Friday, July 15, 2011

Mid-Summer Update!

Wow, is it REALLY the middle of July already? Where has the time gone?

In the last month, some exciting things have happened! Ella celebrated her THIRD birthday (I'm the mom of a 3-year-old!), Lucy turned 6 months old and is CRAWLING (!!!), and Wes went back to school!

My children really amaze me, every single day. I feel like in the last 3ish months, that I've really found my mom groove. There are a lot of things that I am not very good at, but lately I have been feeling really good about parenting. Ella challenges me every single day, and I try my best to respond to her appropriately and consistently. Of course, there are times when I respond in a less-than-ideal way, but I've learned to give myself a break, use my mistakes as learning opportunities, and do better the next time. Lucy and Ella fill me with such joy, and I feel so blessed by them! Lucy spoils me, she is so easy going. If all babies were like her, I would happily have many more! Ella's laughter just melts my heart.

Wes started taking classes this summer, working towards a business degree. His degree in architecture is not helping the job hunt--there are ZERO architecture jobs right now! With a business degree, he could open the doors to many different careers. Honestly, I think that this break from working is good for him! Financially, we're doing ok--hanging in there, watching our spending and trying to keep our bills low. Wes and I don't have health insurance, which is the only thing that really worries me. The girls do, so that's a relief.

Other than that, not a lot is going on here! We're kind of living in the moment right now! I am (of course!) planning for the upcoming "school" year. I'll have to do a separate planning post for that. :)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Summer Tot-School Themes

I’m still in planning mode for tot-school (preschool?), beginning next Monday.  I think it will help my brain if I scribble my thoughts down here, and maybe even pull links to resources and whatnot. 

So here’s what I’m thinking (these are brainstorming ideas, assuming that I have an unlimited amount of money to spend-which I don’t.  We won’t be doing all of these things—just ideas to kick-off on!  Also, a good old google search will probably happen prior to each week’s theme.  There are endless possibilities!):






  • birthday puzzle
  • birthday dramatic play (party hats, pretend to wrap presents)
  • bake cupcakes/cake
  • The Mini Birthday Pack by Homeschool Creations


  • Garden preschool Pack by Homeschool Creations
  • plant our own flowers
  • dirt/watering can/tools to use in outdoor sensory box




  • dramatic play-set up a tent, flashlights, make a pretend camp fire
  • make s’mores!
  • talk about moon/stars/constellations


Hmmm… maybe I’ll just try to stick with those 9 and spread them out/allow myself extra time (and hopefully by the end of summer, I won’t feel guilty that I didn’t squeeze in everything that I wanted to).  I can also add in more if I need to.  And if I can manage 9 themes each season, that’s 36 total.  Seems like a good goal, right?  I would love to hear your ideas as well!  What are your summer tot-school/preschool plans? 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Back on the “tot-school” wagon…

I admit that I am not a very organized person, even if I always intend to be (this blog, for example, is something I think about often, and even outline posts in my head… but clearly, following-through is not always my reality!).  I first read about tot-school a year (or more?) ago, and have had “good weeks” and “bad weeks” and everything in between.  Ella became a big sister in January, and OH MY I can’t believe how fast time has gone since then. 

So, I’m giving myself a break (because LIFE happens and feeling guilty over not being a perfect housewife and perfect mom isn’t doing me a single bit of good) and hitting the “reset” button with tot-school/preschool.  I’m also taking a new approach: planning ahead!  Instead of making or printing off activities to do TODAY, I’m going to take the next 2 weeks to plan, create, gather, and relax! 

I am also going to plan differently.  Instead of outlining specific activities to do each day (or week), I have created a generic planning sheet that fits me better.  Although I love the tot-school planning sheet (found here), I find that having certain things to do on specific days just doesn’t work for me long-term.  I’m a more open-ended kind of girl, which means I like to

If I was super savvy, I would give you a download to my planning form (which is essentially boxes where I can write in ideas for different categories.  These ideas and activities can be implemented at any time.  There is no “date” listed on my planning sheet, just a space to put in “age” and a “theme” if you want one.)  Anyway, if you would like it, I would be happy to e-mail it to you (leave your e-mail address in a comment or on facebook and I’ll send it ASAP!).  I’ve also included ideas on how to use the planning sheet and different open-ended activities to try. 

For more on tot-school, visit Carissa’s blog by pushing this button! 

Tot School

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Learning by Living

Many months ago, before I took a huge break from blogging, I changed the title of my blog to “Learning by Living.”  At that time, I was mostly  referring to the fact that I believe that children are natural learners—that they learn from their everyday world.  I know that this is true for Ella, as it seems each day she does or says something new (without a  whole lot of effort on my part).  However, life is changing all the time—even for me!  And there are things that I am still learning. 

Wes and I are the proud parents of two beautiful girls now.  They keep us busy and laughing, and I wouldn’t change anything about them.  Lucy Hope was born on January 2, 2011.  She was a VBAC baby (yay!) and her birth was scary, intense, painful, and so completely satisfying.  She is healthy and perfect, and I want to hold on to every moment right now.  I know how quickly time passes when babies are growing, and since she is likely our last child, I’m trying to savor every tiny thing about her. 


Although she has been a huge blessing to our family, a not-so-great change has happened for us as well:  Wes was laid off from his job.  We had to make some instant changes to our spending habits, especially when it comes to food.  We eat every meal and snack at home now (except for the times our wonderful families take us out!), and it’s definitely been a learning experience for me!  Not that we ate out a LOT before—but we did eat out at least 2 times a week, sometimes more.  I’m learning how to say “no” to foods that I love or depend on, finding less expensive alternatives, and am finding new recipes to try.  I hate to use the word “fun” to describe this, but it has been.  It’s fun to find ways to spend less, eat more REAL food, and I am proud of cooking for my family as much as I have been lately. 

It’s been very different, having Wes home most of the time.  It’s been great!  I know it won’t last forever, but I’m enjoying it while it lasts!  We’re using this time to appreciate each other, and the wonderful family that we’ve created.  We’re using this time to put our full trust and faith in God.  We both believe that God will provide for us, and that He has a plan for each of us.  That in itself is a lesson that is often hard to learn except through experience. 

So in all things, our whole family really is learning by living. 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Tot School

Tot School

Finally, a tot-school post!  I was very busy this month gathering ideas, cutting, laminating… and I was lazy and never wrote about any of it.  I put together this really fun math kit that includes counting, color matching, shape sorting, patterns, size sorting, and more! 


Some of the activities are still a little beyond what Ella is interested in right now, but I know that she’ll get there eventually.  I obviously don’t want to push her to do anything she doesn’t want to do—after all, the point of all of this is to be FUN! 

One of the activities that she likes to do is this counting game.  She puts the little gems into each box, and together, we count them!  I found this on Confessions of a Homeschooler’s blog.  She has printable sheets for numbers 1-10, but we only did 1-5. 


Ella used her crayon rocks several times over the past couple of weeks!  They’re so fun and come in a fun little pouch, which makes cleaning-up easy to do! 


We also did art with tape—I just ripped off several strips of each color and let her put them on the paper however she wanted.  The sticky feel makes it a fun challenge! 


She also painted a “pumpkin” this week!  (Did you notice the change in season?!  Or change in wardrobe?  It was 90 degrees last week, and today it was 50.  Gotta love crazy Ohio weather!)100_9331

And finally, today I put together this fun Fall-Themed sensory tub!  Ella was SO excited to play in it—she spent at least 30 minutes quietly playing, exploring, pouring, and dumping!  Included in this tub:

  • black-eyed peas
  • green split peas
  • black beans
  • silk leaves
  • mini gourds and pumpkins
  • an ice cream scoop
  • measuring cups

I clearly need to do more sensory-type activities, as she LOVED doing this one!  I expect to get this tub out often! 



Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Photos from the past month

This month has seemed to fly by!  I feel like I say that a lot, and it’s true!  I can’t even tell you what has been filling our days and time lately.  A few “big” things (like a last-minute trip to Tennessee over labor day weekend!), but as far as the day-to-day happenings go, I find myself wondering what we’ve actually done this month (you know, beyond the normal—raising a toddler, cooking, cleaning, growing a baby… that kind of stuff). 

Instead of a “tot school” entry today, I mostly just have photos.  I think I’ve said before that we’re kind of “on again, off again” with tot-school.  Some weeks (or months!) are better than others.  Anyway, onto photos! 

This one is just cute.  Ella, 26 months old:


We went to the zoo last month for Wes’ annual family picnic.  It was fun, although rainy toward the end.  We didn’t end up walking around the zoo much, since we have passes.  Plus, it started at 1pm, which is usually Ella’s naptime, so she skipped a nap that day and was asleep in the car within about 3 minutes of leaving.  :) 

It was raining lightly that day, so naturally, she found the puddles she could stomp in…



   …and riding the carousel is always a favorite! 



She painted this cute little birdhouse that she picked out at JoAnn’s (on clearance for $1). 


Her new favorite thing to do when Wes gets home (or sometime before bed), is to dance with Daddy!  He seems to like it too.  :) 




He made her these silly glasses out of pipe cleaners.  She thought it was hilarious.  :) 



We took a last-minute trip to Tennessee to visit Wes’ parents over labor-day weekend.  While we were there, we went on a pontoon boat!  Ella’s first boat ride! 



She even got to “drive” with daddy!  



Football season started!  …but she was more interested in Blue’s Clues stickers than watching the game.  :) 


…and then something smudged on my camera, and my pictures are blurry after this!  I need to find something that is safe to use to clean the lens! 

(And then I need to commit to taking photos more often!)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Tot School-Catching up!


Tot School

I’m starting to think that Tot-school entries are more realistic for me to do every two weeks instead of every week.  There are times that we seem to do a lot, and then other times that days go by and we’re busy doing so much other stuff that we don’t sit down and do anything specific.  I guess that’s why Carisa, the founder of Tot School has a section each week called “Life School.”  It’s the place that you include the everyday happenings that may not be planned, or really “school”-ish, but are still learning opportunities.  I’ve never blogged about bathtime, but that would be a perfect example of “Life School.”  In the bath, she learns a lot about water, temperature, pouring, her own body, cleanliness, etc.  Anyway.  Small tangent over.  ;) 

So in the last 2 weeks, our “Tot School” has included two trips to the library, two trips to the zoo, a new bedtime routine (that now includes reading for at least 20-30 minutes before bed each night!  This started by accident.  We used to read a book or two before bed, and one night we just kept reading!  So now, we’re reading books downstairs and not in bed—because otherwise it’s hard to say “last one!” when they’re still within reach or sight.  I LOVE reading so much and watching the joy she finds in books, so this change is welcome.), and going with me to the doctor’s office for an ultrasound (followed by shopping!). 

Anyway, more “official” tot-school activities include:

1) Spooning activities.  I can’t remember if I posted this in the last entry, so if I did, sorry!  This activity was pretty simple.  I showed Ella how to transfer the colored pom-poms from one bowl to the other using the spoon.  She loved this activity!  It sat out for at least a week, and she went back to it a few times to do it again.  She also liked throwing the pom-poms, because they’re soft and very light (and are safe for throwing inside!).  This was how I set this one up for her:


And then she did it!  She’s very skilled with a spoon when she eats, so I wasn’t surprised that she did well with this one.  (This was before bed one night, so she’s in her PJ’s already!)

100_9109100_9108She also liked a variation, using  a 1/4 teaspoon and some cereal (puffed corn).  After transferring everything to the second cup, she ate it.  :)   



2) Water pouring

Ella loves to pour water (or whatever!) from one container to another, so I gave her two shot-glasses and filled one with water.  I also gave her a washcloth to clean up any spills.  I think she would be happy to do this activity every day!  Keeps her very busy! 


Using the washcloth to clean up spills on her tray.  Then, since it was already wet, I asked her to wipe the table off when we were done!  



(I think I’ll be asking her to wash off the table again in the future.  It’s a great, easy “chore” that she can do!)

3)  Color Sorting

I printed these awesome Color-Matching Cards, cut them out, laminated them, and then rounded all of the corners (because they were sharp after I cut them out!).  It took a lot of work, but these have been used daily.  Before they were done, Ella was playing with the sheet of yellow cards (still waiting to be cut out after laminating them).  She was telling me about the pictures, and then found a basket that we have that was also yellow.  “Look mama!  Yellow!”  So, I went with it, and asked her if there was anything else that was yellow.  Before too long, we had a yellow basket full of yellow toys!  So fun!

100_9115When the cards were finally done (I think it took me 2 hours start to finish, over 2 days, to complete these!), she wanted to play with them.  I set up the color name cards (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple), and gave her a few cards at a time.  She carefully looked at each one and put it in the appropriate color column.  I was impressed (especially considering that at this point, she didn’t really “know” her colors, she would just randomly say a color name if you asked her what color something was). 



When she was done, this is where she had placed the cards:


She didn’t get through the whole stack of cards (she lost interest), but did pretty well I’d say!  And like I said, she’s been playing with these cards almost every day since.  And, I think she’s actually learning the color names!  Now, she’ll pick up a card and say “Orange!” or “Purple!”  She doesn’t know all of them (red, green, and blue still give her trouble), but she’s getting there.  ;) 

4) Blocks

We have a few different kinds of building blocks, and she really likes these!  I have no idea what brand they are, but they basically connect together.  I just happened to catch her at a very happy moment here: 

100_91185)  Painting! 

I can’t even count how many times each week Ella paints.  If we’re bored or need something to do, she often asks to paint! 

100_9121 Sometimes painting on paper turns into painting on hands… ;)  


We even tried painting with pipe-cleaners instead of paintbrushes, just to be different. 


…which also turned into more finger painting.  :) 



Some fun random ones: 



…and we found out that Ella will have a little sister! 


This “Little Sister” shirt will go perfectly with the “Big Sister” shirt be bought for Ella months ago…