Sunday, August 24, 2014

Our First Week

We've completed our first week of the 2014-15 school year! 

This week I wanted to ease the kids back into the routine so we didn't just jump in with a full load.  During our Table Time the girls didn't do any of their core subjects.  Instead, I told them to pick a topic and research it during the week and prepare to present their findings to the family on Friday.  I didn't give them any parameters.  I wanted to see what they would come up with.  Also, one of my goals with this was to get them to dig through our nonfiction book shelves.  They hardly ever touch that shelf and I wanted them to see what wonderful things are found there.

Primus chose to study about bears.  Secundus chose to study about tigers.  It was interesting to me to see the different ways they went about it.  Primus, who doesn't like to write, drew several pictures with pencil as she went and labeled them with facts she learned.  Secundus, on the other hand, drew only one tiger picture and colored it with crayons.  For the rest of her report she copied down word-for-word a few sentences about her animal that she read.

Other than the research project, we did literature, watched some history videos (Liberty's Kids and Horrible Histories), watched some Bill Nye the Science Guy, and did some investigations with eggs. 

Our science exploring with eggs was prompted by this video.  Did you know you can stand on a carton of eggs and not crack them?  I also realized that the kids have never seen what happens when you let an egg sit in vinegar for a while.  That was really fun to see the shell was dissolved the next day.  After playing with it and bouncing it for a while, I let Secundus try to cut it with a knife so they could see if the inside changed too.  It was really funny when the membrane popped like a water balloon on her!

One week down, 36 to go!  Tomorrow the real work begins as we pile on the full load.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Schultuten and First Day Pictures

We started our first day of school with our new tradition: School Cones (or Schultuten in German)!  It's a pretty cool old tradition in Germany.  Basically, kids receive a cardboard cone full of goodies like candy and school supplies on the first day of the new school year.  Google it.  It's neat.

Anyway, this is our second year.  It was such a hit last year and the kids were so excited to receive them again.  The fillings and how I would decorate them were a surprise so everyday that Primus saw the blank empty paper cones sitting next to my chair she would remind me, "Don't forget to finish them before Monday!"  These simple cones made the kids look forward to the first day of school!

You would have thought it was Christmas morning and they were opening their stockings!  This year they got breakfast plus a small toy.  Homemade pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, a juice box, an applesauce squeeze pouch, a fruit roll-up, and a Minion toy (I think they're from a happy meal.  Hubby found a whole bag of them at a Stuff Swap.)

Our other First Day tradition is pictures before school.  We don't do fancy or cute or Pinterest worthy.  Homeschooling for us means no adorable pictures next to the front door wearing new clothes and an over-sized backpack and holding a hand-crafted sign.  Homeschooling for us means taking pictures in the messy living room wearing pajamas and holding a schultute after searching the house high and low for the camera for a half hour. :)

Primus.  Third Grade.  My super responsible special helper and Amazon woman. 

Secundus.  First Grade.  My "smarty-pants" (by her own description.)

Tertius.  Preschool.  My rough-and-tumble, Energizer Bunny, stereotypical boy. 

What special first-day-of-school traditions do you have?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

How I Teach My Kids to Read

 When I started homeschooling Primus in Kindergarten, I felt overwhelmed and clueless about what curriculum I should use.  The only exception was that I knew without a doubt that I needed to find Distar to teach my daughter to read. (Also known as Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons.)

I didn't gain my conviction about Distar by reading the research or reviews, but because I had seen it in action first hand all the years that I volunteered in Mrs. Bhatti's Kindergarten class.  I knew that this was a program that had been around for decades and worked.  I also appreciated the fact that it is totally scripted for me, is a step-by-step phonics approach, and each lesson takes only about 15 minutes.

I was very pleased to learn that it was available in a format specifically designed for parents to do one-on-one with their child.  The first thing I did when it arrived was to tear out every page and put it in a binder to make it easier to use one page at a time.

The method claims that it is great for young children (your child doesn't even need to know all the letter names before starting!) as young as 3 and a half. This fits perfectly with my philosophy about learning to read: teach your kid to read as soon as you can and then the whole world is open to them; they'll be able to learn anything!

Primus was almost five and a half and very bright and she zoomed through the first half of the book, doing a couple lessons each day.  I started Secundus when she was about three, I think, but stopped not long after because her speech issues were making it hard.  We started again slowly when she was four and she did really well.  Tertius is now four and starting his last year of "preschool" before Kindergarten and I am excited to start him out with it.  I've been working all summer preparing.

One downside to this book is that the parent's script and the things the student is supposed to read are on the same page.  That makes it really hard to work with a wiggly child who would rather lie down and hold the page over her head or jump up and down. I knew Tertius especially would need to be able to hold his own word cards so he can focus on one at a time while I can still have my script in front of me.  

This project has taken me hours and hours to complete, but I am confident that it will pay off!  If you have decided to purchase this curriculum (My favorite vendor is Rainbow Resource) and would like to make cards like me, leave a comment with your email address and I'll send you the documents I created. (I also found these are available for purchase here but I still would have made my own cards because I could not find it available through any of my school's approved vendors.)

As you can see, I've color-coded everything to keep them organized.  I've also written on the back of each card which lesson number they're used in.

 For the letter sounds I cut 9X12 pieces of construction paper into 16 pieces.  For the words I cut the construction paper into 12 pieces each.

I also laminated them with clear contact paper for extra durability.  But only the front sides because, dang!, that was a lot of cards!

I also made copies of each of the stories and put them in a separate binder.  The shorter stories are laminated and the ones that take up a full page are in sheet protectors.

Starting with lesson #74 the program transitions from the weird look of Distar into a normal font.  At this point, instead of making individual word cards, I kept each block of practice words together like they appear in the book. These are stored in the sheet protector with the associated story.

It is so fun to watch the kids start to master reading and be excited to show off their new ability to daddy!  School starts on Monday and I can't wait to start this new journey with my boy!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Chore Wheel

I really like charts and lists.   And our chore time routine is always evolving so I want to share with you our latest incarnation. 

But first, as a reminder, here's where I talked about our previous routine. 

This is the check-list that I made and posted in the kitchen to help everyone remember what needed to be done.  I covered it in contact paper so we could use a dry-erase marker on it.

In that post and also in this one, I mentioned about the kids earning "media allowance."  I searched the blog and was surprised to discover that I had never given that concept a post of it's own.  So here's the short version: the kids earn time to watch movies or play video games (in half hour increments) by doing school work and chores.  We used to have envelopes tacked up to the bulletin board where they would keep their little paper movie bucks.  But now we just do tally marks.  This has been a great way to motivate them to do all kinds of things!

This sign is covered in contact paper like the checklist above.  But the dry-erase doesn't come off perfectly so it's looking pretty messy.  I'm going to have to come up with something else.  Maybe at least putting it in a sheet protector might be better. (And who's idea was it to use green marker on green paper?)

 So finally here's the new method we're going to try this school year.  Hubby had the idea of assigning each kid to their own room.  We're hoping this means the bathrooms will get cleaned more often!  We're also thinking that it will be easier to award media points to each child in a fair way according to how much work they do. 

Chore wheel!  It will get rotated one place every evening.
(Please excuse the giant black blobs in the place of my kids' names.  Privacy.)

The four rooms that we want cleaned up each night are the living room, school room, kitchen, and bathrooms.  Obviously the boys are too young to clean up by themselves so they've been assigned to be Mommy's and Daddy's assistants.

In each room I've hung lists of what needs to be done there.  I won't expect them to do every single thing on the lists every night, but the more things they do in a half-hour period, the more media points they earn.

We have two other wheels hanging up on our kitchen wall right now, too (I even made a prayer wheel for Nursery at church.)  A prayer wheel...

And a Family Home Evening wheel. 

This way, we don't have to worry about arguments of who's turn it is to pray ("I always get picked!  I don't want to do it again!"  "I never get a turn!")  The Family Home Evening Wheel is also helping us remember to actually do FHE each week.  The six assignments we rotate through are: conducting, opening song, opening prayer, lesson, closing song, and treat.  (Our Evening Prayer from the prayer wheel doubles as our closing prayer for FHE.)

Finally, here's how to make an easy wheel:

1. Cut out the center circle from one cheap paper plate.
2. Use that circle as your template to cut a circle from construction paper.
3. Find the center point on the construction paper and draw your lines to divide it into the correct number of sections.
4. Glue the construction paper to your paper plate circle.
5. Use a brass fastener to attach your circle to a second paper plate. (The concave part that you would eat off would face the wall.)
6. Tape pipe cleaner to the back of your wheel for a way to hang it up.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

What I Look Like Today

You've got to go check out my friend's blog Brave Bride.  She's hosting a photo challenge asking us to share a selfie.  She's inspirational and I love her!

So this is me.  Unretouched.  One shot.  I weigh more than I ever have but I am happier with my appearance now more than ever.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Fairytale Town Literature Study

Not far from us is a cool theme park called Fairytale Town.  Every play area is based on a folktale, fairytale, or nursery rhyme.  This year for our literature curriculum, Secundus and Tertius are going to study every story that is represented in the park. 

I searched through the stuff I already own, all over the web for free resources, added some of my own ideas, and have pulled together what I hope will be a really fun curriculum.  When we're all done (I'm not sure if that will be at the end of this year or sometime next school year) we'll gather some friends and schedule a field trip.  I can't wait!  I haven't told the kids yet and I'm sure they will be super excited!

Humpty Dumpty’s Bridge
the following activities from nursery rhyme pack bought from here
color rhyme page
cut/paste sequencing page
label it page
writing prompt
retell using puppets (made using graphics from nursery rhyme pack)

King Arthur’s Castle
the following worksheets found here
history vs fantasy
Tales of King Arthur

Mary’s Little Lambs
the following activities from nursery rhyme pack:
color rhyme page
cut/paste sequencing page
label it page
writing prompt
retell using puppets (made using graphics from nursery rhyme pack)

The Old Woman in the Shoe
craft:make paper shoe (2 identical sides, stapled together to make pocket) and fill with paper chain children

The Tipi (Hiawatha)
make Venn diagram: our culture vs. Native American culture in story
discussion questions found here under "Lesson Plan"

The Crooked Mile
craft: attach extra long string between two opposite ends of long paper. Then make it crooked, tacking it down with glue
write another verse: what else could be crooked?

Owl’s Tree House and Pooh Corner (Winnie the Pooh)
Wise Old Owl rhyme found here (we recently read the old Winnie the Pooh books so I wanted to do something different)
Discuss: Why is listening wiser than speaking?
Owl handprint craft found here 

Farmer Brown’s Barn
read various “farmer brown” stories
writing prompt for Click Clack Moo found here. “Use a story starter (one of these examples or your own) and have the students illustrate. Farmer Brown walked by the pond. He looked into the water and saw… Farmer Brown ran to the pond. All the ducks were furious! Farmer Brown couldn’t believe his eyes! …”
sequencing pictures of wool from sheep to sweater found here
“in the barn there was a ….” book found under Day 3 here

Three Blind Mice
crossword puzzle and mouse bag puppet found here

Sherwood Forest (Robin Hood)
activity sheets found here
(I going to just get a book from the library and not use the one these activity sheets were designed for.  So we'll only use pg 1, 3, 5, and 9)

The Three Little Pigs
retell using felt board characters bought from Lakeshore Learning 
activities from Literature Pockets, Folktales and Fairytales for grade K-1 

The Three Billy Goats Gruff
retell using felt board characters bought from Lakeshore Learning 
activities from Literature Pockets, Folktales and Fairytales for grade K-1

The Cheese Stands Alone (Farmer in the Dell)
sequencing activity found here
dance/game directions found here under Day 1

Jack & Jill Hill
crossword puzzle found here
puppet slider craft found here

Mother Goose
information about the origins of mother goose found here
watch the old Disney video “The Truth about Mother Goose" link found here
make book of favorite nursery rhymes (staple pages together with words typed up and kids draw one picture for each)
mother goose coloring page found here

Jack and the Beanstalk
activities from Literature Pockets, Folktales and Fairytales for grade K-1

Cinderella’s Coach
My Wonderful Wish writing prompt found here
watch Disney version and do venn diagram story vs. movie
“How Cinderella Changed" watch craft found here

The Little Engine that Could
discussion questions and Word Family Train booklet found here under Day 1 and 4
make an illustrated book of things that were hard but you were able to do
conductors cap craft found here

Rabbit Hole Slide (Alice in Wonderland)
craft stick critters found here
cheshire cat smile puppet found here

The Dish & Spoon Cafe (Hey Diddle Diddle)
the following activities from nursery rhyme pack:
color rhyme page
cut/paste sequencing page
label it page
writing prompt
retell using puppets (made using graphics from nursery rhyme pack)

Hickory Dickory Clock
crossword puzzle found here
mouse and clock craft found here

Peter Rabbit and His Sisters and Mr. McGregor's Garden (Tale of Peter Rabbit)
paper vegetable garden collage
letter to Mr McGregor found here
coloring page found here
discussion questions found here

The Tortoise & the Hare
activities from Literature Pockets, Aesop's Fables for grade 2-3

The Alphabet Garden
abc garden collage craft: long strip of green paper, glue long blue sky on top, glue on small brown paper stems. Draw green letter shrubs on top of stems.

Urashima Taro (The Fisherman and the Turtle)
read online here
paper plate sea turtle craft found here

paper plate toadstool craft found here
leaf rubbing fairy to sit on it found here
paint rocks to look like toadstools tops (red with white spots) for garden

Pirate Ship and Pirates' Cove (Peter Pan)
draw map of Neverland using imagination
make Hook's hook with tin foil
discussion questions and pirate hat craft found here

Yellow Brick Road (Wizard of Oz)
the following activities found here
Kansas and Oz maps
character mini books
writing assignment/craft: which character are you most like?

Friday, August 1, 2014

Our Favorite Lunches

We sometimes struggle with variety in our meal plans.  This is mostly a problem with dinners as the kids don't seem to mind too much if we eat the same lunches all the time.  But I do know they appreciate it when I make something other than sandwiches.  So I wanted to share our standard lunches.

First, to make sure we eat enough of the right healthy stuff each day, we have a routine and aim for 5 servings of fruits and veggies (usually 2 or 3 fruit and 3 veggie).  We have a snack of fresh fruit between breakfast and lunch.  Apples and bananas are staples around here; or we might have another in-season fruit or pomegranate seeds from our freezer. 
We have fruit juice and a serving of veggie (usually whatever we have raw in the fridge- carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers) with lunch. 
Our snack before dinner consists of a serving of something like crackers and fruit (usually something easy to grab like dried fruit, apple sauce pouches, or fruit cups.)
Our final two veggie servings for the day are served with dinner.

Finally, on to our favorite lunch entrees:

1. Peanut Butter and Jelly.  Obviously.  Definitely the common fall-back.

2. Ham and Cheese Sandwiches.  I load mine with a bunch of lettuce and either put tomatoes or pickle inside or on the side. My kids hate mustard, but they love having sandwiches with mayo and barbeque sauce.

3. Pizza Crackers.  The kids love to make and eat these. Stick a plate full of them in the microwave for 15 seconds at a time until they're done. I can almost make them as fast as they get eaten!

Just layer a Ritz cracker, pizza sauce (our favorite is Contadina Pizza Squeeze because it's easier for the kids to help), pepperoni or cooked/crumbled Italian sausage, and cheese.  Cutting string cheese with kitchen shears is super easy and fast.  But I prefer to use chunks of Mini Babybels because they melt better.

4. Leftovers. One big perk of homeschooling is being able to just open the fridge and warm up whatever was left from dinner the night before. 

5. Corndogs.  One of these days I'm going to try and make my own mini corn dog muffins.  That would be really fun for the kids to help with.
(Picture and recipe found here.)

6. Little Smokie Quesadillas.  These were a free sample at Sam's Club once.  I was surprised at how much Secundus and Tertius loved them.  So they begged me to grab a recipe card and ask me to buy Little Smokies whenever they see them at the store.
(Picture taken from here.  No recipe available, but it's pretty self explanatory.)

7. Taco Bowls.  This is something my kids loved but for whatever reason, I haven't made in a really long time.  They're not huge fans of taco salad inside, but I'll fill them with things like raw veggies, string cheese, and cut up hot dogs.  It's just such a fun novelty to be able to eat your bowl when you're done.
(Picture taken from this Amazon listing.  I'm not sure if this is the same brand I own.)

What's your kids' favorite lunch during the school year?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

School Organization Fall 2014

 School starts for us in less than a month!  I've been working on getting organized and ready for the new school year.  I'll have two official students (Primus grade 3, Secundus grade 1) plus Tertius doing some preschool stuff and Quartus who's 18 months.  Here's what our plans are.  Maybe it will give you some ideas.

Daily Schedule.  This is going to be posted on the wall in our kitchen.
As you can see, 7:30 is when I aim for everyone to be awake and getting started with the day.  "Devo" stands for devotional.  It's our time as a family to pray and work on our scripture memorization. 

 By 8:15 hopefully the kitchen table is clean and everyone is ready for Table Time.  Everyone (even the boys for most of the time) will be sitting at the table and working on things like math and writing.  Mostly independent work-book stuff.

9:30 is snack time.  We're usually not big breakfast eaters (just cereal or oatmeal) but by 9:30 we're ready for some fruit. Under that I have posted History.   I have several word strips that have velcro on the back so they can be changed daily.  I aim for doing history and science each twice a week.  We do science and history all together in either the school room or the living room.

After lunch is another velcro spot where I can change activities out.  I aim to do Literature 3 times per week.  This year Secundus and Tertius will be doing literature activities together while Primus will be studying chapter books like Charlotte's Web and Bunnicula.

The school day officially ends no later than 3pm with snack.

 Weekly Assignments Clip Board.  Each student has their own. 
 Last year we did daily assignment sheets.  This year I want to try weekly assignments to encourage independence, personal responsibility, and the idea that it's a good idea to get the "boring" stuff out of the way first so then the rest of the week will be more time for fun.

All page numbers completed, test scores, and anything else applicable will be written on these sheets to make record keeping easier for me at the end of each month when I see our supervising teacher.

Writing Activity Ideas This is taped to each of the girls' clipboards.
I want the girls to have lots of opportunities to write throughout the week.  But I also want this to be an area where they can choose to do what really interests them.  So they're each expected to do 3 writing activities per week in addition to their Daily 6 Trait Writing book and any writing associated with other subjects.  This list gives them ideas of things to do.

 Book Baskets.  Each kid has their own basket that holds all of their individual work and clipboard. 
I got these at a thrift store for only a couple bucks each and everyone has their own color.  They sit on a shelf in the school room when we're not using them for Table Time.  All science, history, German, art, and literature stuff is stored all together in a separate location.

Record Keeping.  I'm an over-achiever sometimes.  I'm also paranoid and want to make sure EVERYTHING the kids learn or do is thoroughly documented. 

About once a month our supervising teacher comes to document our attendance, relevant things that we've done, and collect work samples.  Before she comes, I type up everything we've done and send it to her so she can pick out what she needs to send on to the school.

Then after our meeting I staple all loose work samples that she didn't take together with that kid's weekly assignment sheets and store them in my filing cabinet until the end of the year.  If the teacher wants work samples from any of the workbooks (math, handwriting, spelling, language) then they can be ripped out and given to her.  Otherwise, I probably won't be tearing out those pages.  (A couple years ago I tore every page out of Primus' math book so then she could just have one sheet of paper in front of her at a time.)

(Edited to add:) I also have a simple notebook where I record all of our group learning and activities each week.  I tell the kids that it's my brain because it's also where I write school supply wish lists, grocery lists, keep track of school money left, all planning notes about future birthday parties, list of things borrowed or loaned out, etc.

Are you ready for the new school year?

Hook's Revenge-Pirate Face

 Enjoy this lovely pictures of the girls giving me their best Pirate Face. 

A friend of a friend wrote a book called Hook's Revenge.  By sharing our pirate face picture, we have a chance to win some cool stuff related to the book.  And you can enter, too! 

Why do I care about this contest?
1) The story came highly recommended as a fun adventure
2) I recently read a book to the kids from a different author that was also set in Neverland.  They loved it!  We're currently picking out way through the original Peter Pan, as well so this might be a good fit for us.  Though, Hook's revenge does appear to be for older kids.  That's ok, I'll read it and then pack it away with my growing stash of literature for the kids.
3) Who doesn't love free stuff?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Finger Painting with Yogurt

This is an activity I used to do all the time when Primus was 3 and Secundus was a baby.  It's a fun activity and snack all in one!

This can be done with either vanilla yogurt or vanilla pudding.  We've always done yogurt, but pudding would be nice with its thicker consistency. 

Divide your snack into 3 bowls and color them with red, blue, and yellow food coloring. 

 Give each of the kids 3 tiny bowls so they can have a little bit of each color.

  A big white plate makes a great canvas for mixing colors and painting.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Paper Graduation Cap

 Finally, here's the tutorial I promised.  Just in time for next year!  :)

Cut a 9X12 piece of black construction paper in half longwise.

Staple the ends together to form the circular band.  Do it so the flat side of the staple is against the kid's head and the ends are pointing out so they don't grab hair.

Cut a second piece of 9X12 black construction paper into a square.

Cut little notches all around the band you made and fold them perpendicular. 

Glue the little tabs to the square paper.

 Once you try it on your child's head, you'll want to trim the band down so it's not as tall.

Glue a little black pom pom to the center top of the square paper.  Wrap the string of your tassel around it and glue that down.

To make the string:
Take a long piece of yarn and twist it tightly.  As you twist it, fold the yarn in half.  It will twist on itself.  Tie the ends together in a knot and it won't unravel. 

The make the tassel:
Start making a large pom pom with 4 fingers like it shows here.  When you're done wrapping, fit the twisted string you made between the yarn on one end.  Tie a string close to that end, instead of in the middle. Finally, only cut the loops far away from where you tied it.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Cheapest Way to Pay it Forward

I struggled to get out of the store after a long, tiring grocery shopping trip.  The baby was strapped to me in the Moby Wrap, crying,  and two little ones were ordered to hold on to the side of the over-full cart.  Soon after stepping out through the automatic door, a woman with a kind face and a teenage daughter stopped me.  "You're doing a great job!  Your children are so well behaved!  Please let me help you with your groceries."  She then pushed the cart while I held one child in each hand.  Once we reached the car, I buckled in the little ones and calmed the baby while her and her daughter tried to figure out how to fit all my bags around the stroller in the back of the car.

Her kind words (and many others like them over my 8 years of being a mother) really struck me.  Her words even had more impact on me than the fact that she helped pack my bags into the car.  I want to be that woman.  I want to pay that forward.  I want to lift others up! 

I'm not in a position currently to help others financially.  And as a busy mom I don't always have the time and energy to give service in the traditional sense.  But kind words are free.  Kind words are easy.  Kind words are uplifting.


"I'm so stressed out!  I don't feel like I'm doing anything right some days!" my friend lamented to me.  She was working herself ragged trying to take care of her home and children and dealing with the other stresses of life.  All she could see was the things that were going wrong.  But all I could see were the many wonderful things she was doing right.  So I touched my hand to her knee and said, "I've been there, too.  It seems I'm "there" often.  You are a good mom!  You're an inspiration to me."


"Go tell Shirley 'thank you' for having us over," my friend told her little one after a fun playdate.   The handsome boy reluctantly walked closer to me and mumbled a shy, "Thank you."  I knelt down at his level, looked him in the eye, took his hand gently, and said, "You're welcome.  I'm so glad you came today."


We all stood up and started putting away our chairs after the closing prayer of the Family Support Group, for which I'm facilitator.  As we worked, we continued to talk with each other about God, addiction, our loved ones, our struggles, the 12 Steps, and even unrelated things like the weather.  Sometimes the "meeting" after the meeting is the most uplifting and supportive part.  This is our time to make real connections and friendships with each other, share ideas, and expand on thoughts and testimonies that were shared during the meeting. While one member told us about how excited she was to visit her grandkids in another state next week, I noticed Jane (name changed) try to sneak out.

She had only attended a couple times and shared a tiny, mostly vague, part of her story so far.  I wasn't sure what in her life had prompted her to start coming, but it was very clear that she felt hopeless and depressed.  Obviously she needed healing and peace, and I knew that she could find it in the Atonement of Christ through the 12 Steps. But in the beginning of “recovery,” before you gain a testimony of the process, it can be hard to attend each week. Just like with addicts, co-dependents won't seek recovery until the pain of the solution is less than the pain of the problem. Many new members of the group need encouragement to keep coming back. They need to feel like they are loved and that their contributions to the group are important. I caught her eye before she had a chance to step out the door and said, "Thank you for coming.  You're right where you need to be.  See you next week!"

I looked down at my peacefully nursing newborn.  As a new mom, I quickly became overwhelmed with thoughts of all the things I needed to teach her.  Then my mind cleared and I thought, "If I could have her learn just one thing, what would be the most important?"  So I looked her in the eyes and said softly, "You are a daughter of God.  And you are of worth because you're His child and He loves you."


Everyone needs to feel needed.  Everyone needs to feel loved.  

What can you do to lift those around you?  Even sharing some simple words of kindness can make a huge difference in someone's life, young or old.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

A Small Laugh

Primus: Daddy, can we play Halo?
Hubby: Halo? Wouldn't you rather read a book and learn something?
Primus: Daddy, I want to learn, but books just aren't that interesting.

I could probably turn this into a deep discussion or something...but I think I'll just let the humor of the situation be.  :)  Kids say the darndest things, right?

This is how last-minute birthday parties are done...

I've been promising Primus that she could have a "friends" birthday party for two months.  We finally had it last night.  I decided if I put it off any more, that it probably wouldn't happen at this point and planning it for a far future date wasn't going to change the fact that I was unmotivated to plan a big, complicated event.  So we passed out invitations less than a week in advance! 

Here's how you throw together a fun party in less than a week.  And realistically, a lot of this was planned on the fly just minutes before kids arrived.  As you can see, there are no pictures, because it was definitely not pinterest-worthy.  But the kids had fun and that's all that matters.

The theme was "alliteration."  It was a Pajama, Pizza, Popcorn, Pixar Party and parents were told it would be two-and-a-half hours long.

Everyone came in their pajamas.  There's just something fun about wearing pajamas out of the house.  As soon as the kids arrived they ate pizza, juice boxes, and popcorn (we like Skinny Pop) while watching a Pixar film (Up.)

When that was over, we had a few different things going on:
Primus opened presents.
Each kid was given an empty Lays Stacks container (dug out of the craft boxes right before kids arrived) and taught how to squeeze it to pop the lid off (we call them "poppers.")
The lids were aimed and shot at pictures of Pixar character coloring pages (printed off the internet right before I ran to pick up the pizza) that were taped to the wall.
The coloring pages were colored.
The poppers were decorated.
Homemade ice cream cake was eaten.  (I have two cake pans that look like the two halves of an Oreo cookie.  So I just made a chocolate cake and sandwiched some vanilla ice cream in between. No frosting. Easy.)
Some played Just Dance Disney on the Wii while waiting for parents.

When kids left they took home their popper and coloring page and a favor.  The favor was a small empty peanut butter jar that Primus filled with popcorn, a ring pop, and a fruit roll up.  She replaced the Skippy label with one of her own that simply said, "Thank you for coming."

The hardest part of the whole party was cleaning up the mess afterwards.  So that was left for the next day.  I love lazy summers! 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Summer Reading Marathon

This morning I had several mom friends over for a Summer Reading Marathon.

Pottery Barn Kids has a great summer reading program where you have to read a specific number of books to your child from their specific list.  Once you've done that, your child gets to pick out a free book to take home.

So I sent out the Facebook invites, went to the library, gathered all 14 books we were going to read, and made a plan of how to execute this in a way to keep the kids' attention through more than a dozen stories.

Then just a few days before the event, I realized that I was looking at the requirements and book list from a past year!  Good news was that we only had to read 8 stories.  Bad news was that I only had 3 of the correct books.  So after another trip to the library and some time browsing on Youtube, we were finally ready.  (Side note: if I had realized sooner that we had to do only 8 books, I would have considered making this another Tent Town.  But with how hot it is, I think it's for the best that we did it this way instead.)

To be mindful of short attention spans, I divided our marathon into 4 separate sections.  We were done with everything in just about an hour.

1. Living room.  I sat in my rocking chair while they sat on the floor and I read, "Llama Llama and the Bully Goat" by Anna Dewdney.  Then I turned on youtube and we watched "Pete the Cat, I Love My White Shoes" by James Dean

2.  School room.  Everyone held their favorite stuffed animal while I read "Corduroy" by Don Freeman after a brief discussion about teddy bears.  The second book I read was "How Do Dinosaurs Count to Ten?" by Jane Yolen.  (The first picture in that book has a dino holding a teddy bear.)

3. Kitchen Floor.  They all ate popsicles (apple juice, strawberries, and bananas blended together and frozen in dixie cups) while I read "What Brothers/Sisters Do Best" by Laura Joffe Numeroff and "Grammy Lamby and the Secret Handshake" by Kate Klise.

4.  Living room again.  Everyone got to wrap a blanket around their shoulders and get comfortable while I read "Bear Snores On" by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman.  Finally we watched "Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site" by Sherri Duskey Rinker. 

Now next week we'll have a playdate and go pick out our free books together.

P.S. Don't forget to check out your local library's summer reading program and the one at Barnes and Nobles, too!