Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Busy Boxes

We’re pretty much set to get started on our new school year here!  Since I would really like to accomplish the majority of our school work in the morning this year, it’s important to have ways to keep my littles (2 yrs old & turning 4) occupied while I work with Alex.

The plan right now is to start the day with Max’s Little Hands To Heaven.  Jensyn can tag-along if she’d like.  After they’ve had some special time with me, then I’ll have them do ‘room time’ or ‘blanket time’ with one of the bins pictured below.  I’d like to build up to 30 minutes of room time.  I think Max could easily do it; I’m not sure yet how long Jensyn will last.

We are participating in a Monday co-op.  We will have four ‘at home’ days each week, and I made 6 busy boxes.  This way, they will rotate through the boxes every 1.5 weeks.  Hopefully that will keep the toys exciting throughout the year!

With the exception of the Day & Night toy, all of these are toys that we have around our house.   I bought one new toy, and I bought $2 storage bins to hold the toys.  That’s it! :)

The Day & Night Puzzle toy is the ONE toy that I purchased new this year.  When I saw this toy was added to Timberdoodle’s preschool selection for this year, I was intrigued.  After reading about the toy, I *knew* all 3 of my kiddos would LOVE it…and they do!   They are a little disappointed that, after less than a week of play, I hid it away in a box.  I think that will make it EXTRA special when it comes up in the rotation, though!

You use the enclosed spiral book to build the picture, either using the ‘day’ picture to copy exactly or the ‘night’ picture to build it based on a shadow.  If you use the ‘night’ picture to build it, you can turn the book around to self-correct by looking at the ‘day’ picture on the back side.


Here’s what is in the boxes (description BELOW each picture).
I linked to the items, when possible, to help you find similar items.

I will rotate with a few other puzzles we own, and I will rotate through different board books as well, in order to keep things exciting throughout the year.

Day & Night Puzzle (this is a HIT with all 3 of my kids!)
Leap Frog Paint Palette Puzzle
Airplane board book
Curious George figuring
Counting Bears (I’ll add a construction paper, laminated mat to sort by color)
(Ours bears are a multi-sized set from a thrift store,
and I only used the large ones, since Jensyn still puts things in her mouth)

PLAN toys shape sorter
Aquadoodle Travel
VeggieTales FindIt Tube
Jonah book (from a dollar store)
letter matching file folder game with velcro (all uppercase)
(I made that file folder game 3 years ago…not sure if I still have the file.)


Wedgits  (currently on sale at Amazon!)
Circo magnetic puzzle (you use a magnetic ‘bug catcher’ to pull out the pieces)
lacing beads, laces, and pipe cleaner (lacing beads from Target’s dollar spot)
mini magnadoodle (Target knockoff stocking stuffer)
Seseame Street board book


Mr. Potato Head
Color Wonder markers & books
foam square blocks & a ‘ten frame’
Leap Frog fishy colors puzzle
flashcard puzzles– 10 picture flashcards, cut in half, to put back together
Jesus and The 12 Dudes Who Did book


color matching file folder game with velcro (possibly from
colored pompom puffballs, ice cube tray (from Meijer), and crocodile tongs
(I would NEVER pay $18 for the crocodile tongs…wow, are they pricy right now!)
My First Barrel of Monkeys (large, numbered monkeys 1 – 10)
board books


mitten match file folder game (I have NO CLUE what site this is from!)
Melissa & Doug beginning pattern block set
Dora book
David & Goliath figurines
Disney Magic Clip Princess & dresses

So…we’ll see how the Busy Box idea works in our house, but this is our plan to keep the little ones busy (and hopefully out of mischief!) this school year! Winking smile

Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links.  If you make a purchase after clicking one of these links, I will receive a very small portion of your sale.  Thank you! :)

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Swimming Lessons update

Alex just finished up another round of 10 swimming lessons.  We saw improvement this time, as he got more compliments from Miss Nancy and has really learned to do the right strokes when crossing the pool.

What he needs to work on: courage to get his face under the water.  He hate jumping in because they won’t catch him, and his head goes under for a brief moment.  He hates “underwater days” when Miss Nancy gives each child 3 quick dunks under the water.

What he LOVES: when they finish a few minutes early, they get to choose between jumping in or catching fish.  Alex LOVES to swim around with a kickboard and catch the foam fish that are floating in the water.  He gets the biggest grin on his face as he chases down all the fishies!  (That’s what he is doing in all 3 pictures in this post.)

Improvement: he was able to swim across the pool (the short way) without any sort of floatie/belt to help him.  Miss Nancy was right there with him, and he didn’t do it smoothly, but HE DID IT!  Progress!! :)

No one scolded me for taking pictures this time…I don’t think the “scolder” works at the health center any more, as parents are now regularly taking pictures without a problem.  One of these times, I’ll need to bring my camera instead of my cell phone! :)


Alex knows that, in order to move up to Level 3, he must swim across the pool independently.  He also knows that he’s allowed to stop lessons once he’s completed Level 3 one time.  He is anxiously awaiting that day!  For now, he’s got a 2 week break before starting Round 4 of Level 2.  Keep at it, Alex…you’ll get it yet! :)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Blueberry Picking

We live about 1.5 miles down the road from a blueberry farm, and we love to go picking each July! 

This year, Aunt Deb and cousin Katelynn came down to pick with us!  It’s always more fun with family along!  We met for lunch at Subway, and then we spent a fun afternoon picking blueberries and watching frogs in the ditch.


Alex discovered frogs in the ditch behind us, and we all took a break to watch bunches & bunches of frogs hopping around in the ditch!  (There are two under the plant, but you have to look closely.)



all done…carrying our baskets to weigh & to pay for our blueberries
(Jensyn’s bucket was almost empty, but she was proud of it.  She was quite upset when she couldn’t take home the bucket!)


All together, the kids & I picked 28 cups of berries for just a little over $16. 

Alex helped me bag up the berries and get them in the freezer, and we also shared a bag with our neighbor…who returned the favor by sharing homemade cookies with us!


We had DELICIOUS blueberry muffins for breakfast the next morning, and we enjoyed blueberry pancakes the morning after that.  Now, we have a freezer full of berries for muffins, pancakes, pies, and smoothies.  YUM!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Alex’s Service Project

This year, we had two missions at VBS.  One was collecting money for a mission team headed to Arizona next month, and the other was collecting canned goods for our church’s food pantry.

The kids & I have been volunteering in the food pantry once a month, placing donations on the shelves and helping families who come in for their groceries.  Alex has really taken to this, and he gets so excited about this opportunity to serve!

The kids collected quite a bit of food during VBS week, and Alex asked if he could be the one who put it all on the shelves.   I got permission from the food pantry director, and I told Alex we’d go in on Saturday to do it.  He pestered me from the moment he woke up until the time we could slip away at 3 PM to get over to church.  He is SO excited about this ministry!


It’s tempting to underestimate what a 5 year old can do, but he sure is proud of his job!  I’m glad we found a place where we can get our kids plugged in to serve others!


Never do I want our blog to be a place for bragging about good things we do, but I do want Alex to remember how excited he is about this service opportunity!  I also want to encourage those of you with a house full of little ones…you CAN teach them to serve!

What ways have YOU found to teach YOUR little ones to serve?
We’re always looking for new ideas!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

VBS 2013

Our church did the Go Fish Gotta Move Vacation Bible School program last week.  Our kids LOVE Go Fish music, and I find myself singing along to our songs from the past few years of VBS.  This year’s music was no exception, and I’m hoping to scrounge up a few new Amazon MP3 credits soon so I can purchase this year’s CD!

I work the registration table each year, which leaves me with some free time each evening once all the registration duties are taken care of.  I ‘float’ and help as needed, but it’s nice to have a few breaks to peek in on my kiddos as they are learning and having fun!

This horse was used as a prop in a preschool Bible lesson.  Jensyn claimed it as her own!
(Ironically, the owner of the horse had outgrown it & offered it to Jensyn at the end of the week.)


preschool water games (Noah’s Ark night)

preschool snack time…


Alex & his friend Jovi, doing crafts together


We helped make a prayer blanket for a relative of several of our church members who just started chemo.  Each time a person ties a knot in the blanket, they say a prayer for the recipient.  Not only is the recipient covered in a warm blanket; they are also covered in the prayers of family and friends!  (Alex & Jensyn each tied a knot, though Jensyn obviously did not understand…)


Alex sits and thinks during music time…he does not like to sing or dance in front of other people.


Max, on the other hand, gets COMPLETELY into it!


The highlight of the week for me was when a friend walked up with her kids on Friday, sharing that one of her sons had decided to be baptized at the end of the day’s VBS program!  What a neat thing it was to see that God used our VBS program to reach out to Joshua!  What a blessing to witness his daddy come and baptize him!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Max @ VBS

Max had an absolute BALL at Vacation Bible School last week.  He is most definitely our extroverted child who thrives on being with other people!  I think he loved every single minute of VBS!

One of his favorite things each night was when the preschoolers would finish their evening by doing the Silly Dance Contest song from Jim Gill’s Sneezing Song album.  Oh, my goodness…how I *LOVED* stopping in to watch the joy on his face as he danced like a crazy boy!

I’ve probably watched this video 15 times in the past week, and it never fails to make me smile.

We are DEFINITELY adding this CD to our collection!  I’ll be teaching a preschool class at our homeschool co-op this fall, and we may just need this song around for those days that we need to shake out a few wiggles! Smile

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Fun Night Out

On Saturday, we went to our favorite cheap family dinner spot – Steak N Shake!  Seriously, by combining their “kids eat free weekends” and their awesome coupons, we can feed our whole family for $12.  (We order water to drink, but we all eat well!)

Afterwards, we took the kids to play mini golf and do a few other activities…


Alex got his first legitimate hole-in-one!!

Other than that, the kids were pretty much “whatever” when it came to playing according to the rules.  Max kept hitting the ball, grabbing it, and starting over again.  Jensyn was happiest just holding her club & ball, but not really playing. 



Since kids 3 & under golf for free, it wasn’t too pricy for our family.  With that in mind, we let each child pick one extra activity. 

Max chose to go on the go-carts with Daddy.  I have no pictures of that since I was with the other two kiddos at their choice, but Max was THRILLED to tell me they had the fastest car…a purple car…and they beat all the other cars.

The other two kids chose to get a wristband for the inflatables.  Jensyn surprised me by being able to climb all the way up the giant slide!  She went down without any trouble, holding Alex’s hand.  On her second try, Alex didn’t hold her hand & she chickened out.  Alex climbed up to rescue her, but she was leaning out to reach for him and she came down head first that time.  After that, she refused to go on the big slide…can’t say that I blame her!


This is a terrible video, and it’s sideways  which makes it even worse.  I was hoping to capture the joy of these two going down together the second time.  Instead, I captured a sad Jensyn waiting for big brother to come back for her…

After that, she stuck with the crocodile inflatable, where you could play inside or go down a smaller slide.  She giggled and giggled, doing it again and again.