Thursday, November 17, 2016

Emerald's Kindergarten Books (Year 2)

I cannot keep up with how fast Emerald learns. She turned 4 in May, and at the beginning of the school year we started her 2nd year and 3rd curriculum of kindergarten. Last summer, she learned to read. This school year is really almost too easy for her. Still, she enjoys it and is learning some new things. The rest is review and practice.



Her favorite subject is Bible. We use a book from Christian Liberty Press, which takes her through the Old Testament from Genesis to Ruth. We read one story a day with questions at the end to make sure she was paying attention. Math, phonics, social studies and science are from A Beka. She is flying through these books and has already finished her science book. Health is from Steck-Vaughn School Supply. It was one of the only kindergarten health books I could find. Most homeschool curriculum don't start health until 1st grade, but her sister does health so Emerald wanted to too! Her math and phonics books are not going to keep her challenged or last all school year, so I also bought her Hearts and Hands from Christian Liberty Press. It is meant to be a review book to complete along with their math and phonics books for additional practice. I'm going to have Emerald start it once she's completed the rest of her subjects for the year. We also read Bob Books from the library every day.

It is incredibly difficult for me to keep this girl challenged. She will be more than ready to start 1st grade once she turns 5!

Mercedes' 2nd Grade Books

We are a few months into our homeschool year. Mercedes is absolutely thriving! Last year, in first grade, she wasn't quite reading and writing at the level needed for some of her subjects to be easy for her. Language and Phonics were hard because she was expected to do a lot of reading tricky words and writing sentences so some days were frustrating. Last summer she really took off reading. We went to the library at least once a week to pick out level 1 readers and we sat down and read for at least a few minutes every day. 

By the beginning of the school year she was EASILY reading at level 2 and this has helped a TON with her Language, Letters and Sounds (Phonics) and Spelling and Poetry. She even loves math, which was also very hard for her last year. 


If you ask her, she will tell you that she loves all of her subjects and each one is her favorite. Bible is Christian Liberty Press. She is going through the Old Testament from 1 Samuel to Malachi. We read one story a day, with some questions at the end to make sure she was paying attention. The rest of her subjects are from A Beka. Letters and Sounds, Language, Spelling and Poetry, Health, History and Science. She reads level 2 readers from the library for at least 15 or 20 minutes a day. Ben is teaching her guitar using Alfred's Kids Guitar Course 1 which is the perfect book for young beginners. He gives her a lesson on the weekends and we practice the homework every day during the week. 

10 subjects seems overwhelming, but she doesn't do every subject every day. She does certain subjects Monday, Wednesday and Friday and others Tuesday and Thursday. Bible, Reading and Guitar she does every day. I figured out how many pages she needs to do in each subject every week in order to finish by the end of the school year. Most days she asks to do more than she needs to and we almost always finish the school day by 1 or 2 pm with lots of breaks in between subjects. It helps that she really LOVES her school. This is motivation enough for her to have a good attitude and get her work done quickly.

Homeschooling 2 young girls who are both learning to read while taking care of a newborn and recovering from surgery has definitely been a challenge, but we are doing it and it is amazing. Homeschooling continues to be one of the most rewarding parts of my job as a stay at home mom. I love helping my kids learn and watching them develop a passion for learning. I continue to consider it a joy and a blessing!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Baked Apple Cider Donuts


We have recently discovered a new fall recipe that is absolutely DELICIOUS and my whole family loves. These baked apple cider donuts are super moist and full of flavor. My girls and my husband devour them. They are definitely going to be added to my "must bake at least once during the fall season" list. 

I have adapted this recipe to make it gluten free. The original recipe comes from: thefauxmartha

Ingredients:

Donuts:

3 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons apple cider
1 cup gluten free flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 egg

Topping:

3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 cup apple cider
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small saucepan, melt butter. Stir in cider. Let cool. Add sugar, honey and egg and whisk until evenly combined. Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a medium bowl. Stir together wet and dry ingredients. Do not over mix. Add batter to piping bag and pipe into greased donut pan. Bake for 7 minutes. Let cool. Combine melted butter and apple cider. Mix together cinnamon and sugar. Dip donuts into butter mixture and coat with cinnamon sugar mixture.

Makes 12 donuts. 


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

I Loved My C-Section!

Seven weeks ago, my third baby was born. His name is Dominick. He is amazing.



I was more anxious during this pregnancy than when I was pregnant with either of my two girls. I hadn't had a very positive labor and delivery story with either of them. My pregnancy with Mercedes lasted 21 days past my due date, and I was in active labor with her for 53 hours. My labor with Emerald went just fine, but her shoulder ended up getting stuck in my pelvic bone while I was pushing her out (a condition called "shoulder dystocia") and she was in distress when she was born. For the first few minutes after her birth (it felt like forever), several doctors surrounded my little girl trying to get her to breathe. Nobody told me if she was okay or not or if she was going to die...because nobody knew. Besides several bruises and 2 cones on her head, she ended up just fine, but spending several minutes trying to prepare myself for the possibility that my baby might not be alive took a toll on my emotions and I hate looking back on her birth experience and feeling those emotions every time I look at her hospital pictures. After two not so pleasant labor and delivery experiences, it was very hard for me to even consider the possibility of a third child.

When I got pregnant with Dominick and my new midwife reviewed Emerald's hospital records, she told me we might need to consider a c-section. Emerald was 9 lbs 4 oz and Dominick's ultrasounds throughout the pregnancy showed that he would be a bigger than average baby as well. We got several opinions from other doctors and midwives at the hospital and they agreed that a c- section, in my situation, would be less risky than a vaginal birth.

Ever since I started getting pregnant and having babies, c-sections have been a worst nightmare for me. I'd heard dozens of c-section horror stories from people I know personally and from random internet forums. I'm a very natural minded person when it comes to health care, and there is nothing natural about giving birth by surgery. It terrified me. My anxiety through Dominick's pregnancy was horrible. I had nightmares about my upcoming surgery almost every night during the last trimester. It's all I could think about during the day. And I could not keep myself off the internet reading c- section stories, trying to find positive ones. Positive c-section stories are almost non existent online.

Then 3 weeks before my c-section, I ran into a friend I hadn't talked to for a while and told her I was having a c-section. She shocked me by saying "Oh I LOVED my scheduled  c-section! I'm so excited for you!" 2 days before my c-section I was talking to her again. She said, "Are you remembering that I loved my c-section? It was amazing."I held onto those words as I anxiously awaited the last few hours until I had to go into the hospital for my surgery.



I had a HUGE list of things I was anxious about. Most of my fears came from stories about other people's nightmarish experiences. But those stories and my fears ended up the exact opposite of what I actually experienced. 


Fear #1: Not being able to eat or drink for several hours before surgery would make me sick to the point of vomiting.

Reality: I was so excited the morning of my surgery, eating and drinking was the last thing on my mind. I rinsed my mouth out a couple times that morning so it wasn't so dry, but other than that I barely noticed any discomfort. And my stomach was just fine! Thank God for adrenaline. 

Fear #2: They would not be able to get my IV in before surgery. This fear was actually legit because I have small veins and most nurses have to try multiple times to get the IV to stick.

Reality: My nurse was fantastic and got the IV needle to stick on her first try!

Fear #3: The notoriously nasty oral antacid (Bicitra) that they give you on an empty stomach at the hospital would make me vomit...a common story on c-section forums.

Reality: They gave me an antacid through my IV and it wasn't even an issue!

Fear #4: The spinal would make me nauseous and vomit on the operating table, another common c-section thread story. I have a bit of a vomit phobia if you haven't noticed yet.

Reality: The spinal DID make me nauseous and at first I did feel like vomiting, but as soon as I mentioned it to my anesthesiologist, he adjusted my meds through my IV and it took about 10 seconds for my stomach to feel completely normal.

Fear #5: My baby would be taken away from me for hours and I wouldn't get to meet him or bond with him. Or just that I wouldn't get to hold and feed him right away like I did with my girls, which might affect our bonding process.

Reality: As soon as Dominick was born they gave him to my husband who placed him right by my head. I got to kiss him and touch him and smell him, just like I wanted. When I was ready, they cleaned him and weighed him right next to me so I could watch. Then they gave him right back to my husband, who walked next to me as they wheeled me to my recovery room. Once in recovery I got to breastfeed my baby immediately. It all happened so fast and honestly, I was pretty drugged up and happy which probably made the time go by faster. I didn't have an ounce of separation anxiety. It was perfect.


Fear #6 My recovery would prevent me from bonding with or taking care of my baby.

Reality: I had no problem feeding, holding or cuddling my baby even the day of my surgery. My husband and the nurses were amazing and completely accommodating. Someone was always around to help me lift him, change him, swaddle him, or help me to cuddle him in a more comfortable position.

Fear #7: When I got back home, I would not feel well enough to take care of my baby and other two children.

Reality: My husband stayed home for a week and a half after my surgery. By the time he went back to work, I was completely capable of doing what I needed to take care of my kids. Yes, I was sore. Yes, I had to take it easy and let go of my perfectionist tendencies to have a clean house and keep the kids busy/happy/entertained/doing something productive every second of the day. I took a lot of naps with the baby. The girls watched way too much TV. We ate a lot of sandwiches and cold cereal. The girls learned how to fix themselves their own snacks. But it wasn't impossible. It was good. Way easier than I expected.

Having a c-section was a huge blessing for me. My 9 lb 3 oz baby most definitely would have gotten stuck like Emerald did, with possibly a worse outcome...I heard my doctor telling my midwife during the surgery, "This baby is trying to be a shoulder dystocia baby even with a c-section!" because, apparently Dominick's shoulder was stuck in my pelvic bone already and they had to work extra hard and give me a bigger incision than normal to get him out safely. I no longer believe that having a c-section means having a nightmarish birth story. For me, it was the opposite. It was my best birth story. So I want to give the internet a positive c-section story for nervous, anxious mamas to stumble upon as they await their dreaded c-section. I can say with 100% honesty that I LOVED my c-section. It was perfect. And the outcome was a perfectly healthy baby. Which, in the end, is all that really matters.


Monday, August 22, 2016

"Cupcake Shop" (Coin Counting Practice)


Mercedes learned to count pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters in her first grade math book last year. To practice this skill over the summer, we played games like this. The girls set up a "cupcake shop". Emerald was the "baker", and would tell Mercedes a random price for each cupcake. Mercedes would pick which cupcake she wanted, count out the coins correctly and give them to Emerald, who placed them in her play cash register. The girls were not even aware that they were learning. My favorite kind of "school"!




Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Mercedes' Hawaiian Themed 6th Birthday Party


My baby girl just turned 6! She requested a volcano cake and pool party so we decided on a Hawaiian theme. 


Most of the decorations came from my mom's basement. She got them from The Oriental Trading Company for a party she did a few years ago.




Mercedes had a small pile of presents waiting for her when she woke up. An electric guitar, amp and lesson book, a tropical outfit to wear to her party and a few small toys.


I made all her meals festive. This was her breakfast...cinnamon rolls, scrambled eggs and fresh strawberry and blueberry smoothie.


Lunch was all her favorite processed junk food that we never have in the house...chicken nuggets, mac and cheese and hot dogs. And a special novelty around here...apple juice!


We got the idea for her cake from this Nerdy Nummies video. Mercedes made her own video you can watch HERE.




With dry ice, it actually smoked! This was a huge hit at the party.


To go with her cake, we made pink lemonade and rainbow fruit kabobs. The plates, cups, napkins and tablecloth came from Party City.






Everything was super festive and fun. Mercedes had a great day and an awesome party!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Mercedes' 6th Birthday Letter

My Dear Sweet Mercedes,

6 years ago, you changed my world. 6 years ago, you made me a mom. For 6 years I have loved you more deeply than I ever thought possible. For 6 years, you have been my life. You and your sister and your soon to be little brother. But you started it all. You started me being a mom. You were the one that showed me it's possible to love another human being more than I love myself. You showed me that I would happily sacrifice any part of myself if that's what's best for you. You gave me the best purpose for my life, the best reason for waking up every day. You and your siblings. But it started with you.

Being the oldest means I made all my first parenting mistakes with you. I push you harder, expect more of you, ask more of you and have the least amount of fun time to spend with you. You have to share more, work harder, have more patience and more responsibility than any of your siblings will ever have to. I'm not doing it on purpose, I promise. From what I've heard, this is just life as an oldest child. Part of me feels guilty for not being able to raise all my children the exact same way. Part of me feels like being the oldest means you got the bad end of the deal. But then I see you. I watch you interact with your little sister. I see you becoming someone amazing. With a huge heart, tons of patience and a complete willingness to help me whenever I need you. You are responsible, thoughtful, kind, smart, a hard worker, and selfless beyond your age.  I have to think that maybe, maybe being the oldest is good for you. Maybe you are learning lessons that will turn you into an amazing human being. Lessons your siblings won't quite be able to learn in the same way as you can, as the oldest child.

You are truly turning into an incredible little person. I love to try to guess what you will end up doing when you grow up. Whatever it is, I bet it's going to be very creative and artistic. You love all things music. You love to sing, dance and you just requested (and will receive!) your first guitar and guitar lessons from Daddy for your birthday. You love to paint and color. Your new favorite hobby is adult coloring pages. You just completed one that took you three weeks! You have such a long attention span and patience for projects. You also love to bake and film baking videos, and to watch other people's baking videos online. You are also very active and into fitness. You love doing my workouts with me, especially yoga. You are getting so flexible and good at balance! You completed your first year as a part of Dazzler's Christian Dance Team and will start your second year in a few weeks. Over the summer you have been busy with gymnastics class, swimming and riding your bike with no training wheels!

You are beautiful inside and out and I'm so happy that you belong to me. I love being your mom. You make my job so easy and fun. I love you, sweet baby girl. Happy Birthday!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Mercedes' Summer School (1st Grade, 2016)



Mercedes completed 1st grade last spring. To keep her brain fresh over the summer, we have been checking out Level 1 readers from the library for her to read to me each day. Sometimes she flies through a whole book in one sitting, other times she just reads a few pages a day and the book takes us a week to complete, depending on the difficulty level. Even though they are all Level 1, some are super easy with a single short sentence on each page, simple words that repeat and rhyme, and some are very challenging with full paragraphs of difficult words on each page. I try not to push Mercedes to the point of frustration. I encourage her to read as much as she can handle but not so much that she gets discouraged. We usually end up reading about 15-20 minutes a day. Her favorites are Splat the Cat books and My Little Pony books.

After she reads to me, I reward her by reading a few books of her choice. Ben has started reading the girls chapter books in the evenings before bed, too. Their favorite books of the summer are from the Magic Tree House series. 


The other subject that doesn't get a summer break is Bible. Ben does Bible with the girls after dinner every night. He chooses a Bible story from one of our 4 Bible story books (Biblically accurate Bible stories told at a level a child can understand). He uses "My Good Night Bible by Bean Sprouts, Big Ideas in the Bible by Charles R. Swindoll, The Children's Bible in 365 Stories by Mary Batchelor and Egermeier's Bible Story Book by Elsie E.Egermeier, revised by Arlene S. Hall. He reads a devotional every night out of The One Year's My Princess Devotions, the preschool addition by Karen Whitings,and helps the girls memorize one Bible verse a week from the book I Can Learn the Bible (52 scriptures every kid should know) by Holly Hawkins Shivers. Whenever there are Bible verses to look up in any of these books, Ben uses Mercedes' NIV version Precious Princess Bible by Zonderkidz.

We have also been spending lots of time this summer playing outside, coloring (we are really getting into adult coloring pages lately), painting and doing other crafts, and playing games. The girls' current favorites are Slamwich and Ruckus. We have a pool pass so more often than not we go to the public swimming pool at night when Ben gets off work, and in the afternoons on his days off. The girls are both taking a gymnastics class this summer and love to practice their tricks and make up dance routines every day. This summer is a beautiful balance between physical activities, unstructured play time, arts and crafts and school review. 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Emerald's Summer School (Kindergarten, 2016)

At the end of May, I bought Emerald a Big Kindergarten Workbook from School Zone. My plan was to do about 4 pages a day throughout the summer to keep her brain fresh and exercised. Instead, Emerald ADORED her book, did more like 12-24 pages a day just for fun, begged me to do more school constantly and finished her book in about 6 weeks. Seriously, I cannot keep up with how fast my girls want to learn. 

Our new summer school routine is to spend about an hour a day playing educational games, reading books, doing puzzles and practicing with flashcards. I keep all of these activities in a small plastic bin and I let Emerald pick which she wants to do each day. She LOVES this and BEGS to "do summer school" every day. Mercedes usually plays with us.


For Emerald to choose from, we have Alphabet Bingo, Shapes Lotto, Numbers Lotto and Locations Lotto.


Flashcards to practice numbers, letters, shapes, colors and opposites. 


And puzzles to practice shapes, numbers and letters. 

She can also choose to play games to "exercise her brain" like memory.

After we play several games and activities, Emerald picks some stories from our bookshelf for me to read to her. The girls are really into reading books this summer. They have just finished the summer reading program at the library and it helped them to remember how much they love books!


Ben stays involved in the Bible part of the girls' education by reading from a variety of Bible books every night. He chooses a Bible story from one of our 4 Bible story books (Biblically accurate Bible stories told at a level a child can understand). He uses "My Good Night Bible by Bean Sprouts, Big Ideas in the Bible by Charles R. Swindoll, The Children's Bible in 365 Stories by Mary Batchelor and Egermeier's Bible Story Book by Elsie E.Egermeier, revised by Arlene S. Hall. He reads a devotional every night out of The One Year's My Princess Devotions, the preschool addition by Karen Whitings,and helps the girls memorize one Bible verse a week from the book I Can Learn the Bible (52 scriptures every kid should know) by Holly Hawkins Shivers. Whenever there are Bible verses to look up in any of these books, Ben uses Mercedes' NIV version Precious Princess Bible by Zonderkidz.

We have also been spending lots of time this summer playing outside, coloring (we are really getting into adult coloring pages lately), painting and doing other crafts, and playing games. The girls' current favorites are Slamwich and Ruckus. We have a pool pass so more often than not we go to the public swimming pool at night when Ben gets off work, and in the afternoons on his days off. The girls are both taking a gymnastics class this summer and love to practice their tricks and make up dance routines every day. This summer is a beautiful balance between physical activities, unstructured play time, arts and crafts and school review. 

Cardboard Firework Stamps


I had three friends send me THIS LINK and tell me they thought the girls would enjoy this craft for the 4th of July. I figured we'd better give it a try! We just cut a wrapping paper tube in several pieces and then cut thin slices all different sizes to make different sizes of fireworks. These made awesome fireworks. It was so easy to do, and we loved how they turned out!