Tuesday, August 31

Shadow Children

Evening Under The Stars is fast approaching. We volunteered to make two Shadow Children which will be auctioned off at the event. Each Shadow Child represents one of the almost 400 CASA kids served by PWC this year.
We started with the blank form. Froggy decided that these children were going to be modeled after the first two CASA kids she ever met. To her that meant a boy with red hair and a girl with long black hair. .

We rummaged through my scrap box and found some clothing for them. Froggy cut out the backing to stiffen up the fabric. Then we dressed them both. Their shoes are made of construction paper. We traced the feet and then cut the shoes out. Froggy wanted the little girl to wear Mary Janes like she does but then for some reason wanted to give her laces like the boy as well. I nixed that idea since these are to be auctioned off. Giving them their hair was easy and fun. We used yarn and gave the boy curls and the girl long dark locks. Their faces were very challenging and scary. But we got through it. I wish I had more pictures of the process but we got caught up in the doing and forgot to take pictures.

Froggy knows these "shadow children." CASA Kids are real to her but I don't think she had any concept of what being a CASA kid means to them. So to help her in that aspect and give her some empathy, we read a couple of books. Unfortunately I did not preview them before sharing them. They are intense. I was practically sobbing by the end of the second book. Both books deal with the idea of foster care in the most positive aspect possible and both are written from the perspective of the CASA kid.
The first book is Murphy's Three Homes. I specifically read this one first because the "child" is a puppy which helps to distance the situation just a bit. It deals with lots of the rough feelings a child in foster care deals with. Murphy thinks he is a "bad luck dog" because he has to go to a new home. Why should he behave since he is just going to get sent away eventually anyway? Eventually Murphy finds a "forever" home and learns slowly to trust.

The second book is Mama One, Mama Two. In this book, there is a more realistic look at the little girl's life before foster care and why she is where she is. It shows her tremendous love for her mother yet explains the relief and confusion she feels in her new home. Many foster children are very conflicted in their feelings towards their new situation. This books shows why and that it is ok to have those feelings. I love the tag line and feel it summarizes her feelings well. "Whenever Mama One comes home will be spring."

Monday, August 30

Skip Counting

We are working on two big concepts with math right now, Money and Time. Skip counting is really useful in both genres. So whenever we can we have been practicing our skip counting. It is mostly in the car.

We are working on fives right now. Froggy is having a hard time with them. Tens were super easy because she saw the pattern quickly and could follow it. Twos came a little slower but not too hard because the skip was so small she could say it to herself and continue out loud without getting lost. So I figured she needed some help. Since we were in the car anyway, I played this song for her. She did not take to it right away but that is typical of Froggy. It is set so that it comes up in rotation on the player so it is not overwhelming yet it part of "laying a feast before them"

I also printed out this worksheet so she could see the patterns a bit better. Other than showing it to her when I gave it to her I did not do anything with it. It is for her to take in as she desires.

These two simple items are making a difference. She is not perfect yet but in just a few days she is starting to see the pattern. Once she has the pattern perfect and is very comfortable, I will bring it back to money and time.

Menu Planning Monday

The week in review - The coconut chicken nuggets did not fly at least not with the humans. The canine thought they were wonderful. The coconut was too strong for us. Also I will note that I baked them instead of fried them which may have changed the texture of the coating. The sweet potato fries on the other hand were delicious.

The Menu - I am going to try for at least one vegan night a week. Wish me luck.
Sunday - Picnic Dinner at the Faire - hummus/cucumber tea sandwiches, curried chickpea salad, fruit salad and cookies.
Monday - Dinner is early as I have a meeting - pizza and a green salad
Tuesday - Falafel with Yogurt sauce. I will serve a variety of toppings (lettuce, tomatoes, baba ganush, hummus) in a manner similar to a taco bar. This is the traditional way falafel is served.
Wednesday- Burgers with backyard corn salad and green beans. I am trying homemade buns for the first time. If they work I will post the recipe.
We leave for the grandparents Thursday morning for a long weekend so this is where I cease to plan. :)

Sunday, August 29

Preschool Parsha - Nitzvaim/ Vayelech

This week we have a double portion. We are winding down. Moses is finishing his retelling and reminding in preparation for his imminent death. After all this, B'Nai Yisrael make a new covenant with HaShem. Why? Because none of those (except Joshua and Moses) were alive when the first covenant was made. They did not witness the miracles or the plagues. All they know is wandering. But the time for wandering is over and it is time to commit to a new life.

Moses teaches "The law is not too hard nor too difficult to understand." Keep trying you will get there. You have to study and do Teshuva. Torah is not way up in the sky nor far away across the sea. It is very close to you. It is in your mouth and in your heart

All the people, men, women and children, gather. Moses explains, "You can keep the Torah or abandon the Torah; that's your choice. No one can force you to be a tzadik if you don't want to be one. But just remember the consequences of abandoning the Torah: If you lack it in life you lose it in Olam Habah. Moses makes a final plea: "Choose life by loving the Eternal your G-d, keeping G-d's laws and following G-d's way." (Deuteronomy 30:20)

Friday, August 27

What We Are Reading

The summer reading program at the library ended last week. Which meant that this week our trip to the library was much more peaceful and plentiful. There were lots of wonderful books to choose from and the librarians were not stressed and there was quiet in which to explore.

Froggy did not spend anytime in the picture book section at all. She went to the rounder of Juvenile series and only left it when I took her elsewhere to get books I needed. She picked two different American Girl books, Rebecca to the Rescue and Meet Molly. Rebecca is Froggy's all time favorite American Girl. These books are wonderful but challenging for her reading level. She struggles through them and I am not sure if what she actually understands when reading them independently. I try to make sure that we read these together so that she hears the story with all the words correct at least once. I learned something interesting in doing this. Froggy hears the words in her head when she is reading silently to herself even the names. I discovered this when she corrected my pronunciation of a name when it came time for me to read it to her.

Froggy's top pick for the was from a new series that we chose together with the help of the librarian, Roughing It on the Oregon Trail. The twins travel back in time in a similar manner to the Magic Treehouse books but it is done in a style more like the Magic School Bus. The history here is more concentrated yet more fun. The books are shorter with less story than Magic Treehouse but it is the perfect way for us to add variety while still giving Froggy lots of what she is looking for.

Come join the reading blog hop over at ReadAloud Thursday ,Feed Me Books Friday and Mouse Grows Mouse Learns,

Tuesday, August 24

Pretty Purple

After a much too long hiatus I finally got back to sewing. I made a new dress for Froggy which I hope she will wear for Rosh Hashana. That was the intention when I started it but now that it is finished I am not sure it is appropriate. The dress turned out quite well in my opinion given all the on-the-fly modifications I had to make to the pattern.

Monday, August 23


Froggy is currently obsessed with money. Since she was little, one of her "jobs" has been to collect the change from around the house and put it in the Tzedekah box. She loves to do this and has become so passionate about it lately that we have been going on "tzedekah hunts" and she is heartbroken if she can't find any money. In doing this with her, I realized to my dismay that she did not know the different coins.

So this week, instead putting the money directly into the box, we have been sorting and counting it first. Playing with the coins first has made this fun task even more appealing. I asked her at one point in the game how many dimes she had (to make sure she was looking at the right group since each type of coin had a different number) and she told me 30 cents since there were 3 dimes. That got her a "double high five, tov meod, two thumbs up" squeeze. She finally started to be interested in counting by 5's as well something I have been encouraging without success until now.

Menu Planning Monday

I am not sure why but something in me made me totally revise our Shabbat menu on the fly last week. We ended up with Pot Roast, baked sweet potatoes, broccoli and Pudding pops for dessert. Everything was delicious except the pudding pops. I don't know why. This is my second attempt at them and they are better than the first pass but still awful.

Summer is starting to wind down and I am starting to crave some of the lovely Fall foods. It may in part be coming from a need to plan my Yom Tov meals. There will be six festive meals I need to make in the span of 3 weeks. I want each one to be different and fun and festive. Yet I need to manage my time so I am not in the kitchen constantly and everything is ready before the Yom Tov. Luckily we will be spending the Shabbat after Rosh Hashana with friends so I do not need to cook for that.

Monday - Picnic - Tuna Burgers, veggie sticks, dip, fruit salad and cookies
Tuesday - coconut chicken nuggets, sweet potato fries, green beans (we never got to this last week)
Wednesday - Sloppy Joes, peas and fruit.
Thursday - Pasta with homemade sauce, garlic bread and salad
Shabbat - Challah,Maple Sugar Salmon,rice,keem, stirfried baby bokchoy, rhubard almond tart

Sunday, August 22

PreSchool Parsha

This week's parsha is Ki Tavo. The parsha markes the final preparations for B'Nai Yisrael for crossing into Eretz Yisrael.

The subtitle for this Parsha could easily be "The Good and The Bad" or
"The Blessings and The Curses". Many people find this parsha a frightening or sad parsha, because of the horrible curses listed. These are warnings though and reminders of what could be if we turn our back on HaShem. It is not foretold, something sure to happen.

The offering of Bikurim is commanded reminding us how important gratitude is. We return the first portion of each of the seven species to HaShem as a reminder that everything comes from HaShem and belongs to Him. One of the first prayers is found in this parsha "When you dwell in the promised land, take a selection of the first fruits and bring them to the place God chooses for God's Name. With a priest you shall make an offering saying, 'We remember when we were slaves in Egypt. We remember how God brought us to freedom with a strong hand and outstretched arm, with signs and miracles. You, God brought, us to this land flowing with milk and honey. And now I have brought these first fruits that you, God, have given me."

The blessings and curses can be overwhelming or can be awesome and moving. Think of all of B'Nai Yisrael divided on two hillocks listening and responding in unison. In conclusion, HaShem tells B'Nai Yisrael how much they would have gained had they been more joyful while doing what He had asked of them (28:47). HaShem wants us to be happy and life is so much better once we learn to harness the power of joy. What a great reminder and way to end.

We will take both the power of joy and attitude of gratitude into our week. For a poetic look at the parsha, pop over and visit Jennifer of Mamaland.

Science Sunday - Endangered Animals

This week we took a mini-vacation out to the Shenandoah Valley. While most people would do some sort of geology (tons of caverns) or waterflow / nature study (waterfalls and the national park, we are often a bit different. We decided to study "Endangered Animals - What does that mean?" It worked really well since one of the big themes in our Parsha for the week is avoiding cruelty to animals.

This unique choice came about at the Wild Animal Safari. They have all sorts of animals from around the world but the signage is created differently or something. Despite our many trips to the zoo here the subject has never come up before. Yet here, she wanted to know each animal's 'status in the wild'
We talked about the difference between common, vulnerable and endangered while we were at the park. We also touched on why some animals become endangered. We followed this up later with two good books on the topic (Endangered Animals and The ABC's of Endangered Animals) which really helped show how important it is to protect all of HaShem's creatures.

We even got to feed an neat bird who while not endangered is vulnerable due to habitat loss. It is a special kind of parakeet from South America. They drink nectar rather than eat seeds the way we typically view birds eating. Hiranu was the bird whisperer and even attempted to feed four at one time. They would drink and drink and then shake their beaks to get clean (spraying bits of nectar). Froggy was not as brave as Hiranu but she did enjoy being close to them and watching them lick up the food.So with the "official" science lesson for the day over, we went on a tractor ride through the park and took a tour of large herbivorous mammals willing to eat the same food. It is not often you get to play tug of war with a camel and wrestle a bison in the same day. Hiranu got bit by an ostrich and proudly showed his battle scars to all who would look. The animals wanted all the food they could get and were not above taking it when it was not gifted quickly and thoroughly enough. The one animal we saw that we were not allowed to feed was the zebra. They were too mean to be fed safely. Given what the "nice" animals did, I was fine with staying away from the zebras. Still it was fun getting to pet the camel, play with the bison's tongue and stroke a mooses antler fuzz.

Friday, August 20

What We Are Reading

We went on a mini-vacation this week. The only books I took for Froggy were her Magic Treehouse books. These have become such an amazing addiction. She has even gotten me hooked enough that I chose the bedtime book (an unheard of liberty) so that I could finally find out what happened at the end of one adventure. Typically she will pick one of these when I offer to read to her and we run out of reading time before we are through with the book. She then goes off and finishes the book herself and chooses different book the next time I am available to read. I was getting tired of never seeing the end of a book.

She gets some strange looks and comments when we are out and about these days due to her addiction. Her reading has enabled her to be allowed places many children are not. Because I can reliably ask her to sit down and read her book while I have my meeting, she is allowed to come with me. And she does. She will happily sit in the corner for an hour or more as long as she has enough book to fill that time. She does not look up or engage the outside world until the story is over.

She has read all the Magic Treehouse we have or can scrounge from the library. I have tried to entice her with other series and stories of about the same reading level. She enjoyed Mouse and the Motorcycle but not enough that she wanted to read the other books. Not enough that she wanted to go back and read it again. Nothing is as captivating as Jack and Annie right now. I love variety so I want that for her yet I don't know how to bring it.

We do other books at bedtime frequently. This is when we do most of the picture books we read. The top picture book pick of the week is One Day At Woodgreen Animal Shelter. Patricia Casey does a great job making the animal shelter come alive. The book is a realistic depiction of what happens during a day at the shelter. She combines drawing with scrapbook styled photographs to bring a bit of reality into the book. I really liked that is showed how much work and how many people it takes to care for the animals.

Thursday, August 19

Geography - Four Corners

We added the Four Corners part of the country today. I was born in Colorado so that is our hook there and my sister lives in Arizona so that helped. The shape and location of the states was not clicking for Froggy so I pointed out the Four Corners.

We also got some fun books at the library to help us with the area. We have one book for each of the states. They are from two different series. I like the From Sea to Shining Sea series much better than the Hello U.S.A series. However the second series is more basic and appealing to most children. it has the state song, a fun recipe and series of fun facts for the state.

We also found a fun book, Wish You Were Here, Emily's Guide to the 50 States to help us learn about all the states as we add them. This book is perfect for us because it is just a two page spread on each state. We can read about the states as we label them on our map and still not have Map Drill take all day. The other books get read at bedtime or separately as Froggy expresses interest.

Tuesday, August 17

Art Box - Stained Glass

I love art projects but have for the longest time had trouble convincing Froggy to participate. Having friends over usually helps.

So this week we had some friends over to help us make a neat stained glass project with tissue paper. I got the idea here. The friends were super excited about the project. The kids really took to it right away. They loved tearing the paper and being allowed to smear glue on the window. At some point, one child put yellow on top of teal and it looked amazing. We all had to stop and just look at the loveliness of the green light shining through the window.The kids did not cover much of the window. But we had fun tearing and creating.

Monday, August 16

PreSchool Parsha

This week's parsha is Ki Tetze. The parsha continues the saga of Moses teaching B'Nai Yisrael how to rule themselves in preparation for crossing into Eretz Yisrael.

The specific theme this week is repeated in several different ways is "Be a Good Neighbor" or "Others before Self". There are several specific commandments that prevent animal cruelty and teach B'Nai Yisrael how to care for animals. Separation is a consistent theme in the Torah and is repeated here. We are commanded Tza’ar Ba’alei Chayimnot to harness two different kinds animals together. Why? Because HaShem knows that different animals have different strengths and one would end up hurt or over used. The mitzvah of "Tza’ar Ba’alei Chayim,” is mentioned again when we are commanded to help unload a neighbors animal even if the neighbor does not help so that the animal will not suffer.

HaShem also sets rules about gathering eggs in the wild and teaches respect for His creatures. The mother bird must be shooed away before taking the eggs. The mother must be allowed to go make a new family elsewhere so that her line continues. Some people also explain it that a mother should not watch her young suffer or die.

It is not only animals to which we must be kind. Miriam is remembered in this parsha as we are once again reminded to refrain from speaking Lashon Hora. We are also instructed in providing for the poor. There must always be food for the poor which is ensured by specific commandments for each type of food producer. We may not be farmers leaving sheaves in the field any longer but we still must give a portion of our take to the poor.

We need to care for our neighbors by ensuring their safety as well. We are commanded to build fences around a danger to keep the unaware out and safe. This opens a whole discussion of baby-proofing techniques as well as raising the awareness of what constitutes danger to others.

While HaShem commands us to share we do not need to detriment ourselves unnecessarily. We are able to ask for collateral when making a loan but only at the time the loan is given. More importantly though the collateral cannot detriment the borrower. It may not be something he needs to survive or earn a living.

Menu Planning Monday - mini vacation

I froze lots of peaches last week. This week we are going to try dehydrating some. I won't be doing much cooking this week since the first part of the week is going to be spent in a mini family getaway at a nearby resort.

Sunday - vacation
Monday - vacation
Tuesday - vacation
Wednesday - coconut chicken nuggets, sweet potato fries, green beans
Thursday - Tacos, rice and black beans
Friday - Challah,Maple Sugar Salmon,rice,keem, fried zucchini, swiss roll
Saturday - Crockpot Chili, chips and salad.

Friday, August 13

What We Are Reading

I know I have said this before but it still amazes me how different life is with an independent reader. The grandparents were visiting and even the thrill of playing with Grandma was not enough to draw Froggy out of a new book when she stumbled onto it.

The chapter book hit of the week was Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary starring Ralph S. Mouse. This is the first in a whole series and is just as good as one would expect from Beverly Cleary. I do not know how I missed this series when I was young but I had not heard of the series until the librarian recommended it to us for Froggy. Ralph lives in a knothole in a hotel and we follow him on his adventures. In this book, a young boy is staying in Room 215 and lets Ralph borrow his toy motorcycle.

Froggy's pick for Picture book of the week was Teddy Bears Cure a Cold. Maybe the heat finally got to her as well and dreaming of snow helped her cope. The story is sweet and fun with the text large enough and in a nice clear font that makes it easily readable. The illustrations are bright and vibrant with each teddy bear in his own special color. Froggy fell in love with book and read it to herself over and over again. She thought it so cute that the bears took turns being sick.

The Library Dragon was a close second runner up. The story was a bit sad at first because the children were not allowed to touch the books. It gave us lots of discussion fodder. We talked about taking care of items that belong to others and sharing even when we don't want to. The librarian did not want to share the books and turned in to a dragon "protecting" them. But that did not make her happy and was not how the books were meant to be used as she learns by the end of the story. Froggy was ok with this one unlike the Alexander book because it all worked out in the end.

Come join the reading blog hop over at ReadAloud Thursday ,Feed Me Books Friday and Mouse Grows Mouse Learns,

Wednesday, August 11

Geography - Heading West

We returned to our map drill this week. This is our first time back and I was impressed with the number of states Froggy was able to label independently. We label all the ones she remembers in one color (purple this time) then add a few new ones in a new color (red). We add only a few (max 5) new ones each time much. This week, we moved West adding Arizona (where Aunt Sheila lives), Colorado (where Mommy was born) and California (where Aunt Laura is visiting). I do not know what I am going to do when we hit the states that have no personal connection.

Froggy is fascinated with it and would love if we could do map drill every day. I wish she was this interested in Math. I credit all her interest to the placement of our map. The blank map that we fill in gets hung on the dining room wall between sessions. Froggy looks right at it a minimum of twice a day during breakfast and dinner. I never initiate discussion of it except during map drill time. I do answer her questions and respond to her when she wants to talk about it. And this is how she is learning the placement of all the states.

P.S. I have finally added the pictures from St. Augustine.

Monday, August 9

Menu Planning Monday

Last Week's Pineapple Mango Chicken was a tremendous hit. It will be making a frequent occurrence I can tell. The papaya and avocado salad was not such a hit. The babies thought it was great as a I fed them bits of avocado and papaya for the rest of the week.

I scored big on a box of peaches at the farmers market today so in addition to the regular cooking. I will be freezing, canning and dehydrating lots of peach.

Sunday - Fish ala Jenn, Green Beans and Rice
Monday - Grandparents arrive bearing a steak dinner
Tuesday - I have no idea but Grandma is cooking - Woohoo
Wednesday - I am back on duty. Chicken, oven fries and peas
Thursday - Homemade Pizza and Salad.
Friday - Early Services at Shul - Challah, sweet and sour chicken, quina, broccoli, peach crisp, parve pudding pops

Sunday, August 8

Good Sleeps and Good Dreams

Ever since Froggy was very little she has been plagued with nightmares semi-regularly. Yet it took her a long time before she was able to talk about them at all. Even on nights when she woke up screaming in terror, the next morning when asked she would say she had "good sleeps and good dreams"

Until recently. Not long ago, Froggy told me she had a bad dream. The next night she did not want to go to sleep because she was going to have bad dreams. Thus started a new bedtime stall and one of my most favorite moments of the day.

I suck all her dreams out (because the vacuum cannot sort but takes everything). Then she has no dreams. And I feed her good dreams, fun memories or good things to look forward to or the like. I love lying with her for these moments and sharing these thoughts. Then she rolls over I wish her "Lilah Tov Good Sleeps and Good Dreams."

And the best part of all is it works. She has been having almost no nightmares and she has even started adding her own good dreams back in during the ritual.

Friday, August 6

What We Are Reading

This week Froggy got the most wonderful gift from her Auntie. Auntie Fawn loaned Froggy a whole collection of Magic Treehouse books. This child is truly obsessed with Jack and Annie. For the next few days anywhere we went at least two of the books came tucked in my bag. Froggy pulled them out whenever we stopped somewhere and even tried to read and walk a couple of times but we put the nix on that idea quite thoroughly. Froggy's favorite is still Ghosttown at Sundown but Dolphins at Daybreak is a close second because it is Auntie Fawn's favorite.
The best picture book of the week is Ted by author/illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi. It is a picture book, meaning that the pictures are critical to full appreciation of the story. Yet it is much longer than most picture books with "chapter" headings within it. The story opens with Ted, a monster coming to visit the young boy of the house. Together they have fun but get into tons of mischief. When the boy tells his father about Ted, he receives a stern lecture on real vs imaginary. Ted helps the son find his fathers old atomic ray gun and remind Dad of what it means to relax and play. The story ends with Dad join in a game of " "space pirates-Monopoly-Twister."

I don't often include the loses of the week but I wanted to here. We read Alexander's Terrible No Good Very Bad Day to an increasingly reluctant. Froggy was deeply dubious about it when we started and grew only more so. She has suddenly become very concerned about the bad things that happen to the characters in the books we read. This book did not even have the happy ending to redeem it. It did allow an opportunity to discuss how to handle bad days but it was not a fun book.

Come join the reading blog hop over at ReadAloud Thursday ,Feed Me Books Friday and Mouse Grows Mouse Learns,