Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Spring/Gardening Calendar Cards

At the last minute I decided to whip up some new calendar cards for March (aka tomorrow!). I thought maybe some of you might like to use them for your calendars this spring, although the great thing about this lot is that they work for anytime of year!
Click here to download

Keep in mind that I format these myself, so they're not perfect, but they'll certainly get the job done. : ) Also, as with all of my printables, these are for your personal use only - please do not sell or offer them in a giveaway. Thank you and enjoy!

~Thank you for your comments!~

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Our Peaceful Space

James is entering a new phase. It's the I'm-a-big-boy-and-I-don't-have-to-listen-to-you phase. *sigh*

I'm sorry to tell you there has been a mass outbreak of tantrums and back talk in our home. And I'm sad to confess there's been a fair amount of arguing and time-outs happening as a result. *double sigh*

One night, while nursing Juliet, my mind contemplated James' new phase. It's been truly baffling to my husband and me. Yeah, we know it's normal for kids this age to assert themselves, to test the waters, stretch boundaries, etc. Be that as it may, it's not easy and none of us were handling it very well. I really wanted to find a better way to confront the situation.

It's amazing - the power of prayer and this wonderful community of mom bloggers. Thanks to some openness of mind (my prayer answered), and an assortment of ideas from around the blogworld, I came up with a solution...

Enter: Our Peaceful Space
~looking out over James' two favorite places - his backyard, and the ocean~

The idea for this space is very Montessori, and it was something I actually learned about in my training, but for some reason forgot about. Strange how that happens. Anyway, in the Montessori world this space is often arranged at a table for two in a classroom (to help resolve conflicts).

I put a lot of thought into this space, taking time to consider the items and which of them would be most useful and calming to James. He's a very introspective person, which is a beautiful thing, but it can cause him to get a little over-analytical and anxious. (*cough* no idea where he got that from *cough*)

Here's what I've included. Again, I gathered my ideas from all over the place, but Deb's post has all of the links save for this one and a few others I link to below.
:: printed finger labyrinth (found this on Google images) - this will be replaced with this soon.
:: mind jar
:: calming cards (inspired by this post, I made these myself and will share the printable if anyone is interested)
:: knitted bird (I knit this a while back - it's actually called, "The Bluebird of Happiness". How fitting!)
:: sea shell (wonderful because in order to hear the sound of the ocean inside, James has to be very calm and still)
:: clove and cinnamon box (smells sooooo good!)
:: wooden heart (resides inside of the clove box)
:: image of a boy doing the lotus pose (this will remain until I replace it with this book)
:: quartz (promotes balance and healing)
:: smooth stone (naturally a cool temperature, which feels nice on the face and neck. Alternatively, it can be held tightly in the palm of one's hand for a few moments and then it'll feel warm.)
:: rosary and angel box (my rosary which I purchased while in Vatican City)
:: framed photo of children dancing
:: buddha board
:: dream catcher
:: window star (made this a long time ago, but it still looks so pretty when the light shines through it)
:: mat
:: comfy cushion
:: a few tree blocks (for contemplative building - mine are a bit uneven, so stacking them requires patience and focus.)
:: wooden egg timer (3 minutes - for the times when James is in a "how much longer??" kind of mood)

I know by Montessori standards this is a bit much. And I know the above list shows how eclectic we really are (I always say we've got a Catholic Montessori Zen Waldorf-y thing going on!). :) As I said, this is what works for us. I wanted this space to be a place where James can go and just be, whenever he wants. It is also the place he goes to whenever he acts out. It's his happy place, if you will.

I'm very pleased to tell you this set up (coupled with some tips from this post) has made our home a much happier place. That's not to say our home is completely frustration-free (I mean, James is almost 5, and I am whacked out on sleep-deprivation), but it is definitely better. James really enjoys his "peaceful place" and visits it often just because he wants to.

Oh and PS: I've been known to peace-out in this special space, too! It's so inviting and relaxing!

Do you have a peaceful spot in your home or classroom? Feel free to share your link in the comments section!

Want to make a peaceful spot? Here are some other peaceful items you can add to it (or rotate in, as I plan to):
:: hang prayer flags
:: this book by the wonderful Montessori Mama
:: single flower in a simple vase
:: wooden dove
:: mini zen garden
:: singing bowl or
:: energy chime
:: beeswax candle inside a beautiful lotus votive
:: Tibetan prayer beads
:: engraved stone
:: beach sand in a bottle
:: dolls for role playing
:: other beautiful natural items (sea glass, star fish, pine cones)
:: peace materials from Montessori Print Shop
:: small statue of Buddha
:: I spy bottle
:: beeswax ornament
:: books on peace
:: these beautiful multilingual peace cards

~Thank you for your comments!~

Monday, February 27, 2012

Montessori Services/For Small Hands Review & Giveaway!!

** This giveaway is now closed.
Congrats to the winner!**

I'm really excited about this giveaway because I'm reviewing my long time favorite Montessori supply store, Montessori Services and their partner site, For Small Hands!

You all have seen me link to Montessori Services time and time again. Why? Because I believe they are - without a doubt - the best place to get everything you need to complete and compliment your prepared environment. I'm talking about those wonderful details like baskets, tongs, trays, mats, & pouring kits. It's been my go-to place for those kinds of things ever since I heard about Montessori Services from the Directress at that the top Montessori school here on the island - she orders from them exclusively!

You'll see the materials I've purchased from Montessori Services & For Small Hands peppered throughout our shelves. I could go on and on raving about each and every thing we've ordered, but instead here's just a sample of my absolute favorites:

~pouring stars during our space unit~

We love this gorgeous cobalt blue pouring set. Maria Montessori believed a child's environment should contain beautiful things. This set of carved glass is just that. And it's just the right size for little hands.

MANY of you have asked where I find the tiny objects included in my alphabet box. Among resourcing my own personal collection of odds and ends, I look to Montessori Services to supply some of the particularly cute objects, such as these.

~sorting and transferring~
Trays and transferring tools are in constant use in our classroom. In the sorting activity shown above, the all white tray and three of the tools were purchased from Montessori Services: the mustard spoon, the sugar tongs, and the wooden tongs. PS: this little ladle is also a favorite of ours. :)

~transferring flowers during our St. Patrick's Day unit~

You all know my love of baskets and bowls. The reed baskets shown above, and these tiny maple bowls have been a mainstay on my shelves. They are just the right size for holding small objects for counting and sorting activities.

And last, but not at all least, these space flashcards. As a family of space geeks, James has multiple sets of space cards, but these are by far his favorite! The colors are vibrant, the photos are real, and the cards are thick and sturdy. Good stuff!

Montessori Services excels at Practical Life materials (their kits are fantastic!), but they also offer much, much more. You can find books on a variety of topics, art activities and supplies, kits and tools for your budding scientist, materials for elementary aged children, and for the youngest child, these wonderful books and toys.

Now for the giveaway! Montessori Services has offered to gift one of my readers a $50 gift certificate!! Wahoo!

Here's how you can enter to win:
Mandatory entry:
1. Leave a comment on this post.

Extra entries:
2. Visit Montessori Services or For Small Hands and leave me a separate comment letting me know your favorite thing in their store.
3. Like Counting Coconuts on Facebook and leave me a separate comment on this post letting me know you have/already do.
4. Follow Counting Coconuts and leave me a separate comment on this post letting me know you have/already do.
5. After today come back and leave me one comment per day on this post until the end of the giveaway.

A couple of notes:
:: All comments are moderated - they will NOT appear immediately after you post them.
:: Do not leave your entry comments on the Counting Coconuts Facebook page - they will not be included.
:: Regarding separate comments - each entry will be counted as a chance to win. If you put all of your entry requirements into just ONE comment, you'll only have ONE chance to win.

This giveaway ends at 9pm (Atlantic Time) on Saturday, March 3rd. The winner will be announced the following day.

Good luck, everyone!

Friday, February 24, 2012

We're Going To Disney World!

And I'll give you three guesses as to who in our family is the most excited...
(hint: it's not James, or Juliet, or my husband). :D

I am just busting in anticipation of this trip. I've been to Disney World once before, and to Disneyland twice, but those were times before I had kids, and in those cases I was with people who just sort of tolerated my starry-eyed giddiness. What can I say, Disney just brings out the kid in me! This time, however, I will be with two kids and no one will think twice of their mouse ear wearing, dole whip eating, it's a small world riding, character photo oping mother! They'll just think I'm a super-committed-to-having-fun kind of mom! Ha! Little do they know... ;)

Just about everything is planned and booked. I went on sort of a Disney planning frenzy, spending hours researching and reviewing. I loved every minute of it. Well, once I got a foothold on the basics, that is. Man, there's A LOT to planning a Disney trip - to meal plan or not to meal plan, to park hopper or not to park hopper, etc., etc.

Anyway, it's been about a week since I booked as much as I could and since then I've been feeling a little nostalgic for my busy Disney planning days. :) What's a planning freak to do when she has six looong months to wait??

Pinterest to the rescue!! I found some neat ideas on Pinterest and have been busy replicating some of them. First on the must make list was this...

Our Disney World countdown, inspired by this Etsy shop. I found this image on Google Images and made the sign and number cards on Picnik. I plan on making some variation of this about 10 days before we leave for the trip.

I also made a Disney World savings jar, which we'll (hopefully) fill up with spare change, and any money made from the baby items we plan on selling later this summer. I was inspired by this idea.

I'll have more to share in the coming months, but in the meantime I wondered if any of you who've been to Disney World would mind sharing your thoughts/tips/advice/favorites? I'd love to hear them!

Edited to add: Click here to see more posts in this series.

~Thank you for your comments!~

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Help! Google Documents Is Being Disagreeable!

I am in need of some Google guru assistance and I'm hoping one of you can help! For the past month or so I've been receiving quite a number of share requests for my free printables. I thought this was odd since all of my printables are set to be accessible to "anyone who has the link" (which is imbedded in the code on the word "download" on my Free Printables page). For many months this has worked just fine (as far as I knew anyway - there were no complaints/no "share requests"), then suddenly access is being denied. I confirmed this by logging on as my husband - a notice pops up saying permission is needed to access the document. Under my account, however, the share settings are as they always were - accessible to everyone. Weird! I don't know why there's a discrepancy or how to fix it. I created these documents to share with everyone, and I'd really love to get this problem solved! I appreciate any useful input! Thanks in advance!

~Thank you for your comments!~

Monday, February 20, 2012

Memory in Motion

Lately I've been finding it a real challenge to keep James focused during school time. He's so easily distracted, which I know is normal for this age, but it makes teaching him a bit trying. I was looking through my teaching manuals and came across an easy and interactive memory game.
Here's what I did: I set up a tray of owls (you could chose anything, obviously, I just liked the excuse to use these owls I made a couple years ago!) in the living room, then I wrote down the numbers 1-13 on individual pieces of paper and put them in a drawstring bag.

James randomly selected a piece of paper, looked at it, and without showing me or saying a word, he took a little basket to the living room to collect owls based on the number indicated on the paper. The key here was that he had to stay focused on the task at hand and keep in mind the number while walking through three rooms to get to the living room. When he returned to me I counted the owls and I'd say, "I think that piece of paper has a (#) on it!". James would get so excited when I guessed correctly! He'd then have to bring the owls back to the tray and we'd start over again.

As I said, this is a very simple game, and at first I wondered if James would think it too easy and boring. While it was very easy, it definitely wasn't boring for him. He really enjoyed it and wanted to play it several times over. I think it was the constant motion that he liked best. :)

~Thank you for your comments!~

Monday, February 13, 2012

Art Box

In my undying effort to keep us organized, and to encourage James to color and draw (he's not a fan of either), I created this art box for him.

I found a tackle box at the local hardware store, filled it up with artsy goodness, and because I was on a roll I decided to decorate it with some stickers (my inner 8 year old LOVED this part!). :)

The verdict? I love it. I can't tell you how much I would've enjoyed this as a kid! But James? He couldn't care less about it. *sigh* But, I thought I'd share it with all of you anyway since I know there are other children who ARE into the art scene. It's a fun way to keep everything contained and it makes a great gift, too!

~Thank you for your comments!~

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Puzzle Organization

Since it's hard to stack puzzles with their pieces in place, and since I'm a freak about not losing pieces, I set about to figure out a way to keep the pieces contained whilst keeping them accessible to the Puzzle Master (aka James). At first I stored each puzzle's pieces in Ziploc baggies and I wrote a description on the bags. That was fine, but the bags became worn out, the writing rubbed off, and the appearance of dozens of ziploc bags heaped together just wasn't appealing to me.

One day, while laying down for a much needed nap, my mind continued to race and wander (typical - just when I have the clearance to rest, I can't!). For some reason, the puzzles came to mind and 10 minutes later I was at the dollar store buying up disposable containers.

I decided to put each puzzle's pieces into a container, and then label both the puzzle and the container with the same sticker. I'm not a fan of writing on containers (never know when you may want reuse them!), and even though James can read, I wanted something with quick and easy recognition (I'm thinking ahead to Juliet's puzzle days!).

I used stickers from this set. Thanks to my sister-in-law, I happened to have two of the same tablet, which I was pleased about because I really wanted the stickers on the puzzle and the container to be identical. I chose letters because they are small, and there are a lot of them (of course numbers would work well, too, I just didn't have them on hand), and when I ran out of letters, I simple double them up (e.g. AB).

This method has been working out SO well! James enjoys finding the letter matches, and I enjoy the easy clean up and contained mess. Another benefit is that the containers are stackable!

~Thank you for your comments!~

Monday, February 6, 2012

Jumbo Paperclip Giveaway Winner

Congrats to Christy of Puddles and Mud - I'll be sending you a set of 6 jumbo paperclips! Please contact me at countingcoconuts1(at)gmail(dot)com with your mailing address. :)

For those that didn't win and would still like to make these super fun & easy bookmarks, I found a link for similar clips here on Amazon.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Paperclip Bookmarks

I found the idea for these bookmarks on Pinterest (looove Pinterest). Using leftover fibers from my scrappin' days, and some jumbo paperclips I found at the local dollar store, I made some of my own. They cost all of $2.50 to make. I just love these. They are beauty, whimsy, and madness all in one! Ha!

And they make school time a bit more enjoyable for me, too. :) I made quite a few of them and use them to bookmark our workbooks, readers, read-alouds (pretty much anything I can find!).

You can see just how jumbo these puppies really are - here they are compared to a regular size paper clip. Fun, huh?!

The Fine Print: I'm going to guess you too can find these jumbo clips at a dollar store near you, but for those who can't, I'd like to gift a set of 6 jumbo clips (ribbons not included) to one of you! Just leave a comment and I'll pick someone at random on Monday (Feb. 6) morning. Holla if you love freebies!! :)
** This giveaway has ended**

~Thank you for your comments!~

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Remember Me?

I can't believe it's been two months since I last posted! It's amazing how time flies. One minute it's Christmas, the next it's nearly Valentine's Day!

I hope all of you are well! Hugs and thanks to all who've reached out to see how we've been. Everything's great - I've just been busy busy busy traveling and taking care of my sweeties. As for my long blogging absence, well, the truth is I just haven't felt much like writing lately. I go through phases like that and rather than quit blogging altogether, I take breaks whenever I feel the need. I'm sure you all understand!

Anyway, I do have a bunch of things I'd like to share so I'm hoping to pop in here from time to time over the next few weeks to post. Just a heads up, it's mostly organizational and crafty type stuff. As I've said before, I no longer create shelf work, so there will be no more "On Our Shelves" posts. And it's been ages since I created a new sensory tub. I guess what I have to share really emulates what I'm focusing on in my life right now - *trying* to stay organized, and creating things for my little ones. : )

~Thank you for your comments!~


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