Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sticker Book

I've always loved stickers, so when I saw this book I couldn't resist. We've been working in it for over a year now and it's become one of our most consistently fun and relaxing things to do together.
There may be better sticker books out there...this one does have some flaws...but it dawned on me today that for the $5-$10 investment we sure have gotten a lot of mileage out of it. Here are what the pages look like:
And here is a break down of the many pros, and the few cons:
1) We do a little bit every day, and with so many pages it has lasted a long time
2) There are so many topics covered--alphabet pages, colors, tons of animals, food, clothing, vehicles--and they can lead to as much or as little discussion as we feel like. Either way it's good exposure.
3) Good practice matching the shape of each sticker to the right silhouette
4) Good practice peeling off the sticker and lining it up to its silhouette (fine motor skills)
5) It's could be used at different age levels. We use it mainly for the motor skills and topics (and it's just plain fun!), but if he were older the alphabet and clock pages would have meant more and he could be using the numbers to match up the pictures instead of the silhouettes. An older child could probably do it all by themselves, come to think of it, but the bonding time has been one of my favorite parts!

1) The stickers aren't super sticky, which is better than being too sticky, but it means that the sticker in the column next to the inside fold of the book need tape to stay in place. This actually just gives me something to do while he's getting the next sticker and makes it feel more like a corporate effort :-)
2) Hmm...that's about it! I guess to make it a real list I could add that the insect page grosses me out...but with two boys I guess I'd better get used to it. My son didn't seem to have any problem with it ;-)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Book Review--Bo and Eddie

Bo and Eddie, by Olivier Dunrea, are two board books we picked up at the library a couple weeks ago. I found out later that they're Dutch translations of the English books BooBoo and Peedie from the Gossie and Friends series. I love the illustrations. So simple, so bright, and so much charming character!
As far as the text goes, I'm a bit torn. They're very simple and repetitious, which is great for preschoolers. My son loves them, and I think I love them too...but only in Dutch. I was able to see the English text of one of them on Amazon and I wasn't very impressed. There's a rhythm in the Dutch version that makes it almost poetic, and I didn't sense that in the English. Also, "Bo" is cuter than "BooBoo", "gansje" is cuter than "gossling", and there's just something about "Bo is een gansje. Een klein bluaw gaansje..." that makes me smile :-) I wish I could find a way for you to hear how it sounds.

As for the story lines...
Eddie forgets things. He forgets to come in when it rains and he forgets to eat sometimes (too busy balancing grain on his bill, apparently :-) He loves his red cap, but one day he forgets where he put it and goes searching for it.

Bo loves to eat. He goes around eating things and saying they were yummy. Then he eats a bubble and...well, you can read it for yourself :-)

And here's testament to the fact that they're popular around here! They're so easy to draw and my son was so into them that we now have our fridge covered with Bo and Eddie. Final verdict: we'll be looking for more when we go to the library next week.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tall, Painted Ice Cream Cone

So after lots of rainbows (including a pastel one) we decided to try our hand at something else. This is one we like to do on the chalkboard sometimes, and it translated great into the marker outline/tempera paint format!
It was fun to make something so tall (two pieces of paper taped together), and it was a great way to introduce how tints (pastels) are made. He sure enjoyed all the mixing! And this one he painted in all by himself.

On the culinary side...the green is pear flavored, the yellow scoops are lemon and banana, the peach is peach and when I asked him what came after the blueberry scoop he informed me that they were pinkberry and purpleberry (of course!)

I don't have a book for this one...you really don't need one to get excited about ice cream ;-) But I've found lots of other fun art projects with ice cream--here's the one that made me think about ice cream being in pastels. And here's a crayon and water color version of the tall ice cream cone that I found and tried last year.

And in closing...Romans 10:12 says "The Lord is rich to all who call upon Him." Someone once helped me appreciate the word "rich" by using ice cream as an example. You don't just take a little lick of ice cream and walk away. You enjoy the richness by continuing to eat it! Every taste is so good and satisfying! Calling on the Lord's name is like eating ice cream.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Big, Painted Rainbow

Big, painted rainbows have been one of our favorite projects recently. It started as an impromptu way to dive into our brand new bottles of tempera paint. We had so much fun with it that we've done it 3 or 4 more times in the past few weeks!
We started by taping four sheets of regular paper together to make a nice big canvas. Since rainbows have been popular around here for a while (thanks to the book, What Makes a Rainbow?) I decided to make a simple outline with black marker and let him paint it in. I gave him one color at a time and washed the brush in between colors. Mixing the orange and purple was one of his favorite parts (green never comes out right, so we bought a bottle of green.)

I've heard a lot about art projects at this age being more about the process than the product, but we had fun working on this together and having it come out with clean, bright colors. He wanted me to do some of the painting, and I was impressed with how he carefully copied how he saw me use the brush.
After the rainbow was done, we mixed some white and blue to make the sky and started learning about tints (i.e. pastels). After this one we made one with a "mint sky" as he calls it :-)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Book Review -- Henry the Explorer

I found Henry the Explorer, by Mark Taylor, while browsing around at Amazon. It only had 6 reviews but they were all 5-star and the illustrations and story line seemed right up our alley. It's one of a series that was written in the 1960's and then went out of print. They're in the process of being released again (in a very nice hard cover format) and two of the four are now available.

So it came in the mail a couple weeks ago (via my mom--thanks, Mom :-) and after the first couple readings my son and I were both hooked. It's a simple story of a boy who reads a book about explorers one night while in bed during a blizzard. He gets inspired to go out the next day with his dog, Laird Angus McAngus (we love saying that name) and go exploring. Basically, reading + outdoors + (mild) adventure = a great book!

Oh, and the flags...
He, of course, has to begin by making flags to claim all the things he discovers. This sparked some book inspired exploring of our own! We decided to go with green for our flags, and my little guy did a great job of following the pencil lines to make his E's. The next day we taped them to wooden skewers, packed them in a bag and...
He spent the whole morning going around the house claiming things (the heater was a particularly worthy find as you can see.)

We also spent time looking for a mountain to sit on and eat lunch, just like Henry. We even ate our real lunch on the top of the mountain (i.e. a blanket in the middle of the living room.) I love the view in the picture above as he sits on his mountain with Laird Angus McAngus and his sack of flags.

After going into the woods and discovering a cave (with bears, no less), he comes out to find that it's night. The colors and composition in this picture are so simple, yet it's done so skillfully that you feel like your standing right there about to walk out into that big, wintry world...it's breathtaking!

And here they are finding they're way back home. Isn't the night sky beautiful?

Here's another review I just found that conveys even more. We're definitely looking forward to getting the other three books in the this series!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Weekend Mission

A big thank you to Hannah for jump starting me into blogging again. I never gave it up intentionally...life with a newborn just started to kick in ;-)

A number of weeks ago Hannah challenged her readers with a weekend mission: go out on a walk in your neighborhood to take a breather and a closer look. I had a wonderful hour doing just that, and here are 5 photos from my walk.
This was a great one for taking a closer look. This is a row of houses behind a canal that we often walk by on the way to our neighborhood train station. I had my camera out looking for my first shot and after pointing it at this scene I noticed that some of the green leaves appeared to be...flying? If you zoom in you see there is a whole flock of bright green parrots hanging out in this backyard. Such a fun surprise :-)

They recently finished remodeling our train station. I really enjoyed the clean, open feeling as I walked up this way. There's something about a finished construction site that feels so freeing and fresh. Maybe it's just that you don't have to walk or ride your bike on narrow, boarded over, muddy paths anymore...or maybe it's the sense of a need recognized, a plan made, hard, dirty work being carried out for months, and a cleaned up new space to be used and enjoyed by so many.

Here are the stairs that lead up and back down to the other side of the track. And the ubiquitous row of bicycles that reminds me how much I enjoy living in this country where fresh air and exercise are just a bike key away!

What I like most about this spot is the three levels--high rise apartment; low, single-story elementary school; woodsy/marshy foreground. It pretty much sums up the whole neighborhood here! I also really like the double row of elevator windows that goes up through the middle of the picture, catching the early evening sunlight on one side. I love early evening sunlight.

And here's evidence that I didn't take this walk entirely alone. But since he was sleeping, it didn't feel much different than if I had been walking "alone" two months earlier ;-) And as far as taking a closer look, this sure is a sweet one :-)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Tubby and the Lantern

My favorite book! I remember gazing at the pictures in this one so many times as a young child. It's so enjoyable reading it with my little one and seeing him love it too.
Tubby, the little pet elephant of Ah Mee, makes an enormous paper lantern for his birthday out of all the materials in the family's lantern business. They float over the land and sea all night with the star strewn sky as their backdrop.
In the morning their lantern goes out and begins to go down over the sea. They get rescued by a ship and then escape from pirates by using the steam from the ship to fly up and away and back home.
It's a simple story with just the right balance of excitement and calmness. Add to that the cute little elephant and dreamy blue and purple palette and you have the perfect bedtime story! (Oh, and at the end of the story Ah Mee makes a bunk bed for him and Tubby to share--a great idea in my son's opinion ;-)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Milk Jug Butterflies

A big thanks to all my family and friends who wrote to help me not feel homesick. You all are great :-)

Now, for the butterflies.... It was so much fun making these little guys for our window:
I've had the idea bookmarked on the computer for weeks now, but it calls for a plastic milk jug and our grocery store only sells cardboard cartons. We finally made a special trip to the grocery store further down the street to get some milk in a plastic container. The beauty of this project is not only in the end result, but also in the simplicity. All we did was print out some butterfly shapes, tape a piece of plastic over them, and color them in with permanent marker! My little one did the bright colors first and afterwards I used a black sharpie to trace over the butterfly lines that showed through from the printout below. I cut them out and put rolled over scotch tape on the back and he put them up on the window.

 We've been enjoying a book recently that goes along beautifully with this project. It's called "I am a Bunny" and it's illustrated by Richard Scarry. Check out this page:
After making our first three butterflies that came on the printout, we picked out three more from this page to do freehand. Now we just need to go look up the names for some of them! The rest of the pages of this book have similar beautiful drawings full of things in the meadow where the bunny lives...daffodils, summer rain, fall leaves, snow. My favorite is a page filled with dandelion seeds flying through the air. Nearly every page is worthy of being framed!

Here's a link to the original idea. About halfway down the post you'll find the pdf file that has the three butterflies you can print and trace.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Snipp, Snapp and Snurr

These were a library favorite of mine in first grade. I'm so happy that my son loves them as much as I did!

Who could resist identical Swedish triplets with names and pictures like these? Snipp, Snapp and Snurr and Flicka, Ricka and Dicka have all kinds of nice adventures playing outdoors, helping others, and learning to work hard. The series was written and illustrated in Sweden by Maj Lindman in the 1920s and then published in the U.S. in the 1940s and 50s. They get pulled out often for reading. This week they were chosen again at bed time.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Flower Petal Suncatcher

Here's what we've been enjoying on our living room window the past couple days:

They only last a few days, but they're so fun to make and so pretty! I taped a piece of clear contact paper to the window, sticky side out. Then my son carefully placed flower petals and leaves on it that we had collected from outside: impatiens from the balcony, a sort of purple flower from a bush, some pretty little buttercups from a walk we took earlier in the day, and some rose petals from a bouquet. Then we put a matching piece of contact paper on top to seal it.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Triune God in Psalm 23

Last week we had a married couple and a student join us for dinner and some singing. The student is a young man from Eritrea, a small country that gained its independence from Ethiopia in the early 1990s. Between songs he shared that from ages 6-12 they have a class in school for singing. One of the main goals of the class is for the kids to learn the Eritrean song(s) of independence to mold and strengthen their sense of nationalism. At the end of the year each student has to get up in front of the whole class and sing by himself or herself for 5-10 minutes for a grade!
Pastureland in Friesland

The song we spent the most time on that evening was "The Lord is My Shepherd Forever". He sang a version of it in Tigrinya for us that he grew up singing. It was so beautiful! After talking about the song for a while we read a footnote in the Recovery Version of the Bible that really surprised me. It links "surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life" with 2 Corinthians 13:14, saying that goodness refers to the grace of Christ, mercy (or lovingkindness in this version) to the love of the Father, and follow implies the fellowship of the Spirit...it's the Triune God! I love seeing Him hidden (and revealed) in the Word this way. He is so rich and He is following us! It was definitely an enjoyable home meeting.

(The footnote isn't online, so here is a link to the life-study message with the same content.)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Anatole - A Mouse Magnifique!

He lives in a mouse village just outside of Paris with his dear wife and six charming children. Every evening he bikes into Paris to find food for his family. One night he overhears a lady saying that to be a mouse is to be a villain! Shocked and deeply wounded, Anatole seeks a more honorable way to feed his family. He goes to the Duval cheese factory at night and puts little signs on all the cheese in the cheese tasting room offering suggestions on how to make them better. His advice turns the factory's fate around and he becomes a "respectable business-mouse".
This became one our favorites a couple months ago when we were in vacation in French speaking Belgium, and we recently received three more in the series in a package from my mom. "A mouse magnifique!" is now a catch phrase in our house. The book was written by Eve Titus in the 1950's. There are ten in the series, with the first two winning Caldecott honors. The illustrations are done in grayscale with vibrant blue and red accents on many pages. A very fun set of books!
Our very favorite lines (which contain about 50% of the French I know):
"VIVE ANATOLE! Was he content to sit back and do nothing about our way of life? NON! NON! He is a mouse of action--a mouse of honor--A MOUSE MAGNIFIQUE!"

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Mandarin Boats

My son and I think mandarin slices look like boats. We decided to take it one step further and add a sail:
A toothpick, a triangle of paper, and a piece of scotch tape was all it took to make snack time fun the whole week long!

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Scheduled Living

Last week I began to put something into practice for my 5-week old son that I should have been doing for myself all along. Getting up at the same time every day is supposed to be the most important element in establishing a schedule for an infant (...or a grownup!) We've been practicing now to wake up at 7am each day. It feels so much better starting the day this way rather than trying to stretch out the sleeping hours to make up for the lack of sleep at night. I really appreciate the Lord's mercy in supplying a little helper to get me out of bed and into my spirit each morning!
Drenthe, Netherlands
When my parents came to visit a few months ago my mom brought a Kindle reader for me. I have our hymnal on it and it's been so enjoyable going through it sequentially and singing the songs that I know. It keeps my son awake and engaged and it's such a pleasant way to greet the Lord in the morning. I'm in the section on the Lord's name right now. Here's part of one from this morning:

         That name I fondly love to hear,
         It never fails my heart to cheer,
         Its music dries the falling tear;
         Exalt the name of Jesus.

                         Jesus! oh, how sweet the name,
                         Jesus! every day the same;
                         Jesus! let all saints proclaim
                         Its worthy praise forever.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Frog and Toad - Cookies

While we were taking our first taste of our star cookies earlier this week, my son suddenly says, "We must stop eating these cookies!" Instead of having my conscience pricked (it was only our first bite!) I realized he must be quoting one of our favorite books. Arnold Lobel has written a number of our favorite books, but  Frog and Toad tops the list. I've heard so many people mention that they grew up loving these two friends.
The cookies story is in the second book, "Frog and Toad Together". Toad bakes some cookies and brings them over to Frog so he can see how delicious they are. In order to stop themselves from eating too many they try putting the cookies away in more and more complicated ways, realizing each time that they can always go get them and eat more. Frog finally solves the problem by feeding them to the birds. But, in a classic exposé of human nature, Toad goes off huffily to do some more baking. So much for will power and our own solutions!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Star Cookies

Earlier this week my son decided that we needed to make star cookies with sprinkles. He loves to help in the kitchen and I love the time with him and the math and fine motor skill practice he gets. What I don't love is the cleanup involved! I can still hear my mom's words in my ears, "I don't mind if you use the kitchen, but please clean it up when you're finished!" Maybe that's why my son had to mention the cookies so many times before I was willing to do it.

I'm learning the secret to keeping the house clean is to do it with the Lord. He's so much more faithful and detailed than I am. I was listening to a message from the latest Christians on campus conference in Texas and the speaker mentioned that the disciples must have known that Christ had resurrected when they looked in the grave and saw the Lord's cloth folded up. He had probably been neatly folding his bedding every morning since they had been with him. What a sweet, normal, human testimony!

So, we enjoyed our cookies and the table got a good scrubbing afterward :-) 

Traditional Sugar Cookies
3/4 c. butter
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
Cover and chill at least 1 hour. Heat oven to 400 (or 205 C if you're in Holland!) Roll out the dough 1/8 inch thick on lightly floured surface. Cut into desired shapes. Bake on ungreased baking sheet 6-8 minutes until very light brown.

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Welcome Post

Like the blog's title expresses, my joy is where Jesus is. Right now for me Jesus is in Holland raising two young boys, caring for my husband, and caring for college students who are loving the Lord and learning to live their life to Him. We spend many happy evenings with students in our home for dinner, singing, and studying the Bible. When I was in college in Texas I was in an organization called Christians on campus. We may have a different name here, and we may speak a different language, but what we're enjoying has the same flavor, and I love it!

bridge near our apartment
Since most of my days are occupied with raising my boys I'll have lots to say and post about that. I think I'll try doing one post each week on a book my 3-year old and I are enjoying, one post on a project we've done together, and one post on something I've learned or experienced concerning the Christian life. I might also try to incorporate some things about life here in Holland.

I was touched recently by something I read in a Life-Study by Witness Lee. He said that he yearned to be with some who had learned the lessons in life. Am I such a person? Am I willing to be such a person? A quick review of my past lead me to repent and realize that even though I do love the Lord I'm still full of self-interest and often take the easy way out. But making the repentance lead me to turn my eyes to the Lord and let Him shine Himself into me as the one who is so ready, willing, and able to learn the lessons in life. Once again, Jesus was there, and so was my joy!