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Sunday, December 31, 2017

Most Popular Blog Posts of 2017

Most Popular Posts of 2017 from In Our Pond

This year was very good for me as a blogger.  I joined a bunch of blogging support groups, and learned lots about the business.  I hosted my first ever giveaway and have been researching self-hosting.  I've also been working with Safari Ltd on their "How I Safari" campaign.  Here are the highlights of the past year organized by readership.

Click on the Picture to Visit the Post

Most Popular Posts of 2017 from In Our Pond

I'm slightly surprised that my blog post "Gifts for Campers and Glampers" got so much attention this year.  It was part of my "All Wrapped Up" gift guide series, where I challenged myself to post every day in November.  It was a fun way to begin the Christmas season and one that I plan on continuing next year.



Most Popular Posts of 2017 from In Our Pond


The 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation happened on Oct. 31 of this year.  I wrote this blog post to help families find activities they could do with their families.  Although the memorable anniversary has passed, the post will be useful every year for Reformation Day.



Most Popular Posts of 2017 from In Our Pond

I hosted my first product giveaway this year, awarding the winner a Safari Ltd Space toob!  The giveaway was part of a larger post with several toys that spark curiosity in children.  My science kids would love to own the whole collection.



Most Popular Posts of 2017 from In Our Pond

I love accessing user-made content on Youtube for our homeschooling.  Our whole family enjoyed watching these videos together and discussing the story they told.  I'm sure we'll return to them every October to review (we especially loved the Playmobile one).



Most Popular Posts of 2017 from In Our Pond

I have over 200 FREE printables on this website!  It's not surprising that the blog post where I list all my printables is one of my most popular.  If you haven't looked at them yourself lately, you're missing out on some good stuff.



Most Popular Posts of 2017 from In Our Pond

The solar eclipse was a much talked about event this year.  I put together a list of 10 Youtube videos, which were pretty popular with homeschoolers for about 24 hours.  Although I don't anticipate this post ever gaining attention again, I wanted to keep it on this list as a memento of the event.



Most Popular Posts of 2017 from In Our Pond

We love using Safari Toobs for homeschooling.  I put together this round up post of my favorite ideas.  I hope that people will continue to find them inspiring for many years.  Also, be sure to check out all my Safari toob printables- free for all!



Most Popular Posts of 2017 from In Our Pond

The Kindle Fire is a wonderful invention and the "Freetime Mode" is very helpful for children.  The downside is that you can't play audiobooks while in Freetime Mode.  This blog post contains the "hack" that I discovered for bypassing the system and giving your kids access to audiobooks again.



Most Popular Posts of 2017 from In Our Pond

I make a lot of printables, and we're homeschoolers, which means I have a lot of paper for themed units.  This blog post explains how we store our printed materials and has a few ideas from around the web about organizing Montessori-inspired 3-part cards.



Most Popular Posts of 2017 from In Our Pond

Another camping post!  It's clear that I need to cover this topic more in my blog.  This is a list of DIY ideas and products for making your camping experience a bit more fabulous.



Most Popular Posts of 2017 from In Our Pond

Homeschoolers can turn anything into a field trip.  Here's a list of 110 places to go!



Here's to a Happy New Year!  Hazzah!

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Friday, December 29, 2017

JOY the Elf 2017 (elf on the shelf)


Joy the Elf's Adventures 2017 #elfontheshelf




Joy the Elf's Adventures 2017 #elfontheshelf

Week 1- Nutcracker

Dec 4- Arrival from "Russia"
Our elf returned with her passport and suitcase.  She had been in Russia learning the Nutcracker ballet and wanted to introduce it to us!  The kids loved her costume.


Dec 5- Dancing Snowflakes
When we woke up this morning, we found beautiful, intricate snowflake ballerinas.  The kids tried paper snowflakes for themselves but found them a bit difficult for their skill level.


Dec 6- Nutcracker Music
Joy spent time in the Christmas Tree.  Easy.  We watched sections of the Nutcracker on Youtube and were surprised to hear many musical pieces that we recognized.


Dec 7- Nutcracker and Nuts
I thought I had a Nutcracker doll in the house, but I think I gave it away (minimizing/organizing kick).  I was wanting to show the kids the difference between the two types of nutcrackers.  Joy brought us a modern nutcracker and a bowl of nuts.  The kids had never cracked nuts before and really enjoyed the activity.  Next time, I need to give them less nuts.


Dec 8- Family Movie Night Frosty
For our first Christmas movie of the season, we watched the old Frosty movie.  Joy dressed as a snowman to kick off our special event.  The kids enjoyed their snowballs (donut holes), snowflakes (popcorn), snowman noses (carrots), and melted snowmen (water) snacks.


Dec. 9- Sickness
Joy had a head cold and spent the day in bed.  Another easy one (mommy win).


Dec. 10- Snowgies
When Elsa is sick, she produces Snowgies.  I thought it would be fun for Joy to create some as well.  The kids ate all the Snowgie as soon as they left their rooms that morning.  Oops!


Resources and Ideas
- preschool printable pack
illustrating the Nutcracker printable book
snowflake ballerinas (and the kids' version)
Nutcracker Montessori preschool ideas 
Montessori printable pack
- Nutcracker books for kids


Click on the Numbers for More Elf Fun!





Pages: 1 2 3 4

Friday, December 15, 2017

Movie-Themed Foster-to-Adoption Parties

Foster-to-Adoption Party Ideas from In Our Pond #adoption #party #finalization #movies


We adopted 3 kids from foster care and know first-hand how difficult it can be to find party ideas for adoptions.  It's even more difficult to find ideas when you're not adopting a baby or an international child.  I started this list as a way to brainstorm fun ideas as we were planning for our own finalization dates.

I realize that not every party theme will be applicable for every family, and I have included themes that are not ones that I would have for myself.  My hope is that this list will stimulate discussion between yourself and your kids and aid in your party planning.


Martian Child (aliens/space)


Free Willy (whales/ocean)


Angels in the Outfield (baseball)


Anne of Green Gables (tea party/garden)




Despicable Me (minions!)


Meet the Robinsons (robots/science)


The Blind Side (football)


Cinderella/Tangled (princess)


Kung Fu Panda (China/pandas)



Lilo and Stitch (Hawaii/luau)


The Book Thief (bookworm)



Finding Nemo/Dory (reef)


When we adopted Skimmer, we had a large adoption party for him at our church.
You can read all about it and access lots of FREE printables by clicking on the picture below.


Foster-to-Adoption Party Ideas from In Our Pond #adoption #party #finalization #movies
FREE Finding Nemo ADOPTION Party Printables


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Foster-to-Adoption Party Ideas from In Our Pond #adoption #party #finalization #movies







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Thursday, November 30, 2017

15 Ideas to Exalt Christ at Christmas Time

15 Ideas to Exalt Christ at Christmas Time from In Our Pond  #christmas #nativity #christian #advent #jesus #holydays #holidays


This is the last All Wrapped Up blog post!  I hope you enjoyed this month of gift guides and Christmas ideas.  Today, I'd like to focus on exalting Christ at Christmas time.  This is a frequently discussed topic among Christian parents, so I thought I'd put all the basic ideas in one place.


15 Ideas to Exalt Christ at Christmas Time from In Our Pond  #christmas #nativity #christian #advent #jesus #holydays #holidays
Nativity Book Countdown

The first blog post in this series was a Nativity book countdown, listing twenty-four stories that could be read one a night until Christmas.  Families that already do bedtime stories would find it easy to add these books to their routine.


15 Ideas to Exalt Christ at Christmas Time from In Our Pond  #christmas #nativity #christian #advent #jesus #holydays #holidays

Of course, Nativities are a traditional Christmas time decoration, but there are so many from which to chose from.  I thought this toddler friendly Nativity set is adorable.  She made it with scraps of fabric and plain peg dolls.  My kids have enjoyed the Fisher Price plastic set with cute, chunky pieces.  Someday, I'd like to own this Willow Tree set, perhaps after the kids are a bit older and I have knicknacks again.  There are also other homemade Nativity ideas on Pinterest if DIY is more your style.


15 Ideas to Exalt Christ at Christmas Time from In Our Pond  #christmas #nativity #christian #advent #jesus #holydays #holidays

Although most people know that December 25 is not Jesus's birthday, some families chose to help their children focus on Christ by having a birthday party for Him sometime during Advent.  These celebrations can be as simple as a homemade birthday cake or as elaborate as a fully-themed party.  Decorations can be birthday, Christmas, or Nativity-themed.  Presents can be donated to charity or a local church.  Be sure to sing "Happy Birthday!"


15 Ideas to Exalt Christ at Christmas Time from In Our Pond  #christmas #nativity #christian #advent #jesus #holydays #holidays

We introduced JOY (Jesus, Others, Yourself), our Kindness Elf last year.  The kids have been talking about her all year and wondering what she's been up to lately.  They're looking forward to her return after Thanksgiving.  JOY reminds us to be kind to each other during Advent.  We don't really use her as an Elf-on-the-Shelf alternative, but a few "Christian" versions are available in the form of the Wandering Wisemen, the Christmas Angel, the Donkey in the Living Room, and the Shepherd on the Search.  Whatever toy you chose, they can all be used to point your children to Jesus this Christmas.


15 Ideas to Exalt Christ at Christmas Time from In Our Pond  #christmas #nativity #christian #advent #jesus #holydays #holidays

Traditionally, the Jesse Tree has been used to teach people Biblical history and the prophecies about Jesus.  The idea comes from Isaiah 11:1, "A branch will come from Jesse's stump," which Christians believe is referring to Jesus.  The Jesse Tree is 24-30 ornaments that represent different Bible stories or concepts.  Every day, the family gathers to do a Bible reading or devotional and to add another ornament to the tree.


15 Ideas to Exalt Christ at Christmas Time from In Our Pond  #christmas #nativity #christian #advent #jesus #holydays #holidays

Truth in the Tinsel is a brilliant program from O Amanda.  She uses sensory experiences to help kids experience the first Christmas in a new way.  I really like her Holy Week materials as well.


15 Ideas to Exalt Christ at Christmas Time from In Our Pond  #christmas #nativity #christian #advent #jesus #holydays #holidays
Nativity Story Family Date Night

Earlier in this series, I showcased 10 movies for Family Date Night.  One of those movies was The Nativity Story.  I don't have much else to add this time around, except to say that I did find some cute Nativity themed foods on Pinterest recently.


15 Ideas to Exalt Christ at Christmas Time from In Our Pond  #christmas #nativity #christian #advent #jesus #holydays #holidays

There are many opportunities for charity giving at Christmas time.  This mom decided to help her kids focus on Christ by having them earn money through their acts of service and kindness.  When someone noticed the child working with a cheerful heart, being compassionate, helpful, considerate, or humble, then the mom or dad would add money to their pouch.  On Christmas Eve, the kids counted their money and decided what to buy from a charity catalog for a person in another country.  I love this idea!  Burlap bags can be purchased on Amazon.


15 Ideas to Exalt Christ at Christmas Time from In Our Pond  #christmas #nativity #christian #advent #jesus #holydays #holidays

Another great way to have your Christmas tree point to Christ is with these Names of Christ DIY ornaments.  A family could also make their Advent devotionals match the names by looking up verses and discussing their meaning.  This blogger also has the names in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and Spanish, so you could have lots of ornaments on the tree.  They could also be used for a matching game, where participants would have to match the same name in different languages.


15 Ideas to Exalt Christ at Christmas Time from In Our Pond  #christmas #nativity #christian #advent #jesus #holydays #holidays

It's become a family tradition for us to read the first 24 stories of the Jesus Storybook Bible.  We have these free cards printed and hung on our wall in order.  Every day, we flip over one card and read the story.  The hyperlink for the tile picture goes to a printable for making Jesse Tree ornaments, which could also be used with the readings.


15 Ideas to Exalt Christ at Christmas Time from In Our Pond  #christmas #nativity #christian #advent #jesus #holydays #holidays

I attended both Lutheran and Catholic school, so the Advent Wreath is very dear to my heart.  There are 4 candles arranged in a circle.  Each Sunday, a new candle is lit, while a special set of verses and a devotion is read.  The first week, one candle is lit, the second week, two, and so forth.  I love the beauty of the Advent Wreath and would love to have one in our home someday.  I especially love it's ties our ancient faith.

15 Ideas to Exalt Christ at Christmas Time from In Our Pond  #christmas #nativity #christian #advent #jesus #holydays #holidays

An easy way to remind yourself and others about Christ at Christmas is through your home decorations.  There are thousands of free printables on the internet- chalkboard, subway art, and everything else.  Just print and stick in a frame for an easy, Christ exalting decor option.


15 Ideas to Exalt Christ at Christmas Time from In Our Pond  #christmas #nativity #christian #advent #jesus #holydays #holidays

Christmas Pageants and Living Nativities are very popular during Advent.  If you're children aren't involved in a production at church (or even if they are), they could also put on a skit for the relatives.  Or perhaps you could take your neighbors and some Christmas cookies through a drive-through Nativity.  The blog post I linked above has great ideas for cheap and easy costumes.


15 Ideas to Exalt Christ at Christmas Time from In Our Pond  #christmas #nativity #christian #advent #jesus #holydays #holidays

I love peppermint!  Candy cane season is my favorite time of all.  Fortunately, I discovered peppermint essential oils so I can have the smell all year long.  It's also really neat that you can use the candy cane to point to "the reason for the season."  I think it would be great to print off these bookmarks and pass them out to people around your neighborhood or at a store.  It would make a great family project.


15 Ideas to Exalt Christ at Christmas Time from In Our Pond  #christmas #nativity #christian #advent #jesus #holydays #holidays

I love playing Christmas music!  I drive my husband crazy sometimes (wink), but I enjoy listening to the old favorites and newest albums.  It's so great while you're driving, baking, cleaning, wrapping gifts or whatever you're doing this season.

The header picture is from the new Casting Crowns CD that was just released this October.  I listened to it while writing this blog post.  I really love "Somewhere in Your Silent Night" and "It's Finally Christmas Time."  Although it's a short album, I highly recommend it.


15 Ideas to Exalt Christ at Christmas Time from In Our Pond  #christmas #nativity #christian #advent #jesus #holydays #holidays

Well, that's the end of my pre-Christmas series.  Although I don't currently have any more Christmas blog posts scheduled, it wouldn't surprise me if I wrote a few more before the big holiday.  I've really enjoyed this series and might end up making it a tradition (perhaps not with the exact same theme).  I hope you liked reading these posts as much as I liked writing them!



More Advent Ideas can be found on this Blog Post
15 Ideas to Exalt Christ at Christmas Time from In Our Pond  #christmas #nativity #christian #advent #jesus #holydays #holidays


You can find all the posts on the launch page.
15 Ideas to Exalt Christ at Christmas Time from In Our Pond  #christmas #nativity #christian #advent #jesus #holydays #holidays

Monday, November 27, 2017

Choo-Choo Train Gifts

Choo-Choo Train Gifts from In Our Pond  #giftguide  #christmas  #holidays  #playtrains  #birthday
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Choo-Choo Train Gifts from In Our Pond  #giftguide  #christmas  #holidays  #playtrains  #birthday

My boys love everything with wheels, which lately has meant trains!  Tadpole enjoys putting things into lines, which is exactly what trains are all about.  He especially likes the magnetic cars that allow him to make really long snakes to drive through my kitchen.  If you have a train-loving son or grandson (or daughter/granddaughter), I'm sure you'll find something for him on this list.


Choo-Choo Train Gifts from In Our Pond  #giftguide  #christmas  #holidays  #playtrains  #birthday

These first two toys are classics.  Every child should have a hat to wear while he runs through the house blowing the train whistle.  If you get one set for every kid, it'll be like living in a train yard!  Buy one today by clicking on the links .


Choo-Choo Train Gifts from In Our Pond  #giftguide  #christmas  #holidays  #playtrains  #birthday

This is the track set that we own, because it's interchangeable with a bunch of other brands.  It would be great on a train table or or just on the floor.  Builder toys like this allow kids to plan, problem solve, and enjoy the fruits of their labor.  And, imagine how large of a track you could build if you had more than one box of these?  Start your collection by clicking on the links.


Choo-Choo Train Gifts from In Our Pond  #giftguide  #christmas  #holidays  #playtrains  #birthday

These are Tadpole's favorite trains, because they magnetize together and can be pulled along as a big snake.  A great companion to this train is the letter cars, either as the full alphabet or to spell out a child's name.  Check them all out by clicking on the links.


Choo-Choo Train Gifts from In Our Pond  #giftguide  #christmas  #holidays  #playtrains  #birthday

Both of my boys have their eyes on this remote control train.  They like to watch Thomas on TV occasionally, and recognized the blue engine instantly.  This would be our first remote control vehicle, but I'm sure it won't be our last.  Click on the link to buy the product.


Choo-Choo Train Gifts from In Our Pond  #giftguide  #christmas  #holidays  #playtrains  #birthday

Skimmer carries a tiny train engine with him everywhere he goes, which means that I frequently have one of these mini cars in my pockets.  Both boys love the minis, and would just die for a pile of tiny trains like these.  Start your collection by tapping the link.


Choo-Choo Train Gifts from In Our Pond  #giftguide  #christmas  #holidays  #playtrains  #birthday

Another classic children's toy is a train table.  There are many different designs and sizes available, so finding one that fits your family is possible.  Ones with built in storage is a good idea for keeping all the train stuff together.  Click on the links to select the best one for your family.


Choo-Choo Train Gifts from In Our Pond  #giftguide  #christmas  #holidays  #playtrains  #birthday

This was the first train that we owned.  We love that Green Toys is made from recycled milk jugs and is fully recyclable.  We've also been impressed how well the coloring has lasted, even after the toys have been out of the sun.  This train is more challenging than the magnets, because it has a hook and eye set up.  It's large enough for hauling lots of other toys.  Click links to see all the awesome products by Green Toys.


Choo-Choo Train Gifts from In Our Pond  #giftguide  #christmas  #holidays  #playtrains  #birthday

Duplos are a classic toy and have made my list of Tough Toys for Tough Kids two years in a row.  The train sets are very fun, and allow for a lot more play expansion.  Whether the tracks runs through the zoo or the city, the Duplo train is a great addition to your collection.  Click on the links to see all the great and durable Duplo toys.


Choo-Choo Train Gifts from In Our Pond  #giftguide  #christmas  #holidays  #playtrains  #birthday

I couldn't have Duplos without Legos.  I thought this Christmas train and Santa village was very cute and would be adorable on a mantel.  Of course, it would also make a great birthday or Christmas gift, or given piece by piece as part of a holiday countdown.  Click on the links to add to your Lego collection.


Choo-Choo Train Gifts from In Our Pond  #giftguide  #christmas  #holidays  #playtrains  #birthday

I had no idea when I started looking for the Polar Express book that there was so many affiliated products.  I just kept adding them, because they helped fill out the picture.  I think the bell ornament would be a neat Christmas Eve gift or a good souvenir for a wintery train ride or movie night.  The family movie night fun could continue with the matching game or a book reading.  And, how amazing would it be to have the official Polar Express train circling your tree?  Click on the links to see the products for yourself.


I hope you enjoyed this train-themed gift guide!  Come back again tomorrow for another installment.


Click on the Picture to See the Other Gift Guides in this Series!
All Wrapped Up- a gift guide series from In Our Pond



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Polar Express Gifts for Kids from In Our Pond // #giftguide #toys #kids #christmas #trains #polarexpress







Train Gifts for Kids from In Our Pond // a gift guide // train toys and more