Monday, July 26, 2010

Library List

Welcome to the second edition of our Library List, where I share the books the kids and I have checked out of the library this week! I must clarify why I am posting this one so soon: we actually go to the library on Friday, so right after I posted our first library list, we returned those books for several more. On Friday, I'll post our next batch of books and will be all caught up to start a weekly post.

On our bookshelves this week:

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. Famous, famous illustrator and author. We checked this book out for an imaginary break from the sweltering heat we've been experiencing! It really did work! The girls really responded to this one, especially when Peter drug the stick in the snow and then banged the stick against the tree. They really identified with that! They are also obsessed with making footprints and were fascinated with the idea that you could make footprints in snow (instead of with wet feet, the way we do). Too bad we don't get much snow here in the South!

The Carrot Seed by Ruth Kraus. Cute little story about a boy who believes his carrot will sprout even when his family tells him it won't! This book opened the door for a nice discussion about patience and perseverance.

Curious George Flies a Kite by Margaret and H.A. Rey. What will that little monkey do next? My girls love Curious George! Not my favorite George story, but the girls love kites, and they really enjoyed it. I had to read it three times in a row.

Grandfather Twilight by Barbara Berger. This was really over Doodlebug's head, but she liked the beautiful illustrations. Pretty story. Gorgeous pictures.

Dinosaur Roar! by Paul Strickland. A favorite by far! I must have read this six times in a row and had to calm cries of protest when I suggested we move onto something else--especially from Doodlebug!  Simple text and nice pictures present dinosaur opposites with rhyming words.

The ABC Bunny by Wanda and Howard Gag. This has to be one of the nicest alphabet books I've read, and we've read several.

The Sun, the Wind, and the Rain by Lisa Westberg Peters. I just happened across this title and thought it would be good to introduce the idea that the earth is millions of years old and how the mountains were formed. We haven't made it to this one yet, but still have several days to read it.

 Color Zoo by Lois Elhert. My girls picked this one out all by themselves and we've read it twenty times if we've read it once. I find it odd that it's called Color Zoo when what it is actually presenting is shapes, but it is very colorful so there is ample opportunity for me to talk about colors, too, and shapes is what I'm working with Doodlebug on anyway, as she is getting good with colors now.


Elmer by David McKee. It seems that I underestimated this title! When we went to the library, Darling simply would not part with it, so here it is again this week.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Slow-Cooker Love

I am totally in love with my slow-cooker. Have I said that before? Head-over-heals in love. It is now a permanent fixture on my counter top, no longer banished next to the fondue pot under the cabinet. I have seen the light!

This weekend I made Creamy, No-Stir Risotto in the crockpot, and now, I am (of all things!) making home-made yogurt in it. I am so excited about it, I am smiling as I write this post! I plan on posting the recipe for the risotto, but I am still tweaking it. My idea is to use prepared butternut squash soup (the Cambell's in the green box) to make a no-fuss, dump-it-and-leave-it butternut squash risotto, and my results were promising (and quite delicious). It's just that the proportions were a little off, so I want to refine it before sharing. However, I will post the link to the original recipe that inspired me:
No-Stir Crockpot Risotto

The yogurt was a surprise. I've been wanting to make home-made yogurt for years, ever since I saw my aunt do it. Only fear and the price of a yogurt maker kept me from doing it. So I get the bright idea to Google "How to make home-made yogurt", thinking surely there is a way to do it safely without a lot of trouble or fancy equipment, and what should pop up in the results but how to make yogurt in the crockpot! The blog, A Year of Slow Cooking, is one that I actually became familiar with way back before it was very big. Wow, has it grown! I highly suggest that you check it out, if you haven't already.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Of Webs and Things

Darling came to me the other day and informed me she was going to make "an elephant web" in order to "catch elephant food." She found some of my pink embroidery floss and asked me for some tape. I told her no tape on the walls, so she made the web inside her play tent. I don't know why I find this so darn creative, but I do!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Library List

Hello, and welcome to the first edition of our library lists! I've been taking the kids to the library and hope to make it a weekly habit. My kids love to read. Well, they can't read yet, but they love for me to read aloud, and they love to look at pictures books by themselves and "pretend" to read. In fact, they know some of the stories so well, that it seems like they are reading because they can recite all the words, verbatim, from memory. Many nights, when it's time to turn out the light, Darling will plead, "Can I please read books by myself?" I've been trying to read to Doodlebug especially, as she still isn't talking very much (which is why there aren't as many stories about things she says....she doesn't say much).  I am thrilled to see her taking such an interest in reading, too.

I have lots and lots of children's books that are supposed to build the foundations of literacy, but I've been looking for books to build other subjects, too, like science, social studies, math, and geography. Here is a list of books that we have been reading this week.

Inch by Inch by Leo Lionni. When we finished the first reading of this book, Darling said, "That was good!" Very simple story about an inch worm who measures things. I have this idea to cut an inch of string and let the girls go around and measure things. Good to introduce the idea of measurement.

How to Bake and Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman. This was great to introduce the idea of geography, but also science (the recipe!) and social studies (different cultures). I think it will be fun to make an apple pie after reading this story and talk about where the ingredients come from. Even more fun: eating the apple pie!

Elmer by David McKee. I checked this book out simply because my kids are fascinated with elephants. Cute story about being different and being comfortable with yourself. My kids liked it, but I'm glad I just checked it out of the library.

Uncle Elephant by Arnold Lobel. Author is more well-known for his Frog and Toad stories (which my kids also love), but I checked this out, again, because the main characters are elephants, and my children love elephants. These stories definitely have the same flavor as Frog and Toad. Easy to read, short, and a little odd.

Katy No-Pocket by Emmy Payne. You might think that the pictures have a familiar quality about them, and that's because the illustrator, H. A. Rey, is famous for the Curious George series. This is a cute story about Katy Kangaroo, who doesn't have a pocket to carry her baby! We talked about the points outlined in Before Five in a Row. Great for science! It was a nice way to introduce how different animals carry their babies.

Is This a Home for Hermit Crab? by Megan MacDonald. My girls wanted to read this over and over and over. Good for toddler science! They loved it when I would read the little noises that Hermit Crab made on the sand. They loved the repeating phrases. We must have read this ten times in a row and it's always the first read before bed now. I think I'll take them to a pet store to look at Hermit Crabs. We'll be re-checking this one!

Life and a Recipe: Someone's in the Kitchen with Mama

After a year of letting the Darling "help" in the kitchen-- hold stuff, pour stuff, stir stuff, etc...I decided to let her actually help cook dinner one day this week. She now has enough awareness of the danger of fire and sharp objects that she is actually competent to really be my sous chef! Hurray!

I let her help me make one of our favorite entrees, what we affectionately call "Melissa's Chicken". During season 4 of "Next Food Network Star" mom and I rooted for Melissa D'Arabian, who eventually won. In a test pilot, she talked about her simple "4-Step-Chicken" and it looked so easy and tasty that we just had to make it. It was delicious! We've been making it every one or two weeks ever since. Although Melissa's pilot was on The Food Network website for a while, now that she has her official show and Next Food Network Star has moved on to season 5, I can't find the recipe anywhere on the Food Network website, even when I search for it. I'll share it here, with just a few of my modifications. "Melissa's Chicken" meets my dinner criteria: it is easy to double and freezes well! I'll often make up several batches at once.

It was Darling's job to pound the chicken. Putting the chicken between two sheets of wax paper before pounding makes for easier cleanup.

Dredging the chicken in flour

"Melissa's Chicken" with Apples

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in half horizontally and pounded with the flat side of a tenderizer (optional, I just do this for faster cooking time)
1/3 cup olive oil
1 small red onion, sliced
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup unfiltered apple juice
3 apples, cored, peeled, and sliced
salt and pepper to taste

flour for dredging (I start with about 1/3 cup), seasoned with salt and pepper. I put it in a plastic baggy and shake it up.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Dredge chicken in flour on both sides. When oil is very hot, add chicken. Cook chicken several minutes on each side, until golden brown on the outside and done in the middle. Take chicken out of the pan and set aside on a plate. 

Add onion to your pan and cook until tender and translucent. Be sure to scrape up all those lovely brown bits of chicken!  Next, add the apples to the pan. Cook until tender, and then add the juice and broth. When it starts to get bubbly, add the chicken, reduce heat to low, and cover. Let the broth reduce by at least half. Salt and pepper to taste. 


(I usually make this with 3 sliced red onions only, and 1 cup lemon juice instead of apple juice, with or without 1/2 cup white wine. It's always delicious and is so versatile! You can add whatever vegetables and liquids you want. I'm planning on trying it with apricots, too!)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Life: Pumpkin Pulls UP

I had told him that I didn't want him to do it. I begged. I pleaded. Eight months is just too soon. But, defiant and totally heedless of my wishes (he gets that from his father), there he was when I opened the door:
And he looked very smug about it, indeed.
With a lump in my throat that my last baby is growing up much too quickly, I hurried over to his bed.....and pushed him back down.
(not really!)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Stitch School Blog

I have been playing around with making play food out of felt. So far, I have made a loaf of French bread and an eggplant with moderate success. However, I had no pattern, no poly-fill, and no idea what I was doing, so I think I did pretty well for the first time. Plus, I made them for about 60 cents instead of $5-$8. Hurray for being mildly crafty!

But, I came across this fabulous blog and I had to share: The Stitch School. I looked up how to do a Blanket Stitch for my next play food project. I have a feeling I'll be visiting often!

So Simple Pasta Salad

Here's a typical lunchtime in my household:

I get the girls their lunch. I sit with them and nurse the baby while they eat. I have my own plate of food. They crawl down off the stools and attempt to run around. Still nursing the baby, I chase them down and haul them to Time Out. During the chase, the baby quits nursing and cries in anger and frustration that his lunch has been interrupted. During the girls' four-and two minutes (respectively) in Time Out, I re-latch the baby and eat a bite of my own lunch, (hopefully using a utensil other than my fingers) while standing at the counter. Time Out is over and the girls crawl up on their stools. They finish their lunch. They take their dishes to the sink. I send them back to their rooms to play. Still holding my 22-pound, 29-inch-long baby in one arm, horizontally while he nurses, I stand at the counter and take another bite of my lunch (hopefully using a utensil other than my fingers). Screaming starts at the back of the house and gets louder as it comes closer and closer. Darling races into the kitchen pushing a pink doll stroller, looking behind her and laughing, while Doodlebug chases her, screaming, "My sthtwower! No my sthtwower! My! Myyyyyyyy!" They run around the island a few times. The baby, who was almost asleep, unlatches and cranes his head back, eyes wide, to see what has interrupted his lunch, again. I take another bite of my own lunch (hopefully using a utensil other than my fingers) and chase down the girls, boob flapping every which way until I re-snap my nursing bra. Let's hope the postman doesn't drive by, as all the blind are wide open. My lunch is left on the counter, forgotten until three hours later, when I return. Hungry, I attempt a quick algebraic equation in my head to determine how many times the germs in my food have multiplied while my lunch sat at room temperature. Unable to complete the equation, I just decide to risk it and take a few bites (hopefully using a utensil other than my fingers). Germs build immunity.

If this sounds like just another day at your house, then you need quick, easy to prepare recipes like I do. Here is a pasta salad that is simple to throw together (the hardest part is cooking the pasta!), is excellent hot or cold, is mighty tasty and is excellent leftover. It can be a side dish or a main course. And, as an added bonus, it can be eaten with your fingers if need be, without too much mess.

So Simple Pasta Salad

1 box rotini pasta, cooked according to package instructions and drained (or other shape, although I like spirals because it holds the sauce so well)
1 jar prepared pesto (I use the Classico brand)
1 wedge (big or little as you like) sharp provolone cheese, cut into small cubes
1 cooked ham steak, cut into small cubes
1/2 jar pitted katamala olives, sliced (or whole if you prefer) 

Dump all ingredients into a large bowl. Stir. Eat. Enjoy.

Additions that would be delicious:
marinated artichoke hearts
heart of palm
sundried tomatoes

While the Kids Are Away, Mommy Will.....Read

What else would I be doing? Cleaning? Hah! (although I am making meals for the freezer!). The kids are with their daddy this weekend, so Mommy is getting some real reading time. Not just a page here, a paragraph there like usual. Actual sit-down-and-read-for-an-hour and it isn't even midnight time. Naturally, I feel guilty that I'm not writing down titles and values of books that I'll be donating to the library, but hey, if there wasn't always some chore to be neglected, I wouldn't be a mom.

I am reading the most amazing book, Mommy, Teach Me! by Barbara Curtis. I read a review of it on Cathy Duffy's Homeschool curriculum reviews and immediately purchased it on Amazon. I try not to impulse-buy like that, but I thought it sounded just like what I wanted. So far, it's been a home run for me. Barbara is a mother of twelve and a certified Montessori teacher. This is a list of Montessori-style activities to do in the home with your toddlers and preschoolers. There is a companion, Mommy, Teach Me to Read, which I also have but have not gotten to yet. I love that these books are slim and easy-to-read. Reading her words was like finding a kindred spirit. In fact, I have said, nearly verbatim, what she said about spilled milk. I can't wait to do these activities with the girls when they get home.

Do you ever have periods where you just know that you're growing and stretching? I feel like I'm in that now. I've spent the weekend making plans, reading, journaling, making lists, solidifying plans, and preparing materials (and cooking meals for the freezer--which is a strange expression as I am actually making the meals for my family and me and am not really feeding the freezer).  I have been trying to put all electronics away when I am with the kids and have been getting up early to have computer time for myself. I canceled the internet on my phone. I've quit trying to get them occupied and instead have gotten them involved with me. It has made such a huge difference! I was falling into this terrible rut of yelling. I hate yelling. I hate to yell and I hate to be yelled at, so I was pretty appalled when I found myself beginning to yell in frustration. I feel there is no place in my parenting for yelling, so I knew I had to find the source of this frustration and nip this in the bud. I found that I was the source of frustration, not my kids. They're just being kids! They're just curious, and energetic, and want to be with mommy because they love me! Why should that cause frustration? No, the problem was in how I handled the day. The problem was that I got frustrated because I felt they were interrupting my own selfish desires to do this or that. I don't mean that Mommy can't do some things for herself, I just feel that I should only do it on my own time, when they are in bed. I have marching orders straight from the top: raise three kids! I cannot stand in the court of Heaven at the gates of eternity and say I failed that mission because "I needed something for me." And then I realized that we are only children once. I often say that my only goal in raising my kids is that they come to know the Lord. "I cannot live in eternity if they aren't there with me." But then I realized that in Heaven, they will be their mature selves, not my little ones. My time with them when they are babies is for Time only, and will never, ever happen again. And it's gone in the blink of an eye. Am I going to miss it so I can have "something for myself?" Absolutely not! Being with my children is what I'm doing for me. So now a new resolution for me: be mentally present for my kids. Being "there" in the room but fiddling on the computer is not enough. It leads to whining, frustration, and ultimately, yelling. It's just not an effective way to parent. Being actively engaged with them all day is the hardest thing I have ever done. But the more I do it, the easier it is. I wrote in my journal, "It's like being a better mom leads to being a better mom." The more I do it, the more I do it. You know?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Life: 7-17-10

You know you're a bit of a health-nut when your four-year-old comes to you and says, "Mommy, I need to take my fish oil."

Friday, July 16, 2010

Crafty Blogs

Check out these cute, crafty blogs that I came across tonight while looking for craft ideas to do with the kids:
One Crafty Mumma
just what i (squeeze) in

Printer Made Out of Legos

 For your Friday enjoyment, a bit of fun! This guy made a real, working printer out of Legos and a felt-tipped pen:

Thursday, July 15, 2010

How to Wash Fewer Dishes

My mom was complaining to me about how many dishes we wash. I said, "well that's an easy fix: get rid of half the dishes."

For some reason, she didn't appreciate that.

Random Thoughts

A lot of time I hear of moms who want to keep their kids busy while they "get something done." This isn't my philosophy at all (although some tasks are not safe for a pre-schooler to perform). I want my kids to actually do the tasks with me so that they can learn what it takes to live every day life. They need to know what it takes for the dishes to get washed, the laundry to get folded, the beds to get made, and the toilets to get scrubbed. Because if they don't know how much work it takes, they will never be able to appreciate me, their mother. And if they do not learn to appreciate me, they will never learn to appreciate anyone.

Of course, it takes about a bazillion times longer to do anything when I've got three little ones trailing behind me like ducklings.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cloud B Sea Turtle

For her birthday, I gave Darling this Twilight Turtle by Cloud B. It has to be the best present I've ever given her! It projects stars and the moon onto the ceiling in either green or blue (or both). She's now had it for a little while, and it seems my fears that she would be "over it" in a couple of days were unfounded. How well the stars show up probably depends on how high the ceilings are and how big the room is.
We have eight-foot ceilings typical of an eighties ranch, and it really is lovely to lie in bed and gaze up at the stars on the ceiling. We keep the turtle at the foot of her bed. Darling, who has lots of trouble sleeping, does really seem to sleep a little better with it on. I think that she just gets so excited about the stars that she forgets to be scared about the dark. That's okay, though- I will take any help I can get!

Free Kid's Music

Have to share another link: Free Kids Music has high quality children's music to download for free for your personal use. The artists have released these songs as a promotion, hoping you'll go back and purchase the rest of their albums. However, all the songs shared are free and yours to keep-- and no subscription required. There are a lot of contemporary artists, but check out the "Traditional" section. There are a lot of songs you remember from your childhood, and they are very well done!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Life: Summer Cooking

Tonight, I made the first pot of okra and tomatoes of the season! The onions, garlic, and okra all came from my garden (my tomatoes are hopelessly late this year). It was spectacular! Find my recipe in the recipe box on the left. Next okra recipe to try: gumbo!

Pumpkin can officially crawl, and he is trying to pull up onto his feet. All I can say is: No! No, no, no, no, no! 

I'm taking the kids to Kindermusik this summer, and it is going so well. We're in a class that all three can be in together and they love it! Doodlebug is really coming out of her shell, and even little Pumpkin squeals and smiles at the music. I'm so glad I decided to sign us up.

I took Darling to the library today, and we found tons of pictures books about elephants. We checked out six books. I think we will start doing weekly visits. It was such a nice time together.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Lovely Links

I've been scouring the four corners of the internet recently, looking for educational/craft ideas. I have found that for my family, the best defense against toddler meltdowns is a well-stocked craft cabinet and a little imagination. This has led me to find some really fantastic blogs/sites that I just have to share.

First, The Rhythm of the Home. One of my friends from NorCal posted a link on her blog to this excellent online magazine. What wonderful ideas! It is specifically for families with young children, and from the articles I have read, has an unplugged childhood vibe, which is exactly what I strive to give my own children. Check out the blueberry pie recipe!

Next, Jump Into A Book. This blog has me completely inspired! It is exactly the kind of thing that I want to do for my kids to encourage a love of reading. I think it really makes everything come alive. Although my kids might be a big too young now, I'll be saving these activities and ideas for a few years down the road when we are ready for them, or maybe I can modify them to be more age appropriate.

Next, I read about the idea of notebooking a few years ago, and filed it away in my memory for later. Tons of freebies, but also lovely notebook sets that you can purchase to download and print. Lots of information on notebooking, too.

Along the same vein, FREE printable organizers, calendars, weekly curriculum planners, shopping lists, menu planners, the list goes on and on....If you are a mom, you may want to bookmark this one.

And store it all in a Mom Agenda folio. These organizers, planners, and calendars (with separate schedules for mom and up to four kids in one weekly planner!) are pricey, but are gorgeous, well thought-out, and just plain nice. I think they make a great gift for any mom who has suffered through losing all her contacts and calendars in a computer crash or phone upgrade, and wants to keep a paper back-up. Plus, free printable pages, and the planners and folios can be personalized.

For free children's books online, check out The Baldwin Project and The Rosetta Project.

For free classical music downloads, check out Get a new, free,  editor's pick album every week, plus unlimited online listening. You have register, but it is free (although there is a paid subscription option) and the albums are yours to keep forever.

And to expose your toddler to great music and audio books, check out the SweetPea3 MP3 player. I'm in love. It is childproofed (unlike that $400 iPod), and can be dropped and chewed on. It also has a speaker, so does not need headphones (which are very bad for your ears) but can be used with headphones when your children are older. These suckers also come pre-loaded with songs and audio books (20 in all, which is at least $20 of free stuff) and they only cost $60, but with a new account, you can get them for $40 a piece. Just check out Although I went ahead and bought one for each of my girls, I'm putting them away until Christmas. However, it's all I can do to not break it out of the box. They are just so darn cute!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Life: Butterfly Birthday Bash!

Today was Darlin's 4th birthday party! She is very much into butterflies right now, so that was her birthday theme. We sang butterfly songs (thank you, Cullen's ABCs!), read The Very Hungry Caterpillar, drank "nectar" (a 1-1-1 mix of pineapple, orange, and cranberry juices), made butterfly PB & J sandwiches (celery-stick body, triangle-cut bread wings), and learned that butterflies do not emerge from a cocoon, but rather a chrysalis.  We also made bug jars from the Oriental Trading Company, and I printed out free coloring pages of butterflies and made a coloring book for each child (just Google "free coloring pages" for a plethora of sites). It was a lot of fun. Because it was such a small party (three friends + 1 sibling + birthday girl = 5 kids), everybody stayed all day and we played outside in the sprinklers until the kids were worn out. Then we let them watch a movie and made spaghetti for supper before the friends went home. This has to be one of the best days that I can remember. I hope it was memorable for Darlin', too.

To me, this is what it is all about. It just doesn't get any better. I am so blessed to live a life where, although it was a "party", this was just another typical great day.


After browsing some excellent home school blogs, I got the idea to use nicknames for my kids rather than their initials. They don't really have "nicknames" but all mothers have little pet names for their babies that we use when we are rocking or comforting, so that's what I'll be using to refer to my kids from now on.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Quiet Time

All the kids are in Quiet Time, meaning Mommy gets quiet time, too! I've been perusing free ebooks and free audiobooks online, and came across this volume of Poems Every Child Should Know. 
I just had to share two poems that I came across in the first few pages of the Gutenberg text. For some reason, I am completely struck by the fact that these poems were written so long ago. I'll bet the authors never could have imagined that a woman in the 21st Century would be reading their works over the internet, yet the theme of each poem still rings true today.

               Let Dogs Delight to Bark and Bite

Let dogs delight to bark and bite,
          For God hath made them so;
        Let bears and lions growl and fight,
          For 'tis their nature too.

        But, children, you should never let
          Such angry passions rise;
        Your little hands were never made
          To tear each other's eyes.

          ISAAC WATTS (1674-1748).

    Little drops of water,
      Little grains of sand,
    Make the mighty ocean
      And the pleasant land.

    Thus the little minutes,
      Humble though they be,
    Make the mighty ages
      Of eternity.

     EBENEZER COBHAM BREWER (1810-1897).

Life: 7-6-10

E tried to pull up in his crib today. He managed to get up onto his knees. This means he'll be pulling all the way up very soon, and then *gasp* walking. By the third child, you know what this really means: commence chaos in 5-4-3-2.....

E is also trying to crawl, and he clapped his hands for the first time about a week ago. I forgot how wonderful this stage is. It seems like every day he learns something new!

I used felt to cut out shapes in various colors (each shape in several colors) and the girls and I now make up games using these felt pieces. I don't have a felt board, so I just used clothespins to clip a sheet of black felt to our easel. They cannot get enough of the games! After just three days,  M is already doing better with colors and shapes! Sometimes, I put up all different shapes and ask them to pick out a certain color. Sometimes, I put up different shapes in the same color and ask them to pick out specific shapes. For R, who has known these things for at least two years (but still has to be included in everything M does) I'll put up all the squares and one circle and ask her which one is different. We spent at least an hour this afternoon just making up games as we went. I also made up a new song to signal that they need to be quiet. Sung in a whisper to the tune of Where is Thumbkin

Let's be quiet
Let's be quiet
Ssh! Ssh! Ssh!
Ssh! Ssh! Ssh!
Le-et's all be quiet
Le-et's all be quiet
Ssh! Ssh! Ssh!
Ssh! Ssh! Ssh!

I had read that the quickest way to get the attention of a toddler/preschooler is to start singing a song, and it worked like a charm! 

I have two recipes that I need to write about (like my search for a "real food" mac n' cheese recipe), but there always seem to be too much to do and too little time....

Monday, July 5, 2010

Free Coloring Pages

Mommies of young children (or "kid-at-heart" adults), check out for free pages to print and color. It has pictures from tons of animated kid movies and tv shows, including more obscure shows. All the classic Disney and Pixar films are represented, plus Curious George, Peter Rabbit, Winnie the Pooh and tons of shows I didn't even recognize (I don't let my kids watch live TV-- just pre-approved DVDs because I hate commercials marketed to kids).  It's well worth checking out!

And for the preschooler who needs a challenge, check out Color Me Masterpiece. Print out coloring sheets of famous masterpieces for you child to color, and teach them about art at the same time!

"And in Circle Time today, kids, we're going to learn about Raphael's Madonna and Child."

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Random Favorites for Kids

Just wanted to share some favorites things old and new.

First, head over to Great Hall Productions to find fantastic audio recordings of children's books and fairytales. I bought a few MP3 Downloads of Jim Weiss' from iTunes. It's great for the car! We really like the "Just So Stories" by Rudyard Kipling (author of The Jungle Book).

And while you're browsing iTunes, check out the MP3 recordings of the classic Lux Radio Theatre productions. During the glory days of Hollywood, some of the most famous films and musicals were adapted for the radio and performed by the original stars. Hear the original cast perform! I bought The Wizard of Oz and Meet Me in St. Louis, both featuring the amazing Judy Garland. There are a lot of films that I recognize, but not very many are musicals. Still, great to introduce my kids to these two classics while battling boredom in the car!

If you have toddlers or pre-schoolers, head over to The Letter of the Week to find a full, free pre-school curriculum to use. Full of print outs, themes, fingerplays, poems, songs, and just plain great ideas for little ones, plus links to even more great resources.

If you're looking for more great ideas for pre-schoolers, check out YouTube page of Cullen's ABCs and KinderArt. More fantastic ideas for projects, crafts, songs, and more to keep your little ones busy!

And just because I have friends ask me a lot, some of our favorites authors of children's books are:
Paul Galdon-- retold fairytales you can trust. We especially love The Little Gingerbread Boy and The Three Billy Goats Gruff.

Robert McCloskey- Make Way for Ducklings, Blueberries for Sal, Homer Price, One Morning in Maine are just a couple of his wonderful children's books. Lovely illustrations.

Virginia Lee Burton- My absolute favorite is The Little House, but we also love Maybelle the Cable Car, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, and Katy and the Big Snow.

Marjorie Flack- Ask Mr. Bear and The Story About Ping are two classics, among others.

Those are just a few of the classic, well-known authors of great children's literature. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Life: 7-1-10

E learned how to clap today! He has been trying for a few days and today he was surprised when he actually put his hands together. He gave me one of those big, wide-mouthed grins. What a honey. He's now seven months old and can roll over (I think it looks like an alligator "death roll"), sit up, wave, laugh, scoot, and pick things up with his hands to put them in his mouth.

M is going through a phase where she will not eat anything but oatmeal. There are worse things! Breakfast, lunch, and dinner, if you ask her what she would like to eat, she'll say, "Yong-yong" which is how she says oatmeal.

R is in a big coloring phase right now. She has learned to color in the lines and is now highly upset if she messes up and gets out of the lines. I keep telling her that it's okay-- everybody gets out of the lines sometimes. I guess this perfectionism is going to be part of her personality.

Easy Recipes

I'm looking for easy recipes. The kind that require few ingredients, don't use processed or prepared foods such as condensed soups, and don't take much prep work, yet are satisfying and delicious and won't cause battles with my two-year-old. Oh, and that dirty up as few dishes as possible. I mean, really, that's not much to ask, is it?

Needless to say, I haven't found much. I'm loving the idea of the slow-cooker--I love the "dump it in and leave it" approach. The fact that I can get it going before the kids get up and have a delicious dinner ready when I need it-- even if time gets away from me-- is VERY appealing. In fact, I've got some soup going in the slow-cooker as I'm writing this. And that got me thinking: can you cook a whole chicken in the slow-cooker instead of the oven? Can you make lasagna in the slow-cooker? How about fajitas? Casseroles? I intend to find out!

(update: the soup turned out pretty good!)

Other benefits of the slow-cooker that I did not think about before:
-costs far less to run than the oven, because it uses less electricity
-doesn't heat up your whole house (which is good because it's been sweltering)
-usually portions are big enough to freeze half for later, making you doubly efficient!