Sunday, December 30, 2007

Unplugged Project : Collage

I was happy to be able to join in this week. Our normal routines are off as we are still in the midst of a more than 2 week visit from my in-laws. It's not as scary as it sounds but I have been so busy that we have not been able to sit down and do any projects.

The boys loved doing collages. We chose the final option for MomUnplugged's Unplugged Project.

Or...anything you want to do!

For the age my kids are, I figured that anything much harder and it would be too much work for me, so I just let them cut out any pictures they wanted from the magazine and catalog I pulled from the top of my recycle bin. This was the first time I had ever let my 2 year old use scissors and he LOVED them.

It was a great success!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Lovely Christmas

We had such a lovely Christmas. I think we did a nice job implementing this year's changes. Unfortunately a cold has been making the rounds but did not dampen our spirits much

We got a tree and decorated it while listening to Christmas music and drinking apple cider
We also hung stockings by the fireplace.
We celebrated advent with a wreath and calendar.
We also attended church on Christmas Eve.

Christmas morning was quite relaxing as we let the kids open their gifts at their own pace and stop to play as needed.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Unplug the Christmas Machine

Check it out... looks like this book is getting read a lot this year

Unplug the Christmas Machine on Get Rich Slowly

Simple Holiday Crafts

My kids have made some fun crafts at several recent events, as you can see. Unfortunately, I have a bit of a cold and am off to bed early tonight, so no time to write more.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Unplugged Project - Yarn or String

This week's Unplugged Project idea was yarn or string.

I gratefully delegated this one off to my husband who included both boys in the making of a pulley. I guess I should not have been surprised they managed to incorporate their favorite toy into the picture. They used the train to power their first-class pulley. I was called when they were ready for photos.

This was inspired by a book we got from the library: Pull, Lift, and Lower by Michael Dahl.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Read-Aloud Handbook

"This is not a book about teaching a child to read; it's about teaching a child to want to read."
---Introduction, The Read-Aloud Handbook, by Jim Trelease

I love books and love reading with my kids. When I heard of this book, I decided to get it from my local library. The Read-Aloud Handbook was a very interesting book. It had tons of information about why it is important to read to your kids for their WHOLE lives, not just when they are too young to read for themselves. Basically, that is how you get a child to want to read, by reading to him.

A lot of the book was somewhat political, and there were lots of facts and figures to trudge through. There were some really neat anecdotes and lots of ideas of books to read with the kids that really did make the book worthwhile. I am excited to share some of my new finds with my kids.

I'm not really going to do a book review, but there is a lengthy one on another blog. In fact The Simple Dollar is where I first heard of the book.

Enjoy reading!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

What others are saying about Christmas....

I have been enjoying reading various ways that other bloggers are attempting to make their Christmas celebrations just right for their families. Here are a few that I found interesting.

Reducing the Volume of Gifts at unplugyourkids

Four for Christmas at stoptheride

Prevent Your Kids from getting the Christmas Gimmies at

Ways to build holiday traditions at chieffamilyofficer

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Unplugged Project : Nature

This week's Unplugged Project was Nature. Although we have not had the volume of snow that Mom Unplugged is having, our weather has not really made me feel like spending much time outside.

But, today we went on quite the nature hike. We spent quite a while (at least 10 minutes) hiking through dense evergreen forest. Fortunately the terrain was quite smooth and level (remarkably like asphalt) and there were lots of signs (see photo) so we would not lose our way.

We even took a quite large (6 feet tall) piece of nature home with us and are displaying it in our living room. We have also enjoyed sitting around staring at it while drinking hot cider and reading "Twas the Night before Christmas." Since we have had crazy weather here lately we were fortunate to go on our "hike" without rain or snow.

I had it all wrong!

When I posted last week about the Christmas decorations my son made , I had it all wrong!

We started decorating for Christmas today so I had him hang them on the wall. Much to my surprise, there was a definite way they were supposed to hang. Not just the orientation of each piece but the relationships of the pieces to each other. I am not sure why I was surprised, he always has a plan.

Anyway, now I know - the green parts are Christmas trees and the red parts are presents and it is important the they "make a pattern," meaning are alternating colors. Here is what they look like proudly displayed on our walls.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Small Changes Toward the Christmas I Want

I have been working my way through Unplug the Christmas Machine. There is really so much there that I am a bit overwhelmed, especially since it is already December. I am a little late to do much this year but there are some small changes I am going to make. I am also looking forward to what I can do next year when I will have an earlier start.

This Year:
  1. Not traveling for the holidays
  2. Having tree and stockings - goes along with #1, since we are not usually home, we don't usually decorate
  3. Celebrating Advent - We are using an Advent Calendar and Advent Wreath
  4. More Christmas Music - Both more background music and more family sing-a-longs

Next year:
  1. Already drafting a letter suggesting ways to simplify our gift giving next year (and make it more meaningful) - Will need to be sent in the spring as my family likes to plan ahead
  2. Re-read Unplug the Christmas Machine
  3. Make a written Christmas plan -See chapters 8 and 9

Monday, December 03, 2007

Unplugging Christmas : What Children Really Want

At the suggestion of Mom Unplugged, I have been reading Unplug the Christmas Machine by Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli.

A section in the book that really struck a chord with me is the one about what children really want for Christmas. It is a pretty simple list

1. A relaxed and loving time with their family

Children really love to spend time with their family and they love and thrive on the attention of their parents. I like the expression they use in the book - your children need your "relaxed attention."

2. Realistic expectations about gifts

Your kids will be disappointed if you allow them to set their own expectations based on commercials or other influences in their lives. If their expectations are set accurately, then they more likely to be excited about what they do get. I am lucky as my kids are young and they don't watch television commercials. My oldest is starting to ask for things he sees that his friends have though so I think we are moving into a time where we have to think about this more.

3. An evenly paced holiday season

Space out your special activities over one or two weeks. Basically don't start the build-up too soon and don't end it too abruptly.

4. Reliable family traditions

The book explains that traditions enrich the holiday memories and give kids lots of comfort. I'd add that once you find things that are fun for the family why not keep them up. Once I find something we like, I like to stick with it. It is more comfortable for me and less work too.

Children are not born wanting lots of expensive gizmos and loud toys. They don't want nonstop festivities and constant action. And they certainly don't want all the stress and tension and bitterness that they get far too much of when their parents get worked up by all the things they need to do to get "ready."
I think it really helps to simplify things if you think about these four goals and how to meet them.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Unplugged Project : Paper

This week's Unplugged Project theme is paper.

My newly-turned-five-year-old has been begging to start decorating the house for Christmas. Specifically, he wanted to make some decorations for the walls. So for a start, I set him loose with some red and green paper and let him do whatever he would like.

He has made 3 and I think he is interested in making more tomorrow. Maybe this will tide him over until I am ready to get the tree and everything....

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Simple Storage Solution

I have been frustrated with not having a good place to keep all of our library books. We are heavy library users and I don't have room for them on our already full bookshelves.

I went to the garage and found a box that I tasked my older son with decorating and filling with books. Not sure how long it will hold up but it was free and most the work was his and fun for him. He is very proud of the train engine he drew on the box.