Thursday, October 1, 2009

E is for egg

For the letter E this week we read "Chickens Aren't the Only Ones" by Ruth Heller and "Daisy and the Egg" by Jane Simmons. Great books! We talked about all the animals that come from eggs. I had a bunch of plastic eggs and inside I put plastic animals and bugs that hatch from eggs- dinosaur, fish, lizard, snake, lady bug, octopus, frog, etc. They took turns opening them. Then we had an Easter egg hunt. (We had lots of rounds of this. And they didn't even care that there wasn't any candy inside.) Then we talked about all the things you can do with eggs and how you can make eggs. We had boiled eggs for snack. Then we painted eggs with watercolors. And finally we made a game of matching the plastic eggs and putting them together.

Some more wonderful books for eggs: "An Egg is Quiet" by Dianna Aston, "Green Eggs and Ham" by Dr Seuss, and "Minerva Louise and the Colorful Egg" by Janet Morgan Stoeke.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Juegos para los colores

This site has some fun games for learning colors and other Spanish vocab. My boys always love anything that remotely resembles a video game so they enjoyed them and I think learned a thing or two at the same time!

Semillitas de aprendizaje

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Our Fun Box

An idea that has really worked for our family is our FUN BOX. When my oldest was younger I let him help me decorate a cardboard box with yarn, stickers, scrap papers, extra photos of himself, etc and it became our fun box. Inside of the box I put different flannel stories, magnetic stories, a little critter paperdoll, a personalized BINGO, pompoms with paper sacks to sort them into colors, and some art supplies. I got the BINGO cards at and a lot of the story pictures at The idea was that on rainy days we'd find something to do in the Fun Box but I soon discovered that when I kept it in the pantry closet, it was the perfect thing to bring out when I was trying to make dinner. I still use it often when my boys are complaining of hunger or boredom or crying for my attention right at that critical dinnertime hour. They especially like the magnetic picture stories that they can do right there by me on the fridge. It's been a lifesaver many a time!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

I love giveaways!

I was directed to this great site by a friend at They are hosting a great giveaway so go check it out!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Homemade Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

With this recipe you can make pizza dough that's half white and half wheat. When I use white wheat my family doesn't even know what hit 'em! Here's the ingredients for two sizes.

12" pan
1 T dry yeast
1 c warm water
1 t salt
2 T olive oil
1 1/4 c white flour
1 1/4 c whole wheat flour
1 T gluten

17"X12"cookie sheet
1 1/2 T dry yeast
1 1/2 c warm water
1 1/2 t salt
3 T olive oil
1 3/4 c white flour
2 c wheat flour
2 T gluten

Combine all ingredients. Knead for a few minutes. Let rise while your oven is heating and you are preparing the toppings. Then bake at 400-425 degrees for 12-15 minutes.

Cheesy Volcano Meatballs

These were very yummy, easy, and my three-year-old loved helping make these! (I just had to watch closely to make sure he wasn't sticking his fingers in his mouth after touching the raw meat.) I got this from a free magazine that kraft sends out quarterly- you can get a subscription at

1 lb lean ground beef
6 Ritz crackers, finely crushed
1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 c spaghetti sauce, divided
about 12 cheddar cheese cubes (I cut up a block of cheese)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix meat, cracker crumbs, parmesan cheese and 1/4 c of the spaghetti sauce in bowl. Shape into 12 meatballs, using about 2 T meat mixture for each. Place 2 inches apart on a greased shallow baking pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Press 1 cheese cube deeply into center of each meatball. Bake 14 min. or until meatballs are cooked through (160 degrees). Meanwhile, microwave remaining spaghetti sauce to serve over top of meatballs. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

R is for Robot

This idea came from my sister. She read some informative and creative books with the boys. The fictional ones were: "Baby Brains and Robomom" by Simon James, "Rolie Polie Olie" by William Joyce, and "The Robot and the Bluebird" by David Lucas. Then the built their own robots! They used egg cartons, pipe cleaners, beads and stickers. They loved it and their imaginations were running wild! What a fun preschool day!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Great Giveaway

Here's another awesome giveaway from my favorite bilingual website:

We love these songs! They are such catchy, fun songs and I think they are a great way to learn Spanish!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Conference BINGO

I always look forward to General Conference but sometimes it's hard for my little ones to sit still and listen. A friend of mine sent me this great idea for helping children enjoy conference a little more. This BINGO game worked really well with my boys! They actually listened to almost an entire session (2 hours)! We ended up making up our own rules that said if ANYONE got BINGO then we could all eat all the treats on our board. I used jellybeans, bunny shaped marshmellows, walnuts, chocolate chips and raisins as markers. Thanks, Amy!

Wallets & Money

We had a fun impromptu learning experience today. I'd seen an idea a few months ago in the FamilyFun magazine on making a wallet from a used juice carton. Today we decided to make one and they turned out really cool! It was more of a Mom-does-the-craft-while-kids-watch craft but they were excited about how it turned out. I let them have a few pennies to carry around in it but they kept falling out and getting lost. Eventually, I decided to make money from construction paper and teach them a small lesson in counting and values at the same time. Then we set up a little store for them to go shopping at. I'd saved some cereal boxes, granola bar boxes, oatmeal tubs, herbs containers, etc that I cleaned out and they set up a store in our living room. They loved pretending to go to the checkout and use their money.

Update on our Spanish speaking days

I'm not perfect.

In the past I would get so frustrated if I didn't speak every word of the day in Spanish on our Spanish Only Days. I felt like if I wasn't perfect in my Spanish then somehow I would completely confuse my children and ruin their chance to ever learn Spanish. I had an all or nothing attitude and this frustration only led to giving up.

This time around I've taken the attitude that something is better than nothing. I may not be able to communicate everything in Spanish. And I often feel like I'm hardly speaking any on our Spanish only days because my five year old is constantly asking questions and wanting me to explain things in terms he can understand or because I get lazy and want to communicate something right away. But atleast I am trying to speak as much as I can. And there are vocabulary words that they are learning and hearing over and over again.

Maybe I've got it all wrong entirely. But above all, I want this to be a positive experience, for my boys to love the Spanish language as much as I do. If nothing else, I feel that perhaps I'm making it easier for them to one day learn to speak fluently, even if that's not right now.

After we'd been going a few days, my three year old asked me to stop speaking in Spanish. My five year old got upset and said, "No! I want to learn to speak Spanish!" I say that's progress!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Frito Pie

Our family loves Frito Pie, which is essentially chili with cheese and fritos. My boys eat bowls upon bowls of this! You can use any chili recipe but I like this one that I got from my Mom.

1 lb groud beef
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 c green pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can Ranch style beans
1 can black beans (or about 1 c made from dry beans)
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 8 oz tomato sauce (or substitute 1 can tomato soup)
2-3 t chili powder
1-2 t cumin
dash of hot sauce
Brown beef and onions in frying pan. Then combine all ingredients in crockpot or large pot and let simmer for several hours. Top with cheddar cheese and fritos!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Excited about Castellano

I am so excited! After being inspired by this website, and doing a little research on the internet, I set some goals to help facilitate an environment in our home for learning Spanish. My husband, who also speaks Spanish as a second language, is supportive and excited to get going on this, too.
My four goals are:
1. Speak only Spanish on Sundays & Tuesdays; Be happy with our best even if it's not perfect
2. Have a 15-30 minute Spanish session everyday with my kids
3. Incorporate more Spanish music, books & videos into our lives
4. Seek out playdates with other bilingual children

So yesterday we spoke Spanish all day (more or less) and our boys thought it was pretty cool, even if they couldn't understand much of what we were saying. Hopefully that will get easier.

Today, I reserved a corner in our family room for a "Spanish corner" and set out a quilt and some Spanish books. Then I invited my boys to come take a trip with me to Mexico. We pretended like we were putting on our seatbelts and flying through the air and then arrived in Mexico. I transitioned from English to Spanish (though I stopped to explain words every now and then in English). We sang a song in Spanish from Primary that they had heard before in both languages. Then I read a Spanish book we have about Curious George (Jorge el Curioso). They were still having fun so then I transitioned into our little lesson on colors. I had construction papers in red, blue, yellow, orange and green and we echoed back and forth the names, talked about our favorites and ones we didn't like and pointed to different things around the room in those colors, all the while repeating the color names as many times as possible. Then we played Candyland, speaking all in Spanish. It worked really great! We sang one more Spanish song that I got from the book "De Colores and other Latin-American Folk Songs for Children" by Jose-Luis Orozco. (This is a great songbook!) We sang Buenos Dias set to the tune of Frere Jacques and is great because you can echo it back and forth while learning basic Spanish phrases. Finally, I gave them a picture to color and we got back on the airplane. My son was the pilot this time and we landed back in Texas safely without too many fighting or frustrated words.

I'm so pumped to do this again! They had fun and I had fun and I know they learned a thing or two!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Inspired Counsel

Here are the inspiring quotes I loved from the visiting teaching message:
President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985): "Home is a haven against the storms and struggles of life. Spirituality is born and nurtured by daily prayer, scripture study, home gospel discussions and related activities, home evenings, family councils, working and playing together, serving each other, and sharing the gospel with those around us. Spirituality is also nurtured in our actions of patience, kindness, and forgiveness toward each other and in our applying gospel principles in the family circle" ("Therefore I Was Taught," Tambuli, Aug. 1982, 2; Ensign, Jan. 1982, 3).
Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: "I call upon members of the Church and on committed parents, grandparents, and extended family members everywhere to hold fast to [the family] proclamation, to make it a banner not unlike General Moroni's 'title of liberty,' and to commit ourselves to live by its precepts. . . .
"In today's world, where Satan's aggression against the family is so prevalent, parents must do all they can to fortify and defend their families. But their efforts may not be enough. Our most basic institution of family desperately needs help and support from the extended family and the public institutions that surround us" ("What Matters Most Is What Lasts Longest," Liahona and Ensign, Nov. 2005, 42–43).
Elder Robert S. Wood of the Seventy: "For too many, responsibility seems to end with hand-wringing and exclamations of dismay. Yet talk without action accomplishes little. We need to be vigorously engaged in the world. If our schools are inadequate or destructive of moral values, we must work with fellow members of the community to bring about change. If our neighborhoods are unsafe or unhealthy, we must join with the civic-minded to devise solutions. If our cities and towns are polluted, not only with noxious gases but soul-destroying addictions and smut, we must labor to find legitimate ways to eliminate such filth. . . . We have the responsibility to be a blessing to others, to our nation, to the world" ("On the Responsible Self," Ensign, Mar. 2002, 30–31).

You can see the entire message here: March Visiting Teaching Message

Teaching Colors in a Foreign Language

I thought this was a good article:

My Big Idea

Sometimes I get these big ideas. My Mom had to talk me out of a few of them throughout my life- like going to Russia to teach children English my freshmen year of college- I still wish I could have done that one!

I think my big ideas have simmered down a bit- I've gotten a lot more sensible in my more wise years. After talking with my visiting teacher (in our church we are assigned to visit & watch over a couple of sisters each month & bring a general spiritual message) I was inspired to do two things: #1 Make Sundays better- more like the Sabbath Day it should be and also an enjoyable day for our young children #2 Grow closer to our extended family- we have siblings & cousins & parents all over the country (and soon to be outside the country). I am working on both those and will post ideas for #1 in a later post.

My big idea has to do with #2. Our boys pretty much know the names of all of their relatives and the general ages and even a few birthdays but I thought it would be fun to try to single out a different relative every week or month or so to get to know them better. I used a Spotlight questionnaire from Primary (our church's children's organization) and had my husband and boys help me with the questions. We asked stuff like nickname, favorite songs, dream vacation, embarrassing moment, shoe size, favorite candy, etc. Then I emailed them out to our family and begged for them to respond. (It may take some bribes, as well, for my Northwestern Piano Performance Grad Student Brother to respond.)

The rest of the idea is that every other week or so we'll pull out a spotlight and try to guess who it is. Maybe we can get out some old pictures of them and tell stories or memories we have of that person. Then we can call them or make them a card and send them their favorite candy or something specific like that to show them we love them.

And that's my big idea for the day!

Friday, March 20, 2009


My husband and I both served as missionaries in foreign countries- Spain and Argentina and we love the Spanish language. We have always wanted to maintain our Spanish skills after all the work it took to learn a second language and to teach our children Spanish from a young age. We started out doing great with our first child. We only spoke Spanish at home until our son was about 6 months old. Then we moved in with family while my husband was looking for his first job and things got a bit complicated. Once on our own we tried again except going a week at a time speaking only Spanish and then a week of English. It was exciting to see how much our son was picking up and many of his first words were Spanish- luz, aqua, etc. Then the terrible twos set in and then we had a second child and it got too hard and unfortunately, I gave up.
Lately our boys have taken an interest in learning more Spanish words, asking us how to say things in Spanish and how to count. Today, I discovered a great blog off of another friend's blog called Wanna Jugar with Migo? and it's inpsired me to try again! I plan on doing this activity on Monday: So thanks, Tati, for your inspiration!
(They also have great giveaways!)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

P is for Pizza

We read some fun books:

"Pizza at Sally's" by Monica Wellington {about how to make pizza}

"Pizza for the Queen" by Melisande Potter {Italian story about the origins of pizza, includes recipes}

Then we drew our favorite pizza toppings on a paper plate to make our own personal pizzas. Then I cut them into fourths and talked a little bit about fractions.

Lastly, we made mini pizzas out of English muffins. I put on the sauce and then had different toppings for the boys to choose from so that they could decorate their own. Broil it until the cheese melts and there you have it!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

O is for Ocean

We read lots of books about the ocean from the nonfiction and ficition sections. Then the boys decorated a picture with stickers of underwater animals and glued on shells. Other ideas include:

Take a clear two-liter bottle and draw sea shapes (seaweed, waves, etc) on the outside of it with a permanent marker. Fill the bottle mostly full with water. Next add about a 1/4-cup of white vinegar and 1 Teaspoon of baking soda to the bottle. Drop a small handful of raisins into the bottle. And then watch. The raisins will collect bubbles all around them from the vinegar and baking soda chemical reaction this will cause them to float to the top. Once the reaction calms back down they will sink back down and then form more bubbles (causing them to rise again!) This will repeat for up to a half-hour. This is so fun! My kids just loved it.

Make an octopus windsock

I love this starfish craft:

P is for Police Officer

Books: I checked out "Gloria & Office Buckle" by Peggy Rathmann and some nonfiction books about police officers. Badge & Hat

Make a simple police vest using a large paper grocery bag. With the bag opened, make a large round opening on the bottom for the head and cut the bag open along the front. Make round holes on the sides for arm holes. Close and lay the bag flat and children can paint the front using tempera paint and using a sponge. Cut a long strip of black construction paper to form a belt - just for the front where is painted, and glue on bag when the paint is dry. Attach the badge and the vest is ready to wear. McGruff safety

Baked Spaghetti Squash with Beef and Veggies

1 spaghetti squash, halved and seeded
1 lb ground beef
1/2 c diced green peppers
1/2 c diced red peppers
1/4 c diced red onion
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 (14.5 oz) can Italian-style diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 t dried oregano
1/2 t dried basil
1/4 t salt
1/4 t pepper
2 1/4 c shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place squash on a bkaing sheet, and bake 40 minutes, or until tender. Remove from heat, cool, and shred pulp with a fork. Reduce oven temp to 350. Lightly grease a casserole dish. In a skillet over medium heat, cook the ground beef until evenly brown. Drain, and mix in peppers, onion and garlic. Continue to cook and stir until veggies are tender. Mix the shredded squash and tomatoes into skillet, and season with oregano and basil, salt and pepper. Cook and stir until heated through. Remove skillet from heat, and mix in 2 c cheese until melted. Transfer to prepared casserole dish. Bake 25 minutes in oven. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and cook 5 more minutes.

Pumpkin Walnut Biscuits

1 3/4 c flour
3 T sugar,
1 T baking powder
3/4 t salt
3/4 t cinnamon
3/4 t ground ginger
5 T cold butter, cut into pieces
1/2 c finely chopped walnuts
1/2 c light cream
1/3 c solidly packed pumpkin
1 1/2 T honey

Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, b powder, salt, cinnamon, and ginger. Use your fingertips to work in butter. Keep mixing until ingredients resemble coarse crumbs. In a smaller bowl, whisk together cream, pumpkin and honey. Make a well in dry ingredients and pour the liquid into it. Stir briskly until dough pulls together, then let it sit for 3 minutes. Flour your hands and work surface. Gently knead the dough into a ball, then pat into a 1 inch thick disk. Cut into squares or use a round biscuit cutter or drinking glass. Place on lightly sprayed cookie sheet. Bake biscuits on the center oven rack until light golden brown, about 20 minutes. Makes 12 biscuits.
This is from the FamilyFun magazine, November 2007

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Multitasking is a must

When you're a Mom you have to know how to multitask. It seems I am never just doing one thing. For instance, I may start out the morning feeding the boys breakfast. Once they are all settled with all they need (10 minutes later) and eating, then I take the opportunity to throw some laundry in the washer. On my way upstairs I grab a few odds and ends that belong up there and put them away. While I'm upstairs getting the laundry, in the boys' bathroom I notice their shoes on the floor so I grab those to bring back down with me to the laundry room. After putting in the laundry and refilling their cereal bowls or juice, I start putting away the dishes left out to dry from the night before and grab me a bowl of cereal to sit down for my breakfast and you get the idea... all day long, trying to squeeze every minute of the day out to get everything done. I'm really not a clean freak nor am I even a semi-clean freak. I have my secret closets and rooms where I can hide the mess. But there seems to always be a million things that need to get done and I haven't figured out yet how to get others to help out around here. (But someday I will!)
I have learned a few secrets to the multitasking. For instance, the bathtub is a wonderful place to keep my boys happy in one place and out of trouble atleast until the water gets so cold their lips start turning blue. One of my favorite multitasks is to get the boys in the tub and then clean their bathroom! Sometimes I even cut their hair first so that I can clean it all up at the same time while they're stuck in the bathtub where they can't scatter the hair all over the house. Another favorite is to get all my baking done at one time. The worst thing about baking/cooking is the messy dishes afterward. But if I can make dinner, bread and my breakfast granola at one time, then I just have one sink of dishes to clean- an awful lot of dishes but they're finished at the same time!
One disclaimer: I feel like there are times when I need to turn off the multitasking. Sometimes I need to concentrate, put all my attention on what I am doing. Time playing or reading with my boys should be such a time. Or really any time with another person, I should give them my full, undivided attention. I have a tendency to be a Martha instead of a Mary. I like the quote by Elder Maxwell: "What are calories compared to good conversations?"

N is for numbers

Two great books to introduce numbers: "Bean Thirteen" by Matthew McElligott and "Missing Math" by Loreen Leedy. We talked about how great numbers are and why we need them/how we use them. Then we make these homemade fingerpaints from and did some color by numbers.

Snack: nachos or nuts

Note to self: The fingerpaints need lots of time to cool down and were pretty messy but fun.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

L is for Lion

Here's some fun books we read about lions:

"The lion and the little red bird" by Elisa Kleven, "The happy lion roars" by Louise Fatio and "The show-and-tell lion" by Barbara Abercrombie. We also enjoyed learning more about lions from the nonfiction section.

After reading our books we made lion faces out of paper plates. You draw the face on the plate. Then cut out some ears and thin strips of colored construction paper. Wrap the strips around a pencil to make them curl up and then glue them around the plate.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Marjorie Hinckley

One of my favorite people of all time is Marjorie Hinckley, wife of our late prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley. In "Glimpses into the Life and Heart of Marjorie Pay Hinckley, she offers some wonderful insights about many things, including mothering. She tells this story:

Our children grew up in a semi-rural area. We had a fairly large piece of property with lawns and gardens and orchards and plenty of work to keep the boys out of mischief. A wooded ravine ran through the property; we called it "the hollow."

One day our oldest boy turned up missing. There were lawns to be mowed, irrigation ditches to be cleaned. The hours ticked away. All afternoon I practiced a speech I would give him when he showed up. And show up he did, at mealtime, which I knew he would. "Where have you been?" I asked.

"Down in the hollow."

"And what have you been doing down in the hollow?"

His reply, "Nothing."

Some years later I had rason to be glad that I had not given him the speech. He was home from his mission and a senior at the university. It was test week. He was under a lot of pressure to do well in order to get into the graduate school of his choice. Things were not going too well with his girlfriend. The pressures of adult life were beginning to be felt. I watched him as he drove home from school one afternoon. He got out of the car, kicked a clod of dirt, went over to examine the swelling buds on the lilac tree, came in the kitchen, straddled a chair backwards, and said, "Mom, I had a wonderful childhood, didn't I?"

"Well, I hope so. You did your share of complaining about all the work that had to be done."

"Oh, it was wonderful," he said. "Those long summer days when you could lie on your back in the hollow and listen to the birds sing and watch the ants build their castles."

The memory of the peace of a summer day-- "God's in his heaven, and all's right with the world"-- sustained him when the pressures of adult life began to crowd in.

Things are different now. Children hear so many voices from so many directions. There are so few empty summer days. There are pressures to excel. It has become a challenge to let children be children.

It has never been so important that children have a home that is a place of refuge, a place of peace, a place of unconditional love-- even when the report card may not be what you hoped for.

I love this story. I was very blessed to have had a wonderful childhood full of peaceful summer days, exploring outside and letting my imagination run wild. I was blessed to have inspired parents who helped me develop my talents without putting too much pressure or stress on me. There are so many great things for our children to learn and great experiences for them to have but I think the most important thing is as she says "let children be children" and enjoy a few empty summer days. I think that nature is the best classroom and curiosity and imagination are great teachers. I hope my boys will look back on their childhood and have warm memories that will give them a foundation of security and a sense of what is most important.

L is for lemon and limes

We read "Lemons Are Not Red" by Laura Vaccaro Seeger, "The Red Lemon" by Bob Staake, and "Maisy Makes Lemonade" by Lucy Cousins. All fun books that my boys loved! We talked about lemons and limes and all the things you can do with.
For a craft we made stamps out of lemons and limes. You cut lemons and limes in half, dip them in acrylic paint and stamp away. I had my boys decorate a large letter "L" with their stamps.
Then we made real lemonade! They thought it was delicious and were proud they'd made it themselves!

Whole Wheat Banana Bread

My son, who doesn't usually like bread, loves this recipe!
1 1/2 c whole wheat
1 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1 t gr cinnamon
4 med ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 c sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 T oil (preferrable olive oil)
2 t vanilla
1/2 c chopped walnuts
cooking spray

Stir together first 4 ingredients in a large mixing bowl; make a well in center. Stir together bananas and next 4 ingredients; add to flour mixture, stirring just until moistened. Gently fold in walnuts. Pour batter into a loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 55 min to an hour. Cool in pan for 10 mininutes and then cool on wire rack. Serve with whipped cream, if desired.

N is for Nest

Great Books about nests:
Albert by Donna Jo Napoli

The Best Nest by PD Eastman

The Perfect Nest by Catherine Friend

There is a nest on your head by Mo Willems

We made our own little nest out of blankets and pillows and then read our books. Then we made no bake cookies for our nests and put pink Whoppers in the center for eggs.