Thursday, July 26, 2012

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real 9

Showing off a new apron sent to me by my sister.  It's made by Cath Kidston and it's SO pretty I'm afraid to actually get any food splotches on it!
Allleluia is officially out of diapers! We had a potty party during our weekly playgroup to celebrate, complete with cake pops that were supposed to look like frogs and ladybugs (here, our friend LB plays along with the gag).
The cake pops were good, but that was a LOT of sugar for the little kids!  Sorry, ladies!
Funny & Real

This week "Funny" and "Real" were sort of one big blob.  Case in point:  experimenting with the Amish Friendship Bread again, we got out the EXTREMELY LOUD CLEARANCE KITCHEN AID MIXER--NO WONDER IT WAS ON CLEARANCE!?!  It's "sca-wee" for a toddler, so we wrapped her head with a kitchen towel like a babushka and I held her hand during the worst of it.  Eventually she loved it and wanted me to turn the mixer "up!" and "more!"  

I've been trying different sizes of muffins and loaves, and these turned out okay.......

...but the batter I put in the cake pop maker was oozing out.....

...and this was the result :(  Still, in the frenzy for crumbs, the 13-year-old asked, "Can I eat all of the mistakes?"

round button chicken

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Successful Potty Training!

"Emma" is the new Betsy Wetsy......She even comes with her own potty.  Definitely worth  the money.
It was easier for us to potty train over the summer, not only because it was warm enough to run around in undies, but also because the busy schedule during the school year meant too many hours trapped in carpool lines.  Plus, having the older siblings home meant I had a lot more helpers to help run Alleluia to the potty.

Tomorrow we're having a "Potty Party" to celebrate Alleluia's transition out of diapers.  Since this has mostly been about saving money, we'll keep the festivities simple, but maybe once the kids are in bed we'll toast each other over a brewski.

Phew!  You'd think after training five other children we'd know what we were doing?  Nah, it's always messy, frustrating, full of suspense and surprise, lots of trial and error.

This time around I noticed some things.  First, there are some great ideas out there.  Our neighbors, who recently moved away, had a son who was the same age and who was working on earning his Thomas the Tank Engine undies.  His mom, a Navy nurse, has a will of steel and is uncannily consistent.  Watching her I realized that you really can take a potty with you everywhere you go, and that really makes a difference.

Then one of the mommies at playgroup suggested this post, which was super helpful.

We also tried a "Potty Watch" this time around, which is just a simple timer (shaped like a toilet!) that can be worn on Junior's wrist.  Every 30, 60 or 90 minutes it will chime a little song to remind everyone it's time to sit on the potty again.  Alleluia took to this well.

This "Potty Time" reward chart had never been opened and came with a book from the awesome used bookstore in town.  Totally worth the $1.25.  Each time she sat on the potty she got to put a magnet on the chart, which tracks progress day by day.  It meant that the whole boring process of sitting on the potty became a lesson in the Days of the Week and understanding words like "yesterday," "today" and "tomorrow."

We've tried a lot of different treats, but the least irritating for me was the fruit snacks.   They didn't take long to eat, wasn't as much risk of choking as hard lollipops, and they weren't very messy.

Lots of time spent on the potty meant lots of reading time.

I also brought out these simple letter books I made years ago for the Montessori classroom.  If you don't have a binder you can just staple or use brads to put them together.  Choose three letters to present in each book and just try to think of some words that begin with each letter.  Something to do when sitting with Junior gets really dull.

These paper charts taped to her door were for potty "successes."  When she filled in the chart with stickers (that's 25), she got to go to the local toy store and pick out a simple toy or stickers.  Luckily she doesn't have expensive tastes--we usually spent just a buck or two.

Another idea for a treat--whatever candy you didn't already snarf from the kids' Valentine's Day parties.......

I kind of regretted the lollipop treats because they took so long for her to eat and because they pose a choking hazard.  But she loved them!  (and it helped use up those pesky candy leftovers from school parties.........)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real 8

This week was all about working on the Atrium (making materials for the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd) and potty training Alleluia.


In making the Map of Jerusalem, I'm trying to use some old wooden blocks from Russia.  They actually fit pretty well!

Here's the Cenacle (Upper Room) background in process....


Every time Alleluia filled in a chart with 25 stickers for going potty she earned a trip to a nearby toy store and could pick out something cheap.  We've lived 5 minutes from this place for 9 years now, and every time we go the kids discover something I've never noticed!  Since I'm a toyaholic I enjoy going, too!

They sell Ducky AND Ladybug lockets!

In the end we got some robot stickers for $1.99.  Sure beats buying diapers!


The funniest line this week is something I don't have a photo for.  After getting some school supplies for Peel and Chop (going into 3rd and 6th grade), Chop said, "I LOVE new school supplies.....I just hate going back to school!"  I remember feeling that way.  It's been a good summer!

Everything--from half-eaten food to popcorn to clouds in the sky--looks like something these days.  I think this was supposed to look like a hedgehog?!?  (according to Alleluia)


The Atrium is coming together and I'm finding things I've collected or made over the years to put in the space.  Calligraphy and copying the psalms is part of the work children do in an Atrium, so I made something at a workshop last year as an example.

Can't go wrong with the psalms!

Can't go wrong with awesome stickers!

The Good Shepherd box was given to me by a Montessori teacher a few years ago.

The Bible was a gift for our wedding, the icon is from Russia and the prophet statue was recently carved out of a large piece of wood by our Taekwando teacher.  It truly takes a community to put together an Atrium!

Baptism materials.  This potty training doll is being re-purposed....

I bought these praying children figures years ago at a garage sale and the brass bell was a gift from my Montessori mentor at Belmont University.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Hands On, Their Level

I've been busy transforming the spaces where we've had Primary Level Montessori materials (for ages 2 1/2 to 6) into areas with only Atrium materials (those used to introduce the child to the Church according to the method of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd).  Much of my work has been done at night, when Alleluia is asleep.  So when she woke up the other day this long hallway looked different.  She was immediately drawn to a simple sorting work, which consists of a tray with three types of beans and seeds in a large saucer and three small, empty saucers.  She was engrossed for quite a while, so much so that we never bothered getting dressed until after breakfast!

It reminded me of how important it is that work put out for the children be attractive and at their level.  As I re-work my space, I will try to remember to check that everything from artwork to art supplies is low enough for the tiny toddlers.

Also, when we care for toddlers we are reluctant to leave out small pieces on which they can choke.  But can you find a way to allow the children to play with "off limits" items on a regular basis?  Maybe it's just once per day, or once per week, or even just twice per month!  But toddlers go through a sensitive period for tiny things--they need to touch and feel and manipulate objects that are small.  Part of providing a prepared environment is anticipating the needs of the child.

Each one of us may have a different solution to providing for this need.  You may have a box of small items in a locked closet, or on top of the refrigerator (if the child cannot reach it!).  That way there is the added bonus that this work, done by your side or under your watchful eye, is seen as special time.

This goes for all sorts of things I've heard parents ban from their houses, from sandboxes to toys with small parts, to Legos and Barbies ("those darned shoes!"), to Lincoln Logs and Play-Doh, to safety scissors.  Can you find a way--no matter how limited--to incorporate the toddler's need for small objects and various sensory experiences into the rhythm of your life?

Toys like this come in flat boxes that make them ideal for storing safely out of reach when not in use.  Always supervise small children when small parts are around.

Even the older siblings enjoy working with little pieces.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Nummy Easy Chicken Pasta to Feed the Multitudes

We recently went to a pool party hosted by two hyper-competent mothers of large families (HCMLFs), both of whom were fixing to send off a child to military academies.  At it, we ate some delicious chicken pasta salad thingy that was purportedly very easy to make AND very easy to make HUGE amounts of, if necessary.  I tried it and it IS super easy!

All you need:

Frozen chicken breasts (like the kind you buy in bags at Sam's or Costco)
Pasta (shells or rotini)
Broth (any kind will do)

I was feeling cheap, so I didn't add any Parmesan cheese, but you can add it if you'd like.

Put 4 breasts in the Crock Pot, pour in the broth, cover and set at High.

About 3-4 hours later chicken will be cooked.  Remove and shred.

Add cooked pasta and pesto (you can add extra Parmesan cheese, but the pesto already has some).

This can be served hot or cold.  

 This was so easy I think this will be my new "Go To" meal!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Play-doh No Brainer for Toddlers

A friend just sent me this from her iPhone.  Her daughter, LB, is 22-months-old, and this seemed like such a "no brainer," I thought I'd share it with the world!

She wrote:  "I thought LB might enjoy playing with play doh this morning while I did couponing and shopping lists. Instead she preferred matching the color lids to the proper container. Ha! Ah well. Kept her entertained for nearly 30 min."