Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Over, Under, Beside, Behind....

No, I'm not talking about Sister Rosemary teaching us prepositions in the 5th grade!

For the past few days, Luke and I have been playing what he likes to call "The Hiding Game." I have him leave the room, and while he's gone, I hide one of his toy hot wheels cars.

My older kids like to call this the "Hot & Cold Game" and when I play with them, we use degrees of temperature to indicate how close the seeker is to finding the hidden toy. But Luke, who just turned 3, was pretty confused with the entire concept of "hot or cold," so I thought this would be a fun way to practice concepts such as "on" and "behind" and "beside" and "under."

So when Luke comes into the room, I give him clues using those words. I tell him is car is "behind" something. If he goes to the chair that is next to the couch, I tell him that his car is not behind the chair, it is behind what is NEXT TO the chair. Continuously giving him clues until he "wins!" by finding his toy car.

This is a fun game that he loves to play over and over and over.

I've just got to find more places to hide his car!


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Friday, November 9, 2007

Repetition, repetition, repitition...

When I was in the 5th grade, Sister Rosemary was my English teacher. On the first day of school, she handed out a list of 3 columns of words titled "Prepositions." She told us that we would be required to memorize these 20-odd words.

Every morning, after attendance was taken and morning prayers were recited, we got our preposition list out and, as a class, read the list of prepositions.

Every morning.

Every day.

About 5 or 6 weeks into the school year, Sister Rosemary told us that we could NOT take our papers out that day; she wanted to hear us recite the prepositions without looking at them that day.

Well, let me tell you.... about, above, across, after, against, among, around, at, before, behind, beside, between, beyond, by, down, during, except....

I remember that entire list to this day!

The routine I've adopted with Luke (3) involves lunch, then a book or two, then a song, then nap. Everyday for the past few weeks, I've been softly singing the ABC song to him as he lies down to sleep after we finish reading. Sometimes I sing it several times. But it's become our routine.

Yesterday, we were running errands in the car, when I heard a little voice in the back seat, singing, "A B C D E F G...."

I guess this repetition thing really works!


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Friday, November 2, 2007

Feelings. Nothing more than feelings.

We've been in need of a lesson on empathy around our home lately.

Not sure if it's because of the impending holidays, or because my businesses have been keeping me busier lately, resulting in (bad mom! bad mom! bad mom!) Luke spending more time watching television while I get work done.

Whatever the reason for the less than stellar behavior, I thought it was time I worked with Luke on how his behavior affects other people.

I made this simple print out. Basically a circle with a nose. The 2nd page has a collection of eyes and mouths. By cutting out the eyes and mouths, I was able to make a "Mr. Feelings" for Luke to play with.

Of course, he had fun making funny faces with "Mr. Feelings," but I used it as a teaching tool by showing him how his brothers and sisters felt when he broke their toys; or how mommy feels when he refuses to listen; and how Daddy felt when Luke gave him a big kiss before he left for work this morning.

I think it's so important that we teach our kids how much their behavior affects other people.

I'd love to send "Mr. Feelings" to anyone who's interested. No cost, just send me an email at and I'll send him right to you.



Thursday, November 1, 2007

Is there a lesson in there?

If your kids are anything like mine, they are completely FIXATED on their booty of Halloween candy they brought home last night.

So, how do we turn this dentist's delight into a learning experience for our children?

And I'm not talking about teaching nutrition here (although that would be a good lesson, too). I'm talking MATH CONCEPTS!

Here are a few ideas:

First, my kids have a 5-pieces-of-candy-a-day limit. (You may find that's too much, but in my opinion, they faster they get rid of this stuff, the better!). So this morning, they each got to select FIVE pieces of candy. 1-2-3-4-5. They chose the candy they wanted and counted it out. Counting, 1-2-3-4-5.

But now that they've selected the 5 pieces they will eat for the day, there are still lots more fun learning ideas inside that orange plastic bucket!

I had Luke (age 3) pour all his candy out onto the floor, and then he sorted out all the suckers.

Then, I had him sort the candy by colors: Orange candy wrappers in one pile; brown candy wrappers in one pile; red candy wrappers in one pile, etc.

The older kids (11, 9, and 6) were able to sort their's even further...chocolate candy in one pile, suckers in one pile, fruit flavored candy in another pile.

Another idea....M&Ms and Smarties and Skittles are fun to sort and count. Sort by color, then count how many of each color are in the bag.

Then eat them!!!


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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Exercising the Imagination

Our local newspaper is sponsoring a pumpkin decorating contest. Not the usual kind of pumpkin decorating, where a real pumpkin is used....but more like a virtual pumpkin, where a picture of a pumpkin is decorated.

The online edition of our newspaper provided a link to a picture of a pumpkin. Everyone (kids AND adults!) was to print out the pumpkin and using imagination and creativity, decorate away! The winner gets his/her creation published in the Halloween edition of the newspaper (how's THAT for a prize!).

When I mentioned this contest to Analisa and Quinn, they almost tripped over each other racing for the markers and glue and construction paper.

As I stood by and watched, I was AMAZED at their creativity and ingenuity! Never, in my wildest dreams would it have occurred to me to make a "Puppy Pumkin" (that's Quinn's idea!) or a "Franken-Pumpkin" (that belongs to Analisa). They also made a "Queen Pumpkin" and a "Princess Pumpkin" complete with crowns, big eyelashes, Angelina Jolie lips, and dangly earrings.

I was so impressed with how creative they were, I just wanted to share it on my blog.

It's always so important that we encourage creativity and imagination in our children. So let 'em go, and you may be more surprised that you bargained for!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Spelling Test Game

A family favorite in our household....studying for the weekly spelling test!


Many years ago, I came up with an idea that would combine my kids' love of card games, with their love of spending time playing with Mom, with their dread of preparing for their weekly spelling test.

The answer...the Spelling Test Game. Also known as The Matching Game. I just had to share this...

For a 10-word spelling list, I simply take a piece of paper and cut it into 20 fairly equal size rectangles. (For 15-word lists, you'll need 30 rectangles, etc.). Then I print each of the weekly spelling words onto two rectangles. Place all of the rectangles face down on the table and begin.

When a piece of paper is turned over, the person whose turn it is must read the word, and then spell the word. The object, of course, is to find the matching word; however, even a mismatched word offers an opportunity to read and then spell each of the spelling words.

We try to play this game several times each evening during the week. By Friday, without even trying, and without it even hurting, my kids have learned their spelling words, and we've spent some fun time together!


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Bringing Nature Inside - Fall Decorating Idea

Today, without a doubt, is a day that, if it had the chance, the Midwest Chamber of Commerce (if there was such an entity) would have special ordered. The sky is the bright blue that children color it when creating artwork; the air is clear and crisp; the sun is shining brightly (like those suns in the upper right hand corner of a child's artwork), and the leaves are turning the most glorious shades of yellow and orange and red.
Luke and I were playing outside this morning, and as we looked around at the trees, and Luke told me all the different colors he saw, it occurred to me that soon all the leaves would be falling off the trees. These spectacularly beautiful days of fall don't last very long.

I decided, then, that it would be fun to bring some of nature's beauty inside.

I lifted Luke up to reach the tree branches of a beautiful tree filled with yellow leaves (he said it was his favorite tree today). He plucked some clusters of yellow leaves, and we brought them inside when we were finished swinging and playing outside.

Using different lengths of thread, I hung the clusters of leaves on the light fixture over the kitchen table (which currently also sports Quinn's 1st grade Halloween artwork). My hope (and I honestly have NO idea if this will happen), is that as the leaves dry, they will begin to "fall" to the table, thus giving us yet another teaching opportunity, as we talk about how the leaves fall from the trees.

In the meantime, I just think it looks so pretty!

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Pumpkin Patch at Grandpa's Cabin

Without a doubt, our family's favorite place in the world to be is at Grandpa's Cabin.

It's only a 45 minute drive from our house, yet when we're there, it feels like we're in another world.

While the cabin is complete with hot running water, indoor facilities, a shower, a full kitchen, and, of course, a stone fireplace, the one thing that is NOT found at the cabin is a television. And that's the way we like it! We spend hours there playing outside, enjoying nature, riding the 4-wheeler, playing hide-and-seek. We often cook dinner on the open fire, and s'mores is always the favorite choice for dessert. When the weather doesn't permit outside fun, we have a stack of board games that keeps us entertained.

This year, Grandma and Grandpa bought a $2 packet of pumpkin seeds and tried their hand at pumpkin farming. Well, they ended up with a bumper crop of pumpkins, and no idea what do do with them! Afterall, our family only needed six.

So, the little entrepreneurs that are my children, they wanted to take all the pumpkins home (good thing we drove both the van AND the Suburban that day!) and sell them.

They set up a table on the driveway, donned their Halloween costumes, and flagged down passing cars. They were completely in charge of marketing (signs were everywhere in our yard), pricing, and selling. Within 2 days, they each had an extra $10 in their pockets!
What a terrific learning opportunity for them!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Teaching children responsibility

Do your kids do chores?

I was lining up the Saturday morning "chore chart" today when I got to thinking about the reactions I've received from many parents when I tell them about the chores my kids are responsible for. Most are envious that I get my kids to do these things, and want to know how I do it.

First, let me say that I was brought up in a home where everyone was responsible for something. We didn't have a "chore chart" (I don't think that term had been coined yet back in the dark ages when I was young....kinda like "play date" you know?). But every Saturday morning, my sister and I were responsible for dusting and vaccuming the living room/dining room, cleaning the bathrooms, and cleaning our bedroom. We also were in charge of cleaning the kitchen table off and washing (by hand) the dishes, drying them, and putting them away (no air drying for my mom!).

I will admit that assigning chores for my kids wasn't my idea. I'm a bit OCD, and like things done a certain way....MY way!

But one weekend many years ago, when my sister was visiting from out of town, she witnessed how I never sat still, I wiped up and swept up and dusted up and folded up and cleaned up non-stop around my covey of kids, while they sat contentedly in front of the television. She not so subtly pointed out that "those kids need to help out around here!"

So, thanks to Aunt Brenda, the chore chart was instituted! (See, it's never too late to get started.)

During the summer months, when the kids don't have school, they all know that in addition to practicing at least 10 math problems every morning (THAT's another blog!), they have to check which chore they are responsible for that day, and complete it to the best of their ability (or they'll just have to do it again), before they can go outside and play, or even before they can turn on the television (I'm the meanest mom in the world! Just ask my kids!).

The chores aren't difficult, or even time-consuming. Most take only 5-10 minutes. But it's just fact that they are contributing. That they are helping out. That they are pitching in as a responsible member of the family.

Here are some of the jobs they're responsible for:
  • unload the dishwasher
  • dust the furniture
  • vaccum the living room
  • sweep the kitchen floor
  • windex the appliance fronts in the kitchen
  • clean the bathroom sink and counter
  • clean the front steps
  • pick up the toys in the playroom
  • vaccum the playroom
  • shake the rugs

Some days they trade chores, which is fine. Just so everyone does one, in addition to making their beds and picking up their dirty laundry.

During the school year, the chore chart is only done on the weekends. (Except for bed-making and dirty laundry picking-up.)

It's a great system that works well for my family. And, as a fellow stay-at-home dad once said to me, "Wow! What a great idea! But what do YOU do all day?" (Right!)



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Friday, October 12, 2007

Teaching children through music

I LOVE to sing. My children HATE it when I sing, so that probably tells you a bit about my talent level.

I've been asked to NOT sing outside the house (and have even witnessed my kids scoot themselves away from me when I sing at church!), and have been kindly (and NOT so kindly) asked to PLEASE not sing when friends are over!

However, despite my obvious lack of talent, I persist. It pretty much drives the children crazy when most any every day phrase sets me off singing a tune that I'm reminded of.

A few years ago, when Quinn was 3 or 4, I was trying to teach her her address and telephone number. It occurred to me that all children learn the alphabet by first singing it. So, I thought to myself, why not learn her address and telephone number that way, too?

I set our address to the tune of "76 Trombones in the big parade" (I have NO idea why, but this tune jumped into my head, and the syllables fit, so I ran with it). I wish I could tell you the tune that I used to teach Quinn her telephone number (I think it's "Jenny....remember? 647-5309? At least I think that's what it's called.)

After a few weeks of singing these tunes daily, she could easily recite both her address and telephone number.

I'm using the same tactic now with Luke. Whenever we are driving home from whatever has taken us out that day, when we are about a block from home, I announce excitedly, "Look! We're almost home! What's your address?" And then we sing our address song, which leads naturally into our telephone number song, which then ends with "...that's my phone num-ber, Cha! Cha! Cha!"

Cha! cha! cha!


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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Learning Numbers and Shapes

Luke turned 3 last Friday....what fun! For weeks leading up to the big day, everything he saw, he pointed at it and said, "I want that for my birthday." (I think he may have learned that from his older siblings, who have also been having birthdays recently .... see my previous post about "Birthday Season" at our house.)

This week, then, I decided that learning to recognize the number three would be a top priority, as well as learning to count to three. And since we're working on threes, I also thought it would be a perfect time to teach Luke about a 3-sided shape called a triangle.

We've been busy counting three fingers, three cars, three books (that's how many books we read before nap time each day), three cookies (okay, he usually only gets 2 cookies, but I made an exception today!).

While running errands, we look for signs everywhere with the number 3 .... addresses, price tags, store signs, we even found "Row 3" in the parking lot at WalMart!

And for lunch today, I cut our sandwiches into three-sided triangles....pb&j never tasted so good.

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It's Birthday Season!

Our family is presently smack dab in the middle of what I call "Birthday Season."
Most families celebrate a few birthdays scattered throughout the year, but our big family has all its birthdays concentrated in 6 consecutive months.
Brandon kicks the season off (right after we celebrate our nation's birthday) in July (he's 20 now!); Quinn turned 6 in August (I had a birthday in August too, but I can never remember my age, so I just won't put it here :). Analisa is next, she turned 9 in September. Then Luke and Drake, on October 5 and 6 (yep, two separate kids, two separate birthdays, 2 separate cakes). So Luke is now 3, and Drake is 11. A few days after Halloween, while we're all still gorging ourselves on Halloween candy, on November 3, Victoria will be 18. Then in December is Jack. And, the grand finale....Jesus.
Whew! That's a LOT of presents, and a LOT of cake!
This was the year that Analisa got to celebrate her "school birthday" which means she got to have a birthday party with her friends from school.
My kids think I'm mean because all their friends seem to have big parties every year, where they invite the entire class to celebrate. But in my opinion, that's just too much. And honestly, it gets tiring to me (I know, I know, this can be a very controversial subject!) to buy birthday presents year after year for my kids' classmates (note: I didn't say my kids' "friends"). And in turn, I just think it's too much to expect my kids' classmates to buy birthday presents for my children every year. That's why mine only get one big bash...when they turn 9 in 3rd grade.
And after surveying the haul that Analisa brought home from her big party this year, I'm only more convinced that one party is enough. (I may be borrowing cash from her to fund my Christmas shopping this year!)
The other sticking point I have about birthday parties is the tradition of "goodie bags" given to the guests at the end of the party. After paying to rent a swimming pool and private party room, and feeding all the kids cake and ice cream, I just think the expense of "goodie bags" (filled with cheap toys that will most likely be broken within a matter of days, or candy that will cause "sharing" fights between siblings ) is extreme. So I just don't do them. I wish other parents would forego this unnecessary expense. In fact, I'd like to start a "no goodie bag" revolution!
Anyway, this post is a bit off topic, but it was on my mind.
Now, I've eaten a lot of cake lately. Time to go work out.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Let's Talk - Conversation Starters for Families

Jack and I are always trying to come up with better ways to engage our kids in meaningful conversation. Asking "yes" or "no" type questions rarely results in any kind of discussion that tells us about our kids' days, so we've learned to ask more specific questions about their days, i.e., "Who did you play with at recess today?" "What was the hardest question on your science test?" "Who did you sit next to at lunch? What did you talk about?"

While surfing the internet today, I decided to see if I could find other information on family type conversation starters that went deeper than school, questions that would help all of our family members to take time to talk and learn about each other.

I was thrilled to find this incredible site

The site sells, for just $5 (and I make NO MONEY from referring you there!) small paint cans (with a colorful label) filled with hundreds of thought-provoking conversation starter questions, from thought-provoking, to serious, to just plain fun!

Don't want to spend any money? Get this! If you scroll down to the bottom of the page (the tricitypartners link above), they GIVE you a link to where you can download the label AND the questions, completely free!

I've already got mine printed out, and I can't wait to get started interrogating -- oops, I mean talking with -- my family!


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Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Encouraging our children to try new things

When Victoria, our 17 year old, was selecting her classes for her final year of high school, she found that she was faced with having to tread some formerly unknown territory in the way of electives.

Wanting to find an "easy A" to help her GPA, she couldn't for the life of her decide which class to take.

Remembering her love of all things art when she was younger, I encouraged her to try an art class. She fought me on it, claiming that she couldn't draw. But in the end, it was the only elective that would fit into her schedule, so art it was.

It's been such a joy to watch her! She's discovered not only that she loves her art class, but that she's pretty darn good at it! (And, combining art with her love of Michael Barrett, she created the stunning pencil portrait I so proudly display here on my blog!)

This was a big reminder to me that that we always need to encourage our children to try something new and different. The same goes for ourselves. We just never know what we might discover!


Sunday, September 30, 2007

Making homework fun - ideas for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders

Off the path from pre-school activities, I wanted to share a fun way I've found to help my 1st and 3rd graders study for their spelling tests: A WORD SEARCH PUZZLE. I found it here and it's completely free. Simply type in their weekly spelling words, and make a different puzzle for every night of the week.

I've found that my girls enjoy working the puzzles, and it familiarizes them with their spelling words. They don't even realize they're learning!

There's also a free CROSSWORD PUZZLE MAKER . I use this for helping my 5th grader Drake study for a test. I spend a few minutes going through the chapter, find the important words and concepts that he will likely find on his social studies or science tests, and phrase a question or type the definition of the term. He needs to answer the question to fill in the blank on the crossword puzzle. Again, he's practicing and learning, and enjoying the challenge!

I make a different puzzle for him to work on for two or three nights before his test. It's done wonders for his test scores!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Circles are EVERYWHERE!

The kids didn't have school yesterday, so we went to the library. I thought while we were there we'd look for a book about shapes, but we saw so many circles on the way to the library, that I took lots of pictures and decided to make Luke his very own CIRCLE book.Before we even pulled out of the driveway, Luke looked up at the basketball hoop and shouted "circle!" (What an interesting way of looking at it!) Getting into the van, he pointed at the ignition and shouted "circle!" Along the way, we had to stop when Luke saw a large round bale of hay. Then, while sitting at a stop light, which last week he called "red" he now saw the red light as a circle. The library has a beautiful tower clock on it, shaped like a circle. And while we were at the library Quinn and I played a game of checkers (circles) while Luke "cooked" me lunch on the toy kitchen and served it to me on a circle plate.Who knew there were so many circles out there!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Shapes Puzzle

We're having fun with circle shapes today, starting with this neat circle shape puzzle I created on my computer, using one of my graphics programs.

I made this beautiful flower, using many different colors of circles, then I printed two copies of it.

One copy I left intact. The second copy, I cut out all the circles.

One by one, naming the colors as we went ("yellow circle," purple circle," "red circle," etc.), Luke laid the various colored circles on top of the matching circles.
I also cut out the stem (rectangle) and leaves (triangles), but 2 year-old Luke had a bit of trouble matching up the leaves. So I tossed them, and today we just concentrated on the circles.

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Circle Cookies

I'll admit it...I've had a craving for homemade chocolate chip cookies. I wanted to figure out how to incorporate cooking-baking into some kind of lesson with almost 3-year old Luke.

Circles! That's it! Cookies are shaped like circles!

So, we took a detour from colors (a much needed detour, because I think Luke was tiring of our color hunts) and are concentrating on shapes for a while. Starting with the circle.

We baked yummy circle cookies.

Hmmmmmm! Yummy! The best circle cookies we've ever tasted! And such a fun and delicious way to learn our shapes.


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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Red Light, Green Light

Yesterday afternoon, while I was working, Luke was playing with his cars on the living room floor.

I heard him talking to himself while he was playing, so I stopped to listen. "Red light. Stop," he said. "Green light, go now."

I was so excited and proud! I stopped what I was doing, crawled down on the floor with him, and played.

He truly is learning his colors.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Sorting Game - Teaching Colors

Today we played the "sorting game" to get more practice with the color yellow.
I filled a bowl with an assortment of different color Legos. Then, using one of the yellow napkins that Luke and I bought at the store last week on our yellow hunt, we removed the Legos, one-by-one, from the bowl.
If the Lego was yellow, we said "YELLOW!" and placed it on the yellow napkin. If it was any other color, we set it on the white paper plate.
When we were finished sorting, we counted all the yellow Legos as we put them back into the bowl.
Then---what else?---we played with Legos!!!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Yellow, yellow, everywhere!

Luke and I were playing outside yesterday, when he excitedly yelled, "Mommy! A yellow butterfly!" (Okay, he didn't actually say "butterfly" it was more like "flutterby.")

I couldn't believe when I looked where he was pointing and there sat a small yellow....well, is it a moth? We'll call it a butterfly.

I quickly grabbed my camera and took a few shots.

It's amazing how many yellow things you can find when you focus on one single color.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

A yellow train!

I couldn't believe our luck! While out running errands yesterday, we were stopped by a train...a YELLOW TRAIN!
I was so glad I had my camera with me, and Luke was so excited to see a yellow train.
It's really amazing how quickly Luke is learning his colors just by focusing on one color at a time.
Yellow has been more difficult, however, and I think we'll concentrate on yellow for another week before we move on to learning another color.

Fun Child Learning Activities - Colors

We took our fun color learning activities outside, when, while driving, Luke spotted yellow flowers out the car window.

I found a safe place to pull over, and Luke picked some yellow flowers for me.

He was so proud when I put them in a jar and placed them prominently on the kitchen table for all to see.


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Yellow Jello

As we continued our learning activities about the color yellow, a trip to the grocery store was in order.

I can't personally imagine any other reason in the world to purchase a box of yellow jello! And while we were there, we bought yellow plates and yellow plastic cups, too.

We also took lots of fun pictures of yellow fruits and vegetables, yellow mustard, and even yellow Sponge Bob Square Pants halloween candy buckets.

Even though Luke didn't like eating the yellow jello (he did try it, but quickly spit it out), we had fun "cooking" it together. And he was more than amazed when, several hours after putting it in the refrigerator, it was no longer water!

I couldn't talk anyone else in the family into eating the yellow jello, either.


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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Learning Lellow

Yellow is such a difficult word for small children to say, so in addition to learning to recognize this color, we're going to work on saying in correctly, too.

Yesterday, we took Brandon and his friend to the train station to catch a train to Chicago to catch the Cubs/Cardinals game (Cubs won, by the way :).

I wanted to catch some pictures of Luke with Brandon next to the train, but Luke got pretty nervous when it came into the station and didn't want to get anywhere near the train....he just wanted mommy to "hold me!"

We didn't have any problem with the instructions over the loud speaker to "stay behind the YELLOW line."

However, although Luke decided to assert some independence and not pose for pictures for mom, I did manage to snap a quick shot of him doing a Power Ranger move next to a bright yellow pole.


Saturday, September 8, 2007

Learning our colors - Red

With the weather being wet and rainy the last two days of Red Week, we turned to inside activities to learn the color red.

Our "red hunt" was a blast! We took a shopping bag and walked through the house collecting red items: We found a red apple in the refrigerator, we found a red towel in the bathroom, and the toy box was a treasure trove of red cars! We found a red pillow, a red comb, and Brandon's red car sitting in the driveway (except we couldn't figure out how to fit that in our bag!)

After the hunt, we got out the coloring book and crayons we received from the firefighters we visited a few days ago, and colored this great big fire truck picture.

Another fun week, filled with lots of fun activities for spending time with 2-year old Luke, while also learning all about the color red.

We're thinking yellow will be the color next week....


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Friday, September 7, 2007

Field Trip Rain-Out

We tried our best to make it to the playground with the red slide and the red playground equipment, but we got rained out.

We drive by this playground every morning taking the big kids to school, so Luke and I decided it would be a fun place to visit during red week.

Minutes before we arrived, it started sprinkling, and I told Luke we might have to go to the red slide another day because it was going to be wet. But Luke thought about it a second and then announced, "I know! We can take a napkin to dry the water off the slide!"

He was so certain this would work, and I always have an extra stash of McDonald's napkins in the glove box, so we decided to give it a try.

Well, as soon as we parked the car, the downpour began in earnest. He did climb quickly to the top of the play structure, but even his napkin wasn't enough to dry the slide, so he refused to slide down it, fearing his pants would get too wet.

I got one quick picture before we ran back to the van.

We'll have to make a rain date for the red slide outing....


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Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Our RED field trip

I decided that RED week wouldn't be complete without a trip to our local fire station to check out the big red fire trucks!

Luke and I stopped by the Pekin, Illinois Fire Department completely unannounced, and were treated like royalty!

Luke got a chance to climb on every single fire truck. The fire fighters got a kick out of how excited he was, and kept asking him "what color is THIS truck?"

When we left, Luke received a "Jr. Firefighter" badge, a red plastic firefighter hat, some stickers, a firefighter baseball ("strike out fire!), and a coloring book, so he can color his own red fire trucks.

Such a fun time!


Seeing Red

This week is RED week, and are we ever seeing red!
Yesterday, we did the usual errand runs, and had fun at WalMart picking out red apples and red peppers and red towels and red shirts and red trucks and red trucks and red trucks (Luke LOVES trucks!).
But by far, my favorite picture was this one of my little male model posing next to a red fire hydrant.
I swear, I didn't tell him to pose that way....he's just had his picture taken so many times in the past week and half, that he walked right up to this bright red fire hydrant, leaned provocatively against it, and said "Okay, mom, take my picture."
What a ham!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Teaching the kids about money management

Fancy title "teaching the kids about money management" -- actually, we just went garage-sale-ing!

Saturday was a nice day, and Jack was out of town. The kids were super helpful doing their chores without too much complaining, so when I doled out the weekly allowance, I added an extra $3 to each of their open hands and announced we were going to check out some garage sales.

Well, you would have thought I told them we were going to Disney World! They were so excited they could barely contain themselves!

We soon set out looking for signs to guide us to untold treasures.

Here were the rules: Each child had $3.00 to spend. If you spent it all at the first stop, you'd have no more to spend if you found something you liked better later. So, you'd better love what you're buying, or pass. (That's where the "money management" comes in.....kind of like real life, isn't it?)

The first place we stopped was a treasure trove of free goodies (it was already 10:30 a.m., so many garage sell-ers were ready to start slashing prices, but I'd never seen one mark so many items FREE this early on a Saturday!) Analisa picked up an electric typewrite (*free*); Quinn grabbed a racquetball racket and a couple of tennis balls; I snagged some dishes (plates, bowls, cups....I keep thinking eventually 20-year old Brandon WILL move out!).

Quinn was the first to go broke, and was extremely disappointed when the shopping continued but she had no money. However, she had acquired some fun a dancing gorilla, and a tennis racket-shaped bug zapper (I thought it was a toy!), and a jewelry box.

Drake bought some great Jurassic Park Books, but then was disappointed and wished he'd held onto his money. But then he found a bubble umbrella (circa 1976) and an old wooden airplane, so he was happy.

Analisa, usually my spendthrift, was the big winner. At our last stop, she found a REAL telephone! The "old fashioned" kind with the rotary dial. I wasn't thinking clearly, since I'd spotted a gorgeous set of lamps for my newly painted bedroom marked down to just $3.50 for the pair, and I told her she could buy the phone. She's having a blast with it ("My very on phone!") but I think her friends' parents are tired of Analisa calling!

Luke came home with a toy amublance (which he calls a fire truck) and couldn't have been happier.

It was a fun morning, and I hope they learned a little bit about budgeting their money. Although they were all broke when it was over. Next time, I'll need to give them a lesson on saving some of their money....

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Green shirt, green paint, green clay

On the final day of "Green Week" I surprised Luke with a homemade "green" shirt! He didn't have a single green shirt in his closet, so, since I am the owner of I thought, duh! Make him a green shirt!

When he woke up in the morning, I surprised him with his new shirt, which was a simple white t-shirt with a green block in the center of it, and the word "green" on it. He was so excited....until I asked him to put it on. It took me several promptings to convince him to wear it, but once he had it on, he loved it!

Also today, we got out the green paint and the green clay and read his green book that we made earlier in the week.
I think with our next color, I'll use his artwork to make a t-shirt. Hopefully he'll be more inclined to wear it!


Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Green Chair

Luke and I went on a small field trip this morning.

I belong to our local Freecycle Group (if you don't know about Freecycle, check it out at, and the other day someone posted that he had a green recliner to give away.
Now, when I read this post for a free green recliner, two things popped into my head:

  1. "Jack's chair" in the living room has seen better days. The cushions are threadbare from so much lounging and reclining and television viewing, and we'd just been discussing that we needed to replace it (we bought it 10 years ago at an antique store for $20 and had it reupholstered. We've definitely gotten our money's worth out of it, but the style no longer matches our style, so it's time for it to find a new home!).

  2. Green! Did you say green!?

I've gotten several good items from Freecycle (the entertainment center in our downstairs family room, for starters), and I've gifted several items to other Freecyclers. However, when someone posts that they've got a green recliner, clean, good condition, pet-free, smoke-free home, they just got a new chair and this one no longer fits in their house, I thought, "Woo-hoo! My lucky day!"

So off we went to pick up our new green recliner.

Well, I've learned a valuable lesson in that everyone has his own definition of the words "clean" and "good condition."

Brandon, my 20-year old son who went with me to lift the chair into my van, at first refused to even get out of the van! Only when he saw his poor mother attempting to lift it by herself, did he grudgingly get out to help. Once it was loaded into the van, Luke began yelling and crying in the back seat to "get the chair out! Get the chair out! Get the chair out!"

Jack and Brandon both asked me why I didn't just leave it, and I said because that would be breaking the code of the Freecylers! If you say you will pick something up, you must pick it up. "No shows" are the worst! They waste your time! They require that you then repost and have to deal with another possible no-show.

So, I'll put the GREEN chair on the curb, stick a "FREE" sign on it, and it will ultimately be gifted to someone who appreciates it.

It is green (although it looks a little blue in the photo).

But it won't be coming into our house!

Outside Green Play!

It's a beautiful sunny 77 degrees with low humidity, so Luke and I took our GREEN learning outside.

We ran and played and rolled on the green, green grass.

We climbed the tree with the green leaves.

We swang on the green swing set.

Whew! I think it's nap time.