Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Compassion, by definition, means a deep awareness of and sympathy for another's suffering. Some people are more naturally compassionate than others. Some people just really couldn't care less. Can you teach compassion? I would hope that as I demonstrate compassion I am, by default, teaching the kids what compassion looks like and sounds like. This morning we had a little incident and I was overwhelmed by the compassion exhibited by the youngest and oldest of the kids. Recently, Pepe has been giving piggy back rides to all his siblings. He may be only 7 but he is just shy of 75lbs. To put it in context, I was a mere 88lbs in Grade 9. Pepe is in Grade 2. He is a big boy. A very strong boy. His much smaller brother is only 43lbs. So, piggy back rides are easy for Pepe to give to his much lighter siblings. When he is feeling left out, Pepe comes to us for his rides. Anyhow, the girls must have figured that they could give rides to each other. Ali attempted to carry RJ on her shoulders. I was washing dishes and could see them in plain sight. I caught what they were doing out of the corner of my eye and before I could tell them to stop, they both came crashing down. RJ smashed her head on the frame of the couch and actually gashed the back of her head. Ali smashed her elbow on the hard wood floor. So, there I was holding two screaming and crying girls, trying to console them and calm them down. Baby girl Ari comes over and pats, rubs and shushes away, trying to help in the consolation. I don't know if it is her natural instinct or if she is just imitating what she has seen from me but she does it frequently. If someone is crying, she immediately goes up to them and hugs, pats, rubs and shushes. Pepe went above and beyond that, bringing me a cloth to clean up the blood, finding an ice pack, getting RJ a pillow and blanket so she could lie down on the couch, asking her repeatedly if there was anything else he could do for her and just being greatly concerned and very, very compassionate. My heart is so very proud when I see such Christ-like actions coming from two very little people (well, by 'little' I mean young as I already established earlier that Pepe is most certainly not little!). I do a lot of criticizing of myself and my mothering attempts or despairing over my unChrist like actions towards the kids or Jay. When I see moments like what happened this morning, I think it is God's way of showing me that, though I may have moments of wrong, I am on the right path. The kids are watching and imitating and if that is the case then Christ is obviously at work in me just as he is at work in them.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Horse Turds

Do you know that wonderful chocolate-peanut butter concoction called 'Puppy Chow'? It is a delectable treat made with Crispix cereal, chocolate chips, peanut butter and icing sugar! I got Jay to pick up two boxes of Crispix cereal the other day so I could make some of this deliciousness. I could see it now - little cellophane bags filled with this yummy treat, tied with a ribbon and shared with friends in the neighbourhood. Sunday was the magical day to make it - a first for me. Really, how hard can it be? You melt the chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter, pour it over the Crispix until they are nicely coated then shake the chocolaty-peanut buttery Crispix with icing sugar until each individual nugget is nicely surrounded with a white powdery coating. Easy enough. Apparently not for me. Somehow mine turned into crushed Crispix that clumped into balls of chocolaty-peanut buttery goodness - they were not evenly remotely white. I was disappointed, to say the least. I am sure it still tastes great but the presentation does have to count for something. I poured the failed treats into a container and left the kitchen. I was not about to open the second box of Crispix and ruin it, too! Maybe somebody will take pity on me and show me how to do it! (Hint, hint!) A little while later the kids came to the kitchen (where Jay happened to be) wondering what I had made. Jay showed them and told them it was horse turds. Horse turds? I didn't think it was that bad! The kids laughed, ate it and left. Today, they continue to refer to it, with all seriousness, as horse turds and I think, in this household, that name will stick! Can you blame them? When you look at it, it looks closer to horse turds than to Puppy Chow!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Lapbook on Israel

Shalom! This week we finally finished our lap book on Israel. Earlier I showed you our completed lap book on Turkey. Israel was the next country we were studying in our tour of the Holy Land. We are using Ann Voskamp's text A Child's Geography - Explore the Holy Land and we love it! I think the study of Israel was especially fun for the boys as Jay spent a bit of time in Israel before we met. He has a whole photo album of pictures he took of the exact same places we talked about in our study. So, he could talk about those fascinating locales with more detail than the books and was able to answer the boys' questions. They really love studying these countries as they can now picture where people like Jesus or Abraham or John the Baptist lived and died. What a great way to make the Bible really come to life! I also found a Hebrew printing practice sheet for them to try writing the Hebrew Aleph Bet in block letter style. They really enjoyed that. They also loved seeing their names written in Hebrew and will now sometimes write their names in Hebrew on their assignments! Next week we start our study on Egypt and I am really looking forward to learning more about that country!

If you are using Ann's book while studying Israel and looking for a lap book, send me an email and I will gladly send you the file! Why not save you the hours of work it took me to make it?! :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I am Participating in Operation Christmas Child - Are You?

For the past 5 years (approx.), I have looked forward to packing shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child, a very worthwhile project run by Samaritan's Purse.  The time and effort it takes to pack a box of goodies is so minimal yet the value to the child, her family and her community is so great, it really is unmeasurable.  My pastor and his wife had the opportunity to help distribute some of these boxes to Mexican children a couple of years ago and they shared some of their experiences with me.  Some of these children walk down the sides of mountains for miles carrying their siblings in a sling just so they can have these precious gifts of shoe boxes.  The message of Jesus Christ is shared with each and every child, a message of hope and a message of love as demonstrated with these boxes and these children are touched and changed forever.  Unlike the children in my world who have far too many toys littering their floors, these kids don't have toys.  They may not own a single one.  They only own three sets of clothes.  They have so little it is no wonder they are thrilled with a simple lined notebook.  A baby doll is as precious as a diamond.  The absolute joy and wonder that fills their face as they open these boxes of treasures is a sight compared to little else.  And they know in that moment that someone cares.  That they are loved with an eternal love.  I cannot help but want to be a part of that.  So, each year we take the kids and go shopping, filling plastic shoe boxes with treasures and praying for the little boys and little girls that will receive our boxes.  I pray that the t-shirts fit their little bodies, that the little cars will be just their thing, that the baby doll will be a treasure.  Most of all, I pray they will know the Saviour of the world, the Saviour of you and I, loves them with an immense and unfathomable love.  Won't you take the time to pack a shoe box for a little boy or a little girl who needs so desperately to hear about the love of Jesus?

It really is so very simple.  Grab a red and green shoebox from a participating Operation Christmas Child depot (it may be a church in your area, maybe a local grocery store) or a small plastic shoebox (of good quality plastic) or you can use a shoebox you already have.  Decide who you are filling the box for. 
Check out this link to see the age categories and to print a tag.  We usually pick the same ages as our kids.  Since they are always short of boxes for boys, we did 2 boy boxes this year (age 5-9) and one girl box (age 2-4).  Fill it with items such as a bar of soap, a washcloth, a toothbrush, toys, dolls, notebooks, pencils and pencil sharpener, crayons or pencil crayons, hard candy, a comb or a brush, pretties for a little girl's hair, play jewelry, games like Jacks, a t-shirt, socks . . .  the options are plenty.  Make sure the items are fun and safe and won't get wrecked if broken or frozen or melted.  For a better idea of what you should and should not pack, check out this helpful link.  Be sure to put the soap, the crayons and the candy into their own resealable bag.  Once your box is full, fill out an "About Me" page that you can print from here if you live in Canada, enclose a $7 donation to help the box get to where it needs to go, close the box and apply the label you printed out.  Put an elastic band around the whole box and drop it off at a collection center this week as the deadline is the 21st..  Can't find a center?  Check this link for locations.  Don't forget to pray for the child!  Finally, thank you for taking the time to change the life of a child!  I hope it fills you with as much joy as it fills me!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Outdoor Holiday Planter with Branches

I had a vision in my mind of a large holiday planter using various branches so on Saturday I went out to the country property and cut various types of branches. These included Golden Willow, Highbush Cranberry, wild Dogwood and spruce. This morning while the kids worked on school, I put these planters together in the entrance. I made two so I could have one to flank each side of the garage door. I love how they turned out!

First off, I took some scrap metal mesh, like a really small sized stucco wire, with about 1/2" squares and cut a square about the size of the top of the urn.. You could use chicken wire as well. I smushed the wire on top of the soil that was already in the planter. The wire is just to help the branches stay in place.

Then I took my branches and pruners and started cutting and placing the branches. I started with really long willow branches in the center and worked out from there. I made sure to stagger their heights and to provide more fullness as I got closer to the pot. I love the color difference in the gold of the willow and red of the dogwood, the berries on the cranberry branches and the green of the spruce. Once all the deciduous branches were in place, I used the spruce branches to cover all the wire. I used larger pieces to spread out across the bottom and then used really small leftovers and stood them up in the very center of the pot, where all the branches came together. Not sure if that makes sense so just look at the pictures. Stand back often to make sure it looks balanced and to ensure that all your pots (if you are doing more than one) look similar enough. I love the large size of the arrangement and can see it lasting well through the winter. And to think it was completely free!

I am linking up to
The DIY Show Off

Friday, November 12, 2010

How to Turn Brass into Oil-Rubbed Bronze

Well, here I sit eating apple slices dipped in peanut butter and listening to Josh's Groban's Christmas CD while the house is completely silent - ah, 'tis a wonderful time of the day! Anyhow, on to the point!

Seeing as the re-wiring of the chandelier is going absolutely nowhere despite my further attempts (my father has said he could help me figure it out so I must take him up on that offer - I believe that if anyone could do it, he could!) I have moved on to the finish for the time being. Remember how I said the chandelier was solid brass? Yeah, well, I really love the shape of the fixture but the brass color is not really my thing. I was pretty certain I could change that with minimal effort (just like I was sure re-wiring it would be easy, too!). This time I was right! I love love LOVE the look of oil-rubbed bronze so my goal was to change the brass to something darker and more beautiful in my mind. I really had no intention of painting it but as I searched the web for ideas on how to do this I came across this forum where a person named Sandy James from Edmund, Oklahoma suggested this technique. I did not come up with this on my own, this is just copying what Sandy said. However, Sandy didn't post any before/after pictures so I wanted to show the results to you. Sandy, thanks so much for the instructions, it worked perfectly! And for you brass purists, this may not be for you so you can just stop reading here. Don't say I didn't warn you!

First off, take your brass fixture and prime it with some spray primer. I used Krylon products since that is what I have on-hand and they are great on metal. I primed it with a gray primer.

Then, spray the entire fixture with a black satin spray paint. Once again, I used Krylon.

You should now have an entirely black fixture. Here comes the fun part, the "wow" part!

Get yourself some Rub 'n Buff in Spanish Copper finish. Never heard of it? It is a wax metallic finish that comes in many color choices that you can use to antique or decorate any surface or material. Apparently Michael's carries it but the only one in our city doesn't. I am sure many other places carry it as well but I had no intention of driving around to find it. I bought mine on Ebay for about $4 total and waited 2 weeks for it to arrive. Take the R'nB and put the tiniest bit on a soft cloth. Gently rub on the raised portions of your fixture and you will begin to see the magic happen. Rub and buff to your heart's content. If you do too much just spray it again and start over. Or I am sure you could spray paint a small artist's brush and touch up that way. Anyhow, once you are done rubbing and buffing apply a clear protective top coat and you are done! VOILA! My brass-turned-oil-rubbed-bronze chandelier (well, actually only one small part of it. I haven't finished the rest yet!). What do you think? I, myself, am entirely pleased. Giddy, really. I imagine the entire chandelier in this dark lusciousness dripping with crystals and I want to hop in the van and drive to my parents right now to get that chandy wired. And it is 11:30 pm! Patience, my lovely, patience!

I'm participating in

Friday, November 5, 2010

Guest Article - Acquiring Sign Language

So, a little while ago an email showed up in my inbox asking if I would check out this article and post it here if interested. I was pleasantly surprised to see it was about signing, something we totally believe in here at our home. Without any further ado, here is the article sent to me by Emily Patterson, Communications Coordinator at Primrose Schools.


Early Childhood Education – Acquiring Sign Language

Signing Before They Can Speak

Research has shown that teaching different modes of communication and language is most effective at the early ages of 2 to 5. This goes beyond the spoken word (though it is an optimal time for children to learn a second language); many young children have an aptitude for signing as well. This can be taught at home or some child care programs incorporate it into their curriculum.

While 2 years old seem pretty young, it's not that odd. There are many indigenous peoples around the world in fact, including American Indian nations, who have used sign language for centuries to facilitate communication with other tribes with whom they do not share a language.

In fact, recent research suggests that sign language is innate. Backing this up is an article published by the Boulder Daily Camera in 2003 which presented strong evidence that babies as young as six months old communicate with their hands:

"...by 6 to 7 months, babies can remember a sign. At eight months, children
can begin to imitate gestures and sign single words. By 24 months, children
can sign compound words and full sentences. They say sign language reduces
frustration in young children by giving them a means to express themselves
before they know how to talk." (Glarion, 2003)

Signing and Autism

The ability to sign has also helped parents in communicating with autistic children; one parent reports that "using sign language allowed her to communicate with her [autistic] son and minimized his frustration...[he now] has an advanced vocabulary and excels in math, spelling and music" (Glarion, 2003).

One of the most frustrating part of raising an autistic child is the breakdown in communication. Autistic children have a hard time with the complexity of the spoke language, signing gives them an avenue of communication which at the same time helps to strengthen speech and language development. Sign language allows parents to break down this barrier with their children (actually regardless of whether they are autistic or not).

The Best Time To Start

The sooner children learn sign language (or any other language for that matter) the better. Young children who are taught sign language at an early age, it has actually been shown, develop better verbal skills as they get older.

Not learning to sign give pre-verbal youngsters a way to communicate, it can also strengthen the parent-child bond. Signing helps to lower levels of frustration in the child, it gives them a way to communicate with the caregivers exactly what is going on in their mind. Which in return helps the parent and makes them feel even closer to their baby.

Looking To Their Future

There are many reasons for people to be interested in and to learn sign language. Many may need it they work with disabled children, some are learning it because of the career opportunities available with it, and others are learning it just so they can have a wide variety of communication.

The ability to communicate articulately in a variety of ways with the widest possible audience is a unique skill that not many have. This includes bilingual ability as well as the ability to communicate in non-verbal ways for the benefit of the disabled – primarily the deaf.

Co-written by Emily Patterson and Kathleen Thomas

Emily and Kathleen are Communications Coordinators for the Austin child care facility, a member of the AdvancED® accredited family of Primrose Schools (located in 16 states throughout the U.S.) and part of the network of child care preschools delivering progressive, early childhood, Balanced Learning® curriculum.

Personally, we love sign here, as I mentioned before. It is a vital part of communication for a non-verbal child. Some of my kids were able to use the signs earlier than others but it was so great to see each of them use and understand them in their own time. Now, we don't use sign for all of our language, though that would certainly interest me. In fact, when I was in Junior High and High School, I would bring home books on American Sign Language and attempt to teach myself. I would still be interested in learning ASL. We just use sign for some of the more basic communication needs at this point like "milk", "all done", "please" "thank you", "excuse me" "sorry", "more", etc. I found this website that allows me to search for many different ASL signs and sign them properly. So, I am in agreement with the above article and would encourage you to use sign in your home with your wee ones. It makes a world of difference for them to be able to communicate in a way that we as caregivers understand. The frustration level is certainly minimized. Finally, my favorite signing story: Pepe had learned some of those basic signs and was fairly good at using them to communicate. One day we went to visit Grandma/Grandpa. As usual, whenever we saw them, Grandpa would open up his wallet and empty all his change into his grandkids' hands. Once empty, Grandpa put the wallet away and continued on. Pepe turns to me and - get this- signs " more please" then points to Grandpa! Ha! How I laughed!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Simple Family Fun

Want to know a great use for all those small individually wrapped packages of chocolate so easily found this time of year?

Bingo prizes! I found a Bingo game at Dollarama the other week and bought it on impulse. Then, because we purchased a certain amount of groceries, we were given a box of those snack sized Hershey's chocolates for free. Enter the Bingo game. Sometimes after a particularly good day of school or as a fun time after supper, we pull out the game and chocolates and have at it! Everyone is only allowed to win Bingo once and, upon winning, they get a chocolate of their choice! We play enough times to allow each child a win. They love it! It even teaches a couple of different things. First of all, the boys help the girls with their Bingo cards so cooperation and helpfulness are practiced. Secondly, RJ is getting better at recognizing many different numbers from 1-60. Finally, it is just a great time together with the kids and chocolate - what could be more fun? (Well, being able to EAT the chocolate would be more fun for me but, alas, I must wait 58 more days. Really, that's nothing compared to the 307 I have already done but I sure do look forward to it!) So, if you don't already have a Bingo game, go out and get one then stock up on those chocolates that are now half price! Your family will love you for it!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Company I Love - Seeds & More

I just love getting little brown envelopes in the mail, don't you? Usually it is because I have ordered something and I eagerly anticipate tearing open that envelope to see what is inside. Today was one of those days! I love these kind of days. It is like Christmas (even if I did order it myself and I know full well what is inside!). One week ago I placed an order for these:

from a little company I love called Seeds & More. This company
specializes in unique and quality seeds for garden annuals, perennials, shrubs, trees and tropicals. I have been ordering from Kim for a number of years already and love the service and the selection. Based in Newfoundland, Canada, I usually get my seeds in about 1 week and they come in these wonderful resealable packages. I usually order some seeds in the spring but this time I bought some maples and I am so excited to seed them this fall and watch them grow next year. A number of these are not hardy to zone 3 but I love to experiment and for the cost of seeds, it is a cheap way to do it. She always throws in a free package of seeds that is similar to what I am ordering but maybe just a different variety. I really love free things! Plus there is always a coupon for my next order. So, if you are looking for affordable annual and perennial seeds or looking to experiment with some more interesting or unusual plants, check out Seeds & More. I know you will love it, just as I do!
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