Sunday, January 27, 2013

Bathroom Shelf

I am reminded more and more each day how blessed I am to be married to Simon.  And to his chagrin, I'm going to take a moment to brag. :) While somewhat insignificant, in comparison to so many other beautiful and deeper things he brings to our marriage, I am thankful for his talent with building. He is creative, detail oriented and a gifted craftsman. These attributes, combined with his love for "projects", makes him a great personal carpenter, as well a wonderful addition to my life.
This weekend he took his own money and time to build us a bathroom shelf. We had been discussing the idea since we moved in; We have little towel space and a big blank spot on the wall so it was a naturally progressing want.

This isn't a how-to, it is just some shots of the finished project.

He didn't know I took this :) installation 

Hobby Lobby Hardware.  Love that place.

Front View

A side view of some of the weathered detail

I really like the detail of the accents.  

Another weathering view

Detail close up

Dressed and ready to go.

Thanks honey for being great.
Praise God for talents.
Thank you God for putting someone in my life who is so many things that I am not.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Little More Christmas

When I previously posted about Christmas in Little Rock, I had forgotten that I had some un-uploaded pictures on my Camera so I thought I would just add them now.  

Nannie, Papa, Mom, Christmas tree

 Mom lounging, waiting to open her presents
 Dad amidst the opened presents
 Nannie and her new purse
 Papa opening presents
Mom showing off her new canisters.  I am super jealous of these.  I think the stainless steel ones are really cute.  

Me and Simon :)

 My parent's back deck.  Crazy snow.
...and some more snow

... and a little more.
 Warming up dinner and Simon's feet.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Grocery Shopping in the Guest Room

I mentioned, in a previous post, the grocery store I set up for the kids I nanny. I wanted to elaborate a little more because they had much more fun than I had anticipated and I'm sure other 4 year olds (or older children, really) would enjoy it equally as much.
After Amelia received a visit from the tooth fairy, I became aware of how completely foreign the concept of money is to both she and her twin Henry. So when I saw some plastic and paper play money in the target $1.00 section I decided it might be worth introducing the idea on a rudimentary level.
Another observation of mine: everything has a mommy and daddy. The squirrels, batman, toy cars, pillows, everything. In the world of these four year olds, life revolves around a family. Because of this, I decided to introduce the coins as a family. It may sound silly, but it clicked for them.

Papa: quarter
Mama: nickel
Baby: dime
Puppy dog: penny
The dollar was easy because it has the number on it, so I didn't incorporate it into the family.

As I laid the coins out and they touched them, counted them, etc we referred to them as papa quarter, puppy dog penny, (you get the picture) to help them get the saying into their head.   The idea being to associate the size of the coin with its name. I wanted to keep it fun and simple. I chose not to introduce the monetary value because that is a bit beyond what they need to understand right now in my opinion. Because of this, they couldn't trade 2 nickels for 1 dime etc. everything was just equal. I don't think this will be confusing later because their whole knowledge base is built by expanding upon simple concepts they already understand. This is just a fun way to get them used to money and learning the names of the coins.

Okay, so...In one of the bedrooms I set up all of their plastic food from their play kitchen in groupings: veggies, fruit, dairy, breads. I also set up a sandwich station because they had a sandwich set.
Under each grouping I taped a simple sign with a picture of the food group and a picture of the coin(s) you need to buy something from said grouping.

They each picked a change purse from one of Amelia's dozens and I allotted them each some money.  I would play the cashier when they were done shopping. I initially made sure they would not be able to evenly spend all of their money, hoping they could understand the concept of not having enough money for all they wished to buy. I didn't want them to get the idea that there is always enough money for whatever they want. It sounds silly and I wondered if I was over-thinking it, but it provided an opening for good conversations about earning money and begin careful which items you choose, so I'm glad I did it that way.

A couple of the days I covered the den with books and stuffed animals. If they wanted to "earn" more money they could "work". So they would get to choose 1 coin for every 3 things they picked up and put away. They have had a lot of fun with it - often asking for more work.

Occasionally I will change the cost of the grocery items to make it a new experience but they haven't gotten bored with it yet. We take turns being the shoppers and the workers, giving them the chance to take the money and make sure it is enough. Checking out is a slow process because I would go one food at a time, having them pay me for each individually; Other wise they get lost in the numbers.

It was interesting, watching as they gained an awareness of how much money they had and how much it would buy. The first time, they both filled their baskets completely full and when I asked if they thought they could buy it all they said yes. As we went, and they realized they kept having to put most of the food back, they would only put a few items in their basket and then go back for more if they had leftover money. I chose to not discuss the idea of saving or giving because I wanted to keep it fun, but when they become aware of how much each coin is worth, I think the idea will be easier and more appropriate to present.

A couple of the things I think they enjoyed most about this is that it is a grown up activity: grocery shopping. They felt big and they thought it was special to have their own money.
It was something fun we could do together but also simple enough that they could run the show on their own.
Okay that's really all I have to say about it I think.   In summery, it has been a learning tool and a fun little adventure for the kids. I hope I can discover more of these as time goes by. Suggestions?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Celebrating the New Year, 2013

After a cold and slightly unusual Christmas holiday, we sought our calm and relaxation as we drove to Alabama for a little New Year celebration.

Jessica and Grant recently moved to Huntsville, now making them the closest family members to our South Carolina home. We had not yet gotten to visit them, so we used our drive home from Little Rock as an opportunity to change that.

We arrived Saturday, late afternoon, and after receiving the grand tour, enjoyed a delicious warm meal and time catching up.
Kira and Andrew arrived Sunday afternoon after we had gone to church and out to eat at "nothing but noodles" where we all ate, yes you guessed it, noodles.

We were introduced to a new board game: balderdash which we thoroughly enjoyed playing.

Monday, New Year's Eve for anyone who has lost track of my time line here, the girls did a little shopping and we welcomed in the new year by virtually ignoring its arrival as we continued playing games: more balderdash, catch phrase and I believe some skip Bo.
Speaking of catch phrase... It would be wrong to leave this out. We began the catch phrase game by nonchalantly splitting into boys vs girls. After loosing 5 times, the guys refused to switch teams; determined to beat us. 5 or 6 games later, we remained undefeated and the game night ended with jovial bitterness and murmurings of luck. While the New Years welcome was rather anticlimactic, the time together was fun and memorable.
As a whole, I took zero print-worthy pictures. But a couple note worthy one. So I will end with those:

If it is difficult to see, Andrew is holding a knife... looking a little to pensive.

Happy New Year friends.
May this year yield more accomplished goals, lives blessed, and love spread in and through the lives of you all.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Making days "special"

As a nanny I have learned a lot of simple things about kids that I had never thought about before. Obviously nannying is NOT the same as parenting, but I have still learned many tricks that I will be able to carry over into parenting one day; Lord willing.
One of those so called tricks is that making a day special and exciting is all in the way you present out-of-the-ordinary things.
I am currently working with 4 year old twins and most of my prior experience is also with young children. They have SO much energy and so much excitement about life (most of the time) it is hard for me to keep up the same positive energy. I have been learning, and hopefully will continue to learn, how much difference a "special" something makes.

Here are 5 simple ideas I've tried that make life more fun and help drag everyone out of the same ol' same ol'.  NONE of these are earth-shattering to say the least people. I feel like playing with kids is like planning dinner. When you do it every day even the simplest ideas seem out of your mental reach and coming up with new ideas is stressful.

1. Spice up lunch time
Sandwiches seem to be the go-to lunch at home. "My kids" have just learned how to make their own sandwiches. A huge excitement in and of itself. So for a "special" day I have two ideas.

1a- Surprise
Here it was:

Simple simple. I cut up some cheese, sliced a boiled egg and slid some fruit onto a skewer. When they saw their colorfully prepared plates they lit up and were so excited to have this special treat. I used only things I already had in the fridge. Minimal extra work- maybe 10 minutes.

1b- pizzas
Making personal pizzas together was an event! I talked it up on the way home from school and made them a part of the whole process. They put all of the ingredients on their own pizzas and even watched them cook in the oven.

2. Rainy-day picnic
Rainy days are the WORST! The kids love outdoor activities so much that you can almost hear the rain clouds in their voices. Making rainy days fun is a major challenge for me. So I decided to take a sunny day activity and bring it inside. Picnic in the living room. Bust out an easily washable blanket (don't want to be stressing about them spilling because... they probably will) pack a bag or basket full of sandwiches or even a treat like chips and eat together on the floor.

3. Grocery store
With some play money and the plastic play-kitchen fruit, we set up a little grocery store in the spare room and went shopping. (I will blog more on this later because it was such a big hit).

4. Scavenger hunt/nature walk
I made a list (with some online help) of things to hunt for outside. We spent almost 2 hours walking through the neighborhood searching for all the items on our list. When we could find one we would all stop, take a picture of it (or the kids with it depending on the size or placement) and draw a picture of it on our chart before crossing it off the list. They had such a blast and all of the walking gave us some exercise and a new way for the munchkins to burn some energy. Not to mention it was just nice to spend some time outside on a nice day.

Here was our list:
Stick shaped like a "Y"
Spider web
Flying bug
Smooth stone
Tree roots
Green leaf
Colored leaf (it was fall)
Above is a not-that-great photo of our recordings.  Just to show you how not-perfect this can be.  The middle is the list of what we were looking for and the left and right are pictures of what they drew when we spotted things.  They truly had a blast and talked about it for weeks.  

5. Flashcard games
I am NOT a children's flash card person. In general, I think experiencing and using senses are more productive and appropriate way to learn- especially in kids under 6 or 7 (before you get to the math stage). However, flash cards can come in handy.
I bought, at target (for $1.00), an ABC flash card set. I laid the cards out side by side down the length of the hallway. I would tell them one at a time silly instructions like... Hop like a kangaroo to the letter H, Soar like an airplane to the letter S, etc. once they got so good that it was barely a challenge, I changed it up to "slither like a snake to the letter than makes the sound "tuh", walk like a bear to the letter that makes the sound "zzzzz", etc. They stay entertained for over an hour most times. We are all Playing together so they love that and they get tired from all the hopping and running- a fun way to sneak in some learning.
You could do this with animal flash cards for younger kids or even words for a slightly older kids.

Well those are a few successes I've had with the kids. Like I said, nothing crazy or spectacular but I'm learning every day that the little out-of-the-ordinary things can really make the whole day a good one.
Have you come up with any simple special days? Please share! I always need ideas!!