Saturday, July 31, 2010

Circus of Stars

       The theme of  our Catholic Vacation Bible School this week was a "Circus of Stars". The parish bought a program put out by K4J ( Kids for Jesus) and I was asked to volunteer my time as a Station leader to help teach the Faith.
I was intimidated and a little overwhelmed until a fellow worker reassured me that the kids just want to have fun! 
I started working on it the week beforehand. It required three afternoons of planning and creating props for my portion and three evenings of helping out at church to do the same thing there.
The kids helped me at home and at church.We helped to paint the Circus train that was later filled with stuffed  animals and used to decorate the stage.
  VBS met each day from 9am-12noon with 115 kids participating. Each morning the kids congregated in front of the Big Top to learn a couple of songs and the very fun and expressive dance moves that accompanied it. A Scripture verse was taught and repeated three times. The Holy Hero (a saint) of the day was introduced. All of this was done in a Circus show style with our lovely and talented M.C.'s announcing:  "Ladies and Gentlemen and Children of all ages, Step right up to the greatest show on earth!"
    The subtheme of our program was "Spotlight on the Father". The kids above are shining spotlights on the Bible verse.We emphasized that we all reflect God's Glory and that our mission is to use our talents to serve Him and each other. We must BALANCE our day to do the Will of the Father. Each day we should work, play, rest and pray.The song lyrics talked about all these things and throughout the week there were many activities that kept bringing this idea out.
  The children were in their age groups of Kindergarten, First, Second, Third, with Fourth and Fifth Graders together.There were five groups of children and five stations. The stations were Music,Crafts, Faith,Snack and Games. The " teachers" stayed in their classrooms with the children led in with their groups to spend twenty minutes in each station. Each day the kids entered my station while balancing something as they walked along a "tightrope" of masking tape on the floor in time to the lively music of the program.They really enjoyed this, especially the consistency of it with each day a different "prop" used to "balance".These packing "peanuts" worked well as a substitute for sticky orange "circus" peanuts suggested in the program.
   The kids would then sit down in a circle while I introduced the topic and /or the activity.On Monday I read about St. John Bosco who did tightrope acts to entertain townspeople and then preached and prayed with them. Meg took each child's picture and they decorated a star with glitter glue.On Tuesday I taught about St. Catherine of Sienna using a book of the Saints. As I read the passage I was able to talk about the Pope, Rome, nuns and many other things. I tried to engage the kids by asking  them questions. They did participate well.On Wednesday we went on a "field trip" to visit the church sanctuary. I taught them about Holy Water which they were all fascinated with , The Stations of the Cross and showed them the inside of the Confessional.
 On Thursday, I brought in thirty random "'props" from home that represented our talents given to us by God. These things included a life jacket,  wallet, stethoscope, blaze orange hat, sunglasses, a babydoll, canteen, a keyboard, and anything else I could grab around the house.As the kids entered the room that day, they were handed a "talent" (prop) that they balanced. They broke into small groups and with the help of our helping teens and brainstormed a skit in which they worked together sharing their talents to help the group. Then each group performed their short skit for the rest of the class.This worked very well and each small group was able to pull off an imaginative and often funny skit.
On Friday we met early to attend the 8:30 Mass all together. The children sang after communion and did their hand motions to a sweet song. Then we had a circus carnival with games and prizes in each station. My classtime was face painting and a beanbag toss. We also said a decade of the rosary with each child holding a rosary. The entire week was like this- very spiritual but also a lot of fun.A covered dish luncheon with all the parents and families ended the day.
   I was very blessed to have my daughter helping me each day in the classroom.There was also a large group of teen-agers who helped. I can honestly say that they were a BIG help (there were about twenty of them).  They had a wonderful time interacting with each other in a faith-filled environment.They did all the dance moves and sang and were great role models for the younger kids.The director of  VBS took great care of them, too. Each day she had snacks for them and ice cold sodas at the end of the day. She was incredibly appreciative and very lavish in her praise of them. She depended on them and expected great things from them and they delivered! Many of the teens were there for their third or fourth year. I learned a lot from watching her excellent people skills.

Here are the teen helpers who were needed to shepherd the kids around and help with activities.They also did decorating, clean up and everything else needed.Each day there was a short meeting to discuss how it was all going and to talk about the plans for the next day.
   At the Snack Station, the kids put together a circus themed snack and ate it with juice.This carousel is made out of a rice cake, Fluff and animal crackers.
  Slapstick comedy by these young gentlemen entertained the kids daily at the Big Top wrap up. One or the other usually got a pie in the face or confetti poured on him.
 For one of the crafts, each child decorated, with indelible markers, a pillow case with a Bible verse ironed onto it. It should be noted that the charge for this  whole week  was only 5 dollars per child to make it completely affordable for every family.
    I thoroughly enjoyed this week and appreciate having been asked to help. I got a lot out of it spiritually and loved the fellowship. It will be fun to know many of the kids' names when I see them in church. The teens gave me great  hope because they are the future of our church and they had as much fun as the rest of us did!!!!!!Imagine that!!!!! Circus of Stars, shine on!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Midnight Release

       Last week, Jeff let us know that he would be taking most of this week off from work. Oh, how exciting! What is the special occasion, we wondered. The answer surprised us. The new Starcraft 2 would be released on Tuesday at 12 Midnight and he needed the time to level up and master the game!!!!  That's when you know...! He wondered if we would mind if he packed up his gaming equipment and joined us for his vacation. This way, he wouldn't have to worry about food! Well of course we wouldn't mind!!!! Have I come a long way, or what?!!!!
          So last night Jeff and Meg traveled out at 11:45 to be right on time for the midnight release. They weren't the only ones either! Apparently, the original Starcraft came out about 12 years ago and this new version has been all the hype for 6 long years. Unfortunately  the Walmart lady  COULDN'T FIND the box this hot commodity was shipped in. There were about 5 other customers waiting including a worker bee from Sheetz who was sent there by his boss to snag a copy. The race was on to get to the other Walmart! There everyone was able to get their hands on a copy but the clerk couldn't find the posters that were supposed to go with it. Darn...
       Here is Jeff settled in for the duration. He's got  a glass of cold soda  and his chew. He said the game is great! Somehow it is all connected to Facebook and all of his High School buddies are getting in on it. It must be wonderful to have a hobby that one can be this passionate about. I say, enjoy it while you can. Happy Gaming!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Birthday 4 Wheeling

Tim and Kristy joined us for Spaghetti and Meatballs  and homemade carrot cake to celebrate Tim's Birthday.He had heard that there might be some after dinner 4 wheeling!

Last weekend, Jeff was able to pick up a used ATV for a good price and now can join his Dad for weekend fun.

He shared it with Tim who has a lot of experience riding them.
 The green ATV doesn't have power steering and it takes some muscle to ride unlike the big red "couch" on wheels!
Tim got a little air here.

We were thrilled that Tim and Kristy could celebrate this birthday with us. I'm pretty sure that Tim enjoyed his party! P.S. Tim has beautiful teeth- this is dirt and leaves from heavy duty riding!!!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Hair Care

I really missed the boat by not getting a good 'before" picture, but this picture was taken a least a month before the little guy's haircut. It was time and I was very honored and surprised that I was asked to do the trimming.
He sat really well eating a small box of Nerds to keep him occupied while Grandma tried to do her best.
These pretty blond curls collected as about two inches of hair was cut.
The haircut seems to be a total success, because he's still as cute as ever!

Swimming Lessons

Today was the last day of three consecutive weeks of swimming lessons. We all enjoyed them very much and the kids learned a lot.
I was able to read a little and chat with another Mom during the daily 45 minute lesson as my youngest was in the pool.The Instructors took their jobs seriously and spent their time with the kids productively.
The boys were in a class that emphasized the correct way to do the four strokes-freestyle, back, breast and butterfly. They swam laps of each style to practice. Their treat was to go off the diving board.
The last thing they did today was to play a large game of sharks and minnows. The lifeguards seemed to enjoy it as much as the students did. These lessons really helped and weren't difficult to incorporate into our days. I am grateful for the opportunity and thankful that the quality of the lessons was well worth our time.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Well Loved Lawnmowers

       One of the problems I face when decluttering is figuring out what we should keep and what can be donated. The kids once said to me " Mom, you always get rid of the wrong things!" For instance, we have an old beat up metal school bus that Jeff has taken out of the "donate" pile a few times. Knowing that, I didn't add it to the pile this time but would like the younger boys to repaint it. While cleaning the playroom I almost gave away a tambourine that Meg used to play with but she rescued it (again).She said " Mom, don't you remember Linda Lou and the Lucky Four? That was her make believe singing band. Now that she mentioned it, I do.That's why she loves it so much.
        I was trying to be thorough and "'detached from things" as I gathered items to donate and put these lawnmowers into the back of the van.They stayed there overnight. These little Tyke mowers have been in our backyard for 20 years!!!!They still look and function well.These guys are their original owners:
They each own real mowers now.Then our mowers were pushed around the yard by these guys:
 Sam now mows on a riding lawnmower!
Kids who come to visit enjoy the novelty of mowing, especially because there are two of them which always makes things more fun.

Fortunately, the plastic mowers were liberated from the van by one of the kids and put back into the yard before I drove away to the rummage sale collection spot!
It seems that this guy has now taken to "mowing" a little in the evenings:
      About a week after this near miss, Greg gave  Larry a Father's Day card that talked about following in his father's footsteps. It showed a picture of a grown man pushing a lawnmower with a little boy pushing one of these exact Lil' Tyke mowers behind him !I was Sooo grateful that I had kept them. I would have been completely bummed out if I had in fact donated them! Along the same vein, the person in charge of the upcoming Vacation Bible School asked me if we had a child's mower for a prop. I was thrilled to say that we have two of them and could bring them in to use!
It turns out that these mowers mean a lot to all of us and they will continue to stay in the yard for grandchildren to play with until they rot. You know how sturdy Lil' Tykes toys are- that may never happen!!!!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Playroom Redo

One of the main sources of frustration for me during the homeschooling year is the lack of time for homemaking projects that require many consecutive hours. Our playroom had been in disorder for months as we diligently accomplished schoolwork.It was unappealing to the kids who had too much work scheduled to enjoy  free time to play there anyway. When the school year ended, I couldn't wait to dive into some home organization tasks. What amazed me most of all, was that in two weeks time I had finished most of the rooms that had bothered me the most. When the Fall comes, I will be scheduling LESS seat work and allowing for more free time for the kids to play, as well as giving myself days off as needed to keep up with the large homemaking tasks.
To clean and organize the playroom I took everything off the shelves. Our church was having a rummage sale a few days later, and I intended to be generous! One of the characteristics of a big family is that toys may be outgrown by the original owners, but there is always another kid coming up right behind them who can enjoy those toys! Most of our toys don't "go bad" either. They are still in great shape! I got rid of the junk and carried out at least 2 large bags of trash. I was able to donate 4 boxes of stuff to the church sale.
For some items it was hard to determine how many is too many! We probably have about a hundred horses, but the kids do play with them so we kept them all.
Part of the organization is to gather up and group "like" items. Pictured here are horse jumps and fencing. When sorted and put into an open container, the kids are more likely to grab them and set up a game.
This is the left hand section of the play room. Years ago, we bought 6 sets of these "assemble yourself" shelves from Lowes. They have worked out beautifully especially because we had to move our playroom into a different room to create another bedroom in its original space.The picture above is "The Agony in the Garden".
The shelves wrap around the space.A play rug for cars covers the carpet.
This is the finished product. Miss J. Set up a tea party while I was finishing up.The wooden utensils on the wall were purchased during the first few months of our marriage by Larry at a thrift store. We both love them and they have been hanging in each of our homes for 27 years.
I was thrilled to get this done and we have been able to keep it up since. They still prefer to grab their toys and bring them up to the living room to play but now at least they can see what they have!