Sunday, August 26, 2012

500th Post

Did you catch that? Did you read the title???

This is our 500th post!!!!!

How did that happen? Surely I didn't write that many. I mean, I didn't even want to start the blog in the first place. I've explained how I fought it for months. It's not that I didn't want to document our lives. It's just that I didn't want to write and have people read it and judge me. Yet here I am writing and you're reading it . . . but you're not judging me, right???  Those first 6 months or so, we blogged only a few times. After we started officially homeschooling 2 years ago though, we started posting more regularly. I don't always get things posted when I want to. I'm not a phenomenal writer. I don't take the greatest pictures. But I'm learning. And more importantly, we're creating a keepsake for us and our children. We enjoy looking back at the activities we've done. We laugh as we reminisce the fun times we've had. We smile at the images of our young children and wonder how they've grown so quickly.

So, here we are, 500 recorded memories later. This blog has become such a blessing. I thought it would be fun to take a look at some of our top posts over the years. I've listed the top 5 most read posts in each category (make it monday, tasty tuesday, theory thursday, and everything else.) Grab a cup of coffee and a piece of cake and browse around. I hope you find something of interest. Thank you for joining in the celebration with us.

1. popsicle stick log cabins

2. shaving cream leaves

3. marble painting

4. laundry detergent

5. coffee filter butterflies


1. stained glass sugar cookie leaves

2. peanut butter cookies with Reese's pieces

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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Things That Make Me Smile 8/24/12

What a week it's been! We took our first week-long vacation in 5 years. 6 people + 1 week + many hours of driving = an experience to remember! I had been planning to post this past week, but our internet connection was sketchy and extremely slow. Plus, we didn't do much sitting around anyway. We'll be talking about the festivities and posting pics from the week soon, but for now, I wanted to reflect on a few of the smiles along the way.

1. Leighton was working with Zac on how to properly ask for things. Zac kept getting tangled in the wording though. Finally, after a couple minutes, his wording was technically correct and he got what he wanted: 
Leighton: "You say, 'May I have something, please?'"
Zac: "May I have something, please?"

2. Zac, while eating outside: "There's too many bugs! We need to put them in jail!"

3. Alyssa went with me to the bathroom while we were sightseeing. I made a comment about how it wasn't going to be easy using the restroom since I was wearing Tyler in the Moby Wrap. She coaxed me through it. "You can do it, Mommy. You're talented. You can do it."

4. Zac, talking about the crescent moon: "Look! I see the broken moon."

5. Zac calling the arcade our cave.  

6. Me: "I don't know which I like less - packing or unpacking."
Leighton: "Just think, you get to do both this week."
What a guy. Always focusing on the positives.

7. We watched the Sound of Music with the kids. Zac fell asleep 15 minutes into the movie and slept the rest of the time. Later, when Georg started singing "Edelweiss" Alyssa said, "I thought he was going to sing 'Jesus Loves Me.'"

What made you smile this week?

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Things That Make Me Smile 8/17/12

Happy Friday! I hope you've had a fantastic week FULL of SMILES!!!

1. Jake: "The place is deserted? Like there are desserts there?"

2. Zac, to Alyssa: "Pretty, pretty, pretty. I think you wook pretty."

3. Jake: "Why is it called Pennsylvania? Do they make a lot of pencils there?"

4. I had been giving the kids clues about where we were going.
Jake: "It must have a toy department."
Me: "Actually, pretty much the whole store is the toy department."
Jake: "Michaels?"

5. Zac: "C'mon, let's go. {pats my leg} What's dat?"
Me: "Goosebumps."
Zac: "I don't wike dose."
Me, chuckling: "You don't?"
Zac: "No. I wike your wegs, but I don't wike dose."

6. Tyler helping me cook dinner.

7. Jake, while holding Tyler: "Aw, he smells like he did when he was first born."

8. Jake: "Mom, you make the best french toast!" (Mine is the only french toast he's ever had, but I'll still take it as a high compliment.)

9. Leighton stopped by the house for a couple minutes during the day to pick something up. We were all sad when he left again.
Zac: "Where's my daddy going?"
Me: "He has to go back to work."
Zac: "Oh, no. I want him to stay here."

10. Jake, showing me his arm: "Pretend this is my arm. Well, don't pretend it's my arm, because it is my arm.  . . "

11. Alyssa and I were making frosting for our turtle cake. She had me stop the mixer every 30 seconds so she could taste it and "make sure it was perfect."

12. Jake, after giving Tyler a kiss: "His lips are soggy." 

13. Jake: "Please, with a cherry on top?"
Alyssa: "No."
Zac: "Can I have the cherry on top?"

What made you smile this week???

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Wordless Wednesday 8/15/12

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Tasty Tuesday: Turtle Cake

My kids have very refined palates. The other day we dined on sea serpent.

Today, it's turtle.

What, you've never tried turtle? You really should. It's delicious.

We're preparing to let Agent T, our foreign exchange student that has been studying with us the past 6 weeks, head back home to the river. The kids are devastated. I admit, I'm not overly pleased about it myself, and that surprises me. I am not an animal person, but I've greatly enjoyed our time with it. There are many reasons why we're letting it go that I'll explain at another time. Anyway, to lesson the blow of saying goodbye to their friend, I suggested a going-away party to see him off. And what better food to eat than turtle? No, not Agent T, of course, but turtle just the same. Not only is it tasty, it's quite simple to make, too. In fact, the kids prepared it completely by themselves. Well, the main dish anyway. I did help with the garnishes. 

I'll show you how to prepare the food - in just 12 easy steps.
  1. Cut open bag.
  2. Dump contents into a bowl.
  3. Pour in water.
  4. Pour in oil.
  5. Crack eggs.
  6. Dump eggs into bowl.
  7. Mix well.
  8. Place liners in muffin pan.
  9. Fill liners with batter.
  10. Pour remaining batter in greased round cake pan.
  11. Lick spatula.
  12. Stick head in bowl and lick all remaining batter.

Easy enough, right?

After the cake, ahem, turtle meat is cooked and cooled, prepare your garnish. Somehow I missed taking pictures of this step. Pretend that you see Alyssa and me adding butter, shortening, powdered sugar, vanilla, salt, and heavy whipping cream to a bowl. Don't bother pretending to see the powder poof onto the counter though. That would just be silly - and messy - and we would never do that. *ahem* Assume that we divided the frosting special sauce into 2 bowls and added cocoa powder to one to make it brown and food coloring to the other to make it green. Presume that we garnished the turtle meat with the appropriate colored sauce and plated it along with various embellishments (mini chocolate chips and tootsie rolls for eyes, mouth, and tail.)

Whew, that was quite the workout for the imagination!

Here is the final product, plated and ready to be savored.

Doesn't that look appetizing???

The kids could hardly wait to dig in.

The verdict?

They loved it!!!

They gobbled it right up. (I told you they have refined palates!)

And despite what you've heard, it tasted nothing like chicken.

Farewell, Agent T. It's been nice getting to know you. If you're ever in the area, feel free to stop by.

It'll give us another reason to celebrate with turtle!
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This Week In History

If you've been reading my blog, you'll know that we like celebrating crazy things. National days commemorating things like yo-yos, ice cream sodas, cheese balls, and sea serpents are some of the fun we've had. The kids love it. They'll often ask, "What national day is today?" Not only is it a fun something to do, but it's also a good way for us to study various topics we might not otherwise.

Another great way to study specific days is using This Week in History by A Thomas Jefferson Education. This was perfect for us and our celebrating special days. It gave the kids (6, 4, 2) something exciting to look forward to every day. (I should say it gave them something else exciting to look forward to every day, because getting to stay at home and school with Mommy is pretty exciting in and of itself, right???)

I cannot even begin to explain the plethora of information that is on this site. Seriously, you could spend hours just browsing through the resources (books, cds, audio downloads), researching the Classics, watching videos,  studying about each day in history, and checking out the freebies

For $9.99 a month, you'll get access to the entire website and an email every week with all the information for that week. It tells you what happened each day, gives the history, includes pictures, and offers many, many other resources and ideas to further your learning. It's not just history though. You'll learn science, math, language skills, geography, art, and more. Say you want to find a day about a specific topic because that's what you're already studying. Not a problem. The content is searchable by date, topic, and key words. Or what if you have a child who is obsessed with Legos (I have a few of those myself) and just can't wait until March 20th to learn about them? You can also go to the archived weeks on the website and it'll take you right to the resources. You can use the entire archived section to plan ahead . . . or just because you find the information fascinating. I never like learning about history in school, but I've been drawn to it as an adult. I want my children to enjoy learning about it as well. And what better way than to make it fun?

Some of the topics for July and August are as follows: 
  • Learning about the Leaning Tower of Pisa and building a block tower
  • Learning about Earth's magnetosphere and conducting experiments with magnets
  • Learning about Disneyland and drawing your own Mickey Mouse
  • Learning about Oscar Hammerstein and watching The Sound of Music 
  • Learning about Silly Putty and making your own
 Now, does that sound like work? No, it sounds like fun!

Not only is the content in depth, I really like the philosophy of A Thomas Jefferson Education, too. They live by 7 Keys of Great Teaching or principles of successful education. When they are applied, learning occurs for any learning style or interests. When they are ignored or rejected, the quantity and quality of education decreases. You can read about these principles in detail here.
  • Classics, Not Textbooks
  • Mentors, Not Professors
  • Inspire, Not Require
  • Structure Time, Not Content
  • Simplicity, Not Complexity
  • Quality, Not Conformity
  • You, Not Them

They want your children to succeed. They want them to thrive. And they make it easy for that to happen. I've talked about how fun this is - my kids are little, they need fun - but truly, there is so much to learn. This Week in History has made it incredibly simple to do that. All while having fun.

You can see what other Crew members thought about This Week in History HERE.

* Disclaimer - I received a subscription in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
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Friday, August 10, 2012

Things That Make Me Smile 8/10/12

Happy Friday!  I've been busy working on some surprises lately. I'm so excited to share them with the kids (and you all!), but I'm not quite done yet. Very soon though . . . hopefully. Have you read our happiness lists from this week? It's full of smiles, but here are some more. You can never smile too much, right?

1. We realized that we had forgotten my half-birthday. (Half-birthdays are a big deal to the kids.) I promised that we could celebrate sometime soon. (Another reason to have cake!) Jake immediately ran off. When he returned a few minutes later, he gave me a present wrapped up with a piece of paper. I opened it and found a soft caramel candy. Then he said, "I also have a jolly rancher, but I like jolly ranchers better than those caramels. So, I gave you that."

2. Zac: "I was chasing me by myself."

3. Alyssa was very upset when the family on a cartoon ate dinner but did not pray first. After the meal, the mother excused the children. Jake said, "Well, at least they do that."

4. We let Zac take his Bible to church for the first time. We decided that he was responsible enough to have it and not abuse it. I explained how special it is and that he needed to be extremely careful with it. He was very proud to be trusted to have it. Then he asked, "Is Jesus in it?"

5. Alyssa, talking into the fan to hear her "robot" voice: "Helloooo. Hello. Helloooo."
Zac: "Lyssa, it don't even have eyes."

6. Zac to Tyler: "Hi, Sweetheart Poptart!"

7. The kids and I were looking through old blog posts and came across one from Valentine's Day last year when we made and decorated sugar cookies and took them to church. Jake pointed to one and said, "I made that one for {girl from our church.} That was the time I was trying to steal her away from another guy."

8. Jake, about Tyler: "How can he not say anything? It's easy."

9. Our Sea Serpent Day

10. Zac, after getting some orange slices: "Thank you so much."

11. Jake: ". . . seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth, twentieth, twenty-oneth . . ."

12 My mom and Zac have a thing where she pinches his butt and calls them her "little buns." Zac always laughs. If she asks, Whose little buns are these?" he'll answer, "Brama's!" If she forgets to pinch them, he'll tease her. "Brama, I got your little buns!" Anyway, she was pinching him and asked the question, "Whose little buns are these?" But instead of his usual response, he said, "Zachy's!" After she feigned disappointment, dejected he said, "Ok, you can have one."

13. Alyssa: "Mommy, I miss being little."

What made you smile this week???

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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Theory Thursday: Solar Robotics

Solar Robotics!? Yes, Sir/Ma'am! My young kids are doing solar robotics already. Well,... kinda.

Jake and I went to Maker Faire Detroit this past Saturday. That was a blast. Yes, there is a post coming on that. While we were at Maker Faire we visited the Maker Shed and picked up the 6-in-1 Solar Robotics Kit. This is a kit that contains two trees of plastic parts a tiny motor and a small solar panel. It brought me back to my model car days. Cutting all the pieces from the trees, trimming the excess stubs, and filing any piece that needs it. In this case I only filed the wheels for the car.

I took care of the minimal assembly of the gear box and the solar panel housing. Not a difficult task, but with the tiny wires on the motor and some other concerns I thought it was best that I did it.

After testing to see that all was working, it was time for the fun part. I called the kids into the kitchen again and we started building the six projects. We started with the solar puppy because it received the highest votes. Now, the box does say 10+ and I would say to stick with that if you are not helping. As long as I was telling them exactly where to put each piece all went well. Jake of course wanted to try and assemble the puppy by just looking at the picture, but that was not gonna work for him. In the end the puppy was assembled without a hitch. The pieces went to together beautifully.

Of course we couldn't stop with building just the puppy so we went on to build all of the projects. I did save one to assemble after they went to bed. Thus giving them something new to see in the morning.

So what did we learn, well... i didn't get to in depth with how the solar panel works. As I explained it to them the solar panel simply takes the light and converts it into electricity. Way over simplified but just right for three kids six and under. What they did figure out was that the closer, or stronger, the light got the faster the motor spun. In the end we learned something we can build on later and had fun doing it. Looks like a winner of a Theory Thursday!

Check the video below to see our solar puppy in action.

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Happiness Happens

Yesterday was Happiness Happens Day! It's a day set aside to focus on the happiness that happens around us each and every day. It's so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of living, to focus on the busyness, to acknowledge only the negative. It is a day to ignore all that and survey your life. Blessings are everywhere. If you're looking for them, you'll be overwhelmed. That's one of the reasons Things That Make Me Smile has become one of my favorite parts of the blog. It helps me to look for the happiness. It helps me be more aware of the blessings and humor in life.

The kids and I talked about some things that make us happy. There was a lot of discussion that accompanied the main points, but I certainly could not keep up with their excitement and random thoughts. Here's the list point-by-point. One kid would mention something, and the others would agree. I put the happiness under the child who said if first (except for the first thing on each of their lists, since they hadn't heard the others say it, but added it all on their own.)

Jake's List
Sugar Cookie (toy bear)
church and the pastor
and of course Jesus
and that He made a way for us to go to Heaven and He made it easy, too
that I'm older than both my brothers and sister
a great mommy
masks - that scare Alyssa
glow-in-the-dark stuff
when Baby Ty Juice smiles at us

Alyssa's List
going on vacation
baby bunnies
my favorite dresses
my picture when I was a baby
tea parties

Zac's List
Baby Ty Juice!
Peanut butter & jellyyyyy!

Tyler's List (as translated by Mommy)
brothers and sister who love me very much
Mommy & Daddy
Mommy's List
Before I could say anything, Jake said, "I know what - Daddy." Daddy's always at the top of my list.
4 healthy little Blessings
being a stay-at-home, homeschooling mommy
fantastic parents we can call our best friends
a relationship with my merciful Savior
books, lots of books
kitchen gadgets (food processor, crock pot, bread machine, rotisserre oven- to name a few)
folded laundry
a clean kitchen
coupons/saving money
mint cookies & cream ice cream
hearing my kids giggle
hearing "I love you"
hugs and kisses (even slobbery baby kisses)
ice water
warm, fudgy brownies
hearing my kids make their Happiness Happens Lists

 . . . and on and on and on 

Obviously, there are many more things we could add (house, electricity, running water, heat/ac, vehicles, food, insurance, job, etc.) Happiness is everywhere if you take the time to notice.

If you're happy and you know it, comment below!

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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wordless Wednesday 8/8/12

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Tasty Tuesday: Sea Serpents

Sea Serpents???

Yes, yesterday was Sea Serpent Day! Did you ever know there was such a FUN day to celebrate??? We couldn't neglect the mighty sea serpents lurking deep in murky waters. We just had to honor them!

With map in hand and courage in heart, we set sail on our pirate ship couch across the ocean blue living room. The warm sun on our skin, the salty water sprinkling our lips, the wind tickling our faces. The vessel sliced through the rugged waves. The lure of a treasure kept our focus. Suddenly, there was a rumbling deep below and our ship began to rock. A grotesque face emerged from the black-blue waters. We sprung to action as one slimy tentacle - larger than we'd ever seen -  coiled around the ship. Frantically, we began to fire sock cannonballs in hopes of escaping from an eternal water prison. But the monster responded with more force, more fury, more strength. He squeezed tighter and we heard the distinct sounds of wooden planks cracking. With one final resolve, we aimed our last cannonball directly at his heart. BOOM! The sound was almost deafening. We held our breaths. Time seemed to stand still. Then slowly, the tentacles unraveled and the ship was set free. We watched as the creature sank into the abyss. Ho! Our adventure could not be thwarted. On to the treasure!   

Despite the hazards, our exploit consumed only a portion of the day. We still had plenty of time for other fun, sea-serpenty activities.

 We colored frightening pictures.

We read books about sea creatures.

We noticed that while we delved into our first book, a sea serpent stole the rest of the them and carried them off into his lair. We had to carefully and quietly retrieve the books from the sleeping monster.

For lunch, we dined on a luxurious sea serpent meal. (Truthfully, it was only mock-serpent. Shh, don't tell my kids. Real monstrous sea serpents are endangered, you know.)

Mock sea serpents are really very simple to prepare but require only the finest ingredients.

You'll need hotdogs and raw spaghetti noodles. Both will need to be cut/broken in half.

Gently slide the spaghetti halves into the cut ends of the hotdogs.

Using a sharp knife, cut a half-inch incision in the other end to form the mouth.

Here's something not many people know - sea serpents really are gentle creatures when they're born. They live nice, peaceful lives and are friends to the fishes. The trick to turning them into ferocious beasts, bred to destroy is cooking them in boiling water.

They despise boiling water.

When they are thoroughly angry - but before they are roasted alive - remove them from the torture chamber and place them back in the deep ocean where they can freely wreak havoc on their once-friends the fish, the sharks, and the unsuspecting ships. Sit back and be amazed by their fierce vengeance.

You might even catch some of the action, if you're lucky. Your pictures may be compromised though if you're holding a fussy baby in one arm and trying to take pictures with the other.

We watched a sea serpent as it silently floated beneath the surface. Within minutes, it leaped out of the water and took a huge bite out of a ship as it dragged it down below. 

 Hearing the commotion and smelling dinner, a second serpent quickly approached.

The first serpent, possessive of its feast, attacked the other. He finished him off like an appetizer before heading back to his ship meal.

There were no survivors.

Then the kids asked to help birth more sea serpents.

They're a vicious bunch.

And what sea serpent day would be complete without a frothy, serpenty-green drink???  That evening, we enjoyed Sea Slurpents while we reminisced about our adventure-filled day. 

Next time you're sailing the open sea in search of hidden treasure, keep a vigilant eye on the horizon. You just might spot the shadow of a mighty sea serpent lurking below.

Sea Serpents
spaghetti noodles (3 per hotdog)

1. Cut hotdogs in half; break spaghetti noodles in half.
2. Carefully insert 6 noodle halves into the cut-end of each hotdog. Make a half-inch slice in the other end of the hotdog to form the serpent's mouth.
3. Cook according to spaghetti instructions. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain well.
Recipe idea adapted from Feed Our Families.

Sea Slurpent
carbonated soda
lime sherbert

Mix limeade and carbonated soda in a glass. (We carbonated a liter of water using our SodaStream and added a packet of True Lime.) Add 2 scoops of lime sherbert.

Linked to TGIF Linky Party, the Sunday Showcase, Show-and-Share 
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Monday, August 6, 2012

Make It Monday: Tangram Creations

If there's one thing that my kids like best, it's building. They love creating with their hands anything that their minds can imagine. In a room full of toys, they will gravitate toward Legos, Trios, blocks, Automoblox, K'nex, Magnetix, a stack of cups, a pile of rubber bands, or a bunch of cardboard boxes. Every single time.

I recently won a bag of 250 tangram wooden blocks from Homeschool Mosaics, a large group of  wonderful women that have joined together to offer support to other homeschooling families. My kids were ecstatic when the box arrived. They had no idea what was inside, but they know that box mail is always fun! We opened it up and dived right in.

There are many sites where you can find tangram templates to print. Some (like this set that we own) have each specific shape shown and you just have to match the correct blocks to the picture. Others have a solid black shape and you have to figure out which blocks are needed to construct it. Instead of having them recreate those predetermined pictures, I allowed their inventive minds to have free reign of the blocks.

We had so much fun creating 2-dimensional pictures. Can you find the snake and the rocket? How about the fishy?

 We also made some 3-D formations, like this pizza. Blue mushrooms, anyone?

Then, Zac and I used the blocks to practice pattern matching. I set the arrangement in the first line, and he copied it in the second.

The older kids and I worked on a little geometry. They were amazed to see how to make hexagons using different shapes.

While the tangram puzzles are fun and educational (you can also use these to teach little ones colors and shapes), the blocks themselves can be used for far more things. If you don't already own some, I suggest you pick up a set. Soon.   

And then let your kids just have fun building.

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