Saturday, September 14, 2013

Vacation!!! (part 1)

Disney and Hogwarts trip with my parents! It was SO MUCH FUN! I mean, CRAZY amounts of fun! Seriously fun-tastic! Truly! AWESOME! Here is the beginning of our trip! We flew down and joined my parents in Orlando! (As with other trips, I dressed the boys in identical clothing, to help identify them should we become separated. This trick has helped me numerous times, when one would wander off a bit further than the rest of us, and would help me be able to accurately describe clothing in the event of an emergency- as I have a copy of the clothing on my other son!)

The boys were ready to fly!!! The fear on Harrison's face? He didn't want to have to put away his electronics! LOL!

Seraphina's first time in a stroller! (She liked it more each day!)

They loved riding the "subway" in the Atlanta airport!

Dinner with Grandpa and Grandma!!!! We ate at Uno's! They had gluten-free pizzas! Yum!

We had plans to visit Disney's Hollywood Studios the next day. Seraphina wanted to go extra early, she just wouldn't sleep!!!

In the morning, we were at Disney's Hollywood Studios right when it opened. My parents pulled into some great rock-star parking, and we walked to the park! I had read blogs and talked to other people who had visited the parks, and we decided to hit all the rides first and do the shows second. The boys and I headed to the Tower of Terror while my parents (bless them!!!) went with Fina and picked up Fastpasses to the Buzz and Woody ride (the most popular ride at any of the Disney parks right now).

Carter was very afraid of this ride, but thinking of how his cousin rode it made him find courage! It was a lot of fun!

Harrison, Grandpa, and I rode the roller-coaster next, and then my parents took the boys on Star Tours!

(Carter took this picture, and the one following)

We then headed over to Pizza Planet to celebrate Harrison's birthday!!! The Disney cast members were so awesome! They had given Harrison a birthday button, and everyone who saw him wished him a happy birthday! They gave Carter a button too, so he wouldn't feel left out! Seraphina got a birthday button as well (for her actual birthday, lol)! Pizza Planet was excellent, and the manager came out and worked with us to be sure that our meal would be gluten free! Harrison has been asking for a birthday party at Pizza Planet ever since he first saw the Toy Story movie. He adores Buzz Lightyear, and this was his dream come true!!!

Monday, August 26, 2013


When we moved to Iowa, the laws (at the time) stated that I needed to have a supervising teacher oversee our homeschool progress or I needed to subject my children to standardized testing. I decided to go with a supervising teacher, and happily I was connected to a teacher who used the Portfolio Evaluation method, rather than monthly check-ins. I knew that homeschooling was a good fit for my family, I knew that the laws regarding what I needed to complete were in place, and I knew I had my ducks in a row, but trying to put it all together seemed like it would be a mess.

Insert Time4Learning!

Carter started Time4Learning at the beginning of 2nd grade. Carter loved it right away! After a few months, our homeschooled kindergartner, Harrison, asked to "play" Time4Learning too! We have now used it for over a year and we hands-down LOVE it. Here is why:

The (not-so) basics:

Time4Learning offers the fullest Language Arts curriculum I have seen in one location. This one program offers reading, phonics, vocabulary, grammar, writing, and more all themed and put together in an order that flows and makes sense. The programs I had used through other sites, other purchased curricula, or created myself, did not have the complete package that Time4Learning provides. Language Arts is not just a simple grouping of lessons students get to "click through," or can tune-out, but is an interactive and engaging set of lessons, complete with fun characters and themes! There are even separate Language Arts Extensions that go beyond the already thorough work offered in the program, giving students access to an even greater amount of learning!

Science, Social Studies, Math? Oh yeah! Time4Learning offers those too! The math offered by Time4Learning is not a series of memorized digits or formulas, but is presented with logic and practical application in mind. The Science and Social Studies subjects have fun, animated themes, and printable worksheets to enhance lessons.

As the parent, I get access to spelling lists, lesson plans, grades, and time logs, all with the click of a mouse. I can see what the kids have been working on, for how long they have been working, and their mastery level! This made the Iowa portfolio such a breeze! All I had to do was selected which reports I wanted, and click print! **We had other things in our portfolio, but the easiest part was the Time4Learning sections!

We get instant access to multiple grade-levels. With a single click, my 2nd grader was able to access 1st grade or 3rd grade work. Excellent for a chance to offer more of a challenge, or to review a sticky concept at a simpler level. So handy! Time4Learning also allows me to set the grade levels of subjects individually, so when a child finishes a given subject before the others, he is able to go up in that subject and continue to be challenged without changing the level of the other subjects. Time4Learning also allows me to change overall grade level if I want, anytime I want- no waiting for a new school year! Harrison started first grade this past winter!

One of the characters is named Harrison.... he is a harry purple puppet. This is just plain cool, and anytime Harry Harrison comes on the screen and his theme song plays, it is a guarantee both of my boys are singing at the top of their lungs, and paying attention! **There are a great deal of characters, and they change with grade level, so the chances of a child finding a favorite are pretty darn good!

There is a lot of flexibility. I need flexibility, and so do my kids. One of my sons loves workbooks and worksheets, and the other hates them. One of my sons loves to color and draw, the other would rather gag. Time4Learning allows us access to printable materials that can be cut, pasted, colored, and completed, but is also set up to allow these to be an *option* for kids who don't need or care for them. One of my children has nearly every worksheet printed and completed, and one of my children hardly ever completes worksheets (unless we are using them to reinforce a lesson or concept). This allows us a great amount of flexibility within the program, and makes it easy to tailor the curriculum to fit each child's learning style.

The price cannot be beat. At just $19.95 per month (with $5 off for additional students), this program is priced right! This program does not require any additional purchases, have hidden fees, or contracts. For less than $20 a month, I have access to full curriculums from pre-K to 8th grade, my records are all kept for me, and grades are completed for me as well. SPECTACULAR DEAL. (High School is $30 per month, for those with students who are ready for 9-12 grade work!)

I am very happy with Time4Learning, and it will continue to be in our homeschool for years to come!

As a member of Time4Learning, I have been given the opportunity to review their program and share my experiences. While I was compensated, this review was not written or edited by Time4Learning and my opinion is entirely my own. For more information, check out their standards-based curriculum or learn how to write your own curriculum review.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Carter's Baptism!

Carter has been attending Primary for nearly 7 years now. He has learned a great deal, and has prayerfully studied about Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and has decided to become a member of 
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. 

Carter's baptism is this Wednesday! He is so excited! We snapped a few pictures to use on our online invitations! 

I get a lot of questions regarding our beliefs, so I thought I would post the 13 Articles of Faith here:

13 Articles of Faith

  1. We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.
  2. We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.
  3. We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.
  4. We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
  5. We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.
  6. We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.
  7. We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.
  8. We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.
  9. We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.
  10. We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.
  11. We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.
  12. We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.
  13. We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul-We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Summer Favorites

As summer is coming to an end, I decided to make a list of our favorite things of Summer 2013!


Yeah, we totally watched movies! We would pop some popcorn, huddle together, and enjoy a good flick! We watched some old favorites (Wizard of Oz, anyone?) and tried some new ones too (3 Little Pigs and a Baby... yeah, it wasn't my turn to pick, okay?). We would generally watch a movie during one of Seraphina's nap times. (It was a way to guarantee the boys would stay quiet, shhhh, don't tell them- they thought it was a reward for good behavior! I look at it as a win/win.) We would often play a game while a movie was playing too. Qwirkle Cubes is still our family favorite!

The Library

We love libraries! Moving here I was a bit skeptical of the library because of its small size. However, I have to give a shout-out to our local library! We have lived in a lot of different cities. Consequently, we have been members of many different libraries! I have to say, hands-down, this is the best summer reading program I have ever experienced. The library tracked the number of books or chapters read, gave bonus credits to kids who would "check in" with the library every week, and offered prizes based on amount read, in addition to random drawings! The last day of the reading program was celebrated with a library party! K'NEX, Legos, Wii games, and other fun activities were there for the kids! It was such a great way to celebrate the end of the program! 


This summer was great for reading! Yes, it helped the library had an awesome summer reading program, but mostly we did a lot of reading because... well, its sort of what we do. We love it! Carter is currently reading Harry Potter, and Harrison is choosing to read Magic Treehouse books! Seraphina has a small collection of board books, which she has near-constant access to, and she frequently picks up a book and brings it to someone! She will sit in the reader's lap, hand over the book, and happily hear a story!


Our family had our own personal best attendance record for Church attendance! Here, the boys are showing off a handout they received in Primary. The boys love attending Church, and get frustrated with me if they are late! I love our Church so much, and I have loved to increase my own testimony while watching my children gain their own!


Okay, okay, so I didn't *love* it at the time. But I am glad we did it. I am not sure if the boys will want to play next year, but a part of me hopes they do. They had a lot of fun, and it was a great chance to get involved with the community! (Kurt was an assistant coach and loved it!)


Okay, okay, so this is a pretty silly picture to use as our example of food, but I couldn't resist- she is too cute! We love summer's fresh fruits and veggies, and we adore grilling out and picnics!

The Pace

There is something about summer that makes us want to slow down and take it easy. We are so fortunate to be able to have a lifestyle that allows us to have this most of the year (but even more so during the summer heat)! We do not have to worry about morning rushes, commutes for the kids, trying to toss together dinner, or being a certain place by a certain time. We are free to do what we want, when we want (with a few exceptions). We really love living this way, and it makes our days sweet and enjoyable! With me home, making dinner can take hours, mornings can stretch until noon, the kids can start their days when they are ready, and we can enjoy one another's company! We start the day with a cooked breakfast together, send Daddy off to work, and then the kids and I have our day's adventures before cleaning up, making dinner, finishing the day's chores, and bedtime! It is a wonderful life!

Back to school, back to school.... oh, wait...

For most children, the start of fall offers a new school year- a chance at starting fresh! So many new adventures to be had and things to explore! Homeschooling has changed what "new school year" means for us, but I still feel the need to celebrate it and mark the occasion.

I homeschool the kids year-round. My main reasons are to keep the kids challenged, engaged, and enthusiastic about learning. I can remember taking the first summer before homeschooling off; when we started that first day the kids were thrilled! But less than a week in and we found we had whiny frustrated children. Why? Their routine was so off. I had let them embrace the summer freedom (I believe it is a good thing) but the first few weeks back were a nightmare! I can only imagine how difficult it is for classroom teachers!

The next year I homeschooled year-round. I found it worked MUCH better for our family, but I didn't do it for the reasons I do now: I had sent Carter to a brick and mortar school. I was told Carter was great, amazing, excellent, and consistently one of the top three students academically in the class (and I could see that- I volunteered in the classroom often). Academics aside, Carter had a REALLY difficult time with the class itself. Carter hated school, cried 95% of mornings, and would withdraw from his peers. Carter had assessments done by the special education staff, and all of the concerns listed were social, his academics were excellent. With a tough decision before us, we decided to give homeschooling a try.

When Carter came home to homeschool, I was floored at how much he didn't know. Carter had been in a FULL TIME kindergarten, had performed at the top level of the classroom, and did not know (because he had not been exposed) half of the materials in most kindergarten curriculum sets. When we dropped K12, I bought a curriculum for 1st grade. Carter was INSTANTLY overwhelmed with most of the subjects, so I followed the advice of more seasoned homeschoolers, prayed, and purchased a kindergarten curriculum (it felt like a defeat, but I put my pride aside and did what was best for Carter). We started from lesson one in everything. The first half of the materials was completed in less than a month- if Carter could talk about it, and teach me about it, then he could move on. I focused on mastery and stopped looking at the clock or other kids. We finished his kindergarten curriculum and then went into the first grade set I had purchased. Problem: only half of the first grade curriculum was finished by the end of the traditional school year (June)... so... what now? We decided it would be best to homeschool through the summer, finish the first grade program, and start Carter on 2nd grade materials in the fall. We took our time, enjoyed the process, and finished. Carter was now AT grade level. BAM! Goal achieved!

So, yeah, even though my reasons for continuing to homeschool all year are different (I am no longer concerned about "catching" anyone up to anything- the boys are both doing really well) we still do it. With a more relaxed pace during the summer, and our hours decreased, learning still happens freely and the routine of formal education at home still stays somewhat intact. These are good things!

Over the summer, Carter and Harrison have been reading a great deal. They participated in our local summer reading club, and Carter's fluency scores went up an average of 30 words per minute (meaning he can read aloud at a faster pace). Carter has been reading Harry Potter, and Harrison is on pace to finish his 1st grade curriculum in a few months! Harrison asked us to add Spanish lessons to his homeschool curriculum, and Carter has requested more science experiments! I love how much they love to learn!

**Bah! I just realized that I haven't been updating the boy's books on Goodreads! I will start doing that again! Sorry!

Saturday, July 27, 2013


A few updates:

Kurt accepted a job!
Carter is done with baseball, and scored runs!
Harrison is learning Spanish!
Seraphina took her first steps (10 mo 2 days old)!
All the farm cats had kittens!

Things have been busy, but in a good way! Kurt accepted a position here in Iowa and we have been working on our routine. Getting in a groove can be hard when there is a big change! So, we have been taking our time, giving ourselves flexibility, and working things out one step at a time.

The pictures above were taken in Cancun a few months ago. My mother bought the boys little boards and they had an excellent time playing in the ocean with them! Just a few years and I am sure I will have little surfers!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

It's Summer!!!!! ...ish

All of the local public schools are out for the summer! YEAH! IT'S SUMMER BREAK!!!!!!


For my kids, it is still time for school!

Okay, okay, so I know the idea of splashing around in water areas, playing with friends, and sleeping in sounds like fun, but the truth is that we tend to do things like that all year long anyway. We do not need a three month break, so although it is "summer" my kids still do lesson work. Because the boys and I are home full-time, there is always time for splashing, playing, and sleeping in- but there is also always time for schoolwork! **I speak on behalf of my family, NOT for all homeschool families. Many homeschool families do take summer breaks!!!!**

Breaks are very important, but I tend to make our school breaks happen when we need them, or schedule them around trips or visits. Breaks for us do not always mean that schoolwork stops. Our busiest and most complicated lesson plans are during the break we take during November/December. When I say we take a break during that time, I mean we are breaking away from our regular school routine and going into our holiday history and Advent lesson schedule. Those school days are much longer, take more prep, and are much more intensive than most of the rest of the year.So while it is a break, in a way, it is not schoolwork-free. We do have schoolwork-free breaks, but they are generally not in very large chunks.

Summer does bring a change for us! We do not do our traditional homeschool curriculum and rotation over the summer. I take the time to mix things up, relax things a bit, and often will use the summer to try new materials or methods. I feel like the change really makes summer special and sets it apart, without totally letting us go crazy or getting the boys out of the habit of doing schoolwork. (My first year homeschooling we started after taking the summer off- HUGE mistake. It works well in some families, but not for mine! My sons were resistant, angry, and had a really hard time adjusting back to the school routine- so we have never taken a summer off since and it has worked out much better for us.)

This summer we will be continuing our Language Arts lessons with

We will be doing math from Math-U-See, and supplementing with the math lessons from Time4Learning.

I am going to be doing the summer program from Vocabulary Spelling City- we have not used the program before but the boys are excited about the idea of doing schoolwork on our tablet or phone. (This will be a test of the program. A friend of mine uses it and loves it, so I thought we would try it out, and they have a special program just for summer so I took the opportunity to sign up.)

We will be working on the kids' typing skills with games from here.

We will continue reading books from the library, our home collection, Kindle (so many free books- love love love!), Tumblebooks, and any other way we can grab them. We will be signing up for library Summer Reading Programs (but generally we finish those within a few weeks... so maybe we will make our own).

We will be doing more unit studies and less general study work. All social studies, science, additional language arts, writing, reading, etc will all be unit based. Carter and Harrison will continue writing in their 2012-2013 school year journals.

YAY SUMMER!!!!!!!!!

Let the fun begin!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now, excuse me, I need to move over so Carter can work on his language arts. He is doing dictionary work, and needs access to the computer so he can search online dictionaries. (Back in my day, we had to use a book!) Then I think we will visit the library. Love summer!

Saturday, May 25, 2013


"I can tell God lives here," Carter said.

This week our family took a small trip to the city of Nauvoo, Illinois. We stayed over night, and took in many of the sights. It was wonderful, and next time we visit we plan on staying longer- there was simply too much to do and see!

We started our drive and stopped for lunch. The boys saw a Harley Davidson store and insisted on visiting and shopping for their dream vehicles. They are motorcycle freaks! Not sure where they get their passion from, but they sure love them!

When we arrived in Nauvoo, we immediately drove past the Nauvoo Temple. The kids were all quiet, and Carter gasped, and said, "Wow! Guys, I know where we are! This is Heaven! Yes, I can tell God lives here." It was quite amazing to hear his little voice seriously proclaim his feelings. Indeed, the very special feelings in Nauvoo could be experienced by everyone! 

After dropping our luggage off at the Motel Nauvoo, we went to the Nauvoo Visitors' Center. We were greeted by Sister Missionaries who gave us a tour, and the boys were excited to sit near the beautiful Christus Statue and listen to scripture recordings. 

After finishing at the Visitor's Center, we went into the Nauvoo Monument to Women.

After seeing the statues, and taking some pictures (Isn't Harrison a little ham?) we headed over to the brickyard.

We need to take a tangent now, and tell a story:

Years ago, when we only had one little child, Kurt and I were discussing Church Missions. Kurt was reflecting on his life, and postulating what would have happened to him if he had been raised a member of the Church, and called on a mission. He wondered where he would have gone, what he would have done, how some things may have been different or ended up the same. We talked about our children going on missions, and our hopes for the future. Kurt looked at me, and smiled, and romantically took my hand and said that he was excited for our future, because we would be able to serve as Senior Missionaries together someday. He gave a little sigh, and then wondered aloud about where we would be sent. I broke the moment's quiet reverence by literally jumping up and down and saying, "I KNOW! I KNOW!" Taken aback by my new enthusiasm, Kurt asked me where I thought we would be sent. "NAUVOO!!!" I practically shouted with joy. I then rambled on and on about how I could practically see Kurt in pioneer clothing, hands muddy, making bricks at the brickyard, and how I could smell the gingerbread from the cookies I would be passing at the bakery. I talked for nearly an hour about all the things we would do while there, where we would live, and the people we would meet. Kurt had never been to Nauvoo, but remembered this conversation well, and as we stepped into the courtyard of the Nauvoo Brickyard, Kurt took a picture. I asked what he was doing, and he smiled his most charming smile, and said, "I want to remember the first day I walked to what will be my job someday!" So, even before entering or taking a tour, the Nauvoo Brickyard held a special place in our hearts.

While at the Brickyard the boys discovered how to make bricks. Specifically, the children learned about hacking bricks, and where the term, "Can't hack it" comes from!

While on our way to the Blacksmith, we stopped to watch a barge float along the Mississippi River. 

We then had a nice tour of the Blacksmith shop!

While at the Blacksmith, we were presented with Nauvoo Prairie Diamond rings! It was really sweet because later, at home, Kurt got down on one knee and proposed to me with one of them! My wedding ring still has not fit since I had Seraphina, so it was really sweet that Kurt was so romantic with our beautiful little souvenir! (Prairie Diamonds are nails that are hammered into rings. The nail head has a diamond shape, and the rings are called Prairie Diamonds!)

We saw a few more sites and then picked up tickets to the play "Rendezvous in Old Nauvoo!" The kids adored the play, and had a lot of laughs!

After the play, we went back to the motel and then decided to take a walk around the town. We went to the local school and the kids played at the park, and then we walked to the Nauvoo Temple and watched the sunset. It was a beautiful way to end the day!

We walked back to the motel, and enjoyed a peaceful night's rest!

The next morning, Kurt and I took turns doing Endowment Sessions at the Nauvoo Temple. Words cannot express the supreme holiness that resides within those sacred rooms, or the overwhelming joy and purpose that can be found within the House of the Lord. It is truly breathtaking and awe inspiring! 

The Nauvoo Temple has a building next door for waiting families- it had toys, a crib, rocking chairs, and more! There were beautiful places to sit and read, and soft music playing. The kids enjoyed themselves, and it was really nice to be able to sit back while they played! Sorry for the blurry pictures of Seraphina- she is always on the move!

We then went back to Old Nauvoo and visited the bakery (Where I may serve, someday! Hey- I can hope!), the Family Center, and a few more sites. (**Pictures to come- they are on Kurt's phone) Before leaving we took a carriage ride! The boys loved the horses!

One of the many places to visit while in the Nauvoo area, is Carthage Jail. Carthage is a very special place. We arrived late in the day, and were fortunate to have a private tour. During our tour, we sat in the bedroom where the Prophet Joseph Smith, his brother, and friends, were horrifically attacked by a mob. The feelings in that room are incredible- and brought tears to Kurt and me. Our little infant, Seraphina, stayed silent during the recollection of the events that occurred the last night of Joseph Smith's life, and all of our children could feel the Spirit witness to them, and they stayed reverent and quiet.

The boys look through the window, where the Prophet Joseph Smith was killed.

It was a really wonderful trip, and rejuvenated us as a family. It was a welcome distraction as we continue to wait on job leads, and look to the future. The visit to Nauvoo made us remember that there have been much bigger trials than ours, and it humbled us greatly. While visiting, we were given a larger eternal picture- walking through the streets helped us remember that the past is never far behind, and our futures span eternity. Our earthly cares may currently be many, but our lives are aligned with God's plans for us, and in the end- that is really all that matters.

Excellent trip!