July 25, 2014


So technically I have only read one book on my original summer reading list, but I did add two to it, both of which I did read.  I'm thinking some of these might have to transfer over to the "Fall Reading List," but that's fine with me.  Good books will be there waiting for me when I close the back cover.  Lately it's been a lot like chain-reading around here.  Everybody's got a book, which makes me happy. 
I wanted to check in with you and review the books I've checked off so far this summer, book critic style, using their fancy verbiage. No "goods" allowed.  I can only be fair, since I made my kids to it that way.
See, it's gotten bigger since June...

House Girl by Tara Conklin: Intriguing and Wearisome.  This book is about a slave girl in pre-Civil War Virginia.  She is determined and strong and desperate.  She shares the main character role with a woman living in modern-day NYC.  I like how this book intrigued me to learn more about the time period, especially about the Underground Railroad.  If you like historical fiction, you will like this.

Serena by Ron Rash: Agitating and Severe. I was interested in reading this book because the setting is right here where I live.  It's crazy to me to think that just in 1929, you were able to cut down whole forests of trees, just because you could.  No regulations, just stake your claim and go for it.  This book was centered around a couple from Boston and their hunger for money in the field of timber.  They are a pretty strange couple to begin with but they get even stranger when the wife, Serena realizes that her husband has an illegitimate child.  (spoiler alert: she's really not happy about it.)
This book was hard for me at times because of the harsh way of living and the dangerous conditions the workers had to live in.  There was some violence in this book, just to let you know. 
I kind of feel like there were a few questions left unanswered, but other than that it was a great book.
This and the following book were added because of an article I read about movies coming out this year. I am a firm believer in "read the book first," which is why I refuse to see The Book Thief.  I must read it first.  

Gone Girl: Gillian Flynn: Alarming, Twisting, Nuts.  I read this book in four days.  Like I've said, I am not a fast reader, but I had. to. know. how. it. ended! The twisting and turning is incredibly.  A husband comes home to his house in disarray and his wife is missing.  And so begins the game of cat and mouse.  I lost many hours of sleep over this book.  It was a thriller for sure!
There was quite a bit of harsh language in this one, so be warned. 
Alright, obviously I have nothing to do but read, so back to my book!
How are your summer reading lists coming? I would love to know what you're reading.
Happy weekend to you!

July 23, 2014


I know, I know...everyone's talking about how summer is almost over.  Target has their school supply aisles stocked, the flip flops are on clearance--but I refuse to believe them.  And there's still so much we want to do! Our summer has been weird because we were gone for most of June, so summer feels like it just started for us, but I know our time is ticking.  So you know what that means--I made a plan.  Yes, it's kind of my thing.  I have made six-week plans and summer plans, even down to the food.  So I'm here to do it again: My Summer Plan.

Here's the problem: we want to do all this stuff.  We have a fun summer list all drawn up and we want to do the stuff.  Then we realize summer isn't 40 months long and there's no way all our summer dreams will be fulfilled.  But I'm not happy with all that discontentment either, so I always think it's best to start with a good plan of attack.  If that plan of attack is in pen and paper in a great planner, that's my favorite.  I started with those things.  Then I jotted down all the things I want to organize and do before our sacred five weeks are over.
-a schedule
-summer school
-summer reading
-field trips and

I broke it all down so you can see what I've done.  Before you freak out on me, or worse yet, call me an overly anal psycho planner, just hear me out.  I think better like this.  I call it organized fun.  I want to do all the fun stuff but if I leave too many of those things to be sporadic fun things, they almost never happen.  So, for me, my brain works better this way...on paper with pen.  Then we can carry on, knowing that our summer dreams are going to happen...because they're in the planner...so of course they are, right!?

Ok, the schedule.
Having a baby that needs...and by baby needs, I really mean baby and ME need.  It's critical.
Afternoons are pretty much off limits for too much at this point.  I didn't write this in my planner, but if I wrote down our typical day, it would be something like this:
8ish: eat breakfast and relax
10ish: do something fun or go somewhere fun or errands (usually not fun)
12ish: lunch
1ish: nap for Vera/summer school stuff for kids
Afternoon: kids play outside/mama does her mama thing
6ish: dinner
play outside after dinner (it's summer-that's what you do)
8ish: bedtime (and yes, that sticks during summer, save a night here or there)
I wrote into my planner (find a copy of mine here) all the dates I needed to save for sure: doctor check-ups, Noah's youth group activities and Boy Scout meetings, etc.
We didn't really sign up for anything this summer, so after writing in our few obligations, I could sit back and write in the activities and field trips I wanted to do for sure.

Having an outline of a daily schedule isn't meant to be rigid or strict.  It's just sort of an idea, or a gently rolling flow of how our days should go and how we function best together.

Next, I penciled in things I really wanted to do with the kids, such as:
-Sewing Class (we're doing this next week, so I'll tell you soon!)
-Craft classes at Michael's
-Cheap movie day at the movie theater
-Lowe's classes
I made sure to go online and  sign the kids up for the classes so I knew that was done.
Setting goals for myself too is important to me.  If I have big jobs I want to get done, I always write them behind the monthly calendar in my planner.  Things like clean out kids' closets or sew maxi dress for Sophia goes here.
There are so many fun places around us and we definitely want to take advantage of them.  Field trips are bigger than the activities because they might cost more money and/or take more time.  I might need to hire a babysitter for Vera or make reservation or plan a day trip.  We made a list of the field trips we'd like to do and I penciled these in around the activities and other obligations.
Here's our list:
-Gem Mining
-Tourist baseball game
-Civil War reenactment
I love the idea of doing each of these field trips, but I know we probably won't get to do every single one.  Life happens.  But if I can find a space to pencil it in, at least I know it's a good possibility.  Writing these things in my planner makes me feel like we're being purposeful about our free time, leaving plenty of days free for doing whatever strikes our fancy that day.

I am not a big one for doing summer school.  I know a lot of homeschoolers do school all the way through the summer, but for us, we welcome the long break.  Although, I know that my kids wouldn't know 2+2 by the time Labor Day rolled around, so there has to be a good balance too.  Learning in the summer means you have things sprinkled around the house to cultivate learning all the time.
My kids are each doing a math lesson per day and also reading or practicing reading everyday.  I have everything they need sitting on the buffet in our dining room so it's easily accessible.  Also right there I have their incentive chart and tickets.  I talked about this a few posts back and to follow up with it, my kids are loving it.  The tickets and prizes are really motivating for them.
Summer school should feel different than the regular school year.  A little bit freer, a little bit looser.  I don't really give them much instruction, and I think that gives them the self-motivation to get those tickets!

I've made a summer reading list since I was an infant, I'm pretty sure.  You can see my Summer Reading List post here, although I've added a few to it.  I've finished three already and I'll be posting reviews soon.
My kids have lists too.  I didn't write out their lists, but I did go buy/find them copies so they were available when they finished one. 
Noah is reading:
Jack is reading:

The last and probably my least favorite part of the summer plan was meal planning.  It's just not that fun for me.  I know, though, that if I don't have a plan it's going to be meltdown time at my house (including me.)
I love the idea of seasonal menus.  Pulling out 12-15 great, seasonal meals that your family will love and then rotating them for that season.  When the next season rolls around, you can choose another 12-15 meals for that season.  Fall needs soups and pumpkin dishes, winter needs pot roast and comfort foods, spring needs fresh, green dishes and egg souffl├ęs and summer needs easy dinners.  Grilled meats with an easy side, salad suppers, and fast and healthy meals.  Another way to make summer meals super easy is using your freezer.  I made a bunch of things from Not Your Mother's Freezer Cookbook and saved them in my freezer.  It makes meals so much easier!
I posted about having a summer menu already and you might find some good ideas there.  You can also find a weekly menu download page on that post as well.  But here is an updated summer menu for us.  I included links to recipes or links to the cookbook I get them from. 
1. Ginger-Sesame Chicken Salad (I die over this salad!)
2. Grilled Chicken Wings (This is one of those "in your head" recipes.  It's quick and easy. I'll try to share soon.)
4. Spaghetti and Meatballs (I eat the spaghetti squash version noodles while my kids eat whole wheat noodles.)
5. Grilled Chicken Breast with a salad
9. Apple, Bacon, Pecan Salad (This salad!!)
10. Grilled Sausage and veggies
11. Frozen Burritos (Not like from a gas station...trust me.)
I hope these ideas help someone beyond the barrier of little old me.  I know it's late in the summer, but we've still got a few weeks to make the very most of it, right!? Good luck, brave souls.
Long live summer.

July 21, 2014


Art Week is officially over.  Our walls are covered in new, beautiful art.  Each project makes me smile ear to ear.  I'm so glad we carved out the time to dedicate a little bit of time each day to create.  I still have a couple more projects to share with you and I'll post those soon. 

But today, Picassos!

I showed the kids some Picasso paintings and his crazy faces.  My kids were a little creeped out and we're all that into drawing the crazy face people.  But they did follow some of the instructions I gave them for drawing simple, chunky faces with bright, thick frames.  I personally love the frame bit.

First, they sketched out simple faces with dark oil pastel.

And then filled in their frames and faces with watercolor.  They also filled in the background with some blocked coloring, which made them look even more like mini Picassos.

I love their finished projects.  I have a feeling these projects are going to be hanging around for a while.


To read more about our Art Week and see all the other projects, click the photo below.
And announcing, the five Firmoo.com $30 voucher winners.............
1. Susan
2. Christy
3. Amy
4. Christy
5. Kayla
Congrats, you guys! I've emailed you already :)


July 17, 2014


Ok.  So especially for the boys, art is not their most favorite.  They don't complain about doing it.  I just know there are quite a few other things they'd rather be doing.  BUT they have done so great this week.  I love, and I mean love seeing what they can create.  They are amazing artists.  Yesterday for day three of Art Week was so good.  They created Southwest landscapes with oil pastels and watercolor. Each of the three kids' turned out so different but so beautiful.
We used a tutorial from Deep Space Sparkle blog.  She has fab ideas.  I love the simplicity of her projects.
We started out by sketching a Southwest scene with our oil pastels.

Then just simply filled in our lines with watercolor.  I let the choose whatever colors they wanted and they all finished with something totally unique.

Noah chose a daytime desert.  I love his sky and how all the colors turned out.  

Sophie chose to do a night sky.  I love how her sky seems to almost twinkle and it really feels like night. 

Jack envisioned a sunset over the desert.  He used several shades of pink watercolor and pastels and I think it turned out great.  This would be a great project to tie into a unit study on deserts or Southwest Native Americans.  We made some fun dioramas years ago with desert landscapes you can check out here.

Also, don't forget to sign up for my Firmoo glasses voucher giveaway.  I'll be drawing FIVE names on Saturday!


I will admit, finding art projects that are appealing to both boys and girls is sometimes tricky.  I don't always cater to the trickiness, because I think that both my boys and girl should be stretched in ways of creativity even if that means Sophie is creating a war scene diorama or the boys listen in on a story about an American Girl.  But since I do have the luxury of a relatively small classroom, I decided to let them each do projects that they would be interested in for day two of Art Week.  The boys combined their love of ancient history we just studied and created art from a drawing of the Coliseum and Sophia created the sweetest butterfly art you ever saw. 

All my kids loved studying ancient history this year.  You can read about our unit on Ancient Greece here.  For day two of Art Week, I gave the boys a Coliseum project.  First I had them sketch out a drawing of the Coliseum.  My kids can get easily frustrated with their so called "lack of drawing skills" (which is ridiculous, right!?!) so I made sure they knew it was their rendition of the Coliseum and was not supposed to be perfect.  They sketched them in pencil and went over with black Sharpie.

I love how they turned out. 
Noah added a 3-D effect with the shadowing in the windows, which I loved.

This project was fun and a little unconventional.  Their Coliseum art was not meant to be your typical historical rendition of the landmark, but a modern twist.  They colored in their drawings with bright colors, which looked great against the black.

Then for their backgrounds.  Using a large piece of black construction paper, they used oil pastels to draw lots of colorful fireworks all over the paper.

Then using a piece of cardstock, they folded two strips into box shapes to glue to the back of their Coliseum and then on to the paper.  The box made the building pop off the page, to create a 3-D effect.  I mean, how cool!!!

This is so you can see how it's popping off the paper.

For Sophia's butterfly art, we used ideas from Jeanne Oliver's Summer Art Camp for Kids.  I was amazed at Sophia's creativity in this project.  It looks like something that could be the cover of a children's book! She was very particular about what colors she wanted to use and how she wanted it to look.  I gave her general instructions but this is all hers.
She started by deco paging some piano music to the canvas and then scraping paint over it with a couple different blue colors.  She then made her wings using watercolors and watercolor paper.  I loved this part. 

She glued down the wings and the body with deco page.  Then she added accents with gel pens and charcoal pencil.  I adore her little butterfly's face and antennae.  

 I love her little squiggles and hearts she added with pen.  She was so proud of her work.  This actually took us a couple days to finish with all the drying and other activities going on, but it was well worth the time.  I love it.

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