Sunday, February 23, 2014

Children's Church: Confusion - Tower of Babel

This regular (ha! We'll see...) feature is for Sunday school mamas like me who are easily distracted, especially by Pinterest (a.k.a. The Evil One) and want to see ideas for children's church organized by topic. Check out other topics here.

I love how my ABC curriculum summarizes the history of the world with the 7 C's:

Corruption (the fall)
Catastrophe (flood)
Confusion (Babel)
Christ (Christmas)
Cross (Easter)
Consummation (end of Earth)

This lesson took two weeks and focused on the fourth "C" - confusion.

First, I gave the kids cards that said "hello" in different languages. They had to find someone with the same language as them, then divide into two groups. Each group then raced to stack coffee cups. Each cup had words from our recent memory verse.  I've seen this done where you write on the lip and stack the cups inside each other like this picture, found at When You Rise.

For this lesson, I wanted a tall tower, though, so I wrote on the body of the cup and had the kids stack top to top and bottom to bottom. I had to alternate writing words right side up and upside down to get it to be readable after it was stacked. The tower looked like this picture, found at The Educators' Spin on it

After this, I had the kids build a tower, like this one from Wisconsin Country Mom, only with toothpicks and marshmallows.

I explained in detail how to build a square base, but I gave the next set of instructions in gibberish. I acted really frustrated with them when they didn't understand me, repeating the nonsense words over and over. Of course that led to the story of the Tower of Babel.

We briefly talked about how people groups became separated from one another and over time lost genetic material and had more similar features, like eye color, amount of melanin in skin, hair, etc. We read Acts 17:26-27 and talked about how scientists have mapped the human genome and discovered that there really is only one race. Science confirms the Bible! This also led to a discussion about treating people equal and not judging someone by their physical features. We finished with this craft:

My sample to show the kids what to do
Calvin's finished product. Reed was so meticulous, he didn't finish at church and I'm sure his paper is currently hiding with 1.000 other unfinished-because-I'm-a-perfectionist projects. I wish I could find it, because it was adorable!

 I drew a globe and wrote Acts 17:26a around the edges (I totally would have typed and printed, but my printer was - and still is, months later - not working). Then I gave each kid a baby wipe and spread out ink pads in different flesh colors. The kids were supposed to stamp around the world, wiping their finger clean between colors. Then, they had markers to draw on hair, faces, and bodies. As we worked, I would point out different features, "Oh! Reed put freckles on one of his people. I think freckles are so cute!... Don't forget different eye shapes too. My friend Ann is Korean and has the most beautiful almond-shaped eyes...You could draw people with disabilities. God loves people in wheelchairs too. It's a good thing they'll be no more wheelchairs in heaven, though. Why do we have wheelchairs on earth?..." I thought they'd either rush through it or get bored with the craft before our time was up, but they were almost all very intently working - some even after church dismissed.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

A Few Good Men

Ryan's been reading a book given to him by my Gramps. We have so much respect for Gramps. We named Max after him, in fact. He is such a godly man, and full of love and generosity for everyone in his circle of influence - which is huge. Recently, he passed this book on to all of his grandsons along with handwritten notes because he thought it was "valuable for instruction and insight." He suggested that Ryan read it one chapter at a time to let it really soak in. The book is about men "stepping up" into the role that God has for them as leaders. 

This morning while Ryan and I were getting firewood out of the pasture he said he was enjoying the book, especially because it made him more aware that he needs to be consciously teaching our boys exactly what it takes to be good men. We dreamed a little about the future (I was looking forward to the day when we'd have three more sets of hands to help us load the truck with wood!) and just had a great conversation (no naughty boy events this time...)

When we brought the wood down to the house, we recruited our little future men to help unload and stack it. One unnamed child didn't emerge from the house until the truck was halfway unloaded. He made a lame excuse about not being able to find his coat and Daddy launched into a lecture about shirking your duty, doing what needs to be done, etc. Basically a six-year-old version of the "step it up, man" lecture. We left the boys with a task and went back for load #2 with a promise to be back with even more work. Round two went much better, with everyone pulling their own weight. In Max's case, pulling his weight meant making loud grunting noises while throwing chunks of bark near the woodpile. Then, Ryan decided to split a few larger pieces. He had the boys back up so they wouldn't get hit. They lined up nearby and oohed and ahhed at how strong Daddy was. I took that opportunity to brag on what a hard worker Daddy was, and how it's so nice that he keeps us warm in the winter and all the wood we just loaded came from trees that he cut down and sawed into logs without any help from us. "You have a hard workin' daddy," I told them. They admired him for several minutes and I had to shirk my duty long enough to snap this pic.

I love that my boys have a good, strong daddy to look up to. And I love that he has a godly man to learn from, too. My prayer is that someday our boys are the ones wielding their own axes with admiring eyes looking on and that Ryan is the one writing messages inside books for young men in his circle of influence.
Doesn't get much cuter than baby Gramps!
Gramps as a daddy - that's my mom!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Children's Church: Catastrophe - the Flood

If you teach Sunday school or children's church, these Sunday posts are for you. I get so distracted when I look for ideas! So, I thought compiling ideas by topic might be helpful for others--plus it helps me clean up one of my Pinterest boards! Check out other ideas here.

I've been following the Answers Bible Curriculum. It goes through the Bible in chronological order with a strong apologetics component. It has great info, but I've started to supplement with more hands-on activities. Several months ago, I taught several lessons on the flood. I think it's one of the biggest scientific answers to the millions of years interpretation a lot of people come up with when they look at layers of the earth, the fossil record, canyons, continental drift, etc. I wanted to make sure my Sunday school kiddos really saw the flood as a historical event, not just a cute little story. Here are a few of the activities we did over several weeks. 

- Edible ark - the kids built an ark out of graham crackers and filled it with animal crackers. I wish I would've had frosting or peanut butter to aid in construction.  (inspired by a similar snack found at the Easy Preschool Craft blog

- Sorting plastic animals into "kinds" - The boys have two massive tubs of animals. I dumped them all out and had groups sort them into similar species. Then we read Genesis 6:20 discussed that Noah wouldn't have had to take as many animals as some people may think. For example, he wouldn't have had to take two horses, zebras, and mules, just two from that kind. The variety in their DNA allowed for many different species to result as the repopulated after the flood. I made sure to include dinosaurs too, to emphasize that Noah would have taken dinosaur kinds. 

- Comparing plastic animals of different sizes; particularly dinosaurs. We discussed that Noah might have taken the babies, because they'd be smaller, live longer, sleep more, and eat less. I shared with them that even the largest dinosaur eggs we've discovered are only about one foot long, so even big dinos started out small.
- Pouring water into a "world" in a pan high enough to cover tall rocks and showing that shorter rocks are covered. This helps kids see why, if the Bible is true, Noah's flood had to be global because it says the highest mountains were covered. 
- Reading the ark dimensions from the Bible. (11 1/2 school buses long and four school buses high) and then analyzing depictions of the ark as realistic or not (I made a slide show of cartoon-y and realistic pictures and had the kids label them as reasonable or ridiculous)
- Fingerprint rainbows  (sorry - can't credit this source - it was a just a pinned photo)

- Discussed how rapid burial is necessary for fossils to form and that the flood would have quickly buried billions of creatures. 
- Fossil cookies (inspired by these from Martha Stewart)

- Fossil necklaces (similar to these from Vintage Paper Moon, though ours didn't turn out nearly as cute) - I used bake-dry clay. The kids cut it into circles or rectangles (with a letter "i" cookie cutter) and punched a hole in it before I baked it and strung it on ball-chain with a large jump ring.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Brown Paper Packages

This morning as I tried to load up the car with Valentines, party treats, backpacks, teacher bags, and little boys, Calvin asked me to reach the "R" magnet at the top of the fridge for him. I gave him the "are you kidding me? Heck no!" look and rushed him out the door. It looked to me like he was just lining up random letters to hold up his most recent illustration. I discovered later I was wrong.

This clearly says, "Jek 14," which to most people is still random letters (and a number). But to two little boys who saved up their money and made their first brothers'-together online purchase it's a very significant string of letters. I can't really explain what (or who?) it is, but I'm sure those two little boys could - and would - for hours and hours. All I know is it is a Lego set that has something to do with Star Wars and it's the only thing on the bigguns minds since they ordered it Monday night. Calvin has wanted to check the mail multiple times a day, even though we've repeatedly told him when the mail comes and that a large Lego kit won't even fit in the mailbox. I prepared them for 7-10 business days, but thank the good Lord in heaven above, it arrived early!

When we pulled into the driveway tonight (after checking the mailbox, of course), it was late and we had four bags of Valentine paraphernalia and trunk full of groceries. But we also had A PACKAGE! A PACKAGE! A PACKAGE! on our doorstep, so I let the monkeys tumble out of the vehicle to check it out. They ran onto the porch and shook the smallest of what turned out to be two packages. When they heard rattling, they started screaming like little girls at a One Direction concert. Even Max chanted, "Jek 14! Jek 14!" over and over. Maybe he can explain to me who that is...

The box was ripped open before I could bring in the first load. Max was ecstatic, but the bigs were not. It was his birthday present - a few days early. Oops! The other two raced for the oversized package and asked me to help rip it open. I knew by it's size that it was my replacement hamper, a purchase Reed had made, but wouldn't be too excited about. I opened the box to find my theory correct. Reed turned away dejectedly, but Calvin, never one to give up (at least not on something he wants), peeked behind my merchandise. The banshee noise started again. Jek 14 had FINALLY arrived.

I made the boys help unload the car and put groceries away before they could open the box. I've never seen such diligent little workers. Within minutes, our house looked like this:

There were many adorable exclamations. Reed declared that it was the best day of his life and he couldn't "believe this!" He and Calvin got along like champs. They agreed to take turns completing the steps from an entire two-page spread in the instruction book. 

Max played with the pieces of his birthday present - a new board game. It was already 7:00 and we hadn't even eaten supper. So, I busted out their favorite fancy meal: popcorn. They had already consumed four times their recommended daily calories at their Valentine parties, so what the heck. I started to play Max's new game with him. That actually succeeded in dragging the banshees away from the Legos. And the game was so adorable and fun (Thanks, Mimi and Papa!) that it kept them away. It's a team vs. bad guys (pigs who try to eat your picnic while you're on your way to it) game with an I spy twist. Anyway, the pigs beat us the first time and Calvin insisted on playing again. I relented, but said it had to be a quick turn because it was almost bed time. "No! We have to play again and again until we win, 'cuz, 'If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.'" Thank goodness we won the next round.

There was still a little "bonus play time" to work on the Jekster in their room before lights out, but only if they rushed the bedtime routine. And rush, they did. Calvin brushed his teeth while simultaneously undressing and finding his jammies.

JIKFQRTN is still under construction, but I have a feeling I know who'll be up at the butt crack of dawn tomorrow. And I'm sure there'll be a few rousing rounds of "Beat the Pigs," too.

My real sweetie has to chaperone a dance tonight, but I sure had a fun date with my three littlest Valentines.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Snow Day Surprise

On snow day #20 (I learned the official count last night), we decided to get the heck outta Dodge! We told the boys we had a surprise for them. Of course the pestering was incessant, but it was kind of fun driving them nuts! We decided to eat at McD's to save time and, since we were spending gift cards for the meal, we let them get Happy Meals. Reed asked, "Is this the surprise?"

This is a rare treat, as we are usually dolla menu kinda tightwads, but, no, that wasn't the surprise. Then, we headed to the big city. At this point, we asked the boys for their guesses. Reed thought we were going to Le Bounce (a bounce house heaven). Max had no idea what was going on, he was just along for the ride. Calvin decided someone had a "whole bunch of Legos and they're gonna give them to us for free." Sorry, bud, but you're closer than you might think...

We were going to THE LEGO MOVIE! But first, we passed up the theater to get candy. The surprise? No, but I was starting to think we could sure get off cheap with our surprises if all they were expecting was Happy Meals and candy...and a bunch of Legos. Ok, maybe not. Legos are most certainly NOT cheap! When we turned around from the candy joint and headed back toward the theater, the boys figured out that we were going to a movie, and they were excited. But they thought they were going to see Frozen, which their aunt and uncle had taken them to see recently (and then kept them overnight - HALLELUJAH!) It wasn't until I purchased the tickets that they knew what they were in for. I had hoped for a great response, and I wasn't disappointed. "Oh thank you thank you thank you thank you!!" Reed proclaimed. Calvin made similar exclamations. Max was giddy, and kept bouncing around while we made our pre-movie drainage trip to the bathroom. When I showed him to a stall, he said, "You give me some privacy," and loudly added, "and den we're gonna see the LEgo Movie!"

The movie was adorable. Since we practically live in Lego Land, Ryan and I got a kick out of several of the little "inside" jokes. The two bigs were so into the movie, they hardly touched the candy. Max and I totally made up for them in that department.

After the show, Reed said, "Thaaank you, Mom and Dad! How can we ever repay you?" I totally should've taken advantage of that question, but their reactions were payment enough.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


Today, I turned in my letter of resignation from a job I have loved for almost twelve years. I've gotten misty-eyed, burst into unexpected tears, and full-on ugly cried several times in the last few weeks thinking that soon, the place I've called home won't be "my school" anymore. I'll be an outsider. I'll be leaving students I've watched grow up since kindergarten. I'll be leaving some of my closest friends. My two oldest boys will be leaving theirs.

We sort of always planned for my stay at my current school to be a temporary one. When I took a job there, I was an early childhood major, dead set on teaching kindergarten, but heading into a year of gangly fifth graders. It was one of the lower paying school districts in the area, so I figured I'd just use the opportunity to get my foot in the door of education, tough out the preteens, then find something "better" the next year. Except I fell in love. With the gangly kids, the school, and the community. It felt like a family, not a job. On my first day on the job, I found creatively-wrapped gift bags from total strangers on my new desk. Later, when I asked for advice on a particular student I heard insights into their lives that told me these kids were really known and cared for by their teachers. And in no time I felt known and cared for, too.

A few years ago, Ryan and I started discussing me looking for a different job. The district where he works made sense for our family in a lot of ways. But every time it came down to making a move, I just couldn't bring myself to go for it. A strong sense of loyalty to my home coupled with fear of the unknown pulled me back. We discussed it every year, and it never felt right. I whined that this was all I knew. I loved it. My friends were there. I felt like I made a difference here. Ryan waited patiently, telling me if I never wanted to leave that was ok. I took comfort in that, but something in the back of my head told me a move was inevitable, just not right for now.

Then something changed this year. On a long car ride with my soon-to-graduate sister, we discussed her own fears about finding a teaching job. She could only see herself at the school of her student teaching, same grade, please. It was all she knew. She loved it. She did a great job there. I told her that she would soon feel just the same about whatever classroom she entered, probably within a short period of time. God would put her where He wanted her and she could be happy anywhere. She might even like it better than what she wanted so badly. She turned my advice around on me. Hadn't I felt a nudge in a different direction for several years and used the same excuses to resist it? Couldn't this new place be just as good? In fact, I already had my foot in this community. I taught Sunday school there. Our kids played baseball there. We stalked their library every summer. I cheered on a batch of 30-some teenagers every Cross Country season.

So, I stepped out in faith, and I went to an interview in the same suit a wore 12 years ago (Let's just pretend it fit the same and I didn't have to fold under the totally unbuttoned pants and pray the zipper didn't slip), more qualified, yet somehow less sure of myself than when I was a fresh-faced idealist. I entered the halls of foreign turf, terrified. I arrived early (brownie points?) and got to witness the 3:00 rush. I got smiles and waves from Sunday school kids, summer reading program kids, T-ball moms, friends of Ryan's, Cross Country runners, and acquaintances I couldn't quite put my finger on. The turf wasn't quite so foreign. Several people chatted me up in the office, easing a little of my tension. Then, I faced a panel of six. Of course I felt intimidated, but I also felt like I got to interact with some really great people. People who wouldn't seem so scary if I got the chance to share the halls with them. And soon, I found out I would. I was thrilled! Excited! And also a little sad.

A few weeks ago, I worked the concession stand at homecoming. I wrapped hot dogs and squeezed cheese and made change alongside former students, teased them about where they learned their math skills, admired them for being so diligent or good with customers or able to figure out the popcorn machine. Then I watched them and other former students march in the homecoming guard - lined up in their uniforms, suits, and prom dresses. All those gangly fifth graders had grown up and turned into fine young men and women. I'm so proud that I was a small part of that. I left misty-eyed, fully expecting an ugly cry on the way home. But then I thought about the kids just a few miles down the road. Kids I'll meet next August. Buck-toothed third-graders who will grow up to be fine young men and women someday. I'll watch them march someday too, their uniforms a different color, but I'll still get misty-eyed thinking that I got to be a small part of their "raising."

So, to my old home; thanks for welcoming a clueless college girl and taking her under your wing.  You are where I really grew up, where I really learned to teach. I'm glad I have a few more months to call your school home, your kids, "mine." It's been a privilege and a joy.

And to my new one; I'm not sure all of the reasons God has led me to you, but I can't wait to see what He has in store for this next chapter of my life.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

When the Cats Are Away...

I was just thinking the other day how great it is that I can now leave the boys in the house alone for a little while to help Ryan outside. We've had to make a few trips into the pasture this winter to load and unload hay or get firewood and every time the boys have quietly played (or napped) inside, hardly noticing we were gone.

Today? Not so much.

I was walking back to the house when I heard outside voices. Calvin and Max were banging away at their favorite root ball with their favorite stick weapons. When I asked who gave them permission to come outside, Calvin informed me that he just came out to get Max inside. Apparently. Then, he began to tattle on Max for his other transgression: breaking Daddy's hunting light. Then, it slowly came out that Calvin maaaaay have "been a part of it" because he was pulling on the cord to get it away from Max. While hashing out the details, big brother pushed open a window to holler out what he'd been up to.

A few months ago my mom passed us down a cool, divided hamper. Now, may it R.I.P. cuz it totally did when Reed decided it would make a great hide-and-seek spot. He'd been using his engineering skills to put the PVC-type construction back together. He'd done pretty decent job, though two of the wheels were on top. But the cloth lining was torn beyond repair and one of the rods was bent, so the offender now has to use his hard-earned allowance money to pay for a replacement. His little brother coughed up $1 "and two of those circle moneys that aren't a dollar, but four of them make a dollar" so Reed wouldn't have to use all of his money. How can I want to kill them and kiss them at the same time!

This chain of events follows a supremely frustrating church excursion wherein Max had a screaming time-out in the bathroom alcove and Calvin earned five post-church spankings.

I just got a text. We have another snow day tomorrow. I may be before the day's over.

Children's Church: Valentine's Day Love

I've been teaching children's church for over a year now, and in that time, I've come to an even deeper love of Pinterest and homeschool mom/sunday school blogs. I need me some ideas! So, I thought it might be fun to post some of the ideas I've collected here, in case there's another Sunday school teacher out there in need of inspiration. I'll start with a Valentine's themed lesson.

Valentine's Centers:

1) Snack and lesson with me

While the kids munch on this yumminess:

Valentine's Day Strawberries and Cream Puppy Chow from Life, Love, and Sugar (I added heart-shaped sprinkled to the chow)

... I lead them through a discussion of God's love using conversation hearts. This lesson was inspired by a pin that only led to a photo, so I can't credit it. I cut out pastel-colored hearts and wrote a typical conversation heart saying on one side and a corresponding Bible verse on the other. We discuss different kinds of love on earth. Then, the kids each got a heart to read to the group and we discussed how God's love is unbeatable. They get a pack of conversation hearts as I send them to the next station and encourage them to "Have a conversation with God."

Be Mine  - John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life."

All Mine - John 10:29b " one can snatch them out of my Father's hand."

True Love - Jeremiah 31:3 "The Lord appeared in the past, saying, "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness."

Love Me - Luke 10:27 "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind' and 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

Be True - John 14:15  "If you love me, you will obey what I command."

I'm Sure - John 14:1-2 "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you."

Sweet Talk - Psalm 119:103 "How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!"

Cutie Pie - Psalm 139:13-14 "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful. I know that full well."

Call Me - Jeremiah 33:3 "Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know."

2) Valentine Puzzle

Since Miss Pam first sent this cute message home on Reed's first Valentine's Day, I've seen this same idea used 1,000 times. I turned it into a riddle for the kids. They had to look up John 3:16 (or recite it from memory) and fill in blanks to reveal the secret words. I used an outline font and added hearts to color to help fill time at this quick center. My printer is sketchy and so are my hearts, but kids are easy to please, so it'll work.

3) Handprint Heart craft

Here, I employ my awesome big kids (my group ranges from four-year-olds to seventh graders, with an occasional high school helper) to paint hands for me. First, kids write a verse or message (or color a design) along a penciled heart. After they erase the pencil line, each hand gets painted a different color to be stamped into a heart shape. Then they report straight to the bathroom to wash up (and hopefully not trash the sink!) If they need to kill time, stencils and heart-shaped hole punches let them add more embellishments.

Handprint heart idea from Decorating by Day

Check out other children's church ideas here.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Back Among the Living

We ventured back out into public today.  And, boy, could you tell the boys had been cooped up for a week! Here are the highlights from our excursion to the "big city" to hang out with my sister and her hubs (and, against our better judgement, to eat out at a restaurant):

- I was proud of myself for busting Calvin's brown shirt/brown pants not-quite-matching combo (he's taken to putting his coat on pre-breakfast, resulting in some interesting revelations at school lately).
- I realized too late that I hadn't busted him for leaving his jammie pants on under his pants.
- When I expressed dismay that he'd been wearing his jammies for, like, 24 hrs straight (recall that we Laytons only dress when absolutely necessary), he corrected me by informing me that he's been wearing them, "For, like, four days."
- We jumped out of the car straight into the snow for a quick romp to get good and wet before we entered the carpeted house.
- Three little jumping beans greeted their aunt, uncle, and hyperactive puppy and didn't stop bouncing for a good hour, despite constant barking from parents, aunt, and puppy.
- After practice and a pep talk Reed and Calvin placed their own semi-complicated orders like champs, causing Aunt Tavia to cry. She's totally turning into our mother. (I've been there for ten years...)
- Max lightened the mood when he placed his order. Instead of ordering a meal, he communicated his desire for chocolate milk instead of white. This lead the waiter to mention chocolate pancakes, which took his mind completely off of the previously decided-upon Lil' Farmer's Breakfast. When I whispered a reminder of his order to him, he began arguing with me. He calmed down when we settled on pancakes and sausage and made his order like a big boy, looking the waiter in the eyes and speaking clearly. Until the man asked for clarification on what kind of sausage. Then he just took a big lick of milk that had spilled on the menu.
- Calvin engaged his twisty straw in an exciting knife fight, complete with sound effects.
- While stopped at a traffic light, Calvin shot who-knows-how-many motorists with his 6-shooter before we realized what he was doing.
- We had a great time with my sister and brother-in-law back at their house -- after we busted out the iphones and Legos.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Thpeech Impedimentth

All three of our boys have had minor speech impediments. I have the cutest video of me trying to help Reed practice his Rs and Ls around age two.

R: My name is Weed James Wayton.
M: My name is Rrrreeed James Lllllayton.
R: (in a "Silly Mommy" voice) You're not.
M: Can you say, "My name is Rrrreeeed James Llllayton?"
R: You're not Weed James Wayton.

But the boy worked hard and had his name back probably by age three or four. Max, too, had to work on his Ls. He's already fixed those. His last sound to fix is "th" (as in "Do you want dis one or dat one?) He can do it, and will when we remind him. It's just not a habit yet.

And then there's Calvin... His lisp combined with his difficult personality has made him our most challenging speech student. We tried video taping him. Wouldn't cooperate. We tried putting frosting, peanut butter, and honey up where his tongue was supposed to be when he makes the S sound. He'd just lick it and say, "Thuper!" We tried correcting him. He'd throw a fit or avoid s words all together. So, when he started kindergarten, I asked our speech teacher if she would please pull him. She said his sound wasn't a major concern for his age, but she could still work with him based on parent request. We'd spent the whole year before telling him that he really needed to practice or he'd have to miss out on center time to go to speech class. We never wanted him to feel bad about his speech, but we also knew his biggest impediment was his stubborn personality! Then, when it became clear that he wasn't going to have it fixed, I had to spin it around and make speech class seem cool. It was. The speech teacher reported to me that he performed his S's perfectly in her presence and loved the games she played with the kids. She had also learned, through a few rousing games of Go Fish, that he is extremely competitive. So, she challenged him to be the first student to graduate from speech, laying out a collection of stuffed animal prize options and promising ice cream at his graduation "ceremony." That struck a chord. He diligently pronounced every word correctly as he told me about the challenge that day. He had his eye on a ssssnow tiger (actually a white cat, but whatever works) and there was only one and HE was going to get it. And he did better. He would let us stop him and have him repeat words without too much fuss (thometimes). But it still wasn't a habit.

So, we upped the ante at home. We started a competition between him and Max. Every time Max said "th" instead of "d" he'd get a point. We could remind and correct him, since he's two. Every time Calvin said a good "S" he'd get a point, but if he'd say a bad one, he'd lose a point. The winner would get a treat at the end of the day. We heard a lot of, "I'm ssssuper excccited to get ssssso many pointssss thisssss day, guysssss." Then, Reed would get Max to say, "This, this, this, this, this, this." It was quite annoying. But I think it might have been the tipping point. A few weeks after we started the game, we'd pretty much forgotten to keep track. The tally charts were still out, but mainly because our house was a wreck. But I noticed just this past weekend that he was saying every S correctly - or close. And it was starting to be more effortless. He's done it all week, so I think it's gonna stick. We've bragged on our stubborn little guy and told him we'll be talking to his speech teacher when we go back. He can already taste the ice cream.

This boy! The one we had to bribe with "Starbur" to potty train and with 13 other treats to talk correctly. I wonder how much he'll cost us in sugar and petty cash by the time he graduates from high school!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Keepin' it Real

Lest you think we're the most perfect family in the whole wide world, what with our balance of athleticism and academics of late, let's keep it real by discussing today.

Basically, I wanted to kill everyone all day.

Reasons (OK - I realize the only real reason is my crap-bag attitude today, but indulge me, m-kay?):

- I slept in (again) and only crawled out of bed to break of a screaming fight over some random toy. This was the first of many such fights.
- Calvin's mystery "dry patch" multiplied and looks suspiciously like ring worm. He squirmed through the fungicide and band-aid application.
- Reed acted like Calvin had leprosy half the day.
- Max reverted back to his early twos, jumping and crying about anything that didn't go his way.
- I paid bills.
- I still, after four days and a weekend, have papers to grade.
- When I fell asleep on the couch reading a book (I know, rough life!) Ryan awoke me with a lion's growl (it's a book with gladiators). Then, Calvin and Reed kept me awake by "snuggling" me with their ice cold fingers and toes.
- After supper, Ryan decided to research the benefits of brown rice vs. white rice (we had white rice for supper - it's clearly nutritionally inferior, blah, blah) and go on and on and on about the benefits of various whole grains and all their nutritional facts and how we should start incorporating more of them into our diet and making suggestions for how. Then, when I told him to make a menu (basically to shut him up), he did. Then, the menu ticked me off. I didn't like him telling me how to do my job. I likened it to me telling him what shape of wood I wanted him to burn in the fire that keeps us warm. He said that analogy would only work if the shape of wood I preferred was going to make our whole family healthy. Touche'. Also, bite me. I'm whole grain.
- I thought we were going to get groceries and movies, but someone decided our road is still too icy.
- We're off again tomorrow.
- Saturday and Sunday are after that.
- There's snow in the forecast for next week.

Life's a roller coaster.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Jocks and Nerds

We're on snow day # - Oh! Who am I kidding? I've literally lost count. And if what the boys did on the grass today is any indication of slickness of the roads, we aren't going anywhere for a while. So how do you pass the time with a houseful of rowdy boys? (Besides playing the most complicated board game ever?) Well, if you're Ryan, you resurrect P.E. Here was today's line up:

Upside-down sit-ups:

Push-up position hold contest:

(Some lasted longer than others)

Resistance band work-out:

It was this point that Ryan wished he would've required protective gear - for himself. It's all fun and games 'till someone gets hit in the sweet spot. 

After supper, the Layton Olympics took a more academic turn, with math races.

The winner of each round (and Max - and the loser, if he snuck off fast enough) got to take a victory lap.

We rounded out the evening with family Zumba and our post-Zumba treat: strawberry puppy chow!

I say bring on the snow! I'm loving the together time with my little mathletes!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Epic Board Game

Today was yet another super-relaxing snow day. And the fact that I'm blogging at 3 a.m. should be an indicator that I'm in for another day off tomorrow. So why does my head hurt?

Probably from playing this game with my two oldest.

Game name: Heroica (apparently after a real game)

Set up:
- Make tiny player guys (2 per player) and bad guys (a bunch). Arm each with a sweet Lego weapon.
- Make "hero packs" for each player. This can be any kind of device, but keep in mind its purpose is to hold loot. Weapon hooks and bowls to collect jewels (and cats) are highly encouraged.

Someone is optimistic with his hero pack construction

- Attach two large Lego base plates together, then cover with a buttload of random Lego pieces and bad guys.

Disclaimer: I'm pretty sure these rules were mostly made up as we went along, but the boys must have some sort of secret language, because they were able to explain each decree in tandem, complete with laughing at me for not understanding the logic.  Also, be warned that the complexity of this game rivals that of the games my brother introduces my family to every Christmas - the games that take an entire week of playing and discussing among nine adults to begin to fathom.

- Each player takes a turn moving one of their two player pieces. A basic turn consists of rolling dice (or "accepting the offer" of the dice thrown across the room from a neighbor if you like what it landed on) and moving that many Lego dots in any direction. Or you can jump over objects, but not too far. Or you can shoot stuff or buy stuff or trade stuff or blow stuff up, but you don't necessarily have to do it during your turn.
- When you come upon a random item on the board, you get it or fight it, or jump over it, or go through it. Items include:

These items are actually all pictured in the best hero pack of all. Note the game-winning (or not) reachy thingie near the bottom. 

-- food - for energy; You have to have, like, at least two. What happens if you have less than two, you may ask if you've been playing the last 10 rounds with only a banana? "That means that in a matter of time, one of your guys will have to leave," says game master Reed.
-- bad guys - roll the dice. If you get a 4, 5, or 6, you win and get to remove the bad guy from play and keep his weapon. Anything less than four results in moving back one space. There is one ultimate bad guy who has to be beat three times in a row.
--weapons - to add to your hero pack; seemingly useless, until the rule masters reveal halfway through the game that you can use guns or bows to shoot things. They may be used eight times and you may shoot at any bad guy five spaces away (except the ultimate bad guy) or at any item you want anywhere on the board. A hit results in getting that item for your hero pack. (Hint: Don't shoot lava. You don't get lava. And don't ask why, or you'll get this face.)
-- binoculars - can be traded for energy or used to make you see bad guys from farther away (which provides no advantage, btw)
-- jewels and money - to buy stuff at random times for random prices; or they could be ammo, cleverly disguised as emeralds. In this case, you will be mocked for not knowing the difference - or knowing that you could have been shooting things with your cross bow up to eight times.
-- pets - add them to your hero pack; Use them up to three times to move an extra six spaces.
-- dynamite - blow up stuff and keep it; Use it, like, three times.
-- reachy thing - use this long item to possess anything within it's range; Unlimited use.
-- obstacles - lava, fences, etc may be jumped over; doors may be opened if you first possess the key by beating the bad guy who guards it
-- trophies - for bragging rights - and to hold your jewels/ammo

Winning the game:
- The player who kills the final bad guy by rolling three successive rolls greater than three, wins...
- ...the chance to get the map. The player who acquires the map, wins...
- ... the chance to race to the pole that just got added to the game board by the battle winner who got beat to the map by another player who cleverly used her reachy thing to capture it first. The player who gets to the pole first, slides down it and claims victory, which results in an arm-wrestling competition to distract the sore loser, who may or may not have won before the pole element was added to the game.

Confused? So was I. But I'm not outlawing the game until blood is shed. That sucker kept them entertained half the day. I was only in on one round, then found convenient excuses to bow out of future sessions. My last distraction was inviting them to participate in a whole-family Zumba  party. Everyone, even Daddy, joined in the 20-minute series of routines. But that is a post of its own...