Friday, November 30, 2012

"Peek-a-Moo" by Marie Torres Cimarusti

I've decided to share some of my kids' favorite books here, since it can be so hard to wade through the millions of children's books and figure out which one are worth reading or buying.  Today, I'm posting about a book that Mercedes received for her birthday a few years ago, and that Abigail now loves as much as Mercedes did at her age.  It's called Peek-a-Moo by Marie Torres Cimarusti.

The concept is simple -- different barnyard animals play "peek-a-boo," except they say things like "peek-a-oink" or "peek-a-baa," according to what sound they make.  You get to pull their paws down to reveal their faces, which is great fun, and this is a fun way to learn the different noises animals make too.

The pictures are bright and simple, and this is a great book for babies and toddlers.  We often read it 4 or 5 times in a row because Abigail loves it so much.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Trucker Sandwiches

My goodness, has it really been a week since I posted here?  I guess Thanksgiving took more out of me than I realized.  At any rate, I'm back, and today I'm sharing a recipe we made up ourselves.  It was inspired by an article my husband read in an old National Geographic.  I have no idea what the article was about, but in it they described sandwiches that truckers would get at truck stops that have the whole meal between slices of bread, side dishes and all.  We thought that sounded nifty, so we made up our own version.  Here it is:

Trucker Sandwiches


12 slices sourdough or rye bread 
12 slices processed Swiss cheese 
2 oz. sliced corned beef 
1/2 lb. French fries 
1/2 lb. deli coleslaw 


Fry the fries in oil in a skillet. Meanwhile, place corned beef on 6 of the bread slices, layer a slice of cheese on every piece of bread (on top of corned beef on those 6 slices), and broil until the cheese melts. Using a slotted spoon, scoop the fries onto the bread slices that have corned beef on them. Top with a spoonful of coleslaw and remaining bread.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Bulletin Board

Here is our Thanksgiving-themed bulletin board.  Every school day for the past couple of weeks, Daniel and Mercedes have each thought of one thing they are thankful for.  Then they choose a piece of paper shaped like a pumpkin, cross, or turkey, and I write down what they're thankful for on that paper.  As you can see, they're thankful for a pretty wide variety of things.  Mercedes tends to pick whatever she happens to be playing with, looking at, or eating at the moment.  From her, we got things like "chicken nuggets" and "laundry."  Daniel, being twice as old, usually takes his time and thinks of something he's really glad to have.  He's the one who came up with "the coffee table" (they play and color and climb on it all the time) and "being able to buy stuff."  Mercedes came up with being thankful for people -- she said she was thankful for Daniel, which prompted Daniel to say he was thankful for Abigail, hee.  

Anyway, I made all this from a set of scrapbook paper I got at Target from their dollar bins -- very inexpensive and awesome.  It came with 6 big patterned papers and 4 sheets of one color each.  I cut the patterned papers into quarters and stapled them to the board to make a sort of patchwork quilt look, and then used cookie cutters to cut out the shapes from the one-color sheets.  We've been memorizing Bible verses every week, and I used the fourth sheet to write those on so they match somewhat too.  The first couple verses we did were the ones you commonly hear around Thanksgiving, like "Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever."  (Psalm 118:29, among others.)  Now we've switched to Daniel's memory verses from Sunday School, but in a week or two, we'll switch to Daniel's piece for the Christmas program.  Exciting times!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Markers and Cars

If, like me, you need some quick, easy, fun activities to keep little hands occupied this week while you're gearing up for Thanksgiving, here's a fun idea I ran across on Pinterest:  tape markers to toy cars and drive them across paper.

My two kids declared this was "crazy fun" and keep asking to do it again.  I recommend using washable markers, as then if they get a little excited and drive off the paper, there's no real harm done.

The original idea can be found here.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Barbecue Lasagna

Ohhhhh, how yummy this is on a cold autumn evening!  I love the contrast of the sweet and savory flavors here, and all that scrumptious melted cheese -- so delicious!  This one does take quite a bit of work, but not more than most lasagnas.  Daniel loves chopping up bell peppers, so he was happy there was a whole one to cut up for this.

Barbecue Lasagna


1 lb. ground Beef
1 cup ketchup
1 green pepper – chopped
3/4  cup onion – chopped
1/2  cup brown sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
4 tsp. cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. mustard
1 clove garlic – minced
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4  tsp. chili powder
1/4  tsp. lemon pepper seasoning
9 lasagna noodles - cooked
2 cups shredded Mozzarella
2 cups shredded Cheddar
1 cup Cottage cheese
1 egg
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese


Fry beef, drain fat, and set meat aside.  Combine next 13 ingredients in a large skillet.   Bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.   Spread 1/2 cup sauce in a 9 x 13 pan.   Layer 3 noodles, 1/3 of beef, 1/3 of sauce, and 2/3 cup each of Cheddar and Mozzarella.  Repeat layers twice.   Combine Cottage cheese and egg.   Spoon over top.  Sprinkle with Parmesan.  Cover with tinfoil and bake for 30 minutes at 350.  Uncover and bake for 20-30 minutes more, or until top is brown and melted and tasty-looking.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Sorting Game

Every Friday, we play The Sorting Game.  This is something I kind of made up myself, based on something my mom used to do with my little brother (hers involved dried beans), though I'm sure there are lots of people doing things like this.  But since my kids love this, and I made up our version myself, I thought I'd share it here.

First off, before I ever told them about this game, I started collecting different objects that I had in my craft stash or around the house.  I saved an egg carton and numbered each egg hole with a marker, 1 through 12.

Then I found little oddments to go in each of these.  One little peg person, three fuzzy little bears, four pieces of sea glass, ten round beads, and so on.  They had to be small enough to fit all of a particular thing into the designated carton hole.  I did end up buying eight little wooden pots that look like Winnie-the-Pooh's pots of honey (as Daniel and Mercedes are both Pooh fans) and twelve plastic "jewels," but the rest I had on hand.  I put them in a gauzy bag the kids can see through but has a drawstring so stuff won't get lost when it's put up.

I'd originally planned this to be an activity for Mercedes to do while Daniel is working on writing or math, but the first time I brought it out, I quickly discovered it was much too interesting to Daniel for that to work right now, so I've adapted the activities to be challenging for him too.

Like the name suggests, this is all about sorting.  I let them pour the bag out on a cookie sheet so we don't lose things.  This also helps keep them focused and on task.

Usually, we begin by just sorting everything out by what they are, bears with bears and jingle bells with jingle bells, etc.  We take turns counting all of one thing and finding the appropriate place for them in the egg carton.  Daniel's above this part, but I've noticed that in the last few weeks, Mercedes has really gotten a lot better at counting, and she's recognizing more numbers too.

Once we've done this basic sorting, we do more interesting things, and this is the part that challenges Daniel more.  Sometimes we sort by color, which is more for Mercedes too, but Daniel likes deciding if "white" and "silver" and "clear" should be their own thing or not, etc.

Then we mix everything up again and sort by some other method.  We can sort by shape, by size, by what the objects are made of (wood, plastic, metal, etc), what they feel like (soft, smooth, bumpy), and what they're used for (beads, stacking, telling stories).

We've been doing this every Friday for about two months straight, and I've swapped out a few pieces to keep things interesting.  But this past Friday, they seemed quickly bored by the sorting, so I think I will put this away for a few weeks, maybe find some Christmas-y things to mix in after Thanksgiving.  I might also incorporate some story-telling into this activity, like use the bears and peg fairy to act out "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" or something.  I was also thinking of finding some great big wooden beads in different colors, making them work for sorting here, and then also helping the kids string them on yarn to make necklaces or something.  It's a pretty adaptable activity.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Cause or Effect?

A couple months ago, an adult asked if Daniel was in school yet.  He said, "No, I'm homeschooled."  This adult looked at me and said, "Oh, really?  Well, I hope you make sure your kids learn how to behave normally.  I know a family who homeschooled their boys, and they are so strange.  Just, not normal.  They're grown up now, but they are still odd."

I replied with my usual patter about how I was homeschooled K-12; my husband was homeschooled for high school; I understand the need for children to learn how to interact with others, including those who are not their family members, etc.  I was as respectful as possible, first because this person was older than my own parents and deserved my respect, second because they obviously didn't know many homeschoolers and I wanted to leave as positive an impression as possible.

I've been thinking about that conversation a lot, lately, and things I could have said that would have worked better.  And this is what I wish I had said:

I might have couched it in somewhat more respectful terms, but that's really what needed to be said.  Don't point at homeschooling as the cause of someone's "weirdness" before you know whether or not they were homeschooled because their parents knew that for whatever reason, they would not fit in with other schoolkids, and they wanted to spare their children that trauma.

My kids don't have any conditions that would make them pointed out as weird.  They're not autistic, mentally challenged, emotionally challenged, or anything else.  However, both Daniel and Mercedes are very bright and very sensitive.  I don't want them to be made fun of because they're smart (like I was in college) or have their sweet, affectionate natures trampled on by kids made of sterner stuff.  And while I'm not just homeschooling them to shelter them, I'm grateful I'll be able to shield them from a lot of emotional drama while I'm at it.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Five-Ingredient Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chip Cookies

I've heard that recipes like this exist.  No butter to remember to set out ahead of time.  No flour, for those with wheat allergies.  Small, so I'm not eating cookies for two weeks (which I don't mind, but my wardrobe can't handle).  When I saw this recipe on Pinterest, pinned from this blog post,I decided to try it.  My hubby said he didn't trust it, and they would be just little globs of stickiness.  I thought those would still be yummy, so why not try it?

Five-Ingredient Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp baking soda
½ cup milk chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Blend first four ingredients, then 
mix in the chocolate chips.  Drop 1 1/2 inch balls with a spoon (dough will be very wet and sticky) onto an ungreased, parchment-lined cookie sheet. They spread a little, so don't make them too big.  Bake for 9 minutes. Let the cookies sit on the cookies sheet for 1-2 minutes before letting cool on a wire rack. Makes 12-18 cookies.
They're very crumbly when they're first baked, but the next day, they were very much a cookie texture.  And they were entirely yummy!  I'll definitely be making these again, and soon.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Hidden Pictures Fun

Remember hidden pictures?  Those drawings that had all kinds of random stuff inserted into the drawings, so a person's sleeve looks like a cup, or their hat has a banana in it.  My dad sent a couple sets of them to my kids as a surprise present, and we have been using them during our school time a day or two a week.

Someone came up with a completely brilliant idea:  make stickers of everything that's hidden!  When you find that pencil or book or golf club, you put a sticker over it.  This makes the whole process a lot more fun for really small kids like mine.  My five-year-old is a little past them (he rarely needs help finding anything), but it wouldn't be fair for the 2 1/2-year-old to have all the sticker fun, so we're sharing.  She can find about a third of the hidden objects, and then I give her hints for the rest.

We also got a set of the regular Hidden Pictures, which I'm keeping until we've finished the sticker set.  The advantage of those, of course, is that you can do them over and over because there are no stickers showing where everything is.  But they're harder, so we may hold off on them for a little while, or do them together a little at a time.

You can buy both sets here on the Highlights website, along with other sets.  These are great for encouraging attention to detail, the idea of perspective, and pattern recognition.  And they supposedly help develop depth perception.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Buried Aliiiiiiiiiiiiiive!

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.  (from SouleMama)