Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Education.com

Education.com is an incredible resource for supplemental worksheets, games, workbooks, activities, lesson plans, exercises, songs and stories. It is a goldmine for teachers, homeschoolers and parents who need some fresh ideas on how to keep their kids' minds busy! The girls are having a blast with the worksheets this summer! There are mazes, word searches, crossword puzzles, word scrambles, subtraction, multiplication, division and more! They have tons of material from preschool all the way through high school. I am so glad we discovered this incredible website! 

Here's an example of one of the kindergarten level mazes that Emerald completed this afternoon. 




Kids will have a blast as they navigate their way through this fun maze while practicing their  fine motor skills. Keep the fun going strong at Education.com for even more games and resources for young learners. 


Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Rainbow Fruit Salad



My 7 year old came up with this beautiful and delicious fruit salad recipe. We first made it over St. Patrick's Day weekend when we were planning rainbow themed meals. She wanted to make a fruit salad and came up with one fruit for every color of the rainbow. Not only is the combination really pretty to look at, but all the flavors are great together too! This is the best fruit salad I've ever had. We will always be making it this way from now on!

Rainbow Fruit Salad

Ingredients:
Red: Strawberries
Orange: Oranges
Yellow: Pineapples
Green: Kiwi fruit
Blue: Blueberries
Purple: Grapes

There's no perfect ratio for the fruit. We just keep adding more fruit of all colors until our salad looks tasty and colorful! 

Sparkle Slime



The girls have been asking to buy slime at the store for months. But with the issue of gluten and "slime" most often not containing ingredients lists or gluten free labels, I decided it would be safer to make it ourselves. I found this recipe for Little Mermaid Slime on Pinterest and we made a few batches, tweaked a few things and now I have a new and improved recipe to share with you.



Sparkle Slime

Ingredients:

1/2 cup +2 Tbsp warm water, divided
1/8 cup clear glue
1 drop food coloring
1/4 tsp borax
sequins and glitter

Instructions: In 1 bowl, combine 1/4 cup +1 Tbsp water, 1/8 cup clear glue and 1 drop food coloring. In 2nd bowl, combine borax with 1/4 cup +1 Tbsp water (make sure the water is warm or the borax will have trouble dissolving). Combine the glue mixture with the borax mixture. Knead with your hands until smooth. Slime is complete!

If you want your slime to be a bit thicker, add more glue. If you want it to be "slimier", add more water. 






That's it! All 3 kids have spent hours playing with their slime. Dominick's slime is a bit thicker and less messy...it actually bounces! And the girls being older and more responsible with their slime wanted theirs slimier and a little messier. The color combinations with the dye, glitter and sequins are endless! 





Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Emerald's 6th Birthday Letter

My Dear Sweet Emerald,

Today you are 6! Oh my. How are you growing up so fast? You, sweet girl, are getting too big too soon. Part of me wants to tell you to stop, slow down, stay little as long as you can. But I'm mostly just so happy about all of the growing and changing you have done this year, and so excited about all you have learned and accomplished. I. Am. So. Stinking. Proud of you!!!



You have just completed Kindergarten through Lawrence Virtual School. So far, no subject is too tricky for you. You have been complaining all year that school is too easy for you. Your teacher has been saying for months that you are reading at a 1st grade level. Your favorite subjects this year are phonics and vocabulary. Math and science are your least favorite. 

You love to ride your bike, and our family has been able to take longer and longer bike rides since your legs are getting so much stronger! You used to complain that your legs were tired after just a short trip to the park. Now, we can bike to and along the river trails and you are just fine! Also, you can ride your bike faster than me! 

You love to play at the park. You and your sister do gymnastic performances for me on the playground equipment, and you keep getting braver and trickier with your flips, jumps and cartwheels! 

I am blown away by how strong and beautiful you are when you are dancing. Every year, your skill and confidence as a dancer grows by leaps and bounds! I can't wait to watch you in your spring show next month! 



You love to play pretend and use your imagination. This is your very favorite thing to do. You play with LOL dolls, baby dolls, stuffed animals and fingerlings. I recently let you have Felicity, my American Girl doll from when I was a little girl. You touch her, hold her and take care of her as if she were real. You hope for a Baby Alive doll for your birthday!

You are a leader. And a rule follower. You are a stickler about everything being the way it should be. You keep your brother and sister accountable for their actions and when you're with them, I know nobody is going to dare do anything wrong. You are strong willed and stubborn. You have your own way of doing things and expect everyone to go along with it. Usually, everyone does. When things don't go your way, you literally have no idea how to handle it.

You are sensitive. You FEEL. Deeply. You are full of emotions. When you're happy, you're laughing as loud as you can. When you're sad, you're crying your eyes out. And when you're angry, you SCREAM. The best way to describe your emotional state is...extreme. And it is beautiful. Because it means you're not afraid to show what's in your heart. And keeping your heart fully alive in this big, scary world is hard. But you are not afraid to let your heart shine bright.

My prayer for you is that Jesus would be all consuming in that big, wide open heart of yours and that he would keep turning it into something more and more beautiful. I pray that out of your heart would shine love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control. And that you are never afraid to let those things flow out of you. And your temper. Oh my. I pray that God would give you wisdom and eyes to see the world through His eyes, so you can see the things that breaks God's heart and learn the kind of evil and injustices that are okay to be angry about. For everything else you get angry about, I pray that God would give you peace, love and self control to soothe those massively intense tantrums of yours. 

We pray for these things. Every day. Every morning as soon as you wake up, every night as we snuggle in bed after singing together, every morning during breakfast and devotionals and throughout the day as needed. Sometimes, it is needed a lot. I'm doing my best to teach you to walk with God. To let Him consume your heart and every part of your mind and your attitude. To let Him be your compass and your guide, your definition of what is right and what is wrong. To let Him be your strength, your peace, your self control. To surrender fully to Him so He can turn you into the amazing person He designed you to be. 

We talk about God's names for you. You are His child. His princess. The daughter of the King. You are fierce. You are His warrior, fighting against Satan, God's enemy, whenever he tries to get you to make a bad choice. You are loved, cherished, adored. You are more than a conqueror through Jesus, because He loves you. I pray that you cling to these names, to this identity instead of letting the world or Satan define you. 

I love these talks we have. You LOVE to talk. A lot. You are so chatty with me and with your sister. I love it when you share with us what you're thinking and feeling and what's important to you. And you have so many good questions for me! I love praying with you. I love snuggling with you at bedtime and singing to you. We still bond by snuggling. Your love language is touch and you soak up every bit of snuggle time you can get. I cherish every second of it! I am so excited to see what God has in store for you this year, my love. I am so happy and proud to be your mom! 


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Button Tree Art

This idea has been floating around Facebook and Pinterest for a while now, and over spring break, the girls finally had the opportunity to try it! I ordered stretched canvas and random assortments of buttons on Amazon, and used Aleene's Tacky Glue to make the buttons stick...for life. This stuff is strong! Tempera craft paint from Michael's stuck to the canvas just fine.


By Mercedes, age 7

The girls spent a full afternoon painting their canvas, another day sorting through buttons and 2-3 days gluing the buttons for each of these projects. I love how unique each one is. There are unlimited possibilities for button tree art. I have 2 of them hanging up in our living room and the girls gave the other 2 to their Gramma for a birthday present. She hung them in her bedroom. They are a simple but beautiful way to decorate a room, and make great gifts! Whether they are done by a kindergartner or an adult artist, the results will be stunning! 




By: Emerald, age 5


By Mercedes, age 7


By: Emerald, age 5

Pottery For Kids


Mercedes has been very interested in ceramics the past couple years. Last year she used some birthday money to buy herself a pottery wheel for kids called Pottery Cool Studio. It's made of plastic and has a battery powered switch to make it spin. It comes with air dry clay that's very easy to mold and sculpt. It also comes with paint that looks shiny when it dries. The finished product looks just like something you could make at a real pottery studio. It's been the perfect way for Mercedes to practice and experiment with beginner level pottery. She is planning on taking a ceramics class when she's a little older!






Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Life Update (Spring 2018)


I have definitely taken a break from blogging since Dominick was born. Adjusting to life with a 3rd child has been more challenging than I could have imagined. Life is good, and to be able to enjoy it as fully as possible I have had to cut out some extra, time consuming things. Blogging is one of them. As school winds down for the summer and Dominick becomes increasingly independent, I will be able to catch up on some posts I've been wanting to write! 

This year, Mercedes and Emerald (age 5 and 7) enrolled in Lawrence Virtual School as K and 2nd graders. There are so many positives and negatives about LVS. We really enjoyed the K12 curriculum and all of the online supplemental resources available. The girls loved the online games that helped them learn vocab, phonics, spelling and math and I was really impressed with all the books, stories and articles K12 provided for their Literature program. It was really nice to have all the lessons already planned out, and it was really easy to keep track of our progress online throughout the year. I was impressed with the challenging curriculum and the girls really learned a lot! K12 through LVS is considered public school, so we received a TON of books and materials for free (other than a small school fee). As for the negatives, the worst for me was all the glitches on the K12 website that made it impossible to do the online work more often than was acceptable. Successfully homeschooling 2 young girls with a toddler is challenging enough without also having to rely on a faulty website a lot of the time that would cause the girls to not be able to complete their work that day. It was very frustrating. The other down side, and this is just my personal preference, but the work load was excruciating at times, to the point where we would often be doing school from breakfast to dinner time. This was mostly the first half of the year while we were getting the hang of everything, but even now with only a few weeks left of school, I am still frustrated with the lack of time I have had to do crafts and projects and read books with the kids just for fun. Mercedes has been missing out on her artwork, reading graphic novels and writing stories, and she is often craving "free time" so much by the end of the school day she is too burnt out to want to help me cook dinner, something she normally loves. All of these things I would normally incorporate into our homeschool day as  I feel they are essential for the growth and development of my children, but LVS has left me no time for these extra activities other than holiday breaks. 

In conclusion, I'm glad we tried LVS for a year and I think it was a good experience for the girls, but we won't be re enrolling next year. I'm looking forward to starting a new school year next fall that includes a Christian curriculum as well as all the fun activities that we love to do and have been craving so much.

Other highlights of the school year:

The girls are finishing up year 3 on their dance team that includes marching/riding in a parade, a Christmas themed sleepover at the dance studio, winter competition and spring show. Every year they grow in grace, skill and confidence. I LOVE watching them dance their little hearts out and they are enjoying every minute of it! They each have class twice a week.

We are involved in the church we have now been attending for a little over a year.

Emerald got her tonsils removed last fall.

We spent 3 days at the Great Wolf Lodge in February, our fun mini vacation for the year.

My husband bought me a bike and Dominick a pull behind wagon so we have been going on LOTS of bike rides to parks and along the river!

Mercedes has been losing baby teeth like crazy, while Dominick is working on cutting all of his.

Ben switched jobs 6 months ago, and while he is unfortunately still commuting, he gets weekends off and a lot more time off for holidays. It has been amazing having him home more!

We are all looking forward to the summer, a little bit of a breather from an intense school year, and lots of new activities, crafts and projects to blog about! 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Dominick's 1st Birthday Letter

My Dear Sweet Boy,

Today you are 1! I can't believe it's already been a year since I first held you and looked into your eyes for the very first time. I loved that day. Everything about your birth was perfect. Loving you came so naturally. There was no bonding process. You were born and you were mine. Instantly, just like that. I needed you. Our family needed you. You are so very loved, my sweet son.

Image may contain: one or more people, people sleeping and baby

Loving you reminds me of God's love for us. You never have to do anything to earn my love. You don't have to work hard to try to prove that you deserve to be loved or that you're worth being a part of our family. Your very existence is what brings me joy. From day one, when all you did was eat and sleep and cry, I was captivated by you simply because you are mine. I love taking care of you, holding you, drying your tears, making you laugh and watching you learn and play and grow. I don't love your sisters more than you because they're bigger and know more and can do more than you. Everything you do is amazing to me. Every new lesson you learn and skill you accomplish is a celebration for me. I adore you just because you are YOU. It reminds me that God made us for His pleasure and He enjoys us, not for what we can do for Him but for who we are. Because we belong to Him and He made us and that's enough. He finds joy in us when we cry to Him, laugh with Him and celebrate our victories with Him. He doesn't compare us to anyone else. He just loves us because we are precious to Him. We don't need to do anything to be worthy of His love. We just need to love Him and let Him love us. You are a beautiful reminder of this simple truth about God's love for us. Just one of the millions of reasons being your mom is so incredible.

Your favorite thing in the whole world right now is cooking! You LOVE to watch me cook and insist on being held so you can watch whenever something is on the stove. You run to the oven when the timer beeps. You empty my cabinets daily so you can "cook" your own food with pots, pans, spatulas, mixing spoons, plates and bowls. You "cook" cheerios, veggie straws, yogurt melts, Easter eggs, army men, blocks, cotton balls and whatever else you can get your hands on. You stir, scoop, pour, whisk and flip with a spatula. You spend hours doing this. It is your absolute favorite thing.

Your favorite foods are lasagna, chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, pizza and blueberries. You have always been super willing to eat anything offered to you, including tomatoes, olives, bacon and coleslaw!

 You say "eat" and "cook" and "snack" and "hot". All food words! You also say "mama", "dadda" and "hi!" Your first sentence was "hi dad!" when Daddy walked in the room. You shake your head yes and no and run away from us when you see us walking towards you with a diaper and baby wipes. When we sing "Sidney Sailboat" you run to the TV. It's you're favorite show.

You also carrying around toothbrushes, spatulas, spoons and forks. Any time you are in your high chair you demand to hold a fork, even though you don't attempt to use one yet!

You love outside time. You dig in the sandbox, play in the mud, slide, and would swing for hours. You love it when your big sisters give you rides on their motorcycle.

You took your first steps at ten months and since then you have learned to climb stairs, RUN, and push boxes of toys up against walls/counters/dressers/beds to climb up them and reach whatever you are after!

You love reading books, especially pop up books! Your favorite song is the Gilmore Girls' theme song (Where you Lead by Carole King) and has calmed every meltdown since birth.

People say your smile is contagious, and you are very generous with giving smiles to anyone who looks in your direction. I have also been told by so many people you are the happiest baby they have ever seen. I agree. You love life!

You are an absolute joy. I'm so thankful for you and am loving every minute of being your mom. I'm not sure I'm ready for you to turn one, to leave the baby year behind and embrace the toddler years. But ready or not, here we go! You are a toddler. Sweet, cuddly, lovable, full of energy and full of excitement for life. You make big messes, scream LOUD when you don't get what you want and give Mommy slobbery baby kisses. Every day you laugh, scream, run, crawl, climb, dump, throw,  smear half your food on your face, clothes and hair, eat dirt and surprise me with your new skills and how fast you are growing! Every day is a new adventure with you, and I'm so blessed to get to be a part of it. I love you, my sweet baby boy. Happy Birthday!!!





Monday, July 31, 2017

Mercedes' 7th Birthday Letter

My Dear Sweet Mercedes,

Today you are SEVEN! I am so proud of the person you are becoming. My favorite thing about you is your kind, loving, sensitive heart. A heart that is starting to love Jesus. It's all a mom could ever ask for. This year, we started really digging deep into the Bible. Praying together every morning and every night, and throughout the day. We've had so many great conversations about God, Jesus, the Bible, salvation, sin, Satan, and the world. You are learning to see everything from a Biblical point of view. Your heart is open to all of these concepts. You have accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior and are seeking to love Him, obey Him and learn more about Him. You are starting your relationship with Him through prayer, scripture and worship and it is such a joy and a blessing to see. You are asking how to hear God's voice. You are asking about baptism. You are asking how to read scripture on your own. You are writing in your own prayer journal. You are asking me to find worship songs on Youtube so you can sing to Jesus throughout the day. It's amazing to watch and I love answering all of your questions and helping you figure everything out. I can see the fruit of all you are beginning to learn, understand and believe in your attitude and your actions...in way you love and serve your younger siblings, the way you respect and obey your parents and your teachers and the way you are so open and willing to serve and help in any way you can.




This year, you have really embraced your creativity. You love to bake and help me cook. You watch Master Chef Junior and dream of going to cooking school when you're older. You love to play your guitar. You love to create your own choreography and play "dance recital" with your sister. You performed beautifully at your recent Dazzler Spring Show, and you dream of doing a solo routine as a senior in high school. You love all things arts and crafts. Lately you have been asking to own a pottery wheel and learn ceramics. Whatever you end up doing with your life, I know it will be something creative. I love watching your personality develop and the way you are starting to have strong passions and desires for these things. I love it when you share your hopes and dreams with me.


You are patient, have a long attention span and pay attention to tiny details. The older you get the more I see these strengths show in your artwork and in your dancing. I know they will help you with whatever you set your mind to as you grow.


You love watching YouTube videos of people making crafts and baking, too. You get a lot of your ideas and inspiration from other artists and are always asking to try new crafts and bake new things.


You are such an amazing big sister. You play with your little sister all the time. You call each other "twins" and "best friends". You share all your clothes and all your toys. I love watching your relationship grow stronger and I pray you always feel this way about each other. You are also a wonderful sister to your little brother. You adore him, and he makes your heart happy. You are more than willing to babysit for me whenever I need you to, especially in the car while I'm driving! You read him books, feed him snacks and make him so happy.


You have taken off reading this year, which will take your ability to learn, dream and create to a whole new level!


You are also very active, even when you're not dancing! You go on long bike rides with your dad, scooter at parks and nature trails, and you are quite the little swimmer and gymnast! You dream of being a gymnastics, dance or swim teacher someday.




You have such a good brain, so many dreams and desires, so many interests and talents, you have so many doors open to you. You could do anything you want and I can't wait to watch you reach your goals and succeed at whatever you decide you want to try. It is such an honor and a privilege to be your mom and watch you grow and thrive.


My prayer for you this year is that you continue to seek God and your relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. I pray that you will start to seek out friendships with kids your age, since this has been a struggle for you, my shy little introvert. I pray that you will put less pressure on yourself to be perfect in school this year, and instead to relax and embrace your mistakes and start to accept that failing to understand something perfectly the first time is just part of the learning process. I thank God for the strong bond you have between me and your dad, and pray that it continues to stay strong. I love that the older you get the more you are willing and able to express yourself, your feelings and your desires, and tell us what hurts your feelings and what makes you feel safe and what scares you and what excites you and what you are passionate about. Open communication is definitely an answer to prayer, as you have struggled in the past with letting yourself open up and be heard. 


You are such an amazing kid. I'm so blessed to be your mom. I am so happy that today we get to celebrate YOU, and I can't wait to find out what this year has in store for you. I love you, sweet girl! Happy Birthday!





Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Emerald's 5th Birthday Letter

My Dear Sweet Emerald,

Today you are FIVE! You are a bundle of happy, goofy, stubborn, compassionate, spunky, helpful, loud, bossy, snuggly and adorable all rolled up into one little girl. You are EXTREME. Whatever you do and whatever mood you are in, you give it 100%. Daddy says you get this from me. You laugh hard, cry hard, scream loud, love big, help tons and you ALWAYS want to be in charge. "Dynamite, Firecracker and Volcano are words that come to mind when describing all that is YOU. And I mean that in all the bad and the good ways. You are not afraid to show off who you are and let your emotions flow, and that is a beautiful quality to have. I remind you that every day and a million times a day you face a choice. To obey God or to walk away from Him. Such a big lesson for a little girl. But sweetie, you are headstrong. Stubborn. Prideful. Independent. You have big ideas and your own mind and you will do or say whatever it takes to make what you want happen. And with those qualities comes the danger that you will choose to walk away from the ones who love you...God, me and your dad...and follow your own path. A path that is not protected by God. So we pray together every day, lots of times a day. We learn about love. We learn about discipline. We learn about consequences. We remember God's promises and we remember His truths. We memorize scripture and we learn stories of people who have both loved God and walked away from Him, in the Bible. We work to build a strong foundation of love and trust and obedience to God and I pray every day that "when you are old you will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6). I pray that God softens your heart and you will choose Him every day of your life. 

There are so many things that I love about you, sweet girl, I hardly know where to begin. Your bright blue eyes. Your baby doll face. The way you still want to be held and cuddled. How you tell me you love me a thousand times a day...even when you're in trouble. Watching you play on the playground...and make sure all the big kids are being fair and sharing the slide with the little kids...and watching how all the big kids listen to you! I believe you have a gift as a leader and I love watching you use that gift to be kind and fair to those smaller than you. I love watching you become more independent...making your own peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and fixing your own bowls of cereal. I love the way you play with your little brother. You make him laugh harder than anyone else in the world, with your silly faces, funny noises and goofy games. He adores you. The way you play pretend with your sister. You come up with so many fun games, stories an scenarios to act out. You are so strong...I love watching you climb trees, ride your bike, run as fast as you can and dance! You are so smart...I love reading Bob books with you and listening to you count to 100! You can add and subtract and draw all your shapes. You color me the best pictures. 

I'm not gonna lie, being your mom requires a special kind of patience. And I fail you. A lot. I don't always make the right decisions. I don't always handle your attitude, meltdowns and tantrums the way I should. If I'm going to be totally honest, most of the time I feel like I have no idea what in the world I am suppose to be doing or how to solve all of your problems. But I promise you I'm doing my best. I promise I'm never going to stop praying. I'm never going to give up on you. And I am NEVER going to stop loving you. Even when I'm angry. Even when you hurt me. Even when you scream at me and I scream back. I wouldn't trade being your mom for anything in the world. You are priceless, sweet girl. And I am so thankful you are my daughter. For the good and for the bad. You are a blessing and you are mine. And I thank God for you every day. 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Baby Girl. I am so thankful God gave you to me.