J is for June

I like June. It’s a good month. It’s one of those nice summer months where it’s warm enough to go swimming, but not sweltering hot like August. Where you eat ice cream outside for lunch, because you can. And your favorite pair of flip-flips is the only pair of shoes you need.

This time of year with warm weather one day and freezing cold the next, I start dreaming of June and all the fun things we will do when it’s warm. Swimming, hanging out at the park, meeting friends at the park for lunch, really, just being outside all the time.

I’m not the only one in my family who likes summer. My kids have this thing against shoes, coats, and cold weather. Snow days are so boring around here. “It’s cold outside” they protest after 5 minutes in the snow. And we spend the next 2 hours recovering with hot chocolate and blankets and refusals to ever go out again.

In contrast, on hot summer days, they stop in for a popsicle, some more water, or requests for large amounts of food for their lunch that must be eaten outside, then return to the yard until it’s dark or they’re just too tired to play anymore. I think my kids live on fresh fruit and popsicles all summer long.

photo_35251_20141229My daughters have been begging to wear flip-flops and sandals for weeks now. We’re getting ready to go out the door, it’s 35 degrees out. They have their coats, leggings, hats, etc. on and would like to know if they can please wear their flip-flops today. It’s not raining or snowing so it must be ok.

My 7yr old wants to know when she can plant her garden. Just as soon as it stops getting down to freezing at night, I tell her. Plant too early and that very last frost will kill everything and you’ll have to start over. She would still like to plant something.

Oh, and don’t forget ice cream. The kids have been begging for an ice cream party. I’ve already started planning it and Easter hasn’t even arrived yet!

I’m beginning to thing that right about now we need a vacation to southern Florida. A week of warm weather, flip-flops, and swimming.

Of course, spring is right around the corner, and summer is so soon. And summer is my favorite time of year. And I’m so hoping it’s a good one.

What do you love about summer?

E is for Extra-Curricular Activities

One of the things I love about homeschooling is the extra flexibility we have for Extra-Curricular Activities. And in my town, there’s plenty of homseschoolers, which means, that there are even special Homeschool classes or earlier lesson hours for Extra-Curricular activities!

For example, our local Zoo has a homeschool class (which we have not taken because my 2nd grader is not at all interested in it, but it’s available should she or any of the other kids ever express interest).

What I love about Extra-Curricular is it lets my kids pick something they’re interested in and learn more about it. And, because our school day is pretty relaxed, they aren’t tired by the time we get to our activities.

I have a 2nd grader and a Pre-K so we don’t have a ton of Extra-Curricular yet, but here’s what we’re up to.

Piano Lessons – I also play the piano but lessons for the kids help me keep them on track. Our teacher was homeschooled herself and usually has hours during school hours available for homeschoolers. My 2nd grader wants to play the guitar but I’m holding out on that until she’s big enough to handle a full size electric. We have a very pretty white electric guitar that I want her to learn on. I even have a teacher picked out! So, I’ve told her to work hard on piano for another couple of years and when her hands are big enough we can switch instruments.

Piano is a great first instrument and so much of what she learns will carry over to a second instrument when she’s ready.

Dance Lessons – There are actually no homeschool hours for the school that the girls go to, but I like how much they’re learning and all their lessons are back to back one night a week. I can deal with one night a week. They love dance. It’s a great art form and also good exercise. Really, an awesome activity for them.

Sports – My pre-K daughter hasn’t been old enough for any sport that she’s interested in yet. But, next year, there’s a few she can try. My 2nd grader is trying out basketball. She’s in a training league and hated it at first but she’s come around and thinks she might want to try again next year.

At this age, I’m not at all upset if they don’t like something, and I’ve made that clear to them. The goal right now is to try out different sports and see what they like. When they’re old enough to try out for sports (5th grade or so depend on the sport at our umbrella school) we should have a general idea of what we want to do.

Though, my pre-K daughter has informed me that she really wants to play Ice Hockey. I’m really not so sure about it, but I have another year before she’s even old enough to start hockey skate lessons at the local ice rink.

Local Education Classes – We have a once a week lego STEM class that both girls get to go to. And the teacher is actually quite impressed with my 2nd grader’s ability to follow a diagram and assemble her legos into the right item. The girls love legos, and their teacher is awesome, so this is a great fit.

We recently discovered that our local science museum has homeschool classes and since that is my 2nd grader’s favorite subject I’ve enrolled her and she’s loving it. Plus we get to explore the museum again after each class. This past week, we went to class, went out for lunch, and then returned to the museum and explored for another couple of hours. Talk about a fun day! Also, I’m loving that she’s retaining so much from the class. Weeks later something we’re doing in school will remind her of something she learned and she’ll tell me all about it. It’s awesome! – and as a side note, I am very much encouraging her interest in science. It’s a great field should she decide that’s the direction she wants to go come College time. And what I love about homeschooling is that I’m able to encourage this interest so much.

Local Museums – At the elementary age especially, it’s nice to take a field day and basically have a museum to ourselves. We’ve got the science musuem and zoo well covered. There’s a children’s musuem we have plans for and an Aquarium we’re going to go to this week. The best thing about a museum during the school week, we pretty much have it to ourselves and we can spend as much time as we like on each exhibit.

When they get older there’s some great local history museums and such. But I’m saving the “can’t touch anything” museums for when they’re actually old enough to enjoy reading and learning about the objects without having to touch them.

Homeschool or not, I’d love to hear about some of your favorite Extra-Curricular activities. Let me know in the comments below, what do your kids love to do?

A is for Available

I had big plans last year to write about my homeschool journey. Those plans were derailed by job changes, busy school schedules, and just life in general. Transitioning to my husband working from home – which started in my schoolroom until we turned half the garage into his own office – was quite the transition. For everyone.

But, January is the month for new beginnings. So I’m starting again. I’m starting with the letter “A”. “A” is for “Available”.

One things I really love about homeschooling is how “Available” I am to my kids and my kids are to me.

1. Available to experience their first reading success – it’s just as good as their first steps when they were toddlers.

2. Available to talk about what they think of history – you’d be surprised with what my 7yr old can come up with

3. Available to watch as they discover something fascinating in science – and often make a mess in the process

4. Unfortunately, I’m also available to clean up the mess from science

5. Available to see them create their own art – the creation process is way more interesting to me than the final product at their age

6. Available to just sit down and talk, or let them play for a few minutes break if we’re having a bad day

7. Available to see them use the math they’ve been learning – it all started with counting out eggs from the fridge drawer

8. Available to teach them fun things like cooking – and why we do not set raw eggs on the edge of the counter so they can roll off and splat on the floor

9. Available to take them to a museum for a hands-on learning day

10. Available to watch an older child teach a younger child – there are so many things (like counting by 2’s) that I’m not going to have to teach my 2nd born because the first child taught her for me

If you homeschool. What’s something you love about teaching your kids?

 

Meringue Ghosts

ghosts

For a fun and delicious Halloween treat, try these cute little ghost meringues.

I just love meringues! For starters, most people with any kind of food allergy can eat these. They’re remarkably popular items anywhere I serve them, for this very reason. There’s no nuts, gluten, or dairy. Unless someone has an egg allergy you’re probably safe serving these to anyone.

I also like to whip up a batch whenever I have egg whites left over from another baking project. If I make pudding, pudding only needs egg yokes so I’ll save the whites and make meringues next, for an easy treat.

Meringue Ghosts

3 egg whites – room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cream of tartar

Heat oven to 250 F.

I prefer to use a stand mixer for these because beating up these egg whites takes a LOT of beating!

Beat egg whites, vanilla, and cream of tartar until soft peaks form.

Gradually add in sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Pipe meringue batter onto the pan. I just put my batter in a ziploc bag and cut a small hole in the end. Pipe out a bunch of ghosts. You can put them pretty close together because they do not expand while cooking so you can fit a lot on one pan.

Place cookies in preheated oven and cook for 1 hour. Turn off oven and let set in the oven for 2 more hours. (this is so you get crunchy meringues).

Use a food-safe marker to draw on eyes and a mouth.

Christmas With Kids

I love Christmastime, I always have. But it’s especially fun with little kids! We start all our stuff on Christmas Eve.

First, we go to our New Year’s Eve service at Church. I don’t hear much of the sermon amidst the 3yr old closing herself in the seat, bumping into the people in front of us, and waving to friends two rows back. While she’s at it the 18 month old is eating a small candy cane, dropping the small candy cane on the floor, and feeding the small candy cane to me. I thought he had forgotten about it and decided to eat it so it was out of the way and he suddenly decided that he wanted it back. Not to eat, just to hold in his hands for the remainder of the service. He was quite sticky by the time we got home.

And lit candles at the end of the sermon are a great opportunity for the 3yr old to attempt to catch something on fire until her Daddy blows out the flame. While this is happening the 18 moth old is contriving ways to grab the flame part of my candle (which he never succeeded in doing). I was more than happy to blow out the candles after singing “Silent Night”.

Honestly, the kids weren’t bad considering their ages and that they rarely join us in the sanctuary. But it made for an entertaining evening.

After dinner and “Charley Brown Christmas” we all open one present. This year the kids had picked out these $1 metal ornaments at WalMart that have candy in them for their Christmas Eve present. They’re kind and share the candy with us parents. It’s pretty much the worst candy I’ve ever tasted – I think they forgot the sugar, and all the kids feel the need to share a piece with me! Thanks a lot kiddos…

After they go to bed we set up the geotrax set. This is one of my favorite parts. The kids are always so excited to see the train Christmas morning and it gives me a chance to make breakfast so we can eat before opening presents. While setting this up we watch our favorite Christmas movie, “We’re No Angels”. It’s one of my favorite movies, if you haven’t seen it, you should. Amazon Prime has it on instant stream if you want to check it out.

Thankfully the kids sleep till almost 8. And after playing with the train and eating breakfast it’s 10 before we get around to presents. After presents and the baby’s nap we head over to a relative’s house for lunch and more presents. We carry 1 box of presents out of the house and return with 4 – because we have the only little girls on this side of the family and Frozen is all the rage this year. Well, that and all the giant stuffed animal gifts for the 18 month old. And now you know why I’m constantly cleaning out toys! I’m going to have to go through the kid’s puzzles because I am now out of puzzle storage room. I’ve been putting this off for a while, should be fun tracking down all those tiny pieces and hoping there still some puzzles with all the pieces in one place at one time.

We have loads of new nail polish, puzzles, coloring books, candy, stuffed animals, cars, and other toys. The kids are exhausted when we get home so bedtime is pretty easy, and we parents crash on the couch until bedtime.

Summertime!

So, it’s summertime, and I deliberately did not sign my kids up for any summertime activities. Well, I take that back, I deliberately TRIED not to sign my kids up for any summertime activities before summer began. We’re not doing any dance camps, no dance lessons, no parent’s day out programs, etc. So, I think I’m doing pretty good so far.

I did plan out our reading logs for the summer. (we’ve already turn our first one in). My 5yr old finally took off on some independent reading – think “learn to read” books stages 1 and 2 – at the end of the school year and I don’t want to re-teach that the beginning of next year, so she’s participating in every reading activity in sight. It’s a good thing, she’s motivated by prizes, so filling up her sheet and turning it in for something appeals to her. I picked up her library reading sheet yesterday (which was the first day I could get it) and about a dozen books for her to read as well. She was all set to fill up her entire reading log – she has to read 30 hours – in one day. I explained to her that we can’t turn our sheets in for a month, and that we have plenty of time to read the books we have and check out some more to read. So, she only read 2 books to me this morning, and I’m sure she’ll try to read as many as possible at bedtime (it’s her new “stay out of bed” trick). There’s a few more reading logs we can’t sign up for until June (pizza hut does one) so we’ll be busy all summer with our reading! And the best part, she’s actually asking to read!

I just discovered yesterday that the Disney Store has activities every day of the week starting in June. I guess we’ll be going to their summer kick-off the beginning of June and be visiting the store many times this summer. They have story time every Tuesday, and I’m not sure what else planned for the summer, I think a craft time one day, and I’m sure plenty of other activities to keep two little girls happy.

We have season tickets to our local water park – which opened this past weekend, horray! My kids love the park and we plan to have some really nice tans by the end of summer!

And to top it off, I’m doing something I always said I would never do, my 5 yr old is entering a beauty pagent this year. I was just notified yesterday that she’s a “state finalist” so I should soon be receiving my envelope with all my schedule info and such.

Yes, I’m doing a terrific job of doing nothing this summer!  Not really, but at least it’s all fun stuff! And my summer is just starting 🙂 Surely I can fit in a vacation or two, a couple of Birthday parties, and maybe a shopping trip!

The Hiding of the Spider

Today I introduced my 5yr old to a family tradition that I started when I was her age.

Meet the family pet spider. I got this spider from the treasure box in my class when I was 5 or 6. I remember seeing it in there and just hoping the kids picking before me didn’t get it, I really wanted the spider. I’m sure some mother was only too happy to donate it to the class treasure box, hoping that her child didn’t bring it back home.

In case you can’t tell from the picture, it’s about the size of my hand, squeaks when squeezed, and has an elastic string that’s lost all it’s bounce.

I had great plans for this spider, when I got home I hid it under my dad’s pillow. And like any small child, I eagerly waited for my dad to get home, greeting him with a demand that he look under his pillow. After which ensued many years of hiding the spider.

I finally learned to not tell him where the spider was. And I found many fun hiding places, some favorites being under the fitted sheet on his bed (surprising mom instead of dad when I hid it on the wrong side of the bed), his chair at the table, and in his suitcase when he would go on a trip.

The rule was, whoever found the spider got to hide it next. It makes its rounds from one sibling or parent to the next. Showing up in dresser drawers, couches, and even in the shower.

It’s been over 20 years since I picked that spider from the treasure box and I had completely forgotten about it. I thought it was lost years ago. Until it turned up in my suitcase at my most recent visit to my parent’s house.

I got home ,unpacked, and placed it on my dresser, planning which family member will get it next. Tonight, my 5yr old saw it on my dresser and with the same excitement I remember feeling the first time I saw it, exclaimed, “what’s this!”. I was only too happy to show her how to hide it under her dad’s pillow, and as I expected, it didn’t take long for her to insist that he look under his pillow.

I think we’re going to have a fun couple of months hiding the spider around here until I decide where some unsuspecting parent or sibling will find the spider next. And who knows, maybe in a few years it will cycle back to me again.