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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Can my 1 year old read?

Have you ever noticed how some things are meant to be? The stars align, paths converge, and the plans you have work out so seamlessly that you have to look twice and pinch yourself to make sure that you aren't dreaming.

About a month ago I wrote “Potty train baby” on my calendar for the week after Christmas. Baby has always hated a dirty diaper and she notifies us the instant it is damp. In addition, she has been very curious about the toilet for the past 2 months, so the slow week after Christmas seemed like a perfect fit.

Then we had our entire family hit hard by a virus and 3 of us had subsequent infections, including my poor little baby. So, in the interest of keeping life balanced, I decided to give her a break and postpone my plans.


Monday morning (yup, the same morning with the words “Potty Train Baby” written on the calendar - you'd think the kid could read) baby toddled up to me and signed diaper, but said “Potty” loud and clear. She then grabbed my hand and started running toward the bathroom. Who can say no to that?

That was several days ago. She has been diaper free (during awake hours) ever since, and is doing great! We have had to mop up a couple of puddles, but nothing really to speak of. In fact, she has been dry for the last 18 hours and is now napping in her big girl panties, but just for the record, I emptied the washing machine expecting that she will wake suddenly and I won't be able to move fast enough for her.

If this was my first child I would say that I have the entire potty training thing figured out. THANKS GOODNESS she is my third. This is her game, not mine. She is the one potty training herself. I'm just along for the ride. (not a bad ride so far)

Gotta’ love a girl who knows what she wants . . . and one who does it on Mommy’s schedule is even better.

I'm still wondering if she peeked at my calendar though.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Warm Comforting Friendly Chocolate

If someone offered you free chocolate you'd accept. I know you would. Don't try to tell me any different. I wasn't born yesterday.

Hershey recently sponsored a cookie exchange promotion - and they sent me free chocolate to share with my friends. I know! Everyone wants to be my friend now! Chocolate is the best!

Check out the fun time we had! The kids made some gingerbread aprons to wear to the swap. You just have to have the proper attire for such an event don't you know.

We put cute little stickers onto the recipe cards that Hershey included and gave them out as invitations. Then we spent a fun afternoon baking up these yummy chocolate-spice sugar cookies. The picture doesn't do them justice. They tasted better than that. I promise.
We set up a few games and a craft area for the kids. They loved these simple paper bag gingerbread houses. Not only was it a fun craft, but the finished product made great gift bags to fill with cookies and deliver to neighbors later on.

We got together to swap and chat, but most importantly - EAT. All those yummy cookies had to be sampled. Our neighbors in the karate studio, mortgage agency, and fire department were all pretty happy with our "left-overs" too.

Christmas cookies have got to be one of the greatest traditions ever. What other holiday has people busy baking for days on end with the specific intent of giving away most of what they create?

So now, that I have spent so much time baking and thinking about chocolate I am completely distracted with the thought of going on vacation this summer. I know - totally off topic - but it will make sense in a minute, I promise.

My husband's cousin is getting married in PA this summer and we have already decided that we will take a family vacation at the same time. Hooray! (Cue tinkling memory music) I remember taking a family trip to PA when I was a kid. We visited the Amish country, saw deer (deer! Deer! DEER! - family joke, sorry) and went to, what will forever live in my memory as the greatest amusement park ever, Hershey Park. Now, I know that most everyone will say that Disney is better, but I don't know anything better than Hershey. The town has street lights shaped like kisses, lots of fun rides, and it smells like chocolate - honest, the whole town! Since that trip years ago, anytime I smell chocolate (like while I was baking those cookies above) I think of our fun time at Hershey Park and get that warm smushy feeling inside. Sooo...
I can't wait to share my love of Hershey with this little one and her big kid siblings. Candy stores, chocolate museums, amusement parks, zoos. What's not to love about a town dedicated to chocolate?

I wonder if Hershey will have a vacation promotion? If so, I'm signing up!
* Full disclosure - As I stated above, I received supplies from Hershey, but they did not require my promotion of their product and no other compensation was received. It's just simply hard not to talk about free stuff - especially chocolate. Yum!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Silent night - and day too

I have come down with a nasty virus that has left me with laryngitis. I can't speak.
I can barely squeak.
My poor husband needed to know that it was bedtime for the kids so, knowing that my voice is weird, I tried to scream it at him - he didn't even turn around. When I got up and walked the 4 feet I needed to cross to get to him I still had to speak in my "screaming" voice. He cocked his head and looked at me with a big question mark hanging above his head. His expression then turned to sympathy - then laughter. He understood what I needed, but I obviously looked like a crazy lady hollering in his face without making more than a whisper of a sound.

This is not the time of year to loose your voice.
  • I can't sing carols in the car with the kids while we bustle about finishing up our holiday errands.
  • I can't read all of those wonderful christmas books that we save for just this time of year.
  • I can't participate in choir at church, which is performing on Sunday. So not happening.
  • I can't do all of the wonderful holiday devotions that we started at the beginning of Advent.
  • I can't teach - which the kids don't seem to mind.
  • I can't even say an intelligible "thank you" to the cashier at the grocery store.
Maybe God is telling me something.
"Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth." Psalm 46:10

Being still is not something I excel at. Sadly, this is especially true at this time of year. I am more of a mover, accomplisher, organizer, and planner. Hmm... I guess the best way to say it is that I am a controller. I think that the more I can get done on my own, the better life will be. No, I am not still enough. God is in control and I am not. He has plans that are better than mine and right now his plan is that I will have more time to practice listening to him for a while.

So if you see a crazy lady turning red from exertion and mouthing something in your direction, lean close. You might hear me whispering you a very heartfelt "Merry Christmas."

Sunday, December 5, 2010


This little independent soul cracks me up. Honestly, I think he may be the funniest person I have ever met - or at least a close second to his daddy.

He dresses like this on a regular basis; lots of accessories; neatly pressed and matching; too cute. Now, just to keep things real, he also dresses like a mess at times too, but his general preference is to create an attention grabbing "look" of some kind. Often this includes a tie - more often it includes two or three ties and several additional accessories. This trend started well over a year ago and it has only gotten snazzier. I have caught him holding his socks up in his closet trying to find just the right green shirt to match them, or digging frantically through his underpants drawer because "these just aren't my style." Not that anyone else will be seeing his underpants, but to him this is important anyway.

His independent nature is beginning to show itself beyond his clothing now and he has begun to develop a young entrepreneurial spirit. Working all the angles to come up with a way to make money (to replace the $10 he lost after intentionally poking holes in my screen) is his new pass-time. Right now he is working on becoming a professional light bulb changer. He has asked permission to borrow his daddy's ladder, and is constantly on the lookout for jobs from family & friends. He hasn't yet found a customer beyond me, but he has figured out that lightbulb changing isn't lucrative unless there is a "minimum charge" (his words) and then a per/bulb "additional fee" (again, his words). I guess all those commercials that he recites word for word have rubbed off.

This guy is dangerous with advertising. We don't allow much TV, but any commercial that he sees is immediately memorized and believed hook, line, and sinker. Just yesterday he woke up and came downstairs complaining of back pain. I immediately turned into crazy protective Momma and started asking him all sorts of medical questions. "Did you fall down?" "Where does it hurt most?" "Can you bend like this?" Well, 200 questions and a heart attack later I finally got to the bottom of his medical mystery when he started quoting the commercial for a sleep number bed and saying that we needed to buy one so that it could "eliminate" his back pain. My reply, "Uh, no. No new bed for you, but good memorization skills kid."

He really is quite the self motivated and unfettered child. This funny boy is going places, but where that is, I just can't imagine!

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Happy Thanksgiving from the turkeys on Liberty Hill - and their feathered friends too :)
These guys have been visiting us every day between 10 and 2 since spring. There are at least 2 families, and they are about as sweet as can be. We can play on the swingset without bothering each other, they don't chase my 6 pound dog away when she decides to yap at them, and they happily remove the evil ticks from my yard.

No wonder Ben Franklin preferred them to the eagle - still love our eagle family though. I'll keep both thank you very much.

Enjoy your day with family and friends !

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Nursery - Finally!

Well, maybe the title of this post shouldn't be nursery - more like Toddler Room or maybe even Little Girl Bedroom. Either way...

We did it!

My little girl is finally sleeping in a bedroom, rather than in our 3rd floor school room.

So it's a bit late - Just a year and a half - No big deal.
(insert eye-roll here)

I love the way this came together. AND I love that the only thing we had to buy for this room was her rug. Everything else is hand-me-downs that we pulled together randomly. Can't beat that!
  • The window treatments and stool came from an old store display - and I didn't even have to resize them, just stuck them onto the headrail of her shades with velcro. Not perfect, but close enough.
  • The armoire used to hold our television.
  • The rocker came from her brother's room (I swear that paint looked more red and less pink in his room).
  • The dresser was picked up used somewhere, but I can't exactly remember where. It was in my room for a bit, and I think her sister did too.
  • The light yellow paint that we picked when this room was built was still in good condition, so we left it alone.
  • The crib last held her big sister - Can I just tell you how excited I am to finally get this little girl into a real crib?
She could still use some pictures on the wall, but other than that I'm really happy with baby's new room.

She seems to be enjoying having her own space too. So far she hasn't allowed any drawers to be left open, or a single stray item to be left on the floor - not even a tiny thread or dust ball. As soon as she spots anything out of place she will immediately pick it up, walk over to the laundry, garbage, or wherever it belongs and put it away.

I need to have her train her older siblings. She is an amazing little house keeper.


Friday, November 19, 2010

Do you know what today is?

A cause for celebration in our house. Any guesses?
Snow! - What you don't see it? Yes, we are celebrating the fact that approximately 12 flakes fell from the sky in our backyard. You should have heard the chaos when my big girl spotted it. Whoops! Cheers of "It's ski season! It's ski season!" Chairs squeeking as they were pushed away from the table! The sound of elephants stampeding as the kids rushed to the window. General mayhem all around.

There was no way to keep them indoors so out they went to enjoy the 2 remaining flakes. They asked for snowpants - I bartered with them and we settled on Yes to hot chocolate but No to ski pants. I'm a softie :o)
Baby preferred to watch the chaos through the window. I don't blame her. It was nutty out there!
Just wait and see what we can do with two dozen flakes!

Monday, November 15, 2010

My love/hate relationship with google

Soooo... I'm back
- sorta'
- minus a header and a few other weird glitches, but hey, at least I'm back.

Google recently decided that I no longer existed and they deleted my account. All of it. Email, calendar, 2 blogs, reader, docs, analytics, and all of the other google products that I have faithfully used for as long as I can remember were gone. Have you ever lost your calendar, journal, and e-mail at the same time? It is creepy; a strange cross between being left out on the schoolyard and having your home robbed. Not fun!

Thankfully, Googles' amazing behind the scenes guys-in-cubicles worked their magic and were able to restore almost everything. Phew!

So now I'm left with this strange feeling of relief/frustration/righteous indignation (you've-got-to-be-kidding-that-was-so-uncalled-for)/something else I can't put my finger on.
Oh, and since I missed posting Halloween pics while I took my forced blogging sabbatical, I tossed them in here just for fun. That is batman (for the 2nd year running) Cleopatra, and a Daisy, in case you are wondering.

Aahh Google. Can't live with em', can't live without em'.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Nature study for non-artists

Recently, I've been reading Pocketful of Pinecones (great book BTW) and mulling over the whole Charlotte Mason style emphasis on Nature Study.

Nature is fun. It is interesting.

So, why do so many of us avoid teaching it? Okay, to be more real, why do we (we meaning "I") avoid nature all-together? Why do we sit snug in our warm homes thinking that it is just too much of a bother?

I think I've made nature too complicated. I can't even tell you how many times have I decided to be "intentional" about enjoying nature with the kids. I've bought books about it, collected art supplies & backpacks, packed lunches, and tromped the little ones an hour into the woods just to hear "I need to go potty!"


I somehow have created this idea that NATURE is only located far away from home and we need to be actively pursuing it. How ludicrous!

Whatever happened to kids playing in the rain?
Catching bugs?
Pulling the bark off of a tree branch?
Just sitting outside doing nothing at all?

Nature shouldn't be made boring by over scheduling.

Nature shouldn't be made difficult by forcing kids to examine details when they are uninspired, write when they aren't able, or draw when they struggle with dexterity.

At the beginning of this school year I decided that I wanted to find a way to make nature study a joy for my kids, rather than another task to be done (and grumbled about), so nature study looks really different at my house now. It is intentionally tailored to my kids passions & strengths (photography for my boy and creative writing for my girl), avoiding our weaknesses (handwriting & drawing).

This is what I have found to work for us:

Day 1 - Enjoy nature
  • Hike, look through a collection, observe the back yard, play in a mud puddle AKA - send the kids outside to play and don't tell them what to do (they love this part), but be diligent about asking questions about what/where they were playing when they come back in and make a mental note of their answer
  • Allow kids to photograph items of interest, even if it is a poorly composed picture of mud
Day 2 - Research
  • Based on their observations on Day 1, choose a photo and print it in Black & White for each child (we use sticker paper, but regular copy paper works great too). Google images is a great source if the kids aren't in a picture taking mood or the photos are too fuzzy
  • Encourage kids to identify the subject themselves
  • While kids color the photo (colored pencils work best), mom reads aloud about the subject from the internet, guide books, etc. but only while the kids are still interested - when they tune out, I stop. If they stay interested for 2 hours, we keep going for 2 hours (or at least until the baby wakes from her nap). We love using the FIAR digital nature studies . It is one of the highlights of our homeschool.
Day 3 - Write (or more specifically, Talk)
  • Allow child to dictate a story about the subject they chose, using it as a character or setting. Whimsey and fiction are not only allowed in our house, but encouraged. (Burgess style - fiction with lots of accurate detail about nature) Mom types while the child talks.
Day 4 - Assemble Nature Journal
  • Print dictation
  • Ask child to copy as much as is age appropriate (sometimes we skip this, depending on the workload that week)
  • Allow child to paste into their journal: dictation, copy-work, & photograph, - Usually the topic that they choose is something of interest to them so they will have a random assortment drawings, magazine clippings, leaves, notes, coloring pages, & internet images that they want to add too.
*I had photos of our journals to include, but I accidentally deleted them (blah). I'll try to add them again later.

We don't do this every week, simply because of time constraints, but it is a system that my family has been able to not only stick to, but enjoy and look forward to.

~ Got a good mud puddle near your house?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Pearls of Wisdom and Pure Gold

There is a strange kind of magic that happens when a group of moms get together. Over coffee, or more commonly, over a screaming child and another one yelling "I didn't do it," our life stories are shared.

As we share our stories, there is always the moment when another mom suddenly remembers her own experience in the same situation, and then begins to share. In these stories lies pure gold. Bits of wisdom acquired through years of experience, trial and, more often than we care to admit, error.
  • Give baby tylenol before getting vaccinations.
  • Sharpen colored pencils with your eyeliner (not pencil) sharpener.
  • Don't expect anything of your kids if you aren't willing to take the time to check up on them. They are only as industrious as you are.
  • Always hand-wash bibs while doing dishes to prevent velcro disasters in the laundry.
  • If you say it, enforce it - every time.
  • Take pictures of ordinary moments, not just major events.
  • Reassign chores every new year.
Yeah, most of these insights aren't earth-shattering, but it makes life a lot easier when you don't have to make each discovery on your own.

Not every bit of wisdom is for everyone. I will never make my own laundry detergent no matter how frugal my friends claim it to be. I can afford the $8 every two months thank you. Nor will I switch my family to an all organic diet. I simply don't see how anyone can market pure maple syrup as "organic" and demand extra cash because of the label. It is always organic folks. Personal preference aside, another mom would love these kinds of tips.

This is the beauty of these friendships. I don't have to use their laundry recipe or shop at their organic store, and they don't have to do everything my way either. The bits of these conversations that I pick and choose to apply to my family make my parenting task easier and assure me that I'm not the only one with a child who chews on his toys or refuses to pull a sweater over her head on her own.

Plus, it's kinda' funny to hear the story of how someone's kid got peas stuck in his ear - and how mom red-faced and stammering confessed to the doctor that it was done by his sister ... then to hear another woman pipe up "Oh that happened to my kids too!"

Laughter - now that's pure gold in itself.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

1st day of Kindergarden

Better late than never, right?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Daddy's little boy

Sometimes the similarities between my husband and son are astounding.

Today my little guy decided that he wanted to have lunch in my closet (which sounds strange until you realize that this is a completely empty closet in an unfinished room ~ just the right size for a play-house) so he set himself to work; first sweeping, then vacuuming. He dusted baseboards, washed walls and made the place look better than the room that it is attached to. He is a detail man - just like his daddy!

He always has a project or two underway. For the past few weeks he has been working on a "fort" in the backyard; spending hours sawing tree limbs into just the right length to add to his tee-pee style creation leaning into a bush. These aren't just any sticks. He has rejected many for being too weak, to short, not the right shape, etc. The ones he does accept are all meticulously arranged in a pattern that he has clearly thought out.
I wonder how much is biological and how much is learned. Does he just have an internal drive to stay active and do things thoroughly? Was he created with an eye for detail? Does God give some people the gift of being able to get stuff done? Or is it something that he has learned by watching his dad painstakingly renovate our home, step by step, since the day he was born?

Either way, I can't take any credit.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Destination School

This morning I woke up late (thanks to a very considerate husband) and didn't want to get out of bed. Pure laziness had me in its grasp. I wanted to have fun rather than teach lessons. ~ Picture a stubborn 2 year old crossing his arms and stiffening his back so that you can't pull the pajamas off. That was me.

Reality pushed it's know-it-all head into my tantrum. Skipping class was out of the question. BUT that didn't mean that I had to settle for a yucky day. I decided to create a good day.

I called the kids together and in a very conspiratorial stage whisper I told them that they need to get dressed and ready to leave. Fast! Their eyes lit up and they started running around whooping and jumping on their way to brush their teeth and make their beds. They knew what I was up to - My favorite trick: Destination School.

Every so often, I like to shake up our school routine and take the kids to a new place to do our lessons. Sometimes we bring everything to a local park, the library, a picnic table in an apple orchard or the kitchen at my husband's office, but our favorite is to visit local restaurants.

Squeals and hugs, everyone smiling and working together. Oh yeah, THIS is going to be a good day.

We arrived at Panera Bread armed with a bag containing a clipboard for each kid with their work attached, several fun books to read aloud, our chemistry text - cuz' I couldn't get around doing that one, lots of pencils and paper, and a few quiet toys for the baby.

The next several hours were spent lazily munching on muffins and going through our normal routine. No complaints, no hassle. The newness of a different location seems to do magic on all of our attitudes. We even had time and energy to go apple picking and do our grocery shopping when all of our work was finished.

I think I smiled all day.

I've always thought that Grandma's house might be a good spot for Destination School, and I haven't tried out the museum cafe' where we are members. I'll save those up for another "I don't wanna'" kind of day.

Maybe, soon.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Laundry List

Things have been hectic around our house. Between refinancing our home, beginning the school year, returning from vacation and dealing with a sick baby, the house has simply fallen apart from neglect.

While ironing in the WEE hours of the morning (2am to be precise), I was putting together a laundry list of things that I need to do in order to feel functional again. Then my sleep deprived brain got to wandering. ~ Why do we call it a laundry list? ~ Really, I know that laundry should probably always remain on top of that list, but is it bad enough to necessitate that the list be it's namesake?

So rather than do all of my many chores this morning (cuz' I'm great at procrastinating), I decided to research the term Laundry List. Here is what I found out:
It comes from the late nineteenth to early twentieth century when many sent their laundry out to be cleaned.

Columnist Ed Quillen who worked in a commercial laundry shop as a boy wrote in the
Denver Post June 6, 2008, that the term refers to what must be listed when you send your laundry to a service, since 1) there were so many distinctions between different pieces of clothing for men, women, children, and various professions, and 2) the laundry service had to mark every individual piece of clothing per customer, sort into piles by color and water temperature, and ensure that all the pieces were returned to their proper owner.

A laundry list could be very personalized per customer, and might have been frequently re-used for loyal customers. Those with long laundry lists had more clothes and were probably more wealthy than others, and all their belongings would have been more difficult to track.

Through the years the term has come to mean any relatively long, detailed list of items.
source: Answers.com
Well, there it is. A laundry list is a long list.
Yup, that's what I have; a long list.
With laundry at the top of it.

Drat! Now that my research is done I need to find another way to procrastinate. Or maybe I should actually do a few things on that list. Decisions. Decisions.