September Art Journaling Page!

Happy Back-to-School!

I know a whole bunch of you started school earlier… or school year-round… but there’s something special about the day after Labor Day that makes me want to fill a backpack up with new school supplies!

And slightly earlier than the last few months…
…Here’s September’s Art Journaling page!

Click below for a printable PDF!


Summer by the Shore… and a New Venture!

Our August preschool theme has been the Seashore.


And that’s a good place to start our school year, considering that we only live about four miles from the Atlantic Ocean! We have lots of shoreline environments to explore… the ocean and the bay, Indian River and its inlet, creeks and “landings” and salt marshes…

We’re really only beginning to explore our local environment with our theme. It’s definitely going to be a lifelong nature study topic for our family.

We’ve had a lot of fun activities planned for this month, but first
take a look at some of the great resource books we’ve enjoyed!

I just became an Usborne Books & More consultant (the “New Venture” mentioned in this post’s title!) because I absolutely fell in love with their brightly colored and full-of-information books for kids! My shopping link is on the sidebar, but you can also click on the titles below to go directly to the specific books if you’d like to find out more about them! (Or to purchase them!)

Two of our favorite reference books so far are the First Encyclopedia of Seas and Oceans and the Usborne Young Beginners Seashore book. The encyclopedia is geared for ages 8 and up, but I have a 3 year-old that calls it “MY book” and thumbs through its pages on a regular basis.


However, the content of the Seashore book is a
little more on the preschool level, and
is “just my size” for little hands to carry!


I love the way Usborne books give a “storybook” feel
to informational picture books…
On the Seashore is a sweetly illustrated book that
creates curiosity in young ocean visitors!


Another favorite is Secrets of the Seashore… a Shine-A-Light book by Kane Miller. These are some of our favorite interactive books that Usborne Books & More sells! If you shine a flashlight through the back of each page, you can see a secret “inside story!”


Anyway, that’s a first peek into our August preschool learning, as well as an intro into how we’re using Usborne books in our homeschooling! I’m hoping to use this new venture to help fund our homeschool adventures, as well as another Super Special Adventure our family is about to embark on! More on that very soon!

Red Light, Green Light

Our July theme was “Red Light, Green Light”… We needed to work a little on listening and following directions, so we went with a traffic rules theme. Since TJ is totally obsessed with anything involving wheels, this was a hit! We only got to see Z-Man and Sweet T a few times due to sickness, so TJ did a lot of the activities by himself. And, quite a few of the things we did were simply put out for him to play with whenever he was in the mood, so they were more than a “one time lesson.”


We started out with construction play with homemade play-doh. We made this stuff back in the winter when we did a Gingerbread Man unit, and it’s still hanging in there! There were quite a few germs floating around back then too, so we added some of Young Living’s Thieves oil to ward them off, as well as to make it smell yummy!


Counting to 3 (and recognizing the numbers) was one of our main goals for this month. TJ’s Melissa & Doug garage that he got for his birthday was perfect for practicing!


Our sensory bin was filled with black beans to look like asphalt. It made a fun plinking sound in this old agate casserole pan!


More counting practice with cars and foam shapes.IMG_6904

Hang onto those Melissa & Doug storage trays! They can be used for so many things!

Painting with trucks!


Drying our finished paintings.


And cleaning up is always fun if a hose is involved!


It’s even more fun with friends.


This here is serious work.


We found a fun stop light activity on Pinterest…


… Great for small motor skill coordination!

I’m playing with the idea of lap booking our themes so the little folks have something to look back on and remember…


… and maybe practice some of the things they learned!

We’ll probably add a bit more to our lapbook before we put it on the shelf, but this is what the inside looks like right now. “Red Light, Green Light” was a fun gross motor skills game we played that involved listening carefully and running about like crazy people. Our Bible verse for July was a shortened version of Ephesians 6:1, and we sang the Donut Man’s  O-B-E-Y quite a bit. It was a favorite of our girls. (Or maybe of Mom and Dad’s?)


 Below are some favorite books that we read this month…RedLight

Anastasia Sumi’s Red Light, Green Light is a cute rhyming picture book that showcases a little boy who used all sorts of “around the house” materials to build his roads. Discussing the pictures was fun!


Yumi Heo’s Red Light, Green Light was a sweet Lift-the-Flap book about road signs.


Toot Toot, Beep Beep by Emma Garcia has been a favorite since TJ was a little tyke… There are several books in this series and we love them all!


P.D. Eastman’s Go, Dog, Go! is an old favorite!


And the “sleeper” favorite was by far Red Light, Green Light by Margaret Wise Brown. (She’s the author of Goodnight Moon!) I wasn’t sure if the quietly quirky story line and vintage illustrations would catch TJ’s attention, but he asked to read this one over and over again… sometimes right after we finished reading it!

Tot School so far…

I’ve been meaning to post about our Tot School Adventures this year, but sometimes with little people, you just have time to prepare the fun, snap the pictures, clean up the crumbs, and prepare the next fun… And I forget to organize it all in a photo album or blog post! So here’s a quick pictorial overview of our school days so far this year!

IMG_5593The Students…

IMG_5606Our son, TJ

IMG_5603Our Grandboy, Z-Man

IMG_5602Ou Grandgirl, Sweet T

IMG_5675A is for Ark…

IMG_5744Going on a Bear Hunt…


Caterpillars and Creation…

IMG_5806 IMG_5805



D is for Dirt…


Green Eggs & Ham…IMG_6206Green Eggs & Ham…


One Fish, Two Fish…

IMG_6323 IMG_6322 IMG_6579G is for Giant… 

…and Magic Beans, of course.


So far, we’ve done a crazy mix of Before Five in a Row, The Peaceful Preschool, The Homegrown Preschooler, and Pinterest activities, with an underlying theme of a “Letter a Week.” I’m not so sure they’re understanding the overall Alphabet theme at this point, so we took a slight detour this summer, mixing activities suggested by The Homegrown Preschooler. Our current plan is to go full steam ahead with A Year of Playing Skillfully (incredibly fun curriculum based on The Homegrown Preschooler) and mixing in Before Five in a Row books where they fit in. We’re going to hold off on The Peaceful Preschool until next year, when everyone is ready for more in-depth letter learning. (Although Z-Man is going to get some Alphabet practice on his own this year!)

What’s on the books for this upcoming year is monthly themes, lots of good books, oodles of sensory activities and motor skill development, messy art experiences and silly songs, Bible stories, and good times playing with “cousins” and friends! My next post will be about our July theme, transitioning us toward saying “Yes!” to playing skillfully!

Row, Row, Row Your… Blueberries?

Folks, there are some incredibly awesome
homeschool curriculums out there.

This will probably “date me,” but many of the now-popular time-tested homeschool curricula was not even created when we began homeschooling our older girls! New programs written just for the homeschooling lifestyle were just beginning to come out, but having grown up in what “school is supposed to look like,” I was definitely wary of trying them out during our first few years. If I did get brave enough, those new methods were tacked on as extras on top of our “real school” workbooks and lesson plans that were completed in our little school desks or at the chalkboard. (I even had a bell to ring to let the girls know our day was ready to begin. I am not kidding.)

One of those new, innovative curriculums was called “Five in a Row.”

Actually, by the time I heard of it, I was fine with trying something new and focusing our school days around the wonderful books we were reading. But… We were always “a little ahead” of the Five in a Row series as they were being released. Our girls seemed to be just beyond the recommended ages.



…There’s a new toddler (actually four new toddlers!) in our lives, and I can’t wait to use the fun stuff this time around! Thankfully Jane Claire Lambert also came out with Before Five in a Row… a fun volume created just for preschoolers! So we tried our first “Rowing” experience last week!


It’s blueberry harvesting time on our little homestead, so we thought Blueberries for Sal would be a good book to start with. Our daughter Kate and her two littles came over, as well as my sweet friend Beth who is homeschooling her second batch of kiddos. She’s a Five in a Row veteran, so we sure appreciated her expertise! All in all, we had five little people ages 4 and under. Four boys and a tiny girl. (GrandNana came and stole the girl!)


Since we had a variety of ages, we took it easy with the activities.
Beth read aloud Blueberries for Sal. The older boys knew the story well, and listened from afar until the bears showed up in the story. One toddler boy had his nose right up against the book as it was being read, and the other toddler boy repeated the word “Mama” every time it was read. The tiny girl seemed more interested in eating the book than listening to the story.


We figured action was going to be the best plan, so the next thing we did was head outside to pick blueberries. Picking was definitely the highlight of the day! Beth had brought the perfect little buckets, and the blueberries went “kerplink, kerplank, kerplunk” as they dropped in the pails, just like in the story! And, just like in the story, many berries were eaten before they made it into a bucket. The boys also thought it was grand fun to pour their berries into each other’s buckets. There were leaves and sticks involved.


After the picking, we headed inside for some homemade blueberry muffins and milk. (Recipe below!) Four hungry boys, three Mama’s, and a big sister (actually two big sisters?) gobbled them up! While the kids were finishing their muffins, cut-out “blueberries” were hidden around the family room and the boys had a fun time searching for them! Next, we sorted pompoms by color, making sure we put the “blueberries” in a pot so we could can them and “have food for the winter.”


We had a couple other activities planned, including “Follow Your Mama” and an art project, but we decided with the extremely hot weather and quickly approaching naptimes, we’d better quit while we were ahead! All in all, we had a really fun time “Rowing” our first Five in a Row book with this little group of friends! Can’t wait to try it again!

Nana’s Sweet (Blueberry) Muffins!

Sift together 2 cups Flour, 1/2 cup Sugar, 2 teaspoons Baking Powder, and 1/2 teaspoon Salt. Add in 1 cup Milk, 1 beaten Egg, and 1/4 cup Oil or Melted Butter. (I tend to go for the butter, but I add it to the cold milk to cool it down a bit so it doesn’t cook the egg!) Stir until just mixed and fold in about 1/2 cup of fresh or frozen blueberries. Spoon into a greased muffin pan (12-cup) and sprinkle a little sugar on top… Raw sugar looks really pretty! Bake about 15-20 minutes at 400°. Take them out when they smell awesome, are firm on top, and are just beginning to brown. Serve with butter if you like!

This is adapted from my Nana’s Sweet Muffin recipe,
and they are every bit as good without the blueberries!
Nana Anne always made these with Jiffy Mix, but I fiddled
with the recipe until I got it as close as possible to hers!


Special thanks to Kylie for her picture-taking abilities!!!




Our Second Rodeo…

One of our dearest. lifelong friends…
(You have some of those, don’t you?
If not, you need to start cultivating some!
They come in handy later on!)
…has a saying when it comes to raising their second crop of kiddos…

This ain’t our first rodeo.

It makes me laugh every time I hear it, and now I’m finding
that Hubby and I spit it out every once in a while, especially when we’re feeling pretty confident and experienced about being a mom and dad!


But sometimes it still sort of feels like the first time we climbed on the back of that bucking bronco called parenting. Because they’re all different kids who have their own unique personalities. Because they don’t come with an instruction manual. Because the first two were girls and now there are a LOT of Matchbox cars around here. Because I’m not twenty-something this time around. Because how in the world do you fold up this stroller ?!?!? Because foster care and adoption can change your family dynamics for a day… a weekend… a few months… or forever!

Really loving that forever part!

Getting back in the saddle, though, has forced me to put into use all those one-liners I randomly toss at my girls about being a mom so I can practice what I preach. It has put me back on my knees daily… especially when I get bucked off and land on my backside. (This might be taken literally as well as figuratively. You are welcome to donate Tylenol and Icy Hot.) It has made me realize just how wise our parents and grandparents were, and made me ashamed for the many times I brushed off their wisdom as “old fashioned.” It has forced Hubby and I to go searching through our own dusty-attic-brains for the timeless truths and ancient wisdom we finally learned about parenting, and then packed up neatly into storage bins.


I have always admired the moms with 3 or 4… or 6… or a dozen kids, who slowly build their arsenal of child-raising techniques. They are truly experts at their craft, able to come up with an activity out of their heads that will entertain both toddlers and teens for an entire afternoon, while simultaneously handling housework, cooking dinner, and running a home business. I want to be that mom. However, when you raise two closely spaced kiddos and then jump off the saddle for a decade or two, you can expect a few bruises when you climb back on. (You mean you’d like dinner AND clean socks?) So, I thought maybe it would help someone else if we made a list of parenting wisdom as it comes back to us!

In no certain order…

  1. Take naps. (One of those “old fashioned ideas” I brushed off as a young mom. Seriously. Do this.)
  2. A package of Dollar Store pom-poms and a muffin tin go a long way.
  3. Strong, sturdy, sippy cups with non-removable lids. (No explanation needed.)
  4. Consistency, consistency, consistency. Be consistent about this.
  5. Pray. A lot. Get friends to pray for you too.
  6. Be Present.
  7. Pick your battles wisely.
  8. Make friends with “Boy Moms.” They are Very Very Wise.
  9. Limit the toy stash… Rotate if needed.
  10. It’s okay to be “old school.”


Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him,
and He shall bring it to pass.
~Psalm 37:5~