Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Cloth Training Pants: Motherease

If you're checking in with us for the first time this week, I'm running a series of reviews of cloth training pants. You can find my first post on the topic here, a review and giveaway of Diaperaps here, and a review of Imse Vimse here. Today I'm reviewing Mother-ease cloth training pants.

Mother-ease is yet another cloth diaper company started by a mom looking for a better way to cloth diaper. They've been in business since 1991 when they began by working out of the basement in their home. Mother-ease products are made in Ontario, Canada, and their factory uses 100% green power. (Very cool!) They are committed to "exceeding customer expectations with original designs including natural and organic cloth diapers while leaving a minimal carbon footprint."

We chose a size small in the wetlands print for Julia. As you can see from the pictures, its a bit puffy on her. She is small for her age at 22 lbs and 32 inches tall, and this is the smallest size Mother-ease offers in training pants. The training pants are available in white or one of five different Eco Theme prints. The prints are absolutely adorable, we had trouble choosing only one. Each of the prints represents an environmentally sensitive region throughout the world with playful art depicting their species and habitats. You can see the prints and read more about each one here.

Although the training pants are puffy on Julia, they actually work very well. They will hold a pee without leaking, and the elastic is snug but not too tight around Julia's legs and waist. She can pull these up on her own and loves to look at the cute print. Her clothes are already sized to fit over cloth diapers, so her pants do fit over these just fine. The training pants are made of soft knit cotton terry with a thin layer of natural cotton sewn inside. The outer layer is made from the same waterproof polyester as their wraps. We've found these to be sturdy and well made.

Since Julia still wears some diapers, I throw these in with the diaper laundry, but I've also put them in with a regular load of our clothes. You can see Mother-ease's wash and care recommendations on their website. While you're visiting their website you can also read more about the environment and cloth diapers, watch videos of how to adjust their one size diapers, or check out their introductory offer of a cloth diaper, cover, and snap in liner for a special discounted price (limit one per customer). I'm tempted to order a set for the new baby as I have a friend who absolutely loves the airflow covers, but I haven't tried them on my kids yet.
The training pants can be found here and are affordably priced at $13.50 each. If you do choose to place an order with Mother-ease, they ask that you mention my blog just for record keeping purposes. Thanks Mother-ease!

Keep checking back later this week for more reviews and two great giveaways.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Cloth Training Pants: Imse Vimse

This week I'm running a series of posts reviewing several brands of cloth training pants. Here is my first post on the topic, and here is the first review including a giveaway. Today I'm reviewing Imse Vimse...

Imse Vimse is Swedish for "Itsy Bitsy". The company was started in 1989 in Sweden by a mom when her daughter developed diaper eczema from disposable diapers and then quickly recovered when she switched to cloth diapers. Imse Vimse cloth diapers are now sold across the world.

I purchased a pair of their cloth training pants this spring for Julia after doing some research and reading reviews on and other places. I like that these have a trim fit, yet include a waterproof barrier. Julia (22 lbs and 32 inches tall) fits nicely in the small size. They are easy for her to pull up on her own and have a nice soft fabric on the outside. I have had some leaks with these when Julia doesn't get to the potty in time and I noticed that the Imse Vimse website suggests adding a diaper liner for more absorbancy or a cover at nap time and as needed.

We chose the farm print and Julia likes to wear this pair often. Imse Vimse cloth training pants come in organic cotton or organic velour. The organic cotton pair has an organic cotton knit outer, two layers of organic cotton terry, and a hidden layer of PUL. There are several cute prints to choose from, or a solid white. To wash these, I throw them in with the diaper laundry or with a regular load of clothing. Turning them inside out helps them get fully clean. The directions say to line dry, which helps the PUL to last longer. I think I usually put these in the dryer though and haven't had any issues. I really like this pair of training pants and since they have a nice trim fit I can see Julia using them as panties when we are out and about after she is potty trained, just for extra protection.

I purchased these from Abby's Lane, my favorite cloth diaper website. Abby's Lane offers free shipping on all orders, and if you join their email group (click on the purple button at the bottom of the home page) you will find a code for 5% off all orders. If you've never ordered from them before, enter my name at checkout (Christy and I'll receive a small credit for referring you. Abby's Lane carries a full line of cloth diapering supplies, baby carriers, and even Melissa and Doug toys (free shipping on all that is a great deal!).

Keep checking back this week for more reviews and some giveaways. At the end of the week I'll post a comparison between the cloth trainers to help you decide which will work for your child. Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Week 3 - MFW K, Sun

Here are a few highlights from the week... (These are just some extra things we did along with our My Father's World curriculum. Click on the blog roll button on the right to see other MFW blogs.)

It was actually cloudy and cold all week, so we had trouble making a sundial and our grapes never shrank into raisins. One sun activity that worked for us was to put chocolate chips in a plastic bag and put them outside to melt. Once they were melted, we squeezed the chocolate out onto a cracker for a yummy snack.

Lucy enjoyed completing the "S" page in her Cuisinaire Rods book.

We are charting the weather on a graph for a few weeks:

We learned that the sun is a big star, so we did a few star activities as well. I put star stickers on black paper and the girls used a white crayon to connect them to make shapes. We looked at our star Fundana and then went outside at night to look at the stars.

Books we read:

Sun Up, Sun Down by Gail Gibbons - great information book!
Sun Bread by Elisa Kleven
Under the Sun by Ellen Kandoian
Bear Shadow by Frank Asch
What the Moon Saw by Brian Wildsmith
There's No Place Like Space by Tish Rabe
"S" in the Christian Liberty Nature Reader K (about snakes)
VHS - All About The Sun

What Lucy learned:

"Um, I learned about the letter S. And I learned about the sun."
Mom: "What did you learn about the sun?"
"How big it is (giant!)."
Mom: "What else did you learn about the sun?"
"That its hot. And about everything in my school."

Lucy's favorite part:

"Everything. Those little blocks, but I liked everything though." (Cuisinaire rods)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Cloth Training Pants: Diaperaps

This week I'm doing a series of posts reviewing several brands of cloth training pants. Scroll down for my first post yesterday on the topic. First up is Diaperaps...

Diaperaps offers a full line of reusable diapering products including diaper covers, cotton diapers, training pants, and swim diapers. They are committed to providing healthy, comfortable, and environmentally friendly products for babies. Their website has some great tips here including a slideshow of how to fold a prefold diaper, how to launder Diaperaps products, and information about cloth diapers and the environment. You can also read potty training tips here, and signs for potty readiness here. Diaperaps was started by a mom and has been in business for 20 years.

We received a pair of heart print training pants in size 2T. Julia weighs about 22 lbs and is 32 inches tall, fairly small for her age (2). The 2T fits her well around the waist and legs, but is a bit puffy all around. I think a smaller size would be too tight one her, and we're used to the cloth diaper puff around here, so the fit is fine with us. These are available in a nice size range; you can choose anything from 1T up to 5T. Julia likes the heart print and chooses this pair often. Other prints available include a solid white or a fun circus pattern.

The training pants are made of absorbent cotton fleece and do include a waterproof barrier. I like this pair because it will hold a full pee without leaking. Because we are actively potty training, I do find out right away when she has wet her pants, but these will get us to the potty without leaking all over the place. Julia still wears diapers at times, so I either throw these in with the diapers to wash, or in with our regular laundry. Diaperaps says to machine wash warm and tumble dry low. For stains they suggest rinsing with cold water and then applying diluted Borax, although you don't want to let the training pants dry out with the stain treatment on them. We haven't had any issues with staining and I find these easy to care for.

Diaperaps training pants are fairly inexpensive and they offer a discount if you purchase 3 or more diapers. One or two are $11, and three or more are $10 each. They are giving away two pair of cloth training pants in your choice of size and style (subject to availability)! To enter the giveaway, take a look at their website and leave a comment letting me know which style you would choose. Be sure to include your email address or have it enabled in your blogger account so that I have a way to contact you. The giveaway will close November 1 at midnight. I will choose two winners who will each receive one pair of training pants. Thank you Diaperaps!

**Giveaway is now closed and winners have been contacted. Thanks for your interest.**

Stay tuned for more cloth training pants reviews and giveaways this week. Next up, Imse Vimse...

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Cloth Training Pants Reviews and Giveaways

This week I'm going to be doing a series of posts reviewing several brands of cloth training pants. Snap-EZ, Motherease, Diaperaps, and Princess Julianne's Closet sent training pants for me to review. I had purchased an Imse Vimse trainer earlier this year so will include that in my reviews as well. There are several giveaways this week along with the reviews, so keep reading!

I had never used cloth training pants before now. When my first daughter Lucy was ready to potty train we waited until she was dry most of the time and then bought one package of disposable pull-ups for the transition. She was fully trained before we ran out of pull-ups. (It did take her quite some time to potty train, but we keep her in diapers and just used the pull-ups at the very end.) Julia is a bit of a different story - she has been wanting to go on the potty like her big sister for quite some time now. She is not consistently dry, but loves to be able to pull up her own "panties" and do things herself. With her starting to potty train fairly early, I thought training pants would be a good idea. She has the desire (sometimes) but isn't always dry.

The training pants have been a great transition tool for Julia to be able to feel like she is a big girl, and in the meantime have saved me many puddles on the floor. At the moment, we're still in the process of potty training. Julia goes on the potty when I remind her and take her constantly, but still often wets if I don't get to her at the right moment. She gets involved in her playing and doesn't think about going on the potty. I'm still hopeful that before the baby comes in January we can have her out of diapers.

I will be putting up a separate post for each of the brands and including what we liked or didn't like about each. I have pictures of them all on Julia so you can get an idea of how the fit of each varies. Several of the companies have offered a giveaway or discount code, so if you're in the market for some training pants hopefully this week will be helpful to you. Check back tomorrow for the first review...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

In The Country Game by Haba (Includes a Discount Code)

In The Country is an adorable game made by Haba. We have never actually played a Haba game before, and I'm quite impressed with this one. I thought this would be perfect for our household since it focuses on learning the nutritional cycle of where foods come from and how they are made. If you've read my blog for any length of time you know that feeding my family healthy foods is a passion of mine. Starbright Kids Company sent us this game for review and is offering a great discount code as well.

Haba games seem to be well thought out and unique in their game play. The idea behind this game is definitely original. Players move around the board collecting ingredients to make a particular food. The recipe cards range from easy to more complex. You can collect a carrot and an apple for a snack, or make an apple pie which involves feeding the cows hay to get milk, harvesting grain and taking it to the mill for flour, feeding grain to chickens to get an egg, and more. I like that play can be so varied- we can work on a problem card together, or each player can work on their own. There are a few other simple variations that can be thrown into the game as well to make it more involved for older children.

In The Country comes with small pieces of wooden food (yes, they would be a choking hazard for younger children, but they are sooo cute). The cardboard pieces are very thick and sturdy making this a game that will last. I absolutely love the quality of the pieces and can't get over how cute the details are.

Lucy enjoyed playing this game and was able to move around the board and complete a recipe card with just a bit of help from me. The box says that the game is for 2-4 players age 4-10 but Grandma and Grandpa enjoyed playing this game with us as well. Julia (age 2) wanted to help move pieces around the board and pretend to drink the tiny milk bottle, but really didn't understand the game play. The idea is complex, involving different steps and some planning on each player's part, but overall there are not a lot of rules to follow or learn which is nice. We thoroughly enjoyed this game and I can see it getting lots of use for quite some time to come.

Starbright Kids Company is a wonderful website that carries a great selection of toys that we love. They specialize in European and natural wooden toys, offering non-toxic, high quality items. They also require a safety statement from all of their vendors. In looking through the website, I saw many of the toys that we own and several more to add to my wish list! Starbright Kids Company offers order fulfillment and customer service through I personally experienced great communication from them and fast shipping. They offer free shipping on orders over $25. With brands like Haba, Selecta, Plan Toys, Djeco, and more, it is definitely easy to find enough to qualify for free shipping.

To help you get started shopping, Starbright is offering a discount code for $5 off orders over $25 good through October 31, 2009. Use the code BUJ8RV2T at checkout. Thanks Starbright Kids Company!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

3 BumGenius Diapers for 23.15

I just placed an order with today and ended up getting 3 BumGenius for only $23.15, here's how: (In order for this to work it does have to be your first order from them.)

There is a code for $5 off of a first time order that includes diapers or formula. "NEW5" I put 3 BumGenius in my cart and then tried this code. It didn't recognize the cloth diapers as being diapers (???) so I had to email the customer service people and they manually typed in a $5 credit on my account.

I also used a referral code- if someone gives you a referral code you can receive $10 off of your order. My referral code is "MERC8687" which if you type in should give you another $10 off. Again, my shopping cart didn't recognize the cloth diapers as being diapers so I had to send off another email and they manually entered the credit for me. If you place an order using my code you get $10 off, and I get a $1 credit for referring you. :)

I chose 3 BumGenius in order to get my total up high enough to hit free shipping, so be sure your original total is above $49.

Now you have 3 cloth diapers for $38.10. Another promotion that is running is that they give you a subscription to Parenting magazine, which you can tell them you don't want and they then mail you a refund for $14.95. This brings your total down to $23.15! You need to print off this form and also print off the final page of your order, showing proof of payment. Fill out the form and stick it in the mail right away with the proof of payment, being sure to follow the instructions on the form.

Make sense? Let me know if you try it and if you have any questions. I haven't received my order or my rebate yet, but I have no reason to expect this not to work. It does require the emails to customer service or calling their 800 number to get the codes to work, but they were very helpful and entered the credits for me without any problems. I'm excited to have new cloth diapers at such a great price.

UPDATE- My mother in law ordered some of these diapers for me today and they didn't honor both the NEW5 and the referral code together. The referral code gets $10 off so we just used that one and will send in the rebate for $15, still a good deal. You can try and see if they will honor both codes for you, but I guess that's not normal policy. They also tried to tell us that it wasn't normal for them to honor the codes on cloth diapers, but it doesn't say that anywhere on their site and they did allow it to go through without a problem. This also works with 3 Fuzzi Bunz, another cloth diaper brand that sells.

UPDATE 2 - If you do order using my code, please let me know that you did so. I am having trouble getting my referral credits to show up in my account and want to be sure that they do. Leave a comment here or email me and let me know you placed an order. Thanks!

UPDATE 3- I did receive my order of diapers very quickly, and have since received my rebate as well. :)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Preschool Games

I recently participated in a swap of Activities In A Bag where 20 of us got together and all made 20 of one kind of preschool activity and then swapped them. It was so much fun to come home and look through all of the preschool games! Each game is stored in a gallon sized zipper top plastic bag. I've continued the idea and put several more games in zipper bags and added them to my box. I'd highly recommend doing a swap or organizing one if you can find enough people who are interested. Here are some of the games that I made on my own...

Fishing - The idea is from here, with a few changes. I used brads for the magnetic part and wrote a lower case letter on each fish. There are also two of each color so that the game can be played several ways. The child can either name the letter on the fish that they caught, name the color of the fish, or try to find a matching color pair. For the fishing pole, I bought a dowel at Hobby Lobby and Ross drilled a small hole through it for the string. For the end, we hot glued the magnets together with the string in the middle. The string is a bit long, especially for Julia, but the girls both love "fishing".

The Very Hungry Caterpillar - I saw this idea here. I printed the pictures from the link given and then laminated them. The caterpillar is a green pipe cleaner and the fruit all have holes in them so that the child can string the food onto the caterpillar as the story progresses.

Star Counting - This idea was adapted from one of my Mailbox Magazine books. Since we are studying "sun" this week and "moon" next week I thought this would be a fun game to use. I put star stickers on small cardstock squares (1-10) and then made cards with only numbers on them. The child counts the number of star stickers on a card and then finds the corresponding number card. We are also going to use the number cards to practice counting backwards to "blast-off" into space. Of course I laminated the cards because I laminate everything.

Color Matching - This came from an idea that David Hazell of My Father's World mentioned on a cd I was listening to. He suggested getting paint chip cards from a home improvement store and cutting them up to make a color matching game. The different shades of each color are actually rather hard to distinguish, which makes this a challenging game. I punched the circles with a large punch and then laminated them all as well.

Story Dice - I absolutely love these! The idea is that the child rolls a few cubes and then has to come up with a story using the pictures on the dice. I got my inspiration here, and decided to use stickers for the pictures on mine. I bought wooden cubes at Hobby Lobby and then raided my sticker stash. I kept each cube to a topic - characters (Dora, a little girl, etc), things (a blender, a vase, etc), animals, weather and places, or transportation. Once I started making these I found myself searching every store I was in to find stickers that would work. I used Mod Podge, but it has stayed tacky, so I'm going to have Ross spray them all with a clear acrylic sealer spray. Lucy is very excited to use these and said she hopes to roll Dora every time so that she can tell me all kinds of stories about Dora.

Any other fun game ideas you've come across lately? We actually haven't used some of these yet, but I'm glad to have my box full of games available to pull out whenever I need them.

Muffin Tin... Tuesday?

Yesterday I had a midwife appointment around lunch time, so we didn't get to have our Muffin Tin Monday. I'm not feeling well today, but I somehow managed to put together a tin. We are studying "sun" in preschool this week, so our tin had to do with the weather. I debated reading Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs, but it was a bit scary for Lucy the last time we tried to read it. I decided to just read our "sun" books from the library instead.

Our tins had clouds (popcorn), sunshine (tortilla with meat and cheese), rain (water), snow (yogurt over blueberries), flowers and grass because the sun helps them grow (lettuce and fruit leather), and a few stars. It ended up looking kind of lame, oh well.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Week 2 - MFW K

We are using My Father's World Kindergarten as our preschool curriculum. This was week 2. Although I am not going to post everything we did (because most of it came straight from the teacher's manual), I will post some of the highlights. I plan to include any nature activities that I came up with, ideas I found on the internet and added to the week, or things that I made up. If you are using My Father's World (or even if you aren't homeschooling) I hope that this will be a fun peek into our homeschool days and maybe you will find some ideas you'd like to use. Some weeks will have more ideas posted than others, but I'll try to keep up with this!

This week we enjoyed a nature walk. I labeled plastic gallon size bags with a piece of tape that said "God made...". Lucy and Julia both enjoyed walking around collecting things that God made - sticks, small pinecones, grass, dandelions, pine needles, and more.

On Friday we started our Sun unit and cut pieces of yellow yarn (string because it starts with "S") and glued it to a big letter "S" that I drew on paper. The girls both loved snipping the yarn but didn't want to touch the glue to stick it on to the "S". We are just getting started with the Sun unit and I have lots more fun ideas coming up for this one next week.

Along with My Father's World, we are using Handwriting Without Tears. We began this week by just playing with the wooden pieces and placing them on the alphabet mats to create letters. I have the music cd as well so we listened to "The Hokey Pokey" and "Tap Big Lines" and followed the actions with our wooden pieces. This was a fun way to incorporate music into our day.

I posted last week about my weekly summary page and what that includes. Here is Lucy's answer this week to the questions I asked her:

What Lucy learned: "About "S". And, um, about what God made. And our nature walk. Thats not something I learned, but that's something I really liked."

Lucy's favorite part: "Um, all of it. Everything, I guess. My favorite part is all of it, but I think that's all."

This week was also Lucy's first ballet class. She was a bit nervous, but ended up enjoying it!

PS I just added a My Father's World Blog Roll button on the right hand side. Click on it to see a list of other MFW homeschoolers and what year they are on.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Muffin Tin Monday - Apples

Is it Monday again already? We had a busy day, but I still managed to pull off a muffin tin lunch. The girls have so much fun with this that I couldn't let it slide. We are going apple picking on Friday, so the apple theme was perfect.

Our tins had apples with peanut butter for dipping, bread and cheese apples and leaves (this was a matching game, match the bread with the same shape cheese), and trees and apples with ranch for dipping (broccoli and small tomatoes). I know, I always do shape cheese, but I couldn't make peanut butter sandwiches since we already had peanut butter for dipping the apples in... oh well. The girls ate most of their lunches; Julia refuses to try tomatoes and doesn't like the broccoli but I put it in her tin anyway, just in case.

Quick blog update: I posted the final part of my series "What's In My Water?" tonight, including a discount code for the water filtration system we've chosen. The Fundana giveaway closes tomorrow night- if you aren't chosen as the winner, check out this post with a great discount on these super cool nature study tools. Along with another recent series I've been doing on nature studies, A Toy Garden is giving away a nature bingo game, check that out here. Check back for more reviews, giveaways, and fun posts coming up soon. Thanks for stopping by!

What's In My Water? Part 3

(read "What's In My Water?" Part 1 and Part 2)

In my posts "What's In My Water?", I talked about research I've done and why we chose the Berkey water filtration system. In this post I'll talk a bit about our experience with the Berkey in our home. After deciding that a Berkey system was the best option for us, I contacted Big Berkey Water Filters who agreed to send us a system for half price in exchange for a review. I had done plenty of research and had already chosen this system before being given the opportunity to review it. Remember too that from my calculations in Part 2, Berkey is actually cheaper per gallon than even a Pur or Brita system which many people have. Big Berkey Water Filters is offering my readers a discount code, free shipping, and a free item with purchase, so keep reading...

We set up the Berkey system on a day when Ross was here to help me figure out putting it together. I was a bit intimidated at first with trying to get it all set up correctly, but it wasn't hard. It took a while because we were careful to follow the instructions and be sure we were doing it right, but there wasn't anything difficult to understand. The filters have to be primed initially, and there are clear directions with photos on how to do this (here). We only have one place in the kitchen to place the Berkey because our cupboards all get in the way, but it has worked out fine. The system is tall, but overall doesn't take up too much space. The first week we had the Berkey set up, it started to leak from around the spout. We took it apart and tightened the washers and it hasn't leaked again.

The water does taste slightly different than our PUR pitcher water, but not bad. After a day we were all used to the new taste. Lucy and Julia both drink water all the time and never said anything about the water taste. Ross said that it reminded him of fresh spring water from his grandparents' cottage when he was little. At times when I'm filling up the Berkey I can smell the chlorine in the tap water and I'm so glad that we aren't drinking it any more.

There is a bit of a learning curve with figuring out how often to refill the system. I lifted the top half of the Berkey off a few times to see how much water was left, but for the most part I can tell when I need to fill it based on how much water we've used (if I've filled a big pot for cooking or something). The flow from the spout also gets weaker when there is less water in the system and is stronger when its full. The water takes quite a while to filter (which is a good thing, it gets more contaminants out the longer the water is filtered), so keeping track of when it needs more is important. We chose the Royal Berkey and it seems to be a good size for our family. If we need faster filtration as our family grows, we can always add two more of the filtration elements to our system.

We keep a pitcher on the counter that we use to refill the Berkey and another in the fridge with filtered water in it to drink. The pitcher I have in the fridge is a Lock and Lock brand plastic container with a lid. Although I would prefer to have glass, the pitchers I saw were heavy and I couldn't find one with a lid. This set-up seems to work well for us.

As far as other family member's reactions - well, Julia likes to put her face on the Berkey and look at her reflection, leaving fingerprints all over it. The fish thought there was another fish in the household and I had to move him away from the Berkey before he got too upset. Lucy and Julia were both excited about our new filter and couldn't wait to show it off to Grandma. I'm sort of waiting for Julia (age 2) to try filling her own cup or something and create a big flood with it. She hasn't tried yet thankfully.

Regarding our experience with Big Berkey Water Filters, they've been great. They are wonderful at responding to my emails and shipped the Berkey to me quickly. I felt like their website was very informative and their blog is continually updated with relevant articles. We received a sport water filtration bottle instead of the shower filter we had ordered. They let me keep the sport bottle and shipped the shower filter out right away. Big Berkey Water Filters offers free shipping, a free gift with purchase, and no sales tax. Use the code "oneword5" to receive 5% off of your order as well!

We ordered the shower filter after reading about how chlorine evaporates in the shower and can be inhaled. You can receive 6 to 100 times more chlorine by breathing the air around a shower or bath than by drinking the water. I'll be posting a review of the shower filter eventually. The other item we chose to add to our order was the PF-2 Arsenic and Fluoride filters to add to the Berkey system, which you can read more about here. You can also read more about fluoride on the Big Berkey Water Filters blog.

There you have it - all the information you ever wanted to know about water filtration and our new system. If you have any questions feel free to ask here or email Dan at Big Berkey Water Filters. Several of you have commented that you enjoyed the previous posts in this series; I hope this is helpful to you as well.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

First Week of School

I posted a bit in this post about our first day of school and things that we did. Overall our week was a lot of fun and the girls both enjoyed it. Some of the highlights were...

Our creation books. I put page protectors in a folder to make books and Lucy and Julia both carried these around all week "reading" their creation story. They were very excited to add a new page each day. We followed the instructions in the teacher's manual for these except day 3 we used our handprint for the tree and fingerprints for the fruit on the tree. Day 5 we used watercolor paint to make an ocean scene. (For day 6 I plan to have Lucy draw a person and then use stickers for the animals.) When we are done with displaying our creation numbers I'm going to put these in the books as well, on the back of the corresponding day.

Dirt cake. On Wednesday (day 3), we celebrated the fact that God made dirt. Lucy and Julia helped me make dirt cake by smashing up Oreo cookies, mixing pudding, and putting it all together. Later on I thought, "God made the earth, trees, plants... bananas grow on trees... why didn't I just have them make banana bread? lol" The dessert was very sugary and not something my kids are used to having, but of course it ended up being a big hit!

I had to make the alphabet review harder for Lucy since the ideas in the teachers manual were too easy. Throughout the week she: sorted the ABC cards into upper and lower case piles, matched upper and lower case cards together, put the cards in abc order, told me the sounds the letters make, played memory matching sets of upper and lower case together, and named all of the lower case cards. I had her do a few alphabet puzzles we had, and a preschool game sorting "b" and "d".

I typed up a weekly summary page including the following information -

week of: (date)
theme: Creation
what we did: (summary similar to what I typed above)
books we read:
Lucy's favorite part: I told her I was typing about what we did this week and reminded her of things we did. I then had her tell me what her favorite part was and typed out the quote as she told me. Here is what she said: "All of it, but what I really, really, really like is doing the numbers because I'm really excited to know what it has. I'm excited to know what the 7 and the 6 has on it. That's all. But the dirt cake you gave me, I really, really liked it."
what Lucy learned: This one didn't work so well, she said "everything" and didn't really tell me anything new she learned. I'll try again next week and see if she learns anything. ;)

I think that we will enjoy having these summary pages to look back on and remember things that we did during the year. I also plan to print off and include a few photos we took during the week. These will go in a big binder in page protectors along with the summary page, artwork, and papers done during the week.

Another thing I did is organize all of our children's books. I'm not sure how long they'll stay this way, but I put green stickers on all of the MFW K books so that they will be easier to find.

Did anyone else start homeschooling this week? I'm planning to share weekly highlights of the things that we do, so check back next week and maybe you'll find some ideas you'd like to use. If you're blogging about preschool or My Father's World K especially, please leave a comment with the link.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Giveaway - Bingo Game from A Toy Garden

Sonya at A Toy Garden would like to give away a Bingo game to one of my readers! I just posted a review of Bug Bingo below - its one of our new favorite games. Here's what you need to do:

- Read the post right below this one, including my review of the Bug Bingo game.

- Visit A Toy Garden and type the word "bingo" in the search box in the upper right hand corner. You will see all of the Bingo games that Sonya carries. (This giveaway does not include the Fundanas that show up in the search, just the Lucy Hammett Bingo games.)

- Come back to this post and leave a comment letting me know which Bingo game you would choose if you win.

- Be sure that you leave an email address or have email enabled in your blogger profile so that I can contact the winner.

The giveaway will close October 15th at midnight. Good luck!

**Giveaway is now closed and a winner has been contacted. Thanks for all of your interest!**

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Nature Studies - Beaches and Bugs

I just posted a long list of nature studies resources we enjoy having in our home. A couple of items that we recently received from A Toy Garden deserved their own special mention. As I mentioned in my previous post, I've been searching for things (games, toys, books, etc) to make nature studies interesting and fun for my girls. We've had a blast with each of these two items and give them two thumbs up.

Sonya suggested that we review the Bug Bingo game because the bingo cards have so much information printed on them and the pictures are quite detailed and true. I wasn't sure if the game was going to be over Lucy's head, but it said ages 3- adult, so we decided to give it a try. Lucy and Julia both enjoy finding bugs outside and were very interested in playing this game.

At one point I asked Lucy if she had to go to the bathroom because she was dancing around and wiggling so much. She said no, she was just very excited about the game and trying to see all of the pictures. The game is very simple to play, there are large printed bingo cards, bingo marker chips, and flash cards with the bug pictures and information. One person holds up the flash card and each player checks to see if they have a matching picture on the game card in front of them. I didn't read much of the information on the backs of the cards because Lucy was enjoying just matching the pictures and I didn't want to overwhelm her with too much at once. She was able to play on her own, and even wanted to check Daddy's game card for him when he had to distract Julia from destroying the game. She didn't want to stop once she got five in a row so we kept going until we all had a Bingo and our game cards were filling up.

I really like that the cards have the information printed on the backs. I did read out loud a few sentences about a some of the bugs and we'll definitely read more of the information as Lucy gets more used to the game and is a bit older. For now I thought it was great that she was just learning the names of the bugs and by matching the pictures she was learning what each one looks like. There are even a few terms like "metamorphosis" included, which is fun.

We all enjoyed playing this game and will be using it often. There are six game cards included, so even Grandma and Grandpa can play when they come over. A Toy Garden also sells Nature Bingo, Ocean Bingo, and more. I think these might be appearing on Christmas wish lists in the near future.

The second item we received for review is the Green Toys Sand Castle set. We already had the tea set by Green Toys and absolutely love it. Green Toys is a wonderful company - their toys are made of recycled plastic milk jugs (a very safe plastic) and are BPA and phthalate free. There is no coating on the toy, so definitely no lead paint here. The toy even comes packaged in recyclable cardboard. The plastic toy itself is very durable and sturdy, I was impressed with the quality.

The set comes with a pail, shovel, rake, and castle mold. The pail has a thick rope handle and is a great size. Lucy had fun scooping water from the lake so that Daddy and Julia could fill the castle mold with wet sand and make castles. The mold worked well and made nicely formed castles. The shovel and rake are both quite sturdy and will hold up to quite a bit of use. We'll use this set at home to work in the garden, collect nature finds on walks, and much more.

I honestly wasn't sure what I would think about the sand castle set since we already own several pail and shovel sets that we use in our sandbox at home. After playing with it though, I'm ready to throw all of the others away and just use this set. Other sand toys crack and the handles snap off and they just aren't as sturdy and nice as this set, not to mention I'm sure the other ones we have are not a safe plastic nor in the slightest bit environmentally conscious. I much prefer my children play with something I know is safe and responsibly made. This is a fun set that I know will last for quite some time.

Visit A Toy Garden to find either of these fun "nature studies" items. Check out the autumn category for a large variety of fun fall items. (A Toy Garden also sells Fundanas, another of our favorite nature studies tools.) Thanks for the great recommendations, Sonya!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Muffin Tin Monday - First Day of School

Muffin Tin Monday didn't have a theme today, so we are celebrating our first day of school! Lucy is starting My Father's World Kindergarten (although we are calling it preschool instead of kindergarten since she's 4) and today is our very first day. Last night when she was sleeping, I posted all of the alphabet flashcards on her door and put up a new bulletin board in the kitchen area. Both of the girls noticed these things right away and were very excited to "do school" today.

Our muffin tin lunch today included things that we will learn about this year in school - animal pics with lunchmeat strips on them (learning about all kinds of animals), cheese cut into shapes, alphabet pretzels, yogurt with colored sprinkles in it (Julia is learning colors), broccoli pieces with ranch (trees, learning about plants and God's creation), and fruit pieces. The fruit is kind of my own secret because it reminds me that this year one of the most important things I'm teaching my children is the fruits of the Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. My girls don't know what the fruits of the Spirit are yet, and I think the explanation would be over their heads, so thats why I say its just my own secret reminder.

We had fun with our Muffin Tin Monday and our first day of school was a success. :)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Nature Studies

In my homeschool planning for the fall, I'm working on including something called "nature studies". I've come across this while reading about Charlotte Mason and her philosophy. She believed that nature studies and time outdoors is important for children. I readily agree! My husband is wonderful at knowing the names of many different birds and pointing out small animals that he sees while we are out driving or walking around. Lucy is already able to name several birds and Julia loves little bugs and things she finds outside. I'd love for my children to grow up with even more of an appreciation for nature and knowledge about God's wonderful creation. The Bible says that nature reveals God to us, what better way to grow closer to Him than by learning about His creation? (Job 12:7-10, Psalm 19:1-6, Romans 1:19-20) Our Kindergarten curriculum includes notes in the teachers manual encouraging us to go outside and enjoy nature about once a week. I've been gathering resources and brainstorming ideas to make our nature studies time fun and interesting for the girls.

Here are some of the resources we have available in our home and ideas I'm planning to incorporate into our days:

Bug Identification Book - We don't have one yet, but will be purchasing one.

Encyclopedia of Animals - This is a great book, full of pictures and lots of information. Lucy loves to pull this book out and flip through it just looking at all of the animals.

Fundanas - See my post here about these super cool nature study tools.

bug boxes, magnifying glasses, nets - The girls got these for their birthdays this summer.

bubbles, chalk, outdoor toys

CLP Nature readers - These are fun little informative nature stories to read aloud. I remember reading them as a child! We have books K and 1 to use this year.

nature collection boxes - I'm planning to use old egg cartons to let the girls make rock collections, leaf collections, etc.

bowl inside for treasures - I want to get a nice wooden bowl to keep on the coffee table or dining room table for treasures that end up following us inside. (big pine cones, extra special rocks, etc.)

journals of some sort - This book is great, but mostly applies to older kids. I'd love to follow the concept on a lower level and have the girls try to draw a tree or something simple while outside. I may make nature journals for them at some point or just take clipboards and paper with us when we go out.

nature walks - Both of my girls love to go for a stroller ride or a short walk through the neighborhood. I've not done so yet, but have heard of putting duct tape bracelets on so that they can stick little flowers, leaves, etc to it as we walk. Another idea I want to try is to bring some plastic baggies with us and categorize things that we find - one bag for special leaves, one for sticks, etc.

nature crafts - Making things like leaf rubbings, pine cone bird feeders, or pressing flowers are always fun.

bird feeder - We have a bird feeder right outside our front window, and plan to put up a few more of them this fall. (Also, see my post about our homemade bird book.)

a nice picnic blanket ready to go at any moment

Our curriculum has science/ nature ideas included in the work that will take us outside as well. Whenever it relates to what we are studying (or even if it doesn't!), we plan to take outdoor trips to the zoo, beach, etc. We also have quite a few nice park areas around our house with walking trails to explore. In fact, my husband took the photos in this post this morning.

This is my list for now, I hope some of it inspires you to think about ways to get your little ones outside and enjoying it! Do you have other resources you enjoy using for "nature studies"? Please share!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Sewing Projects

All the chilly fall weather we've been having lately has inspired me to work on some sewing projects. I made some pajama pants for the girls in both cotton and flannel. I plan to buy some white shirts and maybe embellish them a bit to match.

My mother in law needed a baby gift for someone so I put together this burp cloth and bib set for her. The burp cloth is especially easy to do, just fold the edges of the material under and sew it on.

I am planning to sew a cotton sheet and pillowcase for Julia's toddler bed (because I can't find just a toddler bed sheet in the stores anywhere). Other things on my list include making a fabric bag for Lucy to take to dance class, making Julia a crayon roll, and maybe some sewing for the new baby.

I was going to put up a Mr Linky for you to add sewing tutorials to, but Skip To My Lou beat me to it! Head over there to check out all of the fun tutorials and be inspired to sew something. I added my snack pack tutorial already. Do you have a fall sewing list that you are starting to work on? Have you seen any good tutorials on the internet lately?

**Update: The fabric bag tutorial was super easy! I made a dance bag for Lucy following the measurements given and then also made a small purse for Julia. For the purse I used 9 1/2" squares and the straps ended up being about 12" each.