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Friday, April 24, 2015

H is for Homes and Habitats

I recently added a "Pin It" button to my blog, so I've been going back through my previous posts and "pinning" everything to it's rightful board.  You can see my homeschooling planning boards and anything else that interests me on my Pinterest page (here).

One of the things that I've noticed is how bad I've been at blogging our homeschooling journey.  We've been doing "stuff" (or at least reading books about our theme) every week, but I haven't been writing about it.  Bummer.

This week, I'm going to start fresh.  Perhaps I'll do better for the rest of the year (we can hope).

Theme: Homes and Habitats

Practical: map of the area around our home
   -difference between a house and a home
   -looked at maps of where we live

Sensory: building a fairy home
              -sorting animals by habitat

Educational: explored Google Earth
   -talked about earth rotation and revolution
   -talked about days and seasons
   -explored why earthquakes happen

Work Boxes: matching folder game

Books: 0 (literally we didn't read any books)

Song: didn't find one

Outings: dance class, birthday party, shopping

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Easy Scented Rice Sensory Bin

In the world of sensory bins, it's easy to get bogged down with complicated small worlds (like the fairy garden) and unnumerable pieces.  My kids like the complicated bins, but they really like the simple ones that I make.  They each have some colored rice and one toy.  That's it.  And, that kept them content for about 20 minutes.  Dragonfly spent most of her time scooping the rice into the "shot glass" and dumping it back out, then running the rice through her fingers.  She's very texture-focused.  Skimmer drove his construction truck around the bin, pushing the rice around in piles.  He tends to enjoy pretend play.  I try to keep this in mind when designing their sensory bins.  Happy kids are worth the mess.

(the white tube is a six inch length of PVC pipe that Tadpole was using as a tunnel for his matchbox truck)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

It's My Blogging Birthday!

I've survived year one of blogging!  We're on Pinterest (and I just added a handing "Pin Me" button to all my pictures).  And, today, I just launched a Facebook fan site.  Follow "In Our Pond" on Facebook to get all the latest blog posts and news.
In Our Pond's 1st Birthday

To celebrate my blogging birthday, I made some cupcakes (and muffins).  The free template I used came from the blog, Pieces By Polly.  We already had a metal mini cupcake pan, so I decided to make a variety of baked goods.  The orange-brown ones are pumpkin muffins (my favorite), the tan ones are banana muffins, and there are three chocolate cupcakes and three vanilla ones.

Felt Cupcakes and Muffins from In Our Pond
The frosting for the cupcakes is strips of felt about half an inch thick that I twisted and stitched to the cake with invisible thread.  All of my felt came from Michaels Craft, as did most of the matching embroidery thread.  They're stuffed with polyfil.

Here's to a new year!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Power Outage Activities

 This morning, we had a power outage.  And, this is what we did while the power was out- sensory bins!
 Tadpole's sensory bin was the easiest one to set up.  I put him in his high chair and gave him a shallow tray with a tiny bit of water.  He had so much fun splashing and giggling.  I think he lasted about 10 minutes before the entertainment factor wore out.  Then, I fed him a snack.
Dragonfly's bin was also pretty simple.  She requested some beans and a cup for filling and dumping.  Her set-up is on the table, so we always add a cookie sheet underneath.  Her main rule for sensory play time is that she has to keep her mess contained within the cookie sheet.
Skimmer had the most complicated set-up.  He requested dinosaurs and pebbles and did very well keeping everything in his tray (not one rock ended up on the floor).  He spent some time dropping rocks in the tube, but mainly he growled and pretended to eat them.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Fairy Garden (Small World Play)

Dragonfly has recently become very interested in fairies.  She loves to watch Disney's Fairies movies and gets very excited when Tinkerbell appears during the credits of any Disney movie.  She has decided she wants a fairy party for her birthday and is sad that I can't make her "real wings that fly" (if only, my sweetheart).  I knew that she would enjoy the special, just-for-girls sensory experience of building a fairy garden.  It took me almost two weeks to gather all the materials, but eventually, I was ready to build it.

We started with a plastic planter from Home Depot, dirt from our "worm box," and a container of "hens and chicks."  The fairies (Safari Toob) and bridge came from Joann Fabric, and the stones came from the dollar store.  Dragonfly loved scooping the dirt and shaping the "land."  The moss was collected from different places around our yard.  As you can see, the little fairy feels quite at home.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Circular Calendar For Children

We've had a circular calendar in our "Apple Room" for several months.  It was one that I made, where each day of the week has it's own color.  The "color wheel" also has an arrow that we move around the calendar clockwise.  It's been very helpful in teaching the kids their colors and the days of the week.  However, we're still struggling a bit.  The calendar needed something more.  So, I set out today to update our set up and this is the result.
I decided to add pictures on each date to help the kids associate the day of the week with the activity that we do that day.  Monday is the day my husband goes back to work on the airplanes (after a 3 day weekend!) so there's an airplane on that date.  Tuesday is laundry day.  Wednesday is dance class.  Thursday is usually the day that we have company for dinner so I've made that baking day.  Friday is shopping, library, errand day.  "Purple Day" is the kids favorite day, since it's the day that the whole family is at home and is mainly family/house focused (I guess it should be a house then?).  Sunday is church day.  And, then we start again.

 Contact me at in.our.pond (at) gmail.com if you'd like a copy of my circle calendar (with or without the pictures).  Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Dragonfly's Wardrobe (Clothes=Laundry Series)

Dragonfly is an almost 4 year old girl.  Her main clothes tastes tend to run in skirts and dresses, with pink and more pink being the common theme.  Because of our unpredictable weather, she needs long sleeves and short sleeves, long pants and shorts.  She loves to change outfits throughout the day, and is also potty training.

When I began sorting through her clothes, she had so many that I didn't have room to put them all way.  I ended with 2 garbage bags of clothes to donate.  Here's a picture of the process:

The "keeper" clothes are in the bins and the pile is stuff to donate.  I kept the skirts and dresses that she likes to wear and the long sleeve shirts, pants, short sleeve shirts, and shorts that match them.  I intend to continue to weed out her clothes in the next few months.  I'm moving toward "basic" clothes, which will probably be pink pants and shorts (or possibly black) and plain colored tops.  Of course, if her clothing "likes" change, then I'll change her wardrobe to match it.
I included this picture to show how my sorting is never done.  These are the clean clothes that I hadn't put away yet when I did the other sorting project.  I thinned these clothes by half.

This is how we store Dragonfly's clothes- in the "linen closet."  One large bucket has her shirts and dresses and the other has the pants, shorts, and skirts.  The smaller tubs (which should really be pink) are her tights and underwear.  The closet door has a lock on it to prevent "exploration" by her brothers.
My other clothes problem is that Dragonfly has recently started dance class.  Of course, every new hobby comes with a pile of stuff.  It's been just hanging around the house without a home until recently.
The three drawer cart was the solution!  I bought it almost a year ago in hopes that I could store the kids' footie jammies in it.  The drawers were too small for that purpose so there it sat.  I remembered the drawers today and decided that they would be perfect to hold the dancing clothes.  The drawer with the hand-painted "L" (from Walmart) is hers.  The drawer underneath is for Skimmer's underwear, since he's been flirting with potty training lately (I still need to make his letter).

The colored bins (Dollar Tree) are used to store the kids' pjs now.  Pink for Dragonfly, blue for Skimmer, and green for Tadpole.  It's been nice to store the pjs in the bathroom closet, because that's where the diaper changes happen for bedtime.

So, that's the story of the first step in taming the clothes dragon.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Surviving the (foster care) Home Inspection

About once a month or sometimes more, our house has home visits by a social worker.  We're foster parents and "home invasions" are just part of the deal.  However, once a year, we have a *new* social worker in our home, the one who is responsible for licensing us.  It's her job to walk through our house and to make sure that it's still safe for children.  Today was that day.

As I was preparing my house for inspection, I was thinking "This is so strange- I need to blog it."  So, here's my list of 70 things to do to get ready for a yearly re-licensing inspection:

1) Schedule the home visit as early in the morning as possible to give yourself a fighting chance of "winning."

2) Repair all those "little things" that you've been putting off for too long.

3) Pick up kids' room and put them in their rooms for the night.

4) Frantically clean the house.  Aim for "we were expecting you."

5) Fall into bed.  "Pillow talk" consists of complaining how tired and sore you both are and a bit of competition about who is more tired/sore.

6) Sleep poorly (this seems to be important).

7) Wake to kids screaming.  Leap out of bed, praying that they haven't been awake long enough to "get bored" and make messes.

8) Feed children and dress them.  The dressing part is very important, because naked kids are a sign of neglect (right?)

9) Shower yourself, because a showered mom is a put together mom.

10) Clean up the messes the kids made while you were in the shower and they were supposed to be watching a movie.

11) Dress yourself.

12) Put on another movie and instruct the kids to watch it while you do the dishes.

13) Turn around to realize that the raisins you gave them for a "healthy snack" now look like poop nuggets in the carpet.

14) Ask kids to pick up and throw away raisins.

15) Go back to the dishes.

16) Finish the dishes and pick up the raisins.

17) Check the clock.  Half hour left until the appointment time.

18) Follow the kids around and clean up their messes.

19) Get asked by a kid if they can go outside.  Dress them for outdoors (coat, shoes, etc).

20) Realize too late that they're now wet.

21) Bang your head on the wall a few times and tell yourself that "It's ok because outside playtime shows that I'm a good mom."  It doesn't matter if it's true or not.

22) Kids decide that they're done outside.  Take off shoes and coat and put them away.

23) 5 mins until appointment time.  Begin spraying the room with essential oils (and water).

24) Sadly, relinquish the spray bottle to your daughter, who sprays happily for quite a long time.

24) Check the clock again.  Decide that you might have enough time to pee.  Get very happy when you finish and the social worker hasn't arrived yet.

25) Check outside.

26) Kids decide that they need to go outside again.  Bundle everyone up again and send them out.

27) Check the clock.

28) Check outside.

29) Decide that the house is "clean enough" and sit down to check facebook.

30) Check the clock.

31) Check outside.

32) Answer a question about when the social worker is coming.

33) Sit down at the computer again.

34) Check the clock.

35) Check outside.

36) Decide the house is as clean as its been in a long time and take pictures.

37) Check the clock.

38) Check outside.

39) Answer another question about when the social worker is coming.

40) Check the clock,  Okay, she's only 20 minutes past her appointment time.  She's probably lost.

41) Try to relax on the computer.

42) Check the clock.

43) Check outside.

44) Give kids a snack but ask them to eat it outside.

45) Anxious child decides that asking her to eat outside must be a very bad thing so she refuses to leave my side.

46) Instruct her not to get any crackers on the floor.

47) Check the clock.

48) Check outside.

49) Come back to the living room to see anxious child stomping one cracker into the carpet.  The clean house is starting to get to her.

50) Pick up cracker.  Hug child and tell her that everything is going to be ok.

51) Check clock.  Check outside.

52) Kids are now dumping out toys from the closet.

53) Put the toys away and negotiate with the kids about which messes can come out of the closet.

54) Attempt to call social worker to see why she is an hour late!

55) Fail to contact social worker.

56) Check the clock.

57) Check outside.

58) Field a call from the husband about "how the meeting went."

59) Wait some more.  Threaten to put the kids down for their nap "if she doesn't get here by __."

60) Check the clock.

61) Check outside.

62) Send the kids back outside.

63) Try to relax/do something

64) Check the clock.

65) Check outside.

66) Kids yell that a car just pulled up.

67) Try to look calm.

68) Watch out the window to see when the social worker gets out of her car, so as to not open the door too soon/eagerly.

69) Open the door and smile.

70) Say, "Hello."  The home inspection has officially began.

The "Good Enough" House Tour
 This is our mud room/dining room/homeschool room/dining room/craft room/storage room/office.  We call it the "Apple Room" for short.  It used to be decorated with apple themes but now it's more eclectic, mostly siding toward the "preschool" side..

 Through the wood door is the apple room.  Behind me in the picture is another door to the outside.  To my right is the toy closet.  The upper left is the DVD player/TV/computer stand.  Skimmer is standing in the kitchen area.  To the upper right of the picture is the hallway, leading to the bedrooms.  This room gets cleaned the most often, but it never really looks clean.
 I just wrote about our kitchen redecoration recently.  This room isn't completely clean, but it's '"clean enough."
We're renting our house, but we were so happy to see that this room didn't have carpet.  This is the toddler room.  As you can see, we have it as "wreck-proof" as possible.  I know it looks stark, but that's only because it's clean.  My husband build the airplane bed for Skimmer, and his aunt made his blanket (Disney Planes themed).
This is Dragonfly's bed.  The blanket was made by her aunt (Monsters Inc themed).  To the left of the picture is the climbing castle that takes up most of their room.  Dragonfly has been asking for a bunk bed lately.  Maybe if/when she gets her own room in a year or so.  I'm looking forward to decorating a girly room.  Right now, she's really into fairies.  I wonder if that will last.

Well, that's it for the tour.  Yes, we do have a bathroom, but it's not interesting enough for me to take pictures of it.  Hope you enjoyed this glimpse into our life.

* Tadpole sleeps in another room, which I didn't photograph.  One day, he'll move in with the toddlers.  But, I'm not brave enough to make that move yet.

Update: I found this cute foster care inspection poem and thought I'd share.  Twas the Night Before a Home Visit

Monday, April 6, 2015

Clothes=Laundry Series (AKA Buried in Fabric)

Today is the day after Easter Sunday.  Spring is here, right?  March came in like a lion and out like a lamb but April seems to think that it needs to be "always winter and never Christmas" around here.  It's been snowing, big, fluffy, Christmas snow for the last four hours (although not accumulating much) and my thought have turned to spring cleaning.  It's no longer nice enough for us to be outside so we might as well start cleaning the inside.

One of my biggest struggles is laundry, clothes, wardrobes, storage, outfits, etc, for my family, but especially my three toddlers.

Firstly, because they're toddlers.  They're messy.  They're often naked.  And, they're potty trained, potty training, or having diaper accidents.  It's hard to know how many clothes they actually need, because I never know how many outfits we're going to need in a day.

Secondly, because they're toddlers.  They're always growing!  I have three kids who are in between sizes right now.  One in 4T/5T.  One in 2T/3T.  And one in 12/18 months.  They have a lot of duplicates right now, because I'm never sure what size they are on any given day.

Thirdly, because of where we live.  Spring weather in March and then snow in April?  Even into the summer, the kids need "winter" clothes, like coats, long pants, and sweatshirts, because the mountain nights are cold.  How many cold weather clothes they need for spring/summer is still a mystery.

Fourthly, because I have too much laundry.  This probably seems like the silliest one of all, but it's real.  I can't get everyone's clothes clean at the same time so I can "analyze" what we own.  Even when I think I'm caught up, I find another stash somewhere.  Like when I looked in the kids' climbing castle and discovered 10 pairs of footie pjs.  No wonder there were none in their storage buckets!

Over these next few days (weeks?), I'm going to focus my energies on the laundry monster.  Hopefully, I'll figure out a way to beat it back a bit.

Posts in this Series:
Dragonfly's Wardrobe

Behold the Lamb- A Holy Week Study for Toddlers

Behold the Lamb- A Holy Week Study for Toddlers from In Our Pond

We just got done doing a week-long Bible study with our toddlers (ages 2, 3, and 4) called "Behold the Lamb."  The study covered Creation to the Resurrection in a child-friendly way.  We did a Bible story every night, had a discussion, and an activity every night.  Sometimes, we also had a video or special food.  For most of the stories, we used the Jesus Storybook Bible.

Click on the pictures to visit the individual days.

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Behold the Lamb- A Holy Week Study for Toddlers from In Our Pond

Behold the Lamb- A Holy Week Study for Toddlers from In Our Pond

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Behold the Lamb (Day 7)

"Up from the grave He arose.  With a mighty triumph o'er His foes.  He arose a victor from the dark domain.  And He lives forever with His saints to reign.  He arose!  He arose!  Hallelujah!  Christ arose!"
                            - traditional Easter hymn

We began the day with a reading for the "Easter Story" from the Jesus Storybook Bible, which is called "God's Wonderful Surprise."  Afterwards, we talked about how this day is different from all other days and passed out bags of candy to them (instead of baskets).  At church, we continued the "strange day" by beginning with breakfast before the service started.  During the service, the kids sang three songs about the resurrection, which was special as well.

This post is the last one in my "Behold the Lamb" series.  I'm off now to knit a pink ballet sweater.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Behold the Lamb- Day 6

Traditionally, today has been a day of mourning, silence, and waiting.  We spent the day preparing for tomorrow.  I went shopping alone to buy the kids' outfits for church (nothing like waiting until the last moment!).  When I returned, the kids and I made Resurrection Rolls for brunch at church.  Resurrection rolls are really neat (although a bit confusing for "o-so-literal" toddlers).  They're made from marshmallows, which have been dipped in butter and rolled in cinnamon, then "shrouded" in bread dough.  After baking it in the oven, the roll becomes hollow since the marshmallow melted, leaving a sweet, gooey, cinnamon-y center.  So amazingly good!  We had to try them out for dessert before bringing them the church for everyone to eat.

We didn't have a Jesus Storybook Bible reading tonight.  Instead, my husband read from Isaiah 56 in the Bible.  We talked more about how Jesus died for everyone's sins.

And, now, we wait for morning....

Update- Recipe for Resurrection Rolls
Recipe for Resurrection Rolls- a surprise Easter treat  #recipe #food #easter #resurrection #eastersunday #treat #marshmallow
*I am not the origin for Resurrection Rolls, but I'm not sure who is*

Friday, April 3, 2015

Behold the Lamb (Day 5)

"So we share in this bread of life.  And we drink of His sacrifice.  As a sign of our love.  Around the table of the King."
      - Kieth and Kristen Getty

From the smell of the homemade unleavened bread, to the smell of the roasted lamb roast, to the flutter of the red paper streamers above the doorway, today is the most interactive of all the stories.  Today, we celebrate the Passover and remember God's redemptive work on the cross.

In the early afternoon, I had the children watch the Jesus Storybook Bible version of the Passover story (called God to the Rescue).  Then, my daughter helped me make the unleavened bread.  We mixed, kneaded, flattened, stabbed, and striped the bread, talking the whole time about the Sinless Savior who was beaten and pierced for us.

We eat the bread to remember Jesus, the Bread of Life.

A few hours later, I placed the lamb roast in the oven.  I had been talking to the kids all week about the source of the lamb (a real animal) and the purpose of the lamb in the past.  We touched its blood and talked about God's allowance in the animal sacrifices to cover our sins.  We mourned that one little lamb couldn't cover all the sins for all time.  Then, we learned that the Bible calls Jesus the Lamb of God and talked about what that meant.  We rejoiced that Jesus' sacrifice on the cross covered everyone's sins for all time.

We eat the lamb to remember Jesus, the last Passover Lamb.

For dinner, we had lamb, unleavened bread, horseradish, asparagus, and grape juice.  Afterwards, we read "The Servant King" story from the Jesus Storybook Bible.  You can find the video of the story here.

(editorial- we did Passover today because today was the actual holiday, even though it put the story out of order)

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Behold the Lamb (Day 4)

picture source
Today is the hardest of all Bible stories- the crucifixion ("The Sun Stops Shining" in the Jesus Storybook Bible).  As a parent, it would have been easy to justify skipping this story, glazing over the yucky parts and pushing toward the happiness of Easter morning.  However, "without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22)" and I want my kids to understand that.  The Bible doesn't leave out the story, so I shouldn't either.

The Jesus Storybook Bible begins at the trial and tastefully leads us to the cross.  It spends a lot of time emphasizing the innocence of Jesus and how everything that had happened was part of God's plan.  We're reminded that "the full force of God's fierce anger at sin was coming down.  On His own Son.  Instead of His people.  It was the only way God could destroy sin, and not destroy His children whose hearts were filled with sin (JSB, pg 306)."

After we finished the story, I removed the white cloth from around the cross, and wrapped it around my hand to show the kids how Jesus' body was wrapped for burial.  I placed the cloth in a clay tomb that I had made earlier this week and put a "stone" over it's entrance. Then, we, like the disciples, walked away.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Behold the Lamb (Day 3)

Yesterday, we read the story of the "Terrible Lie" that caused sin and brokenness to enter God's perfect world.  The last words of the story remind us of God's promise that one day, "God Himself would come (JSB, pg 35)."

Today, we skipped most of the Bible (which we had just read during Advent) and read the Christmas story (entitled "The Light of the World!" in the Jesus Storybook Bible).  Since the kids are so young, we wanted to remind them about the Jesus they already knew- the baby- before we deal with the crucifixion later this week.  Continuing the theme of Jesus being the Lamb of God, we read the story about the shepherds visiting.

Our Bible time was rushed tonight because the kids were very restless.  And, this blog post is shorter than normal because I just got back from buying our Passover lamb.

You can watch the Jesus Storybook Bible video of this story on Youtube.