Saturday, November 16, 2013

Letter of the Week: I

Here's what we did for Mercedes' letter I themed preschool week.


Mercedes traced the big and little letter I on a worksheet I made for her.


She colored a letter I activity page.

She practiced signing the letter I using ASL.


We added the big and little letter I to our flashcard collection and practiced making both of the "I" sounds.


I filled a bag with items that begin with the letter I. Ice cream scoop, ice cream, insect, a block with an iron on it, a Barbie ice cube tray, iguana, a pen with ink in it, and a foam I. Mercedes took each item out one by one and practiced making the I sound.


We made homemade icing using the recipe on the back of the powdered sugar bag.


And iced some cupcakes.


We went to the library and found some books about insects.


We made homemade ink by simply watering down some paint, and cut the tip of a straw diagonally so it was sort of like a quill pen. Mercedes used the ink to draw an amazing big letter I.



She used insect stickers to make a little letter i.


She made an insect collage with the rest of her insect stickers.


We made and played with ice cube treasures.





We made ice cream doh and played ice cream shop with it.


We made and played with colored ice cubes.


Mercedes watched a video on Youtube about how to build an igloo. Then we built our own sugar cube "igloos".


And we used Mercedes' insect paint stamps to make pretty insect art.


Another successful letter of the week!

Letter of the Week: H

Here's what we did for Mercedes' preschool Letter H themed week.


I wrote the big and little letter H on a piece of paper and we practiced making the "H" sound.


Mercedes traced the big and little letter H on a worksheet I made for her.


She colored a letter H activity page.


We added the big and little letter H to our flashcard collection.

We had a hot chocolate tea party.


I filled a busy bag with items that begin with the letter H: a hotdog, hair bow, hat, hippo, horse, heart, Mr. Potato Head hand, wooden H, helmet and Polly Pocket house. Mercedes pulled each item out one by one and practiced making the "H" sound as she said what each item was.


We went to the library and checked out some books about horses.


One book even had an extra CD with more horse pictures to look at on the computer. Mercedes thought that was pretty special.

She made some hand print art.


She made a big letter H with hearts.



And a little letter h with hexagons.


We played indoor hopscotch.


We ate toast with delicious organic raw honey.


We ate animal cookies frosted with hot fudge.



On our way home from the park one day, we found a hedge apple tree. We picked out some hedge apples that had fallen to the ground. Mercedes wanted to see what they looked like inside, so I cut one open for her.



And then she asked me to cut up the rest.

Another great week full of fun letter themed activities!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Defeating Discouragement

The holidays are hard this year. My dad passed away last April. This year, every holiday is the first without my dad. Thanksgiving was a huge family holiday for us growing up. My dad worked at least 6 days a week my whole childhood. There were only a few days a year we were guaranteed to have him home, and Thanksgiving was one of them. I am dreading Thanksgiving this year. It's going to feel like somebody is missing. The whole day we will be constantly reminded that he's not here with us.

A few days ago, I had the opportunity to meet with a friend who lives 45 minutes away. We were going to meet at a park and let our kids play while we visited. I was ridiculously over excited about it because, well, I don't actually have any real friends. My friends consist of moms I've met through facebook groups. So when I actually had the chance to visit with someone face to face, it was pretty much the highlight of my week. The day of, I dropped Ben off at work so I could use the car, arranged the girls' nap time so we had plenty of time to get there, spent a good part of the day getting snacks ready, packing extra clothes, packing activities for the girls to do in the car, getting us all showered and dressed, doing our hair, putting on my makeup (something I do like twice a week when I leave the house)...I got the car packed up, I got the girls buckled, I turned the key to start the car, and...nothing happened. The car was dead. The play date was canceled.

It wasn't a huge deal, but to me it was. Because I get lonely. And I feel secluded as a stay at home mom. And I almost never get to visit with anyone face to face. And I was super excited. And then disappointed. And then discouraged.

Yesterday I dropped Ben off at work so I could use the car for the day. We needed groceries. Before I drove away from Ben's work, he used his phone to check how much money was in the bank (less than $100) and I planned on spending less than half. We spent 45 minutes at the store, only to get to the check outs, have the cashier scan all my groceries, swipe my card and find that it was declined. Three tries later...yep, definitely declined. Come to find out the less than $100 we had in the bank was actually less than $0 due to a bank fee we were charged while I was shopping. I drove home feeling pretty discouraged. I went through all the trouble of putting my grocery list together, getting the girls ready, dropping Ben off at work, doing the actual shopping, then drove home with no meals for the next three nights. Plus the girls were upset because I promised them Rolo's and they even watched the cashier scan them and we had to walk away without them. And I felt like the worst mom in the world for that.

Ben bought the groceries we needed when he got off work last night. Not sure where he came up with the money. But that part of the story had a happy ending at least. We're not going hungry for the rest of the week. But it was still a discouraging situation to be in.

Today after lunch, I put together some delicious Teriyaki chicken drums and stuck them in the crock pot. Checked on them an hour and a half later to find them room temperature because I accidentally set the temperature to "warm" instead of "high". So...our dinner tonight may or may not give us food poisoning.

A little later, the girls and I attempted to make homemade play doh, which I do often. I used the same recipe I always use and have never had any trouble with. Today it turned out all dry and gross. I tried to fix it by adding some water to it. Then it was a soggy mess and impossible to mold.

After that, we tried making homemade salt water taffy. I found a super simple recipe and followed it exactly. It never hardened enough to pull it. We snacked on it for a while and then threw the rest away.

After an afternoon of failures, I decided we needed to get outside and play at the playground. The playground that is close enough for us to walk to (which is amazing since my husband takes our only car to work 6 days a week). The playground that we've lived across the street from for a year and a half. The playground that we spend AT LEAST an hour at on EVERY SINGLE day that it's not raining, and on nice days we go two or three times, and spend up to two and a half hours playing there at a time. We consider it our second backyard. Well today, we walked there and found it to be a construction zone. It was a disaster. The swings had been torn out. There was gravel everywhere. Orange construction fencing (or whatever it's called) surrounded our precious playground. I was honestly devastated. And it was another promise I broke for the girls since I told them they could play at the park and we couldn't get to one.

The park thing was the last straw for me. It totally tore me apart. I was overwhelmed with discouragement. But I refuse to stay in a bad place for very long. I'd been planning on making a 30 Days of Thankfulness list for Thanksgiving. I knew I needed to do it now to snap me out of my mood, but I could not for the life of me think of a single thing I was thankful for in the midst of my utter discouragement. We walked home, made some hot chocolate, I spilled boiling water all over my legs (did I mention I'm PMSing?) and I turned to my sweet three year old to snap me back into a happy place. I explained to her that it was almost Thanksgiving, told her that Thanksgiving was a time to remember the things we're thankful for, told her what the word "thankful" means, and asked her to make a list of things she was thankful for. I grabbed a piece of paper and started scribbling as she chatted away, listing all the things she was thankful for deep down in her precious little heart.


  1. Playing with books
  2. All my wonderful toys
  3. The beautiful day
  4. The Kipper show.
  5. Happy that Suki Sunshine is gone (our puppy we recently re-homed).
  6. My candy
  7. Myself
  8. That God made me
  9. The beautiful water
  10. Numbers
  11. Puppies
  12. Money to buy me food and toys
  13. Bears
  14. Animals and blocks
  15. Hot chocolate
  16. Play-doh
  17. The wonderful butterflies
  18. The wonderful momma
  19. The wonderful daddy
  20. The wonderful pictures I made
  21. The wonderful snacks
  22. The wonderful Emerald
  23. Taking care of Emerald
  24. The wonderful plants
  25. The wonderful library and books
  26. Mommy's phone
  27. Now I'm happy for the refrigerator because there's always snacks in the refrigerator.
  28. The wonderful God because I love Him and I do the right things for Him. That makes God so happy.
  29. My hair.
  30. Kisses. Chocolate kisses (Hershey's kisses) and just plain kisses. Just because I love them so much.
  31. Cups. Because there's hot chocolate inside. 
  32. Cupcakes. 
  33. Spoons because you eat potatoes with them.
  34. Forks because you eat hot dogs with them.
  35. The wonderful snails.
  36. The wonderful flowers
  37. Hearts because they come from you, Mommy (I draw hearts on her papers when she asks me to draw something for her).
She definitely melted my heart enough to snap me out of my funk and write my own thankful list.
  1.  Jesus and our salvation. I don't think I've ever truly appreciated God's gift of salvation and the sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross until my dad died. It is so amazing to be 100% certain that he is in heaven with Jesus, completely pain free and happier than he ever was on earth. It makes his death less sad and it brings hope to death, which for unbelievers is a hopeless situation. Even though I miss him every day, I know that he's better off now than ever and I know that he's alive through Jesus and I will see him again someday.
  2.  My husband...who has stood by me through the good and the bad (honestly looking back there's been more bad than good) the past 4 years.
  3. Mercedes. My sweet, sweet 3 year old. She makes me laugh and teaches me new things every day. She constantly challenges me and helps me to become a better mom.
  4. Emerald. My baby. Even though she is currently going through an 18 month old version of the terrible twos, I can't imagine one day of my life without her. 
  5. My job. Okay, so I don't get paid. But being a stay at home mom is the most rewarding experience I can possibly imagine. And even on the worst days, I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. I am so thankful that my husband is willing to work 6 days a week and support us completely so I can raise and teach my girls at home.
  6. My husband's job. This year, Ben was promoted to lead tech at Firestone. While he is an incredibly intelligent and a hard worker and totally deserved the promotion, it's an opportunity that is super rare for someone who has only had 3 years of experience as a mechanic. His boss recognized his potential and gave him a chance to learn as he works. The promotion also came with a raise and the chance to do more and bigger jobs. Such a blessing for our family and Ben is loving it. 
  7. My marriage. Ben and I have both had reasons to walk away from each other over the past 4 years. Yet by the grace of God we're learning to have a grace filled marriage and forgive each other. We're in a better place in our marriage right now than we've ever been before, so this Thanksgiving season I'm more thankful for my marriage than ever before.
  8. Our home. We are blessed with an incredible 3 bedroom duplex with a finished basement so the girls have plenty of room to play. It's the first house I haven't felt overcrowded and claustrophobic in, and it's plenty big enough that we don't have to worry about moving again until we're ready to buy.
  9. Our town. Ben and I are constantly restless because we would love to live by the ocean or the mountains or somewhere with more to see and do. But since my dad recently passed away and this is my hometown where all my family lives, I'm very blessed to live here and was able to spend unlimited time with my dad during his last days, and now we are close to my family so we can all support each other. God knows best and even though we've always wished we lived anywhere else but here, right now I know that this is exactly the best place for us to be.
  10. Our yard. This is the first home we've had a yard, which means it's the first home we've been able to keep outside toys for the girls. They have a swing, a slide, a sandbox, bikes, lots of smaller outside toys we keep in a bin for them, plus a vegetable garden and a strawberry patch.
  11. Our park. Even though our precious playground is gone, we still live across the street from a 13 acre park for the girls to run around in. It's basically like having a 13 acre backyard. And I'm assuming the reason why our playground is a construction zone is because next spring we're going to have an even better playground. 
  12. Sleep. For the first time in 3 1/2 years (not counting the 9 months I was pregnant before the 3 1/2 years began), our girls are both sleeping through the night and Ben and I are getting a solid 8 hours of sleep a night. I never thought I'd get to sleep through the night again, and I have to tell you, it is BLISS.
  13. Our health. Even during the worst of the girls' anti-sleep phases, in the back of my mind I am so thankful that all of us are healthy. Not only do we all have immune systems out the roof and have not had so much as a runny nose so far this fall (thanks to homemade elderberry syrup, probiotics, multivitamins and lots of oranges and grapefruits packed with vitamin C and antioxidants, plus making sure we get AT LEAST an hour of fresh air and exercise outside every day), but since the girls were born we have not had to battle a single serious health issue with either of them or with me or Ben. We have been incredibly blessed to have such a healthy family.
  14. Homeschooling. This goes along with being a stay at home mom, but this year Mercedes has started home school preschool and she is an absolute joy to teach. She is thriving and loving every second of it and so am I. I love researching and coming up with projects and activities to do to help her learn her letters and watching her enjoy them and get smarter right before my very eyes. She's a pretty special kid.
  15. Our car. We share a car, which is a pain and I tend to forget to be thankful for it. But for the first time, Ben works close enough to home so I can drop him off at work, and the girls don't scream bloody murder every time I stick them in their car seats like they did when they were younger, so it's easy for me to borrow the car for the day and do our errands and grocery shopping and take the girls to the doctor without disrupting Ben's entire day off. I also don't feel so isolated and stranded now that having the car is at least an option most days. It's great.
  16. My workouts. Ever since Emerald was 4 months old, Ben has taken the girls for me for at least half an hour every evening so I can do a Jillian Michael's workout video. Not only did I lose all of my baby weight plus some, but I also feel a ton stronger and healthier, have lots of energy (especially now that I'm sleeping better) and the 30 minutes a day child-free works wonders for my nerves and my brain. 
  17. Groceries. This is the first time since we've been married that our budget includes enough money to buy plenty of food for our family without the help of food stamps or WIC checks. Ben also gives me money every week to buy the girls new clothes and preschool supplies which we've never been able to do consistently before. No matter how tight money is and how much we struggle to pay the bills on time and get out of debt, I don't have to worry about my family going hungry and that is an awesome feeling.
  18. Our computer. The girls have successfully destroyed two computers in two years, by giving them "baths" or "drinks" or whatever they think they're doing when they pour a cup of liquid all over them. So this is our third computer in two years and somehow no matter how tight money is, Ben always manages to come up with enough money to buy us a new one. 
  19. My blog. I had no idea when I started this blog two years ago that it would turn into what it is today. It's nowhere near the biggest or the best mommy blog out there, but it consistently gets around 150+ page views a day and my blog's facebook fan page has over 130 fans, so when I write posts like this one I know I have the chance to impact at least a few people. It's my way of being able to touch people's lives without leaving my house. Without taking time away from my girls. Without having a full time job. I can encourage people and share my ideas and thoughts with the world as a stay at home mom. It is a huge blessing.
  20. My mommy groups on facebook. I've already admitted that I have no friends to speak of in my town. But I do have an incredible support system on the Internet. These moms share my same passions and beliefs as far as how I am raising my kids, and have given me endless encouragement and support whenever I need it. It's also an opportunity for me to share encouragement and advice with new moms and it has been a great source for educating myself on how to be a better mom. I honestly don't know what kind of mom I'd be right now without my Internet support system. I am incredibly thankful for my mommy friends across the United States.
  21. My phone. Ben splurged and bought me a smart phone for my birthday. I was completely surprised and thrilled since my old phone didn't even have texting. Not only can I text and use the Internet anywhere now which is awesome, but my phone is filled with educational preschool games that Mercedes loves so it's a great big kid toy for her that I use as a reward for her good behavior a few times throughout the day. It's also a special treat for Emerald because I let her watch videos on YouTube (which is much better than watching them on the computer, apparently). Even her worst moods can be remedied with a little phone time. After having it for a few weeks I don't know how I ever lived without it.
  22. My camera. Anyone who has ever spent any time on my blog knows that I take WAY TOO MANY pictures. But I love being able to record my kids' childhood with photos. They are growing up right before my eyes so even when I take picture of them every single day I never feel like it's enough. As sad as it is to watch them change from babies to big kids, at least I know I'll always have photos to keep the memories fresh.
  23. Thrift stores. Where we buy most of the girls' toys and where I buy most of my clothes. For almost nothing. Seriously. Thrift stores are awesome.
  24.  Our snake, Vector. I've wanted a snake as long as I can remember, and this spring Ben made that dream a reality. Our sweet baby corn snake is an awesome addition to our family. All four of us are obsessed with him. The girls beg to hold him all day long. We love him.
  25. Like Mercedes, I'm thankful that our puppy Suki Sunshine has been re-homed. While we loved her, she was more trouble than we could handle right now. She's completely loved and treated like part of the family at her new home, and our family's stress level has significantly decreased since she left.
  26. Painted walls. We (against the rules) painted the inside of our rented house blue, green and pink and every day I am so happy we did it. My girls and I are incredibly creative people, and living in a white house is BORING. 
  27. Artwork. I love that in addition to painted wall, our home is decorated mostly by artwork by my girls plus stickers and crayon/marker scribbles all over the walls. It makes our home just that much happier.
  28. Gluten Free food. There are a million options for gluten free everything compared to when I first got diagnosed with Celiac Disease 8 1/2 years ago. I'm much less hungry now. Also my cravings can all be satisfied.
  29. The Merc. An amazing health food store we live walking distance from, stuffed full of gluten free food, and natural herbs, pills and teas we have used to remedy countless health and mental issues over the years. From what I've heard from my mommy friends around the US, not every town is blessed with a place like this. 
  30. Chocolate. Because seriously, sometimes a little chocolate is an instant cure for all the world's problems. And even though I am working on a rest-of-my-life sugar fast, my love and complete addiction to chocolate will never truly go away. 
 And there you go. Discouragement defeated. All I needed was a little help from my 3 year old to remind me to be thankful. It's impossible to be discouraged when I have so much. I just need to remember.

Ice Cream Dough (Second Attempt)


Ice cream doh is an amazing creation invented by the author of playcreateexplore. We've tried it before and it was super fun, but it didn't turn out quite as perfect as I'd seen in other blogs' pictures, so I knew we could do it better.

The recipe is simply 3/4 cup hair conditioner and 1 1/2 cups cornstarch.


This time, the consistancy turned out perfect. Mercedes wanted mint ice cream so we used food coloring to dye it green. We used real chocolate syrup and real sprinkles. Doesn't it look like you could just gobble it up? Even though it smelled like hair conditioner, it still seemed almost good enough to eat!






Sugar Cube "Igloos"


Mercedes loves building towers, castles, houses, and zoos with wooden blocks, so when we got to the letter I in our preschool lessons, I knew she'd love learning about igloos, houses built with blocks of snow! I had her watch some videos on Youtube of igloos being built. Then I gave her some sugar cubes so she could make an igloo of her own. Sugar cubes make great pretend blocks of snow because they don't fall apart easily and they are even glittery and sparkly like snow. I didn't tell the girls what these "pretend blocks of snow" were called, so neither of them even thought to try to taste them.


Mercedes asked for a penguin to live in her pretend snow house. He looked so cute and cozy in there, she decided he needed lots and lots of friends.




And this is what our kitchen floor looked like when the girls decided they were all done building.

J is for Jello!


One of our letter J activities was playing with animals, cars, and cookie cutters in jello! Mercedes has done jello sensory before, but it was so long ago she didn't remember, and it was Emerald's first time playing in jello so both girls had a blast!