Thursday, April 3, 2014

Purging and Little Man Update

The moment spring hits I always get that need to purge. To minimize. I think the cabin fever of wintertime definitely contributes to the need. But it's worse this year because, as I mentioned in a previous post, we are gearing up the house to put on the market. We aren't even to the stage of getting an appraisal (I want to do all the exterior work first) and I'm already packing boxes of decor that I know I want to keep. The kids each have a box of their little knick knacks that they treasure already packed up, too.

Jumping the gun? Probably. But I just can't seem to help it. I have to keep moving and actively DO something. And right now there isn't anything we can do except clean and purge and pack what we don't need in the moment (which helps with renovation and painting coming up anyway so there's less to move out of the way). Waiting on our return and then we'll get quotes. I cannot WAIT to see this big old PINK and BROWN house painted a pretty neutral green with cream accents. And for my gutters to not be falling off.

Silas grows ever bigger by the moment. He'll be 10 months on the 8th and he's waving hello, his seventh tooth broke through sometime this week and he's just such a happy, happy, happy baby. He's always laughing and giggling. When I shake the box of Cheerios his hold body goes rigid and he grunts and kicks his legs, arms flailing. He loves food. This week we tried soft roast beef and canned peaches. We skipped the baby food and went to soft table foods.

Every time I gave him a tiny bit of beef on his tongue he'd use his fist to shove it over to his gum where his molars will be coming through, so he could "chew" it. It cracked me up that he really got how to eat, probably from watching us. I couldn't give him more beef pieces fast enough. He absolutely loved it.

He also scavenges. During and after mealtimes he'll crawl under the table looking for crumbs his siblings may have dropped. It's gross and we definitely don't want him to do that but I just think it's so funny he can deduce that already! He is literally crawling and looking for crumbs!

Still no words. But his babbling has changed to include "na na na na na" and "muh muh mmmmmmmuh" and "buh buh buh buh" instead of just the "da da da" he was doing. I am going to start doing some baby sign language with him as I did all his siblings. We really love sign language but we usually just stick to a few basics.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Sleep, Sweet Sleep

I always joke that I've been sleep deprived for the past 9 years, since our first baby was born. I've been pregnant and then had a newborn, pregnant, newborn, pregnant, etc. I don't even remember what it is like to sleep in unless I have major stomach bug which isn't restful sleep so it doesn't count!

We coslept with Elaina, Zoe, Judah and Silas (not Abigail but that was her personality). Around 10-months Elaina started taking naps in her crib and then slept in her crib through the night. Zoe was around 5-6 months old I think. Judah closer to the 8-9 months. So with Silas turning 9-months-old earlier this month I knew the time was coming.

All three of us were starting to get uncomfortable sleeping in a queen bed. Not to mention his mobility made me fearful he might climb out of the bed and hurt himself. I kept waking up stiff and in pain from laying in one position for so long so he could sleep safe. And then there was the screaming. Silas was restless and would wake up and just scream and cry... all... night... long.

Finally one early morning, before the sun was up, I finally laid my crying baby in his crib and stumbled to my bed and just crashed because I just couldn't do it anymore. To my amazement... he stopped crying and he fell asleep. His room is in our room so I could easily hear him and go to him if he wouldn't have settled down. I got two glorious hours of sleep before the day began.

It was time!

Once you start the cosleep weaning there's no going back in this house. I was determined to get him to sleep in the crib from here on out. Don't mistake me either. I love cosleeping. But there's a window of age where it is safer and better for our family to have baby in the crib. He's actually napping in my lap here because I only have him sleep in the crib at night right now.

So night 1 actually went really well, as did night 2. Night three and on? They've been very touch-and-go but he mostly wakes around midnight (which is when I'm in bed but not asleep yet) and then again around 5am to nurse and go back to sleep.

The first night we put him down in the crib (not referring to that early morning I put him down from fatigue for two hours) was kind of funny and sad! He didn't make a peep. He just sat in the crib, falling asleep. He put his hands out to keep from falling. He was swaying and nodding off while sitting. I tried four or five times to gently position him to lay down before he finally succumbed to sweet, restful sleep. It was funny because I've never seen a baby do that but sad because he kept nodding off and jerking awake while sitting there, almost in confusion! Once he got the hint he was supposed to lay down he hasn't done it since.

After two blissful nights with way longer blocks of sleep between wakings he decided on night three to scream and cry and let us know he was NOT okay with this new arrangement. I just stood there and patted his back and shushed him quietly. Sometimes humming. I let him know he wasn't alone and mommy was there to help him go to sleep.

There's no rush, parents. If your infant is extremely upset they are not going to just calm down and go to sleep. They will just get worked up, scared, upset and have major anxiety until they finally pass out from exhaustion. Part of parenting is being their rock and their comfort. Be there for your baby. It won't be like this forever! And believe me I know it is frustrating! All you want to do is go crash on the couch with your husband and watch your favorite show or unwind... or shower in silence. There's a lot you want to do when you have a child(ren) attached to you all the livelong day once they're in bed! I know this but... it will help your baby learn to sleep on his own a lot quicker to guide them to sleep, rather than leave them to figure it out on their own by screaming until hoarse and exhausted.

It's a process, for sure. It's not easy but you'll only make it harder on yourself if you start comparing your infant to others or make your expectations extreme. Expect to lose some sleep still. Expect that baby may sleep the night through one night and then wake you up 5 times the next night. Expect that when he does wake up half a dozen times one night that it doesn't mean he's going to repeat it every night henceforth. Expect that this may continue into the preschool years. New ages and milestones bring different bedtime challenges. I think once you learn to roll with it instead of fight it you've just taken the first step to more peaceful sleep for all.

My sweet boy!

Take it one night at a time. Don't worry about tomorrow. Worry about the here and now.

So what do I do?
Anytime Silas is having a difficult time I gently help him lay down by guiding his body to a lying position on his side or tummy (remember that he's an older baby - put newborns and younger infants on their back if they can't roll over on their own!) and I rub his back until he's out, usually a few minutes. If he's upset to an extreme and won't lay down, usually screaming and reaching for me then I do check the diaper, try to nurse him and then rock him in the glider until he's calm before trying to lay him down again. He's upset for a reason and needs reassurance. After I get him calmed he'll go back to the crib much easier. He knows I'm here. Trying to calm an upset baby by forcing them into something scary or uncomfortable will only make it harder! For all of you! Show him bedtime is not a time for anxiety, show him that you're still there. Don't put on music to drown out your infant's terrified screams (oh it hurts my heart so bad when I hear parents do that routinely - there's no clocking in and out of parenting!).

I'll let you in on a little secret. Once Silas was in the crib Judah seized the opportunity to come back to bed with us (so we're technically still cosleeping, tee hee)! All of the kids did this. They knew to stay out when we had a new baby. And once we hit that window where baby needs to be in their own space the toddler of the family found their place next to me in the middle of the night again. Embrace it, cherish it. It only lasts a season and then it is gone... it won't last forever.

This is something I've had to learn from experience. I was not a patient mother when I had my first baby. I compared her to other infants and wondered why she wouldn't sleep in her crib, on her own. I regret to say that there was a night I did try to let her cry it out. She cried and cried until she was gagging and I was crying along with her while yelling and pleading at my husband to do something. I didn't understand why she would only sleep with me. When I finally relented and realized she just wasn't going to be a typical American baby I brought her back to my bed until she was ready to sleep on her own. We were both much happier when we coslept in mutual agreement instead of me fighting her on it.

And I laugh now when I say she wasn't going to be a typical baby. Because the truth was that I WAS LIED TO. She WAS a typical baby. Infants are hardwired to survive through their mothers. They eat, sleep, breathe mommy. It's NORMAL. They form an attachment to you because it is necessary for their survival. Understanding that, and understanding "the fourth trimester", eases the stress of raising a baby.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Moving On

Well we are officially working on getting our house ready to sell. We live in an historic neighborhood, the gutters are falling off and the entire house needs to be painted outside, the kitchen is the ugliest you'd ever see and our upstairs bathroom is falling apart (literally - we have a clawfoot tub and one of the feet fell off when I was giving Judah a shower tonight!)... so we have our work cut out for us to make the home as move-in-ready as possible for potential buyers and get a good price in order to be able to put down on a homestead out in the country. I don't know how long this is going to take. It's exciting and terrifying all at once. I am on a roller coaster of emotions but at the end of the day I'm beyond ready to get out of the city and that fervor drives me more than any fear!

So I had to share a few pictures of rooms that are finished. And it's only two rooms of our three story house, ahhh!

 I painted the foyer this last summer. A cheery yellow!

It's hard to see the window because the sun was shining from that direction but I believe it is the original glass and it's in fantastic condition! Beautifully framed in solid wood.

Parlor room. Not sure how I feel about the blue but it's the least of concerns at the moment. If it continues to bother me I'll just paint it. What's a little more paint?!

View into dining room (which I will be painting soon, probably a soft green).

So lots to do. The main and most costly issue is the exterior so we want to knock that out as soon as we can. I am so impatient. I've been using the Zillow app to find homes we could look at and there are a few I hope we can look at but we cannot move until this house sells. I'm nervous about how long all the projects will take and then how long it will take to sell. I have to trust that God is in control but it's so hard to relinquish control.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Because Imperfect IS Perfect

I came to a realization recently that sometimes we honestly just don't know what we want. Or we think we want one thing only to find that the very thing we thought we wouldn't like ends up being absolutely perfect for us. Happens to me *all* the time. And I should know myself better than anyone out there, right?! Well there is One who knows me better than I know even myself because He constantly shows me this.

Once upon a time I never would have thought having a baby with stork bites would be perfect. I mean they're stork bites. They're birthmarks. They're not what some would deem a part of beauty or perfection.

And then I had Zoe...


And she was and is perfect. I fell in love with all of her and especially those birthmarks, which she had all over. The obvious ones are her forehead, between her eyes, her eyelids, top of her nose, upper lip, a huge one on the back of her head and a speckling on her lower back.

When I thought of what I would want before I had kids I could have given you a laundry list of all the cutesy little things I dreamed about: soft hair, button nose, pouty lips. Stork bites would not have been on that list. And not because I thought they were ugly, so don't misunderstand. They just weren't something you think of wanting to have.

When her pediatrician told me that the birthmarks would disappear by the time she was around 2 years old I was actually sad (they didn't, btw, and you can still see them when she has a fever or gets really hot). They were part of HER. If someone were to photograph her and airbrush those beautiful rosy pigments off of her face I would be so offended.

Because it turns out I love storkbites. And now I see babies with them and just melt all over again. They are imperfectly perfect, each unique.

Another baby of mine proved to prove me wrong again. I never, in a million years, would have said I wanted a child with flaming orange hair. But then I got one...


When he was born my midwife mentioned it. She said, "I think he's a redhead!" I denied it, saying it probably just looked different because his skin was still mottled and adjusting to life outside the womb. But as days went on his hair stayed bright as his skin tone evened out. I took him outside one day and in the sun his hair looked like it was on fire; it was so orange!

And this is when I fell in love with ginger hair. It wasn't something I particularly thought about nor cared for before Silas was born. I didn't see redheaded babies and people and think, "I just WISH and HOPE for that"! I didn't think it was bad or anything. Just nothing I thought I'd ever love. And now I see it in a whole new light. I love it. I keep exclaiming that I hope his hair doesn't change, as many kids will have different hair color as they age, because it is unique and so him!

In fact there's not a single thing about any of my kids that I thought, "Gee, I hope that changes because I don't like it!" Well except for bad attitudes, ha! They could have been born with crossed eyes or cowlicks or an extra finger and I'd have absolutely fallen in love with the trait. A mother's love is fierce and unique!

I thought back to all the times I hated things about myself as a kid. I hated my voice. Hated my hair (especially this one curl that stuck out on my forehead but my mother just found so endearing). Hated my nose. Hated this stupid off-center dimple in my chin and the fact that I had a crooked smile. And then I met my husband. And the *EXACT SAME THINGS* that I viewed as imperfect in myself are the *EXACT SAME THINGS* my husband loves the most. He loves my voice, my hair and he especially loves that stupid dimple and crooked lip. The imperfections I saw in myself were put there, by God, for a purpose beyond my own desires but the desires of someone else. And seeing my imperfections through the eyes of someone who holds them in high regard has helped me to accept these things and now see them as beautiful.

This extends way beyond the physical. God has shown me much more that He knew I'd love when I wouldn't have given it a chance before. But I was reflecting today on how these particular things are considered imperfections to many, if not most, and how those imperfections are completely and totally perfect.

It has given me pause so that I can raise my children up to see that their imperfections, or what they think are imperfect about themselves, are indeed perfect for them and often those who love them. There isn't always going to be someone else, nor should we put our happiness in the circumstances and people around us, to help unveil the beauty in the imperfect within ourselves. We have to train up our children to see it for themselves as well because we can't always trust others to edify them all the time.

So tonight at dinner we went around the table and thought of one physical thing we loved about ourselves and one character trait we loved about ourselves. We got so caught up in it that everyone started calling out what they loved about each other and not just themselves. Loving ourselves is so important in also seeing the beauty in others so it was natural to see them begin to tell one another the wonderful things about each other. I also made sure to tell them very specific things I loved about each of them (especially when some of them said they didn't know what to love about themselves) and to tell them one was not better than the others, they are simply different and unique and each should be grateful for the things that make us who we are.

What do you think is imperfect about yourself? Try to love yourself today and see the beauty in the imperfections.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Three Quarters of a Year

I can't believe my baby is four months from his first birthday! At 8 months old Silas is sitting up on his own, though he doesn't quite know how to get out of the position. He does "the worm" crawl. He lets me put him down a ton lately, probably because he likes to test out his mobility and get into stuff, but he still sleeps with me. We're working on getting him in the crib and by "we" I totally mean "I" because the little dude is a momma's boy. We've reached the stage where it's just not comfortable for anyone in our queen bed anymore. If we had a king it would be a different story... remind me again why we didn't buy a king?! Ugh!


My little Gingersnap screeches and is almost always ready with a belly laugh... He's my marathon nurser, often done in a matter of a few minutes. He has two bottom teeth he likes to bite me with, though, ahhh! He thinks it is hysterical of course. I discovered just a few days ago that one of his top centers AND a canine tooth broke through with the other center and canine following close behind. That may explain the fussies we've had lately and all the fist chomping he's been doing.


Silas may not look too sure about Judah holding him here but what he is sure of is the love his siblings and parents have for him! He literally shakes and wiggles with excitement when his siblings greet him!

I have no idea what he weighs but at 8-months he wears 9-12M clothes and has lots of chunky rolls. No words yet but he does a lot of the baby babbling if his binky isn't in his mouth (which is a lot because he is a binky baby!).

No baby food or table foods but he's very interested. Judah dropped a piece of homemade bread with jam on the floor, Silas crawled under the table and I discovered him happily sucking on it when I crawled after him. Boy was he ticked when I took that away! The kids already eat everything in sight so I can only imagine the groceries when this guy starts chowing down on solids.

In other baby news a brand new niece was born two days ago. I came down with Shingles rash on my back and it's almost gone but I haven't visited just to be safe. She's an absolute baby doll from her pictures! I haven't gotten to hear her birth story yet but my sister-in-law pushed for a gentle cesarean and I'm eager to hear how it turned out for them since her past ones weren't so gentle. Please pray for recovery and strength as she's got a very energetic toddler son to chase after when she gets home with the new baby. I think our mom-in-law will be over to help but there are still moments when it will just be her and the kids.

Not long after the Shingles rash started another niece of mine was hospitalized and almost died. She's 7 and without going into great detail they discovered a rare blood disorder where her blood attacks itself when it gets too cold, she had several blood transfusions over the course of a couple of days but is home now. That was terrifying. I've never seen my brother so scared before. Honestly her being alive right now is a true MIRACLE as she was at death's door and her parents were told to prepare themselves... But she is alive and well and the doctors could not understand how her hemoglobin was so low and yet she still lived. Thank you, Jesus!!! If you all wouldn't mind praying that they can find out the reason behind this sudden onset that would be fantastic. With this particular disorder it helps to know the cause, not just the diagnosis, to prevent a future attack.

Kindergarten Curriculum

Check out my post on PreK Curriculum HERE.
Check out my post on Choosing Curriculum HERE.

So technically for PreK and even K you can get away without buying a single piece of curriculum. And technically you could do that throughout your entire homeschool journey. But for those that wish to use a curriculum for some or all of their school you may find that Kindergarten is the year you really focus on what curriculum is available.

A lot of what you did in preschool carries over into Kindergarten. Children learn by repetition (and in other various ways) so making patterns with colored blocks and sorting, etc. are things you'll continue to do in Kindergarten.

If your child didn't learn how to write their name in preschool they'll most likely learn how to write their name in Kindergarten. This is like a rite of passage! The pride in your child's eyes as they messily scribble their name, some letters backward, onto a sheet of paper is, without a doubt, amazing. And it's only the beginning! The more they write it the better it will look so don't worry.

So what does one need for Kindergarten?!

Ask yourself what your child will be learning in Kindergarten:
-How to spell and write their name
-How to recognize and sound out letters
-How to recognize numbers
-Rote counting
-Simple addition
-Reading some words (phonics)
-Recognizing vowels versus consonants
-Sight Words

I think that for this age it is important to have at least Phonics and Math if nothing else. Phonics sets the stage for reading and then later writing and spelling. And of course number recognition sets the stage for addition and later in the year subtraction. They actually do quite a lot in Kindergarten when you break it down but it progresses through the year and much of it is interwoven together.

READING
Okay so Abigail was in Kindergarten last year. It was our first year homeschooling and my biggest stress was teaching her how to read

For phonics... I bought Explode the Code, McGuffey Readers, a single little box of Bob books I found at the thrift store, Modern Curriculum Press, Rod + Staff Readers... I'm not kidding. I bought everything. I was seriously freaking out! This is where my tips for choosing curriculum would have come in handy! I felt so ill prepared and inadequate. I'll break down the different things we got because one of them may be a great fit for you!

Explode the Code - this is a Phonics workbook. Phonics is breaking down the letter sounds and putting them together to form words (which becomes reading). I know a lot of people like Explode the Code BUT half of the time I didn't know what the poorly scribbled graphic was to resemble. It looks like a child made most of the graphics. For me this didn't work because I want my child to have a clear visual. Other than that it isn't really bad. Some customers have uploaded photos of the inside of their books HERE. You can see it does have great feedback but was personally not my favorite.

McGuffey Readers - These readers are an old classic! You can find a set HERE (or find them used as I did because they aren't cheap). I like these but they required much more planning and set up than I could keep up with. I needed something that was done for me due to the limited amount of planning time I have between work and home. Now that Abigail is really clicking with reading I may break them out again and work from them, or perhaps use them with Zoe as she is picking up phonics easily. Basically the series begins with a few easy words (like CAT). Then they build upon those words until your child is piecing them together in the stories (a.k.a. readers) and reading!

Bob Books - This is a well loved series as well. But they are expensive. I happened upon a little box that contained ten readers at the thrift store for $.99. It was missing the flashcards but I abhor flashcards so I didn't care. We still have the readers and use them! I started off reading the first book to Abigail a few times. Then I started having her sound out words with me. Now she reads them herself. This was something we did together, snuggled on the couch, while Judah took his naps. You can also find Bob Books on your smart phone app store. These reader sets contain a ton of repetition which may not work for a child who doesn't like obvious repetition or get bored easily.

Rod and Staff Readers - This is a Bible-based set of readers, workbooks, textbooks... it's a lot. And that was my problem with Rod and Staff. I loved that my child was learning Christian values and Scripture but I didn't like that we had to get out four or five books to do one lesson. It was just very overwhelming to me. I couldn't keep up with the lesson planning. I'm not a natural teacher, I will admit it! If you want a set of inexpensive Christian books and have the time to create each lesson from the different books you get in the set I would highly recommend this set for you. You get phonics, reading, writing, cutting/gluing/art, math, science, Bible, etc. so you hit several subjects. It just requires a lot of piecing together and planning. You can find the sets gently used or buy a new set directly from the publisher HERE (links directly to the Kindergarten set).

Modern Curriculum Press - This publisher has a wonderful collection of language arts books. We bought Level A found HERE and this was probably my favorite of the workbooks overall for what I tried. It was very similar to Explode the Code but colorful and I felt the graphics were more easily decipherable. Out of all the different phonics books I've outlined this one seems to have slightly worse feedback but it seems it is mostly from people who've tried the older editions AND the new editions with preference for the older material. Abigail and I were both pleased with this workbook.

THE WINNER?!

Hands-down the most helpful resource for helping Abigail read was Reading Eggs. It is an online, virtual teaching program. It does have a yearly fee but you can try them for the first month free to see if it is a good fit. We did the trial, she kept begging to do the program after our trial was over and so I purchased it. It is honestly what got us over this plateau in learning to read and got her on the right track for reading independently. It made learning to read fun! And it doesn't require me to do anything except follow along with her and they send me progress reports via email. We tried their new Math Seeds program for mathematics and loved that as well but I didn't purchase it as I felt they should offer a bundle since many families are on tight budgets.

SCIENCE
For science we used Apologia's Young Explorers text. We started with Sea Creatures. I'd read the text to both Abigail (grade K) and Elaina (grade 2) and we'd discuss what we read, find videos online of the different sea creatures to see them in action, watch our BBC Planet Earth videos, we built a diorama of the ocean and added clay creatures we'd make after we learned about them. Listening to someone read text can be boring and hard to follow so I made sure to stop every few sentences and ask comprehension questions. My excitement for science definitely helps pull them in (it's my favorite subject!).

We also had "field journals" and would just go outside and explore. They were free to ask "WHY?!" and we'd find the answers. Observation and exploration were a huge part of our science. We also did a great unit study on Insects that they thoroughly enjoyed (with some disgust, ha!). We find individual lesson plans for free or at a low cost at Teachers Pay Teachers (a website of lesson plans that directly benefits teachers!) and spend time just learning and absorbing a topic!

SOCIAL STUDIES
Social Studies/History was our most neglected subject in Kindergarten I think. I didn't really have a set book or workbook for it. We just did what we felt like. We did start off with Mapping the first half of the year which the kids liked a lot. I also got THIS amazing wooden puzzle of the United States.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

PreK Curriculum

Check out my post on Choosing Curriculum to help you narrow down the choices!

Zoe just turned 4 and loves to "do school" with her sisters. She gets very upset if I don't devote time to her learning and instead place my focus on her older sisters for the start of our school day. While I don't necessarily agree that kids should sit and do seatwork all day I have purchased several inexpensive preschool and even kindergarten workbooks to keep Zoe busy when she wants to do seatwork. Which is all the time! It has become a normal part of our lives so she expects it... and enjoys it! I am meeting her where she is at and right now she is loving her workbooks. She gets so excited when one arrives in the mail!


We buy a lot of them from the dollar store and since we have Amazon Prime I purchase a lot via Amazon with free shipping. Here are some other things we do for preschool.

FREE PRESCHOOL ACTIVITIES:
-Fingerplays! Brush up on The Itsy Bitsy Spider and Teddy Bear Teddy Bear and Five Little Monkeys... you'll have your little one begging you to sing them over and over and over and OVER again with the hand motions!

-Play catch. Large motor skills are just as important as small motor skills. Make soft beanbags to toss in bright colors or crumple up aluminum foil into a ball. Adding color and texture increases learning. Grab the laundry basket and try to toss into the basket!

-Speaking of laundry... have your child help sort and fold. It doesn't have to be perfect. They learn value in hard work and being a member of a family.

-Dress up. There's nothing quite like putting on a costume and using that imagination. Which brings me to my next activity...

-Don't toss the box! You just had a purchase arrive on your doorstep in a box. Keep the box and let your child color it, practice scissor skills (supervised of course) and depending on the size create a diorama or spaceship or whatever! We toss ours as soon as the kids destroy it, which may be within the first hour, ha!


MANIPULATIVES:
-Our favorite is our Sorting Pie!
-Another fave for sorting are Counting Bears.
-For small motor fun find large hole beads (craft department) and shoe strings (shoe department) or purchase a ready-made kit like THIS ONE.

Not everything needs to have a cost. Many things you can use around the house. Preschool and Kindergarten are fun. Don't focus so much on curriculum or workbooks. If you want your child to do some seatwork just print freebies online and have them trace alphabet letters or write your own dotted letters for them to trace. If your child wants workbooks and you can afford them go ahead and splurge! I never saw a child suffer from wanting and getting to do workbooks, LOL! If they WANT to do it then don't hesitate. If they aren't interested now is not the time to force it. You'll all be miserable if you force an energetic 3-year-old child to sit still and copy letters over and over.

Focus on what does interest them! You can teach them math without them even knowing it if the topic is about their favorite superhero or current obsession (dinosaurs, kitties, etc.). Line up your son's race cars in a pattern or make a math equation with them. "You have ten cars. If you give me five of them how many do you have left?" Then help them count out how many are left.

And of course... READ. Read, read and then read some more. Read to them, have them "read" to you, point out words, ask questions for comprehension. Reading is the gateway to other subjects. Build a strong foundation for reading when they are young. You won't ever regret that or the valuable time spent cuddling with them and diving into worlds of make believe.