Teaching Kids to Set the Table – FREE PRINTABLE!

One goal of mine last week was to begin teaching my kids to set the table.  Now, seeing as I have a teenager, a pre-teen, an elementary-schooler, and a preschooler, you may be wondering what took me so long.  Well, I don’t know how things work at your house, but over here it doesn’t matter how many times I tell them–they always forget!  So this time I found the perfect solution.

I LOVE this printable placemat that I found at Parents Magazine website.  They usually have a lot of good resources for activities, crafts, printables, and plain old parenting advice.  I wasn’t actually looking for a placemat printable on their website; I just ran across it, and I’m so glad I did!  Click on the image below to download this FREE printable:

Printable Place Mat from Parents Magazine

 

After printing it out, I laminated it and set it out for Rapunzel and Tinkerbell.  They took to it right away.  It wasn’t much later that Cinderella discovered it and wanted one for herself, so I went ahead and printed one for both her and Wendy.  This is SO easy!  Not only do they have a fun new placemat, but they also have a visual example for when they DO set the table–hopefully this will help them remember when they’re gone!  Right now we’ve been on track putting everything in the right place, and the only question I received was, “Where does the bowl go?” (lol)

I’d definitely recommend this as a resource for learning to set the table–and now I know it goes for any age! Try it out yourself!

Hello Summer!

Well, as I announced to my Facebook friends earlier today, as of today we are officially parents of a preschooler, an elementary schooler, a middle schooler, and a high schooler!  I don’t know whether to be excited or scared!

No matter how you look at it, one thing is true: it’s summer, and the kids are out of school.  Now officially begins our Summer of Fun 2013!  I’m so excited for more first summer (mostly) at home!  You have seen my calendar already, so you know we are booked for more fun than we can handle.  We’ve already started some activities, as my last week’s posts have indicated.

Unfortunately, due to some unforeseen circumstances, we were unable to do a few activities this week, but after Tinkerbell’s end-of-year preschool picnic today, we were able to squeeze in some of those.

little girl playing Pop the PIg game

Game Day was supposed to be on Wednesday, but we were able to fit that in today.  Kids this young still have a relatively short attention span, so this didn’t take long.  Our first goal for Game Day was to play a favorite game.  TInkerbell loves Pop the Pig, so we played that one first.

Our next task was to play a game we had never played before.  Surprisingly enough, we found one.  Thank goodness–Rapunzel’s teacher sent home foam dice and a few summer worksheets, one being a dice games packet and one a card game packet (learning activities in disguise!).  We played one of each.

I love these packets that the teacher sent home–they’ll keep the kids’ brains working over the summer so they don’t lose that important segment during their time off.

Last thing today: dance party!  This didn’t last very long either.  The kids didn’t want to do a whole lot right away, but once they got into it, it was dance party turned ring-around-the-rosie slash horseplay followed by some rest time on the floor.

I’m looking forward to the park’s fun day tomorrow. it’s supposed be chilly but not rainy and the kids always have fun there.

What did you do with your kids on the last day of school?

The First Sign of Summer…

…is signing up for our local library system’s summer reading program and our local park program! We signed up today, and Rapunzel was so excited!
Tinkerbell, Wendy, and Rapunzel in front of our local library

If you have a local library who offers a summer program (many of them do), I’d strongly recommend signing your kids up.  Our library system rewards the children based on the number of minutes read.  I enjoy this method better than number of books read only because it’s more fair to children of different ages.  Either way, it’s a great way to keep the kids’ learning throughout the summer.  It’s a known fact that many children lose much of what they learned during the school year throughout the summer.  Reading throughout the summer will help keep them from losing this knowledge and give them a boost for the next school year.

Our summer park program is offered in collaboration with the library program.  Check with your local library or your community’s recreation commission.  Last year was the first year our family did this, and we enjoyed it immensely.  Unfortunately Tinkerbell was somewhat of a pain to walk with, but we all got our exercise and were able to check out our local parks in the process.

After receiving our booklets today, I mapped out our route for the summer.
parkprogram2012

Last year, Tinkerbell won a camping package for completing all of the rubbings at each of the parks.  She wasn’t so thrilled when she saw it, but when we got home she thought it was the best thing since chocolate milk!  I hope we win again this year!

We’ve already logged ten minutes today (it doesn’t sound like much, but we were at a party all evening), and our first day of the parks will be next Tuesday, when the kids are finally out of school.

Does your community offer a library and/or park program?  What does it offer and how do you like it?

Returning for Summer

I have 89 emails in my inbox.

I should read them.  Or sort them.  Or something.

I should be working.  Or keeping my kids from drowning our potted plants in their pool water.

But I’m not.

I haven’t been here for about 3 months.  Three days after my last post, my oldest biological daughter’s father passed away unexpectedly, and I didn’t know how to deal with telling the world.  A wild mix of emotions was involved, including past hurts, what ifs, anger, some depression, grief.  You name it, I felt it.  Then dealing with his family–that was a whole issue in itself.  I discovered who was really family and who wasn’t.

Well anyway, I’m back for now.  I actually was reading through all of the emails in my inbox when I felt the urge to write today.

Summer is quickly approaching.

By noon next Friday, we’ll be parents of a preschooler, an elementary-schooler, a middle-schooler, and a high-schooler.  Scary territory.  Scary and exciting.

And we have an exciting summer ahead of us!

After scouring Pinterest, the web, Facebook, and my friends’ ideas, I put together a plan for my kids over the summer.

First I made our Summer bucket list, borrowed a calendar from another blogger, and filled in some blanks with some of my favorite ideas.  I left Tuesdays and Thursdays mostly open for the summer park program.  As soon as I get the map for the program, I’ll be able to plan those days as well.

Of course our plans may change based on weather, health, and ability, but we’re going to try to accomplish everything on our list.

Check out our plans for the summer.  I hope it helps you to plan yours!  I can’t wait to share our adventures with you!

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Happy summering!

Check it out!  Linking up at:

Lil\'Luna

Why We Celebrate Lent

To put it simply, Lent, according to History.com, is the forty-day period leading up to Easter (it’s actually more than forty days, but it doesn’t include Sundays).  Lent is supposed to be, for Christians, a time period where we reflect on the past year and confess our sins.

Why forty days?

This forty-day period represents the forty days that Jesus spent in the desert before beginning his ministry–a time in which he was tried, tempted, and tested by Satan.  Typically, Lent begins on Ash Wednesday.  The day before, “Fat Tuesday,” is the day when everybody consumes the fat remaining in the house in order to cleanse during the next forty days.  Where I’m from, we eat Fastnachts.  I’m not a big Fastnacht fan, so I eat donuts (because they’re so much better for me–HA!)

Many Christians don’t even celebrate Lent.  For instance, Prince Charming doesn’t celebrate Lent.  He can’t make it forty days.  Some people don’t see the point.  My parents never celebrated Lent.  As far as I know, my extended family doesn’t either.  But my church does, and I find it to be a good time to reflect, as we are supposed to, on the past year, identify the places where I struggle, and work to right these wrongs.

I have celebrated Lent for about eight years now.  One year, I gave up secular music (this was really hard!), one year chocolate (even more difficult!), caffeine (that didn’t really work out so well), soda…this year I’m thinking about either ice cream or soda again.

Why do I celebrate Lent?

Jesus gave up His life for me.  Can I sacrifice forty days out of my life to give up something in His name?  To better myself?  Prince Charming may not celebrate Lent, but I hope to instill in my childrens’ lives the same value–of reflection, self-improvement, and sacrifice: a tiny sacrifice compared to the sacrifice given for me.

Friday Family Movie Night Review: ParaNorman

ParaNorman
Every Friday night is movie night at our house.  Pizza and a movie in the living room.  I don’t know when or why exactly we came up with this, but we like it (most of the time) and it works.  Tonight we rented ParaNorman, which I thought might be a doable movie, but I was highly disappointed.

First of all, with this movie having been rated PG, I thought that it’s scariness would be limited to that of, you know, something more like Monsters, Inc. scary.  Boy was I wrong.  Twenty minutes into the movie, we had to turn it off, because Rapunzel and Tinkerbell were too scared.  (Luckily, I convinced them not to watch Care Bears: The Movie instead.)  I mean, we were okay for a little while, but the beginning of the movie shows a crazy homeless man swallowing a bottle of pills.  A little further into the movie (because Wendy and Cinderella did finish later), several sexual innuendos appear, which was also surprising.  And to top it off, the ghost of the grandmother blatantly, straight-out says “Jack-a**”.  That’s when I knew for sure we were done with it for the little ones.

Thankfully Rapunzel is pretty good about asking about a word before she says it.

If I had to pull out something good about this movie, I’d say it teaches us that bullying is not acceptable and that empathy is the best way to handle difficult people.

Overall, I wouldn’t recommend it.  At least not for young children.  Keep it for children probably 10+, who you know won’t end up with nightmares and won’t repeat the language.

Finding Gifts for Toddler Boys

Look what is this
So a few weeks ago, I received an invitation to my nephew’s 2nd birthday party.  And as I was thinking about his upcoming birthday, I was reminded of a dilemma that I encounter annually: I don’t know how to shop for boys!

I first ran across this issue when we attended Tinkerbell’s friend’s first birthday party.  We went the store all ready to shop, and that’s when it hit me.  After shopping for girls for so long…I haven’t a clue how to shop for boys.  Especially toddler boys.

So here’s what we came up with around Christmas.  Granted, you might want to make sure you know something about this kid.  Is he really boyish (into tools, sports, cars, trains) or is he artsy (into books, crayons, paints)?  I’m sure there are all sorts of things you could buy for a little boy.  Here’s what we came up with:

  • Play-Doh: This stuff is good for boys and girls of many different types and ages.  You can even make this yourself.  We got a bucket of Play-Doh toys at Wal-Mart at Christmas time for $5.  Can’t beat that!  Cheap and fun.  🙂  And thankfully it’s non-toxic, so if he eats some behind your back, you don’t have to worry too much.
  • Trucks and Cars: Our nephew is into the Disney Cars movies, so he was happy with a couple of these toys.  Just make sure there aren’t any small pieces for children under 3.
  • Doctor Kit: This another one of those timeless toys that kids of many ages like to play with, no matter the gender.
  • Fisher Price Little People toys: This is one of our favorite go-to items.  Our girls loved them.  Our nephew has them and likes to play with them.  Timeless.  No gender boundaries.  And sometimes you can get a really great deal on them.
  • DVDs: This will depend on your viewpoint of the tube as well as the parents’.  If you want to buy the child a DVD, make sure the parent lets him watch TV at all; otherwise, you’ve just wasted your money.  We personally love Veggie Tales, Backyardigans, and of course just about all of the Disney movies.
  • CDs: This will also depend on the parents.  We let the kids listen to their music as soon as they had CDs, but of course now that everyone has an iPod this may soon be obsolete.  Again, we like Backyardigans, Veggie Tales, Disney, and there are a whole host of other kids CDs out there.  Rapunzel’s favorite is her Zumbatomic CD.
  • Books: If the child you’re buying for likes to read, this is my favorite option.  I’m all about reading.  If you can, find out what the child likes and get books that have to do with his interest.
  • Tool Bench/Tools: For the child who loves tools, this choice is obvious.  There are many different variations out there that should work.
  • Trains: This seems to be one toy that most boys like to play with.  The con to the Thomas the Tank Engine toys is the price, unfortunately.  But if you can find Thomas and his friends for a good deal or some other train toy, this is generally a hit.  Just make sure you get one marked 3+ if you’re buying for a toddler.
  • Building Toys: Boys and Girls alike also love these toys.  Lincoln Logs, MegaBloks, and Duplo are some of the most popular ones.  We have both MegaBloks and in our church nursery, and the kids play with both.  Make sure you’re not buying regular Legos for kids under 3.
  • Sports Equipment: For the sports-minded child, balls of any kind (baseballs, basketball, soccer ball) will do the trick.  If you would like to spend more money trikes are a good bet.  I wouldn’t get into scooters just yet.  You may want to invest in a helmet with the trike though.  Safety first.
  • Art & Music: I gave our nephew a coloring book and crayons for his birthday when we celebrated as a family.  My sister-in-law was thrilled.  Crayons are good for just about any age that has the dexterity.  I personally hate markers, because they draw all over themselves and everything else.  Musical toys are a good choice too, if the parents don’t mind noise.  We once were given a toy drum with a tambourine  drum sticks, a maraca, and a flute inside.  The kids still love this toy (although the flute gets pretty annoying sometimes).

And if worse comes to worse, make sure you get a gift receipt, and the child can exchange it if necessary.

What are your best go-to boys’ toys for toddlers?

If You Could Sum Up 2012 in One Word…

…what would it be?

For me, I’d have to say conflicted.

Initially, I wanted to say that it was “discouraging”.  It was disappointing, frustrating, sad.  I was appalled by the insensitivity of people who were supposed to protect me.  I lost my job.  Many of our friends separated and/or divorced.  My uncle was diagnosed with cancer.  Money was tight.  We spent over $950 on Prince Charming’s truck, our dog has ear mites, my medication costs went up, and our dishwasher broke.  When it rains, it pours.  Children died.  People were killed.  We lost some friends to vicious diseases.

BUT THEN…

I recalled that it was also a year of opportunity.  I was blessed with the opportunity to stay at home with my kids, to attend Polar Express Day and Kid Writing and a field trip to the fire station.  I joined Thirty-One–one of the best things that ever happened to me.  I got to see my grandpa and my aunts and uncle, and my grandpa met Tinkerbell for the first time.  Our kids did great in school.  Wendy and Rapunzel excelled ridiculously in soccer.  Cinderella matured SO much, and Tinkerbell, well, she’s Tinkerbell and she’s cute no matter what happens, the little stinker!  God gave us a year-end miracle with our finances and we were able to break even.

As I look toward 2013, I hope I can make it a much better and hopeful year than 2012.  If you could sum up 2012 in one word, what would it be?