Monday, January 31, 2011

Wowie wow wow! My love of Junie B. Jones

I have taught preschool for over twelve years, essentially my whole working career.  I consider myself somewhat of an expert on books for preschoolers and have some ideas for future posts about that.  But I have recently discovered a new friend--Junie B.

Barbara Park has created this enthusiastic little character and written a couple dozen books tracking her adventures through kindergarten and first grade.  Junie B. reminds me quite a bit of Ramona Quimby from my youth.  However Junie B. is much more enthusiastic and speaks in a language that is true to life.  I have had friends tell me that can't handle Junie B. because she is a brat.  Well she might be a bit of a brat, but so are many other kids that I love.  You gotta love a kid with spunk.

My boys love listening to Junie B. Jones and their mom loves to read about her.  Here are some quotes from  Junie B.

Each book starts the same:  "My name is Junie B. Jones.  The B stands for Beatrice.  Except I don't like Beatrice.  I just like B and that's all."

Junie B. on the baby's room:  "Mother and Daddy fixed up a room for the new baby.  It's called a nursery.  Except I don't know why.  Because a baby isn't a nurse, of course."
...from Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business

Junie B. on rules:  "Me and Mother had a little talk.  It was called--no screaming back off, clown.  Only I never even heard of that rule before."
...from Junie B. Jones and the Yucky Blucky Fruitcake

Junie B. on her baby brother:  "His name is Ollie.  I love him a real lot.  Except I wish he didn't live at my actual house."
...from Junie B. Jones and That Meanie Jim's Birthday

Sometimes the characters from Junie B. sneak out in play at my house.  Meanie Boy Jim appears whenever a brother is not playing the way another brother likes.  And Cry Baby William has made an appearance or two as well.  (PS she does end up liking both Jim and William as they redeem themselves later in the series.)

If you have children you love that are in early elementary school I would recommend Junie B.  I love that Colby's first grade teacher reads a bit of Junie B. everyday.  She says she normally gets through to whole set by the end of the year.  He has heard a few of them a couple of times, and other than he has a hard time not giving things away, he doesn't complain that he has already heard the book.  I love that the boys look forward to our chapter before bed and so do I.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday Family Traditions

Every Sunday after church we head over to my mom's house for lunch.  This is a tradition that was born six years ago when I started teaching Sunday school and Colby, who was then one, needed someplace to go while Braedon and I went to Sunday school.  

Lunch varies depending on the time of year, Mom's amount of free time and energy, and if we have somewhere else to go after lunch.  When it is warm enough we usually have weiner roasts.  Sometimes we have brunch (egg casseroles, monkey bread).  Sometimes we order pizza or KFC.  Sometimes it's comfort food (ham balls and cheesy potatoes).  Sometimes Mom tests out new recipes on us.  But it doesn't really matter what we eat, I love that my kids look forward to this time every week and will look back on these Sunday dinners with fond memories as they grow up.

We have a movie playing in the background and this goes in phases.  We oftentimes watch some sort of Disney or Nick Jr. cartoon.  A few years back Colby wanted to watch Annie every Sunday.  (Kind of reminded me of my youth when my sister had to watch The Sound of Music every week--I can still sing through that movie and I don't think I've seen it in a decade or more.)  Currently Brody has been choosing one or the other of the Indiana Jones movies each week.  But today Steve, my brother in law, brought down some other movies we hadn't seen before.

Many times we play a game after dinner.  We love Blokus and Apples to Apples.  Today my sister was down with her hubby and my niece, Kayleigh (one year).  So out came the play dough!  At one time we had eight people ranging in age of one year to 50 years old playing with the play dough.  We had play dough pizza and pigs in blankets, a play dough person, worms, and spaghetti.  Kayleigh tasted a few samples and offered some to Grandma, who politely declined.

I'm so excited that my children are building strong relationships with family.  I come from an extended family that is very close and hope that my kids will feel the same way someday.

Boys and Their Toys

Colby is a Tiger Cub.  I love that he is learning lots of important things, like respect, flag etiquette, and wood working.  It is always more meaningful when a lesson comes from someone other than good ol' mom and dad.  And the pack plans fun activities like roller skating and a camp-in.  We will also be camping this summer.  Yay!

Yesterday was the annual Pinewood Derby.  Each boy received a block of wood and four wheels/axles a month ago.  Rules were distributed.  And the big plans began.  The cub scouts worked with their adult helpers to construct a car to race in the derby.  Colby had a bit of a handicap, as his dad's woodworking skills involve a lot of cussing and duct tape.  But never fear, Uncle Chris was once a cub scout and is a bit handy with a saw.  There is a wealth of knowledge on the internet on Pinewood Derby car-design and how to make the car go fast.  Colby chose a classic car design that did not involve too much cutting or sanding.  Chris, Grandpa, Ron, and Colby hovered over the saw as the car was born.

Chris reminisced about melting lead shot in a spoon for his Pinewood Derby car.  But thanks to the internet we avoided the blow torch and inserted fishing weights instead.  This mom had to keep reminding those big boys that this was Colby's project and he needed to be involved.  So Colby chose the car design and colors, sanded, and painted.

Friday night we got to bring the car in for a pre-race check in and track test.  The little boys were excited to see each other's cars and to try out the track, but they were soon exploring the bleachers and rolled up wrestling mats.  The dads were the ones that were most excited about the practice.  At one time I think there were a dozen dads on various parts of the track rolling cars short distances, watching for wheel wobble or drag, giving suggestions, and making adjustments.  We all got to take the cars home for last minute adjustments.  Unfortunately, Colby's car was found to have a 'toed-out' wheel.  Something that took more skill to fix than we could handle at our house--that glue had been set for over a week.

Saturday check-in was at 11:00.  The cars had to meet strict racing guidelines in measurement and weight.  Colby's met requirements--Chris had measured and weighed that baby every time he made any changes--but a couple of others were overweight and had to be drilled to make weight.  Then we waited for the 1:00 race start.

Pairs of boys watched their cars travel the track.  Their peers, siblings, parents, and fans cheered them on.  It was double elimination.  Unfortunately, Colby only got to race two times, darn wheel.  He was disappointed, but took it well.  Another Tiger Cub (first grader) got third place overall.

We stayed to watch the outlaw race.  Those cars were something else!  If you want to see grown boys with their toys--you have to watch a Pinewood Derby Outlaw Race.  Where the official race cars had to be 5 ounces or under, some of the outlaws weighed 3 pounds.  Some had minimal body shaping, but some were intricately designed.

It was a fun afternoon.  A great experience for the boys and their families.

I did take pictures, and will try to come back later to add them.  I've been working on this post off and on for three days.  It's time to publish and head to town.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Frugal Tuesday Tip--Freeze Bananas

I bake a lot of banana bread when I am baking for the farmers' market in the summer.  I do also bake it some when it is not farmers' market season, though my kids would say not enough.  I don't like to pay 50 cents a pound for bananas.  I also don't like my kitchen to smell like rotten bananas.  So I stalk my local grocery store.  Their policy is to discount bananas when there is no longer any green on the skin.  Once they are discounted, the customer can purchase a bag of bananas (usually about 2-3 big bunches) for a buck.

I discovered a few years ago how easy it is to freeze bananas.  I peel and freeze the bananas whole in the amounts I need for a recipe.  If you need 2-3 bananas for a loaf a bread, freeze 2-3 bananas together in a baggy.  Pull a baggy of bananas out of the freezer the night before you bake.  The bananas with thaw into a brown puddle of mush, but this is perfect for banana bread!  No need to mash the bananas ahead of time.

I am sharing this post with the frugal ladies hosting the Frugal Tuesday Blog Hop.  Head on over to Learning the Frugal Life to see other frugal tips.  Post your own frugal tip on Tuesday and join us!

ETA: I thought I would link up over at Learning the Frugal Life, but I"m having technical issues. So go over there and check out the other tips. Maybe I'll get there next week.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Frustration and Worry

I can really be such a worry-wart if I allow myself.  I try really hard to only worry about things that I can control or change.  I'm a little stuck right now worrying about something that is out of my control.  The what-if's run through my head and I need to get them out of my head so that I don't become paralyzed with worry and forget to enjoy the present.  So here I am letting loose my worry into the world so that I may go about the business of enjoying all the blessings I have in my life.

I am a preschool teacher.  I am employed by a public school in Iowa.  For those of you out-of-staters, Iowa began funding preschool for four-year-olds four years ago.  We have had a change in government and the continued funding of preschool is not looking so hot right now.  This means a big question mark for me for next year, both as a teacher and as a parent of a child who will turn four in a couple of months.

I enjoy my job.  I believe I make a difference in the lives of children and families.  I have wonderful co-workers and colleagues.  The pay is alright and there are decent benefits.  So I worry about all of this changing.  <sigh>

I am a good teacher.  I have many skills, knowledge, and experiences that will make me employable.  I have an early childhood special education endorsement now.  This is a shortage area in Iowa.  I have worked at two preschools that have been accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.  I live in a supportive community and near many supportive friends and family, so I know that even if there is a time period that I am without work we'll be okay.  I just hate change.

I hate that the possibility of change is even there.  There is a wealth of research that shows the experiences a child has before he is five determine so much about his success in school and in life in general.  In a perfect world parents would be able to provide these experiences for their children, and many do.  But in the twelve years I have taught preschool, I have also seen so many families that for numerous reasons have been unable to provide a healthy, happy environment for their children, or just need a little assistance from someone with either a little more experience or training in the area of early childhood to guide them.

Basically what I foresee happening is that the very poor will have preschool due to Head Start, Shared Visions, and maybe vouchers from someone (government has been a little vague about this last piece).  The more well off will be able to afford to pay for preschool.  And those of us in the middle will either re-adjust the budgets and tighten the belt a bit tighter, or our children will enter kindergarten without the chance to learn the social skills and play skills that research shows are necessary as a foundation for academics.  The teacher quality will decrease.  I won't go back to work at Head Start, because I feel I am worth more than they can afford to pay me.  I would make more subbing.

I'm just frustrated that education, and especially early childhood education, gets the shaft once again.  Thanks for letting me get that out of my brain.  I imagine I'll have some comments on either side of the situation.  I welcome them.  And perhaps, when it is not the middle of the night, I will write another post that has a bit more meat to it.  Meanwhile I encourage you to visit some of my favorite preschool blogs listed to the right of the page to see some of the amazing things that happen in preschool.

Preschool blogs include:  Teacher Tom, Teach Preschool, Irresistible Ideas, let the children play, and Prekinders.  No Time for Flashcards is a great inspiration for me as well, but is written by a former teacher, current stay at home mom about working with her own children, so I guess it really doesn't count as a preschool blog.  Again thanks for listening.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Nella's ONEder Fund

Okay, so I'm a blog-hopper.  I enjoy stepping into other people's lives for a moment and reading what matters to them.  I found Nella and her family about 7-8 months ago through another blog and I have fallen in love with them.  Nella's mom is a professional photographer and her posts include tons of beautiful photos and they are so well-written.  I visit Nella, Lainey and their family's blog so often that Brody recognizes Nella on my computer.  He calls her Vanilla.  Nella's first birthday is coming up this weekend and her mom has put together a beautiful video here that celebrates Nella's life as a child with Down Syndrome.  Kelle (Nella's Mom) has set up a fundraiser in Nella's name, the proceeds will go to the National Down Syndrome Society.  I am urging you to go and view the video, snoop around the blog, and if you are able, please donate a bit to Nella's ONEder fund.

I have a cousin with Down Syndrome.  Willa is my Dad's first cousin and he is also one of her caregivers and has been for nearly half of her life, since her parents died when I was young.  Willa lives in a group home in Carroll, Iowa.  She gets along pretty well, but I wonder if she would have had the opportunity to have been born into a society that was a bit more accepting than our society was in the 1950s how many more opportunities would Willa have had?

Both myself and my husband work directly with people with disabilities.  Kelle's cause and her video have touched my heart.  I hope you take a moment and view the links below.  Kelle has a song playing in the background of her blog, so you will need to scroll to the bottom and pause that so that you can hear her in the video.  It is well worth it.  Have some Kleenex handy!

Click here to go to the video 

Click here to donate

This is the beginning of Nella's story.  <---That was the first post I read on Kelle's blog and the one that sucked me in.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A bit of my personal baking history and a recipe to share...

I come from a family with lots of good cooks.  I am also fortunate that many of those good cooks are also good bakers (those two talents do not always go hand in hand).  I think I am an okay cook.  But I thoroughly enjoy baking.

My specialty has always been cookies.  I remember Grandma Lewis baking cookies with me.  I especially remember her allowing me to dirty many more dishes than my mom allowed me to dirty as I baked cookies.  The dirty dishes weren't a big deal because Grandma, first of all was my grandma, and secondly had a dishwasher.  I also remember baking cookies at home and getting compliments from many people, but Dad always had good comments (he is still one of my biggest fans).  I also remember Steve, our hired hand, commenting on my cookies.  This stuck with me, because he mainly treated me as a little sister, teasing or not really acknowledging me much.  Those compliments of my cookies meant a lot.

I remember having treat days in high school and getting good comments on my brownies (which were from a box).  I also did a speech about making monster cookies.  I think that is the only time I have ever made them--that is just a lot of ingredients!  In college I missed baking so much that I rented the little kitchen in our dorm building and bought the ingredients to bake chocolate chip cookies.  I had to buy all the ingredients as I didn't have any of that stuff on hand in the dorm room.  But they were so good and so worth it.

I think cookies are still my favorite thing to bake, but I mainly rotate through the same recipes.  My favorite is chocolate chip, but I have a few others I also make regularly.  For our local farmers' market I usually bake snickerdoodles.

I really never remember having snickerdoodles as a child.  I remember having them occasionally in college, care of Pfeifer Dining Hall.  The first year we did farmers' market I stumbled upon a snickerdoodle recipe.  This was a cookie that was not anyone else's specialty at the market and it seemed to be an easy recipe with ingredients I already have on hand.  I made them enough to build a following, and now they are one of my specialties.

1 cup margarine or butter 
(in most of my recipes I lean toward using butter, but in this one sometimes using only butter makes the batter too runny--I usually do a stick of each)
1 1/2 c sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 3/4 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
a couple shakes of salt
2 Tb sugar and 2 tsp cinnamon (approximately) to roll cookies in prior to baking

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cream together wet ingredients.  Blend in dry ingredients.  Shape dough by rounded teaspoons into balls.  Combine the 2 Tb sugar and cinnamon.  Roll balls in mixture and place 2 inches apart on cookie sheet.  Bake 8-10 minutes.  Remove from baking sheet immediately.  Enjoy with a glass of milk.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Play Dough

Play dough is an essential item for kids of all ages, (when I have adults visiting in my classroom they tend to head to the play dough table too) but it has many benefits for preschoolers especially.  

Play dough builds the fine motor muscles in the fingers.  All that pinching, pounding, rolling, and manipulating is actually the best pre-writing practice.

It's a great sensory experience.  Play dough is something that can be experienced with all the senses. 

It builds self esteem.  Play dough is open-ended.  There are no right or wrong answers. 

It builds friendship skills.  Play dough gives lots of opportunities for sharing.

It builds creativity.  Play dough can become anything with a little imagination:  food, shapes, animals, bowls, snowmen, etc.

It's a great release for tension and anger.  All that pounding, pinching, squeezing, poking is acceptable when done with play dough.

It offers many opportunities to foster language development.  You can describe the texture of play dough, talk through what you are doing with it, enter into imaginative play.

It's fun!

The best thing is that play dough is easy to come back and so simple and cheap to make.  My favorite recipe for play dough is:

1 c flour
1/2 c salt
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 Tb vegetable oil
1 c water
food coloring
Mix together flour, salt, and cream of tartar.  Color the water and add it along with the oil to the dry ingredients.  Cook, stirring, for 1-3 minutes or until thick.  Place the dough onto a floured surface and knead as soon as it is cool enough to do so.  Keep in an airtight container in refrigerator.

Today I made Kool-Aid Play Dough
2 1/2 c flour
1/2 c salt
2 (4g) pkg unsweetened Kool-Aid mix
2 c boiling water
3 Tb oil

Mix dry ingredients.  Add wet ingredients.  Mix with spoon until cool enough to knead.  I had to knead in quite a bit of flour today.  But it was really fun to see the color appear as we added the water.  And it is a cool hot pink color and smells wonderful!  I used tropical punch kool aid.

I had my three year old son help stir as we made the play dough.  I have also made play dough as a cooking experience in preschool.  There are some basic states of matter lessons to be learned (yes, that's chemistry in preschool!).

I prefer homemade play dough in my classroom since I know exactly what is in it.  We discourage eating the play dough, but in case there is any ingested, I know it is safe.

Play dough is fun without accessories.  In fact I try to offer it without accessories often, but the kids know where to find the play dough toys and they prefer to have them.  I have also added items like popsicle sticks (this was more fun than I expected), beads, small animals, Mr. Potato Head pieces.  Cutting practice is fun with play dough snakes.  Play dough snakes can be made into letters, shapes, etc. Play dough balls can be used for counting practice.  

I have found a few more fun play dough recipes I want to try especially chocolate play dough and gingerbread play dough.  What are your favorite play experiences?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Ice Play for Preschoolers

This week in preschool we studied winter.  I wanted to include some inquiry science activities at the math/science table and remembered seeing some ice-play activities on a PBS Kids show, I think Curious George.

So prior to Monday's class I froze water in various containers (pie tin, divided tray, rubber glove, two sizes of cups) and with various objects inside the ice (pennies, small plastic toys, glitter, grapes).

I brought out the ice during our free play time and removed the ice from the containers with the help of the kids.  They especially liked the ice in the shape of the glove initially, but the fingers fell off fairly quickly.  Some children were very interested in the objects inside the ice.  Slamming the ice onto the table to watch the cube shatter.  Others were laughing as they tried to pick up the slippery melting ice.  And others were sliding the ice around on the layer of water like hockey pucks.

We found that paint shirts were needed as we got pretty wet.  I left it up to the kids to decide if they wanted to wear gloves to protect their hands from the cold, most did not.

I remained close by to observe the children's play and encourage discussions.  I noticed that Brogan was making a concentrated effort in removing the pennies from the ice.  He saw them as a treasure that he got to keep.  At one point he asked me how the pennies got into the ice.  I answered him by not really answering him.  "I put them there."  He, of course, wanted more of an explanation than that.  I left him to think about it while I talked with other children.

Emma was also at the table and could tell me that ice melted into water and that water turned into ice.  I asked what I would need to do to get the water from our sink to turn to ice.  After much thought she said I could put it outside.  I agreed I could, since it was very cold outside.

After a few minutes I posed the question, "How else could we get the water from the faucet to turn to ice?"  I didn't want to give them the answer, as I knew it would mean more to them if they made the connection on their own.  I also knew that with time, Brogan would be able to piece together the facts to figure out how those pennies got inside the ice cube.  No one could give me an answer.  But they were so focused on the ice play that I didn't want to push the question and answer time.

So I used the rest of free play to gather some props for lesson time.

I did scrap the planned lesson on feelings for another day so that we could talk more about our discoveries at the ice table.  At the large group discussion Emma was able to tell what she knew about ice forming outside.  I posed the question, "What about in summer?  Do you ever have ice in your drinks in the summer?  Where does it come from?"  When I wasn't getting the firm answers I expected, I brought out the ice cube tray prop from the dramatic play center.  I asked if they had seen one of these before.  Aaaahhhh.... connections were being made, facial expressions turned from confusion to recognition.  Now they were able to tell me that they had ice cube trays at home and they went in the freezer.  I helped them to state that the freezer and our outside temperatures were both cold enough to turn water into ice.

I brought out the tray with a cup of water for each child I had prepared.  Each cup had a child's name on it.  I called them one by one and they got to pick one small toy to insert into their water cup.  I then labeled the tray 'Preschool Science' and they went to the window to watch me place it in the snow where we could observe it from inside our classroom.  Within an hour the children were able to notice a layer of ice beginning to develop in the cups.

We got a bit of a winter storm and did not have school on Tuesday.  As children came in on Wednesday, they asked about their ice.  Kendrick went immediately to the window and wanted to know where the ice was.  He couldn't see it due to the snowfall.  I told him and the others that I thought it was probably buried under the snow, but wanted to wait for them to be there before I went to look.  Once everyone had arrived I bundled up and took out a small shovel to see if our science experiment had been disturbed.  It was there!  It was buried in a drift of about six inches of snow.  And the children cheered when I dug down far enough to find it.

I brought the ice inside.  Each child got to examine their cube.  Kendrick's water froze with a bit of a bubble in it and he was able to break it easily in two, with the toy stuck in one half of the ice cube.  He was so thrilled with that and showed it to everyone.  Some children slammed their cube down on the table to shatter it and remove their 'treasure'.  Others just messed around with the ice cubes until they melted enough to remove their toy.  No matter how they removed their treasure, they were so proud and excited about it.

We all really enjoyed the simple play.  I feel that some connections were made that the children would refer to later.  What a fun and easy experience for all involved!

This post has been shared at No Time for Flashcards.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Frugal Laundry

About a year ago our family doctor, Dr. Jenkins, posted a homemade laundry soap recipe that she uses on Facebook.  I made my first batch in May.  It lasted me six months.  I love it.  It's easy.  It's cheap.  I'm sharing the recipe here.


TIPS: We use Fels-Naptha bar soap in the homemade soap recipes, but you can use Ivory, Sunlight, Kirk's Hardwater Castile or Zote bars. Don't use heavily perfumed soaps. We buy Fels-Naptha by the case from our local grocer or online. Washing Soda and Borax can normally be found on the laundry or cleaning aisle. Recipe cost approx. $2.

Homemade Liquid Laundry Soap- Front or top load machine- best value

4 Cups hot tap water
1 Fels-Naptha soap bar
1 Cup Washing Soda
½ Cup Borax

- Grate bar of soap and add to saucepan with water. Stir continually over medium-low heat until soap dissolves and is melted.

-Fill a 5 gallon bucket half full of hot tap water. Add melted soap, washing soda and Borax. Stir well until all powder is dissolved. Fill bucket to top with more hot water. Stir, cover and let sit overnight to thicken.

-Stir and fill a used, clean, laundry soap dispenser half full with soap and then fill rest of way with water. Shake before each use. (will gel)

-Optional: You can add 10-15 drops of essential oil per 2 gallons. Add once soap has cooled. Ideas: lavender, rosemary, tea tree oil.

-Yield: Liquid soap recipe makes 10 gallons.

-Top Load Machine- 5/8 Cup per load (Approx. 180 loads)

-Front Load Machines- ¼ Cup per load (Approx. 640 loads)

Powdered Laundry Detergent- Top load machine

1 Fels-Naptha soap bar
1 Cup Washing Soda
½ Cup Borax

-Grate soap or break into pieces and process in a food processor until powdered. Mix all ingredients. For light load, use 1 Tablespoon. For heavy or heavily soiled load, use 2 Tablespoons. Yields: 3 Cups detergent. (Approx. 40 loads)


All the ingredients can be found at Fareway.  I had a to look a bit, since I had never heard of laundry soda or Fels Naptha, but they are both in the laundry aisle.  The Borax and laundry soda come in a box that will last for several recipes.  

Also Dr. Jenkins' suggestion for frugal fabric softener is to dump some liquid fabric softener in a bucket, add the same amount of water, and a sponge.  Squeeze out the sponge and place in the dryer as you would a softener sheet.  I have also been watering down the fabric softener I use in my washer.  

In the summer I hang over half of my clothes on the clothesline.  (I don't like the way my jeans or socks feel after drying on the line and I try to keep our undies inside since we have people come and go sometimes.)  Actually I hang outside if the temp is above 40 degrees.  In the winter I have a small clothesline I use in my basement and I also will hang our shirts on hangers on door frames around the house.  They make the house smell good, help keep the house a bit more humid in the dry winter, and I run the dryer less, thus lowering the electric bill.

Several of the blogs I follow and some friends (Hi Kim) are cutting back on processed foods and store-bought cleaners.  I have not done as much as I would like to, but laundry is one way I am going more natural.  I hope to try out a homemade all purpose cleaner recipe soon, but my husband keeps buying cleaners when he thinks we are low.  So the frugal side of me can't just throw them out.  

How are you frugal with your cleaning habits?  Do you have homemade recipes for things that you used to buy that you'd like to share?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Sing... Sing a Song... Sing out loud... Sing out strong...

I have to tell you that was one of my favorite Sesame Street songs growing up.  My siblings and I could really belt out all the good ol' Sesame Street tunes.  I can still sing a little Rubber Ducky or C is for Cookie whenever the need arises.  Hey, I teach preschool, sometimes the need does arise...

But my kids... they have grown up with the classics.  
Brahm's Lullaby?  Nope.  

Maybe a little This Little Light of Mine?  Not really.  

How about I'm a Little Teapot?  Not exactly.

Yes, they have heard, and even sung, those songs, but I think the songs they will tie to their childhood will be the Hair Bands of the Eighties.

Never mind they were all born twenty years after the eighties ended.  They love themselves some White Snake, Poison, and Guns and Roses.  But their favorite has always been Def Leppard.

Yes my boys have been able to sing the chorus of Pour Some Sugar on Me since they were about two or so.  I can't count how many times I have had to watch the two VHS tapes my husband has of Def Leppard.  I think it's amazing that Rick Allen can pound on that trap set with one arm, 

and Joe Elliot is kind of cute, 

and we all miss Steve Clark, 

there's only so many times I can endure the entire 90 minutes of Def Leppard tunes.  Thankfully the VCR has bit the dust and the MP3 has headphones.

Though Def Leppard is their favorite, other bands certainly get their chance to be featured in the Feehan concert hall.  In kindergarten, Braedon's teacher, Mrs. Gall got to chuckle at his rendition of Smokin' in the Boys' Room, sung in the boys' room.  I had to explain to her that he falls asleep to Tommy Lee and the boys.  She, thank goodness, thought that was hilarious.  

Another kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Elben, frequently duet-ed with Braedon in the hallway to You Give Love a Bad Name by Bon Jovi.  Braedon was very jealous that Mrs. Gall and some of the other kindergarten and first grade teachers saw Bon Jovi in concert in the spring of his kindergarten year, by the way.

About a year ago Ron and Calob (my 19 year old stepson, also a hair band fan) went to an AC/DC concert.  The other boys were heartbroken that we wouldn't spend $110 each to take them to the concert as well.  As he was reading this over my shoulder, Ron just said he needed to check Def Leppard's tour dates to see if they would be in the area any time soon....

So while other children might enjoy The Wiggles or VeggieTales, mine will be able to karaoke with the best of them as they get older.  I guess that's something to be proud of...

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Loving the Lovies

Linus van Pelt was famous for dragging a blue blanket behind him in the Peanuts cartoons, much to the dismay of his older sister, Lucy.  According to Wikipedia, his blue security blanket debuted in 1954.  And the term 'security blanket' also is derived from Linus and his blue blanket.  Linus is often portrayed holding his blue security blanket over his shoulder while sucking his thumb.  And Linus actually grows out of this security blanket bit by bit over the course of three decades (during which he does not really age), but many a strip is devoted to family members and Snoopy unsuccessful attempts to break Linus of his relationship with this security blanket before he is ready.

In early childhood terminology, these security objects (they are not always blankets) are frequently called lovies, though I don't think I've ever heard them called that in real life.  Many children have a comfort item that helps them go to sleep or that they cuddle during the day.

We have several stories in my family of various family members' lovies.

One cousin had a blanket named Bubby that she slept with.  She didn't like it to be washed.  She had it for years and as she got older her dad cut it in half, then a few months later in half again, until it was down to a scrap.  I think she may still have that scrap of a Bubby.

Her sister was attached to the Mama Bear of a sewn set of the Three Bears.  Just the Mama.  And when one mama wore out, her mom had to buy the whole set and make a new Mama.  I think we found a whole bunch of Papa and Baby Bear un-sewn patterns one time.

My sister had a 'guin' (rhymes with fin, starts with a hard g).  It was a full sized fuzzy blanket with the satin edging.  She would pinch bits of fuzz from guin as she sucked her thumb.  We were finding guin throughout the house for years after she had outgrown it.  That darn fuzz would hide in the strangest places...  She did not care about the color of the blanket.  When she had worn one down to threads, Mom would get her another.  I don't know how many guins we went through.

I was also a thumb sucker and I don't think I necessarily had a lovie (Mom or Megan might correct my memory) but I did like to run the satin edging from blankets on my top lip as I was going to sleep.  By the way, I still sleep with the edge of the blanket or sheet on my top lip (which my husband finds odd), though I no longer suck my thumb (which I'm sure he would have found even more odd).

My boys each have a lovie.  Braedon has a pillow that he pinches.  He is actually on his third.  This one used to be called Lumpy in a previous life (at my parents' house).  Now it's just Pillow.  It does not have a pillow case.  The interior is foam that it now made up of several small lumps, thus the name.  The outside of the pillow is a texture similar to the inside of the pockets of jeans.  Braedon pinches and rubs the outside of the pillow to soothe himself.  He used to do the same with his jeans pockets in public, and maybe he still does, if so he now manages to do it without pulling his pockets inside out.

Colby has a Pooh Bear, a small stuffed animal that started out like a glow worm.  Its face lit up and it played music when you squeezed its belly.  That interior electric box was removed long ago when Pooh Bear was washed and when it wasn't missed, it was discarded.  Pooh Bear used to have a tag on his tush that Colby liked to wrap around his finger while he held Pooh Bear upside down under his nose.  I'm pretty sure the tag is either gone now or else it is worn down to a shred.  But Colby still likes to "sniff Pooh Bears butt" (his phrase) as he falls to sleep.  He does not have to have Pooh Bear every night.  Sometimes he goes several nights without Pooh Bear, but then he finds that rascal hiding out in some odd place in the house and the butt sniffing begins again.  Pooh Bear has been washed several times, but Colby says he doesn't smell right straight out of the wash.  We worried for a long time that Pooh Bear would be lost for good and Colby would be distraught, and though we kept our eyes out we didn't find another Pooh Bear until last summer when Ron came across one at an auction.  Of course now I think he would make it without Pooh Bear, but it's kind of nice to have the additional Pooh Bear around the house.

Brody was without a specific lovie for nearly the first two years of his life.  Then two years ago I received a very nice blanket from a family of a student.  It is a woven blanket made of embroidery-sized threads and has a picture of bears on it and some saying about teachers.  At the time, I was still rocking Brody at night and started covering us up with that blanket while we rocked.  He quickly latched onto it and now calls it his 'hair blanket' because of the fringe around the edges.  He sleeps with it every night and falls asleep running his fingers through the blanket's 'hair'.

Lovies are great comforts.  I don't think they hurt children.  Most grow out of them or adapt them as they grow, like Linus did.  What lovie stories do you have to share?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Grocery Deals for today

HyVees in Osceola, Creston, and Washington are holding a Crazy 8 Sale today from 8 to 4 pm.  I know our local Fareway also matches those ads, if they carry comparable items.  Hint, if a store is limiting your purchase, these are good deals.  Also if you do not need the canned goods for yourself, consider taking advantage of the deal and donating your purchase to the food pantry.  Here is what it included:

HyVee Milk, half gallon... 88 cents, limit 2 (cheaper than buying a gallon)
Midwest Country Fare Tuna, 5 oz... 28 cents, limit 2
HyVee Chicken Noodle or Tomato Soup, 10.5 oz... 28 cents, limit 2
Midwest Country Fare Mushrooms, 4 oz... 28 cents, limit 2
HyVee White Bread... 68 cents
Bakery Fresh Italian Bread... 88 cents
HyVee's Kitchen 12 piece Chicken Pack... $8.88
Amana NY Strip Steak, 8 oz... $3.88

Also this is the third day of the 3-Day sale at HyVee.  Here is what is included in that sale:

HyVee Yogurt 10 for $3
Country Pride Chicken Breast, 2.5 lb... $3.99, limit 2
Banquet Frozen Meals... 59 cents, limit 12
Hormel Always Tender Port Spare Ribs... $1.29 lb
HyVee Russet Potatoes, 5 lb... 88 cents
Midwest Country Fare Ice Cream, 4 qt pail... $3.88
VO5 Shampoo/Conditioner, 15 oz... 69 cents (food pantry will take these as well)
Peter Pan Creamy Peanut Butter, three jars for $2.98
Jack's Original or Half & Half Pizza... $1.88

And in HyVee's weekly ad, butter is under $2.  That's a good price.

Fareway has three kinds of whole wheat bread priced under $2 a loaf.
Also I don't have the coupon in front of me, but it appears you can get free Tones Spices...Mini Spices are on sale 2 for a dollar.  There is a coupon for one dollar off any Tones Spices in the 11-14 SmartSource coupon insert.  Woo Hoo!

It's been a busy week and I didn't get a chance to look at the ads until now.  I'll try to do it sooner next time.  Our budget is tight this week, but Ron is off to buy some cheap milk.  And if I can get those darn Tones coupons found, we'll pick up some free spices too.

Friday, January 7, 2011


It seems it's all about balance.

It starts at a young age.  Infants balance to hold up their head, then sit, and before long they learn to stand and then walk on their own.  They have to practice a lot to gain that balance in order to proceed to the next level.

As young children, we continue to balance our bodies to gain motor control.  Running, hopping, throwing, riding a bike are all skills that require us to practice over and over in order to gain the balance and control we need to improve.  We also must start to balance our needs and wants.  We must learn the balance in social situations--learning to share, but also to stand up for ourselves when we are being taken advantage of.  It's sometimes a fine balance that takes a time and a lot of practice to understand.

As older children, we begin to learn the balance of school work versus play time.  We begin to have to balance our time in order to get our chores done, to juggle commitments, to complete projects.  We may even start to learn to balance a meager budget of birthday money and allowance.  The social balance is still there.  And as peer pressure begins, we have to balance the opinions of our friends with the opinions of our parents.

As teenagers, we add to the mix balancing our time and responsibilities between school, work, extra curricular activities, and family.  We also begin to learn the balance between developing friendships and developing a special relationship with our first love.  The balance between right and wrong often challenges us with risky behavior as a teen.  We learn to balance a checkbook.  We learn to balance several deadlines at once, while also balancing our sleep schedule.

As young adults, the balance might be figuring out how to get the bills paid, while also having fun.  It also often involves balancing a load of classes at college or work responsibilities.  We balance our feelings of love and lust, and of love and hate.

As parents we not only must continue all of these balancing acts in some shape and form, but we also must begin to teach our children balance in their own lives.

Balance is a skill.  It takes practice.

We don't expect perfection from our infants and young children learning to balance their bodies in space.  We offer them many opportunities to practice, challenge themselves, and sometimes stumble and fall.  We also offer them encouragement and praise their accomplishments.

Somewhere along the line we begin to discourage the practicing aspect of balance.  We begin to expect perfection, perhaps even before we allow ourselves or our children to stumble a bit.  We forget that we have to work through the struggles in order to grow and develop.  We wouldn't expect a child to take off on bicycle the first time they ride it.  We expect them to struggle and face the consequences of a fall to the pavement.  We also shouldn't expect all these other skills to just fall into place without practice and being allowed to fail a few times and face the consequences.

We also need to practice balancing as parents.  We strive to do our best for our kids, but we also must forgive ourselves when we lose our balance.  We should recognize the consequence, and practice some more.  We should not expect perfection from our kids, but also not from ourselves.  Balance is a skill that will always be evolving in our lives.

It's all about balance.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Crayola Crayon Maker

Think back to your youth.  What happened when your crayons broke?  Or when they became a stubbie (as Junie B. Jones would say)?  They were not nearly as fun and I bet you wanted to throw them away and get new ones.  New pointy crayons are always more attractive than broken or stubby crayons.  

I am a teacher and a mom to three young children.  I also volunteer as a Sunday School Teacher.  In all those areas I am in contact with crayons.  I am frugal.  I like to use that word--it sounds better than cheap.  I have a friend who calls it thriftilicious, which is a fun word too.  Anyway... I asked for a Crayon-Maker for Christmas and my sister got me one.  Yay!


(Yay!  That's my first picture)

To use the crayon maker, you take all those broken and stubby crayons and peel off the paper.  Then break them into two or three pieces.  You place them in the metal tray at the top of the machine, turn on the timer (which turns on the light bulb), and wait about 15 minutes.  When the crayons are melted, you pour them into the molds, and wait for the safety screen to unlock.  In about 30 minutes total, you go from brokens and stubbies to pointy and sometimes swirly crayons.

Things I wish I had known.
*The lightbulb that provides the heat is not included.  But on the outside of the box it does tell you what size you buy.
*The crayons you end up with are about half the length of a normal crayon.  I'm okay with this because this size actually helps develop proper grip for the preschoolers in your life.
*The box shows swirly crayons.  Some of mine were swirly, but most were not.  I was okay with that.
*The timer and melt tray do not always work properly on my machine.  The timer will shut itself off at random times, so I have to listen for the ticking.  I actually got to where I could tell when it was time to dump by the smell of the melted wax.  (I can also tell when my breads are done by smell--pretty cool.)  The melt trays on my machine also don't always fall into the grooves properly and sometimes I have to jimmy them to get them in the proper placement for pouring.  For these two reasons, I would not recommend this for a child.  I get frustrated with them, imagine how frustrating it would be for a ten year old.

It sounds like I didn't like my new toy.  But I did like it.  In fact I had it cooking crayons nearly every waking hour of my Christmas break.  And no I did not go around break my boys' crayons to play with my toy, like my lovely sister keeps claiming.  I have access to plenty of old crayons that are wanting to be new again.  And the Crayon Maker does come with some new crayons as well.  I refuse to melt down perfectly good crayons, though.

I believe this machine retails for less than twenty dollars.  If you are a frugal teacher, day care provider, mom, or someone who likes to color, I recommend the Crayola Crayon Maker.  The kids were interested in the process and proudly showed the completed crayons to others.  But I would definitely plan to provide supervision with children using this machine.

(I was not asked to review this machine and am receiving no compensation.  I just wanted to share my thoughts with you.)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Chocolate Mint Brownies

I had to make a dessert for work for tomorrow.  This is a simple brownie recipe that is also delicious.

2 boxes of brownie mix (If you are going to bake in a square pan, get the smaller mix.  Or get the larger mix if you are going to bake in a rectangular pan.)
Items needed for the boxed mixes (typically oil, water, eggs)
Bag of mini York peppermint patties
Frosting (optional)

1.  Mix up one brownie mix as directed.  Pour in the pan.
2.  Open and break up the peppermint patties.  Place on top of the brownie batter.
3.  Mix up the other brownie mix as directed.  Pour on top and carefully spread.
4.  Bake for 45 minutes at 350.  (This is for a rectangle batch, would be less time for a square batch.  Just add a little time to what the box says since you have doubled the recipe.)
5.  Frost when cooled.

I frosted mine with Grandma Lewis's Homemade Hot Fudge sauce.  Yum!!  But I'm sure you could use any chocolate frosting or unfrosted brownies are also yummy.  Now if I can keep these boys out of the brownies until I can get them safely to work, we'll be in business....

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Preparing for 101 in 1001

First off-- Happy 2011.  Do you say 2000-11 or 20-11?  I have been saying 2000-10 with the preschoolers at calendar time.  Though, I'm not really sure why, because I say 20-10 everywhere else.  I may try to transition into saying 20-11 in this new year.

It was a late night last night, being New Year's Eve, and all.  And my brain is a bit fuzzy this morning.  No alcohol was consumed, I am just tired.  So this post may ramble a bit.  I don't seem to be capable of organized thought yet...

At the beginning of 2010.  I had stumbled upon a blog that a friend was using to keep track of some goals she had set for herself.  As I began reading the older posts I realized this was more than just some New Year's Resolutions.  It wasn't really a Bucket List either.  But a bit of a combination of the two.  And as I continued to read and follow links, I found that there was a whole group of folks participating--making their own lists and writing about them as they checked them off.  This was a project called 101 in 1001 or Day Zero.  I thought that this might be something I would be interested in doing.

The basic idea behind 101 things in 1001 days (I like this better, Day Zero sounds so end-of-the-world) is to create a list of 101 goals for yourself and giving yourself a timetable of 1001 days to complete the list.  Apparently the website that is the home-base to the project is being revamped, but here are a couple of websites that explain and give examples of this project.

Day Zero Project  Looks like this is the official website for the time being.
101 Goals in 1001 Days  This has a lot of info to getting started including free worksheets to use to brainstorm and organize your list and links to several other people's lists for examples of goals.
Also googling '101 in 1001' and 'Day Zero Project' will bring up several examples of goals that folks have set.  This is a world-wide concept and it is interesting to see the variety of goals out there.

Back to me... I used to do some weak New Year's Resolutions back in the day, but they never really amounted to much.  By setting some goals and giving myself more of a timeline, maybe I could feel successful in reaching them.  And number one on the list was to start my own blog so that I could keep track of the list and be a bit accountable to someone other than myself and a piece of paper.  (Never very successful for me...)  Anyway I did a bit of research and planned to get started on my birthday, April 6, and therefore get finished 1001 days later right around the new year of 2013.  My birthday came and left and we still had dial up and it was taking forever for pages to load and I didn't think I could handle a blog on dial up.  So I abandoned my list for the time being.

We now have a basic DSL and things load faster.  And LOOK I started a blog.  So I am in the process of re-furbishing my list and starting on my birthday this year.  I like the idea of starting on my birthday because it is not really a list of 'New Year's Resolutions' then.  And I like that I have an end-date that makes sense in my brain.  So I am setting a goal to have a list brainstormed and organized and be ready to start this project on April 6, 2011.  Anyone else participating in 101 in 1001?  I would love to have a support group.  What do you think?