Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Deck the Halls With an Easy Button Wreath

We decked our halls last weekend. The boys helped put up the Christmas tree and they really loved getting to participate!

We also read the book Deck the Halls illustrated by Veronica Vasylenko. This book is the lyrics to the traditional carol. The illustrator employs cute mice to deck out her book. The mice decorate a Christmas tree, hang the stockings, and make the cookies. The book ends with a Christmas party with family.

Another great board book in the same jingling Christmas carol theme, is Jingle Bells also illustrated by Veronica Vasylenko. Both of these books are padded board books with glitter varnish. These would make a cute gift as a set for a toddler this Christmas. If you are just going to buy one, I would stick with the Deck the Halls book. The illustrations are more engaging in it. The Jingle Bells book seems to be the same picture on each page as the mice ride in a sleigh. There are slight variations, but I'm not sure preschoolers would notice the mice bouncing or the music notes around them signaling singing. Deck the Halls does a better job of showing a variety of Christmas activities that you could talk about with your child.
kids Christmas Craft, book activities, Christmas printables, Christmas activities for kids

Our 12 Days of Christmas Craft to accompany these two books, was to make a wreath for our "halls". I cut out a piece of green foam and then I gave Logan red and green buttons to glue to the foam. My wreath was about the size of a butter lid. We may hang this on the Christmas tree since it's a pretty small wreath. (By the way, Logan still calls this a donut. Maybe we should read more books about wreaths).
kids Christmas craft, crafts for kids, christmas stories
Dont' forget to check out the other 12 Days of Christmas books and crafts here at Ready. Set. Read! and Reading Confetti.
Christmas Tree Puzzle and The Twelve Days of Christmas by Rachel Isadora
Easy Christmas Tree Lid Craft and Llama Llama Holiday Drama
Paper Punch Christmas Trees and Mr. Willowby's Christmas Trees
Blessings Tree and The Littlest Angel

Also, you can check out all of our books crafts in one easy spot on my 12 Days of Christmas Pinterest Board.

Disclaimer:  I was sent a free copy of these two books from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Llama Llama Holiday Drama Review + Low Maintenance Craft

Llama Llama Holiday Drama by Anna Dewdney If your kid is a Llama Llama fan, then check out this holiday version of the book. In this story, Mama Llama is busy  preparing for Christmas. Little Llama has nothing to do but wait. (Sound familiar?) This results in a little holidrama (aka. meltdown) for Llama llama.  Mama is reminded to stop and remind Llama that they need to take time in their busy holiday to snuggle, hold each other close, and spend time with each other.

I decided to take some time out from the holidrama to spend some time crafting with my littlest guy. He doesn't always get as much attention as his big brother did at this age (clearly, he doesn't even have all of his clothing on-- just pj bottoms). I wanted an easy project that a 22 month old could do with momma while his brother was distracted with video games.
kids christmas crafts, christmas activities for kids, ready-set-read

We made this dramatic Christmas tree. I gave Tyson 3 green lids. To avoid a holiday meltdown, I gave Tyson one lid at a time. We started with stickers. Then used glue and buttons. We finished up with the grand finale of glitter glue. I then glued his three decorated lids to green paper and we topped it off with a yellow "star" lid. You could always decorate the star as well, Tyson's attention was beginning to wane at this time. I added a trunk as well. 
kids christmas crafts, christmas activities for kids, ready-set-read

Tyson was very proud of his finished art work, and I think he enjoyed his 1 on 1 crafting time with momma!
This is Day #2 of the 12 Days of Christmas at Ready. Set. Read! and Reading Confetti. Yesterday Lori shared a great book about a family who had a Christmas tree that was too large to fit into the house-- and a Christmas tree craft that is perfect for preschoolers!
In case you missed it, I had a Christmas Tree Puzzle that you can make yourself!
Don't forget, you can find all of our crafts at the 12 Days of Christmas Pinterest board.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The 12 Days of Christmas by Rachel Isadora

Welcome to the 12 Days of Christmas hosted by Ready. Set. Read! and Reading Confetti. For the next 2 weeks Lorie, of Reading Confetti, and I will be sharing 12 of our favorite Christmas books along with a craft or an activity. We will finish our countdown of the 12 days of Christmas books on December 13th. This will give you 12 days before Christmas arrives to do these activities or share these books with your kids. If you are feeling extra ambitious, you could even try doing all 24 activities, the 12 from Lorie's blog and the 12 from my blog. Check out Reading Confetti for a cute way to create a countdown to Christmas with your books! I hope you come back and join us for Christmas crafts for kids and Christmas books for kids each day. Also you can find all of the posts pinned to my Christmas Books for Kids Pinterest board for future reference.

What better way to kick off our 12 Days of Christmas than to read a book featuring the song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas"? The 12 Days of Christmas by Rachel Isadora is one of my favorite books! The text of this book is the traditional 12 Days of Christmas song, however, the story is set in Africa. (I had Christmas down in Africa, I diverge.) Africa is actually a great backdrop for this song. Imagine 11 lords a leaping in Mali or 9 ladies dancing in Swaziland. According to the author's notes, Isadora based her cultural illustrations off her actual travels to African countries. Each detailed and vibrant illustration depicts the cultures of Africa. Also, instead of repeating text on each verse, the book contains a rebus type repetition which makes it beneficial for younger readers. From the vibrant end pages to the detailed depictions of daily life, The 12 Days of Christmas by Rachel Isadora is a festive look at a traditional song.
christmas activities for kids, christmas crafts for kids, book activities, christmas stories, photo

The cover art on Isadora's 12 Days of Christmas reminded me of this serrated rectangle puzzle. I made this one out of green craft foam. We used 12 rectangular pieces. Logan (3) is able to order the pieces from largest to smallest on his red mat, creating a Christmas tree. You could also number the pieces 1-12, or put them in a pocket chart that is numbered 1-12-- matching the numbers. There are many ways to scaffold this activity to meet your learner's needs. This is an activity that he will hopefully want to repeat throughout the next few weeks.
You could also do this with construction paper and have your child glue it and decorate the tree for a keepsake art project. 
Don't forget to come back tomorrow for Day #2 and go check out Reading Confetti for more great book suggestions and crafts. I'll be pinning all of our books and crafts to my Christmas Books for Kids Pinterest board. We'd love it if you'd pin our crafts or follow on pinterest!

You can also find me celebrating the season on Pinterest, tweeting on twitter, and chatting about the best holiday children’s literature on facebook and Google+.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Stress Busters: Thanksgiving is Here!

Ding Dong. The door bell rings. In come grandkids, mommies, daddies, aunts, uncles, and an unclaimed dog. The hustle and bustle of Thanksgiving is delightfully told in Thanksgiving is Here by Diane Goode I found this book to be a great starting point to preparing a child for the large family celebrations this week. The holidays can be stressful for my kids-- interrupted naptimes, new faces, "strange" foods. As I shared this book with the boys, I pointed out the illustrations of the people, "Look at all of those people. I bet they are having fun with cousins or maybe playing with new friends. When you meet a new friend you could tell them your name, can you practice?"
I pointed out the foods, "Do you like turkey? When Grandma gives you turkey you could tell her you really enjoy it or say thank you. What else could you say?" We even talked about things to say when we don't really care for a food.
The author of the book even helps parents address the end of the evening, "No one cries because everyone is going home."
So, I have my kids all prepped for the big day, but what about prepping myself? If my kids have a stressed out and anxious mommy, they won't enjoy the festivities. I've been trying to remember 3 words that I learned from Patsy Clairmont at Women of Faith. They are short and easy to remember, but you have to be intentional about putting them into practice.
1. "Yes"- say yes to whatever God wants you to do today. Whether it's being extra patient with an overtired kid or extra patient with a late meal at a family event, I need to listen to what God is telling me to do.
2. "Thank you" - well, that word certainly fits this weekend. I'm working on making it an every day occurrence.
3. "No" If what you are being asked to do is not going to be the best thing for your family, is not something that God is directing you to do, or is just something to clutter your holidays. Feel free to say, "no".
What are your tips for avoiding the stress and enjoying the holidays?

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Muppets Road Trip Game

Are we there yet?          How ‘bout now?          Now?          How about now?

Those questions can only mean one thing: road trip! (With children.) And Kermit knows road trips! In the upcoming film Disney’s “The Muppets,” Kermit joins Walter (Walter), Gary (Jason Segel), Mary (Amy Adams) and—eventually—the whole Muppet gang in the car for a trip of their own, as they endeavor to save Muppet Studios from evil oilman Tex Richman. So don’t despair. The Muppets can help keep kids busy and happy with…

This is a great game! It was sent to me by Disney to share with all of you. If you are a huge Muppet's Fan like me, you'll enjoy this car game. Here's how to play:

See if you can spot:

  • 5 Kermit green cars
  • 1 Person who looks like a relative of Gonzo’s
  • 3 People who look like they just stepped off the Electric Mayhem Band bus
  • 4 of Miss Piggy’s biggest fans. How can you tell? Easy, they could be
    • Singing to themselves
    • Fixing their hair in the mirror
    • Blowing kisses to you through the window
    • Blowing kisses to themselves in the mirror
  • 2 Bumper stickers that are so funny, Fozzie Bear would add them to his act
  • 4 People wearing suits they stole from Statler and Waldorf
  • 3 Cars that are so patriotic, Sam the Eagle just might be driving them

Sing the chorus of “Mahna Mahna” or “Rainbow Connection” at a red light or while driving through a tunnel
Find a license plate from Smalltown, USA (or at least one that is red, white and blue)
Find the letters of Disney’s “The Muppets” in license plates


On vacation in Los Angeles, Walter, the world's biggest Muppet fan, his brother Gary (Jason Segel) and Gary’s girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) from Smalltown, USA, discover the nefarious plan of oilman Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) to raze the Muppet Theater and drill for the oil recently discovered beneath the Muppets' former stomping grounds. To stage a telethon and raise the $10 million needed to save the theater, Walter, Mary and Gary help Kermit reunite the Muppets, who have all gone their separate ways: Fozzie now performs with a Reno casino tribute band called the Moopets, Miss Piggy is a plus-size fashion editor at Vogue Paris, Animal is in a Santa Barbara clinic for anger management, and Gonzo is a high-powered plumbing magnate. With secret, signature, celebrity cameos, Disney’s “The Muppets” hits the big screen Nov. 23, 2011.

If your kids are too young to play this game, check out my travel ideas for preschoolers. Get the kids entertained, and then force your husband to play the Muppet game with you. That's what I am going to do! Have safe travels, everyone!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thanksgiving Craft for kids: Corn Wreaths

Thanksgiving is a fun holiday for my family. It mostly involves eating way too much food and spending time with favorite family members. How can we not enjoy that?? In the past, I've focused our Thanksgiving books and activities on simply teaching gratitude. Of course, I want to impress that on my children this year as well. However, I also would like for them to begin having an idea of the history behind that gratitude. Today's Thanksgiving book and craft are a great way to combine these Thanksgiving themes of history, gratitude, and of course, food!

Thanksgiving Mice, Thanksgiving book
Thanksgiving Mice by Bethany Roberts is a cute look at the first Thanksgiving. Roberts has a whole line of holiday stories featuring mice, Christmas Mice, Fourth of July Mice, Halloween Mice, the list goes on. Each book has large colorful pictures and short lines of text. The book portrays the mice celebrating the holiday in some way. In Thanksgiving Mice, the mice celebrate Thanksgiving by performing a play about the first Thanksgiving. The little mice sail in the Mayflower, land at Plymouth Rock, face starvation, are given corn by a mouse dressed in native american wear, and celebrate a harvest the next fall. At the end of the book, the mice step out of their acting rolls to celebrate a feast with their friends. It's a cute look at the first Thanksgiving for preschoolers. I found using the pictures to tell a short first thanksgiving account was helpful for the boys. I'm not sure if they understood the historical events in the book. I tried to emphasize the point of giving thanks to God for our food or for anything that he gives to us.
We made this corn wreath to remind us to be thankful for our food.
thanksgiving craft for kids, corn wreath

I'm having camera trouble so this is the only picture I have of the whole process for now. Of course, you can still read the directions below, I just don't have pictures. Sometimes I like to just look at the pictures... did the READING blogger just say that??? Yes, I did :)

We experiemented with two different ways to paint the corn. First, we used qtips to paint dots on white corn cut outs. I glued the painted corn into a precut corn stalk.
Then we tried bubble wrap painting. We painted the bubble wrap with harvest colors. After the boys painted it, I turned it over onto the paper and they pressed down to print. I love the way these turned out.
I cut out a wreath form from a paper plate and glued the corn around it.
I found this idea linked at pinterest from the blog Real Life, One Day at a Time-- the one they did is actually prettier than mine, go take a look!

Happy Thankgiving!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Hunting for a Great Book

In this part of the country, we are in the midst of an important season...

Fall is upon us, but there is a much more important season at hand...

Deer Season-- It's mostly just important to my man. I actually do not celebrate the season. I think it's crazy for a reasonable person to go out in the freezing cold at 3 am. When I tell him that, he says, "I have two words for you. Black Friday." I guess we both have our own "hobbies".
This year, I thought it would be fun for the boys to get in on the deer season festivities. We started by reading a few books that I thought would fit nicely into a hunting theme.

Imogene's Antlers by David Small is a silly book about a girl who wakes up with antlers. While her mother is despondant, others come up with ingenious uses for the antlers- such as a birdfeeder. Several solutions are offered to the problem. They call the doctor, the principal, and Imogene's brother for advice. Then, they try making a hat for Imogene. Finally, Imogene goes to bed and wakes up antler free! The only problem remaining? She has grown another animal part! This is a funny story with much of the humor being conveyed through the descriptive illustrations. After reading, you can discuss with your which animals have antlers, why animals have antlers, or if your child would like to have antlers.

 Owl Moon by Jane Yolen is a classic and timeless story of a father and a child on a "hunt" in the woods.A child and father go out into the woods on a cold, dark night hoping to spot an owl. . The child learns that when you go owling you have to be quiet, make your own heat, and you have to be brave. The text of this story is poetic. The illustrations are gorgeous- don't just take my word for it, it won the 1988 Caldecott Medal.  This is by far Logan's favorite bedtime story at the moment. As I read, he actually engages in conversation with the book. I'll turn the page and he'll say, "My daddy goes hunting in the woods at night too." Since he does not appear to know yet that daddy shoots the deer, this book connects to his idea of daddy in the woods looking for deer. Someday he will not be so naive. :(

We decided to make Greg a deer treat bag from Disney Family Fun to "celebrate" opening weekend of gun season. (Some of you are thinking this is weird. I understand. I did not grow up with hunters. It's all new to me too).This bag fit nicely with our theme.  It was originally a reindeer treat bag for Christmas, we just replaced the red nose.

We stocked it with all of his favorite granola bars, nuts, and candy.  I know his friends may make fun of him for having such a crafty little wife but at least he will be thinking of us while he is off in the woods.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Book Review: Grandpa Green

Grandpa Green by Lane Smith is a story told through topiary. (I've never seen that before). A young boy walks through his great Grandpa's topiary garden which tells Grandpa Green's life story. Looking a the topiaries, he learns a story about a bygone era. He learns about a time with no cell phones, no computers, no television... a long, long time ago. The topiaries tell Grandpa's lifestory, a love story, and the story of a war hero. Although Grandpa now has a hard time remembering, the garden remembers the important stuff for him.
Before reading this book, I had read a lot of reviews of the book. I thought that it might be too sad. In contrast, I think the adults are the ones who are going to be saddened and nostalgic by this book---especially if they have lost a favorite grandparent. For kids, I think this book can be more about building special memories and telling family stories in creative ways. Who knows, your kids might be surprised to know that you grew up in a time without facebook or cell phones. This book could be a great way to get conversations going with your kids about your own family history.

Extend the book:
Family Trivia: When I was a kid, my Grandma made up a game called family trivia. It was a way to keep a bazillion grandkids entertained while the rest of the adults played cards. Grandma Hunn would think up a bunch of questions about her kids (my Aunts and Uncles). There were questions like:

"Which Hunn kid had 2 siblings who painted her face with black shoe polish?"
"Which Hunn kid had bunny sheets to keep her safe from monsters?"
"Which Hunn kid was kidnapped on the way home from school?" (Don't worry, it was a happy ending)
"Which Hunn kid avoided being kidnapped by going straight home to watch The Lone Ranger?"(We LOVED the kidnapping story)
"Which Hunn kid had the nickname Evley Hunnley?"

Grandma would ask the questions and then all of us kids would run around bugging the adults. "Were you the person who had bunny sheets?" we'd ask. The parents would grumble a little as we interrupted their card game, but eventually we would get an answer. If we were lucky a story would break out. The adults would all laugh and relive their childhood memories.
Sometimes the adults were too involved in the card game. When that happened, we would get a one word answer. We always knew we could run that answer back to Grandma and she would give us the full story.

Passing on family stories orally is a great way to build literacy in your child. It helps him learn comprehension skills like sequencing, visualizing, making connections, and synthesizing. It helps him to generate ideas for his own written stories.

Years later, when all of us little cousins were grown up, one of my cousin's created a trivia box for all of Grandma's questions. Now those memories can be passed on to another generation.

Here's where I am linking up:

It's Playtime at hands on : as we grow

play academy

Shibley Smiles

Monday, November 7, 2011

Mommy Minute

I took a few minutes out of my life this weekend and attended the Women of Faith Over the Top Conference in Kansas City, Missouri. Women of Faith is a two day conference designed to inspire and encourage women.
Julie and me at the Women of Faith KC Conference

You may remember that I was given tickets to Women of Faith by Booksneeze and attended with my sister. Before I even attended the event, I knew my wrap up post was going to be perfect. I was going to have a weekend away from the kids.. I was going to spend time with my sister. I was going to hang out with some old friends. Ok, ok. They were my "friends", I just wasn't their friend. Ladies I loved and admired while I was growing up-- singers like Sandi Patti and Amy Grant and actresses like Blair from The Facts of Life were going to be speakers at the conference. The weekend was going to be rounded out with other speakers like Patsy Clairmont, Marilyn Meberg, Andy Andrews, Brenda Warner, Deborah Joy Winans. The cherry on the top of the perfect weekend was a Mandisa concert!
Well, that's what I wanted to write. The first day of the conference, I had a hunch that it might not be the "perfect" conference I had wanted. Patsy Clairmont had laryngitis and Marilyn Meberg had to cancel due to being sick. On Friday night Mandisa confirmed my suspicion when she mentioned that many things had been fighting against them. Mandissa talked about using the armor of God to fight off Satan. I was impressed by her faith and testimony. I resolved that when I had tests, I wanted to respond with that kind of faith.
After the Friday night conference, I headed back to the hotel. My thoughts about the conference had been coming in 140 characters or less, and I wanted to to tweet some of my clever, funny thoughts. I snuggled into my hotel bed with a bag of pretzel crisps and my iPad. Then I realized I had forgotten to put my iPad on the bed. I went to get it out of the gym bag where I had "hidden" it. The bag was open, the iPad was gone. I searched the room. Then I searched again. After a lot of searching, calling, questioning, I began to realize my iPad had been stolen from my room. This was not the perfect weekend I had expected. I was attending the conference as a blogger. Bloggers rely on love are addicted to their gadgets. How was I to do my "job"? It would be like if one of the women of faith speakers lost her voice and couldn't do her job. And then it hit me, she did lose her voice, but she still did her job. Patsy Clairmont, while fighting laryngitis, had given me principles to apply to these types of situations earlier in the day.
I wanted to get frustrated. I wanted to draw a black cloud over my whole weekend. I wanted to overreact.
Patsy had shared the verse from Proverbs, "A soft answer turns away wrath but grievous words stir up anger." She had suggested that we report problems. Report means to talk about a problem without complaining, whining, or exaggerating.I was going to have an opportunity to report a problem! I needed to talk to a hotel staff and a police officer. I also needed to do it in a way that reflected Jesus-- not an angry mommy blogger. I called to file a police report. I was put on hold... for a LONG time.
As I waited, I took some more of Patsy's advice. I journaled my frustrations. Patsy had suggested that this would be a good way to release frustrations. She had warned that we needed to replace those thoughts with something else.  I grabbed my Bible and replaced those frustrations with some positive thoughts.
I was able to make a report to a police officer. The police officer told me he had taken a report from another attendee of Women of Faith. Her home had been robbed while she attended the conference. I began to wonder if these were things that Satan was trying to use to keep us from focusing on the conference. I thought about Andy Andrew's talk about The Butterfly effect. His principle was that each action has an effect even if we can't see the effect at the moment. If I applied his principles to the situation, I could look at this stumbling block like this:
If I overreact about losing my iPad, I might not focus on learning or applying principles at the conference. If I don't apply some of these principles to my life, I am not going to be as effective as a wife and mother. If I am not as effective as a wife and mother, I will raise boys that are not as effective has husbands, fathers, coworkers... These boys that I am raising could end up some day saving people from hunger, changing their towns or countries, or sharing God's love with someone in need.
I had to shift my perspective and focus on the conference-- not my stolen iPad. On Saturday, I attended the conference again. This time, I heard stories from women like Brenda Warner. Once living on food stamps and raising two kids (one a special needs kid) as a single mom, she is now the mother of 6 kids and married to Kurt Warner.  I heard stories of women who were abused, who lived with debilitating addictions and anxiety. Through the power of Christ, they applied principles to their lives and made it through those dark days. In comparison, losing an iPad was minor. I am a blessed woman. I had healthy and happy kids waiting for me at home.
By Saturday afternoon, I was READY to get home to those happy and healthy kids. I was also ready to get home to my amazing husband!
Yet, on the way home frustration and anxiety about losing my iPad began to creep in on me. What could I do to find it? How was I going to read all my ebooks? Wasn't my three year old going to be upset when he found all his games were gone?
At  that moment, I had a choice. Would I walk in feeling gloomy about losing an iPad? Or would I walk into my house, thank my husband for helping out this weekend, and began to apply the truths I had learned at the conference to become a better mother?
A phrase began to echo in my head, "You have a will that is stronger than your feelings." Patsy Clairmont had shared this thought on Friday.
I walked into the house, kissed my husband, and said, "Thank you for helping with the kids so I could go to Women of faith. I had a great time! I lost an iPad but I gained so much more than an iPad is worth."

If you have an opportunity to attend a Women of Faith, I would strongly suggest that you do it! I can't put a price tag on what you will receive if you attend with an open heart and mind. I will say it is more valuable than an iPad :)
You can find more information about Women of Faith on their website. There are still a few cities left on this year's tour. There is also information posted for the 2012 conference. Tomorrow I'll be back to sharing book reviews with you. Today, I wanted to share something that greatly impacted me in a personal way. Thank you to Booksneeze for providing two free tickets so we could attend this event.

Disclaimer: I was provided two free tickets from Booksneeze in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was given.

As soon as I finished typing this and using spell check, I got a phone call that my iPad may have been found!! Now what lesson do you think God is trying to teach me?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Happy Halloween!

Halloween 2011- Grandma and Grandpa Trick or Treating at our house

Logan the Ghost

Tyson the Pumpkin

Ok, That was the wordless part, here's the wordy part. I have to give a shout out to Adriane at Naptime Knittery. I bought Tyson's pumpkin hat through her Etsy shop. She didn't have a green hat with a pom pom, but I emailed her and she made one special just for us. I think it makes his outfit. The work is very professional, and she was super fast!! I'm pretty much in love with all of her stuff.

Isn't that the sweetest? If you go check out her site, let her know I sent you there.
I'm already thinking of costumes for next year. What are your best costume ideas?

NapTime MomTog