Valentine’s Day Mailboxes

Eeeek!  Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day!  Leave it to me to wait to the last minute to even think about what to do.  I decided a few years ago that I wanted to be intentional about the holiday – teaching my boys to be thoughtful and caring through acts of kindness – so we would always make our own cards and gifts for our classmates.  Well, that was a few years ago, and this is now… and phew!  2014 is flying by and February 14th has crept up on me.

My Pinterest-loving self is really annoyed with my lack-of-planning self for just allowing the boys to choose store-bought Iron Man hologram cards that they simply wrote “To: Friend, Love, James/Leyson” on 20-something of them.  But, boy!  My kids were soooooo excited about those holograms.  So, they win this year.

I did decide (at about 4pm today) that we were at least going to be intentional about what we exchange between our family members.  The kids made “mailboxes” out of manila envelopes for each of us.



I pulled out all of my scrapbook paper, glue, crayons, markers and scissors and let the kids go to town!  Leyson enjoyed playing with the scissors so much he pretty much made confetti the entire time, and my husband and I made bookmarks for all of the kids to go with their books that we bought them.



The kids kept running back and forth from the craft table to the mailboxes, delivering their own personal “letters” to Mom, Dad, Brother, Sister, Mimi and their visiting cousin and aunt.  I can’t wait to open these all tomorrow morning!

So, yes, I realize this post is kinda really last minute (I apologize)… but this is still a great activity that you can do tomorrow or sometime this weekend!  Happy Valentine’s Day… even if it is a little rushed!  🙂


10 Sticky Note Games for Pre-Readers

It never fails… sticky notes never last long in my house.  I JUST bought new ones too!  But since my 1 year old already took them all apart, I figured I would put them to immediate use with my 4 year old.

We played a little game today that you can play with your little one once he/she has mastered letters of the alphabet and the sounds that each letter makes; also, he/she must have a basic understanding of blending/segmenting sounds (/b/ /a/ /t/ = bat) and rhyming/word families (bat, cat, sat, mat).

Materials needed:  sticky notes, marker/pen

Version #1:  Write letters on each sticky note.  Your child must find things around the room that start with the letters on the sticky note and post it on that object!


sticky note post

(I learned that it is super cruel to hand my son the letter “q” when there is no quilt in sight.)

I also learned not to give my child the letter F.  He immediately said “FAT!  I’m gonna stick this on your belly!”



My, my.  Kids are just too darn cute for their own good ::sigh::.

Version 2:  Play “I Spy”… “I spy something that starts with /n/.” Let your child come up with some too!

sticky note post 2

Y’all, “nap mat” was a tricky one!  Props to the kiddo!  He’ll get his Ns right one day 😉

Version #3:  For the child who has not mastered letter sounds:  You write the letters on the sticky notes and post them on the objects while your child hides his/her eyes.  Put the letter T on the TV, the letter B on a box, etc.  When he/she opens his/her eyes, call out a sound and he/she has to find the letter that is on an object.  (You can play hot/cold if he/she can’t find it right away).  When he/she finds it, you say, “Great job!  You found the /t/ for TV!  Say it with me /t/ /t/ TV!”

Version #4:  Instead of searching for the BEGINNING sound, search for the END sound of a word!  “What object ends in /l/?  That’s right, you found the doll!”

Version #5:  Rhyming:  Hold up a letter (ex. “B”) and say, “I’m looking for something that rhymes with “fox” but starts with /b/.”

Version #6:  Early reader, basic understanding of blending sounds in CVC (consonant/vowel/consonant words such as “cat”).  Write down simple words such as “mat,” “cup,” “box,” “doll,”  “TV” (my kids love when I throw that easy one in there ;-)) and your child has to sound out the word and stick it on the object.

Version #7:  Onset/Rime:  The “onset” is the first letter in the word and the “rime” is the part of the word that links it to other words in the same family (the part that makes it rhyme with other words with the same rime… get it?).  Write the “rime” of the word and your child has to write in the onset, and then go stick it on the object.  “What object ends in “-ook”?  Your child looks around the room, sees a “book,” writes in the first letter, and sticks it on the book.

Version #8:  Vowels:  search for the vowel in the middle of the word.  “Which object has the /o/ sound in the middle of the word?”  bOx, robOt, pOt, clOck, sOck

Version #9:  Vowels extended:  Go on a hunt to find 5 things that contain each of the 5 vowels.  Find 5 things with an /a/ sound as in cat, 5 with an /e/ sound as in bend, 5 with an /i/ sound as in pig, 5 with an /o/ sound as in lot, 5 with an /u/ sound as in under.

Version #10:  Syllables:  Choose an object and count the number of syllables in is name.  Put that number of sticky notes on that object.  Ex:  window:  win/dow = 2 sticky notes.  You can do this with the number of sounds in a word too!  Ex:  doll:  /d/ /o/ /l/ = 3 sticky notes.

Now, we’re experiencing an extremely rare “snow day” here in South Louisiana, so these are perfect games to play with your little ones while stuck inside, because, who doesn’t have sticky notes lying around?  Oh wait, ME!  Because we used them all up today!

I’m sure we will be pulling out all of the randomness that is in the “junk drawer” tomorrow to keep the kids happily entertained… or if the power stays on, it’ll probably be a junk food, pajama, and movie day in our house!  You just gotta have those sometimes!




Is This Book OK for My Kid to Read?


My 6 year old came out of “quiet time” (mommy’s few moments of uninterrupted sanity) carrying this book Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

     “Mom!  I discovered that I have a diary!”

Haha I laughed to myself because he just unknowingly called himself a wimpy kid.

Anyway, he sat down and started reading from page one.  My husband and I looked at each other asking if the other had read it and if we should be allowing him to read it – we had no idea what the book is about.

So, I go to the 2nd most knowledgeable place I know, Facebook (the first being Google).  And I posted a status update asking all of my oh-so-smart friends if this was ok for my 6 year old to read.  See, the reason I asked my friends first is because I know their credibility… and can ask them specific questions too.

I got a lot of great feedback for both “yes, it’s fine” and “no, it’s more for middle schoolers,” but the best thing was when one of my friends sent me this link to Book Reviews for Parents!

What an amazing resource!  This website provided a plot summary like most reviews do, but also offered brief descriptions on Christian beliefs referenced in the book, authority roles (descriptions and examples of the different roles the parents, teachers and all other adults play in the book), other belief systems referenced…

Greg thanks his “lucky stars” that he is on the other side of the gym from the girls because his wrestling outfit doesn’t completely cover him during wrestling matches in gym class.

…(how specific is that?), profanity/graphic violence, kissing/sex/homosexuality and awards that the book has received.

There is also a “discussion” section with over 50 questions to get your child talking about the book.

In addition, beneath the book review is a link to a website that has reviewed the movie too, since most often the movie version differs significantly from the book version.  The website, Plugged In, is another great resource that reviews movies, TV shows, music, and games for parents.  Both of these websites are publications of Focus on the Family.

It is so important for us as parents to have knowledge about what our kids are watching, listening to, and reading.  I love these two websites for making that aspect of parenting a little easier for us!

Oh, and if you’re wondering, we decided Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a little too mature for our 6-year old.  The Magic Treehouse series has been recommended by several moms, in addition to the Who Was… series, biographies of different historical figures, so we’ll be heading to the library soon!

Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day

My oldest son is home from school today so whoop whoop IT’S PAJAMA DAY!  But more importantly, WHY is he home from school?

Today we celebrate the life and accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  It is so easy for us to get caught up in teaching letters, numbers, patterns, and rhyming to our little ones… but we also need to remember to teach about history… especially a historical period that is pivotal in this country’s shift toward acceptance, freedom, and equality of all people.

That’s a pretty huge concept and a lot of information for our kids to grasp.  And they won’t grasp it all in one day!  But guess what?  Teaching about Martin Luther King Jr., black history, racial equality, segregation, and the infamous “I Have a Dream” speech does not have to only happen on the third Monday in January of each year.

I found this great video on YouTube that gives an age-appropriate biography of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.   I clicked pause a lot so I could explain a few things such as “segregation” and “freedom.”

My oldest son made a reference to the pictures we once showed him of my husband and my trip to Washington D.C. after he saw the Washington Monument in the video.  I had forgotten all about them!  So we pulled them out and I was able to show him a picture I took standing from the spot where MLK Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.


I took pictures of the boys’ Transformers in front of all of the monuments in Washington, D.C. and then made them a book on Shutterfly.

Dr. King’s movement encouraged us to imagine a world where people were not set apart by their differences.  To kids, the biggest differences between people are all visual:  gender, hair color and length, height, kid versus adult and skin color; whereas, we adults also differentiate between cultures, language, religions and beliefs, lifestyles and socioeconomic statuses.

Today, we spent some time talking about our visual differences, specifically our different skin colors.  But, let’s not just talk about the different colors, let’s SEE the all of the different colors.  So of course, we busted out the paints!  I pulled out all of our different hues of brown paints from light khaki tan to milk chocolate to dark chocolate to raw umber.


All of them are products of mixing two colors:  white and our darkest brown.


We mixed together different combinations of the two colors:  1 scoop of white and 3 scoops of brown; 2 scoops of white and 2 scoops of brown; 3 scoops of white and one scoop of brown; and we mixed and mixed and mixed…


And then we painted the different colors on our hands to see which best matched our skin color.


We talked about how everyone’s skin color has a different combination of these two colors. “It’s kind of like God has his own color palate and is mixing these different paints together to make us all uniquely beautiful!”

Let’s celebrate our differences today and every day and teach our kids to do the same!

*** TEACHING TIP:  Make an effort to include historical and culturally-relevant books in your home library.



These are just a few of the books that I read in my classroom to my students, provided by a curriculum that encouraged culturally relevant teaching:



Here is a great resource to learn about different cultures all around the world:  Kid World Citizen!  The best way for kids to learn to accept differences is to learn to appreciate and celebrate differences.  On this website you can search by continent, country, food, animals, language, crafts and more!  I am seriously in AWE over Kid World Citizen… what an amazing resource!

DIY Play Kitchen


Y’all, I have been DIY-ing to share with you the play kitchen and market that my husband and I made from an old entertainment center and a fishing rod and reel holder!  It was a lot of hard work, but in the end, it was way cheaper than buying a play kitchen from the toy store.  Another bonus was that I was able to design it so that it would look good in my living room since we don’t have a play room or space for a kitchen in the kids’ rooms.  I could not be more in love with how it turned out!

The key to making your own play kitchen is to have a good vision to see what could-be with a little TLC.  I found the old entertainment center at our local Habitat for Humanity ReStore (my favorite place for finds like this) for just $10… but my friend still had to talk me into buying it because I couldn’t quite see the vision yet!  Buuuut… It was 50% off that day and so I had to just try and see!  I was willing to lose the $10 if I completely made it look horrible (extra storage in the carport).  The top wasn’t in the best condition, but I could find something to cover it up.

The rod and reel holder was found on a local Craig’s List – type Facebook page.  I just randomly saw it and said, “That would make a GREAT market!” (There’s that vision I was talking about).  I talked the guy down from $30 to $15!  I’d like to say I have great negotiating skills, but I think he was just ready to get rid of it.

We already had some old fence panels lying around (we had to replace a few on our fence that our dogs CHEWED through… I have a few neurotic dogs)  and bam!  Free counter top!



We used a stainless steel mixing bowl for the sink.  I was originally going to use a dog bowl, but they were actually more expensive than the mixing bowls at Wal-Mart… I went with the cheaper and it’s actually deeper… $8 there.  I bought the faucet at the Habitat store as well.  It was $12, which was more than I wanted to spend, but it wasn’t used like the rest of them were and had a good shape to it.




I bought knobs for the stove and handles for the front sliding doors from the clearance section at Hobby Lobby and painted the burners on (and lightly sanded the burners to make it look more rustic).

I also bought a few baskets from Joann’s Fabrics that were 60% off, plus I had a 25% off in-store coupon!  I got my tiny market basket and my large play food storage basket for $15 total.



I used an old piece of scrap wood for the shelf and decorated it with things all around my house.  The shelf brackets were purchased from Hobby Lobby when they were on sale for 50% off!  The window was an old find that I’ve had for months and I had no idea what to do with it until this project came along.  I have seen similar windows like this at local antique stores and my favorite Habitat store always has these lying around too! 




My 6, 4 and 1 year olds ALL love their play kitchen!  We made this a group gift because we know all of them would enjoy this.  It has been the toy that has been most played with at my house since Christmas!  


Below are pictures and links to the play kitchen items we purchased!  Enjoy!

Each of the kids got to open 3 gifts as well (just like Jesus got 3 gifts from the wise men).  Lena (age 1) got pots and pans because she likes to bang Mommy’s a lot.


James (age 6) got a cash register that has a working calculator because he loves learning how to count money (we played “store” a lot even before Christmas).


Leyson (age 4) got “Peel ‘N’ Play” fruit and vegetables since he loooves to cook.



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