Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Homeschool Curriculum Review: Scripture Study

In our home school, we begin each day with a prayer, scripture study, and discussion. This last year has been the most effective and enjoyable ever, so I thought I would give a quick review of the materials we are using, in case other families are in the market for something new or different!

Prayer- the prayer is the first thing, and is vital to our day. I can seriously tell the days where we somehow skipped this critical step!!! Prayer is easy, and free. For the most effective prayer, we use a prayer sandwich- we open communication with our Heavenly Father, then list our gratitude (specifics remind us of our many blessings!), then ask for the things we need (patience is often on here!) and then we close in the name of Jesus Christ.

Scripture Study- We have been reading the Illustrated Stories from the Book of Mormon collection as a family. We bought them from a little book store here in town. They are used, and that's okay! I have just learned they are also available on iPad (book 1 is free!). My kids personally learn best from paper books, so the hardback set was still an excellent option for our family, and one will we cherish for a long time! These are excellent. We had been using a very large family edition of our Book of Mormon for years, and there were years we tried just reading from our own personal sets, and scripture study was difficult. Trying to get small kids to pay attention was really hard. These have made study MUCH easier and more enjoyable!!! **We used a set of Bible books last year, and had a similarly wonderful experience!!! They were a gift from a friend, and we love them!

Christian Workbooks- This year we added our first Christian workbooks. These Bible Time Kids Devotional Journal & Coloring Book workbooks have been one of the BEST additions ever, and I am so pleased!!! I was really having a hard time homeschooling after our youngest daughter was born, and I... you know, its a long story. Let me just tell you that these books ended up coming to us and they have been INCREDIBLE. Seriously. They are available for about $10 on Amazon, and an amazing value. Bonus, you can keep them and give them back to the kids when they are older. Their prayer list and gratitude lists are something to cherish!! One of my children is NOT into coloring or art, and even that child enjoys this devotional book! We do not work on this every day, but you could if you desired to. Our kids usually work on it 1-2x a week, generally when I am busy and need them to focus on something independently. These are excellent because they take time, energy, concentration, and effort to complete- so they are perfect for our family! (These books mean I can work with another child 1:1 to learn a difficult concept, or I can whip up a homemade batch of paleo pumpkin waffles, or that I can just take a long hot shower without kiddos running amok!)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016


Been a really long time since I have written, but we have been super busy (in a good way)!

We had a baby! Arabella! The sweetest baby ever- really- she is so happy, easy-going, and adorable! All of our babies have been "good" babies- but this little angel takes the cake as far as disposition goes. She loves cuddles and snuggles, adores meeting new people, and really enjoys tasting new foods! She is quite loved by everyone in the family, but has been assigned to be Harrison's little buddy. Harrison does such a good job with her- he is a very excellent big brother! (Carter has been Seraphina's buddy since she was born.) Here she is with her daddy (she is a total daddy's girl, and only prefers me if she is hungry, ha!).

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Okay, campers, rise and shine, and don't forget your booties 'cause it's cooooold out there today...

It's cold out there every day!


Today was so much fun! We started with our non-holiday homeschool work (we are doing a new program with materials from The Learning Tree - review coming soon!), had lunch, and then worked on a science experiment! We used the scientific method to determine if our guinea pig would have the same prediction as Phil! We invited our good friends over to join in the fun- and it was a total blast!

At the end, I printed out packets for the kids from here. They were super cute, had a lot of different little activities that worked for various skill levels, were themed, and are free! Here is what they look like, you can click the image to learn more (not affiliated with this other site at all, I just appreciate it because it is totally adorable!).

Hope you all had a wonderful Groundhog's Day too!

Monday, February 1, 2016

On Guinea Pigs...

Tomorrow is Groundhog Day!

Our kids love Groundhog Day. I mean love it enough to want to marry it. Freakishly adore it. "Why isn't there a special Christmas-tree-like-tree for Groundhog day, Mummy?" obsess about it.

I am not sure if it was the Bill Murray movie, or if it was their love of rodents, but our kids are Groundhog fans. I kid you not a trip to Punxsutawney is on 3/4 of their little bucket lists, and that last 1/4 has it omitted only because she can't talk yet. I wouldn't be surprised if "Phil" was one of her first 100 words...

I digress.

Our kids have a guinea pig. Why? Guinea pigs look a lot like Groundhogs! (Well, our 6 year old believed that at the time... now he is turning 11 soon and the guinea pig is STILL around...) This year, our kids have decided to rig up a harness and take the guinea pig outside to see if he will agree with Phil or not. Yup...

So, stay tuned!!!!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Get me to the church on time!

Okay, so I may not be getting married (for those who didn't catch the reference, shame on you- go here now)- but getting to the church on time is still a very huge priority of mine!

When I was young, church attendance was easy! I had parents who, for whatever reason, are gifted at getting places on time, so the concept of "dear-HEAVEN-please-everyone-just-rush-to-the-car-now-NO-you-do-not-need-to-change-shoes-yet-again-those-shoes-are-fine-NO-stay-out-of-your-room-you-don't-need-a-toy-STOP-taking-your-coat-off-WHERE-DID-YOUR-SISTER-GO" bliss that I live through now was never a part of my childhood. This is good and bad. It gives me hope that there is a way to make peaceful punctuality happen- but it also fills me with despair. What am I doing wrong? (I say "for whatever reason" but I am guessing the fact that they came from religious families with 6 children in each was probably helpful in prepping them to go places! They knew the drill! And with just two of us to get ready, it probably felt like a walk in the park!)

Forget that for a moment. I want to focus on the fire, not the smoke.

See, I often have moments where I slip into a Martha mentality, when a Mary mindset is most important (for information on this, see Luke 10:38-42). For years the only person I had to prepare for church was me. Easy peasy. Then, it was still me (as my husband would ready himself). Then, it was me, and an infant. This part was mostly easy- the organizational freak I am, the diaper bag would be packed, the back-up bag would be packed and stowed in the car (extra changes of clothes for us all... because yeah, sometimes the kids puke on your shoes... and who wants to walk with sloshy squishy steps? Ew!), baby would be clean, changed, fed, etc. This worked about 95% of the time- that last 5% being something odd, like- we are on our way out the door and I would fall and need to change clothes, baby had a blowout, or something of that sort. Usually I could still dash and change, so all was well. Punctuality in place!

Then we added another child.

This child was my puke-a-noodle. No, really, that was his nickname. The kid threw up about as much as I did while I was pregnant with him (and hyperemesis is no joke!*). We would have extra changes of clothes for everyone, times three, and we would often STILL get to church- granted by the skin of our teeth- on time! YES! However, now there were times it would become quite obvious we weren't going to make it. Three changes of Sunday best later, and loafers full of puke (not even exaggerating...) we would declare defeat and change back into pajamas and call it a day.

Then the kids got older...

Raising children feels a lot like this video sometimes...

It seemed like no matter how organized I was, how prepared I seemed to be, or how willing I was to try- our percentage of successful Sundays decreased.

Then we had another child.

I can remember many days where I would be crying while looking at the clock and feeling like I was completely helpless. WHY?! Here I was, trying to do something wonderful, uplifting, and righteous for my family, and my efforts were all in vain! All that preparation! All that work! ALL THAT EFFORT! AND NOW WE ARE LATE?!?!? Toss in the towel, I am going back to bed!

My husband and I became really frustrated. The anticipation for Sunday prep became more like a boot-camp exercise than a family activity. Checklists, code-words, special equipment- you name it, we did it! It was insanely stressful. We would get to church, file into a pew, take a deep breath, and nearly pass out. What did we learn in church? No idea- we were coming down from our adrenaline rush. But week after week, our percent of success decreased. Our number of Sundays was going down. "Too late now, we missed _____!" "Can't go now, we won't be able to ______" "Forget it, we are already late!"

Now, I do not know WHEN it happened, but I can tell you we had an ah-ha moment. At some point, we realized that God would rather we get there than not. At some point we realized we were being Martha about something we should treat as Mary. We realized that it was far more important for us to get to church than miss it- even if that meant we were late, our hair wasn't cute, or shirts were stained (we feed the kids breakfast before they dress for church, but they STILL manage to get food on their shirts! HOW?!). We came to see that being stressed and closed-off was not helpful to us, that we need to take deep breaths and be calm and open and receptive during our Sunday worship. God wants us to be happy and have joy!

So, we changed.

Yes, we still miss some Sundays- but it is no longer because we can't get there on time or because something happened to our outfits. Now it is usually for illness or illness prevention (we have a newborn, so I am home with her today). We still work hard to be sure the diaper bag is packed, the kids have their clothes all ready the night before, and that breakfast is eaten before anyone is dressed for the day- but if things do not go perfectly we have stopped stressing about it. YES- all meetings at church are important, and YES it is our goal to have 100% attendance- but we also understand that sometimes things happen that prevent being on time, and instead of cancelling church all together, we simply go late and deal with it. Consequently, we are either quite early, just on time, or late- our window is quite literally a full hour... that is a lot! How does that happen? Kids throw tantrums. People spill things. Sometimes someone will get sick (an adult being sick significantly changes the amount of time, effort, and help with prepping the kids). Arguments between kids happen and it can take longer to get people ready. Sometimes kids get sidetracked. Things just happen- and instead of allowing those things to dictate the course of the day, we decided WE are in charge, and we will keep our actions in line with our priorities and just get there!

What are your best tips, tricks, and habits for getting out of the house on time?

*Our son's condition was being tested by doctors, but it was not a contagious illness so he was cleared to be around people. If our children were sick with anything that could be catching- we stayed home.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Dwarf Tree

It's that time of year again! Yay! Break out the decor and Christmas cheer!!!

I love Christmas. I love it so much I have been known to do a "Christmas in July" and even start the Christmas stations on Spotify in October (...or earlier...)! I have a lot of memories and traditions that I cherish from holidays of my past, and being a mother has been a really amazing part of the Christmas experience now. I get to continue old traditions, add new ones, and really cultivate a Christmas experience that is perfect for our little family! I do have a new appreciation for all the work my parents did, traditions are not easy- but seeing the magic in my children's eyes has made every moment thus far well worth it!

One of my very favorite decorations of the season? The TREE! A few years ago we started doing real trees. I switched and have never looked back! I love the experience of choosing a tree, the smell, the texture of the branches, I really adore it all! I found it added a special new experience in our holiday traditions, and I look forward to the tree with great joy!

Last year my parents came in mid-December. Our little people adore their grandparents, and asked to wait to choose a tree until Grandma and Grandpa could join us and help. When my parents arrived we all took a trip into town and went to a tree lot. While the adults walked the isles and gazed from tree to tree, the children instantly took off running to a tree they found in the very back, hidden among giants, some 12 feet tall.

"THIS IS IT!" They screamed in unison. They jumped, danced, and laughed with such glee. THIS was the tree!!!

The tree was... not my favorite. In fact, if you had asked me to choose 10, it wouldn't have been on there. 20? Yeah, still not on there. It was not what I pictured in my little perfect Christmas. The kids were dead set on that tree. The tree was about 5 feet tall, and nearly as wide. It was not a fir, but a pine. I like firs. Ugh. We asked the kids to visit a local store, and promised to discuss the tree. We went to the store, discussed it, and they were still set on this tree. We went back to the lot, and the kids formed a circle around the base of the tree, arms outstretched hugging the tree and faces deep in the needles.

"This is it, Mom! It is the perfect tree! This tree needs us, and we need it!"

I took a deep breath, and smiled. The tree came home...

One year later...

It is now December 2015! We are overjoyed to be expecting a new baby - who can safely arrive anytime after Christmas Eve! My parents live pretty far away, and they are coming in January to celebrate the baby and to watch the grand-kids if we deliver on baby's due date. The trip was planned back in September or so, and within days the children came to us with an announcement: they are postponing Christmas.

Kurt and I tried to talk the kids out of this, just because we were sure that they would regret the decision. Days went by. Weeks. My parents talked to them. Friends talked to them. Everyone was fascinated by their passion to move the holiday, all three are dead set on moving Christmas. Their rationale was that they wanted to spend the holidays all together- they wanted their grandparents to be a part of the traditions and memories. They wrote to Santa and asked him to come later, and they talked to us and asked that if Santa still comes on Christmas Eve could we please hide the gifts until Grandpa and Grandma arrive. They plead with Elfden, our Elf on a Shelf. They had made up their minds.

We agreed to move Christmas. Not all of Christmas, just the Santa and gift portion. In our family we spend one day completely focused on Christ, and the other is on the Santa and gifts. This year Christmas Day will come with a birthday cake for Jesus (they are aware it is not his exact birthday, but a symbol- similar to us moving their birthday celebrations to the weekends so their dad can be off work and spend the whole day celebrating too). We will play games, sing songs, make crafts, watch movies, drink cocoa, and really saturate ourselves in the joy of Christ's birth! And then? A few weeks later, Santa will come!!!

Because the kids moved Christmas, and we do a real tree, we waited on picking up our beautiful conifer. The day finally came when I just couldn't wait any longer (I made it to the 15th of December, people- this is a miracle!), and I took the children to go get a tree. I had told the kids that the tree had to be a fir tree. Last year, aside from being short and squat, our tree (a pine) made Harrison's eyes water and his nose run. Poor guy had to be on Claritin just to live in his own house! We were able to switch him to an herbal formula a week later, but I didn't want to deal with that again. Plus, the fir trees tend to be more tall and stately in appearance- which I love. Win, win! Right?

While I browsed the 9 foot firs (let's take advantage of these super high 1850's ceilings, folks!) the kids went down another isle. And then... it happened.

"MOM! MOM! MOM! WE FOUND IT! IT IS THE MOST PERFECT TREE!!!!" Shouts of glee, jumps of joy, cheers. I stepped away from the elegant fir I had been admiring and walked to them. Wouldn't you know, they found the shortest, fattest, most full fir tree I have ever laid eyes on. My eyes beheld the misfit runt of the Christmas tree world. My kids eyes, on the other hand, were filled with visions of magic, twinkle lights, and adoration. Looking at them, gazing at their "perfect" tree, filled my heart.

We took it home.

The kids and I pulled out the decorations and while I put the hooks on the ornaments, they placed the ornaments on the tree. We worked together, Christmas music playing, and the tree was decorated. They sat back and admired their work. Their faces aglow in the lights. They will tell you theirs is the most beautiful tree in the whole world.

Is it the 9 (or 10) foot tree I was thinking of? No. It is decorated the way I would do it? No. Does it look the way I pictured in my head? Not even close.


I am very aware that our children may not always love short, squat, "dwarf" trees (they named it Dwarf... they said they need it, as they are hobbit sized, so a Dwarf tree is perfection). I know this because years ago Carter would only choose green pumpkins, and he grew out of that. I allowed him to choose and love his little green pumpkins- loners in a field of perfectly fat orange ones- and he grew to be comfortable loving things for what they were, instead of striving for (or settling on) someone else's idea of perfection. I find myself admiring my kids- their passionate love of things I see as quirky, odd, or flawed- they instead see as beautifully unique.

Someday Kurt and I will choose the tree without little kids there to offer suggestions. Someday I will spend hours and hours decorating things exactly the way I think they look best. Someday I will have my tall and slender tree, my lights all mathematically aligned, the ornaments spaced just so. And then I wonder if I will look around at the picture-perfect rooms... and miss the dwarf tree.

I am not sure, but I do know that the years are passing quickly. If we stop having children right now* we only have 7 Christmases left together under one roof. That is it... just 7. Yes, we will have 19 with the new baby, but as a whole family unit- just 7. Only 9 left with half of our kids. Wow. That is not a whole lot. And in the grand eternal scheme of life? That will pass by so quickly.

So for now, dwarf trees ARE perfect.

*We have no plans to have or not have more children at this time. Just as it is unwise to grocery shop on an empty tummy, it is unwise to discuss future children with a hyperemetic woman in her 9th month of pregnancy.