Top 20 Board Books

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With the impending move into the RV later this month we had to downsize drastically. Everything from kitchen stuff to toys had to be downsized. I had to go through all of our books and decided which ones we were keeping and what we were donating. As homeschoolers books are super important in our house. We go to the library on an almost weekly basis. We read for several hours most days. It was pretty easy to downsizes the older kid books and chose what to keep.

However, it was much harder to downsizes the board book collection. I am not a big fan of checking out board books from the library; mostly because of a germ factor. Knowing that babies and toddlers like to slobber and chew on the books I just prefer to have our own books that I know only my kids mouths have been on! Given that I read these books to our baby on a daily basis I wanted to have good reading worthy books; not silly dull “this is green” “this is red” type books. Sure, having a few books like that are nice to teach colors, etc but I would much rather a good story! So, without further ado here is the 20 books that made the cut.

  1. So Many Bunnies Board Book: A Bedtime ABC and Counting Book by Rick Walton
  2. Pajama Time! by Sandra Boynton
  3. Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed by Eileen Christelow
  4. Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? by Bill Martin Jr
  5. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr
  6. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  7. From Head to Toe by Eric Carle
  8. The Mitten by Jan Brett
  9. Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett
  10. Over There by Dorinda Silver Williams  (we have the daddy version)
  11. My Very First Bible Stories Our Father by Lois Rock
  12. How Much Is That Doggie in the Window by Iza Trapani
  13. The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore
  14. Usborne’s That’s not My Snowman (Touchy-feely book)
  15. Little Big Flaps Dinosaurs by Charles Reasoner
  16. The Saving Name of God the Son by Jean Ann Sharpe
  17. Santa’s Prayer by Mary Lou Andes
  18. The Saints Are Watching Over Me by Tiny Saints (This is actually a Christmas present!)
  19. Baby Einstein’s First Words by Disney book group
  20. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Helen Oxenbury

When picking out books I wanted to meet several different criteria. For example I wanted several interactive type books. So, we kept one touch-in-feel book and one lift the flaps book. I kept Over There by Dorinda Silver Williams because it was an invaluable book when my husband was deployed. We read it multiple times a day. It isn’t in print anymore and I didn’t want to worry about having to replace it if my husband deploys again while William is a little guy.  I kept Baby Einstein’s First Words not because it’s a great literature but it’s been invaluable in helping Antonio work on his speech.



What it is all About

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With Mark gone my least favorite activity to take the children to is Mass.  Mass can be difficult with two pairs of adult hands. When you only have one set of hands among three children under five it can become down right painful. By the end of Mass I normally feel like I’ve ran a marathon.  It’s exhausting. A lot of the time I wonder why we even bother going to Mass because between trying to ensure the older two children behave and keep the baby happy I seldom get to actually pay attention or participate. However, every Sunday we troop to Mass.

Today, though I was reminded just what it is all about.  I was reminded what our primary job as parents is. As I corralled the boys down the aisle to go receive Communion I was frustrated. I was frustrated with the squirmy baby in my arms; who wanted to escape. I was frustrated with Paul and Thomas; who wanted to run and gallop down the aisle. Like a mother hen I clucked at them as I guided them to the Eucharistic minister and back towards the atrium.

Only, when we made it to the doorway between the Sanctuary and the atrium I realized I had lost Thomas. I turned around to see him standing in the middle of the E.M’s and staring at Father and the altar.  I hurried back down to gather him up. As I approached him I saw pure amazement on his face. He was staring wide-eyed at Father and completely entranced. I told him we had to go and he replied, “Mommy. I watching.” I told him we could watch from the doorway to which he replied, “I close.” 

From the look on his face I could tell he knew something special, something important was going on up at that altar. As I picked him up to carry him out I thought to myself this is what it is all about. This is why we suffer through what can be sheer torture some Sundays.


Upcycled Ball Pit

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My children love ball pits. Paul and Antonio play in one when they are at occupational therapy. When Paul first started occupation therapy for his sensory issues I made our own ball pit here at home. I bought an inflatable baby pool and a bunch of plastic balls. This worked great for a while. I loved having a ball pit for Paul to play in. It was a very calming sensory activity for him. He could climb in all wired and when he was done playing he would be considerably calmer.

Eventually, the baby pool popped and wasn’t fixable. So, I threw away the pool and bagged the balls up; forgetting about them after I tossed them in the storage shed. Last week when I was digging out the summer clothes Paul and Thomas saw the bag of balls and wanted me to make another ball pit. Paul kept saying how much Antonio would like having one here at home. I said sure and put buying another baby pool on my shopping list.

Then this morning as I was prepping the backyard to be mowed I had a brilliant thought. My kids don’t use our turtle sandbox. It hasn’t had sand in it for over a year. I was actually to put it up for grabs on the curb. However, instead I turned it into our new ball pit! It’s great. Unlike the baby pool this one can’t get a hole in it and it has a lid to cover the balls if need be.




Flowers and Pi- a little late

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In going with our intentional days of March we went out and bought flowers the other day. I let both boys pick out their own type to plant. Paul picked impatients and Thomas picked pansies. Mommy also picked out some tulips for herself.  It was several days later before we had the chance to plant them due to rain. However, plant them we did! I let the kids use their shovels to dig in the flower bed. In no time they had a nice trench dug to plant our flowers in.

The hardest part was wrangling the flowers out of the plastic holders they came in. The boys where impatient and mommy wasn’t doing very well removing them fast enough. However, mommy prevailed and the boys buried the plants in the trench. Given their current obsession with water I think that their favorite part of the flower business will be watering.

A few days later we celebrated National PI day (March 14). While, my boys are a little young to really understand PI- from a mathematical point of view they do understand pie! We started the morning reading Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi by Cindy Neuschwander. Paul picked the book from the library based on the picture of the dragon on the front but I loved how nicely it tied into our intentional days of March.

While, the math concept that was covered in the book was over the boys head; they thoroughly enjoyed the story of the Sir Cumference and the dragon. As a homeschooler to be I am always on the look out for good books to add to our resources. Cindy Neuschwander’s books will be joining our library. She has a whole bunch of math themed books- which will be a great literature addition to our math curriculum once we get started with school.
I let the boys help me make a pudding pie (graham cracker crust w/ instant pudding mix and whip cream!) after lunch and we chilled it in the fridge till dinner time. After a yummy dinner we enjoyed a wonderful slice of pie!

Days of Intentional March

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I want to make the most of this upcoming month and do what I call intentional living – making the most of our time and the resources around us. I want to make sure the children and I are making the best use of our days and being productive. However, I also believe unstructured play time is important. We will be celebrating the following days this year:

March 1- is National Peanut Butter day: To celebrate we will be incorporating lots of peanut butter into our meals and snacks. This will make Thomas ecstatic since peanut butter is his favorite food!

March 7- is the Feast Day of St. Thomas of Aquinas and so we’ll celebrate Thomas’ nameday. I will print a coloring sheeting for them to do. We’ll also make star shaped cookies that the children can help make.

March 12- is plant a flower day. We’ll get some inexpensive flowers and plant them together. Then the children can help take care of them. Mommy is thinking we’ll plant tulips; since they are my favorite flower.

March 14- is national PI day. While, math isn’t my thing it’s a good excuse to make a pie for dessert that day!

March 15- is incredible kid day! I am not sure what we will do but we’ll do some sort of fun activity to celebrate that we have 3 incredible kids!

March 17- is St. Patrick’s Day. We will of course wear green. I’ll have some coloring sheets that are both generic Irish themed and themed around the actual St. Patrick. We’ll make shamrock cookies and have a Irish dinner. I will also have a few books for our evening reading.

Birthday Fun times 2

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Thomas turns 2 today and so we celebrated his birthday this weekend. It is hard to believe he is 2 already. I’d say he’s gotten so big but he’s still a little peanutJ. However, he is one of the happiest toddlers I know.. For the most part (barring being overtired) he has a super sunny deposition.

To celebrate his birthday we took a family trip to the local aquarium on Saturday. Everyone enjoyed themselves and our membership has now paid for itself. I am a huge fan of purchasing memberships to places such as the zoo and museums. They can quickly pay for themselves if your family enjoys going on outings frequently. Our aquarium membership has already paid for itself in just 2 visits. Since, we plan to homeschool our children as they get older these memberships also offer great educational value.

On Sunday after Mass we had a small party at the house for him- nothing super fancy but a nice low key afternoon with friends and cake. I took him to the bakery on Friday to let him pick out his own cake. It was no surprise that he picked a Thomas the train themed cake. However, both the baker and I thought it was heart melting when he told the baker that he wanted a “Me Choo-choo cake”.

Today, on his actually birthday we had leftover cake for breakfast and went to the photo studio to get photos taken. I am thrilled with how his photos came out and can’t wait to get the prints to hang on the wall.

Shopping for gifts was difficult; since he is at the age where the toys we’ve bought for Paul in the past are age appropriate. We settled on bean bag chair for him to use during family movie nights (Paul will receive on for his birthday in April) and a new scanimation board book for our home library.

Bathtub Painting

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Today we made a few home valentines. When we were finished the boys still wanted to paint. However, since I am still recovering from my kidney infection I didn’t have the energy to supervise free painting time-which because Thomas is in a phase of thinking walls make a better canvas then paper does I have to.

So, I decided I’d try something I had pinned on pinterest a while back- bathtub shaving cream paint. It took all of 2 minutes to prep. Here are the ingredients:

– muffin tin
– cheap shaving cream
– food coloring

Fill muffin tin with shaving cream then add different color food drops to each cup. The amount of food coloring you add will depend on how vibrant you desire the colors to be

Once, I had mixed up the paint the boys and I headed to the bathroom. Given that my boys are still little I stripped them down to their underwear and diaper to make the mess less. I headed them the muffin tin and told them to enjoy finger painting their canvas.

Paul was a little confused at first that I wasn’t starting a bath for him but once I explained we were going to paint the tub and walls then take a bath he was happy. Paul and Thomas had a blast and I didn’t have to watch like a hawk to make sure they weren’t painting on places they weren’t suppose to be. I was able to sit down and rest while they happily painted for an entire hour. After that they took a bath and that occupied them for another 45 minutes.

Bathtub painting took just a few minutes to prepare but kept the boys entertained and happy for 2 hours. That is what I call a hit and an activity well worth repeating.

Game Time Fun

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I love board games and always have. We have a wide variety of toddler/preschool games for Paul and Thomas. The boys got a few new ones recently; so I thought I’d share some reviews of ones that have been hits and one that haven’t been so great.

Lucky Ducks: My children love this game….mommy on the other hand can’t stand it. It drives me batty and has recently been re-gifted to the thrift store. The concept of the game was fantastic. It was great for learning the basic colors, matching skills and memory skills. However, the entire time it is turned on to be played it quacks…loudly.We had the same noise issue with the Goin’ Fishing game.

Memory: There are a gazillion different types of memory games with different themes. I think every game cabinet should have Memory in it. We are lucky to have a beautiful wooden animal themed set my mother-in-law  gave Paul as a birthday gift several years ago. Memory is a diverse game. Not only can you play it regularly you can also work on matching and identification (depending on what sort of theme the cards are). Paul learned to recognize a ton of different animals because of our memory game and now Thomas is learning to recognize them.

Elefun: This game is a ton of fun and gets kids moving. It is a great game for those days when every one is starting to go stir crazy because of being cooped up due to the weather. To play this you want to make sure the kids will have plenty of space to jump around and catch the butterflies. Every time I bring it out we have lots of giggles.

Gator Golf:  This is another great get up and move game.  It is great for teaching coordination and learning to judge distances. The boys also enjoy using the alligator in their creative play. The alligator has been known to eat cars and attack forts.

Eric Carle is one of my favorite authors and so I love that fact that now days you can get great educational boardgames based off his works. We have several of his games and so far have enjoyed them immensely. I look forward to adding more to our collection. Currently, we have Head to Toe and The Very Hungry Caterpillar; which we haven’t had the chance to play yet since we received it for Christmas.

Head to Toe: Is the perfect game for a high energy preschooler. Thomas (2) doesn’t quite get it yet but Paul (4) enjoys it immensely. This game encourages children to explore the different ways their bodies can move and how to coordinate those moves. It also encourages memorization when using the sequence play; where children have to act out a serious of actions in order.

Potty Training…Oh My

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Parents look forward to the day they can say their child is finally potty trained as it means no more diapers. However, getting a child to that point isn’t something that is always easy or enjoyable. Paul is 3.5 and he isn’t trained. We’ve tried before but have never had any success. At first our problem was that his developmental delays and sensory issues made it where he wasn’t ready which was fine. We had no problem waiting till he was ready to train. We also did a few things to help him get ready like switch back to cloth diapers for him to try and help with the sensory issue of not getting the sensory input of when he needed to go or telling if he was wet in the disposable diapers. This helped immensely and soon he was able to tell us he was wet.

After much thought and consideration we decided he was ready to begin the process of potty training. He has all the skills need to train…it’s just a matter of finding a method that works. So, October started the beginning of Operation Potty Train. My hope is that by the end of this month during the day Paul will be done with diapers.

One of our big challenges was finding something to motivate Paul with. In the past we have tried candy, sticker charts and praise. None of that worked. However, we finally found something that seems to be working. I currently have a set of troublesome train cars residing in the bathroom. Paul desperately wants them to add to his train set. They are prisoners of the bathroom and can’t leave it to join the train set until Paul is day trained. The other part of our reward system involves pennies. Paul loves pennies- or as he calls them, “his monies”. So, going off this we give him a penny each time he goes to the potty. He loves getting a new penny to add to his jar. Sometimes, he asks for a starburst candy after going pee too but most of the times he just wants the penny.

This reward system has him interested in using the potty (This is a first before when we tried to potty train he never would do anything on the toilet.) and we have had a number of pees in the potty. However, our current issue is getting him to go. Young children are always busy little people. Paul is busier then most due to a number of factors. So, getting him to stop what he is doing and go sit on the toilet is a challenge a lot of the time. Normally, once we get him to sit on the toilet the promise of a penny will help him calm down and do his business. It would be lovely though if it wasn’t such a battle to get him to go in the first place and for that I just keep telling myself time…with time he’ll get the hang of it and will go on his own.

So, what technique did you use to potty train your little one?