Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Favorite Christmas Books

This is the second year that I have done the "Christmas book present a day" tradition with my girls and we love it!  It is a lot of work to wrap 50 books but totally worth it!  Some of them I own (I have my own tradition of purchasing one Christmas book from Amazon each year) but most of them I just request from our local library.  I thought I would share some of the books that we have enjoyed this year in case others might want to start this tradition and wonder how in the world they could find that many Christmas books!  Let me tell you, this is but a sampling of Christmas books that are available.  I have so many others that I can't wait to read with my girls!  I will be adding onto this list as we read more.  (Disclaimer:  We do not "do" Santa Claus with the girls, but treat him as just another fun story like Frosty or Rudolph.  Because of that, some of these stories might include references to Santa and we enjoy them.)

Picture Books of Songs:
Frosty the Snowman by Nelson and Rollins
The Twelve Days of Christmas by Gedde
On Christmas Day in the Morning by Sweet
The Little Drummer Boy by Keats
The Friendly Beasts by dePaola
The Night Before Christmas by Moses
The Night Before Christmas by Tudor
Good King Wenceslas by Neale or Ladwig

Stories of Christmas from around the world and different ages:
Marmee's Surprise (A Little Women Story) by Kulling
One Hundred Shining Candles by Lunn
Nine Days of Christmas: A Story of Mexico by Ets and Labastida
What's Cooking, Jamela? by Daly
The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Houston -- one of my favorites :)
The Gingerbread Doll by Tews

Christmas Stories from Grandma's Attic
Christmas in the Country by Rylant
An Early American Christmas by dePaola
Christmas in the Trenches by McCutcheon
Shooting at the Stars the Christmas Truce of 1914 by Hendrix

Picture books:
That's Not My Angel by Watt (Usborne)
The Story of Christmas by Pingry
The Usborne Advent Nativity Book (a puzzle Book)
A Christmas Story: A Sparkling Nativity Play by Priddy books
Merry Christmas Charlie Brown (Look and Find) by Schultz
Mortimer's Christmas Manger by Wilson -- my girls' all-time favorite Christmas book!
Room For a Little One by Waddell
Snowmen at Christmas by Buehner
Bear Stays up for Christmas by Wilson
Who is Coming To Our House? by Slate
Song of the Stars:  A Christmas Story by Lloyd-Jones
The Nativity by Vivas
Gingerbread Baby by Brett
Gingerbread Christmas by BrettChristmas in the Big Woods by Wilder
One Baby Jesus by Pingry
Christmas Cookies:  Bite-Size Holiday Lessons by Rosenthal
Great Joy by DiCammillo
Angelina's Christmas by Holabird
Fancy Nancy Splendiferous Christmas by O'Conner
Christmas Tree Farm by Purmell
The Donkey's Christmas Song by Tafuri
Christmas Farm by Ray
B is for Bethlehem
Christmas Cakes by Ferri
Christmas in the Country by Rylant
The Twelve Days of Christmas Cats by Daily
Christmas in the Big Woods by Wilder
Why Christmas Trees Aren't Perfect by Schneider

The Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher by Krause
Christmas Mouse King by Chaconas
Mooseltoe byPalatini
Gus and Grandpa and the Christmas Cookies by Mills
The Family Under The Bridge by Carlson
Prairie Christmas by Van Steenwyk
Henry the Christmas Cat by Calhoun
The Christmas Story The Brick Bible For Kids by Smith
Christmas in the Barn by Brown
The Little Drummer Mouse by Mayer
Christmas Tapestry by Polacco
The Christmas Boot by Wheeler
A New Coat for Anna by Ziefert
An Orange for Frankie by Polacco
Christmas Trolls by Brett
The Nutcracker by Jeffers
The Most Precious Gift by Crisp
The Carpenter's Gift by Rubel
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Robinson
Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree by Arry
The Little Fir Tree by Brown
Santa Claus and the Three Bears by Modugno
The Family Christmas Treasury: Tales of Anticipation, Celebration, and Joy
Christmas in Noisy Village by Lindgren and Wikland
The Invisible Thread by Schroff

Longer Christmas Books:
The Jesse Tree by Willy -- kind of an advent storybook book that goes along well with our daily reading and ornament -- the older man in it is a little grumpy and I kind of tone down his words when I read it to the girls because they might not understand why he is so grumpy.  But it is a great accompaniment to our Jesse tree advent!
The Nutcracker by Helbrough (Usborne)
The Christmas Story by Heyer
The Pine Tree Parable by Higgs
One Wintry Night by Graham
Father Fox's Christmas Rhymes by Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux
Why Christmas Trees Aren't Perfect by Schneider
The Crippled Lamb by Lucado
The Christmas Cup by Patterson
Bake Through the Bible at Christmas by Bentley-Taylor and Moore
The Imagination Station: Danger on a Silent Night by Hering

Story behind the Legend books:
The Story of Saint Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend by Stiegemeyer
The Story of Saint Nicholas: More Than Reindeer and  a Red Suit by Odden (Voice of the Martyrs)
The Legend of the Candy Cane: The Inspirational Story of our Favorite Christmas Candyby Walburg

The Legend of the Christmas Tree by Osborne

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Popping an elbow back in place (yes, you can do it yourself!)

We just had a short-lived trauma tonight when Karlie's elbow popped out of joint.  She was in excruciating pain.  We tried distracting her with Backyardigans (which we reserve for such special occasions), but it was obvious the pain was not going away.  I had learned the technique for popping a shoulder back in joint, but it didn't work for the elbow.  I finally searched youtube and found a video to show me how to do it.  Within seconds, my happy girl was back. 

So this is my golden tip for the night:  If you have little kids, learn both techniques ASAP.  They are super easy, only take 2 seconds to perform, and will save you hours of pain and time at the ER.  And it is easier than having to search Youtube when your three year old is screaming in pain!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A natural approach to lice removal

This was the post I hoped to never have to write.  I've had super thick and long hair almost my entire life, and lice has been at the top of my list as one of my worst fears ever since I was old enough to hear about it. I thankfully managed to go 31 years without any more than the sympathy itching I always get when I hear of someone else with lice.  But you can imagine my utter horror to find it on one of my girls now that I live in a house with 4 girls!  Add to that the fact that we have a ridiculous amount of stuffed animals and baby dolls and I won't even mention the state my house was in the day I found it.  And company was coming to stay with us in two days.  And the thought of putting chemicals on my sweet girls' heads just made me sick to my stomach.  To say that I felt incredibly overwhelmed was a huge understatement!

As soon as I found a patch of nits in my daughter's hair, I immediately reached for the coconut oil.  My husband teases that I use coconut oil for everything, but in this case I was super glad I used it!  I had remembered reading somewhere that coconut oil smothers lice and I immediately covered each of my girls' hair and myself as well.  I called Mark to go buy us a special comb and then we set to work throwing things in plastic trash bags and in the washer and dryer.  After leaving the coconut oil in our hair for several hours, I combed everyone's hair.  Thankfully, I never saw lice in anyone else's hair so I think we got to it fast enough so that it did not spread.  I did find 2 actual bugs in my one daughter's hair, and I cannot tell you how glad I was that I had used the coconut oil so that they were dead rather than running away from me!!!!  A month and a half later with no signs of a re-infestation, I finally feel safe and confident enough to say the natural approach worked.

I did a bit of research that first night to see what I needed to do to keep them away.  THIS article helped me the most.
Here is what I learned:

1.  Coconut oil really does work!  But you still have to comb out the nits.
2.  Rinsing hair with apple cider vinegar before shampoo helps remove the glue holding the nits so they come out easily.
3.  High heat kills both lice and nits.  Just about everything in my house went through our dryer.  And we dried all my girls' hair with the hair dryer for the first three weeks just to be on the safe side. 
4.  Neem oil and tea tree oil also kill lice.  So the 2nd day I was paranoid enough to do another coconut oil treatment and I added both essential oils to the coconut oil. 
5.  Here are two natural products that are good for killing lice.  I didn't have time to get them and managed fine without them, but I thought they sounded good enough to mention, especially if you have a worse infestation than we suffered: Theraneem Organix Shampoo an Quit Nits Complete Head Lice Kit (a homeopathic and essential oil nit removal kit)
6.  I washed and dried all the sheets and blankets 3 days in a row, then did it every other day for a week just to be on the safe side.
7.  We bagged up each and every stuffed animal and baby doll with hair for 4 weeks.  (My house stayed a lot neater during that time!)
8.  We did the oil treatment and washed their hair and combed it 3 days in a row and then every other day for a week. (Did I mention that I was really stressed and paranoid?)  Thankfully, we never saw anything after the first day, but all the extra work might be the reason it didn't come back. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

One School Year Down and Ready for Another....

As we approach the beginning of a new school year, I decided to evaluate last year and see what I learned... here are my thoughts:

The bottom line? I absolutely LOVE homeschooling!  I am passionate about education and get ever so excited about not only what my girls are learning, but also what I am learning in the process!  I love having my girls home all day with me and although we've had our share of unproductive or down-right bad days, I wouldn't change it for anything!

My absolute favorite part about homeschooling?  Without a doubt it is spending hours of our week snuggling on the couch reading my all time favorite childhood books to my girls.   That is definitely my favorite part of our day!

My downfall?  Curriculum.  I'm a nerd.  I love books.  I love it all.  I want to do it all.  I want to buy each book I see.  I always plan waaaaay to much.  You remember my "great plan" for the beginning of the year?  Yeah, I pretty much only followed for a few days.  It was too structured for a baby with a changing schedule (who didn't want to follow "my" schedule :).  And it didn't leave enough time to take advantage of those "teachable moments" or to really dig in deep to our favorite read-alouds.  I was also going to do a "Letter of the Week" theme for Karlie but soon found out that she had learned all of her letters and sounds already from Karis and was pointless.  So I just did phonograms with both of them instead.

The best advice given to me?  A sweet friend named Jessica who has 3 precious stair-step children (even closer in age than mine!) told me not to try to start it all at once.  To start one thing, build it into a routine, and do it well for a week or two or even a month before adding something else.  Then work on doing those two things til we were set in the habit and ready to add something else.  Very simple, but priceless advice.  It worked.  My girls thrived on doing the one bit of schoolwork I had them do every morning and then got ever so excited each time I finally added another piece to our routine.  We ended up with only 3 real schoolwork periods: a short 10 minute breakfast memory board, a longer reading time on the couch, and a half hour table work time in the afternoon.  "Preschool" really doesn't take long. (If you want to see how our schedule ended up, you can clickHERE to see a longer version of this post on my family blog.)

Favorite Curriculum/ Books we used:
For Teaching Karis to Read:
The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading -- the girls loved the initial alphabet rhymes but the reading part was not super exciting.  Still, it has a great simple phonics and grammatical progression and is exactly what Karis needs.  I am more than happy with it.
Alphaphonics -- I take turns with this and the above to give Karis some variety and to help with fluency.  She likes that the letters are larger.
Bob books: She reads me one story each school day and they get progressively more difficult.  It has been great to use them as we go through our phonogram cards because she sees how the phonograms help her figure out words.  I just get these from the library.
The Writing Road to Reading and phonogram cards  --  The book is great and I am certain I will utilize its techniques next year since Karis is actually writing more now.  The phonogram cards are key -- there are only about 70 key phonograms in the English language and once a child can recognize them, she can figure out how to read almost any word.  They have REALLY helped Karis take off with her reading.  We memorize several a week and say them each morning as we do our "breakfast memory board."
Explode the Code Workbooks -- she absolutely LOVES her workbook and I am thrilled with the effortless way it teaches her to read and practice her handwriting as well.  This is probably her favorite "reading resource"

Chapter "Read-Alouds":  Our favorite part of the day is curling up on the couch with a good book!  I absolutely LOVE Sonlight's reading list for preschool and kindergarten.  We did not buy the curriculum, but instead I just got most of the books from the library.  There are a few great collections that I purchased from Amazon, but most of them are at our library.  I also requested books from the library from THIS classical book list.  

For this year:  We plan to do Classical Conversations for our science and history foundation and I will add read-a-louds and activites to supplement as I have time.  (Probably not too many the 1st year as I get used to the program.)  I plan to continue with our current phonics materials and Sonlight read-a-louds and add Saxon math to our schedule as well.  And I think that should do it!  I am very excited about the upcoming school year!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Fighting a virus naturally

After 5 days of a super high fever,  I decided to take Abbi to see my holistic doctor just to make sure an infection had not snuck in while her body was fighting the virus.  I absolutely love my pediatrician and she is open to my natural tendencies, but after last summer's ordeal I knew exactly the protocol she would have to recommend: a trip to the ER to take blood, x-ray, and spinal tap to rule out the worst case scenarios.  I didn't want to do that when my holistic doctor could use less invasive techniques to tell me what was going on.  She found that Abbi had a nasty virus centered in her spinal cord and intestines.  That made total sense to me because she had been extremely uncomfortable through the sickness, squirming all over the place and unable to get comfortable enough to sleep more than 10 or 15 minutes at a time.    Here were her tips for getting over any kind of virus:

1. Therapy bath to help hydrate (because dehydration is the most dangerous effect of high fever):
1 3/4 cups epsom salts
3/4 cup baking soda
3/4 cup borax
1/4 tsp. lavender oil (if desired to help relax)

2.  L-lysine -- 250 mg 3x a day (mixed into food)
3.  Zinc -- 15 mg (mixed into food)
4.  Garlic cut open and rubbed on feet
5.  Elderberry syrup every hour for 2 days
6.  Collodial silver --  every hour for 2 days
7.  Probiotics -- 4 times a day

8.  Lugol's iodine and magnesium oil patted on spine every 2 hours -- this sounds absolutely ridiculously crazy but supposedly the virus does not like this mixture and will "move" away from it.  You "chase" the pain with the mixture until it is gone and the virus has left.  It will often go to your weakest parts.  (For instance, with my holistic doctor's daughter, the pain moved to a part of her leg that was very sore from dance practice the day before.)  With older patients, it is easier to "chase" it and put the mixture wherever  the patient says that it hurts next, but with Abbi it was a little more difficult.  The first time she grabbed her eye and started screaming, which made sense because it was hurt but was very frustrating because I could not help her there.  However, the next time after placing it on her spine, she started acting quite agitated and grabbing at the top of her neck.  I placed the mixture there and she calmed down immediately.  Weird, but it seemed to be similar to what my holistic doctor had described so I am thinking that it worked.  If nothing else, iodine and magnesium are things most people are deficient in and desperately need, so I thought it was definitely a worthwhile solution to try.

9.  Hydrating tonic (very similar to one I already posted) to battle dehydration from the fever:
1 Tbs. raw apple cider vinegar
1 pinch baking soda
1 serving aloe vera juice
1 cup of unfiltered apple juice
2 cups water
5 drops sole*

*sole -- dissolve as much Redmond's Real Salt as possible in 1/2 cup boiling water.  Put in dropper bottle

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Great Parenting tips and a plug for a marriage get-a-way

Since we are focusing on moms this month, I thought I would share some great parenting tips from a Mom who recently taught me a lot.  But before I do, I just have to put in a plug for Family Life's Weekend to Remember Marriage Getaways.  Mark and I just attended one last weekend, and it was amazing for us.  We didn't have any major problems in our marriage, but just knew we were exhausted and needed to get away and focus on each other and connect.   I was looking for something fun for us to do in Charlotte (I have to now admit that we chose Charlotte simply because it had the closest IKEA and I'd been wanting to go there for years :) and found the marriage get-a-way and thought it would be a great way to get us to focus on each other.  I mentioned it to Mark and he laughed in my face.  Sitting through a conference was definitely not what he wanted to do on our get-a-way!  So I dropped it.  I told him he could plan whatever he wanted for us.  And two weeks later he brought it up again and said we could do the marriage conference as long as we didn't have to go to every single session.  Ha!  We almost dropped the idea again because of the price, but Family Life people are super nice and will give scholarships based simply on "what you and your husband have decided you can afford." 

Mark and I looked at the schedule and decided which sessions we would attend... some of the sessions sounded very redundant to information we had learned in Seminary so we decided to skip many of them.  We actually only made it to 4 out of 10 sessions but those 4 sessions were indeed invaluable to us.  I'm talking, life-changing, "I feel like we are courting again" type of impact!  (In retrospect, we probably would have learned much in the other sessions as well, but the 4 we attended gave us more than enough to process and work on.)  I expected to get a lot from the conference (being the relationship-oriented, emotional woman that I am), but I was amazed at how much it changed my husband as well.  He didn't even want to go to the conference originally, but has said many times since how glad he was that he went and how he wishes others that we know could go to one as well.

Sorry this has gotten to be such a long plug, but I felt like I really needed to share because it helped us so much.  Since this is a blog specifically for exhausted moms of little ones, I am certain that we are not the only ones who unknowingly settled into "companionship" mode without even realizing it.  We love our kids and the life that we enjoy with them and we truly get along great so we did not even realize that our marriage had become complacent.  Weekend To Remember is a wonderful tool to get the communication flowing in all areas of marriage and God greatly used it to recharge ours!

The wife and mother who spoke at the conference did one session on parenting and she told her top ten tips for kids.  I knew many of them already, but the session was a good reminder and listening to her tips helped me to think about what areas of parenting I need to work on.   It also helped me think more about the future of my kids and our goal in parenting. (I tend to get so caught up in the here and now of the little years that I often forget that we are doing such training so they can be independent but wise and godly teenagers.)  I hope these tips will be helpful to you as well:

1.  Set limits -- kids need limits and they find security in them. 

2.  "We play to an audience on one."  This one was a particularly good reminder for me because I parent very differently than a lot of people I know and I need to stop worrying about what others are thinking about my parenting style.  What matters is that I am in prayer and doing what God has called me to do.  I raise my children for Him, not anyone else.

3.  My job is not to be my child's best friend!  She went on to say that friendship does come later and right now she is enjoying a sweet, sweet friendship with her teenage and college-age kids.  But the little years are for training and instructing in righteousness and much discipline. 

4.  Because of all the boundaries and discipline that come with #3, try to say yes to as many things as you can so that when you do say no, it really means something.

5.  Give them the Biblical reasons behind the rules and limitations -- we do not just want good behavior, but to help them make good decisions in the future!

6.  When you take something away, give them something better -- she gave the example of beach week in the South, where kids always go to the beach and party like crazy for a week after school lets out.  They never let their kids attend beach week, but instead used that week to plan amazing family vacations.

7.  Stay calm and loving in discipline -- you don't want them to think you are disciplining simply because you are mad, but because you love them and are obeying God in training them in righteous living.

8.  The less you react in the moment, the more your kids will come to you with their moments.  If a child comes home and tells you something incredibly shocking that happened in school, if you get all upset and immediately call the principal, the child will probably not choose to confide in you the next time something disturbing happens. 

9.  Focus on unconditional love -- when you discipline, tell them that you are disappointed, that they sinned, but that it does not change your love for them.

10.  Pray that they would get caught!  You will not be with them every moment and will not catch every sin, so pray that they will get caught before their sin grows so they can deal with it and learn from it.  (Sidenote:  my own mother did this and told us that she did and God definitely answered her prayer -- my brother and I never got away with anything!  :)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Creating Easter Traditions

It is hard to believe that Easter is quickly approaching! I love this holiday and want it to be special to my girls and I am trying to start traditions that will keep the focus on Christ. I thought I'd share a few that I have recently found and am considering:

I absolutely LOVE this idea for celebrating Lent with the kids, although for my little ones I might shorten it to just the week before Easter. Here is the blogger's description: "We placed a styrofoam wreath on the table, to be kept during the 40 days of Lent, with a cup of toothpicks nearby. Each night at dinner, those at the table had the chance to confess sin from the day. When they did so, they placed a toothpick in the wreath, symbolizing the thorns in the crown of Jesus on the cross....on Easter morning, before the children awoke, I removed all of the thorns and replaced them with spring flowers!" She also has a delicious looking recipe for sweet potato biscuits you might want to check out!

-- Resurrection garden -- On Good Friday, take a baking dish and fill it with dirt, rocks, sticks, etc and a hollowed out potato (as a tomb). It makes a great decoration to remind us of Christ's sacrifice. On Easter morning, remove the potato and fill the garden with flowers to demonstrate the life that Christ brought through his death. HERE is a good picture and description of what one family did.

-- Resurrection eggs -- you can easily make your own or buy them at a Christian bookstore or Amazon -- the children crack open an egg each day and a small token corresponds with a Bible passage that explains the resurrection story.

-- Here is a great download for a 12 days of Easter unit to do with little ones. It corresponds to the resurrection eggs.

Benjamin's Box: The Story of the Resurrection Eggs is a great resource to go along with the eggs. My girls have really enjoyed following the story of Benjamin as he learns about Jesus. He gathers the same objects that are contained in the resurrection eggs.

Rocks in the basket -- Fill Easter baskets with rocks to represent your sins... you can write specific sins on the rocks or just say them as you place the rocks in the basket. Then cover the rocks with a red cloth to represent the blood of Christ, talking about Christ's death on the cross and what it meant for us. On Sunday morning you can replace the rocks with flowers representing life or whatever gifts you might wish to give your children on Easter morning and/or place the rocks in a different basket with the name of Jesus written on it to show how Jesus took away their sins.

Color a red dot on your children's palms and write their name on it to remind them that Christ died specifically for them!

This Focus on the Family article gives a special activity for each day of the week leading up to Easter.

Easter In The Garden -- a touching retelling of Easter as seen through a child's eyes

The Legend of the Easter Egg -- teaches the deeper meaning behind the Easter eggs -- a boy learns that just as a chick breaks out of an egg, so had Jesus broken free of the tomb of death. Easter eggs remind us that Jesus conquered death and gives us eternal life.

And just for fun, here are some twists to the traditional egg hunt:
Cascarones -- I love this fun idea of filling real, empty eggs with confetti and allowing the children to race around, smashing them on each other. I suppose it could get out of hand, but I love the avoidance of ridiculous amounts of candy and I think it would make for some fun pictures!

or you could just play this fun Easter Egg Bashing Game :)