Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Back to (home)School!

Last week, we started our homeschool year with Heart of Dakota. Despite being busy, the week went really well. I'm already so thankful that we chose to switch curriculums. Last year, I felt like things were so scattered and disorganized that any change to our schedule would throw me off track. I really value a curriculum that we can pick up and take with us or easily adjust the workload to make up for a lost day here and there because life is on the move!

Anyway, Elsie is officially a first grader, and she's loving it! I am too. We're settling into a comfortable routine of history, splashing it with science and geography, exploring poetry and music, reading the Biography of Helen Keller, and topping it off with handwriting, phonics, and math. Spelling and art is tossed in there as well. Elsie's favorite is reading about Helen Keller. I remember reading her story when I was little so it's amazing to read it again with my daughter. My favorite part is how well integrated the Bible is with the curriculum. She has a memory verse each week, and we're always tying it into the history and poetry lessons we're reading as well as handwriting. Actually, all of the subjects mesh really well and reinforce what we're learning in other subjects. I adore that.

Here are a few pictures from our first week!

We read about pioneers from Spain crossing the Atlantic Ocean to Florida in History. In Science, we learned about some of the animals they would see on the voyage. For this activity, Elsie coated one of her hands in shortening to represent the blubber of a whale. I think she thought I was crazy when I set the container in front of her and told her to stick her hand in as far as she could, lol!

Then, I had her put both hands in a bowl of cold water for a minute.

BRR! That's cold! Can I take my hands out yet?


Which hand is colder? This one! She decided that we weren't designed for life in cold water like whales are.

Claira had a fun start as well. I skipped preschool for Elsie so I'm happy to do some fun things with Claira this year. The preschool program is full of songs, fun finger plays, learning her letters and sounds, and going over Bible stories with some devotions and other artwork and activities thrown in. We learned about the letter A this week. My favorite moment of the entire week was teaching Claira the letter A sound while putting our hands on our cheeks and saying, "aaaaah!" and having Lucy join in with a loud "Aaaaah!!" of her own. Our girls are too sweet!

Here's Claira finding her way around the letter A:

This week is already in full swing so I'm hoping to update the blog more quickly this time! Happy Back to School to everyone!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Your mission, should you choose to accept it...

Today, the girls and I decided to clean out the mini-van. Technically, I decided for them and was pleasantly surprised that they were rockin' helpers. Lucy did her part by sitting in her carseat, happily playing with long lost toys her big sisters were constantly passing her way.

Rewind. Are you one of those people whose vehicles is meticulously spotless? If so, you may just want to stop reading now. If not, forge onward with me! For the rest of us, having your child pull a french fry from the seat of your car when you've been nowhere near a french fry in at least 2 weeks is no surprise. My van has clutter. Lots of it. Or at least it did yesterday!

I can't prove it since I didn't take photos. In retrospect, I should have because as I was cleaning, I was also making a list of everything in the van that didn't belong. Why on Earth would I do that? For a blog challenge of course! That's right. I'm going to type that list out here for everyone to see, and I challenge you to do the same! I hope all of you still come back to read after that!

So, here it is.

17 half-full bottles of water
4 unopened bottles of water
3 baby dolls
a rubber duck
a diaper bag
2 hair bows
5 packages of baby wipes (wow! and I thought I'd need to buy some soon)
a folder
3 blankets
6 dvd's
a ballet bag
11 straw papers
a towel
a washcloth, and no-not a matched set
12 used napkins (okay, so this is just a guess-I didn't count those one-by-one. yuck!)
4 jackets
1 princess wand
a helmet for construction sites (thank you, Jason!)
2 teething toys
a gymnastics leotard
3 hot tamales
2 sticky straws
a Leapster
18 used kleenex (hey, I wasn't counting those out either)
a box of crayons
a pair of scissors
3 pacifiers
a magazine
2 pairs of sunglasses
2 hair ties
a teddy bear
5 water bottles/sippy cups (these made me thankful that we only put water in them--I don't even want to consider the other possibilities)
an empty soda can
23 random tiny toys
4 hair clips
a scrunchie
a sticker book
a single glove (perhaps you have the other one?)
2 tiaras
4 shopping bags
3 bracelets
one of Jason's shirts
one of my shirts
2 of Lucy's outfits (where are we all going without clothes anyway?)
12 pieces of junk mail
3 pencils
7 pens (alright-so I left the pens and pencils out there)
a diaper changing pad
5 headbands
14 half eaten french fries
a fish floatie

Your turn! Please come back and share a link to your blog post with the details of your own mission here. I'll send something fun to one lucky commenter!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Elsie Grace and Patience

For those who don't know, all 3 of our daughters have 2 middle names, the first Biblical (and in our case-all virtues) and the second family. Elsie's name is Elsie Grace Eileen. When she was an infant, dh and I would often say that we should've named her Elsie Patience because she could've used some! She wanted to be taken care of right away, and if you took too long, she'd waste no time letting you know.

I'm happy to report that she's grown a bit (okay, a lot) since then. At 6.5, she's basically the best big sister ever and really doesn't have much of a choice but to be patient. She's a huge help to me and will often sacrifice her turn for the sake of Claira or Lucy. I'm so proud of the young lady she's becoming. She's an incredibly easy child.

Of course, the benefits of an easy child are countless. The drawbacks? Time, or lack thereof, I should say. That old saying "the squeaky wheel gets the oil" definitely rings true. Perhaps there are other drawbacks, but this one, this time, I frequently feel slipping through my fingertips as I try to grab hold of the fringes and hang on tight. Six. Six and a half. Um, she's halfway to her teenage years. Yikes!

Our school year is about to begin, and I know we're on the brink of something so big and amazing. I'm excited and reluctant all at the same time. We're moving beyond that learning to read phase, and there's a whole world about to open up to her. I'm so thankful that I'll be there to witness every step of the way.

In the meantime, I'm living in the moment. It's one of the many reasons why I can't take too many photos. There have been so many times lately that I've taken photos of the 3 girls (NOT an easy task) and much of my time is focused on Claira and/or Lucy. It's easy to get a few good ones of Elsie and be done with her. That's not always good enough though. Yesterday, we had a chunk of time together for photo taking, and we had so much fun. It was refreshing and effortless. I adore her willingness to try out new things with me, and I love the smile that's always on her face.

I'm so very blessed to be her Mama!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Pool Fun

I think all 3 of our girls would agree that we don't spend enough time at the pool. We have one of those rectangular blow-up pools, which keeps Elsie and Claira happy on hot days. We've dipped Lucy's feet in on a few occasions, and she always screams at us in protest. With that in mind, we haven't dared venture into a larger pool with her for most of the summer. At least, not until last weekend.

Some friends of ours invited us over for dinner and a swim. Daddy got in the pool with the big girls so we thought we'd let Lucy give it a whirl, and she was happy as a clam to splash around in the water.

You should see her splash in the tub now! She doesn't leave much water for bathing!

Monday, August 1, 2011

When the UPS guy hands you lemons...

you make lemonade! Right? Isn't that how the saying goes? I know the original most likely doesn't mention the UPS guy, but this little story of mine does. When I checked my email this morning, I couldn't help but revisit the email containing tracking info. for our HOD box. I won't deny that I was giddy with anticipation to find the words "out for delivery" at the top of the tracking summary. 5 hours later, I was less amused. Deliver the box already! I kept thinking to myself.
Finally, during Lucy's afternoon nap, I heard some scuffling outside the front door and sent Elsie down to investigate. She reported the arrival of a big white box and delivered it to me. We wasted no time tearing into it and removing the brown parcel paper wrapped around the books. The books! I adore books as much as anyone, but new books?! Simply marvelous. We examined each one, flipping it over, determining which were Elsie's and which were Claira's. And then came the scrutiny, the furrowed brow, and the realization that something was missing. Math. Backordered.
Did I mention that we're scheduled to start 2 weeks from today. Ugh. I called HOD and received no answer. I should email to find out when we're likely to receive the math. Instead, I'm procrastinating. Well, not exactly procrastinating. Instead, I'm sweetening the lemonade. Originally, I took the easy way out. I chose a curriculum and just went along with their suggested math textbook. Where's the fun in that? Apparently, there is none. It was too easy, and now I'm exploring other options. I'm making lemonade. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Friday, July 29, 2011

If you take a 3 year old to a restaurant...

If you take a 3 year old to a restaurant,
she's going to want crayons and paper.
She'll drop the crayons on the floor at least 5 times
so you have no time to look at the menu for yourself.
She's going to order grilled cheese.
When you tell her that the restaurant doesn't have grilled cheese,
she'll start crying so you'll have to calm her down
by telling her that they do have chicken fingers
and fries. She'll smile and wipe away her tears.
Then, she'll notice the cherry in your shirley temple
and want it for herself.
You'll look for a spoon to fetch the cherry and then
the waiter will arrive with your food.
The 3 year old will start crying again, and you'll
have to remove the little cup of ketchup from her plate.
She'll do her best to eat the fries and ignore the chicken fingers
until you start eating the chicken fingers yourself.
She'll decide she wants them back, and then she'll
tell you that she has to go to the bathroom.
So, you'll help her up from the table, clasp her hand in yours,
and walk to the bathroom.
Waiting for an open stall will remind her that the last time
she ate at a restaurant, she was with Aunt A and Uncle M.
She'll tell you that when she ate there, she had to potty, and
after she went potty, she saw that Aunt A had big toes.
3 of them.
When a stall opens up, you'll usher her inside,
close the door, and she'll want you to help her sit on the potty
because it's so big. You'll help her and while she goes,
she'll want to know why one time she went to Aunt A's house
and took her little potty with her but we didn't bring it this time.
You'll have to explain to her that her little potty went to
Aunt A's house when she spent the night and that she
wouldn't be spending the night at the restaurant.
"Oh yes, I am!" she'll tell you.
Finally, when she's finished you can help her up, and
she'll draw your attention to how cute
her panties are. You'll smile and nod in agreement
while directing her to the sink to wash her hands.
She'll splatter soap and water all over you while she explains
how pretty she looks in the mirror. You'll agree with her
and hand her some paper towels to dry her hands.
On the way back to your table, she'll smile and wave
at everyone she passes by.
When she's settled back at her seat, she'll eat 2 more bites
of her chicken, finish her fries, and be ready to go.
You'll pay the bill and walk back to the car to head home.
On the way home, she'll decide that she's bored.
She'll ask you for some crayons and paper
and if she asks for crayons and paper,
she's going to want to eat at a restaurant too.

$10/off $25 at JCPenney!

It's a great deal for savings on back-to-school shopping! The coupon is only valid today and tomorrow so don't delay. I've had my eye on this dress for Claira:

and this shirt for Elsie:

There are more colors and styles of the shirt in store. I see a trip there in my very near future!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Summer Mornings

I'm seriously in love with these lazy days. I usually get to sleep in until Lucy's crawling all over me. Some days Elsie and Claira will climb into the big bed where we'll snuggle and share giggles until we finally make our way to the living room, to morning cartoons and a feast of mini bagels and cinnamon toast waffles. Elsie and Claira waste no time dragging out mini Lalaloopsy dolls who have taken up residence in a Ponyville house. Lucy will snuggle in the recliner with me until her curiousity gets the best of her, and she'll crawl off my lap to go spy on her sisters who usually groan at the sight of her on the floor, just feet away from their playspace. Still, Elsie will happily find a few toys large enough that they won't fit entirely into Lucy's mouth. It's usually not long before Elsie abandons the toys to cozy up on the couch with a few books. Lucy will make her rounds between the 3 of us, making Claira squeal in protest at her grabby hands, begging for waffle bites, snuggling with Elsie for storytime (or at least a couple of pages of it), and nursing for a few brief moments before she's on the go again. Eventually, the television is turned off and Claira joins Elsie "reading" on the couch. It's hilarious and so sweet to hear her sound out the words she makes up the way Elsie does the words on the page. "The___fishes___jumped___in___to___the___boat!" She makes a really good picture narrator.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Love this-Vtech Photo Album

We celebrated Lucy's 1st Birthday on July 3 (*sniff, sniff*), and I want to share a super wonderful toy we purchased for her. First, let me tell you that when you've got 3 little girls and love to shop for them as much as I do, it can be somewhat difficult to come up with new ideas. Let's just say that I'm not a member of the "It's her first birthday so she won't remember it anyway" club. I have no disrespect for those who are, I just can't possibly let a birthday past without a little showering of gifts. And first birthdays? Well, those are extra sweet in our corner of the world. Why? Because we make them that way, of course! I love picking something out that I think the girls will still be using years from now.

When Elsie turned one, I bought a little photo album and filled it with family pictures. She loved it. By the time Claira turned one, it didn't look like Elsie was going to be sharing hers anytime soon so I bought another and filled it with pictures for Claira. So, while birthday shopping for Lucy, I knew it was likely I'd be buying a third photo album for her. What I didn't know was that I'd come across an amazing talking photo album.

It's made by Vtech, and while I'll admit that they're not my favorite toy supplier for babies and toddlers, I adore this photo album. There are a few different modes of play with songs (that aren't terribly annoying), but the best feature by far is the ability to record a unique message for each page. Elsie and Claira had fun helping me record, singing Happy Birthday and telling Lucy how sweet she is and how much we love her. Lucy has been playing with it a lot so I'd say it gets her seal of approval. Her big sisters love it too.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Homeschool Prep-First Grade and Preschool

Right now, I'm tentatively planning to start our new school year on August 15th. That's just 3 weeks from today! Given that plan, I should probably order our curriculum, huh?

Last year, we used My Father's World for Kindergarten with Elsie. I think it's a great curriculum, but I'll admit that flipping back and forth in the teacher's manual was a bit flustering for me at times, especially with our younger 2 girls competing for my attention as well. I did love the "Words to Remember" as well as how detailed the projects and activities are. The material wasn't very challenging for Elsie though she did need the handwriting practice, especially for her lowercase letters, and the phonics lessons definitely helped kickstart her reading.

Earlier this summer, I was reading some curriculum reviews and came across a program called Heart of Dakota. Like MFW, the curriculum is Bible-based, but I think it's set up more clearly which I hope will make things easier for us. There's also more flexibility with math and reading, which is great since I want to continue Elsie's current phonics lessons in order to help build her confidence. One of my favorite aspects of homeschooling is the ability to customize the level of each subject your child is working at. I think first grade is going to be a huge year for Elsie, and I'm looking forward to working at her pace and finding something that is fun and challenging for her.

When I originally came across Heart of Dakota, I talked to Jason about using their preschool curriculum, Little Hands to Heaven, for Claira this year while we moved onto MFW 1st Grade with Elsie. Then, I'd have experience with both before making a decision for 2nd Grade. I've dragged my feet all summer long with that plan. While MFW worked fine for Kindergarten, I'm certain that I'm ready to try something new and hopefully find something that works better for our family.

I'll be ordering curriculum later this week. Little Hands to Heaven for Claira and Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory for Elsie. I can hardly wait for the book box to roll in so we can start our school year!