Friday, January 12, 2018

Voltron Party

Primus is obsessed with Voltron, Legendary Defenders on Netflix.  This summer when season 3 came out, my friend hosted a Voltron marathon for her daughter, my girls, and a few of their friends.  I made some snacks!

These pictures are not the greatest, but I am glad I at least took them because I almost forgot about it! Also, it should be noted that I know nothing about Voltron.  I don't remember watching it as a kid, I haven't watched the new version, and every bit of knowledge that follows was gathered from the internet and the ramblings of my 11 year old.

This is supposed to be a lion.  I wanted to use all the Voltron colors.  The blue in the middle is Ranch dip with food coloring.  The black face is just black icing gel.  I don't think any of the girls ate any of this. :)

These are peanut butter cookies in honor of Pidge.  They're made with creamy peanut butter because Pidge once said that she loved peanut butter but didn't like peanuts.

I made garlic knots because Lance says he had fond memories of garlic knots from back home.  These are just canned Pillsbury pizza dough cut into strips, tied into knots, brushed with garlic butter, and baked.

Food Goo was apparently an absolute must.  It was easy to make with green food coloring in mashed potatoes.

Finally, black and white swiss rolls were perfect to honor Shiro.  This "Fiction-Food Cafe" blog has a good explanation of the black/white symbolism of Shiro.  It's so deep!

Friday, January 5, 2018


We had one of those nights where the fridge and pantries were running low and we didn't know what to make for dinner.  Secundus suggested "pigs in a blanket" because she noticed that we had a couple cans of crescent rolls and she was in the mood to help make something.  

Unfortunately, we were out of hotdogs.  However we did have pepperoni, string cheese, and pizza sauce.  Secundus got to work creating her "Pizzas-in-a-blanket."

Each crescent roll was given 4 slices of pepperoni, 1/4 piece of string cheese, and a dollop of sauce. Then we baked them according to the package directions. 

They were yummy, and better yet they were made by a kid that was so proud of herself!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Gingerbread Nativity

This Christmas season, every time I was at Walmart I would look at all the gingerbread house options.  Frozen, Paw Patrol, Mario, Minions, classic, village with 4 small houses instead of one big one, etc.  I just couldn't decide which one I wanted to get for the kids to make.

Then the week before Christmas I saw that they had this one, a Gingerbread Nativity.  I snatched it up right away.  Perfect!

It depicts the Wise Men visiting the Christ child at the stable, which didn't really happen. (They visited the family after they had returned home, and Jesus could have been as old as 1 year.) It's a pet peeve of mine.  Still, though, I really liked finding another way to center the Christmas season on the birth of our Savior.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Homeschooling Means...#31

...Mom's idea of a funny prank is to try and convince the kids that the day after Christmas is a school day.  They did NOT like that idea. 

(This series is meant to be mostly lighthearted and fun.  Some may be serious, but most will be silly, braggy, or of the keepin'-it-real variety.  Not every homeschool is the same.  And some of these things could be said by public school parents.  This is just to highlight MY experience with MY homeschool and MY children.  Enjoy these little insights into our life and feel free to share your own "Homeschooling means..." in the comments!)

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Be Happy!

One of the kids in my 5 year old Primary class at church has cancer. He was treated for it before he turned 3 and thankfully it went into remission. Sadly, it's now back.

Nephi (*name changed) is the most upbeat kid you will ever meet!  Even with all the endless appointments, needle sticks, and host of other negative things in his life, he's often quick with a smile and an optimistic word. It's a blessing to know him!

Last Sunday as part of our lesson, I shared a story of Elder Featherstone when he was a little boy. Elder Featherstone's family was very poor and could not afford new shoes for him. He contemplated skipping church rather than wearing embarrassing hand-me-down women's nursing shoes. Thankfully he chose to go and no one made fun of him for it.

The main point of the story was that we should make the right choice to come to church and worship the Lord on the Sabbath no matter what. The secondary lesson that I wanted my students to understand is that they should never tease anyone who comes to church, no matter what they look like!

To help them gain a little more understanding and empathy, I asked them, "What should you do if you see someone come to our class wearing a dirty tshirt instead of a button down shirt? Would you give him a dirty look or tell him he shouldn't wear that here? What if a girl came with messy, tangled hair? Would you point and laugh? How would you feel if someone did that to you?"

I could tell they were really connecting with the message so I continued, "What about if someone had a tear in their dress, or breakfast stains on their clothes, or holes in their shoes, or-"

At this point Nephi chimed in with a big smile, "Or no hair! Or a funny hat!"

(Nephi had come into class earlier wearing a red apple-shaped knit hat and whipped it off to show off his shaved, patchy head. Then he excitedly explained to us that his hair was falling out in clumps.)

As everyone giggled, I seized the moment and asked, "Yeah! How would you feel if someone laughed at your hair?"

Nephi: "It would be fine because it's funny!"

Me: "Ok, but pretend that it really bothered you. Pretend to be really sad that I'm calling your hat silly."

Nephi: "But it is silly! I can't pretend that! It wouldn't make me sad at all!"

He is such a good example to me. Never get down about the way you look or what other people think about the way you look!

The world needs a few more Nephi's!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

I Cannot Wait for New Years Eve!

November and December are crazy busy months for me. Aside from the normal way that the holiday season fills up calendars and to-do lists, it's also the busiest time of year for my small home-based business. Every weeknight I stay up past midnight to fill orders and prep for craft fairs. I'm utterly exhausted and stressed out!

During this time of year, when I'm tearing my hair out with stress and kicking myself with the guilt of not spending enough calm, quality time with the kids, I look forward wistfully to December 31st.

On Dec 31st, Thanksgiving and Christmas are over. All the big family meals are done, dishes cleaned, and leftovers eaten. The presents have been bought, wrapped, unwrapped, and put away. The Christmas tree has been put up and decorated (and if we're lucky, also taken down and packed away again. I have no more craft fairs until the spring. The family, friend, and church parties are over and the calendar is suddenly so much emptier.

December 31st, New Year's Eve, means that I can finally relax and take a deep breath.

Every year we spend New Year's Eve with my brother's family. The kids run around inside and out the house with cousins, we eat junk food until we pop, and play plenty of games. And above all, we hang out and make memories.

 It's a very low pressure holiday.  Exactly the kind of holiday I need!

Friday, December 1, 2017

I Stopped Dreaming

When I was a kid, my mom would frequently talk about her "Sky Castles."  These were dreams she had for improvements on the house.  An in-ground pool.  A second living room (the "add on.")  Turning the covered patio into a big bedroom with a second story loft area.

Those first two Sky Castles were realized before I was a teenager, but not until after many years of dreaming, planning, discussion, and saving.  And now that five of her nine children have moved out of the house, there isn't much need anymore for that third wish.  I'm actually not sure if she still talks about it.  Though I'm sure she has some other Sky Castle in her mind.

So I guess you could say that my mom taught me to dream big.  But somewhere along the way, dreaming became painful for me.

When Hubby and I were first married, we would talk constantly about our future house.  We would read or hear about something cool and turn to each other and say, "Can we have that in our castle?"  An indoor swimming pool.  An intercom system in every room so we don't have to shout at each other to come for dinner.  A slide from the top stories to the ground floor.  A mall-type food court in the basement.

Some of the features of our castle were just ridiculous and of course we would never be that rich. But it was always fun to talk about and dream.

But then financial difficulty hit.  We watched our savings account start to drain.  I would watch our 3 little ones play in our 2 bedroom apartment and just cry and cry that we would never be able to afford anything better.  I was insufferable with all my whining and ingratitude.  All that savings was supposed to be a down payment on a house!  And now it was gone and I could not see the future.  Would we ever have a sufficient income again?

And so I stopped talking about the castle.  It would just remind me how poor we were.  I can't imagine living in a castle when I can't even afford food.  It's too painful.

It's clear that for the past 8 years Heavenly Father has been trying to teach me to have faith and patience.  Some days are better than others.  But I definitely have significantly more positive days than I used to.  I'm not perfect, though I'm making progress.

Now I can finally see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Hubby has completed all of his schooling and takes as many substitute teacher hours as he can.

And yet I still fear for the future.  There's still too much uncertainty.  Until I feel secure, I still can't bring myself to dream.

I don't dream but I do hope that the future will be better.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

What a Rebel

Anyone who knew me as a child or a teenager would describe me as a “good little Mormon girl.” I’ve never tasted alcohol. I’ve always worn super modest clothes. I don’t have any tattoos or piercings. And when I was 18, still living at home, and my parents changed my curfew to midnight, I obeyed with only a few grumbles.

But now that I’ve gotten married and have 4 children, I’ve turned into quite a rebel. I homeschool.

According to the Department of Education, in 2012 only 3.4 percent of children are homeschooled (although I suspect that number is higher if you consider children like mine, who officially do home study through a public charter school.) And that number is rapidly increasing as satisfaction with our public education system decreases.

Still, even though most people will agree that public schools have issues, homeschoolers are considered rebels. We’re challenging the status-quo. We simply don’t believe that the government knows best when it comes to how to educate our children. That rubs some people the wrong way.

I've said it about a million times on this blog, but isn't it wonderful to live in this "land of the free" and be able to have many different options on how to educate our kids?

To my fellow rebels: keep up the good work!

To the moms who are thinking about going against the grain and trying something different for your kids: go for it! You can do it!

Friday, November 24, 2017

A Tour of Our Book Shelves

I think it may be a rule that homeschoolers have to like books. I NEVER buy books at full price but it's so exciting to pick some up for free at the Stuff Swap or buy some for 25 cents at Goodwill Outlet or the Library book sale.

Another thing I LOVE to get for free or cheap is bookshelves. Sure, I could go buy some quality book shelves that will last many years. But I'd rather take everyone's cheap hand-me-downs and fit them in where I can. And we've been lucky that everytime one shelf falls apart, another one has come along. (At this point in our lives, we just have to make this work. I do have a plan on Ikea that I drool over, though.)

These are our chapter books, in our school room. They're all organized by reading level. If you look closely, you can see little flags made with masking tape and labeled with grade numbers.

I also have a few high school level books that are currently being stored in the garage until we need them.

You can see that our chapter books are next to this shelf (you see a bit at the far right of this picture.) This is about half of our non-fiction books. They're all divided by topic, the sections being labeled with manilla page dividers.

This is the other half of our nonfiction books, in the bottom two rows of this tall bookcase that sits on the other side of the school room.

In another corner of our school room is all of our picture books. Every once in a while, for fun, I'll sort the books and put all the Dr. Seuss books or fairytales together, for example. But I don't label these groups and I don't expect the kids to put books back in the same spot.

You can see in the top right corner of the picture that I have a little crate labeled "phonics readers." At the moment, Quartus is working his way through these books. As soon as he has read each little book once, then it gets pit back in that crate.

You can also see the big red and yellow plastic crates on top of the shelf. Those crates hold all of the boys' school books

This book case is to the left of the picture above. It's more picture books. The big green basket on the top shelf used to hold little baby board books, but I recently packed those away in storage. So at the moment it holds all the phonics readers that Quartus hasn't read yet.

The pink and light green crates on top hold the girls' school work.

The basket that holds the nonfiction books we're currently reading (on Fridays) lives on the floor under the window in the living room.

Our history curriculum and corresponding library books live on the top shelf of our entertainment center.

This bookcase is also in the living room. The bottom is where all our library books (and chapter books we're currently reading) are kept. 

The next shelf up is for scripture stories.

This tall bookcase stands at a section of wall between the kitchen and school room. At the top is a few religious books, mostly student manuals for Sunday School and Seminary.

Down from there are cookbooks. Since everything is online, I only keep a couple cookbooks for myself. The rest are fun ones for the children.

Next are craft and drawing instruction books, with craft kits and supplies below.

While there are always books in every bed, (the kids love to read to themselves before they go to sleep) we don't store any in the kids' bedrooms. All books are communal property so they need to be out where all can access them.

The exceptions are Hubby's collections of videos game strategy guides, writers' reference books (in the picture above), and history books (in the picture below.) All of these are in his "Man Nook" in our bedroom (he had his own "Man Cave" when the children were younger and all shared a bedroom together.)

So there you have it! How are the books in your homeschool organized?

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Teaching Primus About Photoshop

Primus loves chatting on Google Hangouts with her friends. They mostly talk about Voltron, or whatever their newest obsession is, and shard silly memes. She was so entertained and just had to show me when someone shared a video that had a tripod from War of the Worlds photoshopped into a view of Hurricane Irma in Florida.

This led to a conversation with her about how amazingly talented some people are with photoshop and that you have to be skeptical and not assume everything you see on the internet is true. My friend, and Primus' best friend's mother, is on their chat and often says sarcastically there, "Oh, it's real. It's on the internet."

Then that led to a discussion about how extensively photoshop is used in magazines and advertisements. I shared with her the fact that studies have shown that the more girls read such magazines, the more they hate their own bodies. As I put it to her, some women come to desire to look like what they see in the magazine, but what they see is fiction and not physically possible. So that leads to poor self esteem and feelings of inadequacy.

I plan to show her some videos of photoshopping in progress. During our brief conversation, however, I gave her just a few examples of the kinds of things on a woman's body that a photoshopper would change such as making hair fuller, erasing knee caps, shaving arm width, etc. She suggested that they might erase freckles. When I confirmed that she was absolutely right, she was horrified! "I love my freckles!" she emphatically declared as she grabbed her nose.

I'm so glad that she seems to have such a good head on her shoulders and that she is comfortable in her own skin. She's in sixth grade. I was in sixth grade when I finally really became aware of my own appearance, and I did not like what I saw. I hope that she never loses her confidence and knowledge that she is a beautiful and unique daughter of God.

I'm so grateful for the teaching opportunity that a silly Youtube video provided for us!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Homeschooling Means...#30

...using the Newsies musical as a jumping off spot for an extra history lesson.

The girls and I got to see a stage production of The Music Man with grandma, which prompted us to borrow the 1962 version on DVD and watch it as a family. It's a fun musical and Hubby has fond memories of being the high tenor voice in the barbershop quartet when his high school performed it. But it's a weird story! And the kids annoyed us with their rendition of "Shipoopi" for a few days so I decided we needed to watch another musical to get that song out of their heads.

Unfortunately, Netflix's current selection of classic musicals is lacking. But even though they didn't have the original Newsies movie, they did have a Broadway stage production version of it that was produced this year. It's so good! There are a few changes in characters and songs, but I think they're great changes!

The kids loved watching it, too! I'd much rather hear them singing, "Seize the Day" instead of "Pick a Little Talk a Little" over and over again! 

And of course, since we are a homeschooling family, we couldn't pass up this opportunity to look up information about the true story behind the story! Did you know it was inspired by a real newsboy strike in 1899 against Mr. Pulitzer that lasted 2 weeks and was led by a boy nicknamed Kid Blink?

There could be a real opportunity hear. Someone should create a homeschool curriculum that teaches history through musicals! 
Use Hamilton to learn about the American Revolution,
Newsies to learn about the history of unions and working conditions of children and lower class families at the turn of the century,
Fiddler on the Roof to learn about turn of the century czarist Russia,
Les Miserables to learn about the French Revolution, 
The Sound of Music to learn about The Third Reich's annexation of Austria, 
Annie Get Your Gun to learn about the historic Buffalo Bills Wild West show,
The King and I to learn about 1860 British Imperialism.

Let me know as soon as someone more creative and knowledgeable than I makes such a thing a reality. I will happily be their first customer!

(This series is meant to be mostly lighthearted and fun.  Some may be serious, but most will be silly, braggy, or of the keepin'-it-real variety.  Not every homeschool is the same.  And some of these things could be said by public school parents.  This is just to highlight MY experience with MY homeschool and MY children.  Enjoy these little insights into our life and feel free to share your own "Homeschooling means..." in the comments!)

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

6th Grade Memories

I like being busy. I like being social. I like being involved in everything. (Sometimes this catches up with me and I get stressed out because I put too much on my plate, but I digress.) This really started being clear to me in 6th grade.

6th grade at Pershing Elementary School was really a defining time for me in a lot of ways. I learned a lot about myself that year.

I could be remembering wrong, but I think the following was my schedule. This was also the year that I was finally allowed to walk home half a mile with friends (Beth, David, and Leslie) on most days. So many fond memories!

Mondays I went to private piano lessons with Sister Cooper.

Tuesdays after school I attended Readers' Theater group.
(This was a fun class and great for someone like me who has no natural acting talent. Performance time was a disaster, though. I mentioned it a little here.)

Wednesdays after school I stayed for GATE.
 (From talking to other people, it seems like our GATE program was much different than the way other schools do it and it was actually kind of lame. At my elementary school we had the regular classes and then the Rapid Learner classes. Even though I qualified for RL, my parents preferred the regular classes. My last year there they started GATE for the "smart" or gifted kids who weren't in RL. Basically we just met after school for an hour a week and did educational and fun stuff. We did a unit on the science of bubbles, a unit all about paper airplanes, and a whole semester with the computer lab teacher. We were planning improvements for the school website. We were working on some really awesome stuff! But either we didn't finish or we weren't allowed to actually make it live. Lame. Probably my favorite day was when we spent the whole time telling the computer teacher all about how snobby and mean the RL kids were. She had a daughter in RL but patiently listened to our frustrations and jealousies without rebuking us.)

I think the Girls Activity Days (church youth group) were also on Wednesdays every other week in the late afternoon.

Thursdays were spent at choir practice.

Band practice was before school on one of those days.

I'm thankful to my awesome elementary school that provided so many extracurricular activities (for free!) and to my mother for letting me join all of them!

Friday, November 10, 2017

“Can a woman forget her sucking child?”

Isaiah 49:15-16
15 Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.16 Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.
This scripture is close to my heart. I have breastfed for a total of about 5 years (nonconsecutive) over the course of nurturing 4 babies.

There is a bond between mother and child. Spiritual, emotional, and physical. Even after the umbilical cord is cut, I was still linked physically with my infant. If I heard her cry, my body would respond by preparing to release milk for her.  If I was away from her for too long, my body made sure that I knew it!

Can a woman forget her sucking child? No! As a nursing mother, I could tell when it had been too long since the last feeding. If I was away from my baby and unable to pump to release some pressure, I would become engorged. It hurts! There is actual physical pain that happens to make sure the mother can't forget her child.

Like a breastfeeding mother to her infant, Christ our Savior is literally physically linked with us. He doesn't think of us and have compassion for us simply because of an emotional or spiritual connection with us. It is also a physical bond! He literally took upon him all of our sins and afflictions. He knows exactly what each of our pains, disappointments, sadness, and joys feel like to each of us.

Furthermore, when Christ was put on the cross, we were "graven upon the palms of his hands." That is a physical reminder of us to him. He has tangible evidence of the sacrifice he made for us and our connection to him.

I love my Savior and am eternally grateful to him for his sacrifice for me!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

How We Do Fridays

Many homeschoolers choose to do a 4 day per week school schedule. That leaves 1 week day open every week for field trips, errands and chores (totally counts as "life skills" education), or self-directed or delight-directed relaxed learning.

I have my own version of that idea.

I feel like I push my kids really hard academically Monday through Thursday. I think I have high expectations of them and have to try hard to make sure that I'm keeping things for them in balance. I worry sometimes that my expectations and requirements of them are too high and we need to have more down time or unschoolish type education. It's very normal for me as a mom, and especially as a homeschool mom, to constantly second guess myself.

However, I digress...

My goal is for every kid to be done with their weekly assignments by Thursday. (If that means that they work longer on Thursdays because they slacked off earlier in the week, then so be it.) That way Friday is open for other pursuits. The following is what we are doing this semester. Not every semester or school year is identical!

Fridays start with group scripture and song memorization and family prayer, followed by personal scripture study time (same as every school day.)

After that, I read aloud from a biography of a classical composer. We're using these books. (Great Musicians Series from Zeezok Publishing.) They come with CDs of music to go along with it, but I find it easier to just make a Youtube playlist of songs from the particular composer and then listen to it with my tablet while I read and while we do our school work during the week. Also, while I read, the kids are free to play in the same room as me. It's usually things like Legos or Pattern Blocks. I tell them to find something that will keep their hands busy and their mouths quiet so that they can listen. It's been taking us two Fridays to get through each book.

Next, the girls will do a spelling lesson with me (All About Spelling) while Tertius does some free reading of non-fiction books. (I set out a basket of books on a particular topic such as animals, space, or American history and the books get switched out for a new topic every other week.) When the girls are done with their lesson, then they get to read while Tertius does spelling. Meanwhile, Quartus just does whatever he wants. He might look at the books or he might play with toys. I don't mind either way. Kindergartners get more freedom!

After that, we get to spend time with my friend and the kids' "adopted" Grandma. We might do a fun art or food project. We might do an activity from a science kit. Or we might just hang out (outside when the weather is nice), relax, play with toys, and enjoy each others' company. Lately Grandma's been spending all her free time on painting rocks, big and small. They're beautiful and she's so talented! So some weeks she teaches us how to paint rocks and the kids have come up with some really fun designs.

We always look forward to our Fridays. I'm hoping the way I have our week structured is teaching the kids that we need to do the hard work first and then fun can happen later. A useful life lesson!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Kids Love Gospel Art On Their Walls

Recently I went to Deseret Book to buy some gospel art to put on the walls of my primary classroom. The kids came with me and they were amazed to see so many different prints of art for sale. They wanted them all! 

I let them spend their own money to buy a few pictures to put on their bedroom walls. It was really hard for them to decide which ones to get. These little 3X4 pictures were only about 50 cents each.

The photo above is Tertius' wall. He bought the Salt Lake Temple, the Savior with the words Come Follow Me, the Savior with a crown of thorns, and the Armor of God.

This one is Quartus' wall. He has the Salt Lake Temple, Jesus, and also a snapshot of our family when he was a baby (you can see the edge of it at the top of the picture.)

Here is the girls' room. Together they got the prophet Thomas S. Monson, Christ with a little girl, the Armor of God, a bookmark of the Armor of God, one called Behold He Cometh which is a young woman holding an oil lamp, and a bookmark of the Relief Society theme.

It was heart warming to witness their enthusiasm for decorating their rooms with art that would remind them of the Gospel and their Lord Jesus Christ!

I think maybe for Christmas I'll buy them some of the pictures that they wanted but decided to put back!