Monday, January 30, 2012

A Busytown Birthday Party

And a boy who's 5 today!

Yep, five years ago today, my water broke in a gush around 2:30am, kick starting my labor. My boy, who I thought would never come out (he was over a week due), was born at 5:45am, at a whopping 10 lbs, 9 oz. He was all shoulders and chubby cheeks.

For his fifth birthday, Critter wanted a "surprise" party. We typically do not do the party scene except for first birthdays, but after attending two of their cousins in the last few months, both boys requested we have parties. We thought it was a fun idea and said yes, figuring this would give more opportunities for our family to see the new baby as well.

So Critter knew he was having a party, but he did not know the theme. We went with Busytown, a Richard Scarry invention. The kids love the TV shows, Busytown Mysteries, and I do too. Of course, I love the books as well, and so do they. My favorite as a kid was Richard Scarry's Best Storybook Ever! 

Richard Scarry was born in Boston, Massachussetts in 1919. He was married to Patricia Scarry, also a children’s writer. Their son Huck carries-on Richard Scarry’s work today. Richard Scarry passed away at his home of Gstaad, Switzerland in 1994. Whenever asked how old he was, he would always put up one hand and laugh: ” Five!” How appropriate that his characters take the stage for Critter's party.

Some books and a game.

Kiddie favor bags - glued on images and the bags filled with a coloring page, a coloring page activity, magnifying glass, "mystery" jelly bean candies, small notepad and pencil, and a party blower.

Cupcakes with Busytown character toppers (bought off Etsy). Recipes from my favorite dessert book, The Allergen-Free Baker's Handbook by Cybele Pascal.

I had planned on having a "Cake Mystery" where the kids followed clues to find Critter's cupcakes, but Miss Z waylaid my plans, deciding to stay up and fuss for a good 36 hours so I had to do everything the night before the party. At 12:30am, icing the last of the cupcakes, I decided to leave them in full view, and go to bed instead.

My favorite piece of the theme party were the invitations. They were too cute to resist. I found them on Etsy here.

Overall, we had a nice party. Critter loved it. Miss Bear was disappointed to learn that none of the presents were for her. And we sorely missed the family who were unable to make it due to illness, distance, and work obligations.

Have you heard of Happy Nappers yet? My kids LOVE them. This present stole the day.

Happy 5th birthday, little BIG man!

“I’m not interested in creating a book that is read once and then placed on the shelf and forgotten. I am very happy when people have worn out my books, or that they’re held together by Scotch tape.”
— Richard Scarry

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Winter Unit Study: Book List

Winter books abound at the library. Just grab whatever you have and go with it! Here were the boys' favorites from the stack we picked up for our Winter Unit studies (week 1 and week 2).

The Mitten by Jan Brett. The kids loved how the animals all fit in one mitten. They thought it was funny how the mitten stretched out. And, it was fun to make our mitten and animals to re-enact the story.

Henry and Mudge in the Sparkle Days by Cynthia Rylant (included audio cd) - these books bring on dog fever bad in Skipper. One day...

Polar Bear Night by Lauren Thompson. This is a short, very sweet book about a young cub out exploring at night only to return home to his mom in his den.

White Snow Bright Snow by Alvin Tresselt. Watch out! Snow is coming! This book tells of the townsfolk reaction, both old and young.

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. Young Peter is out exploring. We love books by Ezra Jack Keats - no matter how old you are, they are appealing.

Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner. A cute book about the antics of snowmen at night. The pictures were great.

Winter Unit Study: Week 2

I had many more activities planned for our second winter study week, but fatigue and feeling under the weather prevented many of our activities to go by the wayside. But it definitely was still a lot of fun. I really have missed being so hands-on with the kids.

The Mitten

We read "The Mitten" by Jan Brett, and followed up with a craft project. The kids colored some card stock animals to match up with the story, and then cut out the mittens and animals. Once the mittens were stapled together, we re-read the book and acted out the story. The kids had fun re-creating this throughout the week.

Critter went by numeric number and Skipper had to answer some simple math problems.

Critter and Skipper cut out and created their own mini book. They thought it was cute.

And of course, we read from our book basket (book list to come).

Ideas I had planned but never got around to:
  • Hibernation and a hibernating bear craft.
  • Looking at birds, migration, and feeding the birds.
  • ABC's of winter - coming up with a word for each letter of the alphabet to describe winter.
  • Marshmallow math (for place value).
  • Snowman at Night activities.
  • Ice sculptures.
  • Ice cube boats.
  • Shaving cream "snow" fun.
  • Make (and drink) frozen juice "igloo" blocks.
  • Make hot cocoa.
  • Experiment with ice - where it melts the fastest.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

February Liturgical Plans

Monthly Devotion: the Holy Family

As we are slowly getting into a new routine, I feel the necessity of adding some fun, family time back into our schedule. We have all been a little tense, tired, and out of focus. How appropriate to look at the Holy Family as an example for my own. It is time to refocus on family prayer, giving to others, and creating memories together. It is shaping up to be a busy month and I would hate for it to fly by without intentional family moments.

Groundhog Day // Candlemas (February 2nd)

  • A special prayer and candlelit meal.
  • Telling of the presentation story using our stick puppets.
  • **New** Make roll change candles for the collection basket at Mass.
First Friday (February 3rd)

We have plans with our local Catholic homeschooling families to attend morning Mass, followed by an activity. This month we will look to Our Lady of Lourdes, and make a homemade grotto to giveaway to our Catholic brothers and sisters in nursing homes.

Our Lady of Lourdes (February 11th)
Saint Valentine's Day (February 14th)
  • Create cards to mail out before date. Marble roll hearts (using rimmed cookie sheets and paper hearts) for the grandparents, and cards for our parish's priests.
  • Me - send love messages to the kids.
  • Me - send "vows to my valentine" for my husband.
  • Craft - St. Valentine mosaic.
  • Hearty bagels for breakfast and a spaghetti dinner.
Miss Z's Baptism (February 19th)
President's Day (February 20th)
  • Mention that on this day John Glenn first orbited the Earth in 1962.
  • Do a family project - paint a patriotic pot to eventually plant bright, sunny marigolds.
Mardi Gras (February 21st)
  • Wear masks and beads, and dance to fun music after dinner before hiding the Alleluia.
  • Pancakes - at some point in the day!
I am working on our Lenten plans as well since it is just around the corner, and time is flying by!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

St. Francis de Sales

"Be at Peace," by Saint Francis de Sales

Do not look forward in fear to the changes in life; rather, look to them with full hope that as they arise, God, Whose very own you are, will lead you safely through all things; and when you cannot stand it, God will carry you in His Arms.

Do not fear what may happen tomorrow; the same understanding Father Who cares for you today will take care of you then and every day.
He will either shield you from suffering or will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.

Saint Francis de Sales, pray for us!

Friday, January 20, 2012

What about God's will?

Be sure to put your needs first. This is me time. Am happy? Do really want to do the dishes? Do I really have to wake up and do the same thing as yesterday?

We live in a culture where the individual's will and well-being come first. Many expect immediate gratification, to be handed a "good" life, to always be happy, to get what we want when we want it.

God gave each of us a choice - a will to either follow Him or not. As a Christian woman, I realize this, but the question that begs to be asked is, what about God's will? In our culture no one blinks an eye if you follow your desire, but tell someone it is God's will, and disbelief and even anger follows. Is it really God's will that an innocent child die? That a storm wrecks havoc on a community?

But, what about God's will? If we, small and puny that we are, have a will, given to us by God, then why is it difficult to accept that God has a will? Who are we to question Him?

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts and your ways are not my ways, declares Yahweh." - Isaiah 55:8

As a Christian woman, I strive to know and follow God's will, and it is a struggle every single day. Each day I must sacrifice my will in place of God's, even if I do not understand His plan. I must endure and to have faith, to believe absolutely that God loves me and that He has a greater plan for all of us. Even if that means my life has difficulties. Even if I must carry on, day after day, feeling as though each day is the same. Even though I may not always be happy all of the time. Even when I cannot possibly understand His ways.

I must believe.

How sad it is for those who do not have faith to believe in God's will. How difficult times must appear to them who have no comfort in the belief in God's will, especially when it can be so hard even for believers.

You are here for a reason, and your life testifies to more than you have imagined. Don't be afraid to offer yourself completely to God. - from Wholly Mary

Let God lead.

**I do not promote self-martyrdom in self-sacrificing yourself to others. We have an obligation to care for our physical bodies, but first and foremost, we must love God and strive to know His will for our life.** 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Imagination Station

Last weekend we went for a short visit to extended family so that Miss Z could meet her aunts, uncle, cousins, and great-grandparents. On Saturday, the kids, my husband, and some others took a day to visit Imagination Station, a completely hands-on, fun-filled maze of activities. The kids loved it and I cannot wait to see it for myself! Here are some pictures to share:

With their cousin and Sid the Science Kid, a new exhibit that started this past weekend.

There was plenty of opportunity to dress up.

Miss Bear fighting fires with her cousin.

Boy paramedics. My question? Who left the baby in the back?

The kids' uncle up on the high wire bike.

My husband volunteered during the science show and had helium bubbles blown up in his face. He loved it!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Winter Unit Study: Week 1

**Warning - very long post! But lots of fun for the kids!**

While still pregnant with Miss Z, I knew I wanted to have some fun activities lined up for the kids post-baby - a way to do a little "school," to keep the kids busy for at least part of the day, and to just have fun. With Skipper's help, we decided to do a piece on winter and penguins. My requirements? It had to be hands-on, fun, and easy to bring together. I think it worked out. We all had fun, and it was a great reminder of what I want to get back to with our homeschool. So I have plenty to think on and pray about over the future of our homeschool.

The basis of our winter unit comes from Simple Schoolings Winter Unit Study (that I can't seem to find a link for), but I used many outside sources to fill in the gaps, trying to find something daily for each "subject." Again, simple, fun, and quick to throw together were all I required. When I asked the kids if they had fun this week and would want to do another week of winter, they said, "YES!"

Here's what we did this week:

Play with Language
  • Reading books on winter - full book list next week but a favorite this week was "The Snowy Day" by Ezra Jack Keats. What a great author!
  • Snow Rhyming - come up with words to rhyme with snow
  • Creating a Winter Acrostic
  • Copywork - This is a struggle for Skipper. His handwriting is not great whatsoever and it is difficult for him to sit and do copywork. I still have not figured out what trips him up so much, but this week I decided to have him work with a timer for 5 minutes, concentrating on his work - not necessarily finishing it, but trying his best in that time. This really seemed to work this week so I plan on doing more of this, gradually extending the time and trying to focus on details (he will completely skip out on the punctuation or put capital letters in the middle of a word or completely forget how to make a letter). Very frustrating when he does great in so many other ways! Skipper's copywork this week was from Ecclesiastes 3:1-2: "There is a season for everything, a time for every occupation under heaven: A time for giving birth, a time for dying; a time for planting, a time for uprooting what has been planted."
  • Reading a thermometer (and practice worksheets)
  • Snowman marshmallow estimation - the kids had to guess how many mini marshmallows would fill up the big circle on the snowman and then count how many actually did (they were way off!).
  • Telling time - nothing to do with winter but Skipper wanted to start working on it.

Studying science can be such a simple, fun thing to do with kids. Really, there is no messing it up. Science is observation and experimentation. The doing creates the learning. And kids love it. Plus, it can be easy. Just see what we did this week:
  • Melting colors - freeze colored ice cubes. Place two cubes in a zip-lock baggie and let kids "play" with them to melt the ice and change the colors. Also fun to see how cold ice is, how fast it melts, etc.
  • DIY dew and frost - take two empty tin cans, labels removed, and fill with ice. In one, mix with salt. In the other, add water half-way. Watch as frost and dew form. While you will see results quickly, it's even better after sitting five minutes or so.


Winter Landscape (Skipper) - "Ice Skating"

Winter Landscape (Critter) - tree and snowman 

Clay Snowman (Critter)

Clay Snowman (Skipper)

Glue Snowman (Miss Bear with my help)

Glue Snowman (Critter)

Glue Snowman (Skipper)

Paper Snowflakes

A Play on Food

Snowman pancakes

Snowmen ice-cream

Homemade ice-cream

Other Fun

Ice Mold Excavation: The kids loved this! I froze some winter-theme, water-resistant toys in our bundt pan. We had a beautiful day for playing outside and I let the kids have at it with a hammer, little pick, and a screwdriver to "dig" their way to the winter treasure. Neighbor kids drifted by to see what was going on. Definitely a hit! 

Snow & Geography: We took a look at a map of the U.S. and made guesses as to where it snowed the most. I also explained how winter storms develop. Skipper was quick to point out that tornadoes form the same way too (cold air meets warm air). He has a thing for tornadoes.


I found some cute winter songs to learn throughout the study. Miss Bear just loves to sing and dance, and Skipper is catching on to music as well. He only needs to hear the lyrics once and I catch him singing it all day. Very cute! We choose the Snowflake Dance, 5 Little Snowmen, and Ring Around the Snowmen.

And on Friday, we had our first real snowfall! Naturally my camera needed a battery charge, but the kids had fun playing in it. My joyful moment came the night before watching our cat jumping after flakes during his nightly jaunt outside.

I cannot wait to see what goes on next week to finish our winter study!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Two Weeks!

I am so, so happy to find that Miss Z has gained weight! The past 24 hours has proven to be a real change back to what I consider "normal." Miss Z is waking herself to nurse, is doing so much better with nursing and actually participating in it, and is alert more than just a few minutes at a time - and is very alert at that. Yes, I finally have an open-eyed shot! Now, let's hope that I sleep more tonight lying down than sitting up like last night. ;)