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Monthly Archives: August 2012

A Few of My Favorite Things

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Well, besides Pinterest and Amazon. Those are my absolute two most favorite places on worldwide web. I have absolutely no idea what I would do with myself if they disappeared, lol!

1. Booklists.

If you are wondering what you should read to your child, what they should be reading, and when…check out Click on the appropriate age/grade level, and buy some of those books. You don’t have to buy them from Sonlight if you don’t want to. Amazon rocks, you know. I get to read Jackson some of these awesome books this year!

The Strawberry Girl
Pippi Longstocking
Encyclopedia Brown
The Borrowers
The Cricket in Times Square
The Door in the Wall
The Mouse and the Motorcycle
The Story of Dr. Dolittle
The Boxcar Children 1-4
just to name a few!!!

2. The Hair Bow Company

I use to make the girls hair bows, mostly because it was so expensive to buy them from boutiques or stores. Then, I found The Hairbow Company. Great bows! Super cheap! My fingers thank me for not burning off my fingerprints with hot glue. Shipping is a bit steep, but the total cost is the same (or maybe less) than me buying the materials and taking the time to do them on my own.

3. My laminator.

Best.thing.ever. Amazon also has a pack of 100 lamination sheets for $17.

5. The blog Pearls, Handcuffs, and Happy Hour.

Awesome recipes created by a teacher who doesn’t have hours to spend on dinner. She is adorable and Texan and a phenomenal blogger (her blog, The First Grade Parade, is one of my favorite educational blogs). She also has cute little crafts and home decor tips. Check it out…you won’t regret it. I’m trying this next week…yum, yum!

6. Naptime, which happens to be right now. But before I leave you, here is an update on how our first week of school is going.

Do A Dot letter A page. She rocked this!

Number matching. She loved this and did it without needing any help!

London is doing AWESOME with Pre-K! The hardest thing for her right now is just learning the structure and routine of school. I don’t force her to do anything and we just work on stuff until she has decided to move on with her day. I usually have her entertained and working well for about 30 minutes, which is perfect for what we need to do. As for the material, she is excelling! This is one of the those times where she is letting me know all that she knows; she isn’t a showboat like Jackson and keeps what she knows a secret until it just pops out. πŸ™‚

As always, Jackson is loving his work. He is really digging the independent work schedule created by using a workbox type system.

As the week moves on, things are getting easier. I love how productive we are on a schedule, and it feels good to be back into learning again!


First Day of School!

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3rd grade and Pre-school.

Let me get this out real quick.


1. I can’t believe that London is old enough for school! What?!

2. I can’t believe that I now have two kids to teach at the same time (deep breaths).

3. I guess it could have gone a lot worse.

For a long time, I was sad that we missed out on traditional “first day of school” mornings. Then I decided that I didn’t want those memories, anyway. I could make better ones that didn’t include me waking up before dawn and rushing around the house in a mad dash to get everyone out the door on time. Ones that didn’t include me bawling my eyes out in parking lots while I left my child behind (even though I know they’d be fine…but still). So, no longer do I miss those would-be memories.

Now, our first day of school mornings include homemade blueberry muffins. Muffins that we wouldn’t have time to make together if we were rushing to leave the house by 7:30. Or 7. Or whatever break of dawn time school starts, lol!

They were delicious. I leisurely drank my coffee, praying my worries away for the day, and took the time to enjoy blueberry covered chins. You could say I was dawdling, perhaps a tiny piece of me trying to avoid the inevitable chaos I was sure to find around the corner. Here is the get real time: I am ALWAYS nervous. It may seem like I have it all together and homeschooling is a breeze and gosh, I must be so patient…nope. Not in the least. What I do isΒ hard, and requires a dying to self almost minutely as soon as the school bell rings. *gulps coffee*.

The first day went as well as could be expected, I suppose. We start off with calendar/ circle time.

We sing a Days of the Week song, a month of the year song, a color rhyme, the weather, today/tomorrow/yesterday, and Days in School. Jackson also does a section on time and money, which he really likes.

After calendar, I get Jackson started on Read to Self, and then get London started on her first activity.

She did awesome! She colored in her tree and traced her letters.

She laced an apple card. This will take some practice for her; in fact, the whole program will. I am going to slowly build up her stamina for learning; right now she worked on her coloring page and laced the apple and that was it for her. She had decided that she was D-O-N-E. That’s fine. Throughout the rest of the morning I gave her random things to do like color puzzles and pom pom sorting.

Brooklyn got in on the pom poms, too. They have little pinchers they use to pick up the balls and put them in the cup. London loved this and sat there for at least 10 minutes. Progress, right?

After Jackson was through reading, we did a lesson from First Language Lessons, and then I sent him on to Word Work. Today, he did “Write and Stamp”. He took his spelling list and wrote the word, then stamped it out. This was a winner; he loved doing this!

I took time to work with the girls while he was doing this. Then we did a lesson out of Writing with Ease, and afterwards he grabbed his Work on Writing box which had some worksheets on “First, Next, Last” for him to complete. This year we are really focusing on elements of a story and different genres, so we are jumping in head first! I LOVE this idea I found on Pinterest, and can’t wait to use it starting tomorrow!

As we go through stories, we will use Post It notes to jot down the various elements of the story. I think this is really going to help Jackson grasp the concepts of good writing and comprehension.

After a lunch break, we worked on Geography, which will be M/W/F (Science is T/Th). We are using Expedition Earth, and this week is studying the globe. Jackson is learning about the Prime Meridian, hemispheres, etc. this week.

Math is this afternoon. I always save it for when the girls are resting so Jackson can concentrate. He starts multiplication this year, which he is really excited about!

Here is a peek at our schoolroom/playroom. It is divided down the center of the room, which I really like. Whoever isn’t in school can play on one side while the other can work. I left it messy. πŸ™‚ You can see our workbox system over in the corner; I am really going to like that! It will take a week or so to get Jackson in the routine of just getting the box he needs at the right time, but it will come together.

If Jackson is working on something where he needs to spread out a bit, the girls sit over here and play. This little table has really come in handy!

Here is a larger image of our circle time corner. The palm tree is for Chicka Chicka Boom Boom; every week we put up the letter we have been working on and read the story. You can see our All About Spelling board to the right of the calendar, our Story Map board, and then the girls workstation to the right of that. On the floor they have little carpets to sit on. Work in progress still, but its coming together!

It went pretty well, I think. I only thought to myself twice about throwing in the towel and giving up, lol! I just have to remind myself that these first few weeks are the hardest, but it will all come together as the kids settle into our new routine.

So, we are off! Is it May yet? πŸ˜‰

Happy 2nd Birthday, Brooklyn!

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At 9:11 pm last night, Brooklyn officially turned 2 years old. From 6 lbs, 3 oz and 18 inches to 28 lbs, 2 oz and 35 inches…I’d say she’s grown.

How our lives have changed since we brought our Brookie treasure home. She has filled our home with such joy and laughter! Her little personality has really begun to show through, and even though she couldn’t express it in the picture above, I’m quite sure at this moment she was thinking, “Just you wait until I laugh and bat my shining blue eyes at you. Think you can say no to me? Guess again.”

So, 2. My very last tiny face turned 2 yesterday, and I can hardly believe it. It really is strange being done with “baby” things. The crib is taken down, the onsies given away, the tiny socks a thing of the past. There are a lot of great things about a house full of older children, but I do miss the soft snuggles brand new skin and the sweet, milk-scented breath of one fully dependent on your body to make her food.

But I just adore this big-girl face.

Her silky soft curls and button nose and dimpled cheeks are some of my greatest treasures. She has pouty lips and eyes the color of a Caribbean sea. She is spunky, independent, and brilliant. She doesn’t like to share, but loves to cuddle. The sun rises and the moon falls with her Mama according to her, and she never turns down an opportunity to run into my arms. I could be gone for 5 minutes or 5 hours and my welcome into the home would be the same; a cheer and a jump into my arms with hugs and kisses.

We let her open her presents from us on Sunday.

Dollhouses are her new thing, so we got her the Fisher Price Loving Family Manor. Brooklyn declared it the “best birfday ever!”.

The dollhouse was a HUGE hit! I knew it would be; in one of the model homes we had recently been in, a dollhouse was set up in one of the bedrooms. The girls loved it, and I knew it was the perfect time to get it for them. I am going to need to order an extra baby for the set; the baby is the doll both the girls want to play with, lol!

We had some of her friends over for a little play date on her actual birthday.

Brooklyn was a little out of sorts for her birthday. Sunday had been one of those days where she didn’t nap, and she hadn’t quite recovered from it. For example, this is what she did when we sang her “Happy Birthday” the night before…

And while it wasn’t quite that dramatic when her friends gave her best wishes, she didn’t really crack any smiles, lol! Poor dear!

She had a lovely birthday, even if she was a wee bit tired and out of sorts!

Dearest Brooklyn,

Your brother and sister don’t call you by your name. They call you, “Baby”. They always have. It isn’t meant in jest, although I’m sure you will take it that way one day. It is a term of endearment; when they call you ‘Baby’, it is always when they are talking about you lovingly. They coo over you, especially Jackson.

The other day, I walked in and you and London were playing a game. It was the first glimpse I got of the relationship that is budding between you; no longer babies, but friends. Now that you both are learning to communicate more, the games of pretending are beginning and the secret laughs over things none of us know fill the room. I am jealous of you both; a sister is a treasure that you are blessed to have, and it is my prayer that the relationship you have with one another is made from the stuff that lasts a lifetime.

You, my dearest, are a joy! You joke and perform with the aim to entertain, and you always succeed. You cuddle the longest, and are content to snuggle into my side and don’t mind my face close to your hair as I linger on the coconut smell of your curls. You notice painted toes and shiny lipgloss, and most of my morning routine is spent keeping your hands out of my makeup drawer! You giggle as I pretend to put eyeshadow on you, or dust your cheeks with the faintest touch of blush. You want to be like me, and it is my prayer that I am a woman that guides you to God.

To you, a girl in a dress is a princess. “Imma pincess!” you declare if I dress you in a skirt or dress for the day. My dear, you are. You are a princess of the Most High, and I long to see you fulfill that role. You are heading into the year of 2, which brings many new things your way! Learning your letters and ditching those diapers are in the wings, and I am standing by waiting for your cue.

I am always standing by.

I love you to the moon and back an infinite amount of times. There is nothing that could separate you from my love, and I consider it a great joy and honor to be called your Mama.

Here is to 2, my love!

2 Weeks and a Preview

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It’s been two weeks since I left Facebook.

The first few days were hard. Isn’t that sad? But, I’m happy to report that “status update” is no longer part of my mind chatter.

I do miss the people. I miss the support. I miss just feeling like I’m not the only person in my head sometimes, or that no one knows what is going on with us. For example, some of my status updates this week would have been:

“Our garbage disposal bit the dust. It stopped working, we tried to fix it, but we ended up making it smoke and trip its circuit. Not good.”

“Epic Fail: breaking your OWN window when you lock yourself out. We were loud. Cross one off the bucket list.”

“Air conditioner quit today. Bad compressor. Fixed with a “bandaid”, but looking at a $4k repair really soon. Have I mentioned we just fixed the air in our Honda for $1k?”

“I’ve been waiting for Greg’s car to die for years. Check engine light came on. Now, with the new house, we NEED it to keep working. Little Toyota, I’m so sorry I hated you. I love you again.”

This all happened THIS WEEK. Needless to say, I’m riddled with anxiety. It seems like everything is falling at once, and the list of projects is getting longer and longer, while the bank accounts take hit after hit. But here is what is good about not being on Facebook. I would have put those status updates, and that would have been it. Now I’m forced to put it here, and give a real update. The update is this: I am not in control. No amount of stress or anxiety is going to make it better. I need to learn to be content with where I am at and remind myself of our great blessings. We have been blessed beyond measure. While this cheaply built home is driving me insane right now, its a HOME. A fantastic home by some standards. At least we have money to fix our air conditioners in the 115 degree heat; 2 years ago we wouldn’t have. Even if Greg’s car dies, we still have one. Even if all the stuff falls apart and we somehow lose our new home, I will be okay. Devastated, but okay, because I serve a God who is greater than my worries, my pride, my anxiety, and my control. I’m trying to find rest in that.

Enough heavy. πŸ™‚ Because I simply cannot wait any longer to share some of our school room, here is a sneak peak at one of the parts!

This is part of our reading corner! I love how it is coming together, so organized and pretty. The top holds our All About Spelling cards, our build a word box, and a basket to catch random things. I’m going to purchase a file holder to also put up top to hold my hanging file folders for Letter of the Week, Expedition Earth, and any other lesson plans I may need for six weeks. I don’t want to keep it all out, so I’m going to rotate every six weeks. The second shelf hold my supplies bucket (extra manipulatives, craft supplies, etc), our Letter of the Week bucket (to hold our alphabet tiles, magnets, marbles, beads, etc used for some of the activities), and our Art bucket (paint, paintbrushes, modeling clay, etc.) The next shelf holds our curriculum. I found those plastic holders at Lakeshore Learning, and then organized them to hold our supplies. The Readers bucket holds all the books that Jackson can choose from during his Read to Self time, the Read Alouds (which is still mostly empty since I haven’t ordered them yet) will hold all the books that I read out loud to the children, and then there is Math/Science/ Logic and Writing/Grammar/Spelling. The bottoms shelf holds one more curriculum file, which is History/Handwriting/Electives, and then the blue basket which contains all the books we used last year. In our new house, a huge shelving unit is going in the schoolroom closet that will hold everything from past years, which I’m excited for. To the right you can see the CD player where Jackson can do Listen to Reading for any books we may have on CD. I’m going to replace these camping chairs with bean bags. Remember when we were kids and bean bags were cheap? What happened?!?!? I swear, bean bags are RIDICULOUS now. Inflation hit beans hard, apparently. πŸ˜‰

Today I’m working on our calendar for Circle Time, which means I will have the “Days of the Week” song stuck in my head all day. Have a lovely Wednesday!

Our Curriculum for the 2012-2013 School Year

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I really can’t believe that its time to start school again! I’ve been in crazy lady mode as I print/laminate/copy/organize/plan everything; this is the first year really managing TWO kids at the same time. Jackson will be doing 3rd grade and London will be starting preschool. Brooklyn will do some stuff here and there as she is interested!

There are lots of changes this year! I’ve added in new things and replaced things that weren’t working as well. Our schedule has changed and the amount of seat time is different. I’m really excited to see it work; this is the most organized and in control I’ve ever felt, lol!

First things first…my planner. This year I am using the Ultimate Homeschool Planner. I am in LOVE with this thing! I saw it at the conference I attended back in March and couldn’t wait to order it and start using it.

It gives plenty of space to plan for multiple children, which I love. I’m basically running it by listing everything that needs to be done for each subject for Jackson, and then checking them off as we complete them throughout the week. London’s is planned out by day (hence why I added Mon-Fri above her section). It also has monthly planning pages and a yearly planning page.

Now, for the curriculum!

London: Preschool

We are using Letter of the Week by Erica at Confessions of a Homeschooler.

While I actually haven’t used it yet, it was super easy to plan because she actually GIVES you the lesson plans for the week! Woo-hoo! All I have to do is print and laminate what I need for that particular week, write what I choose in my planner, and we are good to go! What’s great about using a curriculum like this is the blogger has posts about every lesson and how she did them…perfect for if you have any questions or would like to see how she intended an assignment to go. I have Letter A all printed, planned and ready to go. My goal is to having everything prepared for the entire year for LOTW so I can just grab it and go instead of spending an hour every week getting everything ready.

Jackson: 3rd Grade

We are stepping up our game this year! I am super excited to introduce The Daily Five into our Reading Block routine. For those of you who don’t know what that is, basically there are 5 stations that a child rotates through everyday. Those stations are:
Read to Self
Read to Someone
Listen to Reading
Word Work
Work on Writing

Doing this is going to make teaching two kids at the same time SO EASY! Basically, I will get Jackson started on Read to Self. I will spend some time teaching him how to pick out a book, what I expect of him while he is reading, etc. Then, he will find a cozy corner and read for 20 minutes. While he is doing that, I work with London. I get her started, working…by the time she is going strong, Jackson is ready for the next station. I’ll spend some time with him in a lesson (from Language Lessons and Writing with Ease), then start him on his next independent task, like Word Work. As the year gets started, I’ll do a whole separate post on The Daily Five so you can see it in action!

As for the books he is reading, I’ve chosen Core C readers from Sonlight. I will have to add more throughout the year since he reads through them so fast. We will use Sonlights Core A Read Alouds for our read out loud time.

Spelling: All About Spelling, Level 1. Level 1 we will fly through pretty quickly, so I’m sure I’ll be adding Level 2 and 3 throughout the year.

Grammar is First Language Lessons, Level 2. We loved Level 1 last year, so we are just continuing on!

Writing is sort of the hard one. I’m using Writing with Ease, Level 2 which is great for teaching comprehension, dictation, and narration. What I don’t like is that there aren’t any actual writing assignments. So, I’m supplementing with stuff I find from some of my favorite bloggers on Teachers Pay Teachers. I’ll do mini units throughout the year, and he will have to write everyday as part of Work on Writing in the Daily Five. Out of all my subjects, writing is the one I’m the least confident in.

Math is Math U See: Gamma. This is our third year using this curriculum and we love it! This year Jackson is learning multiplication!

Science: We are finishing Apologia’s Young Explorers Human Anatomy and Physiology. We started this in April and took a break during the summer. We will finish this before the school year ends, and then I’ll choose the next book, depending on what he is interested in at the time.

Geography: We are using Confession of a Homeschooler’s Expedition Earth! Just like her LOTW program, she has is all planned out. London and Jackson will be doing this together, but Jackson will have the country/continent/people group reports. I made their passports this morning…it should be really fun!

Electives: I haven’t added these in yet because I need to see how my day runs with our core. I have Artistic Pursuits for Art and am looking into a Latin language study. I probably won’t add these in until October.

As our year starts, I will blog about each of the elements in our Core, such as Expedition Earth, LOTW, All about Spelling, and The Daily Five; our daily schedule and how I organize my day; and tips and tricks of the trade. I’m really excited to see it all come together!

Water Balloon Disaster

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‘What could be so disasterous about water balloons?,” you may ask. ‘Looks like fun!’, you may say.

Don’t get me wrong…it WAS fun. However, this little family fun event turned into the most expensive water balloon family night in the history of ever.

On Friday, Jackson started reading a book called Jake Drake, Bully Buster. He loved it, and read all 10 chapters in a day in half. It was adorable…he carried that book with him everywhere and would read whenever he got a chance. After finishing it, we have this conversation:
J: Mom? You wanna know something that happened to Jake that IΒ really wish would happen to me?
Me: What?
J: He got hit by water balloons! I’d LOVE to be hit by lots and lots of water balloons!

Luckily for me, this was a dream easy to bring to fruition! I had hundreds of water balloons tucked away for a moment such as this, so Greg and I decided to surprised Jackson with a water balloon fight after dinner last night.

It was great fun!

I took a few pictures, ran inside to put the camera down, and then closed the sliding glass door behind me as I booked it outside to join the fun.

Now, in our sliding glass door we have a bar that we lay down in the track so, after its locked, if someone tried to break in from the outside the door could not be opened. When I closed the door, the bar must have fallen down into the track.

Tracking with me? 110 degrees. 5 people. Locked outside.

Our front door is also a security fort, as we have extra reinforcements on the door that are secured from the inside. Meaning…no locksmith would be able to let us in that way, either.

At the time, we really saw no other option. So, we grabbed a leftover paver from our backyard reno and Greg got to do something he thought was cool: break a window.

Glass was everywhere! Ev.ery.where. I have absolutely no idea how much it is going to cost to repair. I don’t know if we can just replace the glass or have to get a whole new window.

The kids, of course, thought it was awesome. I filled up the pool and they played in their clothes while Greg and I gave ourselves one more project to do on this house. Yeay them. Boo us. πŸ˜‰

Lemon Butter Shrimp with Broccoli Slaw

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Again, this is one of those “Pinterest has made my life better” moments.

I saw THIS recipe and decided that I had to try it. It was so awesome that I didn’t even get a picture of it…you’ll just have to trust me. Here is what you do:

1. Melt a stick of butter in a 9×13 pan.

2. Place lemon slices on top of the butter.

3. Spread your uncooked shrimp on top of the butter/lemon mixture.

4. Sprinkle 1 packet of Zesty Italian dressing mix on top of shrimp.

5. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.

That’s it, and it was LITERALLY the best shrimp I’ve ever had. Like, ever. As a side, I made broccoli slaw. This is how I make it!

Broccoli Coleslaw

1 package broccoli slaw mix (I found it prepackaged at Walmart. If you want to make your own, you just shred broccoli stalks, shred carrots, and shred red cabbage.)
2/3 cup of mayo
3 TB vegetable oil
2 TB rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup sugar

1. Whisk the mayo, oil, vinegar, and sugar together.

2. Pour over slaw and turn to combine.

3. Refrigerate for an hour.

We also served a brown rice/quinoa from Costco (prepackaged), but any type of rice works well. We thought it was particularly awesome to drizzle some of the butter lemon mixture over the top of the rice as well!

This was one of the best dinners I’ve had in awhile! There was NOTHING leftover!