November 23, 2015

Give Thanks

Friends, I hope you have a blessed Thanksgiving.
~ Annette
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November 4, 2015

4 Ways to Help Children to Cope with Early Mornings

My nine-year-old hops in the van at 6 o'clock in the morning so I can drive her to the bus stop. No matter the day, it's always dark at that time. In order to have breakfast and get ready for the day, she has to get up at 5:30. We've learned a few things to make it easier for my sleepy girl to get up so early in the morning. One small thing has made ALL the difference in our early mornings. 
Getting a child up at 5:30 isn't easy, but one "trick" makes all the difference.
First Day of School 2015-2016

Go to Bed Early

Of course everyone should realize that if a child wakes up early they should go to bed early. (Adults should likely consider this more often.) However, it may be ridiculously early. We start with the bedtime routine about 6:30 p.m. so we have time to get dressed for bed, brush teeth, read together (both Bible and a book), and pray. This also allows for a few minutes of independent reading until 7:15 when the lights go out.

October 26, 2015

Mom and Daughter Time with Secret Keeper Girl #SKGTour

If you are looking for a way to treat your daughter to a night of fun in a Christian environment, I would definitely recommend Secret Keeper Girl. It really was lots of age-appropriate (ages 8-12) fun, faith, and friends.
Combined with some games and music, the Crazy Hair tour also offered tips on choosing modest clothing. There was a good amount of teaching and stories. The audience was encouraged to do motions. A new one for us was to sit criss-cross applesauce in front of a mirror and see what everyone else could see.

October 2, 2015

Parenting Like Wolves (with Video)

Just as a few wolves changed the geography and rivers of Yellowstone National Park, as moms, we can change the behavior and attitudes of our families.

Next week I'm giving a talk to a local MOPS group about patience in parenting. (Don't laugh if you know me. It's really not about me.) I'm ending the talk with this because I think it's powerful. (See my website if you're interested in my talks.)
Public Domain image from YNP

Wolves Reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park has an incredible story based upon scientific research from the past twenty years when wolves were reintroduced to the park. We know wolves kill, but they also give life. After a 70-year absence of wolves, the elk and deer population had increased beyond human intervention in the park. The vegetation was nearly gone; the elk and deer had grazed it away. Forty-one wolves were introduced to the park from 1995-1997, yet they immediately began to affect it. Of course they killed a few deer, but more significantly, they changed the behavior of the elk and deer. These animals began avoiding the valleys and gorges where they could easily be killed. Those areas began to regenerate grass and vegetation. The once bare valleys became forests

September 21, 2015

DIY Statue of Liberty Costume

Big Sister loved the Statue of Liberty before she saw it in person. The summer when she was 4 and Brother was 2 (and Little Sister was nearly here), we took the kids into New York City. Though we did not visit Ellis Island or Liberty Island, we made sure to see the Statue of Liberty from a ferry. Using the foam crown we bought as a souvenir, we created a homemade Statue of Liberty costume for Big Sister. 

September 8, 2015

Peanut Butter Swirl Brownie Recipe

This peanut butter brownie recipe comes from my appreciation of the boxed brownie mixes and peanut butter. The swirled peanut butter brownies are easy to make with just a quick adaptation to the boxed brownie mix. If you have a favorite brownie recipe from scratch, use that instead of the boxed brownie mix.
Prepare yourself for a rich and delicious peanut butter and chocolate dessert. My six-year-old son recently requested brownies so we made these together. He was very proud of his efforts. He was in charge, and I was the assistant.

Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies

1 batch prepared brownie batter (from a box or from scratch)
1 cup chocolate chips
3/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt

  1. Stir in 1 cup of chocolate chips to the prepared brownie batter. Set aside.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together butter, peanut butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt.
  3. Pour most (about 3/4) of brownie batter in a greased brownie pan. Spread evenly. Place spoonfuls of peanut butter filling on top of the brownie batter. 
  4. Spread the peanut butter filling on top of the brownie batter. 
  5. Drizzle the remaining brownie batter on top of the peanut butter filling. 
  6. Use a knife to swirl the peanut butter filling somewhat through the brownie batter. To do so quickly drag the knife back and forth in the batter. Do not over swirl.
  7. Bake at 325° for 10+ minutes more than the brownie recipe calls for. An 8x8 pan took 45 minutes in my oven to bake. (A 9x13 pan may take about an extra 10 minutes, but an 8x8 pan will take longer. If the brownie mix is "family-size" it may take even longer. 
Pan size will make a big difference for the baking time. The brownies should be baked when the edges begin to pull away from the pan or when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

I've been doctoring brownie mixes since I was a teenager. Typically I just add chocolate or peanut butter chips to improve the standard mix. When I want a special brownie, I make double-decker brownies from scratch. since they are frosted, they're especially a big hit for potluck gatherings.

I think these peanut butter swirled brownies will be my new go-to for quick and easy. Remember, they're easy enough for my son to make with a little assistance.

Be sure to check out all of our family-friendly recipes! If you haven't liked us on Facebook yet, be sure to do so.

~ Annette
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August 19, 2015

Summer Fun

The summer's been busy. Over breakfast I recently asked Big Sister what she wanted to do that day. She thought of something we hadn't done since the early summer- or maybe last summer.
Sometimes the kids have fabulous ideas about how to enjoy life.

~ Annette
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August 12, 2015

Science and Engineering Camp

My good friend and I spent a week co-teaching Science and Engineering Camp through a local summer camp. It was incredible.

Preparing for camp together was fun for us. We're both experienced teachers. We both brought our ideas and research to a couple of meetings as we planned what, specifically, to teach.
Science and Engineering Camp for Kids

Science camp lasted from 9-1 for just five days. That time included a snack and lunch break so we had to make sure we used the time well. To help the children get the most out of the camp, we planned a scientific theme and related activities for each day.

August 3, 2015

The Art of Bricks: LEGO Exhibit

 My husband grew up with LEGOs, and now our children play with them daily. When we learned of The Art of Bricks LEGO exhibition coming to Philadelphia, we planned to take the family into the city to the Franklin Institute. We went this past weekend.
(A note: I do occasionally accept sponsored posts, but we paid for all of this ourselves. It's just something I wanted to share and recommend. All opinions and photos are my own.)

We thoroughly enjoyed it and certainly recommend it for LEGO fans. Unfortunately, it is rather pricey, but you really can spend a full day at the Franklin Institute having fun learning about science.

Upon arrival, we went straight to the LEGO exhibit. After waiting for just a few minutes, we were ushered in to watch a short video featuring the artist Nathan Sawaya. Personally, I would have enjoyed learning more about him and his work, but it was probably the perfect length for the age variety in the audience. When it was over we entered the exhibit.

July 20, 2015

10 Things You Need to Know About Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee

In early February, an announcement shocked the literary world. Another novel by Harper Lee was set to be published by HarperCollins on July 14, 2015. Go Set a Watchman was written in 1957, three years before To Kill a Mockingbird was written.

This summary is for those who aren't familiar with the 1961Pulitzer-winning To Kill a Mockingbird: Two white children, Scout and Jem, experience the fallout of their lawyer father defending an innocent black man accused of rape in the 1930's.

Go Set a Watchman is different, yet just as compelling. Jean Louise (Scout) returns to Maycomb as an adult. She questions all she holds dear when she learns her father supports segregation.
With this news, the media and fans began to talk. Fans faced a conundrum on many levels. Did Nelle Harper Lee approve of the book's publication? Will they be disappointed? Will their hero, Atticus, fall from the perfection?

Now that I've read the book, I've been asked to share my opinion of Go Set a Watchman.

10 Things You Need to Know About Go Set a Watchman

  1. Nelle Harper Lee, now age 89, does not want attention. Though she is not a recluse like Boo Radley, she has removed herself from all spotlights. She does not grant interviews and has not for decades. This makes it hard to know her wishes regarding publication. (I highly recommend the Harper Lee biography, Mockingbird to help you understand this.) Harper Lee is nearly blind and is very hard of hearing. Communication is difficult. Yet, in this 13-minute video we see a glimpse of Lee's reaction to publication.
  2. Watchman was published 58 years after it was written.