Friday, September 30, 2011

Learning to Read

   Well, I'm on child number 4 here with learning to read and she's doing well.  She's super excited and probably my most motivated reader (I'm assuming that's part girl as much as anything else).  I'm using the book Reading Made Easy.  It's a lot like Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons but... more fun I think.  I used it with all my kids for a short while and then we tried other things as they got bored with it.  For Hannah I purchased the cd-rom of workbooks so I can print them out as we go and she loves it.  I love it because I only print what I want and they are exactly what she's learning and they don't require a ton of handwriting yet which is good because she's just beginning.  She ends every session feeling smart and proud.  That's how I want to end.  She's also caught on quickly that every lesson ends saying something along the lines of, "Great job!  Now it's my turn to read YOU a book.  Go pick one out."  If I try to skip that part...well she would never let that happen!  I just started reading her little chapter books on horses so she gets 1-2 chapters after we read.  The other thing I've used with her and Elijah were the Leap Frog Learning DVD's.  Those have really helped reinforce letter sounds and blending words.  Well worth the $10.  I can't believe I only have one more after this!  I have always kind of dreaded the time and energy it takes to teach reading and now I'm feeling a little sad that stage is almost over....well Addie won't start for a few years but you know what I mean!

Thursday, September 29, 2011


   I love Saturdays.  On Saturdays when Paul is home it's sleep in lazy day... my favorite!  On his work days we have a full long day of school but it's also the boys "gaming" day for video games so they're usually pretty quick! I just started some new meals for the fall and Saturdays lunch is popcorn, string cheese and apples with some cinnamon and (minimal) sugar on top.  Yummy!  It's simple, it's munchy and it feels like Saturday ;0)

We haven't done microwave popcorn in a looong time because we'd need two or more bags every time we eat it!  I make it the old fashioned way on the stove top and always serve it in this big bowl.  The bowl was my Grandma's and she always used it for popcorn.  It reminds me of her every time.  This Saturday just felt like it needed something sweet so on a very sudden impulse I threw together cupcakes while the kids played with Nugget outside for awhile.
These are the worlds simplest cupcakes/cake.  It's a "one bowl" recipe and then simple homemade Hershey's cocoa frosting.  They were fabulous!

One Bowl Chocolate Cake
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 cup hot water
1 cup canola oil
1 cup buttermilk (if you don't have any simply add a teaspoon of lemon or vinegar to your milk and let it sit for a few minutes)

Stir it all together and pour into a greased cake pan and bake for 35-38 minutes (18 or so for cupcakes)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Tea Time

   I like tea... love coffee, but like tea.  Sometimes I can drink coffee with no problems and other times not so much.  I'll get really jittery and it gives me heart palpitations :0(  So sad.  Anyways, I was thinking about why I like it so much the other day and part of it is truly the taste and the smell but I do really like to have a warm cup in my hands.  I also like to go get a refill whenever I want and with tea, even if the water's ready you have to wait a few minutes.  Being that I don't have an electric tea pot I have to wait for water too... UNTIL I had this duh brilliant thought... I can use my coffee pot to make tea!!  If you love tea your probably dying at the thought but it works.  I know it's not "proper" but I like it ;0)

This is my regular ol' coffee pot.  I'll fill it up to maybe 10 cups of water and add 4-5 tea bags in the basket where you would normally put your filter and grounds. I set mine on strong brew so it soaks a little longer.

This is our favorite kind of tea.  When I say "our" it's me and the kids.  They LOVE tea (I think mainly because they can add sugar but whatever!).  I like peppermint and chamomile too but if I make a pot full I make raspberry and the kids will grab some when they pass by too.  As a mom I rarely finish a nice warm cup. Suddenly I go back and it's cold.  This is perfect because I can just add in a bit to warm it up.  If we don't drink it all I just throw it in a pitcher in the fridge and wa la, "ice" tea!  I cleaned out the coffee pot so it doesn't make it taste like coffee (although I think a peppermint might be strong enough to make my future coffee minty so I'm not going to try that one).  Anyways, maybe you all know this already but I wish someone had told me long ago!  Consider yourself told!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Toddlers and Dogs

   Interesting combo I have to say.  I am thankful for a trained dog so I'm not as concerned with Addison smooshing the dog but I still don't want her to make the dog miserable.  Nugget was fully trained to work with an Autistic child before developing allergies in Georgia.  The second day here was so cute here because Addison had a couple toddler fits and the dog kept getting between us and bumping into me and acting so concerned.  I finally realized she wanted to "help".  I had Nugget lay down on her side next to Addie as she cried and put Addie beside her and let her pet Nugget as she settled down.  Interesting... it made them both settled and happy!  Nugget gets LOTS of love from all but Addison in particular seems to "need" her sometimes!  I watch closely as she gently "pets" Nugget's eyes and mouth???  and I redirect her to the dogs back!  Nugget is dealing with her very well and knows I'm watching and will sometimes look at me like, "Really??"  I will say having a gentle trained dog is turning me into a dog person slowly but surely.  Maybe it was just too much doing a puppy with babies and toddlers all around (ya think? duh!).  Anyways, here's Nugget and Addie relaxing last week.  Paul was talking with the boys and looked over and there they were.

Just chillin out!  Addie was sucking her fingers and playing with Nugget's fur while Nugget slept on like no big deal!  They stayed like this a good 10 minutes. I'm starting to love this dog!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Clean Windows

   Have you ever noticed little changes that brought you great joy??  A couple of days ago I taught my boys to tag team and clean the windows outside.  Elijah used a broom and brushed all the cobwebs away, Caleb took the screens in the driveway and scrubbed and rinsed while Carter got out the ladder and washed and squeegeed.  I did the insides as they did the outside.  Now with 5 children and homeschooling, I honestly can't remember the last time this has been recollection!  I do know it desperately NEEDED to be done and has been on my list all summer long.  Like all things, I took more time thinking about it, dreading it and putting it off than it took to actually DO the project!!  But what has surprised me is how it catches my eye in each room.  It's just clearer and brighter and my brain must notice the difference and pull me back because I'm not really thinking about it.  I'll walk in a room and do a double take and smile.  Amazing how something so simple can make me smile that many times!!

Fall, fresh air and clean windows ;o)  All things I am thankful for today!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Staff Development

  Yesterday I took a "staff development day".  A day suggested by a book I was reading to get school things back in order (or your house if need be).  It was just what I needed, although I could use several more to be truthful.  I met my cousin for coffee for a half hour before she had to be to work and then did my Bible study. After that I dove into planning and book lists and writing assignments.  I dropped things off at the Home School Building, checked out their store's used books, swung by a shop for a bagel and did some more planning.  After that I hit our library and searched for tons of books, placed some holds and wandered for a bit.  Finally home hours later I still feel like I could do a thousand more things but at least the next week or so is planned and the next couple of months I have an idea of where we're going!  I think I may have to purpose to do this once a month... I feel much better about where we're that I know where that is!!

Thursday, September 22, 2011


   This week we welcomed a new family member :0)   Meet Nugget!

She is a 2yo golden retriever who was fully trained with Paws With A Cause.  She was placed with a little boy in Georgia who had Autism but she then developed allergies.  Back in Michigan she's fine but they cannot guarantee she won't ever have issues so they will not place her again.  We have been on a waiting list for 2 1/2 years for a "change of career dog" and got the happy call last week. 

She's very sweet, excellently trained and ready to be loved.  She is housebroken and knows sit, down, settle, stay, come, drop (not so great when it's her favorite ball) and take (which is picking up anything you drop... which is pretty cool!).  We learned quickly that while super trained on a leash... don't expect the same compliance when free! Ha!  Live and learn. 

I'm not sure whose dog she is because everyone wants to claim her.  I am not a dog person and I think she knows because she keeps kissing up to me!  Moses our lovely cat of 13 years is NOT so sure what he thinks...well actually he is COMPLETELY sure he does not claim her!  Maybe someday...but I'm not holding my breath!!  Not sure what we're thinking stress level is over the moon with worry about messing up a good dog!  I thought a dog was suppose to calm you, maybe after a few days I'll calm down!  Right now the kids are learning you can't all call her or give her commands at the same time or else she just twirls in circles not knowing what to do!  That's the most stressful right the kids! Oh, and dealing with a poor two year old who I think feels like she just lost her place as baby!! Who knew I'd get a fully trained dog and have to train kids instead! LOL!  

Art Prize

   Anyone around West Michigan knows what Art Prize is!  If you don't, check it out here.  It's an awesome public art competition that has artists pieces displayed all over the city of Grand Rapids Michigan.  It's on the streets, in the buildings, ON the sides of buildings...everywhere!!!  I wasn't so sure what was going to be so great about it last year when we went until we got there!  It really is incredible.  We ended up going back 3 times and still didn't see it all!  The best part really is just taking it all in with no snobby "art experts" telling you what is and what isn't art, YOU decide!  The public votes for the winner, period. The other fun thing is often the artist is there and you can talk to him or her about their piece.  If you're anywhere around Grand Rapids from September 21-October 9 you really need to check it out!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Life Happens

   I swear for the last month my head is just spinning.  I have great plans but we are soooo busy.  We've been having a ton of fun camping and vacationing with friends, learning new things with school and hanging out with friends.  Carter is loving football and that's keeping us busy and then we added a new family member (more on that tomorrow)!  What I'm learning is life never slows down and there's so much to learn outside of books!  We are learning to support each other, love others, be thankful for unexpected opportunities and breathe deeply of the moment.... breathe deeply that's what I keep telling myself.  Sometimes I forget to breathe.  Sometimes I'm so worried about what's next or what I'm not getting done that I miss what's right in front of me.  Sometimes I worry about how to do something better, teaching something more, improving on what we're doing and again I realize I am missing the joy of the moment.  I'm learning... life happens.  Really we are not in control here friends.  I swear the Lord is just reinforcing that daily for me!  So everyday I'm trying to remember why I'm here, who I'm living for and the ultimate purpose of my goals.  My purpose? To please my Lord Jesus Christ, to raise children who know Him as Savior and friend and who have an idea on how to handle the challenges of life with Him and not alone.  Life happens but HE is in control and today I'm gonna breathe in life deeply.  Care to join me?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


   I mentioned back on 9/12 we were heading out to the Healing Field.  I thought I'd share a few pics.

When we arrived, this is what we saw...

They then told us how much thought had gone into this field.  It was two sections with a large row up the middle to represent the Twin Towers.  From the bottom it was victims from the WTC and then the flights and at the top 200+ unnamed victims they are STILL trying to identify (which I didn't know was still happening). Also when at the top it is close to the height of where the planes hit the towers.  Each flag had a card with info of a victim and a red ribbon for NYFD and blue for NYPD.

There were signs as you walked up with staggering facts like these.  Another one I didn't take a picture of said there were victims from 48 countries.  Again, another fact I didn't know.

Most people recognize this name..."Let's Roll"

The youngest victim :0(  Hard to think of with my two year old strapped safely on my back as I read the card.

Taking it all in from the top.

   It was a really neat experience.  I think it helped our kids see why this was a big deal.  I told them to think of each flag as a hole in someones life.  Someone missing for no good reason.  Someone missed everyday.  When you thought of it that way it was a very sobering view.  We saw some old friends there and had a few of those "post 9/11" interactions with people.  One older lady came up to us while we were sitting at the top and said she had come alone and didn't expect to react the way she did... she really needed a hug, even it was from a stranger.  So I gave her a hug :0)  You just connected to everyone there.  Another lady came up to me at the bottom and said she couldn't resist taking a picture of our family from the back as we walked down the hill.  She showed me the pictures and asked if she could email them to me.  When I get them I'll show you all. All in all it was well worth a shorter day of school to take it all in.  Hannah even got a chance to put her hand-print on a banner for "Hands Across America".  As we were leaving there was a place you could purchase a flag (I think they were $75) and all the money was being sent to NYFD.  Pretty cool idea.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Cottage

   We had a chance to go to a cottage with Paul's brother this summer and we had a ball!  The first thing you may ask is, "How do you pack for a large family??"  The answer...


We all fished, swam, hung out on the boat and jet ski, tubed and ate way too much!  Carter's highlight??

The water snake he bravely caught as all of the grown men freaked and ran away!!

The low of the trip was when Nana visited and slipped and fell and broke her ankle!  Poor Nana.  She said she wasn't "going to let a little thing like that ruin her day"!! While she was there she loved seeing her boys and their families all together. How's that for an awesome attitude!!  

The little girls did pretty good too!  Miss Addison and Miss Sophia kept us on our toes but really did a great job!  Hope we get to do it again next year... Lord willing, without any injuries!!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Hannie's Hair

  Would you be floored if I told you my 5yo has never gone to any type of salon for a hair cut??  I've trimmed it here and there but it's really been left alone for the most part.  Well, since I was going to get mine done we decided it was time for Hannie to come along.  She was SO excited!  She woke up that day and with sleepy eyes said, "Mama?  Is today the day I'm going to the saaalon?"  Aunt Jen is our wonderful hair stylist and works at a great salon so I knew a good time would be had by all... and it was!

So excited!  Notice Patriot the horse is with her of course.  When I asked if she wanted anything special she asked if she could have her hair dyed blonde??  WHAT!!  I said, "NO WAY!"  Aunt Jen said, "Talk to me when you 16."
Sipping a Coke.  How cool is that??

She was very unsure of this weird sink!  You think it's uncomfortable for an adult, try being 5!

 Poor girl desperately wants curls like Addie so Aunt Jen did her best to at least scrunch it and give it good waves.
Pretty lady!
Thanks Aunt Jen!!!

Thursday, September 15, 2011


  Now that it's not so hot (and buggy) we decided to head out for a family hike.  We usually do this a lot but this year we haven't... not sure why.  The kids loved it and Addison (and Daddy)... tolerated it! Ha!

Carter swinging on vines...

The Fab 5!

Exploring over, under and through all we can find!

And the playground at the end made it even better!

Funny, up here in the "North" we know Old Man Winter is coming and even though I look forward to cozy hot cocoa days inside I know we need to enjoy every last bit of sunshine we can before it's gone... for months!!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Look Around You

  So while we were visiting "The Calder" the kids spotted not to far away this cool thing...

 It's called the Motu Viget by Mark di Suvero.  It's a large steel form with a huge rubber tire suspended in the air. The locals call this "The Tire Swing"... duh!

 Seriously!  How fun is THIS art!!

It looks like it goes really high in the picture and it FEELS really high but it really wasn't going much.  It's so heavy it practically knocked us over if we tried to slow it down!  We found more art all around us that day.  We hadn't planned that but we'll take it!! 

What's around you?  Are there things that to you have "always been there" but would be new and exciting for your kids???

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Alexander Calder

   Our artist this term is Alexander Calder and wow have we been impressed and inspired by the things he's done.  We've tried our hands at a few.  

First some wire art work... using Fazzodles!
 Caleb's people flat.  He set them up with the baby in a stroller but it was hard to see in a picture but very creative!

Carter's abstract art.

Elijah... being Elijah.

Hannah couldn't resist adding the face and skirt!

  Then we headed out to see a real deal up close!  We visited the La Grande Vitesse, locally known as "The Calder" on a beautiful afternoon.  Although I've been by it many times I've never really studied it or thought of how it was made etc.  It really is pretty cool, and much bigger than I remember!  The kids sketched it and then of course we grabbed some pics.

 Can you see the kids in there all teeny tiny inside to the left?
 Up close.

We have really learned so much and still have more time to dig!  Can't wait to see what else we learn!
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