Thursday, December 29, 2011

Our Advent Adventures

Advent is probably my very favorite time of year. I love the sights, sounds and smells as we get ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus. It's a very exciting time!  This fall I had been hoping to have some type of countdown for the kids to use during advent that would help them get a better understanding of the waiting period.  In addition to putting a stick in a manger bed each day for doing acts of kindness I wanted to have an activity to do and group of people to pray for.  After scanning Google I found hundreds of beautiful advent calendars of all kinds from envelopes clipped to a line, pockets sewn onto a larger piece of material, paper with doors cut out and more. I was excited about making some type of advent calendar but I didn't want it to be too complicated because I knew I wouldn't finish it in time if it was. The envelope idea was very appealing to me but I didn't know if I wanted to hang a big line across our room and knew my husband wouldn't be favoring the idea either.

 In the end I decided to glue envelopes onto a poster board.  Most of them are purple except for 7 pink ones for the third week. I used old thank you cards from our wedding that we STILL have left over. It has our initials on the front and a blank inside so it was perfect. Purple and pink envelopes would have been pricey to purchase and were hard to find as it was so I painted them with acrylic paint (which worked much better than tempera by the way). I wrote the numbers of each day of advent with gold on the front. It didn't take as long as I thought it would.

Here is what the final product looked like.  My son really enjoyed looked forward to pulling an envelope out each day to find out what the activity and prayer were for the day.  Some days I waited until the morning of to put the envelope in and some days were planned in advance.  I really enjoyed it too!

Some of the activities we did were:

Go shopping for a little girl we are helping out for Christmas.
Bring food to the church pantry.
Have a pancake pajama party.
Put up the Christmas tree while listening to Christmas/Advent music.
Drive around and see Christmas lights.
Drink hot cocoa under the tree and hear stories about mommy and daddy's Christmases when they were little. 
Help Daddy with his meals on wheels route.
Make Daddy and sister's Christmas presents.
Read the book called the Crippled Lamb
Watch the Little Drummer Boy and talk about what you would give Jesus if you got to visit His manger.
Write letters to Santa
Take a pretend ride on the Polar Express and have hot cocoa.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Setting the Table

Lafayette Children's Museum

While visiting my family here in Louisiana we made a trip to the Lafayette Children's Museum.  It was a great museum and inside of the pretend Cafe where the kids could cook and serve food (including crawfish!) there were laminated place mats on the little tables in there.  Good way to teach the kids where the dishes go on the table!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Optimistic Child

The Optimistic Child by Martin E.P. Seligman, PhD

My husband found out about this book, The Optimistic Child by Martin E.P. Seligman, PhD which is about a program to help prevent depression in children.  Dr. Seligman I believe studied under Aaron Beck, the man who introduced the world to cognitive therapy. The book talks about how pessimism in life has to do with people believing that something about themselves is permanent, pervasive, and personal.  I'm halfway through the book and my husband has read it twice.  I could have waited to post about it until after I was finished but I was anxious to get it up in case someone happened to come across the blog somehow.

This book is highly recommend by myself and also my husband who has dealt with depression himself.  It is a helpful tool to not only parents, but teachers, coaches, and anyone who works with children.  What I've gotten from this book is that the way we correct them and encourage them has so much to do with their outlook and how they cope in difficult situations which we know of course but it also teaches us what works and why. It seems that success/lack of success plays a large role in whether or not children develop depression and that just telling our children that they are great is not going to be enough (as was tried in the self-esteem movement). We need to help them see that something bad that happens is not forever (permanent), it's not going to transfer to every aspect of their life (pervasiveness), and it's not always their fault (personal). We need to be honest with them about the reality going on around them and teach them how to succeed in whatever situation arises.  It reminds us that aside from these things they can learn to be responsible when things do not go as we wish, regardless of the root of the cause.

I hope I've been helpful in sharing about this book. Non-fiction definitely takes longer for me to read, but this is so worth it as we help to form the minds of children. Hope you and your family benefit from this book.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Cars, boats, trains, planes, hot air balloons, covered wagons, horseback, feet!
This broad topic leaves plenty of room for exploration and discussion.  We didn't get to do a lot of the activities listed below but we hope to sometime in the future. We did enjoy a lot of the pretend play.

Book Ideas

Freight Train by Donald Crews                                 Flying by Donald Crews

Five Trucks by Brian Floca             The Wheels on the Truck by Steve Metzger
Shows the different trucks             Shows different types of trucks and what they do.        
that help airplanes get ready and take off.

Margaret Mayo and Alex Ayliffe                              Bobby Katz

Curious George at the Railroad Station             Berenstain Bears and the Big Road Race

Thomas' ABC Book                                           Thomas' Christmas Delivery

Cars 2 Race Around the World     The Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper
from the Step into Reading series

Go Dog Go by PD Eastman

Many of these ideas come from Pre-school-Plan-It

Imaginative Play and Learn
  • Pretend Carwash- have buckets, towels, pretend hoses, and a car
  • Pretend Gas Station
  • Pretend Airport- Tickets, maps, walkway, seats, luggage
  • Chalk Road- draw a road with chalk outside and have the kids drive their cars/bikes on it.
  • Maps- Look at maps of the city, state, US, or world. Plan a trip!
                Our Home Made Car Wash                                                  

Taking our class mascot for a ride                                              

Toys You Haven't Pulled out in a While?

Do you rotate toys or have any that have not been touched recently? There's plenty of toys that can get involved in transportation some how.
  • Race Cars have a race or need to be fixed.
  • Trains
  • Potato Heads Go Horseback Riding
  • Dolls travel to Australia
  • Stuffed Animals in the Construction Yard
  • Dinosaurs take the Train
  • Blocks- build ramps and tracks for vehicles

  • Traffic Light- Use construction paper shapes (rectangle, circles, etc) or paints on pre-drawn shapes.
  • Paper airplanes
  • Car Painting- roll cars through paint on a paper and make tracks.
  • Hot Air Balloon Paper Mache
  • Covered Wagon- Use box, fabric, Popsicle sticks, paper plates
  • Box Vehicles- use old boxes, big and small to make a car, boat, or anything you want. For example, use paper plates for the wheels or steering wheel, etc.


  • Air, water, land- Place vehicles in groups for air, water, and land. Use pictures of each group to help. This came from Countingcoconuts.
  • Parachute- sing songs about transportation such as Row Your Boat, Down by the Station, or I've Been Working on the Railroad during parachute play if you have one.
  • Transportation Sounds- Make the noise for each form of transportation. 
  • Magnetic Road- Draw a road. Tape a magnet to the bottom of a vehicle. Put it on the road and use something else magnetic underneath the paper to make the car go.
  • Make a "Stop and Go" sign with one side red and the other green.  Play a game by having children do an activity on the go side and stopping on the stop side. 
  • Tape crayons to the bottom of cars and have them drive across paper. See what kind of tracks are made!
Puppet Shows

Well...this COULD have been out transportation. If they were still alive.

Don't Bring Your Dog to the Carwash

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Oh How We Love to Go Camping

One of our favorite themes is camping! I guess we all have some of that natural desire to be outside in nature :)

We searched for new activities this year and found some ideas on other blogs. We will post the links with the pictures.


One of our most favorite camping books.  When We Go Camping by Margriet Ruurs and paintings by Andrew Kiss.  Beautiful pictures with a great story about a camping experience.

                                 Our Camp site

Our Campsite! Includes sleeping bags, tent, pillows, blocks for the campfire, pretend camping food and cooking gear, chairs, coon hat and stuffed skunk. 

Important Extras! Fishing pole, flashlight, magnifying glass, binoculars, and fan!

Oh How I Love to Go Camping- Larry Groce-

Going Camping- John Denver and the Muppets-

Sesame Street Camping Show

Example Old Campfire songs
America the Beautiful
Ants Go Marching
Boom Chicka Boom
Caissons Go Rolling
Do Your Ears Hang Low
Hey Lollee
Home on the Range
I've Been Working on the Railroad
I've Been Cleaning up my bedroom- same tune as I've been working...
On Top of Old Smokey
Rattlin Bog


This is our picture but we got this idea from another site listed under the next picture.Trace your hands and color them fire colors. Put them all together!

Camping Sensory Bin Jada Roo Can Do

Bathtub Fishing Crafts N Things for Children

Go Camping!- If camping is new to you or you aren't comfortable doing it yet on your own check out your states outdoor workshops. They provide most of the camping supplies and teach you as you go. Here in Texas we have the texas outdoor workshops. Find out more at the link below.

More of Our Experience

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Advent Song Ideas

Well, our soft rock radio station begins playing the Christmas favorites after Halloween. Really!? I was tired of them by the time Advent started last year.  As if starting it all after Thanksgiving wasn't enough.  Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas music and listen to it during other times of the year, but the constant repeat of the favorites over and over (only changing the artist and style) wears them out. I would really love it if more advent songs were included on the list of replays. I know we do already here O Come O Come Emmanuel is wonderful and a favorite of mine, but there are other great hymns, songs that would be wonderful to pass on down. It would give me much more to reflect on if we heard more about our waiting for Christ more often on the radio. Especially if those songs got replayed 85 times a day. I definitely would have the message.

Christmas songs are wonderful and the celebration of Christmas is an immensely joyful time but we don't want to skip over the waiting and preparation period. We know that Advent is about waiting for our Lord Jesus to come and also about preparing our hearts for this wonderful, magnificent savior.  Encourage listening to advent songs to teach the kids about waiting and anticipation.  There is an excitement in the air that comes with this preparation.  One thing we did last year is a box covered in brown felt.  Zachary got to put a stick in the bed each morning during the advent prayers and when he did a kind act. The bed was filled by Christmas Eve and we had a special Baby Jesus to place in the bed. I plan to add a bigger variety of advent songs this year to make the experience more complete.

I've been compiling all of the advent song ideas I've found.  I've purchased a few through amazon mp3 downloads and hope to make a CD for our family to listen to in the car during Advent. Some are probably as old as the favorite Christmas Carols we sing. Here is the list I've been working on. I have more that I want to look up lyrics for so I'll add those later if they fit with advent. Hope it enriches advent for anyone celebrating!

  1. O Come O Come Emmanuel
  2. The Advent of Our King
  3. The Angel Gabriel from Heaven Came
  4. O Come Divine Messiah
  5. Come Lord Jesus- MD Ridge, Gerard Chiusano
  6. Come Thou Long, Expected Jesus
  7. Come Watch and Wait- Genevieve Glenn, OSB
  8. Comfort, Comfort, O My People
  9. Emmanuel- Steve Angrisano
  10. Every Valley- Bob Dufford
  11. Holy is His Name
  12. Jesus, Come to Us- David Haas
  13. Let the King of Glory Come- Michael Joncas
  14. Let the Valleys Be Raised- Dan Shutte
  15. Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates
  16. Magnificat
  17. Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus- Janet Sullivan Whitaker
  18. Maranatha- G. Westphal
  19. Maranatha- Tim Schoenbachler, Patrick Loomis
  20. Maranatha- Gerard Chiusano
  21. My Soul In Stillness Waits
  22. On Jordan's Bank
  23. Patience, People
  24. People Look East
  25. Ready the Way- Bob Hurd
  26. Ready the Way- Curtis Stephen
  27. See How the Virgin Waits- Williard F. Jabusch, Slovakian Folk Melody
  28. Soon and Very Soon
  29. Stay Awake-Christopher Walker
  30. The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns
  31. The Whole World is Waiting for Love- Marianne Misetich
  32. Waiting in Silence- Carey Landry
  33. Wake oh Wake and Sleep No Longer
  34. Breath of Heaven-Amy Grant- more contemporary
  35. Prepare the Way- Charlie Hall- more contemporary
  36. Ave Maria
  37. Mary Did You Know?
  38. Mary's Song- (Mary's praises to God)
More activities and advent calendar ideas in the next post!

Monday, November 7, 2011

All Saints/All Souls

All Saints/All Souls

                                        Zack Homrighaus                                    Sofia V. Mendez

You may have read my post from a few days ago about how we celebrate Halloween.  A tradition I've added to that in the last few years is to put up pictures of favorite Saints on that day in honor of All Saints day the next day and also pictures of family and friends who have gone before us in honor of All Souls day the following day.  For me, these two days have become days of reflecting on people who inspired me in who I want to be in this life.

In our family we take these days to honor all of the Saints we look up to and the family and friends we've lost.  The two pictures here are friends of mine from high school.  We found out Zack had cancer after our sophomore year of high school in 2000.  He fought it and lived three more years until December 27, 2003.  Sofia had a sudden issue with her brain fluid and passed away suddenly on October 1, 2011.  It was a real shock.  Both of these people were inspirational in countless ways. They have reminded me of the person I want to be on a daily basis.  Although we can think about our family and friends and honor them any day of the year, All Souls day is a special day we take each year as a community and to make sure we have time dedicated to those people.  In our Catholic tradition, All Souls day is also the day that we pray for people who have died that they go to heaven and pass out of purgatory.  It might be a strange thought for anyone who does not believe in purgatory.  We believe people go there before going to heaven, not as punishment, but to be cleansed of any sins/wrongs made on earth so that we can be in heaven soon after with Jesus in the perfect form.  It's suppose to be a place of hope and so we offer up prayers for those there. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Now Keeping the Jaw Breakers and Hard Candy I've Always Hated

Every year on Halloween since I was growing up I've dreaded getting all of the horrible hard candy that ends up sitting in the pantry until Valentine's Day because nobody wants to eat it. And then we finally throw it away and waste it anyway.  I don't know any kids that really eat that stuff but apparently some do because stores sell it and people actually give it away!

Scott has been doing science experiments once a week or every other week usually (well sometimes we skip a few weeks but for the most par) for a couple of years. We repeat experiments a whole lot for repetition in the learning process.  Zachary's favorites have been colored ice cubes, the volcano and bottle rockets.  Lately he's been wanting to try mixing things he comes up with on his own.  Sometimes they all come from the pantry but it's disgusting to think about mixing these things he mentions.  He's been asking questions also like "what would happen if we did this, or if we put this in water, or if we did such n such.  I think it came to the point when he asked that about a candy and we decided to dissolve it in water. This happened to be a week or so before Halloween and I said, "Great! I know where all of the objectionable candy is going to"!

Sure enough, we got plenty of hard candy we are not going to consume.  Jawbreakers, exploding candy, sour hard things, hard colored candy that looks like cough drops....plenty of great stuff for science experiments.  The  kids enjoy watching things change colors or go from large to nothing! Hope it's something your kids would enjoy too.

Leave your suggestions or ideas you do at home!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Our Version of Halloween- Increase your Imagination

Please Use Your Imagination!
A great book by Bart Vivian

Imagination is obviously important. When we use our imagination we are in a moment our senses are not being used to perceive, but instead our mind.  It is an important role in the learning process helping us to make sense of the world. Imagination has provided humans with the creativity to advance society in art, music, dance, writing/stories, science, psychology, and much more. And it's just fun. I can't really fly to any tropical islands right now, but I'm so there whenever I want in my mind. And since we have something called the internet which came about through creativity, ideas, dreams and imagination, I can use google images to find pictures of my tropical island to advance my own dream. 

So what am I getting at with this? Well we know that Halloween is pretend and features imaginative creatures and characters.  My problem is that I'm just not a fan of the scary stuff.  Although it's creative, it doesn't add a lot of improvement and inspiration to my life.  In fact it just plain causes me anxiety and encourages me to want to take all sorts of self defense classes. I've been this way since I was small. Every year something different scared me out of my mind for several weeks before Halloween. The scariest costume I ever had was a cute witch.  I'm sure I'm not alone in this.  There's plenty of people who enjoy the scary, horror, haunted house type of stuff and there's plenty who are like me.  My oldest is 4 and although he says he enjoys spooky stuff I know that he's quick to change his mind when he's sees the scary monster pictures, even though he does know and understand that it's pretend. 

I don't want to just throw out Halloween completely.  There's a lot of great imaginative things we can still do. For those of you that can't get enough of the haunted house scene, enjoy away! For us who don't care for it, you might enjoy some alternatives where you can still participate in the holiday.  There's plenty examples out there already such as the different pictures you can trace and carve on your pumpkin. Last year we had Elmo and this year we hope to have Cookie Monster. We definitely don't just see scary faces on front porches!
    I was reading up on the origins of Halloween and according to wikipedia there are several.  The two main ones I posted below along with the link to read more.  Most of it seems nice except for the Gaels bonfire to ward off evil spirits. The exact quotes will be below with the wiki link. Here is a list of things we like to do to enjoy our Halloween experience.

  • Decorate the downstairs with autumn decor. 
  • Read books about imagination on Halloween.
  • Put up pictures of family and friends who have passed away to remember and honor them.
  • Put up pictures of people we view as heroic, dead or alive.
  • Imagine ourselves as storybook characters and have a parade
  • Attend fall festivals and pumpkin farms.
  • Bake cookies, pies and more!
  • Carve a pumpkin of course :)
  • Trick or Treat!

During the moments when our kids get scared we all search for our own methods of comfort to lift them up and help them to understand what reality is. Old Papa Bear put it quite nicely in this story which is part of one of our favorite series. Papa explained to Sister that she was afraid of the dark because of her imagination rather than what was really there.  When Sister remarks that she wished she did not have an imagination Papa explains that our imagination is very important.

There is a great song called Imagination by Hugworks.  It's a good song for a wide range of elementary students.

Would love to hear about anyone else's Halloween traditions! 

Historian Nicholas Rogers, exploring the origins of Halloween, notes that while "some folklorists have detected its origins in the Roman feast of Pomona, the goddess of fruits and seeds, or in the festival of the dead called Parentalia, it is more typically linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-an orsow-in)", derived from the Old Irish Samuin meaning "summer's end".[1] Samhain was the first and by far the most important of the four quarter days in the medieval Irish and Scottish[2] calendar[3][4] and, falling on the last day of Autumn, it was a time for stock-taking and preparation for the cold winter months ahead.[1 There was also a sense that this was the time of year when the physical and supernatural worlds were closest and magical things could happen.[3][4] To ward off these spirits, the Gaels built huge, symbolically regenerative bonfires and invoked the help of the gods through animal and perhaps even human sacrifice.

Halloween is also thought to have been heavily influenced by the Christian holy days of All Saints' Day (also known as HallowmasAll Hallows, Hallowtide) and All Souls' Day.[5] Falling on November 1st and 2nd respectively, collectively they were a time for honoring the Saints and praying for the recently departed