Friday, August 30, 2013

Things That Make Me Smile 8/30/13

Jake (7½), Alyssa (5), Zac (3½), Tyler (1)

Happy Friday! We're spending the weekend with family and friends and we have a lot of fun planned for next week, too. Have a great Labor Day weekend!

1. Zac: "Mommy, you're the best puller-weeder."

2. Zac: "I'm sitting on a thing that's under me."

3. Alyssa: "Sometimes when I eat too much, my tummy has a disappointment because it didn't want so much."


5. Zac, because Tyler kept getting in trouble: "We should put him in a little box and tape it up."

6. Jake: "Hey, Mom, could you make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without hands in a minute?"
Me, chuckling: "I don't know."
Jake: "Me neither. That's why I asked."

7. Alyssa: "One day, can we go to the junk yard and get some stuff so we can make things?" 

8. Jake: "What do you think goes best with ice cream?"
Me: "Hmm . . . brownies."
Jake: "I think anything you make . . . well, any dessert you make . . . A hamburger! That would be good, but much better by itself."

9. Jake, while playing: "We only invite handsome and pretty people, and you're the prettiest person we've ever seen."

10. Making triple berry jam with a fairy princess.

11. Me: "I ate too much. I feel like I ate half a cow."
Zac, innocently: "You do? Can I feel?" {pushes on my leg and makes a confused face}

12. Alyssa, after running around in 90-degree weather: "I'm already sweating in my armpits! I didn't even know that girls could sweat in their armpits!"

13. Jake, looking in the mirror: "I'm having a staring contest with myself."

What made you smile this week?

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Friday, August 23, 2013

Things That Make Me Smile 8/23/13

Jake (7½), Alyssa (5), Zac (3½), Tyler (1)

Happy Friday! It's been such a fun week - spent time with my brother and family, watched the kiddos try to catch their chickens and turkeys, went with them to the Armada fair, found some baby squirrels in our yard, baked a bunch of zucchini goodies, and enjoyed just being together.

1. Alyssa: "Tyler had his eyes open while we were praying!" 

2. Zac, while grocery shopping: "I smell something."
Me: "What do you smell?"
Zac: "The wind. I smell the wind."

3. Zac, after a turkey, that Leighton was holding, started flapping its wings and hit him in the face: "That's why God shouldn't have given them wings."


5. Zac: "My shirt smells warm."

6. Alyssa: "I'm a fast washer-hander."

7. Zac: "Hey birdie!!!"
Me: "Zac, you can't yell at them."
Zac: "But I want the birdie to come here."
Me: "But if you yell, the birdies will be scared and just run away.
Zac: "You mean fly away?"

8. Alyssa read to me for 45 minutes, just because.

9. Zac, about his melting candy bar: "Can you wash it off?"

10. Zac, licking the sugar off the brown sugar bear: "What's this for?"
Me: "You get it wet and it keeps the brown sugar soft."
Zac: "I'm getting it wet for you!"

11. Jake, watching me apply makeup: "Are you wearing base?"
Me: ". . . Foundation?"
Jake: "Yeah, well, they mean the same thing."

12. Zac: "The moon is glow-in-the-dark."

13. Alyssa, helping Zac write his numbers: "It's a little crooked right here."
Me: "That's ok. He's still learning."
Alyssa: "I know. I'm just saying it's not perfect. And that's ok. I'm not perfect either."
Jake: "And I'm not perfect."
Me: "I'm not perfect either."
Alyssa: "Dad's perfect."

What made you smile this week?

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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Things That Make Me Smile 8/16/13

Jake (7½), Alyssa (5), Zac (3½), Tyler (1)

Happy Weekend! I've been trying to get this posted for days, but we've been having computer problems. Thankfully, my live-in tech guru (aka Leighton) fixed it last night. He's so handy.

Playing in the rain, making brownies, organizing, finding a caterpillar, and keeping up with Tyler - just some of the fun things we did this week. Did you have a good week, too?   

1. Jake: "What's that silly word on Mary Poppins?"
Me: "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious."
Jake, impressed: "Wow! I didn't know you actually knew how to say it."

2. Jake, while going to the bathroom, frustrated because Zac opened the door: "Zac, you're supposed to knock on the door before you open it to see if someone is in here!"
Zac: {closes the door, knocks, and opens the door} "Can I come in?"

3. Alyssa: "Will you open the jelly, please?"
Jake, opening it: "Why don't you make yourself some muscles?"


5. Hearing Zac correcting the grammar of a 7-year-old neighbor boy.

6. Alyssa told me that she adjusted her doll "just like Papa does it."

7. Alyssa, while coloring: "Can snow be yellow?"

8. Alyssa, while learning to tie shoes: "I've already learned how to untie them by myself."

 9. Pandora commercial: ". . . It doesn't have to cost more . . ." 
Zac: "Yeah, it doesn't have to cost more. . . . hahaha, I was talking to him because he was talking to me!"


11. Zac calling a stegosaurus a spikeosaurus.

12. Me, about picking (and eating!) the veggies from my parents' garden while they're on vacation: "It's a hard job, but someone's gotta do it."
Zac, innocently: "But what if someone's already doing it?"

13. Zac, handing me a star "cookie": "Eat it for fake 'cause it's a playdough one."

14. Jake, while discussing his life's purpose: "I know why God made you and Dad. Because you're a perfect match."

What made you smile this week?

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Tasty Tuesday: S'mores Brownies

National S'mores Day was this past Saturday.

So, you know what that means, right?

We had to celebrate!

We've made a few variations of the classic treat in the past: s'mores in the oven, s'mores bars with Golden Grahams, s'mores brownie bars, and s'mores ice cream. I wanted something different this time though.

I started with a box of brownie mix and went from there, adding some of this and a little bit of that. And then a bit more of this. My little ones helped, of course, and insured that it was very s'more-esque.

I popped our creation into the oven and sat down with the whole family to introduce the kiddos to Disney's Alice in Wonderland. We laughed at the White Rabbit. We laughed at Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum. We laughed at the Mad Hatter.

We laughed a lot.

And I checked on the brownies. And rechecked the brownies.

We didn't have any mini marshmallows, like I had originally wanted to use, so I cut regular marshmallows in half and placed them on top. I wasn't sure if they'd melt before they burned.

But there was no need to worry.

Everything melted into a delicious ooey-gooeyness.

And we were so sad when they were gone.

This is one will be making again. Soon.

S'mores Brownies
1 box Duncan Hines Double Fudge Decadent Brownie Mix, prepared according to package directions
5 whole graham crackers, broken in pieces
13 regular marshmallows, cut in half
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Mix graham cracker pieces into prepared brownie mix and pour into greased 8X8 pan. Top with marshmallows and sprinkle on chocolate chips. Bake at 350° for 40-45 minutes, or until brownies are done. 

You could use any brownie mix or recipe, really. The one I used makes a smaller batch. If you choose to use another, but bake in the same size pan, the brownie portion will be thicker. If you choose to use another, but bake in a larger pan, you'll need to add more of the other ingredients, as well. You can also substitute the regular marshmallows for the minis.

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Friday, August 9, 2013

Things That Make Me Smile 8/9/13

 Jake (7½), Alyssa (5), Zac (3½), Tyler (1)

Happy Friday!  This week we went to the zoo, ate root beer floats, dropped Jake off at his very first "kids only" birthday party, and played with lots of Legos. I hope you all had a great week, too!

1. Alyssa: "I'm colder than a rotten egg."

2. Zac, whining, while playing: "I don't want to be a zombie. I want to be a person. Tyler can be the only zombie."

3. Zac, while playing make believe: "Mom, you're the mom and I'm the kid." 


5. Zac: "May I have some more yogurt?"
Me: "Yes."
Zac: "Aw, thank you. You're a good mommy." 

6. Zac, giving me a big hug and kiss: "I love you. You're my best mommy in the whole wide world." 

7. Me: "Sleepy, Grumpy, Dopey, Happy, Doc, Bashful . . . hmm. . . and who's the last one?"
Jake: "Gimli." 

8. Alyssa, after not seeing Jake for 3 hours: "I don't even remember what he looks like."

9. Zac running around wearing a super hero cape, baseball cap, and high-heeled princess shoes.


11. Zac: "Knock, knock."
Me: "Who's there?"
Zac: "Jelly."
Me: "Jelly who?"
Zac: "Jelly I'm gonna come and give you a kiss!"

12. Alyssa, frustrated: "Jake, you've been doing that for 16 years now."

What made you Smile this week?

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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

National Root Beer Float Day

Happy National Root Beer Float Day! 

As if we needed an excuse to celebrate.

Leighton and the kiddos adore root beer floats. (Remember when we made old-fashioned ice cream sodas?) Root beer is their favorite pop (I like it, but I'll take Dr. Pepper or Rock & Rye any day), and ice cream just makes everything better.

The kids ask for root beer floats almost weekly at my parents' house. Yeah, they're a little bit spoiled.

I've been planning to make ice cream for a few weeks now. My ice cream maker has been neglected for far too long. Yesterday was the perfect day to whip up a base, freeze it in the machine, and have fresh ice cream for our floats. 

Except I didn't. 

I just didn't feel like it, ya know? Do you ever have days like that?

We almost always have ice cream in the freezer, but the little ones finished off the tub a couple nights ago. Leighton, as always, offered to stop at the store on his way home and pick up some.  

And instead of making the pop with our SodaStream like we often do, we used IBC - the very best root beer ever. 

Pretty much, this was just a super simple treat. Scoop and pour. No time spent making the ingredients; no messy dishes to clean up.

But it's ok.

I think they approved.

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Wordless Wednesday 8/7/13

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BrainFood Learning



Fun facts.


Yes! My kids love when we can watch a movie for school. That's why I was excited to receive The Fascinating World of Mammals from BrainFood Learning.

BrainFood Learning was started by parents who were "looking for stimulating and interesting content that educates as well as entertains." When they couldn't find anything to meet their criteria, they created the "Fascinating World of . . . " video series. These videos about mammals, insects, and birds were designed to capture the attention of the viewer and teach a wide range of words and concepts.   

The first time we watched the video, we were on our way to an appointment. It's always a treat to watch a movie while we're driving, so the kids were excited. They were drawn in immediately. Since I was in the front passenger seat, I could only hear the music and talking. The kids were quiet except for the occasional yelling of an answer. The fact that they were speechless and totally focused on the tv was impressive. I leaned back a few times to see what was so intriguing. 

Each of the mammals is shown in his own habitat. The pictures are beautiful. I am not an I-love-to-touch-and-pet-animals type of person, but I am an I-love-to-look-at-animals-from-a-distance type of person. Later, when we all sat cuddled on the couch, I saw why they loved the video so much.

The 52-minute movie features 10 mammals:
  • giraffe
  • moose
  • lion
  • dolphin
  • elephant
  • beaver
  • chimpanzee
  • bat
  • kangaroo
  • bear

Each mammal is shown and described for 3-4 minutes. I learned some really interesting things watching this. Did you know that you can tell the difference between male and females giraffes (or bajraffes, as my 3-year-old calls them) by looking at their horns? A male's horns are bald and, a female's horns have tufts of hair. Or did you know that lions rest 20 hours a day? Now I know why they're always so lazy when we go to the zoo!

photo source

The video is great for all ages. Tyler, our 16-month-old, had no real interest in watching it, though that's typical of him. He walked around, playing and getting into everything, as usual. Starting with Zac (3 yr) all the way through me (31 yr) thoroughly enjoyed watching it. A few times, my hubby and I looked at each other in surprise at some of the facts. Really? I didn't know that!

Did you know . . . 
  • that an elephant can be right- or left-tusked, just like a human is right- or left-handed? 
  • that beavers mate for life?
  • that an alpha male chimp is not necessarily the strongest, but has best negotiating skills and the most friends?
  • that a bat colony can be anywhere from just a few to millions?

The first 35 minutes are spent learning about the animals. The remaining 17 minutes is a review of what you've learned. It starts with simple drilling of the mammals' pictures and names. From there, it gets increasingly more difficult as you review terms and facts. We had fun seeing who could be the first one to answer each question correctly.

photo source

 So, what would all this talk about animal facts be without a quiz, right? See if you know more than I did before watching this!

1. How much can a moose weigh?
     A. 2,000 lbs.
     B. 1,500 lbs.
     C. 1,700 lbs.
     D. 2,200 lbs.

2. How many teeth does a dolphin have?
     A. 250
     B. 100
     C. 50
     D. 75

3. How soon after birth can a beaver swim?
     A. Immediately
     B. One hour
     C. One day
     D. One week

4. How large can a bat's wingspan be?
     A. 3 feet
     B. 6 feet
     C. 2 feet
     D. 4 feet

5. Which is not a color of the black bear?
     A. Black
     B. Cinnamon
     C. Brown
     D. Gray

6. What is the size of a newborn kangaroo?
     A. Jellybean
     B. Apple
     C. Acorn
     D. Watermelon 

Did you know them all? If not, I guess you're going to have to watch the video!  All right, the answers are at the bottom of the post, but truly, you will learn so much more than these six questions from watching the video itself. It costs $14.99 plus shipping. There are also free lesson plans that incorporate reading, writing, and science. 

You can watch this short preview to get a better understanding of what the video is like.

Our whole family enjoyed this. I know that we'll continue watching it over the years.

Some of my crew mates received the DVDs about birds and insects. You can read those reviews and more about the mammals on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

Quiz answers: B, A, C, B, D, A
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Friday, August 2, 2013

Things That Make Me Smile 8/2/13

Jake (7½), Alyssa (5), Zac (3½), Tyler (1)

Happy Friday! We went to Maker Faire Detoit on Saturday. The kids had so much fun building and creating. I'm sure there will be a post about it . . . someday, ha. We had a big get-together at my grandparents' house on Monday. It's always a good time with family. The rest of the week was pretty typical with school, church, making plenty of messes, and having lots of fun.

1. Zac, about a cookie: "Isn't it pretty?"

2. Jake, while making chocolate chip cookies completely by himself, using my Kitchenaid: "When I'm older and know more about electronics, I'm going to create my own mixer. It will lock while it's up so it doesn't fall down while you're scraping the beater off. I'm going to make it just for you."

3. Gramma: "Do you want cinnamon bread?"
Jake: "No, thank you."
Alyssa: "It's Mom's bread."
Jake: "Yes, please!"


5. Jake, about Blueberry Frosted Mini Wheats: "This kind of cereal makes your mouth go wow."

6. Me, about a sleeping bag: "What color was the inside? Was it plaid?"
Zac: "No, it was squares."

7. Jake & me: "Blue."
Jake: "Jinx! You owe me an experiment."

8. Jake: "Hey, Mom, did you know that I can break a door down?"
Me: "No, I guess I really didn't know that."
Jake: "Well, I can. If there's a door I can break down, just let me know and I'll show you."

9. Me: "Why are you dropping that food on the floor?"
Zac, matter-of-factly: "So you sweep it up and throw it in the garbage can."


11. Jake: "I love mystery books. When I need ideas for my birthday or Christmas list, I'm going to put mystery books."

12. Zac: "Mommy, you're the best baker ever!"

13. Jake, tattling on Alyssa: "She's cheating more than I am!"

What made you smile this week?

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Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Homegrown Preschooler

If you have young kids, you need The Homegrown Preschooler: Teaching Your Kids in the Places They Live. There are not too many products that I say, Quick, buy this now!, but quick, buy this now! I've read many books, I've searched countless blogs, I've seen projects and tips and ideas. This book, by far, has been my favorite resource.

I enjoy getting products to review with the kids, but I love when I get a book for me. So, when I received my package from Gryphon House (an award-winning publisher of of early childhood resources), I tore it open and began flipping through the pages. It's full of pictures, and since I'm a very visual gal, I liked it immediately. You can't thumb through the book without wanting to open a bottle of paint, squish some dough between your fingers, or dress up like a pirate.  

The Homegrown Preschooler was written by two homeschooling moms who have 12 kids between them. I've never met Kathy or Lesli, but I like them already. They are very open and honest throughout the book. They tell stories, relate struggles, and prove that they are just like you and me. They're philosophy, that learning should be fun, mirrors mine exactly. I always say that homeschooling is learning in everyday situations. This book shows you how to make sure that happens.

The first half of the book will help you determine your values and goals for your family. It will also show you what the days will look like during this season of life. There are recipes, tips, and ideas sprinkled throughout.
  • Chapter 1: Homeschooling--Harvesting A Bountiful Life - helping you consider the learning style and unique talents and interests of your child
  • Chapter 2: Learning Through Play - helping you understand the importance of making memories, discovering, experiencing, and playing
  • Chapter 3: Sowing The Seeds--Preschool Learning - helping you cover all the developmental and educational bases so your child can transition into kindergarten (homeschool or secular) 
  • Chapter 4: Setting The Stage - helping you use your home productively as the natural environment for learning 
  • Chapter 5: Home Life = Learning--Slow Down And Teach - helping you find the lesson in everything
  • Chapter 6: Who Has Time For This - helping you find a schedule that works for you
  • Chapter 7: Organizing It All - helping you organize so the day runs smoothly
  • Chapter 8: Days And Seasons That Don't Fit In The Box - helping you cope on the unpredictable days
  • Chapter 9: Special Circumstances - helping you deal with illness, developmental issues, and adoption

The second portion of the book is full of developmentally appropriate activities that will set your child on the road of life-long learning. The activities are divided into target areas of growth. There's even a checklist to ensure to help strengthen each area. There are also plans for light and sensory tables and a Plexiglass easel included. 
  • Home Life - setting the table, mixing ingredients, washing the car, planting a garden
  • Science - evaporting art, fizz fun, nature table, bird calls
  • Gross Motor - animal charades, obstacle course, outdoor bowling, pop popcorn
  • Fine Motor - toe pick-up, kneading dough, lacing beads, placemat puzzle
  • Math - sorting beach shells, rhythym sticks, TP measuring, Mom's store
  • Language and Emergent Literacy - reading spot, sandy alphabet, playdough letters, nursery rhymes, songs
  • Art and Sensory - puffy paint, tongue painting, fruit stamping, stained glass art, fly guts
  • Social-Emotional - dress up, hair salon, post office, thankful jar

Not only does it list hundreds of ideas of how to teach your preschooler (or any child really), it describes each idea thoroughly. I've seen many of the concepts before and have executed quite a few of them in my home with my children, but there are some suggestions that seemed so obvious that I wondered Why did I never think of that? and others sounded so fun that I knew we'd have to try them. So many people scour Pinterest to find activities to do with the kids. The Homegrown Preschooler is Pinterest in tangible form. 

Between the slower schedule of summer and trying to play catch-up from various circumstances, I had started to slack in the play department. Sure, my kiddos always help in the kitchen and I strive to apply a learning attitude in our everyday life, but I wasn't being intentional in my playing with them. This book has helped me renew my love of intentionally playing with my little ones. I love when they're learning and they don't even realize it, when they're "doing school" but simply having fun.

The Homegrown Preschooler costs $29.95 and is worth every penny. Coming from a coupon-using, deal-finding, savings-loving girl, that's saying a lot. So, let me say it again, quick, buy this now. Even if you're not planning to homeschool, even if your children will one day head off to a brick building for education, give them a solid foundation for learning. I guarantee I will reference this book many times as we continue this journey.

Some of my Crew mates reviewed Global Art: Activities, Projects, and Inventions from Around the World, also from Gryphon House. Head over to the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog to read those reviews and more of The Homegrown Preschooler.

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