious.
  3. We're pressed for time in the evenings.

So while I'm chatting with this friend, I start to realize a few things.

  1. She has just as many little kids as me (about the same ages, in fact)
  2. Her kids are seriously rambunctious.
  3. She's even more pressed for time in the evenings than I am.

So my excuses were nil, and I begrudgingly brought it up to my husband. He, of course, was REALLY excited about it. (Not kidding.) We made a firm resolution to start it that very night right before bed.

So we are on month three of the Family Rosary. I have to admit, we don't do it EVERY night--we reduce to a decade when we have been out or it simply gets too late. But for the most part, we pray an entire rosary each night.

Here are some things I've learned:

  1. Provide religious books to look at. Most kids DO NOT have a long attention span for listening, but if they have a book they can flip through, the Rosary becomes much easier for them to pray.
  2. (I got this one from a friend) Do the rosary right before bed, after teeth brushing and pajamas. That way, their choices are "Go to sleep" or "Pray the rosary." Every kid I've ever met would rather get the extra 20 minutes with Mom and Dad instead of going to sleep. (Note: We don't actually verbalize this choice...but some day, a rebellion may arise, and that would be our solution)
  3. Try to relax. I've found myself in this scenario: "Hail Mary, full of grace, JOHN PAUL, SIT DOWN! The Lord is with thee. Blessed--JOHN PAUL, HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU??--art thou among women, and blessed is the--JOHN PAUL, DO YOU NEED A SPANKING?--fruit of thy womb Jesus. You get the idea. Don't be that Mom.
  4. Pray! Sometimes, it's the most obvious thing, and you forget anyway. You might be focused on a little guy sneaking a Winnie the Pooh book instead of his Blessed Mother book, or trying to make sure that the baby doesn't eat the broken arm of a football action figure. But offer those little inconveniences up to God and ask Him to give you the grace to handle them like our Lady would have. And when things are melting down, skip a few Hail Mary's and say them later!!
  5. Just do it. It's half the battle.
  6. Get ready to see some FRUIT. Our Lady always delivers. Stay tuned for part 2 of this post to see how it's worked for us!

Wordless Wednesday--The Sweetest Thing...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Some things I've learned...and need to remember

Some things I've learned in the first two months of homeschooling...just randomly putting my thoughts into words!

1) I love to be creative.
2) I don't have time to be creative.
3) When I don't have time to be creative, I do nothing at all.
4) So next year, I think I'll be buying a curriculum so I don't have to be creative EVERY DAY. Because it's hard. And I don't want to. (I mean, I think God may be calling my energy elsewhere--yeah, that's it)
5) BUT. I still love to be creative, so I'm thinking of doing my own science or art or history or something, like unit studies or something great like that.
6) Any input would be greatly appreciated. I'm going to start my curriculum research early. I need to fit the needs of an energetic, scientifically minded choleric little boy. Let me know what you've got!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Overheard--John Paul

After a well-deserved time out in his bedroom.

Me: How are you, bud?
John Paul: I have no God.
Me: What?! What do you mean? (It wasn't THAT long of a time out)
John Paul: My feelings are broken. When you're crying alone in your bedroom, you feel like you have no God.

Seriously? Dark night during time out? ;)

This one never ceases to surprise me.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Painting with Yogurt

I saw this on several blogs and thought I'd give it a try. We used a bit of plain unflavored yogurt and food coloring and went to work on our paper plates. It was really fun! The boys love plain yogurt, so they did a lot of licking. I intended to have them work on forming some letters with their 'finger paint' to work on how a letter is made. After a couple frustrating encounters with my firstborn, I just let them have fun.

Of course, the little scientist he is, John Paul mixed the colors together gleefully and told me all about what new colors were appearing. Easy to make, easy clean up, and good pre-writing practice (in theory).

Friday, October 2, 2009

Saying No

Recently, after a church event, my husband and I decided to take a little drive through the city. It was a weekend night, and the streets were filled with couples and groups of people, all dressed up and going out to eat at the cute little restaurants with outdoor seating, fancy menus, and what looks to be great atmosphere. I stared (a little wistfully) out the window of our 13 year old van and wondered aloud, "I wonder what that life is like." My wonderful husband smiled and looked at me and said, "You know, that's the life we said "no" to..."

I looked at him, and then at our three little ones buckled into car seats in the back. And I smiled. Because the life we said "yes" so much better. Thanks for reminding me, God.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Bits from Books--Ready, Set, Count by Marlene Barron

Ready, Set, Count--60 playful math activities for you and your child to share.

Okay. I love this book. It's from the libary, but I'm seriously considering buying it.

I love it. Really.

Marlene Barron is the head of the West Side Montessori School. I have been intrigued by Montessori, but this is the impression I've gotten of it.
  1. You must do everything in order or the window will close and your child will never learn a thing. He will be on the street for the rest of his life. (Obviously, I'm exaggerating--a little).
  2. You must always let the child lead the activities, or you'll make him hate learning. Once again, you might as well buy him his card board box and prepare him for street living.
  3. You should probably have a million dollars to buy all the materials.

This book changed all of that. Really. I am a recovering math phobic, but I'm trying to change my way of thinking. Read this quote--it's awesome.

What if you're not good at math? What if you hate math? What if you can't even balance your checkbook? Relax. You're not alone. Many of us can't. (It's not real math anyway, it's arithmetic.) ...People who say they're bad at math are often talking about computation. But if you can figure out which bag or bowl to put the leftovers in, you're good at math. If you can estimate how long it's going to take you to travel to your nearest national park, you're good at math. And if you can get all the different parts of a meal ready at the same time, you're exceptional at math. ...Put away those notions of being good or bad at math.

Isn't that amazing? I thought you'd think so!

Watch for some posts on this book until the ladies from the libraries wrench it out of my white knuckled fists. :)

Bits of Books--Growing a Reader from Birth by Diane McGuinness

Lately, I've been reading books like nobody's business--just the ones I pick up from the Parents shelf in our library. I thought since I was reading them, I might as well let you all know what I'm learning about so you don't have to read them! :)

The book I'm working on now is Growing a Reader from Birth by Diane McGuinness. I am about half way done and wanted to share some interesting tidbits.

Children learn to speak in two different ways. The first way is word by word, like building a house brick by brick. They learn each part of speech separately and then learn how to put them together. Other children learn to speak by "frozen phrases," kind of like building a house with modules already put together. The first child will painstakingly say "Daddy bye bye" after much practice with both of the words, while the second will rattle off, "Daddy go bye bye in car," without much thought. The single word learners almost seem to be late bloomers, but studies show that vocabulary evens out later for both types.

Studies show that there is a higher percentage among girls of "frozen phrase" learners, so this may account for the reason that girls seem to learn language much more quickly than boys.

My two boys represent each of the learning styles. John Paul seemed to be a "late bloomer," putting each word together slowly and not speaking in full sentences until well past the age of two. Joey was a "frozen phrase" learner. When he looked at me at 17 months and said "Do it again!" I nearly fell off my chair! He learned words in strings, and was able to separate them if necessary, but had no trouble saying them as a group. I was constantly shocked at his development, and now it all makes sense!

At (nearly) four, John Paul is very adept at most types of speech, but it is clear that sometimes he struggles with some stringing together. ("Joey is being mad to me.") However, his vocabulary is very extensive and I don't worry about his future ability to read or comprehend. Joey is very adept at grammar for his age. ("I want John Paul to go away from me.") However, it is clear that much of his comprehension is still at a two year old level. He has had a leg up on communication, which has resulted in less stress for our family, which is great.

It was so interesting to read this, being the 'word nerd' that I am! I hope you learned something about your little chatterbox from this post! More to come...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Artist and The Scientist

We recently did a painting project and I had to take this picture. The differences in my two sons' personalities was SO perfect in this project!

Joey (2) had a wonderful time painting--trying different brushes and brush strokes, seeing how things looked on the paper, and swirling the colors around to make pretty patterns. It really relaxed him, and he worked with both hands, my little ambidextrious (sp?) fellow. Meanwhile...

John Paul didn't want to use the paint for painting. He took the palate I gave him and didn't even try to paint a picture. Instead, he dipped the brush in all the colors and watched to see what the results were when he added a color to his water glass. "It changed, Mama, it changed!" What a little scientist he is!
Sometimes I can be tempted to treat them similarly because they are both boys and they are so close in age. However, it's good that I have little reminders like this to help me remember that God gave them DIFFERENT gifts to grow into very DIFFERENT people...and to use their gifts to magnify His Glory!

Pattern (Parquet) Blocks

My wonderful sister-in-law got us this set of pattern blocks from an education store. I LOVE them, and the kids love them too. I have seen patterns for making your own blocks online, but I would have to say this was definitely worth the money (100 pieces for under $10)

Some of the things we've done with them:
  • Counting
  • Sorting
  • Shapes
  • Pattern puzzles (
  • Making our own designs
  • Free play

They also really keep my Joey busy when I'm working with John Paul on something else!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

First Day of Homeschooling Pre-School!

So--I'm not sure who was more excited for today--John Paul or ME! We started our preschool Day with a picture. :)

Our first activity was pattern blocks. I have had pattern blocks on a list on my wall forever and my sister in law surprised me by buying us a pack! I was really excited. So I printed off some pattern block "puzzles from and let the boys go to work. I have to admit, for a math related activity, it was pretty fun.
This is how happy John Paul was when he finished his LONG snake! I love this picture...if only every day could be this fun, right?

Because our unit theme for these two weeks is Apples, I told a story of a father who told his son there was a star hiding in his apple. The boy looked and looked, but couldn't find it. (We cut up an apple the usual way and looked.) Then, the father cut the apple the other way (cross-wise) and there was the star! While we did this, we talked about the parts of the apple, properties of an apple, shape of an apple, etc. It was pretty fun.

To complete our day, we went to Daily Mass, to the library to find books on apples, and baked a cake for Our Blessed Mother's Birthday. It was a super day--low maintenance and upbeat and full of play--just like preschool should be!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Tracking the Pack

Okay, I know I haven't posted in forever, but there are some major educational operations going on in this house. This one is my favorite. In an effort to learn a little about U.S. Geography (and have a little fun), we are going to follow the Packers across the country throughout their season. Well, okay, not literally.

I got a map of the United States from an educational store here in town for $2.50. And then I printed off the logos for all the teams in the NFL, laminated each in packaging tape, and stuck them to the map with poster putty. I was seriously more excited than anyone while we were doing this. And if you know my kids, that says a lot.
Here is a close-up of our division. John Paul recently had a momentary lapse of judgement and thought maybe he wanted to be a Minnesota Vikings fan. However, I'm happy to report that he makes a quiet wretching noise if anyone says the name "Brett Favre" or "Minnesota Vikings." Virtuous? No. But we'll work on respectful dislike for the team once the excitement for the Packers is more ingrained. ;)
So anyway, we'll be taking the Packer's logo around the country every week, and I also have the schedule posted so we can practice our charting of Wins and Losses. So...a little geography, a little math, a little phys. ed, and a LOT of fun. Peace out, and Go Pack.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

One of those days! And poop.

I had "one of those days" yesterday. I'm sure you know the kind. Nothing goes right, your house is a disaster, your kids throw temper tantrums at home, in the library, and everywhere else in between.

But today is the feast of St. Mary Magdalen! Praise God! Because there is no better reminder that God can pick us up when we fall down than this wonderful Saint. I have a personal devotion to her as I had a "reversion" to the faith about six years ago.

On the education front, we got some books from the library on the human body because John Paul has been obsessed with poop and where it comes from. So we'll do two weeks on the body, informally of course, and with lots of circle time. We've also been working on the short a and the short e sounds. Lately, John Paul has been a sponge, so I'm trying to really work with that without overwhelming him!

So for all of you who are also having "one of those days" try to remember St. Mary Magdalen today...God will always make up where we lack, and no matter how many times we turn away, He will always take us back!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Sun, Planet & Stars Circle Time (among other things)

SO....the boys have been MAJORLY into planets and stars and the like since they started catching Zula Patrol (qubo) a few times a week. It's a pretty scientific show, but disguised with lots of fun. (I know, I know, science IS fun, right?) So I went to the library and checked out all the books on planets and stars that I could find, and we have been having LOTS of fun with it.

Circle time is a totally fun idea that I LOVE, but have only been able to do a few times. I didn't have a plan for today, but it just came together, which was probably a working of the Holy Spirit. Here's how it went:

Hello Song (from our Music class)

You Are My Sunshine (working on beat, clapping, fast and slow)
Twinkle Twinkle (same as above)

Learning about the Sun
-Is the sun hot or cold?
-Is the sun big or small? (You get the idea)

Talking about the planets
-Naming the planets (keep in mind, we've been doing this for two weeks! John Paul knows them in order and with the asteroid belt included)

-Counting stars (to 20)
-Counting backwards for take off...they really liked this one!

Language Arts/Imagination:
-I told a story about three astronauts named John Paul, Joseph, and Maria and how they went to the moon. It was quite involved and we did a lot of jumping around and talking about what it's like to have less gravity. This was really fun for all of us.

-We drew some planets, constellations, etc. Well, circles and dots, but that's what they look like, right?? :)

And then we trailed off for something else...probably a snack or a fight or the baby woke up!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Cork people

We had a beer tasting gathering at our house and were left with some really great corks! Here is what we did with them! The kids each have one and some of their friends are here too! It probably would have been better with multi colored markers, but I wanted them to be permanent, and didn't have any colors that weren't washable. It was fun, and it really did seem to inspire some creative play with the boys. So far, the cork people have been on a school bus, in a car transporter, and on a trip to Chicago. Random, but fun. Just like the kids. :)

Making fireworks!

I saw the idea for this project on several blogs, and unfortunately cannot remember which ones, so I'll start with the confession that I am shamelessly copying this from others! The fourth of July was super for us...we stayed here in town and went to a great local parade and saw some fireworks in the park. Before we went, we made some fireworks of our own.

Okay, so my pictures are out of order, and I don't feel like moving them around. First, we took a dropper (from the drugstore--let's just say we collect a lot of these during cold season) and dipped it in some red and blue Crayola paint mixed with water. I made the dots on the boys sheets and they took straws and blew air directly over the dots, which caused the dots to splatter like fireworks.
Joey was a bit young for this activity, and I was happy to see that the paint was non toxic after he sucked some up instead of blowing air on to it. John Paul really got a kick out of this, and wanted more and more paint--he LOVES projects. Joey just kept yelling to our neighbor, "Gavin, I'm doing a pro-dect!" It was really fun.

Then we practiced water transfer with our leftover paint and water, just to work on finger strength and because it was fun.
Happy Belated Fourth everyone! God bless America!

Friday, July 3, 2009

A Grateful Day

Most of my posts focus on the kids' projects, but I'm straying a bit this week. Please bear with me! :)

This week has been a hard week, but a great week. I held my best friend's hand in the waiting room of a hospital as she waited to hear if her husband had pulled through his risky surgery. It was such a blessing to get to share that day with her, and try to even slightly ease the burden of the huge cross she was carrying. Praise God that the surgery went SO WELL, even better than expected. Thank you to EVERYONE (there were hundreds of you) who prayed for his surgery and his recovery.

It also helped me to count the blessings in my own life. I hugged my husband a little tighter this week and tried to love him a little better and thank him for being the amazing man that he is. Because there is nothing like a trauma or a tragedy to help you realize how blessed you are and how much you really have to lose. Our lives are suspended by total grace and at any moment the things we have could be gone. So I thank Holly and Joseph and their situation for reminding me of that.

Another reflection I had this week was about suffering. Sometimes life is just too sad for words. No one tells you when you're little to prepare for that--that your heart WILL break, maybe a hundred times, or a thousand. It's unfathomable to me how anyone deals with these heartbreaks without a strong faith in a Savior, and in a place where all suffering will cease; without faith in a God that KNOWS your pain, Who has FELT your pain, and Who will REDEEM your pain...Who will unite your pain with His to save the world.

Praise God for that.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Patchwork Reflection

I found out today that my Grandma Sue has cancer. We are not sure how serious the cancer is as of yet, but the announcement is calling me to remember the people in my life to whom I am so grateful for the many gifts they have given me. The picture below is of a beautiful quilt that she made for the boys, which is put to good use as the setting for many playful afternoons. This quilt joins many others the kids and I have received over the years, all filled with personal details that she knew we would love.

People show their love in many different ways. For Grandma Sue, these quilts are her labor of love. The time and energy spent on these gifts far outweigh anything she could have purchased for us. The gifts that God gives to us should be spent in service of our families and Him. Please join me in praying for my Grandmother. God bless.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Prayers Needed!

Hey everyone...this is a very important prayer request for our friend Joseph Rutchik, as well as for Holly and the girls, Tessa and Anna. Due to complications of Marfan's, Joseph will be undergoing another major heart surgery on July 1st, this time to completely replace his aortic valve. This is a very major surgery and all of your prayers would be SO GREATLY APPRECIATED! God chooses to work through secondary causes (us), so our prayers can and will make a HUGE difference!

July 1st is 9 days away, so those of you familiar with novenas, this would be a wonderful place to start. The family has a strong devotion to St. Joseph and The Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Here is a link to a Novena of St. Joseph

Here is a link to a Novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

For those of you unfamiliar with Novenas, please pray in any way you wish! We need to storm the heavens with our prayers to get the Rutchik family through this very very difficult time.

Also, if you'd like to see some updates as they happen, I believe Holly will be posting them as she is able on her blog, at Please feel free to follow her and her family through this difficult time and it's a great place to offer words of comfort and support.

God bless you all, and please join us in prayer!

Krissy Andrastek

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Bumble Bee Day!

So now that summer is here, and we moved, and we've got lots of other things on our plate, I needed something casual that we could do spontaneously with no preparation. I got the idea of doing Circle Time from Melissa at Chasing Cheerios (I don't know how to link yet) so I decided to try it with the boys (and Maria). It went really well! I chose bumblebees as our theme.

Bringing Home a Baby Bumblebee
Ten Little Bumblebees (To the tune of Ten Little Indians)

Running around and flapping their wings as fast as they could

What they look like
What they do
Where they live

See picture (and don't judge)

If we had the time to get outside that day, a bumblebee hunt would have been nice...maybe next time!

Number cards and counting

Well, I hope I'm doing well at hiding the fact that I despise math from my little students. I approached this activity with enthusiasm, even though I've been known to fail a math class or two in my day. I can handle counting, right?

I used regular 3x5 cards for the numbers and the items to count were packing peanuts that came in a package we got. When I do it again, I'll use something else because the packing peanuts were not a uniform shape and so they were harder to count. John Paul put one packing peanut under the one, two under the 2 and so forth. He got up to eight before it all became a little too overwhelming and he started making it "snow" with the packing peanuts. I was satisfied though because it was our first time with this activity, and who doesn't love making it snow with packing peanuts?

Patterns and Matching

This is a take off of another product made by Melissa and Doug--a pattern matching bead game. I decided I could mimic it with drawing patterns on card stock. It took a little longer than I thought it would, but the boys still enjoyed it. It was little easy for John Paul and a little tough for Joey, so I'll bring it out again for Joey later and maybe make a harder variation for John Paul when I get around to it.

I started with the lacing bead set made by Melissa and Doug that I got from my sister in law a couple of years ago. But if I didn't have this, I think this activity could be done with candy or household items. Some ideas would be forks and spoons, or Runts candies, or even paper shapes. The idea is to just get kids to match up the picture with the pattern given. They have to use visual discrimination to get the correct shape and the correct color.
John Paul is nearly four and has troubles with blue and purple. We have some color blindness in the family, but I'm wondering if it's just a skill he hasn't mastered yet. Anyone else out there with boys (or girls) have trouble with colors at this age?
Overall, this activity was good, although the prep time took longer than the lesson, which I'm not usually a fan of! But I can use the cards again, until the boys start noticing my less than stellar art skills...

Egg salad Friday

Well, I let the boys join me in making some egg salad, and it wasn't a total disaster! They had a great time cracking and peeling the hard eggs and the final product was delicious. We even set up a nice presentation so that when Daddy came home from work, he was very impressed.

Joey bit the egg with its shell on...I didn't expect that...sometimes I forget that even though he talks a lot, he's still a two year old!!

Some brotherly work in this picture...we had a really good time, and the boys loved using the cheese grater to shred the eggs. It was a lot of fun. And for once, John Paul ate his egg salad.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I think I'm back...

Well, after taking nearly a month off (forced, not chosen) I think the computer is back in working order and we also moved! We moved into a wonderful little duplex about twenty minutes from where we used to be, and it's much closer to Pete's job and in a nice little neighborhood. We love it so far, but as those of you who have moved know...moving with kids is always a challenge and I would say we're only about fifty percent unpacked. Alas. But it's coming along, and we are so blessed God has given us this wonderful opportunity for growth...

So hopefully you'll be seeing more John Paul, Joey, and Maria projects this summer! It's nice to be with you all here again!

Monday, May 18, 2009

My little Joey

Joey should always wear a cape and a helmet. He's such a special little guy!

Experimenting with Montessori

So I've been doing LOTS of reading lately about different educational approaches, and a few have caught my eye. Montessori is one of them, and mostly because it is such a concrete method of learning and it really gives kids practice for every day tasks, AND increases attention span. (One of my problems) That said, I haven't read ENOUGH to really know what to do for these activities! So here's my shot at a bean tray. I took a box top and filled it with dried beans and a bunch of things I had in the kitchen. It was a hit! John Paul had a great time filling and refilling containers, listening to how the beans sound, and using a spoon to transfer beans. I could tell he was really focusing. When Joey woke up from his nap, he really enjoyed the bean transfer too. I am now almost 100% sure he is a lefty. Yay! I love leftys!

Anyway, I wasn't really sure what I was supposed to be doing while they were working on the tray. We practiced full and empty and less and more, and guessed which container would hold the most. I'll do some more reading before I do this again, but for the boys it was a big success. Until I took a phone call and the beans went all over the carpet. Now I'm afraid to vacuum, but at least they had fun!

An Impromptu Science Lesson

Daddy gets involved with our projects sometimes....this project wasn't even planned! I got this planet placemat from Walmart a year or so ago for 97 cents and the balls, we just had lying around the house. Think we have enough balls for the two boys?!?!

The boys had a great time comparing sizes of planets and deciding which of their balls would represent each planet. The boys really seem to enjoy science, so I'm sure they will be testing their mother, the least science minded person on THIS planet.
But I'm SO glad they have the itch to learn new things, so I'm a very good sport, and I hope I'll grow to love science right along with them!

Blessed Sleep

I've created a monster. Well, two monsters to be exact. Here at our place, we have some bed time bad times. I wish I could say that our only bed time problems were 100 rounds of "Can I have a glass of water?" or "I have to go to the bathroom again." But no, they're a bit more severe.

So...I call myself an attachment parent-er (I don't think that's a real word), but really, I lack commitment. I LOVE the feel of a tiny newborn snuggled up to me in our bed, nursing peacefully to sleep. And (for the record) I have felt myself called to this kind of mothering.

We ALL sleep really well this way for the first ten months or so. Then the honeymoon wears off. All the sudden, that sweet little newborn turns into a prowling lion, pouncing on his prey and exploring the savannah of our bed in the middle of the night. Seriously. Plus, they take up A LOT more room than they used too. And then I start to think I was CRAZY for letting them sleep there in the first place.

So now, I have two recovering attachment sleepers trying to encounter the world of sleeping alone. Not successfully, as a matter of fact. They sleep in their own beds, but bedtime is a looooooonnnnnnngggggg process. I used to lay with them to go to sleep. An hour and a half would pass and John Paul would finally drift off and Joey would finally sing himself to sleep. An hour and a half!?! These kids are supposed to be tired! Not so. I'm gradually getting myself out of the room...first at the foot of the bed, now on the floor. John Paul is nearly four years old for goodness sake!

Ever so stealthily, I'll work my way to the door. But Joey has a set of lungs that just won't quit and if he even has a hunch that I'm headed out, he'll let us and every neighbor within a three mile radius that his needs aren't being met. So tonight, I'll sit by the closet and meet those beautiful little needs, praying that I don't scar his little soul by saying "So help me, if you utter one more word, I will call your Daddy in here and he will mail you to China! TO CHINA, DO YOU HEAR ME?!?!?!"

Hopefully Our Lady will sit next to me, reminding me that although these nights seem long, too soon they'll pass and I won't be able to keep these kids from sleeping! And then, I'll go to my own bed, and snuggle my little newborn Maria in next to me, because some lessons are hard to learn. :)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Praise God for Toilet Paper.

I should have known better.

I should have known not to put a full roll of toilet paper on the dispenser like a normal person would. We are not normal here. :)

And I REALLY should have known not to ignore giggling coming from the bathroom. Ever.

But I was feeding the baby and checking my email, and for some reason, the giggling didn't register.

So here are the results. At times like this (and days like this) I have been trying to make myself say this little prayer. John Paul is a big fan because it involves yelling....Go figure.

Praise God! Praise God for clean bathrooms so the toilet paper on the floor can still be reused.

Praise God! Praise God for soft and fancy toilet paper going on sale...we should all be so lucky to use this stuff!

Praise God! Praise God for two healthy little boys who are curious enough to explore their surroundings and clever enough to try and hide the evidence. (I found the majority of the pile in their bedroom after the damage had been done.)

Praise God! Praise God that I did not lose my temper...which I have been known to do. :(

Praise God! Praise God for the luxury of staying home with my children to experience these moments.

Praise God! And most of all, praise God for the laughter of little boys, who can find so much joy in the little things.

Praise God. :)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Shapes and Colors and Joey...Oh My!

Joey sometimes gets left out of the educational mix...he has a different learning style from John Paul and I'm still trying to figure it out. But I made him some activities because the shapes and colors seem to still be a mystery to him. I'm not worried--I'm sure he'll learn when he's good and ready! But until then, these are fun for him to carry around! He was very excited to see that the shapes are in orange--his very favorite color! I laminated them in packaging tape (very high tech) so he doesn't have to be too careful!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Animal Matching and the Swine Flu

I got inspired to make another themed flannel board...because these are easy, I think they will be my main "creative" way to teach. I have been kicking around different ideas for pre-reading activities for John Paul, and I'm working on some word recognition with this activity. I remove all the names of the animals, and he puts them back. He did really well, but mixed up 'bear' and 'boy' a couple of times because of the beginning sounds. But that's a good mistake--it means he's really thinking! This activity didn't hold his attention the way I thought it would...but he was having one of those days anyway. We're cooped up at home because of a little swine flu scare out there, so I think he's a bit stir crazy! I also kept pigs out of the matching game because I'm a bit bitter about the swine flu myself.... ;)
Joey didn't like this activity, and because the two of them were in fine form, they fought about who would take off and put on the labels. John Paul usually wins those little spats--I can't wait until Joey is verbal enough to take him on!
So tonight we opted to watch a movie together--The Tale of Despereaux or something like that. It was cute and it really kept John Paul's attention because he's into knights and soldiers and all of that boy stuff. Except usually he wants to be the "bad soldier"...but that's another story all together. And it's late. Good night!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Our Virgin Mary Painting

Our topic at our Schoenstatt couples group this week was Mary. Sometimes people misunderstand the Catholic devotion to Mary. So just to clear it up--here is the scoop. We do NOT worship Mary--we honor her and ask her to pray for us. Because she was chosen to be the Mother of God, we believe she is God's most perfect creation. Honoring her does not take away from the glory of God--instead, it gives Him MORE glory because we honor His creation because He obviously did such an awesome job. ;) It's like looking at a Picasso painting and praising Picasso for how wonderfully he painted it. This does not "take away" from the praise to Picasso, it adds to it!

Speaking of Picasso, I've been wanting to let the boys paint for awhile, but I'm always SO afraid of painting with them, because let's face it--they can be walking disasters. (I mean that in the most loving way possible.) So I was just waiting for inspiration to strike, and our couple's group was it! We were encouraged to invite Our Blessed Mother into our house--not as a guest, but TO LIVE HERE with us! And she would be delighted to intercede (pray) for us and help us accomplish (through Christ--don't get nervous) anything we need to get done.

I LOVE Mary, but I often forget to keep her very close to me, especially in my day to day life--things like paying the bills, making supper, cleaning the house, and raising my children, etc. BUT she wants to help with all of that! So I decided to have the boys help me paint a picture of our Blessed Mother to help remind all of us how much she loves us. The boys have a special love for her too, so they were delighted to use the paints, especially "Blessed Mother Blue." :) It was a great time, and I really didn't lose my patience much with the boys....must have been Mary!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Pizza Friday

On Friday, we try to have "Friends and Family" Day, an idea I'm sure I copied from somewhere else. We were going to try and write some letters, but unfortunately it didn't happen. So I combined learning with our family supper, and the boys were able to assemble our homemade pizzas. They loved it! We made a mushroom pizza for the boys, and a bell pepper and onion pizza for the parents. :)

We have really been trying to work on colors with Joey, and every time you ask him a color, he still says white or orange. :) Funny. So the bell peppers were a lesson in themselves. He really liked the red ones. Daddy helped him spread them out.

Making homemade pizza was very nostalgic for me...I remember how my Mom used to roll out the dough and let us help spread the sauce and sprinkle the cheese. I hope that this is a tradition that I can keep up with my family. I love traditions!!!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Friday for the Boys

Today, Mommy took the day off from anything educational! Pete had off today, so he took his little fellows to the park and on a hike in the woods. Apparently, they had a blast, and they came back dirty and tired, the best way to end a day if you're a little boy. I heard about a squirrel, a goose, a stream, and a really big hill. I guess John Paul ran really fast down the hill....until he fell right on his face. "I only cried a little bit," he told me.
Joey decided not to nap today, and instead spent the better part of an hour singing Old McDonald and the 12 Days of Christmas as he lay in his bed. Oh Joey, what a sweet boy you are!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Stringing Beads

I wasn't sure what kind of educational endeavors we'd end up with yesterday. It was a busy day, full of doctor visits and music classes. So I pulled out some stringing beads, made by Melissa and Doug and thought I'd let the boys play with them.

It turned out great! They were able to do their "own thing" at their own levels and both of them benefitted. John Paul really enjoyed stringing the beads onto the cord, which is good because sometimes I worry he doesn't get enough hand-eye coordination activities. But he did really well, and especially enjoyed swinging his finished product around like a weapon. It became his "lucky letter lasso" like on Super Why, his favorite cartoon. Then he insisted I call him WonderPig for a while. I had no problem with that. :)

Joey enjoyed sorting the shapes and colors, although every time I ask him a color, he responds with "White!" Unless it's orange...that seems to be his favorite color and he associates it with the fruit. He is really getting his one to one ratio down...which means that he can count objects and actually attach one number to each object, instead of randomly spouting off the numbers. He can get up to four or five before he starts to get a little crazy.

I would have taken more pictures, but my dear sweet sons were both pantless. It was one of those days...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Some Lessons Learned--Earth Day!

Yesterday was Earth Day. And because Joey was sick, we were quarantined to the apartment, which meant lots of time for educational fun. I really like flannel board activities because they are so cheap and easy and there is so much flexibility. I love not having to buy anything for activities!!! I decided we'd study the weather, so I made pictures of a sun, clouds, wind, etc. (Have you ever tried drawing wind?) Then I made separate pieces with the words "sunny, cloudy, windy, etc." Then I showed John Paul which ones went together and then mixed them up. He did REALLY well! He used the first letter of the words to match them with the picture. Like when he looked at the word "Sunny," he knew it started with an S and could match it up with the Sun, which he also knew started with an S. I was very impressed!

Then we played "Plant or Animal." I made two headings and eight small pictures of plants and animals. We talked about some of the differences between plants and animals, and John Paul was easily able to make the abstractions and separate them. Woohoo!

Meanwhile, Joey played with a flannel board "puzzle." He also loved making the noises of the animals I was drawing. He did a pretty good job of not distracting us too much!

Above all, we tried to stress that God made all of creation for us, and we focused on the first part of the Baltimore Catechism: Who made the world? God made the world! Who is God? God is the Creator of heaven and earth, and of all things!

Last night, after a long day, John Paul put hand soap on his toothbrush and tried to brush his teeth. I think he learned more in that instant than he had all day. Lesson learned. I hope.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Today has been brought to you by...

1. Today has been brought to you by Children's Tylenol.

John Paul and Joseph woke up horribly cranky today. I wasn't surprised--we'd been fighting a piddly spring cold/flu for a little while and it's now starting not to be so piddly any more. I'm pretty sure Joey has an ear infection, but thankfully the Tylenol really seems to help with the pain and crankiness. John Paul, being the little drug seeker that he is, really wanted to join Joey in the 'sick' category. Now, I am not nearly as savvy as John Paul--he has shown on more than one occasion that he is very capable of outwitting me. So I faced a conundrum. Do I give him the medicine and meet his drug seeking tendencies, or deny him the medicine and possibly have him endure some real discomfort? (This option would also produce some real discomfort for this Mommy.) So I left it to Pete, who of course, decided to go with giving him the medicine, like any good husband should. So we are in a productive and happy drug induced place. :)

2. Today has been brought to you by Folger's Coffee.

Not specifically Folger's, actually. We're trying our tastebuds at the WalMart brand, and it's proving itself to be severely lacking--even for me, and I put enough cream and sugar in mine to singlehandedly support the dairy and sugar cane industry. (I'm new to coffee and kind of feel like a poser.) But today I sucked it up and had two and a half cups because last night, I was surrounded by my three loving, loving children who all had the same intense desire to be as close to me as humanly possible. They wanted nothing to do with Pete, who was actually alert enough to care for them. He found himself exiled from the bed by shouts of "No! I want Mama!" Of course, it ended up being a blessing in disguise because I was able to feel that Joey's temperature was reaching epic proportions (over 102 under his arm!) and we could deal with that before he got inconsolable. So hooray for coffee after a long night!

3. Today has been brought to you by the letter O.

O is for Onion rings, which we had for lunch today. Only I don't call them Onion Rings, because someone who shall remain nameless thinks that he doesn't "wike" onions. So they are Os. And I even put the ketchup in the shape of an O. Because I'm awesome. And that's what awesome Mommys do. Except maybe the fact that I viewed onion rings and ketchup as a complete lunch makes me a bit less awesome. Oh well, you do what you can! ;)