Friday, April 24, 2015

Countdown to Easter

This year I decided that our Easter was sadly not Christ-centered enough.  We just haven't established any really good family traditions (beyond the Easter Bunny) yet.

After thinking about what we do to countdown to Christmas and seeing my friend post about what her family does, I came up with my plan.

This will be our new Countdown to Easter board.  There is a small lesson for everyday for 31 days contained inside an Easter egg.  Every night before family prayer we'll get the next egg, read the lesson, and attach an item to the board so we have a visual reminder of what we've learned.

The 31 days are divided into 3 sections.  1. Who is Jesus?  2. Symbols.  3. Holy Week.

The top row, Who is Jesus?, comes from this activity from the Friend Magazine.  For each day there is a statement about Christ, a scripture to read, and then either a discussion question or a song to sing. Then the accompanying picture gets velcroed to our board. (If you do this, be sure and click "download pdf" on the right side of the webpage.  That way you can print out the 2 page version instead of the small 1 page version.)

The next two rows are pockets made of clear contact paper to house all the 16 Symbols.  It's pretty ugly-looking on the board so I may have to brainstorm a better way to do this later.
The symbols section is where we'll learn all about the details of the Atonement/Ressurection and the events leading up to it.  The eggs contain a small object (like a rock for the stone that covered the tomb and a nail for the crucifixion) and then a scripture and brief description of the significance.

The final 8 days before Easter are Holy Week.  We'll read scriptures and look at pictures from the Gospel Art Kit to learn about the key events of each day leading up to the first Easter.  And that yellow summary gets velcroed to our board.

(I can't find the Gospel Art Kit online. Does the Church not make it anymore?  I think you can probably find all of the needed pictures in the Gospel Art Book or online here.)

I mod-podged the little labels to each egg and they conveniently fit in these two cute sparkly Easter egg boxes I have.

I'm very excited to implement this next year!  In fact, I don't think I want to wait until next year.  We just may do it now.  I just need to gather a couple more symbols (a tiny cocktail sword and soap) and then I'll be totally good to go!

(I would love to share the results of my hard work with everyone!  Unfortunately, I don't know how to insert a free downloadable/printable version straight on the blog.  But if you give me your email address, I'll send you the documents I created.  The vast majority of the information came from the resources my friend shared in her posts that I linked above.)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Bacon-Topped Meatloaf

Tonight I had a dear friend over for dinner and at the request of Hubby, I made meatloaf.  He really likes this meatloaf.  So do I.  It's really yummy even if we don't happen to have bacon to put on top. 

My friend requested the recipe so here it is!  I got it years ago from some blog or recipe site.  If anyone knows where the original likely came from, let me know and I'll gladly give credit where credit is due.  

Bacon-Topped Meatloaf

preheat oven to 350

heat in large skillet on medium-high heat:
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • add yellow onion (1 small, diced)
  • saute 3-5 min until lightly browned

combine in large bowl:
  • onions (the ones cooked above or just a few shakes of dried minced onions)
  • 2 lb ground beef
  • ¾ cup plain bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tbsp mustard
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp ketchup

put on large greased baking sheet, formed in oval mound

brush 4 Tbsp ketchup on top
lay bacon strips on top

bake 50-60 min (internal temp 160-165)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Mac'N'Cheese Casserole

You know those nights when you go, "Holy cow!  It's 5 o'clock already and I have no idea what we're eating for dinner!  What do you guys want to eat?"

Often in our house the answer is "Mac'N'Cheese!" (The blue box.) I've gotten tired of explaining to them (*cough* Hubby *cough*) that macaroni and cheese (especially the overly processed junk we buy) does not constitute a meal.

So instead I make it into a meal.  I've learned that my kids are more willing to taste new vegetables when I serve it in this casserole versus serving them on their own as a side dish.  I grew up on casseroles. All the important food groups for the meal in one dish.  Only one member of the household complains about the sacred macaroni and cheese being adulterated (*cough* Hubby *cough*.)  On this day Primus learned that she likes water chesnuts.

So here it is, my super easy recipe (can you even call it a recipe?) for a quick meal on those nights when you don't know what to cook and you want even the picky eaters to eat.  It's definitely not the healthiest dinner we eat, but it includes vegetables so I call it a win!

The rough recipe below is enough for our family of 6 to eat dinner plus lunch the next day.

Mac'N'Cheese Casserole

1. Cook 1 pound frozen vegetables according to package directions.
2. Cook 2-3 boxes macaroni and cheese according to package directions.
3. When you add the cheese powder/milk/butter to the macaroni, also add the vegetables and about 6 cut up hotdogs.
4. Stir it all up and serve.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Library Discoveries #3 Movies and Music

Did you know the public library has more to offer than just books?  This is installment #3 in a short series about the many things that can be checked out from my local public library.  The library has so many things to offer, but I'm going to focus on things that are kid-centric. 

This one may be a big "DUH!" for some people, but I decided to include it anyway.  :)


Kid Videos

We don't have cable so the kids like to get a lot of videos at the library.

Our branch usually has a good selection of kids shows.  The only frustrating part is that sometimes the discs are really scratched up.  It's even worse because our DVD player is pretty sensitive.  Sometimes the DVD refuses to read the disc or it freezes, but the same DVD will be fine in the computer.

What's great is that they don't just have PBS cartoons.  They also get major motion pictures!  We've checked out Frozen on two separate occasions.  With the popular movies you have to reserve them through the website and get on a waiting list, though.


I like to pick up educational DVD's to have on the shelf for it we're having a sick day or a Mommy-is-too-busy-to-teach-but-we-can't-take-an-actual-holiday day.  Our favorites are the DK Eyewitness series, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and most things by Schlessinger Media.

For the Grown-ups

Hubby and I occasionally get some good stuff for ourselves, too.  Documentaries, TV series, and major motion pictures (both classic and current.)


I refuse to listen to kids' music in the car.  I'd rather listen to talk radio (which drives the kids crazy) or pop music on the radio (with my finger on the volume control to sensor as needed.)  But the library's extensive children's CD collection has been helpful when I have taken a turn leading our Mommy-and-Me music class.

If the month's theme is "animals," for example, then I quickly look at the back of every CD to read track titles and guess if it seems to go with the theme.  Then I take my huge stack home and decide which CD's to keep and use (no more than 10 songs are needed.)  I have found some really cool music that I otherwise wouldn't have known about.  My favorite find was Recess Monkey.  They've got some cool songs.

Stayed tuned for the next installment!

4. Audio Books and Read Alouds
5. Library of Things

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Library Discoveries #2 Subject in a Box

Did you know the public library has more to offer than just books?  This is installment #2 in a short series about the many things that can be checked out from my local public library.  The library has so many things to offer, but I'm going to focus on things that are kid-centric.

Subject in a Box

Find it on the website, have it "reserved" and sent to your local branch, and then pick it up and check it out just like a book.

I feel like this may been have designed specifically with homeschoolers in mind.  It sure saved me a bunch of time looking up and reserving individual titles and then waiting for them to become available one at a time!

Another bonus is that this counts as only one check out.  This is important to me because we often find ourselves at our 30-checkouts-per-card limit.  (Between the kids and I we've got 4 library cards.  I'm very tempted to get 2 year old Quartus his own card already.)

What you get:
List of informative and kid-friendly websites

Science this year for us has been very relaxed.  I bought no set curriculum.  When I brought this kit home, it became our curriculum for a while.  We watched the DVDs and explored the CDrom together.  Then the girls each picked a specific insect (Primus picked ladybugs and Secundus picked monarch butterflies) and had to use these resources to study and answer a bunch of questions I gave them about that insect.  Finally all the research they did was compiled in book form.

This research project took them several days to complete and they were really proud of themselves when it was all done.

Stayed tuned for the next installment!

4. Audio Books and Read Alouds
5, Library of Things

Sunday, April 5, 2015


Poor Tertius (age 5) is trying to master the meaning of language.

Understanding different references to time is especially hard.  Yesterday he told me that Next Week and Next Year are the same.

This morning he told me that he figured out another vocab word.  Apparently he has discovered that "Later" means 3 different things:

"It means 'I will take care of it tomorrow.'  And if a girl says it, it means, 'not ever.'  But if a boy says it, it doesn't mean anything."

 Thank you, Princess and the Frog!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Library Discoveries: #1 Art Pack

Did you know the public library has more to offer than just books?  This is installment #1 in a short series about the many things that can be checked out from my local public library.  The library has so many things to offer, but I'm going to focus on things that are kid-centric.

Art Pack by the Crocker Art Museum

Find it on the website, have it "reserved" and sent to your local branch, and then pick it up and check it out just like a book.

What you get is a backpack full of themed activities perfect for toddlers and preschoolers.  We tried the Color Garden set.  Here is everything it had:

1. A folder full of teaching/activity ideas and a classic painting with discussion questions.

2. Three colorful scarfs.

3. Color mixing paddles and chart.

4. Color sorting magnetic maze.

5. Noise-making toy.

6. Nursery Rhyme CD.

7. Five books.

8. One color discovery box.

9. Colorful bug counters with pattern cards.

It's like an entire preschool unit curriculum.  We'll definitely be getting another one of these in the future.

Stayed tuned for the next installment!

2. Subject in a Box
3. Movies and Music
4. Audio Books and Read Alouds
5. Library of Things
6. Science Kit

Friday, April 3, 2015

Tent Town #7

 Today's Reading Tent Town was very small.  Only 5 story tents and 6 children.  Apparently our experiment with doing it during Spring Break (so older siblings could also attend) did not work.  From now on I think we'll stick with toddlers and preschoolers and not try to schedule around special requests.  I've also got to plan another one for the homeschool group.

Today's feature story was The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak.  It's hilariously awesome.

For the activity to go along with it, I made these textured words by gluing sand to paper.  Then the words were taped next to the corresponding object.  Then they had make their own book by finding the words, put a paper over the top, and rub with a crayon to make the word the object's texture appear.

The other books read today were Little Critter books, Clifford's the Big Itch, Pete the Cat, and Go Away Big Green Monster (using a hand puppet).

The prizes that were earned at the end were these "books" easily made by wrapping Fruit Roll Ups around prepackaged Rice Crispy Treats.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Organizing the Snack Cupboard

This year I have worked really hard to get into a good routine when it comes to regular mealtimes and snacks, and fitting in all food groups.  The kids and I all love what we've come up with.  When I started, I had to set alarms on my phone to keep us consistent time-wise.  But now we're all so used to it that I could probably turn the alarms off most days.

We're not big breakfast eaters so usually all we have is milk and cereal, oatmeal or toast.  At 9:30, though, it's time for some fresh fruit while we transition from independent learning to group history or science time.

Lunch is at 12:15.  Lunch always includes half a glass of fruit juice and a serving of veggies along with our entree.  Two more servings of veggies are served with dinner.  I'm really pleased with how much and variety of vegetables my kids eat.

Then later in the afternoon 3 o'clock snack marks the end of the school day.  Usually we finish way before that, but the kids know that no later than 3 I basically "clock out."  Everyone grabs their own snack and gets to have some free, unstructured independent time (including mommy.)

To make 3 o'clock snack time go easier so the kids could be more independent, I keep these snack boxes well stocked.  The box on the right is full of fruit: dried fruit, applesauce, and fruit cups.  The box on the left is full of grains: crackers, granola bars.  They have to pick one thing from each box.

As you can see, these boxes fit perfectly in this space that used to hold my oven.  It's the perfect height for the kids to access by themselves.  Even Tertius and Quartus can make their selections easily if they push a chair over.

Another key to the way we do snack time is that all snacks have to be already in individual serving sizes.  We do like to buy packaged granola bars.  But what about Goldfish or raisins?

Pre-packaged single serving snacks are expensive and wasteful.  Portioning into plastic baggies is also expensive and wasteful.  Plus, the crackers get crumbled too easily.

So we use a variety of containers.  I've gotten creative. I have not bought a single container for this purpose.  Check it out.

Sprinkle bottles, small tupperware I was gifted, breast milk storage bottles, spice bottles, hand-me-down homemade baby food containers, and bullion cube containers.  Perfect.  Things like rice cakes and graham crackers obviously don't fit, but I'm fine with the occasional ziplock bag for that.  Or the big package will sit in the cupboard up above and can be gotten down if a majority ask for the same thing.

When these bottles get emptied, the lids get put back on and they're thrown in the space behind the snack boxes (ideally by the child who did the emptying) to await being refilled.  I don't even feel it's necessary to wash all the containers every time.  I definitely don't want to increase my dirty dish pile!  And if I do wash a container and the lid somehow gets lost (dishwashers eat small lids the way dryers eat socks) then I don't worry too much because most of these were free and easily replaced!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Tent Town #6

I finally got my life (and backyard) organized enough to have our first Tent Town of the school year!

We did Stone Soup again.  Some of the kids brought their own veggies to contribute.  Some kids are more likely to taste something new if they have more of a hand in the planning and prep of the food.

One little boy was so cute!  When Grandma Cindy was showing the kids the vegetables that they needed to chop while she read, he was the first kid to excitedly proclaim which one was an onion.  I think he's the only kid that cut it, too. And then when it was time to eat the soup, he made sure his mom found him a bowl with onion in it.

This time was smaller than usual due to last minute illness cancellations.  So we were done with all the reading pretty quickly. We had 6 story tents and only 8 children.  To buy time while the soup finished cooking, I had coloring pages for them to do.

In our soup we had zuchinni, cauliflower, brocolli, potato, tomato sauce, salt, pepper, canned peas, canned mixed veggies, canned green beans, egg noodles, onion, green bell pepper, and cooked hamburger.  It was so yummy!  Oh, and can't forget about the stone.  The kids really enjoy taking turns stirring the soup and finding the stone.

This time I decided that I did not want to read.  I enjoyed being able to stand back and monitor the flow of the event.  I also helped usher children from tent to tent, especially my own.  If I wasn't doing that, little 2 year old Quartus probably wouldn't have participated at all.  

Big thanks to my friend Sarah who let us use her pop-up shade.  The weather wasn't too hot, but it was nice to block some of the sun.

Three of our readers were "big kids" this time.  My daughters, plus another 9 year old girl.  I love giving the older kids opportunities to read to youngers.  I think it has potential for such a good experience for both parties.  And I think reading out loud to a group is an important skill for big kids to practice.  

I used to own only two tents, thanks to my brother who was cleaning out before a move.  So I really had to rely on other moms to bring tents to share.Then after a Tent Town or two, one supportive friend just let me hold on to hers.  Then several months ago I picked up one through a free-cycle type group, bringing me up to 4.  Finally, a few weeks ago I thinned out my baby clothes stash.  I was able to exchange some of the clothes for two more tents at a consignment shop.  

So now I personally own 6 kid-sized tents!  Yay!  Now I have one less thing to worry about when I want to plan another activity!

I like to have some kind of prize or favor for the kids to earn by filling up their entire stamp card.  This time they got to pick out a book to keep. I went to Goodwill Outlet and picked up a bunch of early readers for only 25 cents each.

 The books that were read in the story tents this time were More Spaghetti I Say, Horton Hatches the Egg, Gerald and Piggie, Leap Back Home to Me, I'm Already There, and From Head to Toe.

I'm hoping to get the next one planned soon since we missed our fall event.

Friday, February 6, 2015

My 2 year old knows the ABC's!

You guys! Constantine is only 2 and he knows his ABC's! Not even joking! He started pointing to Christopher's Brigham Young University shirt and saying letter names. Then we realized he was saying the letters correctly! Then I ran and got flashcards and a camera.

He can identify the letter names for almost all uppercase letters! What the heck??

I did NOT believe Christopher at first when he said he was getting them right! Then I kept asking if we were in the Twilight Zone lol

My friend's theory is simply, "He is a very smart boy. It's because he's a watcher. VERY observant and thoughtful!"

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Nursery Update

It was only 5 short months ago that I was bragging on our Nursery.  Now we're in a new year and we've been combined with another ward which means new kids and new challenges.

Ok, so NOW I understand why people don't like to serve in Nursery. I still LOVE nursery, but now I'm more humble. :)

We have a biter, a couple criers, a pincher, one who likes to dump everything he can get his hands on, and an escape artist. And we have people opening and closing the door all day (which upsets the criers and gives the escape artist a chance to sneak out) to bring us random new kids who don't know what's going on, and don't want to be there. My beautifully planned schedule/routine is not working out for us so well.

We've asked for another helper and are going to re-evaluate the weekly routine.  And I've made new signs which I pray the parents pay attention to!

This will be posted on one door:

And this will be posted on the other.  It'll be attached with velcro so it can be removed and slid under.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Friday, January 9, 2015

Don't Say This to Homeschool Moms

One of my favorite bloggers is Kris Bales over at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

She shared a list of 7 Things You Should Never Say to a Homeschool Mom and I think it's very well done (and super funny)!  So go read that and then come back here for my commentary.

What about socialization?

Making sure our children have opportunities to interact with other children and build friendships is important.  Duh.  But why the heck is this still people's go-to criticism?  It's getting old and not as big a deal as many think.  I think most moms are capable and intuitive enough to look at their kids and notice if they need more friends or social skills.  Moms are smart.  Trust us.  If our kids need something, we'll take care of it.

What do you do all day?

I've never been asked this question. I must be lucky to be surrounded by unusually wonderfully supportive friends and acquaintances.    More often than not, the people in my life are the ones that are reminding me how busy I am when I try to volunteer to put one more thing on my plate.

Just think, if you didn’t homeschool, you’d have more time to clean house.

 Yep, my house is often pretty messy and I'm never fully "caught up" on dishes or laundry.  But that's ok.  And hypothetically just because I send my oldest kids to school, doesn't mean I'll clean all day while they're gone.  I would easily find more important things to fill my day with (errands, volunteering in classrooms, taking the littles to activities.)   I also really like that the kids are home to see what it takes to keep a household running, and learn to pitch in.  Life skills!   

You must have so much patience.

I wish I had more.  

Do you own anything besides yoga pants?

I actually don't own yoga pants, though I wish I did.  But if you drop by my house unexpectedly during the day, it would not be unusual to see me still in pajamas.  So what?  And I do put on "real" clothes before leaving the house.  Unless I'm going to Walmart.  In that case, what's the point?

Since you’re home, would you mind babysitting for me?

I usually have no problem babysitting for friends during the day on occasion.  I can be flexible.  And sometimes giving my kids an opportunity to play with/help take care of younger children and teaching them the importance of giving service takes priority over grammar lessons.  The problem would be if it turned into a regular thing and it really started to cut into our school time.  Hopefully friend would have the courtesy to at least offer to compensate me, and hopefully I would have the courtesy to make my concerns known.

2015 Goals

I have a few goals (I don't like calling them "resolutions") for this year.  Please pray for me that I can keep them!

1. Be better about RSVPs.  
I'm the worst at RSVPs.  If I'm supposed to RSVP by phone, it just doesn't happen.  If it's a Facebook invite, I'll usually click Maybe right away but then I probably won't go back and update it.  I've hosted enough events to know that it sucks to have an inaccurate head-count.  It's disrespectful and I don't want to be a hypocritical jerk anymore.

2. Recognize family birthdays. 
Until this year, if you didn't come forth from my womb, then you couldn't expect to receive any recognition on your birthday.  I just think birthdays are for kids.  But I've realized that just because I don't care about receiving birthday cards for myself doesn't mean others don't appreciate it.  I need to see birthdays as an excuse to remember to tell someone that I love them.

So this year I plan to send birthday cards (likely just drawings from the kids) to all parents, brothers and sisters, and nieces and nephews.  My brother has a birthday tomorrow.  Oops!  I'm already behind!

3. Eat like the kids.
At our house we eat more processed and pre-packaged stuff then I think we should.  But at least I work pretty hard to make sure the kids have a good balance of fruits and veggies during the day!   But when I sit the kids down for their 9:30 snack of fresh fruit, do I munch on the apple slices with them?  Usually not!  When I instruct them to put a big handful of veggies on their lunch plates, do I sit with them and do the same?  Nope!

I really need to eat healthier in general, and I think eating what I feed the kids will be a good first step!

4. Family Home Evening plan.
We were good about doing Family Home Evening every week for a while.  But then Hubby started a Monday night class.  And we just never settled on a regular day to do it.  But even after the semester ended, we didn't get back in the groove.  But now we're going to!

And to make lesson planning easier, our lessons are going to consist of grabbing a scripture story picture from our Gospel Art Picture Kit and talking about the story.  Then the picture will be taped to a wall.  If we have time to come up with a fun activity or craft to go along with it, then awesome.  But if not, then we will still at least be filling our heads and home with wonderful art and scripture stories.  When the wall is full and the Kit box is empty, then we'll have to figure out something else.

5. No Facebook during school hours.
I may be a little addicted to facebook.  If I turn on the computer for any reason, I can't help but log on to facebook and then it's too easy to waste too much time just clicking around.  Any communicating that I need to do with my friends on there can wait until after school hours.  Teaching these kids is my job and I think workplaces are perfectly justified in firing people for indulging in social media on company time.  So I think it's inappropriate for me to use fb to distract me from my important work.