Monday, May 30, 2011

Follow the Directions

A couple of weeks ago, we were driving Eli to preschool, when he said, "Look at that truck behind us."  But, the truck was in front of us.  He did the same thing a few of days later, saying we were in front of a vehicle that we were really behind.  To be honest, I was quite shocked at this.  Once might have been a simple mistake, but TWICE, means it's time for a game to practice directional words.

I wrote directional words on notecards (we added JUMP later in our game...the scribbled card up in the right corner, colored by Abby, was a FREE PLAY card).

We moved this blue table into our living room and then I held all of the cards.  The kids would pick a card and then stand where it told them to stand.  If they drew BEHIND, the would stand behind the table.  Drawing BESIDE meant that they had to stand beside the table.  You get the idea.  Sadly, I don't have any pictures of the kids actually playing our game.  I always like to do whatever we are doing for a bit before I start taking pictures.  So, we were happily playing away and the kids were loving it.  Big smiles were plastered to their faces as they ran AROUND the table and layed UNDER it.  We had a lot of fun, until the "injuries" began.  I quote the word injuries because they were kind of injuries that only extremly overtired children incur.  After three "injuries" of unknown origin, Eli was no longer into playing our game, hence, no pictures.  

Playing this game made me realize, again, the power of using common things in different ways.  We don't usually have our blue table in the living room and we usually don't get to stand on top of it and then jump off.  Using the same things in unusual ways makes instant fun! 

After half of my game players were incapacitated and we were done playing, I did think of some fun ways to expand this game.  You could make two sets of cards, a set of body parts and a set of directional words.  Then draw a card from each set and then do what it says...HAND ON TOP of the table, FOOT UNDER the table, HEAD IN FRONT of the table.  I guess that is basically Twister.

Interestingly, Eli never confused IN FRONT and BEHIND while we were playing our game.  Hmmmm.  
A mystery...kind of like his "injuries."

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Refrigerator Abacus

My math teacher heart has been happy lately as Eli has been showing a great interest in numbers.  He is frequently asking me things like:
  • What comes after 39?  49?  59?  (I love how is he is spotting the pattern of tens.)
  • What is 5 + 8?  (or any combination of numbers he comes up with)
  • What is between 8 and 9?
  • How much is 100?
As a former middle school math teacher, I can hardly contain myself when he asks these types of questions.  In fact, I have always been curious about how young a child can learn algebraic concepts.  Oh my poor, poor, guinea pig children.  One of our favorite driving-in-the-van games is "What is Bigger?"  I will ask Eli, "What is bigger...5 or 11?"  We will also play "What is Smaller?"  It is fun to see his grasp of number concepts growing.  To help Eli visualize the idea of addition, we made a Refrigerator Abacus.

Here's what it looks like:
So, I taped two green boxes onto the fridge, using painter's tape, with an addition sign taped in between.  Each box has the numbers 1 - 6 that can be put inside.  I then tied fishing line from the fridge handle to a magnetic hook, with 12 beads strung on it.  You want to make sure that you have enough beads to represent the largest sum that could be made.  The biggest we could do would be 6 + 6, hence 12 beads on our abacus.  I had wanted to be able to do 10 + 10, but when I strung 20 beads on the string, it covered most of the width of the fridge, not allowing much room for moving the beads around.
A closer look at the numbers and boxes:
Each set of numbers 1- 6 was done in a different color with a matching strip in each box.  That way, the kids would know to which side the numbers belonged. 
My vision for this was that I would call out numbers to Eli, he would put the numbers in the boxes, and then use the beads to find the sums.  We made a little video so you could see how we are using our abacus.  The video is a bit shaky because, as we were videoing, I realized that our full trash can was right out the open.  Oops and Sorry.  Also, thank you to Abby for her keyboard accompaniment. 

I had hoped that Eli would be playing with this a lot, excitedly working with and exploring number sums.  That has not been the case.  Apparently, he is not as nerdy as I am, prefering to play with his Legos than do math at the refrigerator.    But, if I catch him in the right moment, or if he asks me an addition question that we can work out on the fridge, he will cooperate.  Abby, however, might be as nerdy as me, becuase she loves to play with the numbers and move the beads.  That's my girl.

All in all, it's been fun.  What I might need, though, is a WALL Abacus so that we can work with bigger numbers.  We'll save that one for another day...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Making Wrapping Paper

So, I left you with a cliffhanger last time...we had dueling art projects going.  Let's switch focus to Eli's project... 

Get it?  Switch Focus?  FOCUS?  (Insert cheesy laughing HERE.)

Wrapping paper seems to be overly expensive to me.  When I was looking for wrapping paper for my husband's birthday, I just couldn't bring myself to pay for it.  Now, if I could have found Star Wars paper I would have purchased it, but, alas, that was not to be found.  It really worked out better that way, because we were "forced" to make some instead.

We have a giant roll (like wrapping paper size) of brown paper in our basement that we used to cover our floor while our kitchen was being redone.  Seeing that paper reminded me of an idea a friend of mine from church had shared with me.  When her daughter was a baby (30ish years ago), she painted her feet and had her baby "walk" across paper.  Little baby feet wrapping paper...seriously, what could be cuter?    Ours didn't turn out so cute, but we did get some wrapping paper.

Coloring with markers.  That's it.
While Eli was coloring, Abby was happily painting away.  I've said it before, but that girl loves to paint.  When she finished the cards, described here, she of course wanted to keep painting, so I gave her a big piece of white paper that came off a big roll...kind of like wrapping paper...hmmmmm....

She told me she was painting a purple Princess Leia.  Ok then.

 Let's check in with Eli:
That looks about right.

Abby finished with the painting, but had still not expended all of her crafting energy so she jumped ship to the coloring.

Whoa.  A little close to the carpet there.
That's safer.

And then...a joining of forces.

Get it?  Forces?  Star Wars?  FORCES?  (Insert more cheesy laughing here.)

The final products:
The brown paper was pretty stiff to use for wrapping and did require a more-than-usual amount of tape.  The white paper wrapped well and is what I will use for our next wrapping paper adventure.  As it turns out, we did end up with Star Wars wrapping paper with Abby painting a "Purple Princess Leia" and Eli coloring a Death Star and Luke Skywalker hanging by a grappling hook from the bottom of at AT-AT least that is what he told me he drew.

And just for fun, here are the cards we gave Andy (We are on a bit of a Star Wars kick around here, in case you couldn't tell.):
From Abby, who LOVES R2-D2.
From Eli, who couldn't stop smiling when he saw HIS face on Luke Skywalker's head.
Check out the faces.  I was really cracking myself up while making these cards.
And of course, no birthday is complete without a freezer paper stenciled shirt as a gift and kids that won't smile for pictures.

Ten or so takes later:
Ok.  That one is a keeper.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Invisible Ink

More rain seems to be predicted for us this week.  That calls for a little rainy day activity.

  • White crayon
  • White cardstock (I have not tried this using just regular white paper, but I think you probably could use it.)
  • Paint
  • Napkins
Start by writing something on the white paper with the white crayon.  You want to press hard, hence the broken crayon above, and make your lines thick.

Then let your little painters loose.

Once the painting is finished, take a napkin and wipe away the excess paint, revealing your 
"invisible ink."

Blank notecards and envelopes were our canvases of the day.

To summarize:
Write in white crayon on white paper, paint, wipe, dry, done.
Huh.  Part of that sounds like another set of instructions I give my young kids.  Anyways....

See Eli in the background?  While Abby was working on painting, Eli was working on another project.  We'll get to that sometime this week...I know...the suspense of it is thrilling.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Create in Me a Clean Heart

A while ago, I came across some wonderful prayer calenders that I now use to pray for my husband and my children.  I shrunk these calendars down so that I could keep them right in my Bible.  I love these calendars!  They have really helped me focus my prayers for my kids and husband.   Click here and scroll down to "Downloadable Resources" to find both calendars.

I have also found while praying through these calendars that the Lord uses them to inspire ideas for teaching my children.  On one day, when I was praying for my children to have "A Servant's Heart" (Day 24 on the calendar), the Lord inspired this idea.  Another time, the verse given on the calendar to pray through was this:

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Psalm 51:10

God graciously gave me an idea of how to illustrate this to my children.  I had seen out there, in internet-land somewhere, an activity where a mom gave her children craft foam that was cut into cars.  Then the kids colored on the cars and they washed the marker off.  As I was praying through Psalm 51:10 for my children, God reminded me of the car wash activity and this is what grew...

  • Craft foam cut into hearts
  • WASHABLE markers
  • Little tubs of water and dish soap
  • Towels or washcloths

Here's the gist of it:  The kids colored on their hearts using washable markers to represent the sin in their own hearts.  We then cleaned the hearts by washing them in the soapy water.  The marker comes off.  I didn't really believe the marker would come off, so as any good teacher would, I tested it first.  It works!  The first time we did this, I did not take any pictures as I wanted to be focused on what was happening and be able to talk with my kids.  The pictures you see here were taken after we did the "official" activity...more of a free play time.  Underneath each picture, I have written the dialogue that I shared with my kids while we were doing the "official" thing.

While coloring:  "When we were born as tiny babies our hearts were already filled with yucky black sin.  When you were born your hearts were sinful, when Mommy and Daddy were born our hearts were sinful, every baby has a sinful heart...except for Jesus.  Do you want your heart to look yucky like that?"
While washing:  "Because Jesus died on the cross for us, our hearts don't have to be filled with yucky sin.  There is a verse in the Bible that says, 'Create in me a CLEAN heart' (Psalm 51:10).  We can ask God to clean our hearts and because Jesus died for us, He will.  Another verse in the Bible says, 'Wash me clean from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin' (Psalm 51:2).  Who is the one who washes our hearts clean of sin?  Can we do that by ourselves?
"Look!  The heart is clean!  Who cleans our hearts?  Can we clean our hearts by ourselves?  What if we try REALLY REALLY REALLY hard?  Which kind of heart do you want to have?  Let's thank God that He cleans our hearts."
I wasn't sure how much my kids would connect with this activity, if they could grasp such an analogy.  What a blessing to hear Abby say, "God.  Clean.  Arts (hearts)."

I want to very clear that I don't believe JUST doing something like this with our kids will do anything miraculous (see this post), but I do believe that God can USE it to do something miraculous in their hearts.  I am also reminded, even as I type this, that this activity took about ten minutes.  That leaves a remaining 13 hours and 50 minutes of waking time in which my children see me respond to a myriad of situations.  If, during that time, I do not live out loving God, ten minutes of coloring and washing is probably useless.  Am I loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle and self-controlled?  A big list...which is why, everyday, I am asking God to clean my own heart, allowing me to show Him to my kids by the way that I live my own life.

As a side note, it was about two months from the inception of this idea to actually doing it with my kids and then another monthish before I got around to writing about it.  My kids STILL remember..."God.  Clean.  Arts." 

Thanks be to God!

    Tuesday, May 17, 2011

    Some Trust In Chariots

    Some facts about me that will, most likely, not be a surprise to anyone who knows me or has spent some time reading this little blog:
    • I am a perfectionist.
    • I like to organize.
    • I like to make lists and check things off of them.
    • I plan.
    • I like to know how things are going to turn out.
    In and of themselves, aside from the perfectionist thing, these are not such bad qualities to have.  If my family is to eat anything besides drive-through food, it comes as no huge shock that I need to be able organize and plan our meals.  If we are to wear clean clothes, checking LAUNDRY off my list is a good thing.   All of these things, however, at one point or another in my life, have become a barrier to trusting God.  Let me flesh this out...specifically as it pertains to my children.

    God has recently been showing me how I have been trusting in PLANS and ACTIVITIES and STRUCTURES when it comes to my kids.  I was believing that I had the ability to change my children's hearts by a carefully planned activity, a well-timed Bible lesson, or a perfectly worded and delivered analogy (I do so love a good analogy).  Now, I did not start off my journey of motherhood, holding a newborn baby Eli, saying to myself, "I, the mother of this child, will turn his heart to the Lord because of the things I will plan and do with him."  I mean, that's crazy.  In the past four years, however, some small seed of that crazy idea wormed its way into my heart and grew.  I am thankful that God has shown me this attitude of my heart and by His Grace is teaching me that He alone can turn the hearts of my children to Him.

    Now, this does get a little tricky.  As a mom, I have been commanded by God to teach my children about Him.

    "Train up a child in the way he should go;  even when he is old he will not depart from it."  
    Proverbs 22:6

    "Hear, O Israel:  The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise."
    Deuteronomy 6:4-7

    "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but  
    bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord."  
    Ephesians 6:4

    So, it is good and right to teach my kids about God, to plan winsome activities that point them to Him.  It is such a fine line, however, one that I crossed so subtly, without even noticing, from when the planning is good to when the planning is an idol.  Do I stop planning and organizing?  Absolutely not.  But, I do stop, by God's grace, thinking that the planning and organizing is what brings my kids to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  Only God can do that.  It comes down to the true attitude of my heart:  am I desiring to be used by God in the lives of my children or thinking that I am God in the lives of my children?  I pray for the first.

    "Some trust in chariots (or craft projects) 
    and some in horses (or planned activities)
    but we trust in the name of the Lord our God."  
    Psalm 20:7

    This is my prayer...that God would use me in the lives of my children, that He would give me wisdom and creativity in teaching them, and above all else, that God would...

    Put a new spirit in my children, removing their hearts of stone and giving them a heart of flesh.  (Ezekiel 11:9)

    I can't quite do that.

    I am freed, however, by the re-realization (is that a word?) that I can give that responsibility to God, where it rightfully belongs. 

    you could add "long-winded" to the bulleted list above.  
    Thanks to those who persisted through to the end!

      Thursday, May 12, 2011

      Paint the Fence

      After a round of sickness and a little family vacation we have, once again, resurfaced into the real world.  Not many of us are excited about this.

      Yup.  This is how we all felt.  (Abby just peeked over my shoulder, saw this picture, and said, "Abby crying."  She remembers the pain of the moment.)

      Yesterday, it was suddenly summer in Michigan.  Spring must have happened during the three days we were on vacation.  So, I lathered up my pale faced child in sunscreen, sent him outside, and it wasn't long before he came back to the door wanting someone with whom he could play.  I went out for a bit, but, coming back from vacation always means that the mommy has some work to do.  We invited the neighbor kids over.  They played contently for awhile, but as kids do, they soon got restless and wanted to come inside.  Sorry kids, no can is a day for outside playing.  So, what helps sweaty and somewhat whiny kids?  Juice Boxes...and an activity.  I filled up three yogurt containers with water, added a paintbrush, grabbed the juice boxes and headed out to tame the masses.

      Paint the fence, Daniel-Son.  Though, noticing his brush position, this is really Paint the House.

      This was really easy and perfect for a hot day.  Very simply, we painted the fence with water.  Here Eli is painting a lightsaber.  The kids "painted" for at least thirty minutes, which in kid-time is about three days.

      The water quickly dried, leaving the canvas blank again.  Perfect.
      All the kids went and got chairs so that they could focus on their masterpieces.

      The best part of this was listening as Eli told my husband about how they painted the fence.  I let it go on for awhile and when Andy was REALLY nervous, I did step in and tell him that we painted with water.  I said, "Did you really think I would let them paint the fence with real paint?"  He hesitated.  Ok...that's fair.

      Side Note:  This could be done inside by painting on a chalkboard surface using water.

      Next comes Sand the Deck, followed by Wax the Car.

      Tuesday, May 3, 2011

      Mother's Day Ideas

      I will admit it;  I get excited about Mother's Day.  After two c-sections that brought an 11 pound 2 ounce baby and a 9 pound 9 ounce baby (our petite girl) into the world, I kind of like picking a restaurant for lunch and possibly receiving some sort of gift card.  My husband is a very thoughtful gift giver and has, on more than one occasion, given a gift that has made me cry.  Last year for Mother's Day he gave me a gift card for a massage and pedicure...amazing.  I saved it for awhile, but then decided to trade it in to get my nose pierced.  Nothing says "I'm a mom" like a nose ring.  One more reason I love my husband, he was willing to let me realize my lifelong dream of an extra hole in my nose.  Lest it appears that I had children for the once-a-year possibility of a gift card and restaurant (though I do REALLY like to eat out), I shall quickly proceed to the next paragraph.

      I ALSO get excited about Mother's Day because I get to choose a card to make for our moms and grandmas.  It's a big deal to me and I take it very seriously, in a fun sort or way. Today's task is to select our card and start working on it.  Here are some places I like to go for ideas:

      Mother's Day Cards

      Homemade Mother's Day Gifts

      Each one of these sites has LOTS of ideas if you poke around.  
      Have fun loving some moms!