Saturday, November 26, 2011

5th Annual Family Gingerbread House Challenge -2011

Mr. Steady and I decorated a gingerbread house together the first year we were married. It wasn't much to look at, but we had fun!

We have continued this tradition, each year stepping up our game a little.  Our favorite part is the blind vote.  We ask our family, friends, and YOU to vote on your favorite (without revealing the respective designer of each one).

This year we branched out from the pre-made kits and designed our own architecture with graham crackers (not easy in the humidity!)
Here are this year's entries.... 

1. Tri-County is our beloved church where Tessie attends Bible Bees.....

2. The Farm House (as Tessie calls it) is our dream home.

Cast your vote in the comment box!
"And in to whatsoever house you enter say first, Peace be to this house."  - Luke 10:5

Thursday, July 21, 2011

In the Looking Glass - A Parent's Reflection

“The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him.” –Proverbs 20:7
A child first learns through observation, and as development progresses, though imitation.  In their diligent mimicry you will find a reflection of yourself, your words, your actions, your attitudes, and your faith. Anyone who has or has had a toddler is aware of their shadowing and echoing tendencies. When you are not even aware that you say or do something until you hear or see your 2 year old doing it, this discovery can be a rude awakening. We have all seen the cliché movie/comic/tvshow scene where a parent exasperatedly asks, “Now where did you learn a thing like that?” and the laugh track begins…. From the outside we know EXACTLY where that child learned it…from the only source available to him…the example his parents have set. 
 When my two year old put her baby doll in time-out, lovingly explained her offense and punishment, waited for an imaginary timer, made the doll apologize, gave her hugs and kisses, and warned her not to repeat her mistakes, I was pretty proud of myself.  Her language skills are just beginning to take form and I am always thrilled to hear her newest use of words.  When she asks me first thing in the morning, “Did you have good dreams?”, or tells me, “Good job, Mommy. I am so proud of you.” It makes me smile. I proudly recall using these delightfully familiar phrases before her speech arrived and it’s great to know she was listening. However, when she tells our dog “Stop barking, Sophie. Do I need to beat you?” or says, “yah yah yah” in response to a correction,  I am instantly humbled.  (FYI: We don’t actually beat our dog, it’s just a phrase I used in frustration when I didn’t know anyone was listening).
 Our pastor’s message last Sunday was about “having peace with God and having the peace of God” about your life.  I feel I can best assess the peace I carry about who I am by recalling something I learned in a child psychology course:
“When parenting is not delivered justly and deliberately, the worst case scenario is your children can turn out just like you.” So, I ask: Am I at peace with that possibility?  Am I okay if my children have the same limitations, fears, weaknesses, and vices as me? Will I have peace knowing my children have been passively trained to think like me, act like me, react like me, and cope like me? Can I look at my reflection with confidence? My child’s curiosity and eager imitations don’t take in to account who I would like to be or who I have been. Who I am right now is the example I am setting. My home, my lifestyle, my environment, my friends, my habits, and my hobbies are leaving a lasting impression on my child.   God takes the role of our Father, but in our disobedience and confusion, instead of yelling, grounding, or the dreaded “do as I say, not as I do”, He sent Christ as a living example for us to follow.
When my husband and I adopted I Timothy 4:12 (“….set the believers an example in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity.”) as our family motto, we dared God to make us good examples through humility and growth.  We challenged ourselves to become aware of our influence, our training style, and our modeling. We continue to strive to follow Jesus, in order to properly convey His example in our parenting. And when we wonder how we are doing…how much we have grown…or if we are still on track…all we have to do is look at our reflection: our daughter.
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” –Proverbs 22:6

…here is to knowing exactly where they learned it from…and being at peace.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Crazy Messy Fun - Corn Starch Goo - Fun Summer Activities

Is it liquid? Is it solid? Is it fun?
The answer is YES! 
See for yourself with this simple recipe:

 1 cup part water
2 cups parts corn starch
(recipe can be halved, doubled, tripled....)

 Not only is it an excellent sensory activity ( perfect for the sensory table ) but it is also a science lesson! Why does it have both liquid and solid properties? Why does it feel firm if tapped quickly?  What does Non-newtonian mean?   Try to answer these questions and more as you squeeze, drip, scoop, and poke this mysterious substance.

You can even add food coloring to it for an extra goo-like appearance!
CLEAN UP: It is better to just let it dry and brush it off than to try to wash it off while it is still wet.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Good Clean Fun - Sensory Table - Fun Summer Activities

Sensory development is key in early childhood, especially (NOT unless) your child tends to be overly sensitive to sights, sounds, textures, and temperatures.  The more familiar they can become with new sensations, the less anxiety will arise upon new situations.  During the toddler "explorative" phase is the perfect time to introduce the opportunity to explore. 

Sensory tables are ridiculously expensive and not always very practical to clean or relocate (those lessons were learned the hard way during my years in a classroom).  So, as our daughter got her sea legs and was ready to start exploring, my husband and I put our heads together to create our own table that was perfect for our curious toddler (then 15 months still enjoying it at 25 months).  

We started with a shallow, rectangular tupperware box with a well fitting lid. Then we basically built the frame around it with some left over plywood we had. We made sure all edges were sanded and smooth, then begin filling it!

WARNING: Please be sure to supervise your children during their "exploration" especially while they are still in the oral phases.

A few fun ideas for toddlers:
1. Water
2. Soap and Water
3. Dry Rice (with little bugs or small toys to bury and find)
4. Cooked Pasta noodles
5. Autumn Leaves
6. Flour
7. Shaving Cream
8. Cotton Balls
9. Finger paint

A sensory table can be a great, portable, easy to clean way for lots of crazy messy fun with older kids too!

A few fun ideas for ages 4+:
1. Ice Cubes
2. Sand with sand toys and shovels
3. Insta-snow
4. Oobleck  (1 part water, 1 1/2 parts corn starch....add food coloring if you want!)
5. Moon sand
6. Polymer Crystals

Clean up and storage:
Simply remove the box from the frame and hose it out, let dry and replace.  If the kids are still playing, but need to abandon the table for a meal or other activities, just put the lid in place to protect it from the elements, or curious critters. =)

Here's to a wet, soft, sticky, slimy, sudsy, rough, slippery, squishy, smooth, firm, and fun summer! 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Crazy Messy Fun - Marblized Paper - Summer Art Activities

This post contains affiliate links.
Here is another colorful project that I love sharing with my students (and my daughter got a kick out of it too!)

Here is what you'll need:
1. Liquid watercolor (LOVE this stuff!) or food coloring (keep in mind that food coloring is NOT washable and will stain your hands, clothing, and anything within spitting distance).
2. Shaving Cream....any old store brand will work, choose a scent that is pleasing because your paper will hold it for a while!  ( I buy the one for "sensitive skin" so the kids can play in it once the project is over!)
3. Stirring can use anything from toothpicks to popsicle sticks...whatever pointy object you have lying around.
4. Paper....cut it in to any size or shape before the project....or after!
5. A scraper (I use a shower squeegee...but a firm piece of cardboard, or a spackle knife will work!)
6. A hard, flat, washable surface - a table....a washable mat....even a plastic cutting board will work! here are the directions - so simple!
Step 1. Spray some shaving cream on the flat surface (about an inch or so deep and large enough of an area to cover your paper size)

Step 2. Drip some paint on to surface of foam in random order.

Step 3. Use your stirring stick to create a swirl pattern with the colored foam

Step 4. Place your paper, face down, on to the foam and press down all the edges (nice and squishy!)

Step 5. Remove the paper from the foam and place it on the table

Step 6. Use your scraper to remove the foam from the surface of the paper....VOILA!! The color stays!

Step 7. Set your paper aside to dry (dries very quickly and cannot be smudged or damaged, but will stick together if stacked while wet).

 You can use your completed marble paper for wrapping gifts, adorning cards, or framing!
Now, go....create! could get on to more important business, like.....

Or this.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Power of Prayer - Our New Family Motto

Our daugther, now 2, has entered the stage of development that we were warned about since her birth. "When she starts copying everything you do and say....that's when you have to START setting a good example."   And I am ashamed to say that we are just now "Starting" to set that example.  The last two years we have loved and nutured her and tried to teach her right from wrong...but our attempts were aimless at best.  Just before her second birthday my husband and I decided to officially sit down and work out our family guidlines, rules, boundaries, and goals. We decided our motto would be "Be an example to others" and were trying to compile a list of traits to accompany it.  Here is a great reference that we started with:  The 49 Character Qualities of Christ
We each made a list of our top 5 most important qualities then compared notes.  I chose my five with confident intuition. My husband scoured the Bible, looked up definitions and scripture, took notes, and finally made a careful list.  Ironically, we basically came to the same conclusions. But, after working on it a few days, praying for guidance, and frankly feeling a little frustrated, I opened the Bible from my youth and came across a bookmark that I had always treasured, but had long forgotten. The bookmark read:  "Don't let anyone look down on you for being young, but set an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity." ~Timothy 4:12

Old faded bookmark, same inspiring scripture!

I thanked God for his divine guidance and quickly printed, mounted, and framed the scripture in clear bold letters... As I found the perfect place to hang it, I thought of how benificial it will be to have boundaries, spritual expectations, and a clear reminder for our daughter as she learn to be an example of Christ's love...We were so proud to have our "lesson plan" all set to teach our daughter. But, when I hung it up and we read it over a few times, we realized those words are not just meant for her tiny little eyes and ears. They are a compelling reminder and a spiritual challenge for my husband and I (and all who visit our home) to be an example in everything we do, say, and are.

Overall it was a fun experience that helped us grow as parents and as believers. I reccomend digging for your own family motto no matter how old your children are...sometimes we need it more than they do, anyway.

Here is to learning and growing while you teach! 

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Crazy Messy Fun: Color Mixing - Summer Art Activities

This post contains affiliate links.
Whether you are a child or just a child at heart, a fundamental understanding of color will empower you to make confident decisions in your artwork and help create an order within the chaos of your creativity.
So, how does one go about "understanding color"?  Its a process. And analyzing a color wheel only gets you so far.  Most of us need to learn by making...

This awesome color mixing activity requires only a few recycled items and is entertaining AND educational! 

Here are the items needed:
1. A clear (or white) plastic (or Styrofoam) egg carton, cut in half.
2. An eye dropper (or medication dropper)
3. (3) applesauce containers (or small cups)
4. Liquid Watercolor (LOVE this stuff!)
5. Paper (optional)
6. Copy of Color wheel (optional)

You can dilute the colors (and extend the workability) by starting with a bit of water in each of the egg carton spaces.
Fill the three small cups with the primary colors (red, blue, and yellow)

Model the proper way to use the eye dropper...taking color from the primary cups and joining them in the egg carton to create new colors.

 Discuss the color combinations before you allow them to begin (older children) or as they are mixing (younger children).

 If all the color spaces have been filled and your child is still interested in mixing, offer a second or third egg carton (either wash that original one and use again, or use multiple empty ones) .

If you or your little artist would like to use their new unique mixtures to create artwork, provide white construction paper (on a mat, washable surface, or outside) and let them use the eye droppers to create a colorful masterpiece (you could also use a paintbrush, of course...but squirting is very fun!).

Here's to a colorful summer!!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Good Clean Fun: The Cardboard Box

How great are cardboard boxes??  From my early childhood development education, I know that simple, open-ended play items such as a box stimulate creativity, problems solving, and brain development.  From my own childhood, I know that playing with a box is SO MUCH FUN!!   We have a toy box full of toys from friend and relatives for my two year old. My daughter picks through it every few days and plays for a minute or two with each item.  But, a cardboard box.....that's more fun that a barrel of monkeys! Or a wind-up dog....or a singing duck...or any other complicated invention that has been created to "entertain" children.  Children are designed with their own built-in's called imagination!!  And an empty box seems to unlock it best. Next time you walk down the toy isle at Target, have the courage to walk right past the Rescue Heroes and Barbie walk past the Tickle Me Elmos and the Leapsters....past the video games and dvds...past the Webkins and Bakugan cards...and go home and give your child an empty box!

 Look...a boat!!

A turtle shell!

  A house!

 A secret hideout!

A "cool bus" (school bus)

And Noah's ark!!

Here's to a child's imagination....and the courage to use it!