Monday, March 2, 2015

Six Ways to Learn with Dice

All my children love to play with dice.  Whenever I find odd shaped, large, different textured, or different colored dice, I'm sure to pick them up for my kids.  I have big foam dice, and little tiny dice.  I have dice with money amounts on them, and dice with roman numerals.  I have polyhedral dice with lots of numbers on them.  Dice are fun to throw, and fun to watch roll around.  They can also be fun for learning!  Here are six ways to use dice for some learning fun!

1.  Greater than/less than. This is for two people.  Each child rolls their die and reads the number they roll.  Then one of the children must decide which is the greater number (and which is the lesser number).  This activity can be used for younger children by using regular, dotted dice, or with my older children, we use the dice with various #’s up to 30.   

2.  Addition.  Give your child two of any type of digit or dotted dice.  Also give them a white board and marker.  Have her roll both dice, and then create a math problem on her board.  So, if she rolled a 2 and a 3, she may write 2 + 3 = 5 on her board.   This also works with money dice, too, and gives great money adding practice! 

3.  Dice race/Graphing.  Give your child a graph with spaces to represent each number on the die (if you are using a typical dotted die, your graph would just have spaces for #’s 1-6 on it.).  Then have your child “race” their die to the top.  For every roll of the die, have your child fill in one space on the graph.  Which number got rolled the most?  Which number did you roll the least?  The winner of the race is whichever number gets filled to the top on the chart first.

4.  Money matching.  If you have money dice, get out some real or pretend coins/dollars, too.  Then, have your child roll her die.  If she rolls, for instance, a “$.50,” have her find coins to make $.50.  How many ways can you make $.50?  Which way is the easiest?  My kindergartener plays this way, but my 2nd/3rd grader plays with two or three dice at a time and adds them up in her head and then builds the total with her coins.

5.  Draw a picture.  This can be a single player game or a two-player game.  Pick a picture to draw, but make sure it has 6 “parts.”  Each part of the picture then has a corresponding number on the die.  For example, if you are going to draw a snowman, give your child a page with the three circles already drawn.  Then, the nose might be #1, the eyes for #2, the mouth for #3, the arms for #4, the buttons for #5, and the hat for #6.  When her die rolls a 5, she would draw buttons on her snowman.  The first child to complete his snowman wins! 

6.  Writing the Number.  Using dotted dice, have your child roll, count how many dots, and then write the correct numeral on paper or a white board.  For older children, give them two or three dice, have them roll, add the total, and then write the numeral.  For an added challenge, have your child write how many dots in Roman Numerals instead of standard digits.

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

How to be a Not-Annoying Neighbor

I recently had a "neighbor" experience that was less than delightful.  So today, I'm over on the Reno Moms Blog today sharing "how to be a not-annoying neighbor."  Be sure to check it out!

"I recently had a neighbor experience that left me super frustrated.  My husband and I came home one day to an index card in our mailbox that basically read, “I have not slept a full night in weeks due to your animals.”  That was it.  No signature.  So we went out on our date, but all I could think about was that stupid little note.

Here’s what I know…we have one dog and four chickens.  We don’t have a rooster but our dog can sound an awful lot like a rooster when he barks.  Our chickens aren’t that loud, with the exception of when they lay an egg or get lost from each other in the yard.  Our dog is inside the house from 7 pm until 8 the next morning.  Our chickens sleep as soon as it gets dark and they are silent all night.  Obviously, you can see why a note about our animals keeping someone awake seemed fairly odd and out of place."  

To read the rest of the post, head HERE!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Lump, a Surgery, a Phone Call, and Trusting Jesus: Part 2

Yesterday was a long day.  We knew we would be receiving a phone call from Ben's doctor re: the lump on his neck, but we had no clue when that call would come.  Ben went to work for the first time since his surgery last Thursday, and he felt pretty good.  He called his doctor's office mid morning and was told the doctor would call him sometime after 6 pm.

So we waited.

And waited. 

And we went to dinner with Ben's parents.  And we all jumped a little when the phone rang.  And sighed when it was someone checking in on Ben.

We had calls, and messages, and texts from our friends all day long checking on the prognosis.  I know many of you were thinking of us and praying for us all day long, wondering when we would update you all.  Thank you for loving us.


It may seem odd to some of you why this lump was such a big deal.  I don't know.  Maybe lumps are always a big deal.  I've never dealt with lumps, but I know I never like the sound of it.  

Twenty-five years ago, my husband lost one of his big brothers to cancer (lymphoma).  It presented with a lump in the neck.  Just like Ben.  Ben was only 8 when he lost his 17 year old brother.  It still hurts.  I'm not sure the hurt of losing a brother and son ever goes away.  I never knew him.  My kids never knew him.  That also makes my heart hurt.  My kids watch home videos of their uncle sometimes.  They wish they had a chance to meet him.  And someday they will in heaven.  Someday.  

My heart ached for the possible outcomes of his lump.  But my heart ached even more for Ben's family, who knew first-hand the loss of a brother and son.  As a mom, I cannot even imagine the pain of losing a child.  My mother in law and my own mother both know this pain.  But even more, I cannot imagine hearing that another of my children had a similar symptom, with a similarly suspected diagnosis.  It's just too much and too unfair.  


We sat watching TV last night.  At about 9:00, the phone rang.  We both jumped and held hands.  I sat quietly so I could hear the doctor talking to Ben.  

Blah, blah, blah, blah, bengin.  What?!?!  Ben squeezed my hand and I knew I heard correctly.  It was benign.  

So why had the doctor had such a gut feeling that this particular lump was not good?  Well, in this doctor's 43 years of practicing medicine, he had NEVER seen this particular type of cyst.  He actually had to look it up to gain info on it to pass onto Ben.   He had what was called a cervical thymic cyst.  They account for only half of 1% of cysts.  It is benign, not expected to come back, and Ben doesn't need any follow up visits.  

Leave it to Ben to have the most rare type of cyst.  That's totally him.  Over achiever.

We are beyond relieved.  I cried all sorts of ugly tears last night.  I have puffy, swollen eyelids this morning.  My husband is healthy.  My children's father is healthy.  My in law's son is healthy.  Louie and Joel's brother is healthy.  Tears all around.  I felt like Oprah last night sending out's some tears for you!  And some tears for you!  Don't get some tears too!

Want to cry with me?  Go ahead.  I'm crying right now as I write this.  I'm so thankful.  So glad it's over.  And so happy to move on in life.  Thank you for praying with us, and checking in on us, and celebrating with us.  Life is good.  God is good.  

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Lump, a Surgery, a Phone Call, and Trusting Jesus

A couple months ago, Ben found a lump in his throat.  It felt kinda like a lymph node, but wasn't going away.  A trip to the doctor yielded antibiotics.  He finished the antibiotics, and thought that the lump had gone down in size a bit.

Several weeks later, he still had a persistent lump in his throat that would not go away, except now it was starting to bother him.  I noticed him subconsciously grabbed at it or moving it around all throughout the day...every day.  So he went to an ENT doctor, who ordered an ultrasound.

The ultrasound was not as cool as one might expect.  There was no cute baby in there.  So there's that.    But after a few minutes, the tech called in a doctor who called in another doctor who called another doctor up on the phone.  Ben was trying exceptionally hard not to vomit at this point.  None of the doctors could figure out what it was.  So a CT scan was ordered next.

This was uneventful, and we got preliminary results within a few days (which basically consisted of "we have no idea what it is").  Next was a surgery to remove it.

Ben had surgery on Thursday.  It went well, and he's healing up nicely.  He'll have a cool little scar on his neck someday.  Well, maybe.  He does tend to wear a sweet beard these days which will mostly cover it up.  He's still quite tired and gets nauseous easily, but he actually ventured out to Costco with me today (he said it sucked).  We should hear preliminary results tomorrow.  He also plans to head back to work tomorrow.

After the surgery, the doctor came to speak with me while Ben was in recovery.  He said that the mass was much larger than they saw on the CT scan or what they could feel.  It was 2 inches in diameter.  He said we'd have results on Monday and we could just call his office.  That's where the conversation should've ended, but instead I thought I'd be the "good" wife who asks lots of questions.  So I asked, "from what you saw, what is your opinion?"  To which he sighed and said, "well, honestly, it was concerning the way it looked.  After you've been doing surgeries a long time, you kinda get a feeling".  (By the way, his doctor is 70+ years old!  Isn't that just crazy?!?!)  Then he followed up his statement with a quick, "but I still give it a 50/50 chance for lymphoma/cancer or benign."  Oy.

Sometimes being clueless is just better, I think.  Although leading up to his surgery I felt complete peace, in that moment, I totally lost it.  I just can't even imagine hearing that it is not benign.  I began to fear, and to doubt.  To not trust Jesus with my husband.

And then I prayed for peace.  And God listened (he does that, you know).  I feel at peace with the whole situation.  Worrying or stressing about it in any way isn't going to make the prognosis any different or make tomorrow more cheerful.  But it will rob today of any peace and joy that it may hold.  I may completely miss out on today if I'm always worrying about tomorrow.  And so I choose to live in today, enjoying it fully, and to trust that God has tomorrow under control.  He knows what's going on with Ben's body, and He has a good plan for Ben and our family.  Good plans and easy plans aren't the same, though.  Sometimes life is hard or challenging.  It doesn't make it any less beautiful or precious.

I know that there are many, many of you who have been praying for us-for health for Ben, for peace for us both, and for a "benign" test result.  I truly appreciate each and every one of you praying.  Please continue to pray for us...and especially for Ben as he calls the doctor tomorrow to hear the preliminary results...I want to barf a little just thinking about making such a call.

I will certainly update with the assumed good news tomorrow :)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Our 5 Favorite Online Resources for Learning

Let’s face it.  Technology is everywhere.  My children know how to use some of our Apple devices better than I do.  Occasionally my 5 or 7 year old will walk by me and give a little sigh while explaining that I’m on the wrong input or that I need to go back to click on the correct button on the iPad. 

Rather than fight the technology, we choose to embrace it.   Let me be clear and say that yes, we do have electronic privileges at our home, and yes, they often have to be earned.  They can also be lost with poor attitudes or poor choices during the day.  Our kids do watch TV, and they do play on the iPad.  They also use the computer.  We set boundaries with technology.  Sometimes those boundaries are in the form of a time frame (you get 30 minutes to watch something), other times they are in the form of subject matter (you may use the computer but only if you are using it for…).  Internet usage is monitored, and they do not just get to do whatever they want.  

Over time, we have found some really great websites or apps that we enjoy.  Our children are able to learn new subject matter while having fun.  That’s my favorite kind of learning J

Today I thought I'd share with you some of our favorites:

1.  KhanAcademy:  Khan Academy is an incredible website, full of completely free information.  My 5 & 7 year olds each have their own accounts, and I have a parent account.  Khan tracks your progress, and awards “points” or “stickers” for mastering subject matters.  Then, each week, Khan sends an email to me letting me know how many minutes they’ve each spent on Khan, what areas of learning they spent their time on, what they’re mastering, and what they’re having a hard time with. 

Khan offers math starting at preschool and all the way up through college.  They have teaching videos that are unique and engaging.  When kids get stuck on a question, they can request a “tip” to help them figure it out.  They also offer science (biology, physics, etc.), test prep (ACT, SAT, etc.), Art and Humanities, and more.  This is a website suitable for any aged learner...even us grown-ups!

My 7 year old really enjoys their coding (HTML) lessons.  She is learning the very basics of coding, and likes that she can watch how to videos, experiment on her own, and watch her “code” come to life.  Although she’s only doing simple things (creating shapes, changing background screen colors), she feels quite proud of her accomplishments.  And really, what a great skill to have in this technology world!

The Khan website is ad free, which is really important, in my opinion, for children’s sites.

2.  America's Story from America's Library.  My 7 year old is extremely interested in US history and the presidents of the United States.  This website will let your child "Meet Amazing Americans," "Jump Back in Time," "Explore the States," and more.  The site is run by the Library of Congress.  My daughter loves all the presidential information and the information on famous inventors.  It's easy to navigate, has child friendly content, and is also ad free.

3.  Typing Games.  Typing is an incredibly important skill related to computers.  There are certainly excellent paid programs out there, but there are also a ton of really great free games out there to at least get you started.  Fun to Type is one of them (my kids enjoy the balloon game). The downside to many of these free typing websites is that they are not made to be a full, comprehensive programs that track progress and move you up slowly through the skill levels.  So you really have to try various games out and see which games work well for your child’s level.

Also, these sites are not typically ad free, and there are many things to click on that may lead your child away from your desired location.  I recommend being in proximity to your child while she plays these typing games.  At the very least, you can help her figure out where to click and which pages to stay on.

4.  Wonderopolis.  This site is fantastic for answering lots of “wonders”.  Each day there is a new wonder to read and learn about.  You can also submit a question, or a wonder, of your own.  It’s an awesome website for learning about all sorts of fun topics.  You’ll find “wonder” topics such as: “What was the Gettysburg address?” or “Who invented the candy bar?” or “How does a phone work?” or “Why do bananas bruise?”  So much to explore on this site!  It is ad free.

5.  PBS Kids.  If you’re like me, you still remember all the wonderful PBS shows from when you were little.  PBS is still around, and now utilizes the internet for excellent kids content.  They have both shows and games.  My kids especially enjoy the Electric Company word games (spelling, rhyming, matching, etc.), and the various building games (great for problem solving).  My children’s new favorite show on the PBS kids website is called Odd Squad.  It is a fun action show for children ages 5-8, and is filled with math content.  PBS Kids is also ad free. I want to hear about your favorites!  What do your kids use on a weekly basis? Which are your favorites?  How do you deal with electronics in your home?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

St. Patrick's Day Day Activity Pack

Next up on the list of holidays is St. Patrick's Day.  Last year, I designed this St. Patrick's Day activity pack for preschool and kindergarten aged children.  It is a 20 page printable pack that includes cutting, tracing, glueing, creative writing, coloring, counting, and more!  And of course, it's all St. Patrick's Day themed.  

Now, some of these sheets are great for repeating.  I suggest either laminating those sheets (and filing them away for next year, too), or slipping them inside a plastic page protector.  Then, your child can use an Expo marker to do the activity over and over again!  

To get this activity pack for FREE, head to Teachers Pay Teachers HERE.  

Monday, February 16, 2015

Why Everyone Should Keep Scissors in Their Car

In my car, I keep bandaids for small injuries, jackets for cold weather, spare clothing for spills or accidents, extra diapers, wipes, pens for all sorts of writing needs, feminine hygiene items (though I now use the cup), hygiene/food bags for homeless, blankets for the park, DVD's for long car trips, CD's for rocking out, tweezers from the time my husband got an in ear monitor stuck in his ear before worship, a stroller for restraining my 3 year old runner, and other random junk.

About six months ago, I added a pair of scissors to my car storage.    I have only had to use them once (for something as simple as cutting a plastic tablecloth in half at the park), but they're there.  And they are probably one of the most important "what if" items I keep in my car.

Last year, two separate stories caught my attention and made me vow to always keep a pair of scissors in my car.  Here's why everyone should keep a pair of scissors in their car:

This first story makes my heart sick every time I think about it.  Last year, a group of Graco car seats (almost 4,000,000 of them!) were recalled after the buckles were being reported to occasionally get stuck.  There were 74 complaints where people had to cut the buckles to remove their children.  In one very unfortunate instance, a woman's car was on fire after an accident and the car seat buckles were jammed on her two year old daughter.  She helplessly watched her child die in the car fire, stuck in her car seat.  If she had had access to a pair of scissors, the outcome may have been drastically different.  Her child might have been alive today.   My husband always carries a knife with him, but I don't typically have anything I could use for cutting a seat belt on me.  Having access to a pair of scissors is SO important for instances of a jammed seat belt.  It may just save a life.

The second story I read last year that led to my scissor-keeping decision was a story of a little girl playing in the car alone while her momma talked with a friend outside the car door.  At some point, the mom thought her daughter was much too calm. She opened the back door to her car, and saw that her daughter had been playing with one of the seat belts and had inadvertently tied it around her neck.  She was stuck, slowly suffocating, and all tangled up.  As her mom tried to free her, the buckle pulled tighter and tighter.  Since they were in a school parking lot, the mom's friend had sense to run into the school and grab a pair of scissors.  She ran back out and quickly cut the girl free.  She lived, but was traumatized and badly bruised.  And I'm guessing the mom was also traumatized!

If these two stories don't convince you to keep a pair of scissors in your car, I might just have to call you crazy.  Please, please, please keep a pair of scissors in your car.  It may save a life someday, though hopefully they'll never need to be used.

Update: A few have commented on Facebook about having a seat belt cutter.  If you have one of those-even better!  But, as someone who always forgets to buy those odds and ends things when I'm shopping...I know that EVERYBODY has scissors in their home that they can grab RIGHT NOW to put in their car.  If you want to buy a seat belt cutter online, however, and you have a few extra bucks in your budget this month, you can find them for pretty cheap on Amazon HERE.


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