Friday, October 10, 2014

Learning About Other Countries: Flag Color Pom Pom Sort

The Dollar Store near my house started stocking some of their Christmas items this past week.  I grabbed several things that I thought would be perfect for various learning activities, including a bag of red, white, and green pom poms.  

My children have been particularly interested in states, countries, and continents lately, and of course they wanted to use some of our new items right away.  So, we decided to talk about Mexico and their flag, which just so happens to be...white, red, and green! 

We pulled out our big map, found Mexico, talked about where it is in relation to the United States, etc.

My 3 & 5 year olds got out the new pom poms and a Dollar Store 6 muffin tray for sorting.  First, they sorted by color.  Then, they sorted by size (there happened to be three different sizes in the Dollar Store bags).  And lastly, they hid them around the living room and hunted for them, because what 3 & 5 year old can resist that???  

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

How to Regrow Your Green Onions

For years, my sister in law has been telling me that you can regrow green onions.  And for years, I've said, "that's awesome", while neglecting to mention to her that I've never, not once, ever bought green onions before!  Ha!  This is my confession time, Jenny!

So, when I recently made twice baked potatoes, I bought my first ever bunch of green onions (because I'm growing up and trying new things...I recently discovered that I like beets!  What?!?!).  And after I used them, I took my sister in law's advice and tried to regrow them.

By day five, I think my husband was sick of hearing me tell him to "check out the green onions", which were growing at a rapid rate in our windowsill.  It was so fun to watch.  The pictures I'm showing here are on day 8.  Aren't they huge?  In the picture above, you can see where I originally chopped them down to, and the rest grew in the following 8 days.  

In order to regrow your green onions, chop & use them down to just above the white part.  Stick the white part in a glass of water, place it in your windowsill, and watch the roots and tops grow! 

They do get thinner as they regrow, but you can still harvest them a couple times.  I used some today in a corn chowder soup that I made for lunch.  So yummy!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Fall Themed Tic-Tac-Toe Game

Isn't this a cute little fall activity?  One of the best parts is that it's a Dollar Store Score!  

The Dollar Store wins again!  I found these super cute little mini pumpkin/squash/gourd bags in red and green.  They were a perfect size to make a cute fall themed Tic-Tac-Toe game (I recently saw a large Tic-Tac-Toe game played with full sized orange and white pumpkins in a magazine, though I can't remember which one).  

I tasked the kids with finding sticks in the backyard.  To make a Tic-Tac-Toe board, you'll need 4 like-sized sticks.  Once they gathered a handful of sticks, we picked the four that were closest in size.

Using some string or yarn, tie the sticks together to form your board.  We used grey yarn.

And there you have it!  A fall themed Tic-Tac-Toe game!  

The kids thought this was a really fun way to play this game.  Plus, they enjoyed hunting for sticks and comparing sizes of the sticks.  And, of course, it's super frugal!  

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Fall Teacher Appreciation Gift

How cute is this fall time teacher appreciation gift?  My sister in law made this using an apple from her apple tree, homemade caramel sauce, and a little tag that says "thanks for helping me FALL in love with school."  She's also a teacher, so she always has the best teacher-gift ideas!  I also really enjoy that this is a totally frugal, and easy gift to make, yet it looks so darn cute.

You could alter this for any type of teacher/coach.  I.e. "Thanks for helping me FALL in love with soccer/dance/piano/singing/etc,"

I'm looking forward to trying out this caramel sauce.  I think apples dipped in caramel sauce are fantastic, and it reminds me of my childhood.  

Monday, September 29, 2014

Why I Love Amazon's Kindle Unlimited

I love to read, but have always had a hard time A) finding time to read, and B) affording the expense of all the books that I'd like to read.  I recently discovered Amazon's "Kindle Unlimited", and let me tell you...I am in love.  I have been reading so many books that have been on my "want" list, and am starting to have a hard time NOT downloading everything onto my iPad.  AND, it only costs me $10 a month.  The time issue has been solved by downloading the Kindle app on my phone and reading while I nurse my baby to sleep, while I'm on the elliptical, or when the kids are playing and I have a little down time (which, let's face it, doesn't happen as much as I'd like it to!).  Mostly, I've just gotten creative with finding time to read.  Since I always have my phone with me, it's easy to read a few pages here or there.

If you want to use Kindle Unlimited, here are a few things you should know:

First, you don't need to own a Kindle device to download Kindle books.  You simply need to download the Kindle app (it's free) to your computer, phone, tablet, etc. and you're good to go!

Secondly, you can usually get a free 30 day trial , so look for that and use that first (though don't forget to cancel before the end of your 30 days if you don't want to continue subscribing).

Lastly, if you choose to subscribe, it's only $10/month for unlimited qualifying books.  Not all books qualify, but there are a ton.  Also, you can only "check out" 10 books at a time.  Then, you just "return" a book to get another book.

So, what have I been reading with my new found Kindle Unlimited Subscription?  LOTS of fiction.   In the last 2 months I've read:

*The Mockingjay (book 3 of the Hunger Games Series)- I'd read the first two books years ago, and now with the soon to be released third movie, I figured I should finally read this book, too.

*The Giver-WOW.  This was amazing.  It was a 1994 Newbery Medal winner, and I loved it. Side note: this just came out recently as a movie, and it was pretty good, as well.

*Gathering Blue-This book is part of the "Giver Quartet."  Though it's not a continuation of the Giver; it's a separate story.  This book was also really intriguing, but not as great at the Giver, in my opinion.

*Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire- These books are amazing, and I'm disappointed that I refused to read them all these years.  Book 4 was by far my favorite, followed closely by book 2.  I'm currently working through the 5th book.

*The Divergent Series (Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant)- I totally loved these, and really enjoyed the first movie, as well.  This series, however, is not currently in Kindle Unlimited, but after watching the movie, I figured that I had to read them anyway!

*Water for Elephants- I'm not even providing a link for this book because I quit it half way through.  I didn't enjoy (and wasn't expecting) the unnecessary sexual content in this book.  Just as I don't think looking at porn would be acceptable for my husband, I don't think literature packed with sexual scenes should be appropriate for me.  And with that, I quit the book.

I do have some nonfiction books I'd like to read, but fiction is just so much easier to get through when I'm tired (which is currently: Always).  Nonfiction usually makes me use my brain to think, and thinking makes me even more tired.  So for now, fiction is perfect.

Overall, Kindle Unlimited solves the "I don't have enough money to buy all the books" problem, and their free Kindle app on my phone solves the "I never have any time to read" problem.  It's a perfect solution, and I love how inexpensive it is!

Have you tried Kindle Unlimited yet?  Do you have any books you'd suggest?

(The links in this post are my referral/affiliate links.  Read my disclosure policy HERE.  Thank you for supporting the continuation of this blog by using my links!)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Potty Training Tips from a Fourth Time Mom

Thank you to Pull-Ups for sponsoring today's post and helping me Potty Train with the Big Kid Academy.

My littlest munchkin is nearing his first birthday.  Along with all the other things that begin around 1 year (walking, talking, etc.), my "potty training" prep begins at that point, too.  You start potty training at 1 year old?!?  Well, no, not really, but we get some aspects of it rolling.

Levi is my 4th baby.  I have two boys and two girls.  And man, are they different!  But, one thing has been the same for us...the first three were all fully potty trained by age 2 (though one child took another 2 months to be night time potty trained).  I HOPE that little Levi, being our easiest baby thus far, will also potty train as easily as his older siblings.

I in no way consider myself any sort of "expert" on the topic of potty training, but I do have some potty training tips and advice that have worked for us:

#1: The Potty Chair is Your Friend

At one year of age, we put out the (totally clean) potty chair in our child's bedroom.  They don't use it, but they get to see it, touch it, stuff their animals in it, etc.  The reasoning behind it is that we don't want the potty chair to be some big, scary, new thing once it's time to learn how to use it.  We want it to be more of an old, familiar object.  They are free to play with it however they want, but we also show them how to help their dolls or animals go potty in it, which gives them a glimpse of what it's actually used for eventually.

#2: Older Siblings Make Great Cheerleaders

If you have older siblings, involve them in the process.  Allow them to help pick out the Pull-Ups, choose a spot for the potty chair, cheer for little brother when he pretends (or really does) to go potty on the chair, or pass out his reward for actually going potty in the chair.

#3: Make it Fun

Purchasing their favorite character Pull-Ups (and eventually their favorite character undies), is so motivating and fun for little ones.  My kids have always loved to pick out their favorites, and these Jake the Neverland Pirate ones are so cute.  Let it be their choice (or have an older sibling pick a favorite), and talk about their characters each time they put on their Pull-Ups.

Huggies Pull-Ups Big Kid Academy has some really great resources for making learning fun, too.  I especially love their "Potty Training Progress Chart" and their "Video Character Calls" to celebrate going on the potty.  Seriously, I wish I had some of these resources with my older kiddos!

Want to enroll and get access to all their great resources too?  Click HERE to enroll!

#4: Bribery is Your Friend

Some people don't use bribery with their children...I am not one of those people.  I am ALL for bribery, especially with potty training.  Here's what we've always done: potty in the toilet earns a jelly bean, poop earns a lollipop.  Now, it must be noted, that if your favorite candy is jelly beans, this may pose a problem for your waistline...ahem.  If that's the case, you may want to try something else.  Funny story: When our first born was potty training, she ended up blending "poop" with "lollipop" so that what she called her reward was a "lollipoop".  Which is especially cute until you're at the checkout line counter with all the fancy lollipops and she's yelling at the top of her lungs, "lollipoop! Lollipoop! Lollipoop!"

#5: Follow the Leader

Hint on this one: You are not the leader.  Your child is the leader.  Follow their lead, despite your own desires to rid yourself of the "diaper" budget category.  When you notice them asking questions about the potty, ask if they'd like to try.  When they start asking you to change their diaper, or telling you that they just went potty or poop in their diaper, they are ready.  Don't push too hard, but encourage them to regularly take a trip to the bathroom.  Starting before they are ready will just make it a long road to completion.

Bonus Tip:

While this one may seem a little odd, is has been a HUGE help to our children.  We always keep the potty chair (once they've progressed to actually using it) in the living room where we spend most of our time.  We have found that if the potty chair is always within sight, our children are more apt to initiate "trying" to go regularly.  Once they've gotten the hang of taking themselves regularly, it gets moved to the bathroom where normal humans go.

What are your best potty training tips? At what age do you begin the process of potty training? Don't forget to enroll in the Pull-Ups Big Kid Academy for more awesome tips, games, encouragement, and fun ways to celebrate your big kid!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Fall Homeschool Schedule

School has been "going" for a month now at our house.  This year we have a 2nd grader, a Kindergartener, a preschooler, and the baby.  So far, so good, though we're still getting into the swing of how things will work this year with three of them doing school.  I can't even begin to think about what life with 4 elementary aged children will be like in a few years!

Here's what our weekday schedule looks like this fall:

*We generally do school in the mornings, M-F.  This time is flexible, and depending on what we're learning, either all the kids will do school at the same time, or they'll all take turns-one after the other.   

*We use the morning for language arts and math.  We typically do sciences, social studies, history, etc. in the afternoon or whenever we're in the mood for it :)

*We try to use each "life" experience to our advantage, i.e. grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants, neighborhood walks, etc.  There's something to be learned from everything!

*On TUESDAYS, the kids come with me to one of my AM Kindermusik classes.  They love music and dancing, and this class is a family style class (0-7 year olds), so they fit right in!

*On WEDNESDAYS, the girls have soccer practice.  This is our only evening devoted to sports.  Generally, evenings are our family time, so we try to not to do much.  Ben coaches Zoe's team.

*On THURSDAYS, we have our co-op classes.  This fall, Ellie is taking an Art class and Ballet; Zoe is taking Spanish and Ballet; Aaron is taking preschool; Levi parties in the nursery with the other babies.  This gives them great classes, and time with other kids their own ages, too.

*On FRIDAYS, the big three take swim lessons.  It has taken me MONTHS to find private swim lessons for the three of them that could actually fit in my budget, and I'm SO happy to finally have found someone (group instruction didn't go so well this summer).  

We also try to do one park play date each week with some friends from another homeschool co-op.

At this point, we are loving the new school year.  We are learning lots of new things, trying lots of new activities, and meeting lots of new friends.  

How is the new school year going for you?  What are your favorite parts?


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