Thursday, February 26, 2009

Think it Through Thursday


Learning Objective: Wintertime is the season to give children hands-on math practice - with mittens.

~ construction paper in various colors and/or patterns
~ scissors
~ markers or crayons

1. Cut out pairs of paper mittens from construction paper. There should be several pairs of matching mittens (same size and color), as well as a variety of mitten pairs in different sizes and colors.

2. Perfect Pairs: mix up the variety of mitten pairs. Have children sort the mittens by size and color to find matching pairs. Ask children "What makes a pair? What other objects come in pairs?"

3. Numeral Match-Ups: Gather several identical pairs of mittens (same color and size). For each pair, make symbols on one mitten (such as dots or stars) and write the number of symbols on its mate. Mix up the mittens and have children match them up by the number of symbols and the corresponding numeral.

Bonus Lesson:
Mitten Measurements: Using the same-sized mittens, let children take turns lying on the floor and measure how many mittens tall they are. Chart the results for all to see.

For more Think it Through Thursday fun, visit ABC &123 A Learning Cooperative

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Observing Lent

Lent is a 40-day season of preparation for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The season of Lent in the spring-time is the life-giving season. As trees shed their old leaves, so too this season invites us to shed the old to live a full life of newness.

Today is Ash Wednesday, which marks (with ashes upon our foreheads) the beginning of Lent. While searching for something worthwhile to give up for Lent I was introduced to a new idea. Rather than giving up something such as chocolate, coffee or another indulgence this challenge has us consider giving up the clutter in our homes and blessing others with it. For the next 40 days I am committing to de-clutter my home and bless others with the things I no longer want or need. When getting rid of gently used items please consider donations to your local Goodwill or other organization who helps those in need. Please post comments to let me know if you will be participating in the challenge during lent, I would love to hear from you!

40 Trash Bag Challenge
Everyday during Lent this year, empty one bag of "stuff" that is no longer needed from your house, totaling a loss of forty bags of stuff!

1. Take a look at the size of your family and household, with an acknowledge of how much "stuff" is present, make a prudential choice on the size of bag to be employed during this challenge. Bag size should be small enough that the goal of 40 bags during the season of Lent is able to be accomplished, while not being too big that you are left with nothing. We must still live in the world after all!

2. If smaller children are a part of your family a 'gauge' may be helpful to keep them engaged and help them keep track of progress. As part of preparations, make a 'paper chain' of forty numbered links. As each new bag is started place a new link in the bottom of the bag. As the chain gets smaller their is a greater sense of accomplishment.

3. This challenge necessarily involves sacrifice. Each member of the family should be encouraged to give something to each bag, or there could be designated bags for each member of the family.

4. Instead of just trowing things away, recycling is a great way to encourage good stewardship of the gifts we have been given, as it symbolizes that we are passing along our gifts to others. Families with children are encouraged to pass along clothes that no longer fit or toys that sit dormant in a closet to families in need instead of just throwing them away.

5. Units of count need not necessarily be trash bags either, however they should be equivalent. For example, a box of gently used toys or clothes could equate one bag off the chain. A stack of books donated to the parish library is another easy equivalent.

As the family accepts this challenge together, bonds will be created that will last a lifetime. Lessons are also learned not just by saying but by putting in to practice. Here the simple lesson will last throughout life that having fewer things can lead to a greater contentment in life.

Credit due to the Archdiocese of Cincinnati for this handout on vocations and family faith formation

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I'm Not Sick, I'm Happy!

Lilly has been fighting a fever, runny nose and cough this week. Something that would make most adults whine and stay in bed, so is that where you will find her? Nope, not my tough little girl. Last night we had to leave a Cub Scout function early because she was not feeling well and when I told her I was sorry she felt sick she exclaimed (in a high pitch) "I'm not sick, I'm happy!" I had to laugh because only the optimism of a child would create such a statement despite the misery she must be feeling. May your cup be half full today also!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Top Ten Things I Like

Heidi at Blue Eyed Blessings issued a "Letter Challenge" which I have decided to try my hand at. She has kindly given me the dutiful honor of using the letter "N."

The challenge is simple: leave a comment at the bottom of this post and your email too. I will then give you a letter from the alphabet that you will use to create a post of the Top 10 Things You Like that begin with that letter and why.

Top Ten Things I Like:

Nature: nice weather and talking walks through the woods or on the beach is amazing and reminds me that I am just a small piece in the big picture.

Nachos: nothing satisfies a late night craving like a warm, gooey plate of spicy nachos

Nathan: my first born son and the pride of my life. He has shown me so much about myself and a completely new perspective on the world

Nana: my maternal grandmother who gave me my love for horses, writing and good grammar. She was my rock and I miss her as much today as when she passed away 10 years ago.

Neighbors: until we lived in Holland I had never known my neighbors. Though we no longer live by them I am so thankful to have met our wonderful neighbors and lifelong friends, the Meyerings.

Name: I am thankful that my Mom decided to go against the main stream and gave me a name that, until recently, has been pretty unique unto me.

Nap time: rediscovered joy for this stay-at-home Mom just this past week. With both boys in school I had let nap time for Lil' just fall off the wayside, until I practiced the same routine as a dear friend and have rediscovered the joy of a few hours peace.

Nephews: I personally think that my brother is by far the best Uncle a kid could have and so I like that the boys are nephews to one of the neatest guys I know. Soon they will be Nephews to the coolest Aunt too!

Newborn: the first time I saw each of my children is so special and will stay with me forever. The way they looked, the way their little baby heads smelled and the way they each felt in my arms is so precious and fills my heart with joy just thinking about it.

Night time: when the house is silent after a busy day, when I can climb in to bed and thank God for all of the wonderful things he has done in my life that day and in the days to come.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Soup-er Saturday


Tonight I made Pronto Taco Soup for dinner and it turned out so well, even the boys enjoyed it. Dinner was such a success that I am thinking of serving tortilla chips any time we have soup, just so the kids will give it a try. Nathan had seconds!!

Pronto Taco Soup
1 pound ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cans (14-1/2 ounces each) beef broth
1 can (14-1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
1-1/2 cups picante sauce - I could not find this in the store so I used salsa instead
1 cup uncooked spiral or small shell pasta
1 medium green pepper, chopped
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
Shredded cheddar cheese and tortilla chips

In a large saucepan, cook the beef, onion and garlic until meat is no longer pink; drain. Add the broth, tomatoes, picante sauce, pasta, green pepper, chili powder and parsley. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until pasta is tender. Garnish with cheese and tortilla chips. Yield: 8 servings (2 quarts)

For more yummy soup recipes check out A Listmaker's Life!

Muffins, Banana Bread and Frozen Toes

Let me tell you a little tale of my day, it all started with...

Frozen Toes: For the past 2 weeks our vents have been blowing out cold air despite the fact that we do not have Central Air, big problem! The furnace guy, who told me it was nothing when I called them out 2 weeks ago, came back today after I insisted that cold air+constant running+thermostat hovering at 59 degrees does not equal "nothing." Deciding there was a problem on his second visit I was assured he could fix it in "3 hours, maybe 3 1/2 tops." Two repairmen came and wound up being here for 9 hours. That is 9 hours with no heat in negative wind-chill temps I might add. When I went outside to get the boys from school I felt a bit warmer... yikes.

Muffins: I settled Lil' in for her afternoon nap with loads of blankets, thick socks and envy that I could not join her warm cocoon... so... I searched the pantry for an excuse to use the oven to heat at least one room in my house. I found a tasty looking boxed mix of Lemon Poppy Seed muffins I'd been hanging on to (the picture on the box looked yummy, not the box itself - silly). The steam that escaped from the oven was so lovely but much to my dismay the muffins took a mere 15 minutes to bake, certainly not long enough to thaw out my extremities.

Banana Bread: Previously I referenced a bad habit I have of freezing overly ripe bananas with the intent of making bread but never actually doing so. In an effort to continue my oven/spa experience I dug those bananas out in addition to the beat up old recipe card. Initially the discomfort, aka PAIN, of peeling FROZEN bananas with FROZEN fingers threatened to deter me from my task but I was encouraged to continue when I read that the loaves needed to bake for 45 minutes - yes! Bonus: the chance to use the precious recipe card holder (the stain took a week to dry and it still has a strong odor) Nathan made for me at Cub Scouts a few weeks ago. Even better is that he noticed me using it and said "Mom, I didn't think you would actually use that!" I am still not sure if that is a jab at my lack of cooking/baking or a jab at his outstanding craftsmanship and staining ability.

As of 6 pm our furnace was finally fixed and my toes have returned to their normal state-of-being. I have since over-indulged on muffins and banana bread and now that I have warmth I don't even mind that I will have to give my floors a good scrubbing from the many snowy tracks left by the repairman.

Please, please, please do not take your heat for granted - at least not until June! hee, hee, hee
In the meantime, enjoy some tasty banana bread.

The Best Banana Bread
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup light butter, softened
1 2/3 cups mashed ripe banana(about 3, but I always use more)
1/4 cup skim milk
1/2 cup low-fat sour cream
2 large egg whites
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Cooking Spray

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Combine sugar and butter in a bowl; beat at medium speed until well blended. Add banana, milk, sour cream and egg whites; beat well, and set aside.
3. Combine flour, baking soda and salt; stir well. Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture, beating until blended.
4. Spoon batter in to 4 (5x2 1/2in.) mini loaf pans coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes; remove from pans and let cool completely.
Yield: 4 loaves, 4 servings per loaf, 1 serving (slice) is 3 Weight Watchers points.
I use a loaf pan with 8 tiny loaves, these are 2 servings per loaf and so 3 points per half loaf

Friday, February 20, 2009

Giveaway Friday!

Today is a good day to win a giveaway, don't you think?

Tupperware is my absolute favorite product and honestly makes the world go 'round. What could be better than Tupperware? FREE Tupperware!!! For your chance to win an aqua Modular Mate #1 & #2 check out Katie's 250th post at A Listmakers Life. Fun!

Every Moment gadget

How does a free $25 Walmart gift card sound? Pretty swell in my book, that is for sure. I found this great blog and as luck would have it (or so I hope!) they have a giveaway going on too. The contest ends Sunday, February 22nd, so hurry on over to $5 Dollar Meals and enter to win. A $25 gift card - wow, that would make, like, 5 whole meals for my hungry family!!! Step aside Mac 'n Cheese!

Happy Friday everyone and good luck!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Play Date!

For more Wordless Wednesday fun check out 5 Minutes for Mom

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

ABC of Summer Fun

After a long year away from West Michigan the kids and I were so excited to be back in time for summer fun. We did and saw so much that I created an ABC book to celebrate Summer 2008. Here are a few examples of the pages I put together.

For more fun ideas visit Teach Me Tuesday hosted by ABC...123

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Meatball Soup


1 cup uncooked spiral or shell pasta

32 frozen Italian meatballs (about 1 pound), thawed

2 cans (14-1/2 ounces each) chicken broth

1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained

1-1/2 cups frozen sliced carrots, thawed

1 can (16 ounces) kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1 jar (14 ounces) meatless spaghetti sauce

1 jar (4-1/2) sliced mushrooms, drained

1 cup frozen peas


Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, combine the remaining ingredients in a soup kettle or Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain pasta. Add to soup; heat through. Yield: 10 servings (3 quarts)

Soup-er Saturday hosted by A Listmakers Life

Thursday, February 12, 2009

When life gives you lemons...

my recipe for lemonade:

10 year job anniversary of a hard working husband
9 years of marriage
8 siblings and siblings-in-law to complete our family
7 months 'til my b-day, another year of lessons learned
6 scrapbooks full of unforgettable memories
5 parents, step-parents & parent-in-law to support me
4 long-distance friends who keep me grounded
3 healthy children to inspire me
2 new friends to welcome me to an unfamiliar town
1 God who loves me the way I am because of who He is

"Many people think that if they were only in some other place, or had some other job, they would be happy. Well, that is doubtful. So get as much happiness out of what you are doing as you can and don't put off being happy until some future date." - Dale Carnagie

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Monday, February 9, 2009

Snowman Snow

The sun is shining, the ice is melting and the snow is ready for rolling... in to a nice big snowman.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Soup-er Sunday

My favorite chili is the easiest recipe which makes it taste even better in my book. In fact, it is so good that it won both the judges vote and the peoples vote at Consumers, Patrick brought home a trophy! I also took second place at a church cook-off with this tasty chili. Enjoy!

Salsa Chili


1 lb ground beef

1 medium onion, chopped

1 jar (16 ounces) salsa

1 can (15 ounces) pinto beans, rinsed and drained

1 can (5-1/2 ounces) tomato juice

Shredded cheddar cheese, chopped green peppers, sour cream and thinly sliced green onion, optional


In a large saucepan, cook beef and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink, drain. Stir in the salsa, beans and tomato juice; heat through. Serve with the cheese, peppers, sour cream and green onions if desired. Yield: 5 servings

For another Soup-er recipe visit A Listmakers Life. Yummy!!!

Friday, February 6, 2009

They Grow So Fast!

For the past week Lillian has been staying dry at night. For the past 2 weeks she has been telling us when she needs to use the bathroom. For the past 3 weeks she has successfully used the potty more than she has had accidents. While I am absolutely thrilled to be near the end of the diaper era I am also a little sad because I have reached the end of the baby stage, with all of my babies. Don't get me wrong, I do not have any desire to have another, but knowing that she is the last one and each thing she outgrows is the very last time we will experience it leaves me longing for those days before fiercely independent toddlerhood. When my first baby was born many experienced mothers advised me to enjoy this time because they grow before you know it. I was so exhausted with round-the-clock feedings that I had no idea what they were talking about and could not imagine time going quickly at all. Fast forward 8 years and 3 kids later... oh, my were they right, more than I could have fathomed. To all new mothers out there I happily pass along this advice "Hug and kiss your babies often and take lots of pictures because they truly do grow too fast!"

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Best Day Ever!

The Muskegon County Winter Sports Complex was a great find today and imagine my excitement when it was not far from home. I accompanied an 8th grade EI class as the Parapro Sub to the complex today and had the best time ever. We started out by cross-country skiing for over an hour, up steep hills and down again, learning about using the track to ski easier and having fun laughing each time we fell.

Next we tried snow shoes and hiked up the dune to the lake. I have never climbed a dune in the winter and was amazed at how spectacular a sight Lake Michigan is this time of year. It has been so bone-chilling cold that the lake was complete ice as far as I could see. It is hard to imagine all of our summer fun at the beach when looking at the mountains of ice and snow. As a throw back to summer we roasted S'mores in the lodge fire which was the best treat on a cold day.

Lastly I tied on a pair of figure skates and took a tour on the frozen rink. The complex has 2 rinks which both lead to an ice trail through the woods, so fun! I think this was my most enjoyable day as a Sub ever! I can't wait to take my kids and share the fun new experience.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Stout and Round

Wordless Wednesday, hosted by 5 Minutes for Mom

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Love my Big Brother


"Ya, Lil'?"

"You wanna pay outside wif me?"

"I don't know, it looks cold"

"Peas, peas Nafan. You pay outside wif me?"


"Yeah, yeah, YEAH!"

Valentine's Day Party

I love to plan and execute parties but have not had an opportunity or occasion to do so in a long time (or at least not since Christmas anyway). Imagine my joy to find out Topher's class did not have a party coordinator for Valentine's Day! My mind has been whirling with ideas for over a month now and so I am diving in to the labor of love in an effort to be ready ahead of time so I can call parent volunteers with exactly what we have left to do.

The jars will be awarded to the student who can guess the amount of candy it holds. The jars were a great find at Goodwill and after a very through cleaning make a nice prize themselves.

The take-out boxes will be wrapped in to a box and that box will be wrapped in to a larger box and repeated again. At the party we will play "Musical Boxes" and the kids will pass around the box until the music stops. The one with the box will unwrap it and my hope is they will get a laugh out of the fact that there is another box to unwrap and pass. We will keep up the passing until the final unwrap reveals the little take-out boxes for everyone (including the teacher!). The take-out boxes were a steal at the dollar store and the empty boxes are left from our move.

The kids will then have time to pass out their valentines to each other and read through them. As they look at valentines will will pass out a balance of fun sweet snacks and healthy good-for-you snacks. I will be sure to emphasize to the parent bringing a healthy snack that "cheese and crackers" doesn't mean Handi-snacks. :)

My hope is to keep the party simple and emphasize friendship and working as a team.

What are you doing special for Valentines day? Leave a comment and let me know.

Tackle it Tuesday brought to you by 5 Minutes for Mom

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Super Bowl Predictions

Who will win the Super Bowl, Pittsburg or Arizona?

Patrick: Arizona
Nathan: Arizona
Topher: Pittsburg
Lilly: Piz-bird

What will the score be?
Patrick: 21 to 17
Nathan: 14 to 10
Topher: 16 to 6
Lilly: Spongebob!

What Super Bowl Party would be complete without complementary 3-D glasses... of course these super-dorks don't need them until the Monsters vs. Aliens movie preview in the 2nd quarter but I am not going to be the one to tell them. hee, hee

Potty Success!

Hooray! Lilly has used the potty for a whole month and is excited to show you her completed potty chart. She has been dry for 3 nights this week too. Yay Lilly, we are so proud of you!!!

My Favorite Soup

On a freezing winter day, which has been EVERY day for the past 2 months, I love to make Easy Baked Potato Soup. If you are looking for some warm comfort on these chilly days give this a try:

3 to 4 medium baking potatoes, baked

5 bacon strips, diced

2 cans (10-3/4 ounces each) condensed cream of potato soup, undiluted

1 can (10-3/4 ounces) condensed cheddar cheese soup, undiluted

3-1/2 cups milk

2 teaspoons garlic powder

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Dash Liquid Smoke, optional

1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream

Shredded cheddar cheese

Peel and dice the baked potatoes; set aside. In a Dutch oven or soup kettle, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove to paper towels. Drain, reserving 1-1/2 teaspoons drippings.

Add the soups, milk, garlic powder, Worcestershire sauce, onion powder, pepper, Liquid Smoke if desired and reserved potatoes to the drippings. Cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes or until heated through, stirring occasionally. Stir in sour cream, cook for 1-2 minutes or until heated through (do not boil). Garnish with cheddar cheese and bacon. Yield: 10 servings (2-1/2 quarts).
For another great soup recipe check out A Listmaker's Life

A Nice Surprise

What could make an Annual Meeting at church fun? Cake! After the meeting our new church family surprised us with a very nice cake during a delicious potluck. Each parishioner expressed their happiness to have a new young family and someone to take care of the Rectory and Church which has long been neglected. We are so blessed to have our own home again and a church family so accepting of noisy kids that I feel we should be giving all the thanks, not receiving it. We truly are in a unique situation and intend, with Gods help, to make the most of what we have been given.