Monday, August 31, 2015

First Day Of School

Annabelle eagerly began her school career this morning at home, with A Beka's K4 program. She is ready to learn. I'm so excited to begin this journey with her, as her teacher. The curriculum covers the basics: reading and writing; basic math skills; and Bible. In addition to that, we will have a rotating curriculum, beginning with science. When we are finished with the science unit, I hope to go over units on telling time, famous artists, dinosaurs, and whatever she wants to learn about.
Today was a fairly easy day, as the information I presented to her was review (and it will be for the first few weeks).
We began the day with the calendar, weather, and a preview of what we would be learning. Then we headed to the dining room for table work. I found a fun activity for her to do on the first day of school, to be repeated again at the end of the school year. I'm excited to see how her progress changes over the next several months.
We then took a short break for a snack, and a quick walk around the neighborhood before digging into our Bible curriculum. Annabelle learned about the first three days of Creation in Genesis 1:1-13.
She also learned about how the Bible was written, and how it is laid out.
Before long, the school day was over, and it was time for lunch!
Obligatory 1st day of school picture, complete with signs

1st Day of K-4

I'm just here for the stickers!

Our daily board. More on that in a later post

Hard at work

Reference board. More on that in a later post

Practicing scissor skills

Monday, August 24, 2015

Our Homeschooling Corner

All of our school supplies are neatly organized!

This year, Annabelle and I will go through A Beka's K4 program. At first, I was skeptical. I thought I was expecting too much from her, and that I should just keep doing what I'm doing, and take advantage of the teachable moments. But she has been asking about spelling, reading, and adding. She wants to know how to "make" numbers. She is beginning to sound out simple words with help. And once she learns a word in print, she commits it to memory. She recently opened a menu, found the word "pizza" in an unfamiliar font, and decided that's what she was going to eat for lunch that day. Annabelle has a thirst for knowledge, and craves teaching. To just take advantage of the teachable moments, in her case, would be to hold her back.

With just 9 days remaining until we officially begin our homeschooling journey, I finally got to work organizing a corner of the dining room for all of our homeschooling and art materials for the year. Even though I purchased the material in May, I never made the time to organize it until this weekend. Now that the curriculum guides are in labeled binders, books are stacked neatly, pencils are sharpened and nestled in bins, I feel ready.
But I may be buying a few baskets to replace the shoe boxes. I don't think I'll ever actually be done organizing. I'm just going to keep changing it up little by little until the end of the school year.
Enjoy these pictures, and I'd love to see everyone else's school/homework/craft areas!
Later this week (or maybe next week), I hope to share with you Annabelle's learning boards.
Be sure to check back, as I plan on posting updates on our homeschooling experience!
Extra crayons and some lite reading for myself
I bought the crayons back when Walmart was selling them for $.50!
Coloring supplies for free coloring:
New crayons and markers;
Melty crayons;
Colored pencils

Pencil box, workbooks, NIrV  Bible, game dice, music CD
(They are not used in the curriculum
for several more weeks)
Flash Cards and Small Visuals

Binders with all of our curriculum guides and larger visuals.
To the right, I have a notebook and daily planner for mysel

Bulletin board pieces
A Beka uses a lot of visuals,
which comes with a LOT of
tiny pieces!

Coloring books and construction paper

Art supplies. By labeling the drawers,
I know I am more likely to keep everything organized!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Fizzy Paint

One of my favorite, simple activities to do with kids involves two simple ingredients: vinegar and baking soda. We have all made our volcanoes or film canister rocket ships (if anyone can help me find a few old fashion pop-top film canisters, I just might write about that too) in the kitchen when we were young. But that's not enough for the creative mind in our home.
Fizzy painting is just as simple, and possibly a little less messy than volcanoes and rocket ships. All you need is heavy duty paper (construction paper or poster board will work fine), glue, a little food coloring, paint brushes, and of course baking soda and vinegar.
Start by painting your design on the paper with glue, and sprinkle baking soda over the design (like you're making a glitter project).

Allow that to dry while you work on puzzles, squish play-dough, have a snack, or whatever other activities you need to fill up an hour of time.
Once the glue has dried, mix about a tablespoon of vinegar with a few drops of food coloring. I wanted a bold color, so I used about seven drops of purple food coloring.
Using your paint brushes, carefully drip little bits of your vinegar mixture onto the baking soda design.

...and watch the magic happen. If you are very quiet, and listen carefully, you can hear the baking soda and vinegar fizzing on the paper.
As always, be sure to protect your work surface, since food coloring will stain.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Messy Monday: Kool-Aid Play Doh

Excited to make "green booger play-doh"
Summer has officially begun, and as I lay in bed last night, I realized something.
I have no rainy-day plans for the girls!
My mind was so set on swimming every day before lunch and dinner, that I forgot about the rainy days. What are we going to do if the weather doesn't cooperate with out plans to swim all day, everyday?
Of course this morning, we woke up to dreary skies, and threats of rain.
Hazel hammin' it up for the camera
The girls ate breakfast, destroyed the living room, watched "Littlest Pet Shop", and had baths all before 11am. Now what? The sun kept poking in and out of the clouds. Teasing us with threats of rain, and promises of a beautiful day. I didn't want to get completely ready for the pool, just for the sky to open up, and slam us with a rain storm. Annabelle has also been complaining all morning of an earache. I shouldn't be too surprised, as she probably spent more time under water than out of the water in the past three days.
I took a quick donut break
I poked around the internet, and after deciding to make another batch of my Pumpkin Play Doh, I set out to collect my ingredients.
Then it caught my eye. Lemon-Lime Kool-Aid we purchased a while back, in attempt to dye Annabelle's hair green. I recalled seeing several links to Kool-Aid Play Doh recipes, and decided today would be a great day to try something new.
The process was very similar to the Pumpkin Play Doh we made in September.
Follow the directions here to make your own. Coconut oil was my oil of choice, and I used two Kool-Aid packets, instead of just one.
This Play Doh turned out very soft and smooth, and the color was way more vibrant than I had expected. However, I wasn't too crazy about the smell. Maybe it was just the variety of Kool-Aid I chose. The scent wasn't overpowering though, so it wasn't an issue.
Try this recipe yourself, using other varieties, and let me know what you think. You could mix & match different varieties, or even use three of four packets.

This is all you need

Annabelle made a baby


I just made a smiley face
If the paci is in the mouth, the play-doh won't be

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Family Day: Please Touch Museum

I recently found a Groupon deal for tickets to the Please Touch Museum. Admission for four, plus four carousel rides for just $48! I knew I had to jump on this deal. And I'm glad I did it. Both girls were able to enjoy themselves, and learn on their own levels. I was very impressed to see that there were staff members at every station, ready to interact with, and help visitors. Also, the entire museum was very accessible for visitors with special needs. There were wide open aisles and ramps to allow for easy access, as well as several quiet areas for visitors who may be easily overwhelmed by all that is going on. Children could burn off some energy by running in a human hamster wheel, or quietly color and play in a sensory bin full of rice. Visitors of all ages, ability levels, and needs were considered when planning the museum and its features.
The centers themselves ranged from transportation, to water play, physics, community, Alice In Wonderland, and others. Annabelle loved playing in the food truck in the transportation center, and we all loved launching rockets, learning about physics and air pressure. The only center Hazel struggled to enjoy was the water play. The tables were too high for her to reach, even though there was a shorter table in the middle for younger guests. In the future, we may request a milk crate or step stool to help her play with her peers. There were plenty of other areas that she could enjoy with little or no help.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

It's been one year...

I tried to start writing this several times. I honestly had about 6 or 7 decent starts, just to highlight, delete, and start over. How do I reflect on the past year in just one short blog post? It has been a year since we received Hazel's official diagnosis of achondroplasia. A year! We have been learned so much; we have gained so many friends; we have cried and cheered with Hazel. I cannot find the words, so I will just let the pictures do the talking.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

In Like A Lion

March certainly came roaring in like a lion, dumping even more snow on us this year. I took it as an opportunity to teach Annabelle about the old saying "March comes in like a lion, and out like a lamb". We made a few fun lion projects, and had fun teaching Hazel how to "roar" like a lion, and "baa" like a lamb. These projects are all pretty straight-forward, and children can either make the whole thing independently, or with a little help, depending on skill and interest level.
Here are the projects we made:

Lion mask with pipe-cleaner mane

For this project, we only made one, but the girls collaborated to make it. I drew the face on the back of a paper plate, and had Hazel color it with a yellow marker. Then, I punched holes around the perimeter of the plate, and snipped some pipe cleaners in half. Annabelle poked the pipe-cleaners through the holes, and I helped her twist them into place. If you don't have pipe-cleaners, you can also use ribbon or string.

Lion toilet paper tube

The lion toilet paper tube took the most prep-work of the three projects. I have included at the bottom of this post a template to make it easier for you. You can print the template on white computer paper and have the child color it before cutting it out, or you may wish to just cut out yellow and orange construction paper pieces like we did. For the tube itself, you can also paint the tube yellow instead of using yellow paper. Just make sure you give it time to dry before gluing on the rest of the pieces.

Lion and lamb shaker

Rather than telling you how I made this project, I'm going to tell you how I will make it next time. Start by gluing two paper plates together, with a handful of dried pasta or beans between them. My husband had a good point that rice will be more likely to slip out from between the plates, and is a total pain to clean up. (If you wait until the end to do this, you will be struggling to staple through thick cotton balls, between strips of construction paper.) Leave a little space at the bottom to slip a pop stick between them with some strong glue. Next, draw your lion and lamb faces on each plate, and paint one plate yellow. When dried, clue strips of construction paper around the lion plate, fold in half, and glue the ends together. When that glue has dried, turn the plates over to clue cotton balls to the lamb side of the plate.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Hazel's Eye Update

Over the winter months, Hazel came down with three consecutive eye infections caused by normal winter sickies and a blocked tear duct. After the third infection, we decided it was time to head to Delaware and have her eyes looked at by an ophthalmologist. Her tear duct just wasn't opening enough for her tears (as well as bacteria) to run out as they should. We noticed that her eye was a puffy after waking up, and crusty almost every morning.
Heading down to the hospital for her appointment on Friday was a little nerve-wracking. I was fully expecting to schedule surgery to open up the tear duct. But, as always, the friendly staff at the hospital calmed all my fears and anxieties. We are so blessed and lucky to have access to such a wonderful facility, less than 2 hours away.
Because Hazel's appointment was scheduled for 1pm (right after lunch), we arrived early so we could grab a bite to eat in the cafeteria before being seen by the doctor. It also gave us a chance to meet up with a Brave Little Warrior, Jude and his family. I always love meeting with other families in the LP community FAMILY.
After our delicious (yes, I referred to hospital food as delicious.) meal, we made our way up to ophthalmology. I admit, I was expecting the worst. You see, Hazel does not like doctor's offices. Even when she's not the patient, I have to reassure her that it's not her turn this time to prevent the waterworks. Also, she typically falls asleep for her nap by 1:30. However, she did surprisingly well. With the exception of the dye they used to check how well her tear duct was draining, and the drops used to dialate her pupils, she was very compliant.
Even though she almost got away with swiping a toy from the office. Oops!
While her tear duct is indeed blocked, Dr. Hendricks decided to take a wait-and-see approach, unless she requires anesthesia for anything else in the near future. As long as her tear duct stays healthy, she does not want to put under general anesthesia unless absolutely necessary.
We did find out something else, though. Hazel's vision is not what it should be at this point. Her left eye is far weaker than the right, and left untreated, could lead to lazy eye. She also has a slight astigmatism in her right eye that needs correction.
We are so thankful that Dr. Hendricks was so thorough with her eye exam, and was able to catch her vision problems before needing further intervention. Hazel will be getting her first pair of glasses very soon. I'm pretty excited to see what a difference it makes.
Oh, and not to mention how adorable she is going to look.
I'll just leave you with a few pictures I took while we were waiting to see the doctor...

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Goodbye Winter

As Winter waves farewell with one last (hopefully) snow storm, we are stuck inside once again. Usually, we would do winter-themed crafts and embrace the falling snow. But not any more. We have had enough snow and Winter-y crafts this year. And it's March!
So we said our goodbyes to Winter by greeting Spring with some fun crafts.

First, we made some fun fork-printed tulip flowers. For Annabelle's tulip garden, I drew the flower stems, so she knew where to print the flowers. For Hazel's, I let her stamp freely, and added the stems later.
Annabelle had to take a quick break from doing her project to talk on the phone though. Grandmom called.
Our next project was popcorn cherry blossoms. I traced each of their hands onto a piece of brown paper and cut it out to use as the tree. Annabelle did a great job gluing the popcorn onto her tree. Hazel, on the other hand, was upset that I wouldn't let her eat the popcorn that had glue on it. I couldn't resist that little pout, so I just let her have a little snack.
And just like that, all was well in Hazel's world.

For our third project, Annabelle did a number matching activity, gluing leaves to carrots.  The carrots were numbered 1-5 and glued randomly to a piece of paper. Annabelle was then instructed to identify the numbers, and glue the correct number of leaves to each one.
While she did that, Hazel played with a container of magnetic  letters and a cookie sheet. I love using these Pamper's wipe containers, as they also allowed her to practice fine-motor skills, sliding each letter into the small hole at the top.
We hope you all enjoyed one last snow day this year. Spring will be here soon, and so will more fun activities. We cannot wait to get outside and enjoy the park, sidewalk chalk, bubbles, and more.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Bubbles, Bubbles

This never-ending Winter has trapped us inside for yet another long week. Cabin fever setting in, the girls becoming increasingly antsy, I had to come up with something new for them to do.
We haven't broken out the bubbles in months! I don't usually like blowing them inside, since they leave soapy, sticky spots all over everything. But I didn't care anymore. We needed something fun to do.
And it was a blast.
Yes. Just a cheap little bottle of bubbles that Hazel got from her Sunday School class kept both girls entertained for a while.
Annabelle had a great time blowing the bubble for Hazel. And Hazel had a great time trying to catch them.
Squeals, giggles, and joy filled the living room.
All because of a tiny bottle of bubbles.
What's better is that Hazel was able to really work on her core strength. Reaching, leaning, and stretching to get the bubbles. It was beautiful.
I had a great time just watching the two of them interact and play so nicely together. These girls absolutely love each other, but it was especially nice to see Annabelle taking the time to patiently blow bubbles to make her baby sister happy.
And she even added a new word to her vocabulary, "buh." Okay. Not quite a word. But when I asked her today if she wanted to do bubbles, she responded with a very emphatic "buh."
Now we are working on encouraging Hazel to stand with her back to the couch, and blowing bubbles for her to reach from a supported standing position. She tolerated this for a little while this morning, but I ran out of bubble solution, and she ran out of patience as I desperately tried to catch the last bit of the bubbles from the container.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Library Book Review

Every week, we try to make it a priority to visit our public library. We always come home with a bag full of anywhere between 7 and 10 books to enjoy together. From board books, to easy readers, and everything in between. Since going to the library and reading stories has become such a big part of our routine, I thought it would be fun to start a new series here on the blog, reviewing our findings.
This week's books:

"Pomelo Explores Colors" by Ramona Badescu; Illustrated by Bengamin Chaud
"A Cars Christmas" (Step Into Reading) by Melissa Laongero; Illustrated by The Disney Storybook Artists
"Lots Of Spots" (Classic Board Book) by Lous Ehlert
"Legos Mixels" by Shari Last
"Animals In Underwear ABC" by Todd Parr
"Blankies" by Carol Thompson
"You Are (Not) Small" by Anna Kang; Illustrated by Christopher Weyant
"Vacation's Over! Return Of The Dinosaurs" by Joe Kulka

Rather than getting into reviewing all of these books, I will just go over our top three of the eight books Our top three favorites were: "Vacation's Over! Return Of The Dinosaurs"; "Blankies"; and "Animals In Underwear ABC".

When we pulled into the parking lot of the library, Annabelle informed me that she wanted to get a book about dinosaurs. And before I even had a moment to look for a Jane Yolen dinosaur book, she had already found "Vacation's Over! Return Of The Dinosaurs." This book, written in a cute couplet-style poem, toys with the idea that dinosaurs never went extinct, but rather went on vacation... to outer space! It was a very playful story with wonderful illustrations, as well as mini-biographies on several different species of dinosaurs on the inside of the covers.
If you know our family, you will know that blankies are a big deal in our house. We always have a mountain of blankets in the living room for everyone to pick off of after dinner, while we all snuggle up on the couch to wind down for bed. Annabelle has no less than 3 blankets on her bed (even in the Summer), and Hazel is following in her footsteps. So this book was very relatable for the girls. Cute, descriptive language makes up this little story about loving and sharing blankies. It was a wonderful read for Hazel.
This next book somehow flew under my "potty humor" radar, despite the title "Animals In Underwear ABC." I'm a big fan of Todd Parr's simple, colorful illustrations, and allowed Hazel to put it in the library bag without one look at the title. But maybe that was a good thing. Annabelle loves reading the book to Hazel, turning the pages, lifting the flaps, and singing the alphabet song. And yes, the underwear part is very silly.
As Hazel is big enough to reach the board books at our library, and is starting to really enjoy reading, I am excited to see what books she chooses next week. Annabelle loves picking books, and reading them together every week, and I look forward to what she wants to read about next week as well.