Category Archives: FRIENDLY

Brown-Skinned Friends

I interrupt this blog hiatus to share some important thoughts.

My daughter and I were driving in the car today and mentioning friends we were going to see. She said, “I just love having so many brown-skinned friends.” And, I don’t know, race is a touchy subject… right? Just when I feel informed and sensitive enough to sort of understand it, I realize I still have a lot to learn.

We live in a very diverse area. We value diversity. But we don’t want to raise “color-blind” kids. To me, raising color-blind kids means you tell them not to see color. That it doesn’t make a difference what color someone is – you treat them all the same.

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So maybe you’ve seen this meme before. It’s been around for a while and its iterations are endless. If we teach our kids to treat everyone equally, they’re going to be very confused and ill-prepared to understand injustices. What if instead of teaching them not to see color, we teach them to value color. We teach them the depth and beauty of differences.

We need to teach our kids the difference between equality and equity. To raise informed people who are interested in pursing a world liberated from the pursuit of “greatness, no matter the cost”. Liberated from the idea that the privledges they were born with shouldn’t be extended to everyone.

 

Weeks of Meal Plans

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I’ve dropped the ball “a bit” on sharing meal plans here. They’re still happening. They’re usually scribbled by necessity on the corner of a piece of paper discarded by the children, right before I leave for the grocery store.

So here’s about two and a half weeks worth. Scribble-dee-dee.

Saturday: Smoothies & French Toast [Smoothies for dinner is borderline genius.]
Sunday: Creamed Corn & Broccoli
Monday: Veggie burgers & green bean fries
Tuesday: Tacos [We did the fish tacos found here.]
Wednesday: Cauliflower Nuggets [Did not taste like the chicken nuggets promised, but tasty. Also, need to buy two cauliflower heads if it’s the entree.]
Thursday: Chicken & Rice [Of the classic variety. With peas and carrots.]
Friday: Pizza [Lucy has requested every Friday be a pizza night. Sold.]
Saturday: Quinoa Rainbow Salad

Sunday: Chicken Salad
Monday: Tomato & Mozarella Grilled Cheese with Salad
Tuesday: Quinoa with Brussels Sprouts & Bacon
Wednesday: Corn Chowder [What to make when you want it to be fall but it’s still so, so hot and the corn is still so, so sweet.] Add some salmon or sausage.
Thursday: Tacos with Cabbage Slaw
Friday: Pizza
Saturday: Chicken & Sweet Potato Fries
Sunday: @ Church
Monday: Cauliflower Fried Rice
Tuesday: Roasted sweet potato with rice and sautéed green veg
Wednesday: spaghetti squash with lentils
Thursday: Fish tacos
Friday: Pizza

When life gets busy, just repeat all of the easiest, cheapest, most delicious. Right?

Unit Study: Oceans [Homeschool Kindergarten]

After a lackluster first week, we decided to focus our second week around a subject of Lucy’s choosing and she picked: the ocean. Perfect!

I started out by making a Pinterest board and seeking out some inspiration. So many smart people out there with so many ideas.

Then I took a couple sheets of paper and wrote out my favorite ideas:

– Make a fish stamp [with an apple, potato, eraser, etc.]
– Identify different kinds of boats [use books and toob boats]
– Fish Subtraction Center
– Tide in a bottle
– Gross Motor Ocean-themed game [see below]
– Draw a fish and label its parts
– How much is that fish money game
– Lego dropper game
– Make starfish cookies
– Videos to watch
– Where do you live [sea/land] game
– Sea level experiment
– Ocean levels in a bottle
– Kinetic sand play
– Seashell sort [big vs. little & smallest to largest]
– Fishing puzzle word match up
– Introduce Montessori Math beads
– Water bead sensory play
– Match toob animals to flashcards
– animal beginning sound game
– Pattern block or tangram fish
– Make a jellyfish
– Five Oceans song
– Map play or puzzle

I started out with a pretty intense list, we didn’t get to everything, but I will show you what we did!

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Daddy reading the Magic School Bus ocean book before bed.

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One thing we wanted to add more of was physical activity. So we made sure we were either playing outside or going on bike rides every day [I promise we aren’t in pajamas all the time. :) If it’s not too hot at night we put everyone in pajamas and take a lap around the neighborhood].

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I also worked more towards understanding her best learning style and we discovered she really enjoys listening to… everything! So we got some books on cd from the library and made sure we set aside time to listen to our Phonics Museum phonics cd.

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We introduced the Montessori bead stair because she’s working on her 5-9 doubles for math and the higher numbers are a little trickier!

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I knew we were on the right track for making school more fun this week when little brothers wanted to join in.

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Math doubles practice with a twenty chart and gems.

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Practicing our hundreds chart outside.

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She fished for the animal and then found the matching cards. She enjoyed this but wished there weren’t so many animals with ‘s’ names. Hehe.

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We found this Lakeshore Subtraction Center at the thrift store and it was perfect for the theme! It would be easy enough to recreate.

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She worked with these tweezers while I read some ocean facts from the Usborne First Encyclopedia of Animals.

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This game was a big winner. She spelled the word and then rang the bell. I’ve now decided every homeschool needs a bell.

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Exploring shells with a magnifying glass. She loved this.

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I loved how she thought of which animals like both land and water and put them closer to the line.

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I showed her the picture and said the word and she found the corresponding beginning letter. And then rang the bell. ;)

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We had such a blast this week!

Here’s our book list:

– The Underwater Alphabet Book [She laid out the Handwriting Without Tears letters while I read]
– Eric Carle’s Animals Animals
– The Usborne First Encyclopedia of Animals
– Big City Port
– Usborne’s Agent Arthur on the Stormy Seas
– Swimmy
– One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
– Dora Saves Mermaid Kingdom
– David McCaulay’s Ship

And for the previously mentioned gross motor game, I put the suggestions below into a jar and she picked them. We started our day off with these “exercises” to get the blood flowing. :)

-Slither like an eel
-Crawl like a crab
-Swim like a jellyfish
-Starfish jumping jacks
-Mirror fish [copy the other player, take turns]
-“Swim” fast
-Crank the boat’s motor
-Catch a wave
-Whale push-ups
-Cast your fishing line

Homeschool Kindergarten [The First Week]

Homeschooling is hard. I thought I knew what I was getting into since we did our “soft launch” in March. I was not prepared.

I detailed out our plans in the last post. And we stuck to them for the first week. I made a schedule board on the side of the fridge for my gal who loves to ask, “What’s next?”. We fell into a routine of starting our Bible as everyone was finishing up breakfast. We then transitioned to Saxon Math because it has a Morning Meeting and calendar time built into it. We then did our Explode the Code work. Followed by Handwriting without Tears and Phonics Museum. And then we did the subject of the day, either reading a book together, doing a science project, or going for a nature walk.

It all lined up perfectly with what my student told me she wanted before the school year began. It was just a little flat. As flat as the worksheets we were completing. There was way more “seatwork” than I wanted and towards the end of the week Lucy was complaining that looking at all the words were “hurting her brain”.

We still had fun together, but I went into the second week ready to transition to something that looked a little more like interest-led unit studies vs. traditional schooling.

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Our first week of homeschool co-op went well. It gets a little dicey at the end when baby’s ready for a nap.

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Lots of playing, inside and out.

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Science is her favorite subject so we broke out the science kit a few times.

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Typical first week of school shenanigans.

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As soon as the crayons and markers come out, the boys are ready to join in!

So I decided that one of the biggest assets of homeschool is changing everything up until you settle into what fits right. So change we did.

Homeschool Kindergarten [Curriculum & Schedule]

I think the only reason I’m writing this post is because of the joy I get from reading other people’s. Weird?

We’re cheating a little because we technically started at the end of February and took a summer break. But it makes me more confident in making this list because we know these are the things that work. And we understand a little better what kind of learner we’ve got on our hands.

We have been easing into the idea of school at home with Lu. When we started in February it looked something like 25% me reading aloud to her, 15% sitting down to do traditional school work, and 60% art and free play. It worked gloriously but we do want to start adding a little structure [because she craves a schedule] and some more subjects than the math and history we used at the end of last year.

So before we jump in with both feet this year, I gave my gal a little survey to see what she liked most and least last year:

Reading:
+ Blending Words
– Sentences

Math:
+ Counting to 100
– Remembering Big Numbers

Science:
+ Every Part
– Nothing

History:
+ Hearing Stuff / Coloring Pages
– Nothing

Handwriting:
+ Worksheets
– Nothing

Favorite things? Blocks and Building Things.
Things that were hard? No.

So here’s what we’re using this year:

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Continuing with Saxon Math 1. We are about 30 lessons in and Lucy is loving it. As the survey suggests, one of her favorite parts is the hundreds chart. She loves to do it forward, backward, and while “teaching” her brothers. I like the pace of this book for her. She is challenged but it’s slow enough and builds on itself enough that she isn’t flustered.

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Since our style is Charlotte Mason / Montessori / Classical / Hands-on / Student-led [hehehe] we are doing a Nature Study this year. We’ll mostly be walking around our neighborhood and a couple of nature centers that are close by.

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She did ask to do more science so we’ll be doing one day a week of reading together and one day of experimenting.

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For the Bible this year, we are moving past the Jesus Storybook Bible, which we love but have read through a bunch, with something a little meatier. I also grabbed a couple sticker and coloring books from Dollar Tree for her to work on while I read aloud.

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Reading has been a bit of a blemish on the otherwise great time we’ve been having together. We’ve tried a few of the different “Teach your kid in 100 lessons” style books and we both end up frustrated. So we’re relaxing in this subject for a while. We’re doing moveable alphabet work and the Explode the Code books. We’re also going to start the Phonics Museum [not pictured] program, which seems slower paced.

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For History and Geography we’ll continue reading and doing coloring sheets from Story of the World. We’re going to work on map skills this year as well so I made this map puzzle from this pattern and we’ll do some of the activities from the books.

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We will also continue our Magic Tree House real-alouds and mapping. I can hardly believe we’ve read almost 30 books together! They have been so fun!

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We are going to continue Handwriting Without Tears and as much hands-on work as we can fit in. She loves these.

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To keep everything organized, we have a weekly work folder where I can have worksheets ready to go. There’s nothing worse than sitting down to work and realizing you forgot to print something.

And, as requested, we’ll be doing tons of building with our wood blocks, legos, tinker boxes, and manipulatives.

I asked Lucy if she would rather do her school right after breakfast or while Landon is at school and Cohen is sleeping and she chose the morning. So our days will look something like this:

Monday:
Bible
Partial Explode the Code lesson & Phonics Museum
Saxon Math
Handwriting Without Tears
Read-aloud

Tuesday:
Bible
Partial Explode the Code lesson & Phonics Museum
Saxon Math
Handwriting Without Tears
Story of the World or Map Skills

Wednesday:
Bible
Partial Explode the Code lesson & Phonics Museum
Saxon Math
Handwriting Without Tears
Science Houghton Mifflin & either Berenstain Bears or Usborne

Thursday:
Bible
Phonics Museum
Saxon Math
Homeschool Co-op from 9-12 [Art, PE, Music, Sign Language]

Friday:
Bible
Phonics Museum
Saxon Math
Science Little Explorers Experiments
Nature Study

I am curious to see if we will have to move some things to the afternoons when it’s quieter, but otherwise I feel pretty confident in our choices. Yay!

Lucy ( AND LANDON!!!!) Lately

Today has been a real punch to the throat kind of day  somehow these posts always make me feel better.

Lucy: “Mom. Have you tasted this?”
Beth: “No. What’s wrong?”
Lucy: “Well. I think you accidentally made us kids some adult smoothies.”
Beth: “No. I definitely didn’t.”
Lucy: “Oh. Well. You must’ve just used too many veggies. It tastes awfully healthy.”

Beth: “Why are you crying!?”
Lucy: “Well, I forgot what number comes after 11.”

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Lucy: “Mom! My fever was camouflaged!”
Beth: “Oh really? What does that mean?”
Lucy: “It means it snuck up on me!”

[Cohen pulling all the books off shelf.]
Lucy: “Cohen. Don’t do this to me.”

Beth: “Go find it. You can do it. You’re a big kid.”
Lucy: “Oh yeah, I forgot.”

Lucy: “Oh no. I forgot my allergy medicine.”
Beth: “It’s okay. I have some in my purse.”
Lucy: “Yeah. And all my teachers know my allergies… And I have this baby! [holds up medical alert bracelet].”

Lucy: “Dad. Will you cheer for me at my baseball game?”
Chuck: “Of course.”
Lucy: “Well. You should say something like ‘Go Wildcats, go!”
Chuck: “Okay.”
Lucy: “Okay! Let’s hear you.”
Chuck: ” ‘Go Wildcats, go!”
Lucy: “Good thing you have a week to keep practicing.”

[Landon has been doing hooked on phonics stuff all afternoon while Lucy plays candy crush.]
Lucy: “You better not learn to read before me! That would not be fair!”

Lucy: “I love to spell! S – P – E – I – L!”

[I stubbed my toe while sweeping around the table.]
Lucy: “It’s a hard life being a mom. I can’t wait ’till I’m a teenager!”

Lucy: “I can feel my bones! Under my skin! I know it’s them ’cause they feel like sticks!”

Lucy: “I kind of like Cohen. He’s, like, so interesting. And weird. Like George, he’s pretty curious.”

Lucy: “Can you spell castle one letter at a time?”
Beth: ” C-A-S-T-L-E ”
Lucy: “Now can you spell village?”
Beth: ” V-I-L-L-A-G-E ”
Lucy: “Do all princess words end in ‘e’!?

[Playing the sword dual game on the Wii with her Poppa.]
Lucy: “Let’s play again Poppa! ‘Cause it looked like you were having so much fun when you lost and fell!”

Lucy: “Mom. Now I’m going to teach you a lesson about life…”
[For the curious, it was a rousing soliloquy on birthday party politics.]

Lucy: “I love my Bible. It’s kind if like a comedy book.”

[Pulling up to the children’s museum we frequent.]
Lucy: “Coey. Get ready for the biggest day of your life!”

Lucy: “If there are any signs with numbers on then I’m going to read them with my numbering skills.”

Lucy: “Dad! I think my tummy really hurts. I’m awfully poopy. I think that’s just what some people do!”

Lucy: “Mom, guess what!?”
Beth: “What?”
Lucy: “When I’m kind of older you’re still not going to be old.”
Beth: “Thanks?”

[Brings me all of the toilet paper from the roll. Balled up tight.]
Landon: “You need to buy some more.”

We Found Poop In Our Van (& Other Things They Don’t Tell You About Parenthood)

One time we were at the mall playground and Landon said he had to potty. As soon as he came over, I knew it was too late. The deed was dumped done. So I walked him to the restroom. Past that super annoying kiosk where they always try to straighten my hair. Do I really look like I want to have my hair straightened right now, dude!? I got him changed and cleaned up and we headed back to the playground when the couple walking in front of us [think Jay-Z and Beyonce. Seriously, they were so glamorous.] stopped and the guy started shouting, “I just stepped in s**t! It was just sitting right there. And I just stepped in it.” Why is there poop on the floor of the mall, I thought to myself. Why would someone do that. Now it’s all over the sole of this guy’s super expensive looking shoes. Hm. … Hm. Kids. We have to leave. Now.

You know when you find out someone is pregnant with their first kid and you try to figure out how to give them just enough of a sense of their future endeavor short of causing a panic attack?

Anybody?

My go-to advice is usually to go see a movie. In a movie theater. I’ve seen a handful of movies in the “actual” theater since becoming a mother. It’s not the same. Something in motherhood increases your ability to multi-task, but it’s hard to turn off. There are no more carefree, leisurely days of spending three hours in a dark room with nothing to do but sit back and relax [I’m sure they’ll come back one day. Right!? After we’re past the toddlerhood goodness. Someone say yes.]. Heaven forbid the movie show some sort of food fight or crazy mess. Hits a little too close to home, if you know what I mean.

I always try to tell them to enjoy each moment too. Which is the worst advice because 1) People give it to mothers in the worst places. Oh, your sweet child is throwing a tantrum in the checkout line at the grocery store because you wouldn’t buy them a package of re-fried beans!? Well, enjoy every moment. 2) You don’t really get this until later. Until your baby starts growing up or you have another baby and accidentally mourn a tiny bit for the time when it was just the two of you during the day.

Someone should prepare them for the verbal assualts, too. Right? I mean pregnancy does it a little with the “Is it twins?” and “Must be any day now” numbers. But there’s still a little burn when people ask “Are they all yours? or “Were they all planned?”. It sort of helps to know it happens to everyone. No one is safe!

But the poop really is the thing that surprised me most about motherhood. I just didn’t know there would be so much. How! Why! Where!? Like you know potty-training won’t be fun but did anybody tell you about potty training at Target!? And all the things there are to touch in public restrooms. How warm pee really is on your jeans. Or the fact that poop can make it out of underwear and down a pants leg. I really didn’t think that was possible. But that’s how you find poop in your van.

But you know what else poop in your van does? It breaks stuff down. The stuff inside that pushes you to hold yourself to impossibly high motherhood standards. It reminds you that you aren’t perfect while simultaneously showing you that the world won’t end if something gross and disgusting happens. It gives you a great story to tell your friends when they need a pick-me-up.

And I think, for me, that’s where the balance of motherhood lies. There are so many responsibilities added when you enter parenthood. But there are also all these gifts. It’s joy in small things. Laughter over cutely mis-pronounced words. Giggles over what your sister would say if she knew you found poop in your van [hashtag secret’s out].

Sometimes it’s really easy to get caught up in all the messes and the doing. So that’s what I’d tell someone entering motherhood: don’t forget to find all the laughs you can- sometimes you might reeeeeally have to search. Take a long time staring at their faces [its not creepy! I promise]. Remember every feature. Pray over them. Have giggle wars and tickle fests. Thank God for this incredible gift. Steal slow moments everywhere you can.

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A Real “People Play Here” Sunroom Playroom

I’m afraid Pinterest sometimes leaves people feeling a bit disullioned about what playrooms actually look like. I pinned this one this week. It’s incredible, right!? And it’s in a basement. And I bet that house has things like closets to hide all the other stuff. Bummer. I always look at pictures like that and try to figure out where the kids play. Where are the toys, people!? How is that plant going to survive in a basement!? Answer all my questions!

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I’m here to introduce you to a little playroom that’s trying real hard. It comes from humble beginnings.

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When we only had one kid, we had it set up like a sitting room. I must say, it was adorable. Still in the newlywed-ish stage, we’d sit back there and read books next to a cozy fire. I kid you not.

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Speaking of kids. With three kids in a small house, we’ve lost the luxury of having less-used spaces. It needed some attention and a renewed sense of purpose.

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We started here. We don’t use this fireplace anymore. It still works, but it’s not a very efficient means of heating anything. When you open the flue all the warm air in the back of our house seems to race to the sky. And also, kids.

After four days and three coats of paint, the fireplace has experienced quite the little makeover!

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We added a bunch of foam insulation into the fireplace and used a nailgun to add on the wood, which is from a pine tree we took down in the fall. #myhusbandisalumberjack

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The mantle got some love with a Charley Harper print and one by my sweet little guy.

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My husband actually designed that mantle using reclaimed wood wood scraps like the light box that used to hang in his sister’s kitchen.

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I made that pom pom garland one morning when the baby wanted to see what 5:45 was like. I must say, it was a weirdly satisfying project. Also, I took these pictures with my phone. And you can tell. Not sorry.

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I keep showing you pictures of this side of the room because it’s the cute side. We are, as previously mentioned, a house with a storage problem. That moose on the floor is a sleeping bag we found at a garage sale. It used to be a boy but the antlers kept poking the kids in the eye. This is real life.

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And we’ve got lots to store. I used to keep the board games and play dough things and art things and all the things in the basement and when the kids wanted something I would run down and grab it. But now the baby naps in the basement [It’s a walk out! It’s finished-ish! Relax!]. And nobody wakes baby for a crayon. So it all came upstairs. Which has actually kept it way more organized because instead of having a pile of stuff to take downstairs I just put it away.

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We brought the kitchen in from Lucy’s room because the boys play with it all the time and it was stressing her out that they would come in her room while the Barbies were vacationing away from the Dream House. Her playscape is an elaborate set up.

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And some shelves. Functional shelves. And new blinds after the neighbor two doors down asked me about some new furniture we got. Insert nervous laugh emoticons. As many as you can. We painted the top of that bench (that holds more boaard games) with chalkboard paint. To cover up all the marker strokes that missed paper.

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I also replaced a couple things that were taking up floor space. This retractable clothesline replaced an accordion style one.

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And adding a paper roll to the top of a cabinet saved the easel space.

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One last look at the beautiful thing that took all the sacred post-bedtime relax time.

Parenting 101 As Learned From The Wild West

Lucy and I have been reading through the Magic Tree House series while Landon is at school. It started innocently enough: we found the first book in the series at the thrift store and I started reading to her while she was having a snack one day.

I was immediately impressed with how long she would sit and listen to me read. She asked for more and I obliged. Even better- our library has most of the series available as e-books.

We recently finished “Ghost Town at Sundown”; the tenth book in the series.

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After I finished reading it to her, I could not get this one part out of my head. The book is set in the Wild West and like most of the series, one of the main characters, Jack, does a little research to help them as they’re visiting an unfamiliar place and time. For this book, he has a list from a cowboy about how to treat a horse. They’re hoping to settle some wild mustangs. According to the notes Jack took, “Horse Rules” are as follow:

-Soft Hand

-Firm Voice

-Sunny Attitude

-Praise

-Reward

That’s exactly like parenting!

Learning to parent Landon through his special needs has really stretched us this year. Autism builds patience through routines that can’t be broken. It is a mirror as your kiddo tries to show correct emotions by mimicking yours (which is why spanking doesn’t really work for us). It spurs compassion when you step outside on the first very cold day of the year and watch your kiddo twirl their hands in wonder, trying to catch the cold air that feels like it’s pressing on their exposed skin. Your heart explodes when they learn or do things for themselves.

I can honestly say this has been the hardest year for us, which made this reminder all the more sweet. Parenting might be messy, but it can be broken down simply.

God even broke down the Bible for us, “Jesus replied, ‘Love The Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” (Matt 22:38-9)

My goal for the week is to remember those uncomplicated horse rules.

Lucy Lately

I put this picture up on Instagram today and it reminded me that I haven’t done one of these in a while. This kid makes me laugh SO much. All the time. She likes to ask what I love about her and it’s so hard to choose just a few things. But- her spirit and sense of humor are definitely at the top of the list. She brings joy everywhere she goes.

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And then she said, “Mom. Did you vote for Jesus for King?”

“I’m making something that’s too incredible. It’s going to knock your eyes off.”

Me: “Don’t tell, it’s a secret.”
Lu: ” [whispering] Okay. I’m going to put it into a secret closed area.” [zips her lips]

“Mom. I need Cohen to watch the show I’m putting on, not be engaged in it.”

Lu: “Let’s have a contest to see who can put their shoes on the fastest.”
[I win.]
“Well. The rules say you have to be four to win.”

Lucy: “Mom. Smell my breath!”
[from across the room.]
Me: “Peeee yoo. Stinky.”
Lucy: “Are you sure?”
Me: “Mmhmm.”
Lucy: “That’s weird ’cause I just brushed last night. I think all the toothpaste escaped!”

[Making her a sunbutter and jelly sandwich.]
“Mom. May I have the honor of putting the two pieces of bread together?”

Lu: “Hm. That’s weird.”
Me: “What’s weird?”
Lu: “My wish didn’t come true.”
Me: “What did you wish for?”
Lu: “I wished I would become a fairy. Maybe it just takes a long time for wishes to come true.”

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He’s been super fussy so she prayed, “Jesus, please help Cohen get teeth.” This morning his two bottom teeth popped through! So we start talking about answered prayers and she says, “I can’t believe God hears my prayers! I’m asking for a baby sister next. Sorry Cohen!”

“Is it so weird that in Jesus’s day they wore flip flops!?”

“I am a queen! And I oppose my own policies!”

“There’s a bug in the car. But I don’t know if I’m dreaming it.”

Cheerleaders: “Defense push ’em back, sack that quarterback!”
Lu: “Did they just say Jesus?”

Lu: “So did you ever hear of the cow that had a hundred chickens?”
Me: “No?”
Lu: “That’s because it didn’t happen! Bahahahahaha.”

“Oh, Mom. You look so pretty when your hair falls in your face… Oh and now you’re back to normal.”

Lu: “Anyone heard that a mountain grows? Anyone heard that leaves fall?”
Chuck: “Have you ever heard about the kid who ate all their vegetables?”
Lu: “That sounds terrible.”

Shopping isn’t really my thing. I’m a kid.

[Chuck adjusting the radio]
Lu: “Dad, can you turn it to my jam?”

“Dear Jesus. Please help me to never grow up and have babies so I don’t have to have shots and get hurt.”

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