Saturday, October 25, 2014


I love me some bloopers. They absolutely crack me up. We even have our own bloopers photo book and "read" it often with the kids. Bloopers are real life. It's the surprise, the ugly, the raw moments of life that happen TO you when you're least expecting. It's the opposite of "stop. pose. look perfect and happy." It's real life and it's hilarious.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

That Moment When.....

....your baby poops in the bath. I'm just thankful she almost made it year before it happened!


....your baby escapes from a tight swaddle AND being zipped up in her sleep sack AND is very proud about it.

------------------------------------- fall asleep with the babies and wake up in a panic. Where is your 6 year old? Oh, he's just been outside pulling weeds for the last hour. Good boy.


....the usual hand washing routine turns into washing your hair with hand soap.

-----------------------------------'re at a birth all night so you take your 2 children and the resident ninja to the children's museum for school.

------------------------------------ invite your entire congregation to your house for lunch THE DAY before your first walk through for your fostering license. Really though, lunch was awesome and the walk through went great!


....your 6 year old decides to teach himself Hebrew.


....your middle child climbs into the hammock with you on a beautiful fall day and says sweetly "I wanna cuddle".


 ....your 6 year old keeps losing his teeth. Literally. We can't find them!


....your find a mini ninja sword in your freezer.

------------------------------ cannot find your child then realize he IS the blanket pile.


 ....your parents send your children fake earrings. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Unit Study-Outer Space

Before our school year started, I came across this life changing blog post about planning your year of learning. I was feeling overwhelmed. I didn't know what style of teacher I was and felt guilty for not joining a co-op or a part time school program. On top of that, I still had NO idea what curriculum to choose for which subjects. We are homeschooling to have fun, to grow in our relationships as a family, for flexibility and to save money. We are NOT homeschooling so that I would go crazy by week 1! 

"I was doing it ALL WRONG.  I was trying to juggle all these different balls called “school” and “home” and “work” and “mom,” not realizing that they are in fact the same ball.  I work from home.  I school from home.  This is where we live.  This is what we do.  This is our life now.  School is who we are."

Obviously, the blog post spoke to me. My boys love to read so I knew our learning would be literacy heavy. They also love art and hands on learning (doesn't every young kid!?) so we needed very few workbooks. Unit studies give you so much freedom to build your lessons around your child's specific needs, skills and interests. I let go of guilt, stress and threw caution to the wind and followed the unit study approach.

How to plan your homeschool year via unit studies!
First, I thought about  our schedule for the year (traveling, vacations, holidays, birthdays, work priorities, etc.). You could easily build unit studies around moving (people in your neighborhood/vocation, maps, climates) or other life changes happening during your school year. After loosely figuring out our life schedule, I sat down and made a list of subjects I thought my boys would like learning about. I had to take into consideration that Elijah is doing 1st/2nd grade course work while Lazzy is very much in pre-kindergarten.

I laid out all of my books (the collection grows weekly!) and organized them into piles according to subject. If a stack was particularly tall, I would give that subject a good 1-2 months to explore. Then, I started plugging them into the loose calendar that Ruth (!) provides in her blog post. 

I started filling in the specific subjects with book titles and even page numbers if needed. Our first and second unit studies overlapped which gave us more time and flexibility to explore: The moon, stars and constellations, the solar system and space exploration.

We began with The Magic Tree House Book #8 : Midnight on the Moon. We read it with it's companion non-fiction called Space. It was the perfect introduction to our unit study since the boys are familiar with that series. From there, I scoured thrift stores for anything on the moon, stars, space exploration, rockets, planets, etc. You'd be amazing at how quickly a great unit study book collection can grow! We checked out stories like Baby Brains: The Smartest Baby in the Whole World or There's No Place Like Space:All About Our Solar System, perfect stories to add to the more scientific books you might use. My all time favorite book to put "space" in perspective is "Where Do I Live?".

We found multiple in depth books on space and the planets. Don't worry if you feel like you're reading the same stuff every day. It's good for them to hear the same information and soak it in over the span of 2 months. Just make sure to add some non-fiction for fun!

Videos/Shows/Movies about outer space and planets:
Amazon Streaming:
The Jetsons  (or watch full length episodes on youtube)
Apollo 13

On Netflix:
The Magic School Bus Gets Lost in Space : Season 1 Episode 1
The Magic School Bus Goes Out of this World : Season 2 Episode 11 
The Magic School Bus Sees Stars : Season 4 Episode 7
Space Dogs
Leap Frog: Math Adventure to the Moon

We don't typically watch tv/movies except for Saturdays, vacation or when daddy has back to back night meetings. Let's just say it was a busy season for Dan.

You can also check for upcoming space walks which you can watch live! 
Stardate is another great website to track the moon phases throughout the month.

Hands on Activities:
You can make your own Moon dough by mixing equal parts corn starch and cheap shaving cream! We've been doing that for a while, but I just recently bought some from Amazon. This way, we always have it ready and it never dries out! I bought these space action figures, added some marbles for planets and stars and the kids went wild. We bring this out about 3 afternoons a week. The boys will easily spend 45 minutes playing. I love hearing them use the correct terminology and acting out all the information they've taken in. Also notice our PLANETS poster-from the dollar store!

On a whim (meaning-this was NOT in the lesson plans), we used some recyclables to make the International Space Station.

We can't leave the house without our space helmets!!

Visit a planetarium. Almost every Science museum has one and most Universities do, too.

Okay, so how do we connect math, art and writing with our space unit study?

Counting Games: We look at our PLANETS chart in the kitchen knook. The boys choose a planet, then I tell them to travel to the right 3 planets. Now travel left 2 planets. Go right 4 more planets. Where are you now?
Gravity: converting our weight depending on which planet we're on and using weights to actually feel the "pull" of the planets.
Measuring: learning about distance in inches, feet, yards and miles. Then using THIS cool site to get a feel of how BIG our galaxy is!

We create the solar system, moon phases and stars with a handful of mediums-paint, play dough, crayons, tissue paper and glitter glue. We also studied Van Gogh's Starry Night painting and tried to recreate it a few times. Pinterest is a great resource for art projects.

Elijah has been working on a book called "Where I Live" since our last unit study about Maps and Travel. It's a book that starts in his bedroom and slowly zooms out to the universe. We are working on the last few pages about his planet, his solar system, galaxy and the universe, all with writing prompts. For spelling, you could just use words that you've seen in all of your reading. Random workbooks with writing activities will get the job done, but it's so much more interesting when you child is writing about things they are currently studying!

With each unit study, I pick out a few character traits I want my boys to be working on and praying about. Diligence, focus, patience and team work are the qualities we've been talking about most. I've found books, games and even projects to help me in teaching them these things. Next month, we'll be focusing on service, sacrifice and thankfulness. We still read one French book a day, but I don't stress about whether or not it connects with what we're doing. 

One last thing!!

Chris Hadfield is our favorite Astronaut. He was the first Canadian to walk in space and served as the commander of the International Space Station. He has multiple short videos demonstrating different tasks you perform in space. Thanks to Chris, the boys got to see how astronauts eat, sleep, wash their hair and even how they go to the bathroom! The video below is just plain cool.

Our favorite Solar System Song:

And this is just a great way to see just how small the Earth is in regards to the universe!

A few more visuals to BLOW YOUR MIND:
 Sit down with the kids for 10 minutes and consider this, if the moon was a pixel.
Click through these images to see what it would be like if the other planets orbited our Earth like the moon.

For November, we'll be studying Native Americans, their customs, beliefs, history and where they are now. I am really excited about this unit study, especially since we live in a place with such rich Native American history!
To see a different example of moms using unit studies to direct their homeschooling, read this blog post.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Mega Chopped Birthday Party

This is the second year we've been invited to a Chopped birthday party. This year, our dear friend was turning 40 which turned the usual laid back Chopped party into a competitive Mega Chopped celebration! 

Chopped is a cooking show. Three chefs compete to make a 3 course meal, one round at a time. The twist: at the beginning of each round, the chefs each get a basket with the same mystery ingredients inside. They have access to a full pantry with fresh fruits and vegetables, herbs, grains, sauces and breads. You must use all 3 mystery ingredients in your dish and you only have 30 minutes to do so. You're judged on creativity, use of mystery items and presentation.

This was our pantry for the party:

Last year, I was an appetizer chef, but it wasn't my favorite. This year, I opted to be a dishwasher. I do much better when I'm working behind the scenes. Dan competed against two other chefs who had to make an appetizer with raw tuna. He actually won for his round!! He made a raw tuna and eggs Benedict with avocado spread on crostini drizzled with orange ginger gastrique.

Plating the appetizer round.

Chefs, sous chefs and choppers working together to make magic.

 Mmmmmm.....such great food!

Here we all relaxing after one of the courses, voting on our favs.

 The beautiful hostess, cleaning up from a round of cooking. She knows how to throw a great party!!

You definitely need to have a large-ish kitchen and a group of friends who are great cooks. The perfect way to spend a Saturday celebrating a birthday!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

How to Have a FREE Vacation

I'm here today to help teach you how to enjoy one week of vacation for FREE! Tip number one:Have AWESOME friends! Yup, that's it.

Seriously, though, we had an incredible week off in Seattle, all thanks to some pretty great people. It's so fun exploring a city you know like the back of your hand. No wasted time finding parking or looking up addresses or getting lost. We got to stay downtown near the Seattle Center. We left our car in Ballard with Dan's dad and used the bus all week, saving LOTS of $$ on parking and gas. Our dear friends got us into a museum that would have been over $70 for just one day. Visiting during the first Thursday of the month will get you into many museums for free, too.

We started the week in Ballard, thrifting and eating-what we do best!

On our first full day in the city, the sun was shining bright above the buildings. Such a great way to start a vacation, especially in the NW!!

The boys and I headed to the roof of our apartment to check things out.

We began the week at the Children's Museum, since we were just a 60 second walk to the Seattle Center. 

There was a little village exhibit with homes from around the world. Elijah was drawn to Ghana (duh) and spent quite a bit of time making me a dress. He then told me he wanted to be a seamstress in an African market someday. I honestly felt so proud! He'd be so great at it, too! His eye for detail and color, I'd love for him to make me clothes!

There were so many great rooms to explore. Ruthie Mae even got to climb around a bit.

In the construction zone, Dan and the boys actually built a fully functioning bench! Well, Laz helped a little bit.

After "work", Lazzy picked up groceries and some flowers for mama. I have to say, the pretend grocery store is my favorite in children's museums. Not sure why-I HATE doing the grocery shopping in real life!

Kids who are on the state insurance plan get in free, so we only paid $16 for two adults. Considering we spent 4 hours there and didn't pay for parking, it wasn't too bad of a price. On our short walk home, we explored the Space Needle a bit.

This is Elijah climbing up the Space Needle, ha!

Seattle is a really cool place, but one thing I'll never understand is their ability to build giant ugly red sculptures in the middle of somewhere beautiful. At least you can climb on this one!

We ended the day with dinner and sunset stories on the roof.

Day 2 was spent at the Pacific Science Center, again just a 60 second walk from the apartment. Our best friends got us in for free!!!

I just love these silly mirrors!

We spent time in the butterfly house, searching for our favorite-the Monarch Butterfly.

We've been to butterfly houses before, but this time was especially cool since we've just recently had a caterpillar infestation. The boys knew what they were looking at!

After lunch with our friends, we took a break from the museum and rode the monorail downtown ($12 round trip for the whole family). The kids LOVED riding in a train above all the cars. It drops you off at the West Lake Center.

Pike Place Market is always a fun spot to putz around.

We showed the boys the gum wall in Post Alley. It was incredibly gross, but kind of cool, too.

After some treats downtown, we headed back to the Pacific Science Center for a planetarium show. The boys were able to keep up with the lesson on space programs and constellations. Basically, we did homeschool on our vacation and the boys had no clue.

Again, so many fun exhibits and things to explore. We spent 4 hours here before heading back to the apartment for another roof top dinner.

Budding Beethoven.

Another amazing sunset.

Thursday happened to free museum day in Seattle. We went north to Ballard to get the car and made a few pit stops before meeting grammy at the Asian Art Museum. First stop-the Fremont Troll.

Next, a picnic lunch at Gasworks park.

The pipes were so much fun to climb!

We then headed southeast to Volunteer Park on Capitol Hill. I probably miss this neighborhood the most. I was a nanny and went to school there for a few years, right when Dan and I started dating through our first year of marriage.

It was my first time visiting the Asian Art Museum. They were running a beautiful Deco Japan exhibit. It's as if they knew we were coming!

Grammy (who is amazing!!) gladly took our boys to her house for a few days. We had a weekend with just one baby and it was great! On our way back downtown, we stopped for sushi.

We got back to the apartment just in time for yet another amazing view.

The day wasn't over yet. First Thursday free museum day was still happening so we bused it down to the SAM.

Friday was our entire free day without the boys. We decided to spend the day near UW campus, our old stompin' grounds. First stop-Thai Tom of course!! Ruthie was squealing for more peanut sauce and who can blame her? It's the best!

We walked off the thai food on the Ave, and browsing books at daddy's favorite bookstore near UW.

 That evening, we had dinner with dear friends from our former Seattle college life. It's always refreshing to see them and their growing children and to reconnect. Saturday morning was another quiet one. The morning was so quiet. I got to have "me" time while running on the most beautiful urban trail. Of course, there was a giant ugly red statue ruining the view, but I just ran past it and moved on. Oh,'re so silly.

The rest of the day was spent at a wedding (sadly no pics) with some more college friends. We celebrated and had ice cream and coffee. It's really great attending weddings when you're 9 years into your own marriage. Such great reminders of what you promised each other so long ago. We picked the boys up from grammy's house before heading back to our apartment for one last night.

Sunday morning, we packed up our stuff and said goodbye to our apartment. We headed to West Seattle for church at All Souls, then a picnic lunch at Alki Beach before heading home to Bellingham.

I'll tell ya, it was probably one of the most fun vacations we've had. I am so thankful for the generosity of our friends and the time away from our usual gig in Bellingham. We came home refreshed and ready for another week, which was good because it's been busy!!