Saturday, July 31, 2010

Babysitting Baby Bella

Andy's sister and her new baby, Isabella, were visiting from Illinois for the past two weeks.  We had such a nice time seeing them and we even had the priviledge of babysitting baby Bella one night.  Bella is three months old and such a sweet baby.  My girls were instantly in love with her and they took turns holding her and talking to her.  I didn't get any pictures of the girls with her while we were babysitting, but we did get a picture of the three of them together at Arin's birthday.

Friday, July 30, 2010

2010-2011 Curriculum

Up until now, we have just done the random learning projects/acivites with the girls and it has worked very well for us.  However, Andrew and I have been tossing around the idea of homeschooling on a full-time basis once the kids are of official school age.  In order to make sure that I am capable of keeping up with the demands of schooling, taking care of my family and the house, I have decided to make this year a trial year of homeschooling.  At first, I was going to do all kindergarten activities with Arin, because she is more than capable of this type of work, but after more thought, I decided to do a mixture of preschool and kindergarten.  This way it'll be easier to involve Ella in many of the activities.  We started doing structured activities with Arin on a regular basis when she was about the age that Ella is now.

We have been telling Arin (for about two months) that we'd be starting homeschool when she turned four.  She was extremely excited about this!  We also told her there'd be a few other changes when she turned four, things that she wasn't as excited about.  The morning of her birthday, the first words out of her mouth were "I'm still three and I'm not going to be four yet".  This was due to the anxiety of the other changes (which she has done fabulous with, by the way!).  She went on most of the day saying that she was three.  After lunch, we pulled out her first day of school work and she happily worked on it.  She thanked me for school and I said to her, "Aren't you glad you are four, so you can do school now?"  She replied that she was still three and a half.  I told her that we should put her schoolwork away because it was special activities for a four year old.  She quickly decided that she could be four and has continued to say she's four ever since.  So yes, Arin loves to learn and she loves her schoolwork time!

This is the curriculum that I have chosen to do with her this year (it is subject to change if we find it just isn't working for us).

- Phonics/Reading:  Hooked on Phonics the K-1st grade level, Explode the Code 1, Bob Books
- Math:  MEP math, Skill Sharpeners Math Grade K
- Critical Thinking:  Lollipop Logic
- Science:  Lesson Pathways Kindergarten Science
- Piano:  Kinderbach (we are going to work through the two-week free trial and if she likes it, we'll continue, otherwise we'll find a different program)
- Art:  mostly free creative time while going over the basic of color mixing, lines, etc.  We may also do some structured activities from Dick Blick's website.
-  Letter of the Week:  This is a curriculum that I made using ideas that I had as well as many wonderful resources/ideas found on the internet.  This will include letter writing practice as well as themes that begin with each letter.  The themes will include books, acitvies, videos, etc.  Letter of the week will also incorporate physical fitness and homemaking skills as well as the theme that I always try to teach my children, "It is more blessed to give than to receive".  This is also where we will fit in Ella's learning activities.  We started school this past week and this portion of our curriculum has been a huge hit.  I'll post more about it next week.
- Bible:  We will be reading through the bible stories both in the bible and in the girls' bible story books.  We'll do a story a week.  Sometimes we'll have hands on projects to go with the lesson and sometimes we'll simply have a page for the girls to color as I read (a tip that came from my good friend, Joli).
- Read Alouds:  This list is LONG!  We love reading, so we will not have a shortage of books.  I have compiled a list of picture books, easy readers and chapter books in both fiction and non-fiction.  Some of these books will go with the Letter of the Week curriculum, some will be just for fun and some will provide other learning opportunities. 
- Miscellaneous:  In addition to the above mentioned curriculum, we will have plenty of hands on activities, lapbooks, file folder games, board games, puzzles, field trips and some computer time.

We are very excited about this upcoming school year and I will be sharing glimpses of our school days starting next week.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Four Year Old Interview

I asked Arin these questions when she was three and thought it would be fun to try it again this year.

I feel happy when...I have birthday cake.

I feel sad when...there's no cake.

I like outside so much.

My daddy is...happy.

My mama is...happy.

I love with my new dollhouse with Uncle Todd.

My favorite color

I like to

I like to play...with my new dollhouse.

My favorite toy tea set.

It makes me happy when...I play with sidewalk chalk.

It makes me sad when...I lose things.

The best thing I do is...playing with my Uncle Todd.

I'm excited about...going to the park.

I like to Chuck E. Cheese's

I don't like to...color the wrong things.

What are your favorite things to do? My birthday party, play with my tea set with Uncle Todd, and fishing.

What was the best thing about your birthday party? Opening my presents.

What's your favorite song?  I Love Candy (which is a song that she made up and it goes something like this: "I love candy because it's so sweet...")

What's your favorite school activity?  Singing, dancing and having so much fun painting.

What's your favorite art activity?  Painting.

What's the best part about being four years old?    I love my birthday.

Do you love taking naps?  No!

What do you like to do with your sister?  Play tea set, color and swim.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Arin's Big Day

Arin turned four on Monday and we celebrated on Tuesday since that is the day that both Daddy and Uncle Todd were home from work.  We had a fun, busy day planned with four exciting activities for the four year old.

Activity number one:
Breakfast at McDonald's.  This rare treat was picked for two reason.  Arin loves pancakes (also a rare treat) and mama wanted her to burn off some of that four year old energy. 

Activity number two:
Bowling!  We signed up for the Kids Bowl Free program, which allows the kids to bowl two free games every weekday until the middle of September.  We also purchased the family pass, so we all had fun with this activity.  Since the kids were bowling with us, we used the bumpers and I bowled my highest game, even beating the guys! (I think it was mommy's big day too!!!)

Activity number three:
Indoor inflatable playground.  A HUGE hit!  Ella really liked this too, but she was getting very sleepy and asking for a nap.  Arin loved, loved, loved this place, especially the giant slide.  She also loved making friends, which she does so easily everywhere we go.

Activity number four:
Birthday party.  Arin was so excited about the party, which included all of Andrew's siblings (there's 7), some of their families, plus his parents and aunt.  As we sat down to eat pizza, fruit & veggies, Arin walked up to me and said "Thank you mommy for my birthday. I love it".  Aww, that melted my heart that she was so sweet and appreciative.  Later, she told me that she was so happy that her cousins were there.  She really had a great time and so did us adults who were able to just sit around and visit.  Since Andy's sister was flying back home the next day, it made it even more special that we were all able to spend her last day here together.
On a side note, Arin loves her party dress and wears it for just about every special occassion.  Here's a picture of her at her three year old birthday lunch.

She even wore the same dress when she was two and a half.  She's matured, but I'm not sure that she's grown a whole lot in the past couple of years.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Toddler Bed for Ella

Ella was never crazy about her crib, and honestly, I never was either.  I had bought it from a friend right before we moved to Georgia, and although I was never completely sure, I think it could have been on the recall list (we always kept the drop side toward the wall).  When we moved back to Florida, we decided to throw the crib out and move Ella to Arin's bed.  Ha!  That of course, didn't work!  So, Ella spent the first month in our new home sleeping in a Pack-N-Play.  She didn't like it at first, but eventually decided it wasn't too terrible.  About a week ago, we went to visit my parents and we picked up Arin's old toddler bed, which is now Ella's new bed! 

When we first showed her the bed she was excited.  Wow, a bed that she can climb in and out of!  This was great news to her, but she refused to sleep in it.  The first day at naptime, she wanted nothing to do with this new bed.  The next day, she spent about two hours climbing in and out of it at naptime.  Everytime I walked by her room, I saw her out of bed getting a babydoll or climbing back in bed with a babydoll.  It was a long naptime that day!  Since then, she seems to be adjusting well to the bed.  Of course, I am still getting used to the new bed - last night, about a half hour after tucking the girls in, I heard the pitter-patter of little feet coming down the stairs and next thing I see was a little baby with a big smile on her face.  She was quite proud that she climbed out of bed!

The toddler bed was given to me by a friend.  I am not normally a big fan of antiques, but I do like this bed.  I especially like it because there is a low railing around the whole bed, so I don't have to worry about my wiggle worm making her way to the end of the bed and falling out in the night.  I also think the woodwork is pretty and unique.

On a side note, we are finally back up and running on the internet!  Since we've moved here, I have been using tether to connect to the internet, but because my phone had poor signal, the internet was also a poor connection and more frustrating than not to try to use.  Finally, we got a rental contract on our house in GA, which means we can now splurge on the things that make life easier and more enjoyable (like the internet!).  Next week, I will be back to more regular blog posts.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Rest of the Produce

Tonight, I am supposed to receive a second load of bulk produce and I am very excited about it!  I realized that I never finished saying what I did with the first load of fruits and veggies.  I am sure that you have been sitting on pins and needles wondering how we used it all, so without further wait, I will let you know!

As I already mentioned, the grapefruit were made into juice and the tomatoes were made into spaghetti sauce.  The peaches were just eaten and they were so good!  Almost all of the bell peppers and several of the onions were either sliced or diced and frozen to use in recipes later like quesadillas, fajitas, chicken and yellow rice, and omelettes.  It is so nice to have this convience food ready to toss into our recipes as we are cooking.  We ate two meals with the corn on the cob and then froze the remaining corn off the cob using this tutorial as a guide. 

That brings us down to the yellow squash.  Some we just ate sauteed in butter, which is our favorite way to eat this vegetable.  We had so much squash, that I wanted to try some new recipes.  First, I tried making this recipe for stuffed squash.  It was a bust among all of us.  Bummer!

Second, I made yellow squash cookies, using this recipe.  I was a bust among most of us.  Amazingly, Arin thought these were awesome and she's asked for them a few more times. 

Lastly, I made yellow squash blueberry muffins, using this recipe for zucchini muffins.  Arin wouldn't have anything to do with them because they had blueberries in them, but Andy and I both liked them and Ella didn't seem to care one way or the other about them.

Does anyone have any good recipes for yellow squash?  I am not sure of everything I will be getting with the second load of produce, but I have been told there is some more yellow squash in it and I would love to have some tried and true recipes!

Little Miss Independent (Almost)

This weekend we took our first long trip in the car since we've moved.  We went to see my brother and sister-in-law.  They live about an hour and a half from us, which is actually a short trip compared to the trips we used to make to see family, or even to go to a big city for that matter.

The girls loved seeing their cousins.  Now that Andy has Saturdays and Tuesdays off from work, we are not able to stay two nights in a row like we are used to.  Arin, being the big girl that she is now (almost four) decided that she'd like to spend another night, in fact she'd like to stay five more nights with her cousins.  Andrew and I talked it over and decided, yes, she could stay for the five nights (my sister-in-law was coming to our town at the end of the week).  So we talked to Arin all day about it and all day she was very sure that she wanted to stay.  We hugged her and kissed her, and along with everyone else, she waved us good-bye.  She had a smile on her face, though I could tell it was more of a nervous smile than anything.  We pulled out of the driveway and got almost to the interstate (about five minutes or less from their house) when the phone call came in, "Come back and get her, she wants her mommy!"

The biggest mistake we made was not giving her a nap and leaving before we put her to bed, which was past her bedtime even if she would have had a nap.  She was asleep within the first thirty minutes of getting in the car.  I knew she was tired and I know that she would have really enjoyed spending the time with her cousins and aunt and uncle had she had the proper sleep.  I know it would have been making great memories for the future.  My brother is ten years older than me and I loved spending the summers at his house when I was younger.  So I know it would have been a lot of fun for her, but I am also so, so, so happy that she did come home because five nights is a long time for this mama to be away from her big girl!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Games from Grandma

We've taken the summer off from structured learning activities.  We continue to read everyday and do puzzles, but otherwise, the girls spend their days playing together (they especially love dressing up), watching movies, riding bikes and swimming.  We've taken this break for two reasons.  First, the obvious reason that we recently moved and I am still trying to get us organized.  We've down-sized to a two bedroom townhouse.  The rooms are all decent sized, with the exception of the cozy kitchen, and I believe this place is plenty big enough for the four of us (it's 1100sq ft).  The problem is that there is next to no storage.  Andy and I each have a closet, the girls share a closet, we have a coat closet and a linen closet and that is it for the storage.  Since we moved from a house with a garage and a third bedroom, we are certainly having to adjust now, but we are slowly getting a little closer to being settled everyday.

The second reason that we've taken the summer off is because we are going to start our first year of real homeschool at the end of the month.  I laugh when I call it real homeschool because we have been homeschooling our kids since birth, but in a very relaxed manner and certainly not with keeping records of the year's achievements.  However, in Florida, one of the requirements is to keep a portfolio of the year's work. Arin is not of official school age yet and we will not be reporting her schoolwork to the county yet.  Instead, this year is going to be a practice year to see if we are even cut out to be a homeschool family on the long term.  Andrew and I take education very seriously, so if it is not something that we feel we are doing on a regular, above adequate level, then we will send Arin to school next year, but if it turns out that homeschool really is the right fit for us, then we will continue it and re-evaluate each school year.  So I have been busy, very busy working on lesson plans and pulling ideas from here and there.  How does Arin feel about homeschool?  At first, she kept telling us that she was going to go to regular school.  This is because our girl loves to play with other kids.  Where ever we go, she always refers to the other kids as friends, even if she's never met them before!  However, since we've moved back to Florida and she has so much family attention on a daily basis, she never asks to go to regular school anymore.  She does, however, ask everyday if she's four yet because she wants to start kindergarten.  She tells everyone that she meets that she is going to start homeschool kindergarten very soon.  And yes, she is super excited about this.  Her voice gets high pitched and she smiles from ear to ear whenever she thinks about it.  It's so cute.

And so I wrote all that to say that a few days ago, my parents and my little sister were here visiting, and my girls gobbled up the attention that they gave them.  My mom had bought Arin a stack of board games from her friend's yard sale a few months ago and this past week, they played Scrabble Jr. together for the first time.  They even included Ella in the game.  She played by finding the matching letters (tile to board) and Arin also did that but she spelled the word aloud once it was complete and they helped her sound out the words.  It was so cute to watch the excitement on the girls' faces.  They really love having someone spend time with them and do structured activities with them and since this is an area that has been lacking lately, it was an even more special moment for them!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Birthday Invitations

We typically do not make a big deal about birthdays, but now that we live near so much family, it only made sense to plan a get together for Arin's birthday this year. 

I saw this birthday invitation idea on a friend's blog.  I wish I could link up to it, but it is a private blog.  She made the invitation using a large chalk board and I loved the idea so much that we borrowed it, using a white board.  On the real invitations, we had more information such as the party date, time, location, rsvp, etc.  I didn't want to put all of that information on here, but wanted to let you see the basic invitation idea.  These pictures could be printed out and sent through the mail, but for the sake of simplifying things, I did what my friend, which was send the picture through Facebook!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Water Babies

We've lived in an apartment for three weeks now and one of our favorite things about living here is the daily use of the pools (when it's not raining, which it's done everyday for the past week).  When we first moved here, both girls wanted to be in the type of floats that they sit in and they did not want to be splashed.  Then, they gradually moved to water wings and Arin to the type of bathing suit with the floatation sewn into it.  Now, Ella still uses the water wings, but Arin has once again moved on.  She still does not love to get her face wet, but she does swim (doggy paddle) without the use of any floats.  Lots of progress in a short amount of time!    

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Cousin Hannah

Twice a year Andy's cousins host parties at their house.  We haven't been to one since 2008, due to living out of state.  Today, for the Fourth of July, they hosted their first party of the year.  They invite all the family (which is quite large) as well as many friends from their church.  Andy has to work on Sundays, but we were able to attend the party this evening.  It was so much fun catching up with everyone and seeing friends and family that we haven't seen in over a year.  For many, this was the first time that they were seeing Ella.

One special treat for us was that it was the second time that we've met Hannah.  Hannah is Andy's cousin's daughter.  She was adopted from China when she was 13 months old.  We met her a few months after she came home, but have not seen here again in close to a year and a half because she lives in Texas.  She is only two months younger than Arin and such a sweetheart.  Hannah is adorable and she kept asking me to put Ella down so that I could hold her, which of course, I loved. 
The three girls had so much fun playing together and they were all amazed to learn that they are cousins!