Monday, March 3, 2014

Preschool Ideas: Busy Baskets

First of all, you have to check out my Dollar Tree finds! I have been in there way too many times this week, but I have found some awesome things to go in my busy baskets as well as complete some other projects that I have been putting off.

The little Sesame Street books are dry erase which is AWESOME because my little one LOVES to use the "office markers" plus I love non-consumables! I also bought a few packs of kitchen sponges and cut them into 3 strips each to use as a quiet stacker. Other things bought were a bag of army men, clay, bingo marker, a set of plastic numbers, a package of alphabet and number stickers that has 372 stickers in it (!), a package of glittery foam sheets, ponpoms, googly eyes, colored pops circle sticks, a set of plastic numbers, and a "3-in-1 activity pad" that's really just smaller sheets of construction paper. The blue container shown and the red baskets were also purchased in many colors and sizes.

Now, back to the busy baskets themselves: I made five and each one has a theme. Mondays basket Theme is Fun! Let's face it, even though he can do all of the things in each box alone, he is going to ask for help just because he needs attention.

'Penguin Pete" (his favorite book)
Leap frog Tag Junior reader
a cut out I made and punched holes in for him to thread/lace
colored pencils
glue stick
a package of 5x7 construction paper

 Tuesday is the day my husband is on conference calls most of the day, so I spend a good amount of time trying to keep the little entertained. Tuesday's theme is "Alphabet". There are SO many things I could put in this basket, but I tried to keep it to a minimum. I'm sure I will rotate things out every-so-often.
"ABC" by Dr. Seuss
"Fun with Letters" Sesame Street dry erase booklet
Leap Frog letter and word toys
Alphabet stickers
Alphabet music on CDs
a bingo blotter (I will print out sheets with random letters and have him mark all the ___)

Wednesday's theme is "Character 'building'". I do a character of the week each week with all of the kids and add a supporting Bible verse. I know the military men aren't the best tools for acting out kindness etc., considering most of them are holding guns, but he loves them and he's 4. He will play out a dinner party with 2 pencils if it's all he has!

"The Cat in the Hat" by Dr. Seusss
"My First Bible"
army men
Stacker sponges
Thursday's basket theme is "Math". There is so much to teach in this area, and we touch on every subject each day, so I put a variety of things in the basket.
"Ten Little Indians" by Debbie Robinson
Leap Frog Numbers and shapes game
Leap Frog Tag Junior reader
10 2-piece animal puzzles
Popsicle sticks labeled with the name of a shape and the # of sides
A set of plastic numbers
"Fun with Numbers" dry erase booklet 

Friday's theme is "Colors and Shapes". He already knows all of his shapes and colors but reinforcement at this age is extremely important! Plus, these toys are awesome!
"One Fish Two Fish red Fish Blue Fish" by Dr. Seuss
Imaginex set of shape magnets (I love this thing!)
"Fun with Colors" Sesame Street dry erase booklet
a little Twister spinner from a Wendy's kids' meal
Primary colored wooden blocks

So, some days have more than others, but the point is to have something new in ti everyday that he ONLY gets during that time. That helps keep him excited during the hours or so I need him to be content.

There are so many variations to this idea! I even think I may make some baskets for the older kids with things like knitting and mini Lego sets, writing prompts or even a really small canvas and a few acrylic paints. It would be something to pull out on rainy days when we are finished with regular school work and just want more than reading our books....sounds like I have another project!!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Best Mother's Day Gift (for me)

Psalm 127:3

I tried and tried to think of gifts for Mother's Day for my mom, grandmothers, and Mother-in-law, and grandmothers-in-law this year. We live 1200 miles away from all of our family, so its not quite as easy to deliver gifts--especially when you are last minute shopper like myself.

I finally decided on having several pictures printed in 4x6 size (all of the ones they can see and share on FB) and put them in a little "brag book" they could carry in their purses and look at all of the time. Of course, they loved them! My husband asked me a million times what I wanted for Mother's Day and, as always, he came up empty handed for ideas because I don't want anything. I finally asked him for a day at the beach with the family and some friends. He doesn't like the whole beach experience as much as me and hasn't been with us in years. He is always the one that carries everything and cleans everything up when we get home. That's a big task...especially when there are 5 of us! 

Anyway, we did go to the beach and it was an awesome day! I woke up that morning to him asking me what I wanted for breakfast and how I liked my coffee. I told him I would make breakfast (because I wanted more protein than a bowl of Frosted Flakes contains...LOL). I honestly didn't mind at all! As I sat and had my coffee, I read on FaceBook where one of my friends was asking for prayers for a friend of hers family. They had lost her just the day before. I also saw other friends saying they had attended a funeral service for a young girl the previous week and that they were still praying for her brother who was still in critical condition. I remembered a friend of ours passing just a few weeks ago, only 10 days after giving birth to her 4th child. 

It all just made me so grateful to have this Mother's Day with my family!

I really try to take the advice of all of those older ladies who smile at them in the store saying, "Enjoy them while they're young, Honey!" I try! I really try! Sure, they exhaust me! Of course, they make me angry sometimes! But I LOVE the memories they are helping me make! I think back to my childhood and know that my mother and grandmothers were enjoying making memories with me too!

I guess what I am trying to say is, those pictures I sent to everyone--they are just helpful reminders of this year's memories that will make the ladies in my life smile each time they look at them. And that beach day I asked for--its just another memory filled day that I can look back on and smile at in the future. 

SO what is the greatest gift you can give a mother for Mother's Day, or any day of the year? SHe doesn't want flowers. She doesn't want perfume. OK maybe she wants a locket to show off pictures of you or a mother's ring so people will ask her about you. But the absolute best gift you can give her is a happy memory!....(and maybe, a picture or two to help her remember it.)

Monday, May 6, 2013

Dancing Girl?

I homeschool my kids. This was our first year. My son was at the end of 4th grade when we brought him home, my daughter, the end of 3rd grade. Being a part of the public school system, my daughter was participating in an after school program with the high school Flag core. Since it was an after school program, she was allowed to continue with it even though she was no longer in the public school system. I was very excited because this meant that, once she was of high school age, she would possibly be interested in joining the dance team or flag core (which she could still do as a homeschooler.) This was her 3rd year to participate in the program, and she loved it! Her coach and the high school flag core members that choreographed her routines were great! All seemed well..... happened...

Friday night, she had a recital. It is really a high school spring dance showcase, but the flag core "little girls" prepare a routine and perform at different points in the 3 hour long recital. The group of girls are from 1st-6th grade honestly anywhere from 6-13 years old I would guess.
They get to sit backstage in "the black box" with all of the other performers for the 3 hours waiting their turn to get on stage. For this reason, we all stay through the entire program.

As we sat in the audience, song after song, it seemed as though it got more and more provocative (aside from the smaller girls flag core! Their routines were all simple and cute!). I realized that the hope of my daughter one day becoming a part of this program was rapidly becoming obviously inappropriate! Never mind the costumes, as I am sure you have all seen what little girls typically wear when they are "performing" in a dance recital...the dances were mortifying! I'm no prude, I have shook my behind at many high school dances, but these girls were straddling chairs and lying on their backs while putting their legs in  air then spreading them! Oh yeah, there was A LOT more than hip shaking going on! There was a number called "Prison Break" where the girls wore an orange jump suit that had to bought from one of those sex store magazines (like most everything else they wore that evening).

I felt really weird about watching it! They are 15, 16, 17 years old and should NOT be acting like this at all...much less on a stage in front of 200+ people...THEIR PARENTS! Although I thought I would get over it, I am gradually becoming more sickened by it.

Meanwhile, backstage, I find out the 6th grade girls (who I am assuming were showing out for the high school kids) were calling each other "the B word" and hitting the younger girls on the heads telling them they were annoying. Who knows what else!? I understand acting out and even thinking younger kids are annoying...but keep you dirty mouth and your HANDS to yourself!


Today was practice. I had all weekend to think about it. This was the first year she had the chance to buy her own flag, and of course we did..... She is so good at it.... I want her to have that memory of being a part of something fun in high school even though I don't want her there everyday...I have no intentions of sheltering my kids at all (well...maybe a little)....she handled herself extremely well according to her version of the story.

So what do I do?

She didn't go to practice. As much as it kills ME(she is indifferent, really), I have to put her best interests first. At the age of 9, I don't think it is in her best interest to be called "an annoying little B word" or (I shudder to think) look up to these girls that were practically having sex on the stage of the high school auditorium and being applauded for it!

I know this sounds like a no-brainer! Of course pull her out of the program! Or does it? I mean there were close to 200 kids that performed that night! Obviously, their parents think it acceptable and fine...and so does the school district! I know I will have friends that say I am being too uptight about it! So, unfortunately, I did have to think about it for a wasn't a struggle at all, but I did have to think.

You know, I was once a 16 year old cheerleader who liked to dance and shake my booty! I know this dance program encourages the students' artistic freedom. I also know, my high school cheerleading coach would have had me off the team and called my daddy if I would have come to practice and suggested we learn a routine that was anywhere CLOSE to what these girls were doing!!!
It makes me sad that she won't get to participate anymore :(....but I will get over it.

Hey! Maybe I can start my own homeschool flag core! ;)

Tuesday, April 30, 2013


What should my style be? What should my diet consist of? What should my children be learning? What should I do to please my husband? How can I earn extra money? How can I save more money? Do you ever feel overwhelmed as a mother?
I recently had an epiphany....unfortunately, it took a series of events to reveal truth in my life, but by sharing this with you, I hope you won't have to learn from similar events. I also hope you realize how important it is to encourage one another as women through all of these decisions and how important just being honest and real with each other is to providing that encouragement.

I could give you examples of what I believe are "fronts" from women I have encountered or stories I have heard that make me think there are people out there purposefully discouraging one another to make themselves feel more powerful.....OH we all could share those stories! BUT! That would be negative gossip so instead, I will spill the beans about some days in my life that I am SURE will make you feel like Wonder Woman! 

Let's see...where to begin? How about just today, when I didn't get much accomplished other than crying in my husbands office over ...well basically, over selfishness. I don't need to give you details of our argument, but he presented an idea to me, I agreed, but disagreed and instead of just going with the flow, I took control and made an argument out of nothing. I stayed calm, but after 15 years of marriage, he can identify my calm-clam from my angry-calm. Picking up on the angry, maybe he got more upset than he wanted to. We finally ended on a good note and all is it obviously always does or I wouldn't be able to say, "15 years of marriage." My point is, we argue! We love each other deeply and I cannot imagine my life without him, but we won't stop arguing! 

It's normal!

What else? Oh, all of those yummy home made meals I have/will blog about! I actually DO cook 3 meals a day...MOST of the time. There are nights when I don't feel like cooking, though. I have even had something thawed out to cook for dinner and decide at the last minute that I just don't want to cook. That's lazy....its ok (I guess)..but its lazy! On those nights, as bad as I hate to say it, we eat at Wendy's or order pizza. It's gross and I feel guilty, but it won't stop happening. 

It's normal!

I have chore lists made for everyone and a 2 week menu with snacks included laminated on my wall in pretty paper. Everyone who comes to my house is "impressed by how organized (I) am." I quickly correct them telling them that I don't enforce those chores! I don't stick to that menu! Geez, I rarely ever even LOOK at them! HA! Sure, once or twice a week I will tell the kids to go do what is on their chore list. Occasionally, I will look at the menu I made for an idea of what to cook....but that's it. My goal is to use them fully.....someday. I probably won't and that's ok because...

It's normal!

Last, but CERTAINLY not least, this morning, after my shower, I changed my shirt.....a shirt that I had been wearing for 36 hours...LOL! Its one of my "nicer" t-shirts but it is super comfortable! I slept in it, then when I showered the next day, I decided it would be fine to continue to wear it with my denim shorts....then at bedtime I decided it was ok to just change back into my pj pants and continue the wear of said shirt. I want to add a funny tidbit to this confession: As I snuggled on the couch with my husband last night watching t.v. he kept putting his nose on my head and deeply inhaling. This is NOT normal for him. I don't think he has ever purposefully SMELLED me before! I started to become self conscious about it(yes the girl in the same shirt for 36 hours has some sense self-awareness) after the 2nd time. The 3rd time he did it, I asked him why he was doing it. "Do I stink?!" He said no in a way that made me think he thought I actually smelled quiet nice to him (thank you pheromones!), so I slept in the shirt again! HAHA! 

Is that normal?

Oh I could go on and on about my mishaps, disagreements, and dirty clothes, but the point of it all is to make you feel better about yours. Nobody is perfect! You hear this all the time. What you don't hear is that we are all trying to be perfect anyway! It's not achievable so relax!

Learn form your mistakes, laugh about your short comings, be humble about the things that go wrong in your life by sharing them with others...not in a spirit of complaining, but in the spirit of encouragement!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Home School Portfolio

This is only my first year to home school the kids. I have tried my best to keep up with everything we should do and everything we have done. I have to keep a portfolio of their work and activities for 2 years in order to be compliant with the school district. Each year, I also have to have a review done by a state certified teacher. I would like to share some pics of my portfolio as this was the most stressful thing for me. I had no idea what to put in it, what to leave out, or how much to show. There wasn't a lot of information online that I found very helpful, but I have a great network of homeschooling friends that helped me out tremendously with this!

My kids are in 4th and 5th grade so I did everything the same with them except math and their free reading time. They did use the same source for math and reading comprehension at different grade levels. for math and for reading comprehension. What I didn't take pictures of were the US Presidents and US Geography notebooks I had them keep. Each page of the notebook was a different president or different state with the important information about each one listed and even a few hand drawn pictures.

So, here are the pictures:
A list of volunteer work

Field Trips

Reading List

One of the math samples

A few souvenirs from our field trips

A collage of pictures from our different activities

Extra-curricular Activities

A list of educational sources we used
I gave several examples of math, science, reading comprehension, journal entries (writing), and language arts in the portfolio. Nobody has time to look through every single thing we have done all year, so just samples to show we have made progress in learning in all they need to see. I hope by posting this I help somebody else out there. We have done more in these last few months, than I have ever done in my life! This has been the best experience ever and I am SOOOO happy I made the decision to bring them home! Please, feel free to ask questions!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Doing too much?

Daily Routine:

7:30 am  Wake up
7:00        Take shower
6:00        Make bed

8:00 am   Wake kids up
7:30         Do make up and hair
                 Have kids make beds 

6:00 am  Wake up
                 Go for a run
                  Make bed

7:00 am   Wake kids up
                 Do make up and hair
                 Have kids make beds 
7:30 am   Make breakfast
                 Pack kids' lunches

8:00 am   Leave house

6:00 pm Get home and start dinner and homework

Ever made this list? Then slept until 7:30, then had a "throw it all" morning? Ya know, where you throw your hair up, throw on some lipstick, throw the kids in the car with a poptart and some cash for lunch while throwing a fit about how late you are. All the while, throwing your hopes of being Mrs. Perfect out the window?

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we think that getting up at 6:00 am  5:00 am is going to accomplish anything when (guessing according to the above schedule) we don't even get in bed until 11:30 or Midnight?

Why do we feel so guilty if we don't get all of these things done? No, really, I am asking you! I make this same list all the time! AND I NEVER FOLLOW IT! I'm not running at 6:00 am! I may go in the afternoon or evening but not at 6:00 am! Even if I managed to get breakfast made by 7:30, nobody in my house is ready to eat by then....they may not even be awake.

So, why do we do this? It only stresses us out. It stresses out our husbands because they hear the alarm go off for three weeks in a row only to hear us reset it for 3 hours's just me? It stresses out our kids because they are getting yelled at due to nothing more than our frustration with ourselves for not being "perfect" at life. Most of all, it only makes us feel like less of a woman when we make all of these plans and don't follow them at all.

I am issuing myself a challenge this week: The only list I am going to make is:

Things That I don't have to do anymore

Maybe that list will include things like coupon clipping or gardening or being team mom of every sport my kids are involved in...maybe I will even have the kids take a break from sports for a season! Maybe I won't make EVERY meal from scratch each day or over obsess about how the towels are folded and arranged in the linen closet.

I issue the same challenge to you! Instead of looking at other women and saying, "Jamie makes everything from scratch! I want to do that!" ..."Pam clips coupons and saves $400 a month! I  want to do that!" ...."Sally runs 6 miles a day and is planning a marathon run next fall! I want to do that!" ..."Sue does crafts with her kids and is always taking them somewhere fun and special! I want to do that!", look at yourself and say, "I am ______ and I am always______! I am so proud to be myself!"

After all, Jaime, Pam, Sally and Sue each only have the one strength that sticks out to you! Truth be told, they probably wish they had it all together like you do!

This week, let's take it easy on ourselves and only focus on what matters the MOST in our lives! Let's see what we can cut out of our busy schedules. I am sure there are many things I do in a day that don't HAVE to be done.

Challenge Accepted!

Monday, March 18, 2013

How to be a traveling soccer mom (or football or softball..)

        If I make a list for you of all the extra-curricular activities my two oldest kids are involved in, you would think I have lost my mind! But, in my defense, we homeschool and both my husband and I work from home, which means no extra school work after 4:00 pm, adjusted bed times and meal times when necessary and—most importantly—ample family time during the hours most others are at work.       

       Anyway, since we have been/are involved in so many activities with the kids, much of it involving travel, I have started packing things for our time at the field and on the road. As the spring season starts for a lot of programs, I thought I would share with you how we save time and, most importantly, money!
      First of all, I want to say I was terrible at this little league thing for a couple of years! A lot of trial and error until I figured out what to carry, how to carry it, and how much to bring.
      Second, there have been stages in this process because I have a 10 and 11 year old that have been participating in sports since I was pregnant with my 4 year old.

      Finally, here is how I "Travel Ball!"

We bring a small cooler with water, Gatorade, apple juice for my toddler and milk (or formula for babies). In the top of the cooler, I put a cake carrier with snacks. The cake carrier allows a lot of cold in because it isn't insulated, but keeps everything from getting wet---plus they are only $5 at Wal-Mart!

fits perfectly in the above cooler!

Here is a list of snacks I keep in the cake carrier:
  • 1-2 bananas (a MUST if one of the kids may become dehydrated--this has only been an issue for us one time, but bananas are great for muscles cramps since they are packed with Potassium.)
  • A green apple (my kids like the green) sliced and put in a ziploc snack size baggie
  • A bag of beef jerky (protein for my boys--hubby and oldest--after a tough football game)
  • Some crackers and peanut butter
  • Grapes
  • Goldfish
  • Granola bars
  • Nutria grain bars
  • Teddy Graham Cookies or Nilla Wafers
  • The small containers of Peanut butter (for apple dipping, if wanted)
  • 1-2 small apple sauce containers
  • A couple of plastic spoons and a plastic knife
  • other possibilities are a container of ranch dressing and a baggie of carrots of snap peas.
  • If the game is far away, I will also stuff a few ham and cheese sandwiches in the box. I will take other things out if I need to in order to make them fit. You will be surprised at how many things you can shove in the cake carrier!
Non-food items are probably even more important to us, and I carry them in a Sterilite  15 Qt. container instead of a backpack because it is clear and you can put stuff in a certain way so that it stays put. That means no digging around in a backpack for 10 minutes trying to find sunblock!

I haven't re-packed this one yet. I took it on our last vacation for an emergency kit!

Which brings me to the list (most everything is in trial or small sizes but some things are larger like the sunblock:
  • Sunblock!!! SPF 50 or higher apply every 2 hours...and use it for YOURSELF as well!
  • A small amount of cash in small case you need something from the concession stand.
  • Hair brush
  • Some hair ties
  • Extra sunglasses
  • Band aids
  • Neosporin
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Ponchos (we live in Florida and it rains all the time! And who has any hands left for an umbrella with all the stuff we are carrying LOL)
  • An umbrella (mostly for shade if needed)
  • A roll of toilet paper (lots of places we visit either have none in the bathrooms or run out soon after we arrive!)
  • A spray bottle of water (I use this to put my daughters hair back in a pony tail.)
  • Extra batteries for our misters.
  • Eye black
  • Extra mouth guards
  • After bite medication
  • Mosquito spray
  • Wet wipes
  • Ibuprofen (adult and children)
  • alcohol wipes
  • We use these nifty little misters to keep cool during the hot summer games. Often, we are able to sit right behind the team on the sidelines and I will spray them when they walk by. (The coaches keep hand towels in a cooler full of ice water for them too, so they are well taken care of!)

  • If you have babies along for the ride, you will want to make sure you pack them age appropriate snacks or jars of baby food as well as a few diapers.
You need chairs with built in umbrellas!
When my youngest was a baby, I also carried a pack n' go!

It sounds like a lot, I know! If you aren't prepared, though, you could be stuck with a screaming baby in a car for 2 hours and 2 sunburned, dehydrated children playing outside! If everyone carries their own chair (we have the kind that fold up in to the bags with a shoulder strap), and you have a rolling cooler, you can easily transport these things across the field in one trip! :)

 Go Team Mom!