Monday, November 25, 2013


“Shapes” is the next theme for BOZ Treehouse Time at MOPPETS. To introduce this topic, please help your child identify circles, triangles, rectangles and squares during everyday activities. For example, your child might feel the circular quarter in your pocket, eat a triangular piece of pizza or rectangular granola bar and use a square napkin. Have fun exploring the world of shapes with your child!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Books in Abundance--Thankful for Good Books

Happy November, MOPS moms!  Now is a great time to start thinking about finding meaningful books to read to your kids about Thanksgiving so they feel more connected to this special holiday in our American tradition.  While most public school children will have some of the history of this day drilled into their heads over the years while they make their construction paper turkeys and pilgrim hats, preschool children may not have had the opportunity to build the background knowledge yet.  Enjoy this selection of Thanksgiving related books with your little ones this month and beyond!

Spot's Thanksgiving by Eric Hill, 2003.
This board book is great for the birth to 2 year crowd with familiar characters and a simple plot.  Spot helps make a pumpkin pie for his family's Thanksgiving family gathering.

1, 2, 3 Thanksgiving by W. Nikola-Lisa, 1991.
This book combines beginning counting skills with relating what goes into preparing a Thanksgiving meal.  I like the happy family represented here.

Thanksgiving Mice! by Bethany Roberts, 2001.  There are several books in the "Mice" series, talking about different holidays.  In this story, the mice put on a play to tell a little Thanksgiving history.  The text is brief, and the illustrations are charming.  There is plenty of room for discussion about what is happening on each page.

Over the River: A Turkey's Tale by Derek Anderson, 2005.  Using the text for the familiar song "Over the River and Through the Woods," a family of turkeys scramble through the woods on their perilous journey to the grandparent turkeys' house, avoiding the hunter and his dog.  The illustrations really help tell the story well.

This is the Turkey by Abby Levine, 2000.  Following some of the repetition of the "This is the House that Jack Built" poem, this story rhymes its way through describing the preparations of a Thanksgiving dinner with a large happy family and a table full of food.  But when "the turkey to shout about" is suddenly ruined, the family finds more to be thankful about than the main entree.

Thanksgiving Day by Anne Rockwell, 1999.  This is my favorite preschool / early elementary information Thanksgiving book I have reviewed.  A group of young school children put on a play to relate information about the first Thanksgiving.  I like the inclusion of the African American family celebrating together, as well as the less stereotyped depiction of the Native Americans that the Pilgrims encountered.  Thankfully, however, the information is not too deep, so younger readers will not lose interest.

I hope you all will find many things to be thankful for during this season, whether you have large families to celebrate with or small intimate dinners instead.  We have many things going for us, if we look hard enough.  Let's help our kids remember those good things, no matter our current circumstances.  

Tune in for my next blog entry, when I will review some of the fun Christmas books available on the market today!

--Emily Hawkins

Slow Cooker Beef Stew IV

This recipe is similar to one I made the other day! The men or meat eaters in your life will love this comforting and hearty dish! Serve with warm crusty bread and butter and a side salad and call it a day! If you don't have red wine, white will work as well or cooking sherry.  Let the slow cooker work for you all day and throw everything together when making breakfast! Enjoy! Xoxo Katie 

Original recipe makes 12 servings
  1. Place meat in a large plastic bag. Combine 1/4 cup flour with 1/2 teaspoon salt; pour into the bag with the meat, and shake to coat.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add stew meat, and cook until evenly browned on the outside. Transfer to a slow cooker along with the carrots, potatoes, parsley, and pepper. In a small bowl, stir together 2 cups of boiling water and dry soup mix; pour into the slow cooker.
  3. In the same skillet, melt butter and saute onions until softened; remove to the slow cooker. Pour red wine into the skillet, and stir to loosen browned bits of food on the bottom. Remove from heat, and pour into the slow cooker.
  4. Cover, and cook on High for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to Low, and cook for 6 hours, or until meat is fork tender. In a small bowl or cup, mix together 2 tablespoons flour with 1/4 cup warm water. Stir into stew, and cook uncovered for 15 minutes, or until thickened.

(Recipe can be found here)

--Katie Hanchinamani

Journal Prompt #2

Last week's question was about your personal fall memories from childhood. Now, think forward 30 years to how you want your own children to remember fall as a child. Write down some ideas and then think of a way to implement the easiest idea!

Recap of Meeting--11/12/2013

There have been times where I've wondered how our MOPS meetings even happen. Here we are, a large group of women with numerous children, making our way to Westgate Chapel. Each woman carefully juggling kids, purses, phones, diapers, toys, snacks and sometimes even a quiche! (I even went out and bought an insulated casserole carrier to help with this task  despite my idea that women under 60 aren't supposed to own those.)  All of this after we have conquered waking up (read drinking an entire pot of coffee), making sure our sweet angels are snuggled, fed, dressed, brushed, clean and packed. Oh yeah, and if we can do some of those things for ourselves, even better. Then we battle traffic and any number of other obstacles that impede our progress to our MOPS meeting. That was me this Tuesday. And I know I was not alone. I was late because I had forgotten Nicholas‘ lunch in the kitchen, so yay for me, two trips to school before 9am! Upon arrival I find that I was not the only harried Mom coming in late. One Mom divulged to me that she had such a hard morning with her kiddos, she considered not coming. Another mama was consoling her little one that was just not interested in being in Moppets today. The last mom I saw was upset because in the process of getting everyone here this morning she had lost her phone. Fast-forward an hour into our meeting, we are all settled in, further caffeinated, fed, and the chaos of our mornings is fading away.  

This meeting we heard from Emilie McFarlane, a mom of three young children, and a contributor to the blog This Beautiful Frugal Life. Emilie came to share with us how to celebrate Christmas on a budget. She began by sharing a story about a past Christmas where in an effort to save money she chose to hand-make many of her gifts. Through this she realized that home-made does not necessarily cost less, and that planning your time is of key importance as she was still putting her gifts together on Christmas morning. I so have been there myself. Remember the t-shirt scarves we made last year? Yup, I was still cutting up t-shirts on Christmas morning last year. The first thing Emilie suggests doing is to make a plan and set limitations. Your plan can involve goals and priorities over the season, knowing time specific information like shipping or craft projects, making traditions, and gifting ideas like drawing names or having a theme. Next, Emilie addressed having a budget for your Christmas expenditures  This could be as specific as including wrapping, decor, cards, clothing and even gas into your finances, or keeping it simple and focus on just the gifts themselves. Her #1 biggest tip for saving money over the holidays is to use cash. When the money is gone, you are done. 

Emilie provided us with an outline full of great websites and links on saving time, money and sanity. I had no idea about that posts promotional codes for a number of different retail stores, or that tracks stores price matching polices, and that compiles all the promotions planned for the big day. Great news for many was that unless you love the craziness of Black Friday, most of those deals are accessible either on the store websites on Friday or on the following Cyber Monday. Lastly, Emilie shared a number of creative gift ideas that include the idea of gifting experiences, personal photo gifts, themes like cooking or colors. My favorite idea that was nearly no cost was to make gift certificates for things like an extra 1/2 hour until bedtime, or even let the kids create gift certificates for things they would like to do with Daddy.

This meeting was so full of great, practical information that I’m sure you’ll want to access this stuff again.  Emilie wrote a special blog post with links to all the great websites and other ideas she mentioned. You can find that post by clicking here 

She also included a link for the outline of her talk, so if you missed it or have already lost yours, you can see it again.  Here’s hoping for a Christmas season full of peace, joy and special memories to you and yours. 

--Kristine Manz

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Journal Prompt #1

Remember those super cute journals we made for our first craft project? Well, we are going to start posting journal prompts to get your creative juices flowing to add some content to all those blank pages! Feel free to use the comment box on this post if you feel inclined to share what you've written! We would love it!

Journal Prompt #1:

What was a favorite fall memory or tradition as a child? How old were you when it happened?  For 5 minutes relive that memory or tradition through writing about it. Need help? Think of the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and feelings that go along with it. 

Friday, November 8th--Moms and Tots Playtime!

Owning your Story

Like most moms, over the years I have struggled with the tendency to compare myself to other moms.  Here are other moms that I have compared myself to:  moms who have high-powered careers and still manage to raise great kids, moms who have kids really close together in age and have not run away, strangled one of them or been committed to a mental hospital, moms who feed their kids only organic, locally grown food, moms who are in incredible shape, moms who voluntarily travel a lot with their kids, moms who get cranky less often with their family than I do…. 

That’s quite a list!  And that doesn’t even include everything!  I don’t think I’m alone in engaging in this practice, though.  All moms do it at some point, even if we try not to and know that it’s destructive. 

I struggled with comparisons most mightily during the first few years of my son’s life, when I hadn’t yet gained confidence in my own mothering style or in God’s unique plan for my life.  I agonized over the decision of whether to work outside the home after my son was born, with how much to work, with what type of work to do, etc.  I constantly compared myself to moms who had both high-powered careers and great kids.  I repeatedly asked myself things like:  What is wrong with me?  Why can’t I do what they are doing?  Why do I feel so exhausted and unfulfilled?  Why can’t I just pull it together and do what everyone else is doing? 

It took two years of this to realize that maybe God had a different plan for my life.  Maybe God created me with a unique personality, with unique gifts, with unique circumstances and with a unique story to live.  Eventually I quit my job to stay home full time and I could not be happier.  I am grateful every single day that I had this choice and that I took the plunge.  I've learned that I’m happiest when I can do a few things really well, rather than being spread too thin.  I've learned that having a career is not the only way that I can reach my potential and use my gifts.  I've learned that my path is mine alone, that it is no better or worse than anybody else’s, and that living this unique path leads to joy and fulfillment.

None of this is to say that I think other moms’ lives should look the way that mine does.  God made each of us a particular way, with a particular plan, and with unique talents and gifts.  To compare ourselves to others is to wish that God made us differently.  As Romans 12:6 states, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.”  Romans further instructs, “If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”

We were made the way we are for a reason.  God loves us exactly the way we are.  So, find your gifts.  Own your story.  Embrace the unique person that you are instead of wishing that you were made some other way.  This, I think, is what God wants for all of us. 

--Emily Fountain

MOPPETS in November!

“Helping others” is the next theme for BOZ Treehouse Time at MOPPETS.
We will focus on everyday ways children can help around the house, including
picking up toys, making their beds and turning off lights. To introduce this
topic, please look for opportunities to highlight and affirm the way your child
helps (or attempts to help!) in the next few days!

-Hally Thorp

Recap of Meeting--10/22/2013

Wow, three weeks between our MOPS meetings is such a long time. I hope you all have been enjoying the beauty of fall, the leaves changing colors, pumpkin patches, corn mazes and are ready to celebrate a season of thankfulness. I know I am thankful that our next MOPS meeting is next Tuesday! 

At our last meeting we heard from Erica Graf, a local mom, homeschooling parent, and a woman passionate about making learning fun for children. Her presentation, Learning Games for Young Children, gave us her top tips to engage children and how to create a life-long love of learning. Erica began by sharing a little bit about learning styles and how understanding your children, specifically how they learn best, will lead you both into making the learning process fun. Here are Erica’s top six tips for laying a strong foundation to learning:
  1. Read, Read, Read, and oh yeah, Read.
  2. Limit Screen Time - especially solo screen time.
  3. Experience Life Together - be a part of their world and let them into yours.
  4. Get into the Library.
  5. Set the Example - no screens, read, be inquisitive, experience life.
  6. Springboard Their Interests.

Next, Erica began to explain and show us a number of simple, yet effective games to play with our children.  A couple of the games that really looked fun to try in our own home were:

*Lid Toss - Writing letters, or the letter sounds, on concentrate juice lids. Once the child identifies the correct letter, they can toss the letter into a bowl.

*As Long/Heavy As A - Great way to teach measurements since most young children aren't ready for concepts of inches or feet. But kids can use comparisons such as "is that as long as a baseball bat?"

*Laundry Math - How many socks are there?   Now how many pairs does that make? If we fold a wash cloth once, that makes half, fold it again and now we have quarters. (It’s quite possible that I just want to have my children fold clothes under the guise of learning.) Erica also reminded us of a number of games that we might have played ourselves as children that are still fun and still effective as teaching concepts, such as dominoes, dot-to-dot pictures, Mad Libs, and many more.  Although much of her presentation was information many of us moms have heard before, it was a great reminder to enjoy this time while our children are eager to learn.  Take the time to be intentional with our young ones, seek ways we can incorporate teaching into our daily lives, and have fun with it. 

If you want to follow up with Erica you, she is on Facebook as Erica Graf. Her blog is And her email address is 
We got to follow up this talk by creating “Activity Jars” with Kristina.  We each got to write 30 different activites on sticks to place inside our jars.  Now when the kids are restless and we are short on ideas, here is an easy tool to let the kids choose an activity. If you missed out on this, we should have extra copies of the activity lists available so that you can create your own “activity jar” too.

--Kristine Manz