Thursday, December 4, 2014

Create an Animal!


With the holiday season fast approaching, I thought it should be time for us to finish up with our study of animals so that we could concentrate on Christmas. We've been looking at a variety of different animals, as well as the classification system, and we've really enjoyed it. But I didn't have the slightest idea how to end the unit!

After spending some time on Pinterest (one of my favorite sites!), I found an idea from ilove2teach. Instead of looking at animals that already exist, the crazy little kids could come up with their own make believe animals. There was some writing involved, so I was a bit worried. CLG is a bit young to write, and CLB is just not a happy writer. I was pleasantly surprised when they both greeted the project with enthusiasm!

I decided to make a sheet that each kiddo would fill out to help them decide what their animals would look like. I didn't make it too complicated, just made sure they would have something to refer to to help them remember all the things we learned about animals:



From this, both crazy kids were able to think up interesting ideas for new creatures. And to draw them, too!

CLG came up with an "amnite fish". This little guy apparently enjoys living in the "middle" and "bottom" layers of the ocean. It was fun taking time to figure out what the technical name of those ocean layers are called, and it's still amusing listening to her try to say abyssal! This fish apparently does wander up to the top layer of the ocean to eat jellyfish, but usually stays below. The unique bit about this fish is that it's fin can change to wings! When it's threatened while having it's dinner, it will switch up its fin, fly out of the water, and hang out on the beach for a few hours (she wanted the fish to head over to the subway, but I talked her out  of that one).

See the little fish in the wave?

Doesn't it look so happy on the beach?


CLB came up with a new amphibian called a "fran". This little guy lives in bogs, under the ground. Since it lives in a bog under the ground, and it's an amphibian, it has to leave its home periodically so it can breath. The fran likes to eat and has antenna that can help it sense worms, ants, and flies up to one mile away. It can also change color, to stay away from predators, but if it is spotted by a predator, it will use its upside down claws to quickly dig a hole for it to hide away in.

Close up of the antenna 

A fran can change from grayish green...

...to brown!

We had a lot of fun with this project. And, no, these creatures might not be scientifically possible! But the kids spent time thinking about how their animals fit in the classification system, where they live, how they protect themselves, and where they fit in the food web of their habitats. It was a wonderful way to end a fun unit!


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Letter (and Number) Bread

CLB had a friend over to play with today, so CLG and I decided to bake some bread for dinner. It's always fun having some girl time, especially since CLG enjoys baking and cooking as much as I do. We picked a bread recipe out of the book, The Alpha-Bakery Children's Cookbook by Gold Medal.
This book has a recipe for each letter of the alphabet! It's a fun little book with recipes that my two Crazy Kids can make, with help from me of course! For the letter t, the book has a recipe for turtle bread, which is basically bread in the shape of a turtle. We did this when CLG was focusing on the letter T, but this week, we're actually reviewing the letters, B, C, S, and T, along with the number three. So CLG thought it would be fun to make these letters and numbers out of bread and eat them for dinner. And that's just what we did!

CLG finishing up her "C"


Here are all our letters (and our number 3)

Getting ready to take a 20 minute rest after all that work!

Rested and risen, time for the oven!

Yum! Ready for dinner!

The bread has a wonderful taste and texture, and it went beautifully with our spaghetti dinner. Even better, CLG had fun making the bread and then practicing her letter and number making skills by playing with the dough. All in all, it was a nice way to spend an afternoon!

Letter (and Number) Bread Recipe
adapted from the Gold Medal Alpha-Bakery Children's Cookbook

Ingredients
2 to 4 cups of all purpose flour
1 package of rapid rise active dry yeast
1 TBSP of sugar
1 tsp of salt
1/2 cup of water
1/3 cup of milk
1 TBSP butter

Directions

1. Mix the yeast, 1 1/2 cups of the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Put water, milk and butter in a microwavable container. Microwave it for 15 seconds, and test the temperature. If it's warm (between 125 to 130 degrees) take it out. If not, microwave for another 15 seconds. Wait for the butter to melt a bit and then add the liquid mixture to the dry mixture.

2. Stir in one egg, and then stir in enough flour so that the dough is stiff enough to handle. Sprinkle a surface with flour and then knead the dough on this for about 5 minutes, adding flour to the board as needed. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.

3. Spray one or two cookie sheets with baking spray. Cut the bread into six evenly divided chunks, and form them into long "worms". Form the worms into whatever letters or numbers you desire. Cover and let rise for 20 minutes. While the dough is resting, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

4. Place the cookie sheet(s) into the oven and bake the bread for 10 to 15 minutes. The bread should be a golden brown and make a hollow sound when you tap on the bottom of a piece.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Lunchables!

I just realized something the other night while trying to figure out what to make the Crazy Kids for dinner. You see, we generally sit down at the table all together and have a nice dinner together. But, periodically, I enjoy feeding the kids early and then have dinner set up for my husband and myself for after the Crazy Kids are in bed asleep. Something about sitting down and actually being able to pay attention to what I'm eating is just wonderful. Don't get me wrong, I like our family dinners, but it's nice to be able to eat instead of listening to the various complaints about what is sitting on this Crazy Kid's plate or whinging about whether or not the other Crazy Kid needs to eat all his/her beans or just two of them. We all need a break from that sometimes!

On days when my Crazy Kids eat separately from the grown ups, I do make a completely different meal for them. I figure if the grown ups get a treat, why not them? The only problem is that my little kid dinner repertoire is just plain sad. They get either hot dogs (yes, hot dogs! Don't get me started on what it takes to get these two to eat protein!) and a veggie, plain pasta and a veggie, or sandwiches and a veggie. They want nothing else! I tried to change it up with a quesadilla once or twice, but I probably won't be making that mistake again. And then I saw a bunch of these homemade "lunchable" ideas on Pinterest. Who knew putting food in little containers would make eating different foods appealing for little kids! I surely didn't! But my two loved the idea! Heck, CLG even helped put them together!

A quick and easy dinner for the Crazy Little Kids!

It was so easy! I just put paper cupcake liners into a plastic container and filled them up with different foods. I picked whatever I had on hand that was healthy (okay, so pepperoni and salami isn't the best, but they needed protein. Again, don't get me going on trying to get them to eat proteins!). And both kids LOVED it! Scarfed it all up! We will definitely be doing this again! So I just had to share! Go check out all the neat lunchable ideas over on Pinterest! I can't wait to try it again...ummm, yeah, tonight!








Thursday, September 19, 2013

Rice Mosaic

So we did a fun little activity to go along with the book A Grain of Rice by Helena Clare Pittman. Again, this activity is thanks to the book, Learn at Home Grade 4, which we absolutely love for our homeschool!




If you haven't read the book, it's basically about an extremely clever peasant and a princess who want to marry, but good old dad, the Emperor, is standing in the way. It's fun to see how the clever guy wins over the Emperor by starting with a simple grain of rice. CLB loved it! So he decided to do the accompanying rice mosaic craft that was suggested in Learn at Home.

First I had to dye rice different colors. It's really not that difficult, but you need a bit of space. I divided one bag of rice into 6 different baggies. Then added enough rubbing alcohol to cover the grains (just a couple of tablespoons will do, I think, but I did use more than that). Then I added drops of regular old food coloring into each bag, mixing colors until I had the entire rainbow:

The colors came out so vibrantly!
After soaking in the baggies for a bit, I just poured out the extra alcohol and laid the rice on piles of paper towel to dry. Once they dried up, I put them into clean baggies to keep them separated.

The next day, CLB decided on a picture to make. He wanted to make a tree, so used regular Elmer's glue to lay down the trunk and branches. He got a little carried away with the glue, so I suggested he use cotton swabs to move the glue about the page. As he completed each part, he would sprinkle the glue with colored rice, and then move onto the next piece. 

CLB has always said that he prefers making abstract art to real life pictures. I guess that's pretty obvious with this depiction!

Now I should warn you that gluing rice, although fun, is a bit messy, so have a broom and dustbin on standby! But CLB had a blast, and, although it's tough to see the tree because he decided to use some unusual coloring, he was really proud of the result. And that's all that matters, right!?!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Making Butter

Today we decided to take some heavy cream and turn it into butter. All we had to do was put cream in a container and shake it, so easy peasy lemon squeezy, right? CLB did it over the summer in a science class at the library, and it didn't seem so bad, and CLG is exploring farm animals, so why not make butter?

Well, let me tell you, making butter may sound easy, but it involves a lot of shaking! Not the kids' shaking the container, mind you. Know this in advance if you decide to do this with your kids! Those excited little people are going to give up pretty fast on the shaking, and you're going to be left with the butter. And a sore arm!

Really all it is is putting an amount of heavy cream into a container that you can seal and then putting in the time to shake the container. Non-stop! For about 15 minutes or so. Which, I know, doesn't sound long, but when the Crazy Little Kids gave up after a couple of minutes, those 15 minutes I was left with  shaking the cream seemed to take forever. Oh, and did I mention about 5 seconds into my shaking, I realized I hadn't put the lid on tightly. Cream all over me and the kids. Fun! Make sure your lid actually fits your container tightly!

After we shook for a bit, the cream turned into whipped cream. At this point, I added a bit of salt to the mix and started shaking....again! I kept at it but made the kids shake at times to give my arm a rest (they actually liked to jump with the container. To be honest, that seemed to work better than my shaking!). Eventually, we noticed that a liquid had reformed back in the container. We opened it up and there it was!

Butter! Sitting in it's very own buttermilk!

We were amazed!! To be honest, I didn't think it would work. I mean, knowing that it should work and then having it actually work are two different things. Next question, how did it taste!? So we drained the butter from the buttermilk:

Really high tech, huh!

And then plopped it onto wax paper:


This was still actually pretty wet. I ended up draining more buttermilk using a paper towel and putting the butter back onto fresh wax paper.


Then the big taste test...would it taste like butter!?!

It looks good, but how does it taste?

It does! Like fresh salted butter. It's fantastic! I can't believe we did it! We wrapped it up and put it in the fridge.

All wrapped up and ready to go!

The Crazy Kids and I have every intention of eating it with dinner tonight. It's lovely! And fun! Now, I just have to work out this cramp in my arm....








Thursday, September 5, 2013

Catching Some Zzzzzs!


I'm a member of a local mom's group, as I'm sure a lot of moms are. The group communicates by email and all us moms share deals around town, where to find the best plumber, contractor, dentist, pediatrician, etc. and offer advice to other moms who are trying to figure out a particular mom problem. One of the issues that tends to come up almost cyclically (probably at least four times a year) is how to get a three year old to go to sleep in his/her own bed. Since we just worked our way through this with CLG, I decided to reply (well, actually I decided to reply after one mom suggested massages and another melatonin...for the kid, not the mom!!), and realized, hey, this is a pretty good blog post! And so here it is:


Ahhh, getting a three year old to go to sleep. We've just worked our way through this, too, with our youngest one. Three year olds are great draggers of feet! LOL! Both mine stopped napping around 3, so that did make my life easier. But they do like to push their limits with the bedtime routine. We stuck closely to our routine, and if the kids tried to stray, we'd gently put them back on course. We are strong proponents of the 5 Bs: Bath, Brush, Bathroom, Book, Bed. We give plenty of time to get it done, no rushing through this, but everyone stays focused on the task at hand. We do not generally clean up the toys and such before, during or after this routine. Cleaning up toys happens before dinner, we eat dinner, and then, depending on the bedtime of the child, we start the bed time routine (our son is older now, so he doesn't go to bed quite as early any more, but we still only allow quiet reading/drawing before bed usually). We stick closely to our routine, and if the kids try to stray, we gently put them back on course. "I need a drink of water" doesn't stop the routine, because we either tell the kids they'll have a drink when they brush their teeth, or we remind them that they just had a drink when they brushed. That kind of thing. We do sometimes have issues with teeth brushing, though, and then we get a bit firmer. If a child is refusing to brush his/her teeth, we explain that he/she either can get the teeth taken care of or there will be no book. This generally does the trick, but only because when it didn't do the trick, we took the book away. It doesn't matter how much they scream, if the teeth don't get brushed (or there's any sort of outright refusal to get the routine done), the child doesn't get a book. It makes for a louder (ie the kid is screaming and crying) bedtime, but we figured out a way to deal with that too (see below).



Once the child is in bed, he/she says prayers, gets kisses and hugs and maybe a little song, and that's it. Any other discussion can be done during the bath and brushing parts of the program (we like to discuss what we did that day and what we're doing the next day). If one of the kids acts up and is out of bed or screaming, there's a routine for that too. The first time I get up right away and remind him/her it's bedtime. Pick him/her up and tuck him back into bed. No kissing, no hugging, no talking beyond saying it's time for bed. Second time around, he/she gets no conversation at all, just gets put back in bed. And that continues until he/she stays in bed. And believe me, there's been many a night where I just sat on the floor by the door for a half hour to an hour until the kid stays in bed! But they learn that bed is the place to be and where they're going to end up regardless of whatever wandering they would like to do!
It's called a bed! You sleep in it!
If there's any yelling, screaming, asking questions (of any sort...don't fall for the "Could you get me a drink of water?" play...that seems to be a specialty of three year olds!), anything like that, again, I go up right away and remind the child it's time for bed and tuck him/her back in. Nothing else, no yelling, no other talking, no hugging no kissing! If he/she continues to scream and/or ask for stuff, I just go out of the room and wait 5 minutes or so, then I go back in and try again to tuck him/her back in. If it works, great, if it doesn't back out again for another 10 minutes this time. Keep increasing the time in between by 5 minutes or so. Sometimes, they just are so tired that they need to yell, I think. But make sure to go in there when they settle down and tuck them in...I think they also need that tucking in and face wiping to really settle in.

And if you don't want the child in the bed with you any more, for goodness sake don't let him/her sleep in your bed any more!! If the child gets up in the middle of the night and wants to get into bed with you, remind him/her about his/her own bed, lead the child back to the bed, and tuck him/her in. No hugs, no kisses, just a reminder about his/her own bed. If he/she gets out and comes back in, just bring him/her back, no talking this time, and tuck him/her in. And repeat, repeat, repeat. If there's any screaming, crying, or yelling involved, but they're staying in bed, great! Just see above to see how we dealt with screaming and crying. It's tough on you the first few times, but if you let the child back into your bed, it'll be 20 times harder the next time because he/she will try longer to see if you give in. Believe me, I know with this one...my husband always let my youngest into bed, which worked fine for him because she stopped bugging us, but was not fine for me because she basically shoved me out of bed. I like my snuggles, but not at 2 am when I need my sleep!


As far as monsters and bad dreams go, the only things that have worked for us is a bit of imagination. These things are coming from their imagination, so we figured we'd fight the monsters with our imagination :). I made monster spray (just water and glitter), which I would spray around the room whenever that worry came up. Monster spray works for at least a week and is guaranteed to keep all monsters away for at least that long (after I spray it, I always ask if I missed any spots). Bad dreams are a tough one, though. I do give lots of hugs and kisses after a bad dream, but at one point it was so bad that my son was waking up constantly and working his way into not wanting to go to sleep at all. In a fit of desperation, I grabbed this tiny stuffed dog and frantically yelled out, "This is Good Dream Doggie!! When he's with you, you don't have any bad dreams!". My son stopped crying, rolled over and went to sleep without bad dreams. I was shocked...but it worked for us!

Thank Heavens for little doggies!

Oh, and if there's a really bad thunderstorm that wakes the kids up, all bets are off...both kids usually end up in bed with us getting loads of hugs, kisses, and whatever else they need. But you can bet the next night they're back in their own beds!!


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Bake While You Spell!

A few months ago,  CLG  figured out how to sound out simple words and spell them. Since then, she seems to be asking how to spell different words, non-stop. We're talking every day, all day, with every breath she takes! I had a couple of days there when it seemed we had moved past this phase, but she came back to it after a bit of a break. Don't get me wrong, I think it's great that she is curious about spelling and sounding out words, which is why I answer her questions each time she asks. But after months (and months!) of spelling words, I think even the most patient person in the world would start to twitch a bit!

To try to shake things up, I thought we'd mix in some baking with all this spelling. If there's one thing the CLG likes more than spelling, it's baking! So both Crazy Kids and I made up some sugar cookie dough (Thank you, Pioneer Woman for the dough recipe!), rolled it up in wax paper into two tubes, and then put it in the fridge over night. The next morning, I baked the cookies up into little rounds and frosted them (again, thanks Pioneer Woman!!!) in different colors. Then the CLG went to spelling some words. As she spelled them, I wrote the letters on the cookies in melted chocolate. We went through a number of -at words, and then moved on to -ogs.

Frog, log, hog, bog....Thank goodness I get to eat cookies after all this spelling!!

CLG had great fun, and CLB is happy to have lots of cookies to eat. All in all, a successful spelling lesson!