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Pumpkin Party

   A couple of weeks ago, my little baby girl turned one year old. How did that happen so fast? I feel like I was just snuggling her in the hospital, and all of a sudden I had a birthday party to plan!

Baby girl’s birthday is at the end of October, so I decided a pumpkin theme would be perfect (and easy)! Apparently many others think so too because there were so many ideas online that it was hard to narrow down what I wanted for our party. We don’t have a huge budget for party planning, so my goal is to keep things simple and fun and do as much as I can on my own.

Invitations

One of the first things needed is the invitation. I’m usually all about making cards or creating a digital version by myself. This year, I knew if I wanted anybody to actually get an invitation, I had to buy them! Fortunately, there were so many online options that I just had to pick one! I ordered these from SugarPink Designs on Etsy. They personalized it and I just had to print. I loved how they turned out! My order even came with little personalized toppers for the cupcakes. Super cute!

Decorations

Decorations turned out to be pretty easy as well. I bought a few large pumpkins that I planned to carve with the kids after the party, as well as several small ones to place at tables. My  parents had grown a few in their garden and graciously brought those as well. Pink and orange seemed to jump out as appropriate color for a girl’s pumpkin party. I also included white and green for accents and contrast.

Activities

I like to have at least one activity for the kids to participate in. When my son turned one, he had a ball themed party with a mini ball pit! We decided to include this again since it was a hit with the extra little ones. For the slightly older kids, I included a pumpkin painting table. I bought many small pumpkins and a guest could pick one and choose to paint it and take it home! Even adults participated in this, which was fun to see! For the biggest kids (adults) we used a pumpkin trivia that I found here.  I probably should have checked out the answers before handing it out though, because we found a few incorrect answers! Be careful for those fact-checkers that will get you!

Food

The most important part of hosting a good party (in my opinion) is making sure there is food available! We did a little chili bar with two types of chili – beef chili and Grand Rapids White Bean Chicken Chili and had all the fixins to put on top.

We also served the following:

For dessert, we had a smash cake that I had decorated (I was a little rushed for time with this one, so the icing did not turn out as I had planned. My daughter did not seem to mind though!)

I also made:

Overall, the party was a success. As I was cleaning up afterwards, I thought, “This is truly a lot of work for a one year old that won’t remember anything about it!” But honestly, they party is not just celebrating her life. It is celebrating the family and friends who have helped raise our little girl and will continue to stand by us in the years to come!

DIY Costume for Teachers

  Looking for a last minute Halloween costume? I’ve got a great one that came to me last minute that is perfect for any teacher.

Every year at our school, we do a “spirit week”.  Students dress according to a different theme everyday. The class that goes all out and has the most participation and “spirit” wins the “Spirit Sword” (which is a little plastic sword with some ribbon on it. For some reason the kids fight like crazy for it!) Anyway, this year some of the themes included Crazy Hair Day, Patriotic Day and Character Day. For Character Day, students (and teachers) were encouraged to dress up like a character from their favorite movie, tv show or book.

My first thought was to dress up as Belle from Beauty and the Beast. I’ve always wanted to dress up like her, and it is one of my favorite movies. However, finding a big fluffy yellow dress last minute is not an easy thing. I thought about it a little more, and then went to Pinterest.

There were lots of ideas – storybook characters like Grouchy Ladybug, the Rainbow Fish and the Hungry Caterpillar were adorable. All cute, but not for me. There were ideas for being crayons, rock, paper, scissors, or even emojis. And then I saw it: Ms Frizzle! Not only did I grow up watching, The Magic School Bus, I happened to have a stuffed Lizz in my classroom. It was meant to be!

The dress is the most important part of being Ms Frizzle. I happened to have a blue dress that would work perfectly for a costume. I didn’t have a collared shirt to go underneath, so I wore a white, loose-sleeved one that worked well.  So if you want to be Ms. Frizzle, your dress MUST show whatever science subject you are studying! My 6th grade class is studying the planets so obviously I choose to wear Ms. Frizzle’s classic solar system outfit!

I used felt to cut out several stars, some suns, planets and crescent moons. Then I taped them all over my dress, making sure to add little stars to my earrings and planets to the tips of my shoes. I even braided my hair the night before so when I woke up it would have the “frizz” I needed! The finishing touch was

my sidekick Lizz!

Materials I used:

  • Knee length or tea-length dress
  • Tape
  • Felt cut into the shapes you need! The Solar System theme is easy, but you could customize your dress to whatever science subject you are studying! If you need inspiration, check out Monsters and Molecules blog where all “Dresses of the Frizz” are displayed! Amazing!
  • Toy Lizz!

I put this costume together in less than an hour (and that includes the many interruptions from my children!). Even though Magic School Bus is no longer on tv, the kids still knew who I was! Apparently it’s on Netflix… The costume was a big hit! Now if only I had a magic bus that could transport my students to cool places…

 

Homemade Applesauce

  I feel like the apple craze hit me a little later than usual this year. Maybe because the weather has been pretty warm and it hasn’t felt like fall. Anyway, this past week the need for apples and apple treats hit hard. This week also happened to be the week our school transforms the gym into an apple pie factory. We make over 7,000 pies in 2 days and then sell them to raise money for the school. It’s our biggest and best smelling fundraiser, with the sweet smell of apples, cinnamon and sugar filling the halls.

Enter homemade applesauce. I cook it in the Crockpot, and it makes the whole house smell like heaven.

Ingredients:

  • 10 apples  (I typically use a variety of kinds including Empire, Gala, McIntosh, and Fuji)
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ sugar  (If you like sweet applesauce, or are using tart apples, you can add up to a cup)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Splash of lemon juice
  • Other optional ingredients include: honey, nutmeg, allspice

Directions:

  1. Core and peel the apples. The nice thing about this sauce is that you don’t have to peel everything perfectly. If a little bit of the peel is left on an apple here and there, it’s fine!
  2. Chop the apples into smaller pieces and dump them into the crockpot.
  3. Add the water, sugar, and any other ingredients to taste.
  4. Cook on low for about 4 hours, stirring and mashing the apples occasionally.
  5. I like my sauce on the chunky side, so once the apples are soft, I mash as much as I can with a wooden spoon, but leave some chunks. If you like your applesauce smoother, you can use a blender to puree it further.

This applesauce is awesome warm, however it can be stored in the refrigerator for several days, or put into the freezer and last a few months. Mine never lasts that long, especially now that my son has a new found love 

of this special He wanted to eat the entire batch!

So grab some apples, let the sweet apple aromas fill your kitchen and enjoy!

Moon Phase Madness

There was something in the air this past week. Did you feel it? Kids were super restless and even naughty. Teachers were on edge. Nothing seemed to go as planned. Did you also know it was a full moon at the end of last week? Yup. Does that explain things?

Why is it that kids seem to get a little crazy when the full moon appears? Scientists (like the ones here from Weather.com) say that this is a myth. Although studies have shown kids do get less sleep during a full moon, this is only about 1% of their sleep and should not account for much difference in behavior. Yet, ask any classroom teacher, and I think they would disagree…right? I hope this isn’t just me. I know I would gladly invite those scientists to my classroom during a full moon week and allow them to teach for “research” purposes. Good luck.

Last week my class also studied the moon phases. How perfect. So in light of the Moon, here are some great resources to teach with!

My favorite: The Moon Song (Rock Version)

This youtube video is my all time favorite. The cheesy music, the monotone rap/singing, the repetitive words… all perfect reasons to show a class of middle school students. Though there are many songs that describe the moon phases, this one tops them all. It sticks in their heads forever, which is exactly the purpose when you want them to memorize the moon phases! Thank you songsofhigherlearning!

Oreo Phases

I have never done this in my own classroom, but I know of other teachers who successfully taught the phases with Oreos at my school. It seems like a great idea! “Kids, lick off the frosting to the correct Moon phases!” You may get a few that “accidentally” mess up, but students would be engaged for sure. Sciencebob.com has an explanation here with a pdf to help.

oreo_moon_phases

Birthday Moon Phases

This is an activity that I have done in my classroom. It’s from Mysciencesite.com. Students figure out what phase the moon will be in on their next birthday, plus the days before and after. Listed are a few websites that can direct students on how to figure this out. It’s a good way to help practice the different phases as well.

For the Toddlers

This last one is for the littles. I found this idea at A Dab of Glue Will Do and love it. My son is obsessed with seeing the Moon and I know he would love to make his own! With just foil and paint, kids can make the Moon to look semi-realistic!

Triumph and Tragedy

Love for Logan

Have you heard about this story? This dear two year old, Logan, had a tragic accident with a car window. During his time in the hospital, his mother, Lisa, would post on Facebook any updates that occurred with her son while demonstrating her and her husband’s solid faith in Christ. Thousands of people began following their story and felt encouraged through Drew and Lisa’s courage and faith. Sadly, after a week without much progress, on August 24, 2017, Logan passed away.

I knew Logan quite well. In fact, my family is close friends with his parents and several members of the extended family. Because of this,it has taken me awhile to know what to post. In some ways, I just wanted to ignore it and keep posting about regular lessons. I could continue with another classroom activity or a recipe for the family. No one would really know the difference- not many people read this anyway. However, dealing with grief is a difficult thing. Ignoring the sadness won’t help. Even though this post won’t change the past, it can help honor sweet Logan and his family.

Our boys when they were about 6 months old.

My son is only a few weeks younger than Logan. The plan was for our boys to go through life together. We had imagined teachers comment about their mischievous ways. The two were going to play basketball together, already passing the balls around in the gym after church. We had assumed they would be performing in many more Christmas pageants as little stable animals like they did the Christmas before.

It hurts when things don’t go according to your plan. It’s painful to watch dear friends go through their (and your) worst nightmare. Yet, my family’s daily life has not changed dramatically. Even through the grief, we still wake, go to work, and put both our children to bed at night.  Earlier, I was chopping a watermelon up so my son would be able to eat it for the next week. It occurred to me for the one-thousandth time that these small things will always be different for Logan’s family.

My biggest question for God has been “Why them?” I feel panic moments when I think about how easily that could have been our family. Throughout the last few weeks I’ve looked at my son and tried to imagine what they might be going through. I can’t do it. It hurts too much.

We may never fully know why God took Logan away so young. However, God has been revealing Himself in small ways throughout this process. I have already seen certain broken relationships start to be restored. Others, who had seemingly drifted away from their faith, were seen in church the last few Sundays. Thousands of people followed this story and in doing so, shared hope with each other and glimpses of Christ’s love. God has been triumphant through Logan and this tragedy and will continue to work through it. Logan’s death may very well bring life to hundreds of others.

Even with that knowledge, it is not easy. After a death, especially that of a child, people often feel helpless. Nothing you do or say will bring the person back, yet, you want to do anything and everything you can to help. Someone posted this article called What You Can Do to Help a Grieving Family. It was written from a mother who also lost her son and contains ideas of what people can (and shouldn’t) do for a family who has experienced tragedy. 

Logan’s parents have seen an outpouring of people’s love in many ways mentioned in the article. They continue to receive gifts, donations and prayers from people in the community as well as hundreds of miles away. Yet even with the abundance of support, I think they will always have pain – the feeling of something missing. Nothing anyone can do will fix that. However, there is still hope. Because of Christ, they have the hope of eternity. Though the time on Earth will be difficult, it will be just a blink compared to the eternity they will have with Logan in the presence of Christ.

That is the triumph within the tragedy.

Elements of a Successful School Bulletin Board

Our school’s academic theme this year is science. This means we will be having a few more extra events and activities relating to the sciences. In the spring, we will have a science fair and STEM night.  It’s exciting, but means a little bit more work for me this year!

In one of my previous posts I shared some of the bulletin boards up in my classroom. I was still working on a science themed board for our middle school hallway. I thought I would share that today.

A fellow teacher found this one on Pinterest for me and I’m so thankful! (I could only find the picture and not any website to go with it!) I immediately loved the idea of making a periodic table, but rather than it having the true elements, including the important characteristics for a school. What a great way to introduce the school to our new middle school students and to remind returning families what makes a school truly successful.

How to create one yourself:

It didn’t take much to put it together. I made each element box on the computer and printed them out. The symbol went in the top left and the “atomic number” in

 the top right. The “name” or characteristic when on the bottom. That was it! I was surprised at how quickly I thought of the different “elements”. I used some from the picture I saw, but included many of my own as well. Since we are also studying the Fruits of the Spirit this year, I made sure those were incorporated into the board.

Examples:
  • Pt: Patience
  • K: Kindness
  • A : academics
  • Ri : Rigor
  • F : Failthfulness

You can choose whatever characteristics describe your school and the ways it is successful.

I then decided to back them in different colors, just like elements on the periodic table are sometimes displayed. I used 32 element characteristics    , but you could do more or less. Just make sure you arrange them to look like a periodic table for the board to make sense! And I have to give a shout out to my husband – he helped me staple everything in a straight line. That is the hardest part!

I have had so many compliments on this board. I may just leave it up for a few months!

 

Solar Eclipse of 2017 – It’s a big deal!

So if you haven’t already heard (which hopefully you have) there will be a huge event happening on Monday, August 21. A solar eclipse of this extent does not happen very often. And when it does occur, it is rare that we can actually see it from the US!

This solar eclipse will be a total solar eclipse for many areas of the United States. This means, that for a 70 mile wide path from Oregon down through South Carolina, people will be able to experience the total solar eclipse. North and south of that path will experience a partial solar eclipse. Depending how close or far away you are from that path, you will experience more or less of the eclipse! You can check out a map here to see the exact path.

What is a solar eclipse?

An eclipse occurs when the sun, earth and moon all align in a specific way. During a solar eclipse, the moon “blocks” the sun from the Earth. In other words, the moon is creating a shadow on a small part of the earth’s surface.

Image Credit: NASA 2017 Total Solar Eclipse Event Page. Image not to scale.

 

Because of the size differences, the moon only casts a shadow on a small part of earth’s surface. For this shadow to be directly in your path is pretty incredible and a once in a lifetime experience!

Image credit: Wikipedia.org

So what should you do?

1. Get Glasses

You will need to have special certified glasses that filter out the sun’s harmful rays. Looking at the sun directly is very dangerous and can cause eye damage. This is NOT a good thing. The glasses help protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays. However, I think the glasses are selling out fast, at least in my town! I had to go to two several stores to find enough for my class. They sell glasses at Walmart, Lowe’s, Toys ‘R Us and possibly a few other places.

2. Check when the eclipse will happen near you

For us, the entire eclipse will take place between 12:56 pm and 3:46 pm. The closest to totality we will see happens at 2:22 pm. My plan is to take my science classes outside from 1:45-2:45.

3. Watch the weather

My big fear right now is that it will be storming or super cloudy on eclipse day. This would be sad, but fortunately, NASA will be offering live streaming of the event somewhere sunny! You can catch the live streaming here

4. Enjoy the show!

If you are lucky enough to be in the path of totality, soak it in! What an amazing sight. And if you’re not (like me) it will still be quite a show. It’s awesome to me how everything can line up just so. To me, it demonstrates our Creator’s creativity and power.

 

Monday, August 21 – Catch the Eclipse!

Bulletin Boards – Brilliant or a Bust?

With school just a couple weeks away, I have been focusing on putting my bulletin boards together. The plan for this is usually to make as many pieces as possible at home, so when I do get the chance to get into my classroom, I can grab my stapler and go to town! (That is, if my children that I must take with me are occupied enough. And my stapler actually has staples in it. And I manage to remember to take all the pieces I need.) It’s always a good plan…

I will admit, once the school year starts, I am terrible at changing bulletin boards. I just forget! Summer always brings good intentions and great ideas: big plans to have awesome, interactive bulletin boards for students in my class. But, then I get involved with the activities, lessons and assessments throughout the year and don’t have much extra time and energy for the boards. And so these plans go from being brilliant to being a bust.

 

School Theme

I have one large bulletin board in my classroom that I divide into two or three sections, depending on the year. One of the sections is for our school spiritual theme. I keep this one up year round. This means, I usually put a good amount of effort into it before school starts so it actually looks good! Our spiritual theme this year is Fruit of the Spirit, so here is what I came up with. I enjoyed putting together all the different fruits!

 

Student Work

Another section is used for displaying student work. I put a poster or two up at the start (since I don’t have any student work to display yet!) and then as we do projects, put them up. I do change this throughout the year, but probably still not as much as I should.

All three boards. The posters will soon be replaced with student work!

The Third One…

 

The third section is where I always think “I’ll do better with it this year!” Well, this is my 8th year teaching, and I’m pretty sure I get worse changing those boards. One year I did a “Scientist of the Month” section where students learned facts about a different scientist. That one was pretty successful! It had QR codes students could use and occasionally I would include an extra credit question about that scientist. Two years in a row I thought I would keep up with a “Science in the News” board where I would post articles and news of current science events. Fail. Both years. I think I changed it once. Or maybe there was just nothing happening in science those years!

This year, I am hoping to pilot Chromebooks in my classroom (more on that later). So, because of my lack of board-changing abilities and necessity to emphasize digital citizenship even more, I decided to do a “THINK” board. I had seen this on Pinterest a few times and we even had different mini posters and sheets that had similar ideas on them displayed in several classrooms. I think reminding students the importance of thinking before posting, videoing, tweeting, etc. is necessary more than ever! And the words are not only true with social media, but with the words we speak as well. So I’m hoping that my “brilliant” bulletin board will be a hit. It’s already better on my end because it will be applicable throughout the year!

 

With my classroom boards complete for the school year, I can move on to other things! (Like actually lesson planning…) We do have a few other bulletin boards in the hallway that I will have to create this year. It is the big science fair year at our school = lots more work for me! Also, the teachers will be looking at curriculum more closely to make sure we are aligning to the newest standards. Anyway, I may have to post a few more sciencey bulletin boards as I create them for our hallways throughout the year! 

Make Ahead Pizza Crust – Perfect for a Last Minute Dinner

This is the time of year (unfortunately) I start thinking ahead to the beginning of school again! But rather than getting into my classroom, I start thinking about what I can do at home. Preparing a few make ahead meals is always my goal! Doing this saves me loads of time and stress, especially those first crazy weeks of the school year.

One of our family favorites is homemade pizza. We have pizza at least once a week, but we rarely order out. Occasionally we have frozen pizza, but we really love to make our own. I grew up making pizza. My dad would buy frozen dough, let it thaw, then roll it out to make a few pizza crusts. Everyone could personalize their part (or whole) pizza and make it with whatever sauces, cheese and toppings they chose!

Although those pizzas were delicious, they required a long time in the oven to make sure the dough was fully cooked. We also had store bought crusts, and these were quicker, but not quite as good in my opinion.

Then I found a recipe for make ahead pizza crusts that was simple, easy and delicious!

MomsByHeart.net shared this recipe for make ahead crusts. (There is also a recipe for sauce that I’ve not tried, but would like to!). I’ve adapted the crust recipe slightly here.

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 1 ½ cups warm water
  • ⅛ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
Instructions:

1. First, combine the yeast, warm water and olive oil in the bowl. Let the yeast sit in the water for just a few minutes (while you prep the other ingredients!)

2. Then, add the flour and salt and use the paddle attachment on the mixer and knead for 5 minutes. (If you don’t have a mixer, you can do this by hand… consider it exercise!) 
  • Sometimes I find that it is too sticky and needs a little more flour, and sometimes it is too dry and needs a few drops of olive oil or water. The dough should be sticky, but not so much so that it won’t form a nice ball!
3. Put it into a bowl that is lightly covered in oil. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise until it about doubles in size (about 45 minutes to an hour).

 

4. Divide the dough. If you plan on freezing them, you will want to make sure they fit into the plastic Ziploc bag! The recipe makes six “equal” sized balls of dough which turn into about 10-12” crusts (but no matter how hard I try, they never come out the same size!)
5. Set the sections of dough back in the bowl and let rise for another 5-15 minutes.

 

6. Preheat the oven to 500 ℉ (Yes that hot!)

 

7. Roll each crust out

 

8. Bake for 3-4 minutes until they can hold their shape well.

 

9. If you want to freeze them, make sure they cool completely, place in a sealed bag. They will stay good for several months!

When making the pizza:

1. Preheat oven to 425℉

 

2. Take the crusts out of the freezer (the crusts do NOT need to thaw ahead of time) and add any toppings you want!

 

3. Cook the pizzas for 7-10 minutes. Usually, the more toppings, the more time. Just watch carefully!

 

We love to customize our own pizzas with different toppings. I usually like to have crusts on hand for when guests come too. It’s a great alternative to ordering out, and people have fun making their own pie! You could even have a BYOT (bring your own topping) party and enjoy exchanging flavors! The possibilities are endless!

Happy 4th of July!

A Roundup of Toddler 4th of July Hand print (and foot print) crafts!

Most people enjoy the middle of summer holiday with some good food on the grill, time off from work, and watching some fireworks. But if you have littles at home, fireworks may be too loud or too late to see! Instead, you could make your own holiday crafts. And of course, include the hand or foot prints of the kids! Here is a quick round up of some 4th of July handprint (or footprint) crafts for your littles! Why not try one of these for the holiday?

Flag and footprints

House of Burke has some great ideas for flags or footprint fire crackers! Super cute!

From houseofburkeblog.com

Patriotic Hand

Krissy from B-inspired Mama shows a super cute patriotic hand print. If you can get your child to sit still long enough to paint it, do it!

Patriotic Hand Print Craft 1
From B-InspiredMama.com

Hand wreath

Really, you could do this project for any holiday! For the 4th, use patriotic colors and arrange the hand prints around in a wreath. You could do different hand prints of all your kiddos! Thanks for the idea, Decorating with Dodi!

From dodi47.blogspot.com – Decorating with Dodi

Hand print fireworks

The blog Ava’s Alphabet shares step by step tips on how to get a great hand print with a youngster. I LOVE this fire work idea and will have to try it!

Handprint Fireworks
From avasalphabet.com

Hand and Footprint Canvas Flag

And lastly, this adorable idea from Sewing for Sanity. I love the hand and foot print combo! Super cute.

From http://littlethingsbybeth.blogspot.com/2011/07/american-flag-art-4th-of-july-kids.html (Sewing for Sanity)

Try these out! Create a keepsake for your family! If you like these hand print ideas, you can check out some of my other holiday hand prints here!

Here is how one of our projects turned out (my son painted the background fireworks!)

Happy 4th of July!