Book Reviews with Big Sis | Look a Book by Bob Staake

Here’s another book review by Big Sis. Dirk went to the library with her one day and picked out “Look a Book“ by Bob Staake.

Makenzie fell in love with it! We’ve borrowed it from the library at least three times, along with the second one, “Look Another Book” also by Bob Staake. She wanted to do a video review so I set up the camera and let her go for it. This girl cracks me up. Look for my review after her video.

Mom’s Review:
When Dirk brought this book home, I was like, “Oh, that’s fun. Not something I would get but it looks like fun.” As we read it more we all really liked it, even Little E. As you can see in Big Sis’ review, each page rhymes and there are picture cues so she can “read” almost the whole book. The scenes are super fun and while there is one thing to find on each page, we always choose other pictures that we have to find. I love that Big Sis can take ownership of the book and get excited about sitting down to read to US. I would definitely recommend this one.

Big Sis Goes to Kindergarten

Shortly after Big Sis was born, I was in the hospital looking at her sweet face, still in shock at what had just happened. I was sleep deprived, beyond exhausted and so emotional. I was excited for the new chapter in our lives but in all honesty, I just wanted to sleep! I remember looking at her sweet self as she was screaming and screaming and screaming and thinking, “Before I know it, she’s going to be walking off to Kindergarten with an oversized backpack on her back, Dirk and I holding each other, shedding tears for our baby who has headed off to Kindergarten.” Over the years I have thought about what her first day of Kindergarten will be like both with anticipation and sadness.

Big Sis Goes to Kindergarten | Motherhood in the Trenches

As the years have gone by, and God has pressed on both Dirk and I to homeschool, I knew that her first day of school was slowly morphing into something that I hadn’t dreamed of, but something that God knew all along. In some ways, it’s been hard to let go of those dreams. Going off to Kindergarten is a rite of passage, it marks the beginning of an era. I still vividly remember bits and pieces of my Kindergarten year, they are fond memories. In fact look at this picture…

Big Sis Goes to Kindergarten | Motherhood in the Trenches

That’s Dirk and I in the SAME Kindergarten class, what?! The fact that we spent an entire school year together in the same Kindergarten class, ten years before we would meet again, blows my mind. We didn’t find this out until we “met again” when we were 16 & 17 and then 18 years later and we were married. Crazy right?!

Dirk had said for many years that he didn’t want his kids to be homeschooled. I wasn’t as adamant but as a former public school elementary teacher I figured I’d continue teaching and my kids would go to the school where I taught. We never really discussed homeschooling before we had kids. When God called me to be a stay-at-home mom He also slowly started showing us that homeschooling is what we are supposed to do, at least for now. I’ve never been of the mindset that any schooling is the “right” decision. I firmly believe that God calls each family to different choices for each child and for each school year. My parents were a great example of this. All of us kids had times in our lives when we went to public school, private school and were homeschooled. They prayed for us each year and did what was best for us, although us kids didn’t always agree with them, I know in my life it was such a blessing. Following their example we will be praying each year about what God wants for Big Sis (and for Little E when her time comes) but for now, this is where we’re at and I’m really so excited!

I initially thought that homeschooling would be a breeze. If I can handle teaching a classroom of sometimes up to thirty-seven 5th graders, then surely one Kindergartener would be a breeze! Well, that wasn’t the case. We’ve only been at this for three weeks now, and it hasn’t been a breeze but every day it’s getting easier and we are all learning.

Big Sis Goes to Kindergarten | Motherhood in the Trenches

Big Sis Goes to Kindergarten | Motherhood in the Trenches

I’m so thankful to have a few friends who are also homeschooling their Kindergarteners this year. It’s been so encouraging to check in with them and share my struggles and hear their’s. This is a learning process for our family, but I’m so excited to see all that Big Sis will learn this year, all that we will learn as a family, and to share some fun projects and units with you guys. It’s been so exciting to be back in the lesson planning phase, coming up with new units and activities. I love being home with my girls but there are still parts of me that really miss teaching. I have so enjoyed being able to be back in the planning and creating.

Big Sis Goes to Kindergarten | Motherhood in the Trenches

And no beginning of the school year homeschool post is complete without sharing the curriculum we’re using, so here it is:

  • We’re continuing with the All About Reading curriculum. Big Sis completed the Pre-Reading curriculum last year and is now on AAR1. We really loved the Pre-Reading curriculum and are looking forward to this next level.
  • We’re also continuing with Handwriting Without Tears. We completed the “Get Set for School” book last year and she’s now working on the Kindergarten curriculum.
  • For Math we chose Right Start Math. So far, we LOVE this. I am so impressed by many aspects and I LOVE that it’s so hands-on.
  • For Social Studies, History and Science, I’m creating my own, standards-based units, which I will be sharing on here

So here’s to our first year of homeschooling. If you’re homeschooling I’d love to hear what curriculum you’re using and how your first few weeks are going.

Summer Reading Fun: Charlotte’s Web Handmade Toys & More

A few months ago Big Sis and I read “Charlotte’s Web” which was Big Sis’ very first chapter book. She was in the middle of taking a Farm Class and I knew that the themes in the book would correlate wonderfully with her class, and besides, who doesn’t LOVE Charlotte’s Web??? It’s one of my favorites!

Each day before her nap we sat in her bed and read a chapter of Charlotte’s Web. Sometimes it’s crazy and Little E is screaming or Big Sis is being easily distracted but most days we cuddle up and take a 10 minute break, just the two of us.

We had so much fun with this story that we decided to do a few activities, her favorite being the handmade Charlotte’s Web toys. Of course we had to share. :)

Charlotte's Web Pre-School Activities | Motherhood in the Trenches

These are all super easy crafts that allow you to repurpose stuff you have around your house! These toys provided opportunities for retelling and summarizing through play. We had a lot of fun with these.

To make Wilbur:

Materials:
approx. 32 oz. juice bottle, emptied
2 toilet paper rolls
pink pipe cleaner
pink construction paper
pink acrylic craft paint
black sharpie
hot glue
scissors

Directions:
Use the pink paint to paint the juice bottle, with the cap on. Let the bottle dry and give it a second coat. Paint the toilet paper rolls with the pink paint after you give the bottle a second coat, they should be fine with just one coat.

When the toilet paper rolls and bottle are dry, cut the rolls in half and hot glue them on one side of the bottle.

Cut the pipe cleaner (keep the rest of the pipe cleaner to make Templeton) to about two inches and curl it around a pencil or even your finger, this is the tail. Hot glue the pipe cleaner on the bottom of the bottle, on the opposite side that you’ve glued the legs (if you look at the picture this will be easier to understand).

Use the black Sharpie to draw two eyes, two nostrils and a mouth (again see the pic).

Cut two triangles from the pink construction paper  (save this paper for Templeton) and hot glue them onto the top area near the face to create the ears.

To make Templeton:

Materials:
Grey fun foam or construction paper
small pink pompom (if you don’t have one, just use a rolled up piece of paper and paint pink or take a small piece of cotton ball and paint that pink)
googly eyes
pink pipe cleaner (use the unused portion from making Wilbur)
pink construction paper (use the unused portion from making Wilbur)
scissors
hot glue

Cut a half circle on the grey fun foam (I failed to take a pic of this) from one end to the other end, look at this link for an idea on how to make the cone. Cut it out, glue one end to the other end. Glue on the googly eyes, pink pompom and pipe cleaner as the tail.

Charlotte's Web Pre-School Activities | Motherhood in the Trenches

To make Charlotte:

Materials:
Two brown pompoms
2 googly eyes
2 pipe cleaners, cut in half
hot glue

Directions:
Glue the two pompoms together. Glue the pipe cleaners across the body and bend for the arms. Glue the googly eyes on.

For Charlotte’s Web (from Modern Parents Messy Kids):

Materials:
White yarn
White glue, such as Elmer’s
Wax paper
Scissors
Medium bowl
Water

Directions:
Cut white yarn into lengths of 1-2 feet, depending on the desired diameter of the finished spiderweb. Pour the glue into a medium bowl. Thin it with water (about 3 parts glue to 1 part water). Cover your work surface with wax paper. Dip the yarn in the glue and then spread out on the wax paper. Continue with several more lengths of yarn, crossing them over the first at the center like spokes in a wheel, to create the base of the spiderweb.  Once the base is complete, connect the radiating yarn pieces with additional lengths of glue-soaked yarn spiraling around and around to create a spider web design. Let dry (this may take a couple of days) then turn over and pull off the wax paper. You’ll have a yarn spiderweb that holds its shape.

As we were reading Charlotte’s Web I had Big Sis make a Charlotte’s Web journal. I would say a portion of a sentence, in this case, “My favorite character is…” and I would write her answer down and then have her draw a picture. The picture is Charlotte and the big swirly scribbles are the web, this was during a phase when everything she drew was monochromatic, heh.

 

Charlotte's Web Pre-School Activities | Motherhood in the Trenches

Other questions I asked were,  ”If you were Charlotte what would you have written in your web?” “If you had your very own pig just like Fern did, what would you name it?”  ”What is your favorite part of the story?” “What do you think Templeton is going to do with the goose’s egg?

These questions aid in comprehension and make the book discussion so rich.

We also read some books, mostly about spiders, to go with the story. We read:

The Very Busy Spider: This was Big Sis’ favorite book. A spider lands on a fence post near a farm and a handful of farm animals ask her to do some activity with her but she is too busy spinning her web.

Are You a Spider? : A great non-fiction book for young kiddos. Information is presented in questions and reads like a storybook but it’s full of information about spiders.

 

Sophie’s Masterpiece: A sweet story about a spider who wants to spin beautiful creations all day but isn’t welcome anywhere, until she finds a special guest to stay with and creates a masterpiece for the guest. This was my favorite.

 

The Year at Maple Hill Farm: This book goes through all of the different aspects of the farm that change with each season. It’s a long book but even just looking through the pictures and talking about the book is a lot of fun.

Lastly, we took an 8 week farm class but if you’re not interested in a full farm class many farms have tours that you can go on.

Explore a Local Farm | Motherhood in the Trenches

 

Explore a Local Farm | Motherhood in the Trenches

It was so fun to talk about the animals on the farm in relation to “Charlotte’s Web.” If you’re in the Inland Empire check out Amy’s Farm which I wrote about here.

Do you have a favorite Children’s chapter book to read with your little ones? I’d love to hear about it!

Risking My Child’s Life and Why I’m Angry

So earlier this week, this blog post was shared by a friend of mine on Facebook and I was mad, livid! You see, Big Sis is a 4 year old who weighs about 32 pounds. When it was time for Little E to move to a different car seat it was decided that she would go into Big Sis’ carseat since it is a convertible and can be used facing backwards and we would buy Big Sis a new booster car seat. I researched all of the “big name” brands and decided on this Graco Highback TurboBooster.

81FLHjXkeYL._SL1500_The recommended use, taken from the Graco website?

  • Highback Mode: For children 3-10 years old, from 30-100 lbs and 38″-57″ tall
  • Backless Mode: For children 4-10 years old, from 40-100 lbs and 40″-57″ tall

Perfect right? Big Sis is 4 years old and 32 lbs. I don’t remember her height but it was within the range as well. She was so excited to start using the big girl seatbelt and frankly so was I, it’s so much quicker and she can get herself out of the car all on her own.

After I read that blogpost I was pissed. Has my daughter been in an unsafe carseat for the past four months? Could my ignorance have led us into the same situation as the family in the blogpost? The thought makes me shudder.

You guys, I am a researcher, sometimes to a fault. I research EVERY thing. This was no different, except that I just researched the product trusting that the carseat companies would only sell the safest possible products. I can’t believe that I fell for this lie. Did I mention that I’m angry?

So since I am a researcher and made a horrible mistake, I thought I’d share the safest ways to have your kiddos in the car. These are not the law but are the American Academy of Pediatrics Guidelines to keep your kids as safe as possible.

First of all let’s talk about some general safety rules:

  1. All kids under 13 need to ride in the back seat.
  2. When in a harness, the chest clip should be at the armpit level and the straps should be tight but not too tight to cause pain or trouble breathing. To test if it is tight enough you should try to pinch the strap at the shoulder level. If you can pinch it at all, it’s too loose.
  3. Don’t be anxious to move your kiddo to the next seat! Keep them in the most secure place for as long as they are at the appropriate height and weight.
  4. It is okay if your child’s feet touch the car seat or cannot stretch out in the rear-facing position
  5. If you’re using the LATCH system, make sure you know the maximum weight for your vehicle’s LATCH system. Make sure that your your child’s weight PLUS the weight of the carseat does not exceed the weight limit for your LATCH system.
  6. Never use an expired carseat, a carseat that has been in an accident, even if it’s a small one or a used carseat unless you are absolutely sure of it’s history.
  7. Do not trust the car seat literature! Just because your seat manual says it’s okay for a four year old, 30 pound child to be in the seat, doesn’t mean it is the safest, or really even safe at all!

Okay and with that let’s look at age specific requirements. I think some of you are going to be in for a shock, I know I was.

Step 1: Rear Facing (0 mos to up to 4 years)

Important Carseat Information that Could Save Your Kid's Life | Motherhood in the Trenches

As of 2011 your child should be rear facing until they are at least 2 years old. This is not a law (the law says 12 months and up) however it is suggested by the American Academy of Pediatrics as the safest practice.

I know, I know, TWO? You guys, this is such a big deal! According to a 2007 study in the journal, “Injury Prevention” children under age 2 are 75 percent less likely to die or be severely injured in a crash if they are riding rear-facing. I’m not usually one to throw around studies unless I can read the information in several different reputable journals, articles, etc. BUT in this case one article is enough for me. It is not going to harm my baby to be rear facing and the alternative is WAY too risky! Babies’, toddlers’ and even preschoolers’ heads are disproportionate to their bodies and internal decapitation is much more likely at these ages. Keep your kiddo rear facing until they reach the maximum rear facing weight for their carseat. This means that when your baby outgrows his/her infant seat (usually between 22-35 lbs) you should use a convertible carseat that can continue to face backwards for as long as is possible. Here’s a link from the AAP Journal about keeping your kiddos rear facing.

Step 2: Front Facing with a 5 Point Harness 

Important Carseat Information that Could Save Your Kid's Life | Motherhood in the Trenches

So once it’s time to be front-facing, your kiddo should remain in a 5 point harness until he/she outgrows the weight and height limit for the carseat. I’m gonna say it again, don’t trust the carseat literature! Keep them in a 5 point harness as long as it is safe! The story I posted above is what woke me up and made me realize that vehicle seat belts can be deadly if used improperly BUT as I did more research I realized Big Sis was not ready for her new car seat anyway. She is still so squirmy and we would often find her in weird positions in the car and tell her that she needed to sit up straight with her legs down.

Now that she’s back in a 5 point harness, she’s less than excited about being pinned down again but I realize all the more now that she was not ready for a “big girl” carseat.

Step 3: Front Facing with a high back booster seat, using the car’s seat belt

Important Carseat Information that Could Save Your Kid's Life | Motherhood in the Trenches

This should be used ONLY when your child has outgrown the 5 point harness carseat AND meets the height AND weight requirements for using the high back booster.

Step 4: Front Facing using only a booster seat (no high back)

IF, and only IF, your child outgrows the height requirement on your highbacked booster before they are tall enough for the vehicle seat belt you can use a booster seat without the high back.

Step 5: Vehicle Seat Belt

Between the ages of 7 and 12 (yes TWELVE) your child will be ready for the vehicle’s seat belt. Typically when they are 4 feet 9 inches. Here’s a link with some good points on when to know if your kiddo is ready for the vehicles seat belt. 

Big Sis’ Favorite Books #1

Book Review with Big Sis | Motherhood in the Trenches

Every two weeks we go to the library and leave with a giant stack of library books. Each time we walk out the door with our giant stack of books I am amazed that we get to just walk out with a giant stack of books, for FREE. We are so blessed! I’ve mentioned before that I LOVE children’s literature. There’s something so magical and so exciting about immersing yourself into the stories.

In every batch we’ve had some really awesome books and some not so awesome ones. I’ve had a few moms ask us what some of our favorite books are to read so I thought I’d periodically let you in on some of our favorites. They are always changing so here are our favorites right now…

First up I had Big Sis pick her two  favorite books right now and the books she picked were “Shhh!” by Valeri Gorbachev and “Piggie Pie” by Margie Palatini. These aren’t the books I would have picked as her favorites right now but you can read about my picks below. ;)

Here’s Big Sis’ review of “Shhh!” by Valeri Gorbachev

Mom’s Review: It is a super cute book and full of imagination. It’s also great if you have a kiddo with a younger sibling. I have found myself referring back to the book while Little E is sleeping, reminding Big Sis to tiptoe like the big brother in the story does or to tell her animals to play quietly.

Big Sis’ review of “Piggie Pie”

Mom’s Review: While this is a super fun book, there are some elements that I’m not a big fan of. I love that it’s a play on the Old Macdonald song. Gritch the Witch visits Old Macdonald’s farm and incorporates some elements of the familiar song into the story. There are quite a few opportunities to ask anticipatory questions, which is super fun and also a key comprehension strategy (that’s the teacher part of me talking, heh). There are two aspects I’m not a fan of. First of all, witches aren’t my favorite thing. All of the casting of evil spells and her evil self just aren’t things that I like to incorporate into our home. I still read this book to Big Sis several times but it is preventing me from buying it. Also Gritch the Witch doesn’t speak kindly and says phrases like, “dumb duck” or “fork over the pork, you walking milk machine…” While these might be totally fine for some kids, I have a child who has an amazing memory and always seems to repeat the most offensive part of every movie and book, like the time she called me a “two-faced son of jackal” which she heard on Aladdin. Oye! So while neither of these things might be an issue for your family, they aren’t something that I want to read to her on a daily basis, which is a shame because I really, really like it! I would still recommend checking it out from the library and if those things don’t bother you then it’s a book that is well-written with so much fun inside.

Some other books we’re really enjoying are:

I Love You, Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt. This is a story we have in a compilation book so it often gets forgotten but we recently rediscovered it and have been reading it quite a bit. The title comes from the line in the book, “But Mama, but Mama, what if I were a super smelly skunk, and I smelled so bad that my name was Stinky Face?” The book is full of what ifs as a little boy asks his mama what she would do if he were a big, smelly ape or an alligator with sharp pointy teeth. The mama always responds with some creative way to show her little one that she loves him. It’s imaginative and playful. We love it and I love to call Big Sis “Stinky Face” because she always smiles and says, “I’m not a stinky face!”

Curious George is always a favorite in our house. Big Sis loves to repeat the common line in every story, “He was a good little monkey but always very curious.” The favorites in our house are:

Curious George Feeds the Animals

Curious George Makes Pancakes

and Curious George and the Birthday Surprise

We would love to hear what books you’re loving right now so we can check them out too. Share in the comments or send us your link!