Thursday, December 15, 2011

29 Jeans and counting...

Fridays are normally my go to day for getting the house clean for the weekend, laundry gets done, etc. Well today I wanted to get it all done because the plan is tomorrow is cookie making day. So I have cleaned a ton and had the kids bring their laundry down. Easy Peasy right. It has only been 5 days since the last time we did laundry so it can't be that bad right? 


As I sorted the clothes I now got why my hubby is always complaining about how the laundry seems to multiple on us. He told me, when I called him down to look at it, that he normally spends an hour sorting clothes...AN HOUR!

Piles of clothes after only 5 days!! On the right is a stack
of dresses that hadn't even been worn but ended up
in their dirty clothes baskets...somehow!!
I decided this was ridiculous. I called the girls downstairs to see the piles of clothes I had made. Here is the dialog:

Me: How many days in the week are there?
Boo: 7!
Roo: 7.
Loo: (looks at sisters and says quizzically) 7?
Me: How many outfits should you wear a day?
Boo: One.
(they now seem to see where this is going)
Me: How many jeans do you think we have in the jean pile?
Roo: I don't know?
Loo: SIX!!!! 
(oh to see  that pile through a 3 year olds eyes)
Me: Nope! Lets count them!
All: One, two, three...TWENTY NINE!
Me: In five days how did you manage to wear twenty-nine pair of pants? That is like at least almost two pair a day. You also have dresses and skirts here. And I am not even going to count all the shirts in the pink (and redish) pile!!!
(realization that what comes next won't be fun hits the children)
Me: Ok. We can't keep doing this. Each of you are going to have to wash, dry and fold a pile all by yourself!
Kids: YAY!!!

Apparently that was the point...they wanted to do laundry! Ok, maybe not but they were all excited about it. The oldest, Boo, now has her load in and when she swaps it to the dryer, Roo is going to start her load and the Loo! She is the lucky one who gets the smallish load!

We have also decided we are doing one load a day and each family member is responsible for one day...including the three year old! I am sure she will need a helping hand with the detergent but she can start it, transfer to dryer and fold to the best of her ability. 

Oh, and me? Well I get the 29 pair of jeans :)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

{Project Life} It's Here!

I have been a scrapbooker for years. When I first really started was when I got married, about 10 years ago. With only a family of two, one of the rooms in our 4 bedroom house became my scrapbook room. I spent hours sometimes tediously working to create the perfect layouts. I had every color eyelet I think that Making Memories sold! I had distressing kits, dyes, sizzix machine and a cricut. I subscribed to Creating Keepsakes magazine and soon felt like I knew people named Lisa, Becky, Heidi and Ali. They were my best friends, or at least my scrapping idols. I had their books and products and loved them!

Fast forward to having kids. I couldn't fit in the time to scrap like I used to and if the pages couldn't be that good then what was the point. Slowly my tools and supplies got packed into boxes and in their place were cribs, toys and kids books. I loved my new life but desperately missed being creative.

In the Summer of 2010 my dear friend Annisa introduced me to digital scrapbooking and I fell in love as many of you know. However,  I wasn't getting the layouts printed and couldn't keep up with just the everyday moments in life. I love digi-scrapping (I now design kits too) but I wanted an easy way to keep up with just the daily life stuff.  It needed to be simple. It couldn't be messy. Had to be affordable.

Remember Becky, my BFF/idol, who I had read and followed in the magazine? She has come out with a incredible way to do just that. It is called Project Life and I have the Amber edition! It is a quick and hassle free way to have an incredible scrapbook. Print photos, pop them in the page protectors, journal on the cute journal blocks she has to match and are on your way.

My boxes arrived tonight from Amazon and I am super excited. Even the boxes look cool to me!

My Album and 
The big box houses the album. I got the amber edition because it was on sale awhile back. Next year I am getting Clementine though :). This is a great album to in that it lays completely flat. I LOVE that!

I currently have only one style of the photo pocket pages (B), but have wish listed many more! She has the most creative pocket pages so you feel like you can have a ton of variety with your "layouts" at the same time!

Remember that  little box in the first picture? Well this is the one I couldn't wait to get! Inside this box lays the secret to the ease and beauty of Project Life.

Top off doesn't it look pretty!
It contains stickers to label pictures or journaling in cleared and colored. It also has bi-fold cards for the days when you have a little more journaling then you thought!

It has a bunch of  4X6 space filler cards that match the kit as well as over 400 journaling cards to put into the journaling pages. They also have cute filler cards and did I mention they all come in amazingly cute boxes! I can so use those afterward for something. I am sure of it!

I am super excited because this is going to produce a great album at the end of the year and it happens to also be easy, straight-forward and in a way that is still super cute! I will try to post pictures randomly throughout the year of my project as it takes shape! So many thanks to my BFF Becky from your BFF that you don't know, Aly!

One last view of awesomeness!
PS. If you want to find out more about Project Life you can also just go to Becky's site! You can also stalk er um follow her on FB!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Lesssons: Gratefulness

This Christmas season has already been a challenge for me. I adore Christmas and all that comes along with it. However I just can't get into it this year. We are somewhere new. No family in the area.  I feel lonely. I don't even want to give my kids presents (at certain moments of the day) as they don't seem to be grateful for the ones they have.

Gratefulness. There is so much in that word that doesn't come naturally for most of us...or at least me. It is one of the things I want to learn the most in my life. I want to be content with what I have and even more then that grateful for it. I don't want to care if we could have something bigger or better or more of  something. I want to be thoroughly happy and enjoy immensely what everything I have. Take nothing for granted.

So today I am choosing to be grateful.
Grateful to have family that loves me and are blessed with homes to keep them warm no matter where those homes are.
Grateful to have children who play with their toys that are littering their floors.
Grateful to have hands that can help them pick them up.
Grateful to have a home that our family can stretch out in and play in and share our love in.

Grateful for what I have.
At this moment.
In my home.
In my heart.

I found this video and just made me really ponder these things. They are grateful for cup of noodles and cards from strangers. Hence a few more things I am grateful for.

Grateful to have the freedom to walk out my door and to a mall and not have to worry about being blown up at a stoplight.
Grateful to be able to worship a Saviour that came to earth freely and with no fear.
Grateful because soldiers through time have spent their Christmas away from families so that I can have these freedoms.

So to these soldiers, on behalf of a grateful heart today, thank you from every corner of my heart!
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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Life Lessons: Teaching how to ride a bike

We watched movie yesterday about people biking down the continental divide from Banff Canada to Mexico. It is an amazing journey that few have tried and even fewer actually finish. Will have to remember to post about it later (if I remember LOL).

Boo, my oldest,  is always inspired by these kind of things and this movie was no exception. I was inundated with questions on if she could do it, how hard is it fix a bike and finally the one I didn't want to hear in December. Can you teach me to ride my bike?

Rewind to our old home. We didn't have a paved driveway. We had one filled with rocks and ruts. So when they tried to ride,  honestly it was just easier with training wheels. We tried once or twice maybe.

Fast Forward to our new home. We now live in a nice development with wide sidewalks and a paved driveway and cul-de-sac's. So I took her out and tried to help her learn. After watching her carefully I realized what her issue was and once I talked with her about it and kept yelling "Keep peddling" "Tell your brain you can" and "Keep your body straight" it was like she just took off.

I took her to a cul-de-sac and decided to video tape her for all to see. She was doing so good going around and around. When I finally got the video tape going she decided apparently to give us a surprise ending :). Enjoy watching it!

So have you ever tried to teach your kids how to ride a bike? How did they do? Any funny stories?


PS. My youngest, Loo, told me she thought I could do the Great Divide trail. Glad she believes in me but don't see that as a journey I would ever want to do!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Been awhile...but I am back!

Sometimes life throws unexpected curveballs at us. After my last post I went to Florida for 5 days for Usborne training with my fabulous friends and fellow teammates. I came back and settled back into life ready to start blogging again and then it hit....that random curveball!

I got in a weird funk....a depressed and anxious state of mind. I prayed, ate better,  started exercising more and tried to figure out what was causing it. Obviously this last year has been very stressful with all the uprooting and changing but it hit me when I felt like I was finally on top of everything. Sure I had started homeschooling and that is kind of tough, but I thought I was the happiest I have ever been. Yet, I would see something random and start crying over the loss of my friends in MD/PA. Take my kids to an event and start tearing up over missing our old church family.

Still not completely sure what was/is going on. I have heard about your body having kind of a letdown affect when things do start to even out. Not sure if that was it. I am still struggling and battling it. But actually admitting that I am struggling with it to myself and my husband has helped me get a hold of it a little more.

I have started reading a great book, Resolution for Women, and the first three days have focuses on being thankful for what we are blessed with and the secret to contentment. This has been so helpful to me. When I start to feel the emotions rise, rather then get mad at my kids, for example, I am trying to stop and think. Will this matter in 5 years or even 5 minutes? How would Christ talk to them? It is helping me slow my quick and often unChristlike response to a more thoughtful approach. They still have consequences but from someone who is calmly informing them of what they are.

I don't know if any of you have ever struggled with these kinds of feelings, but just know that you aren't alone. We all struggle. Sometimes we all put up our brave facades...but that is all they are. Masks so people don't see into our real lives. Just know that admitting to yourself that you are is a huge step towards healing. Being able to admit it to someone close to you is yet another step in that direction.

Just so you know, if you ever need encouragement, you are welcome to write me:


Sunday, September 11, 2011

{Sunday Song} Fall Apart & The Story of our Last Year Part 1

This is the first of my Sunday Song posts. I will be sharing music that has inspired me. It won't just be a song but a post about what this song means to me. This first one is going to be kind of long and the next couple might as well as I am going to recount the story of our last year: My hubby's lay off and God's leading to move our family to Texas! So hit play and read part one of our families story!


Why is it that we seem to so easily give praise to God in the good times? Why is it hard to trust Him when everything seems to be falling apart. This is going to be the first post detailing the amazing changes God has worked in my family, home and my life in the last year.

About a year ago, the Review and Herald Publishing Association, one of our denominations biggest publishing houses announced that they were going to be laying off about 40 people.  Trent had worked there for over 19 years. We played many scenarios out in our heads, some involved Trent being laid off others didn't. We were trying to prep ourselves for what many in America face frequently. We had just enrolled our daughter, Boo, in our church's private school since we got some subsidy and life seemed to be going pretty good.

The next few months are a lesson in learning to trust in God and that He will do anything to save us. But that is getting ahead of myself. Back to the story at hand

We knew the day it was going to happen there was a buzz going around that lay offs were going to start. I remember praying like I hadn't in years that God would spare Trent, asking family to pray for us and what we may have to go through. I never really thought it would happen. I just held out this hope...but God had another plan...something much bigger and larger then our own little imaginings for our future.

I remember clear as day the phone ringing and hearing my husbands voice on the other end.

"They called me upstairs"

We knew immediately what was going to happen. I got off the phone with tears streaming down my face and called my mom. She reminded me not so gently, but lovingly that this wasn't about me and I needed to be strong for my husband. I knew she was right, wiped the tears from my eyes and when he called again told him we were on our way down to help him pack up his office (it was effective immediately). I collected some boxes, grabbed the kids and was out the door.

The rest of the day was kind of a blur...we packed up, picked Boo up a little early since I didn't really want to see people, and headed home. The next morning we woke up together very early and just talked. We both felt really strong moving forward not knowing the road ahead but knowing we were going to just move forward together.

Later that evening, Trent got a call from one of his friends, Mark, who lived in Texas and worked for the Union office. He said he had heard about Trent's lay off and wanted to tell him about a possible job opportunity. He had heard from a secretary who had heard from her brother who had heard from his wife who just happen to be Trent's sister. Apparently Southwestern Adventist University was looking for a person to help start up a graphic design emphasis in their communication department. He wanted to recommend Trent.

Trent has always wanted to teach and this seemed like a dream. He talked to someone a few weeks later, but we didn't really hear back from them for a long time. We were trying not to tell anyone either since we had no idea what was going to happen. During this time Trent took on designing the teen weekly magazine Insight.

In January we decided to go up to Philadelphia for 3 days since I had always wanted to go and you never know if we might move. On the last day while driving around Valley Forge, Trent got a call from the University asking if he would come down for an interview in February for a few days.

Working up to it we went through a ton more scenarios in our head. We knew it wasn't a full time job, so he could probably still do Insight. But we couldn't afford the move and they don't move adjuncts. We didn't want to get to hopeful since we were unsure if he would even be offered the job. He had been disappointed a few other times so we were opptimitically cautious.

The girls and I sent him on his way and this weekend was the start of feeling like my life was falling apart, but really it was just the beginning of understanding who God is and the lengths He will go/allow to let us have faith in Him.

The song selected for this post is a perfect reflection of where I was when I started this journey. I felt pretty ok about my relationship with God, I always wanted something deeper but didn't really know how to get what I wanted. I found out that what Josh Wilson writes is so true:

My whole world is caving in
But I feel You now more than I did then

How can I come to the end of me
And somehow still have all I need
God, I want to know You more
Maybe this is how it starts
I find You when when I fall apart

Part 2 Next Sunday :)

Love, Aly

I remember...

I remember I was sitting at my desk at work.
I remember I had been married for less then 6 months.
I remember that it felt to quiet in the school hallways.
I remember getting up and walking down the hallway.
I remember stopping in the religion room.
I remember the tv being on.
I remember seeing the second plane hit.
I remember calling my husband in shock.
I remember the Pentagon newsflash
I remember the prayer circle outside around the flag pole
I remember hearing about a 4th plan possibly headed to the mountain behind us
I remember the fear that it could hit us
I remember being so happy to be able to hug my husband.
I remember the tears
I remember the fear

and then I remember

  • the patriotism that flooded the nation
  • the pride that looking at our flag could evoke
  • the friendliness that was more apparent on the streets

since then I remember

  • seeing a soldier and telling my kids that is what a hero looks like
  • seeing a soldier and tearfully telling them thanks as the nation forgot to remember and started protesting what was happening.
  • seeing soldiers walk through an airport and the entire place erupting in clapping and tears
  • seeing and knowing soldiers and their families who are still dealing with the repercussion of that day.
To all our military and their families all I can say is Thank You! To the people directly impacted from that day all I can say is I am sorry. To everyone else all I can say is this

I will never forget
I choose to never forget

Friday, September 9, 2011

English Muffins

Growing up, I am not sure why but my parents only used King Arthur flour. I remember my daddy making waffles (recipe which needs to be posted at some point cause they are great) from scratch and out came the brown and red bag of whole wheat flour. 

When I got married, I realized when I went shopping I automatically gravitated towards certain products, mostly because those were what I grew up with. Rumford baking powder and King Arthur flour are two that stand out. These made their way to my cupboards. At the funeral of my Uncle, I spent the weekend at my cousins house and discovered this cookbook sitting on her shelf and quickly fell in love. I have always wanted to be a baker and always admired the art of forming the dough into a work of yummy art. I soon discovered that there is so much more the flour being sold by King Arthur. 
You can actually get their catalog or just shop it online. They even have a section on their website that just talks about their flours and has videos of how their flour is harvested and much more. Two Christmas' ago, my mother got me a gift card. It took me a long time to decide what to buy. Kept circling things in the catalog going back and forth. Finally I decided on their Yogurt Maker, Baguette Pan and their English Muffin Rings. I have used the first two, but even after I got them I realized my using them was probably not going to happen. They are just so easy to buy.
I recently was searching Pinterest for great breakfast recipes and discovered a freeze ahead breakfast sandwich which I can no longer find. I didn't have any English Muffins so figured why not try to put those rings to use finally!

The recipe was simple to follow and they turned out incredibly deliciously. I did learn a few things like when it says to not over fill...there is a reason to that LOL. I did check with King Arthur first and they graciously said it was ok to post as long as I linked back to them (have no fear...I love to link!) so here is the recipe and my iphone photo. The more I blog though the more I think I need to keep our nice camera more accessible. 
King Arthur English Muffins

The cookbook also gives directions for dry-frying but since I baked those are the only directions I am posting. This recipe starts on page 227 of their All-Purpose Cookbook 

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (next time I am going to try with White Whole Wheat)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/8 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 TB cornstarch
  • 1 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 TB sugar or non-diastatic malt powder (I used day I will buy this)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 TB butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup milk, warm (I used almond milk and they were fabulous)
  • cornmeal for sprinkling on pans when you bake
  1. Mix the starter together, til you form a smooth batter. Cover and leave at room temp for at least 4 hrs, or up to 16 hours. The starter is kind of puffy and full of holes when ready to use.
  2. In large mixing bowl beat starter and dough ingredients to form a smooth batter. It needs to be beaten for 5 to 8 minutes so I used my kitchenaid, but you can always give those muscles a work out too :). 
  3. Cover the bowl and leave in a warm spot until the batter has doubled about 1 hour
  4. Lightly grease 10 to 12 English Muffin rings and place on a lightly greased or parchment lined baking sheet. I used my Pampered Chef Stoneware and find it never burns and everything turns out great. Sprinkle a small amount of cornmeal into each ring. This is not needed just makes them look more store like LOL
  5. If you don't have the rings, like most people, you can simply drop the batter on the pan and form with your fingers. Big hint: dip fingers in water...won't be as sticky!
  6. Stir the dough, then drop a scant 1/4 cup of dough into each ring (don't heap it like I did LOL) Smooth the dough if you want (remember dip your fingers in water first so it doesn't stick all over you) Cover and let rise in warm place for 1 hour or until they have grown at least a third.
  7. Preheat oven to 350. If using rings, place a pan on top to keep them flat on both sides. This makes it so they don't grow over the rings as well and can fit in toaster. Don't put a pan on top if you aren't using rings. 
  8. Bake for 25 minutes until lightly browned. Cool and enjoy!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

If the Shoe Fits!

I remember growing up and going into my moms closet and loving her shoes. She had all these great boxes of dress shoes. She still loves shoes although I think her collection contains more flip flops then dress shoes these days. I love shoes but rarely buy myself anything that isn't practical. I did recently purchase some of the awesome nude/tan color ones that I loved, but who am I kidding they are still practical! So I have always wanted though a pair of impractical red shoes. Not just any but shiny red shoes with a heel!

Since moving, I have made great friends with Michelle. Our families love hanging out and she is also a deal finder. The other night, while at the Rangers game with their family, we were talking about my desire to get some shiny red dress shoes. She showed me a pair on JCPenny's website and I liked them. I told her if she was ever out and found a pair to call me :) Conversation (kind of) forgotten!

Today, I get a call and I can't answer it. Then comes a text! Found red shoes what size are you? So I call her back. Yes pick them up and I will pay you back. A few hours later she comes in with two large bags...all with shoes she picked up for me!!! Would you believe finding $65 shoes for only $5! Even my hubby thought it was a great deal! Seriously check out this stack of shoes...just begging for me to put them away in my new walk-in closet. Wonder if I could convince Trent to move his shoes somewhere else for my new lovelies.

I couldn't believe it when I saw them and she said she just knew my style and couldn't resist! So today I am thankful for Michelle who found a great deal AND knows my style. So here it is my parade of awesomeness! I am going to the beach in Florida next week...not sure which pairs will be making the trip now! Also, the pictures aren't the best but they were taken with my iphone LOL. I really need to keep our nice camera out so I can use it more! So there aren't picks of all of them on my feet but here is the whole line a few closeups...and one final line up! :)

Red Shoes that started it all
My Favorites...I am totally in love! So in love in fact you get to see them a few times LOL
Not on my feet...yep they are awesome!
Flower details

Add caption
As the saying goes...if the shoe fits buy it in every color! Or if you find a sale buy every style!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Home Project: Backyard Oasis #1

Every since we got married, I have had this weird dream to have this incredible backyard oasis. I have bought gardening books, plants, never really came together :(. I tried...I really, really did. Just the properties never seemed to want to work with me.

However because of this distance between our last home property and this one they haven't had time to talk and conspire against me (HAHAHAHA) so I am going to sneak up and attack it :).  The first step after having read my books for so many years is to decide what you want to use your backyard for. Thats an easy one...I want an oasis. A place to eat, relax, pick flowers and dream the day away...when I have nothing else I want to do (as if my addiction to Pinterest will ever let that happen...or my kids)

So we are going to be working on our backyard in stages. Stage 1 is the patio/terrace area. We have been blessed with a big slab which totally aids in the eating/relaxing areas. In the picture you can see the chairs and lounges we bought at Target. Nice for relaxing but not so great for the eating.

Our Slab in Backyard Oasis: Stage 1
Welcome to one of the joys of Texas living! You see patio furniture comes out in the stores at about the time I wouldn't want to use it down here...SUMMER! Seriously everyone keeps saying this summer is so different then normal, but I haven't really ever wanted to spend time outside since we moved here. If I wanted to be in 100+ degree weather, I would have my bathing suit on and be in a hot tub or sauna.

Another shot of Stage 1 - Slab improvement :)
Anyways, back to patio furniture. Well all those stores that had the lawn furniture are now prepping for Christmas (Yay) so that means great sales at the perfect time to start eating outside. So I headed over to Lowe's today after looking around the other night and me and the girls picked out a table, chairs, umbrella, torchs and pots for our patio area. We are hoping to get it set up on Sunday prepping for Labor Day. So because I want a place to record all the changes we make you get to see the backyard become my oasis (unless it gets a telegram from PA)

So the stages in my mind so far:
---WE R HERE---->Stage 1 - Slab Improvement
Stage 2 - Border Plantings (thinking these will be herbs mixed with flowers...we'll see)
Stage 2.5 - Set up Our Tool area in out building
Stage 3 - Landscaping around out building
Stage 4 - Raised bed garden
Stage 5 - Children's play area
Stage 6 - My reading/relaxing nook (this needs to involve a hammock or a comfy swing)

So this is long term planning (Daddy, you will be around for stages 3 and 5 right :) But I find having it written down helps a ton. Oh and you will never guess where I am getting a lot of my inspiration!
Pinterest! Check out my gardening boards...I will be adding more to it!

BTW...look for some crafty blog posts coming soon...and some cooking ones. I am having a get together with a new friend (hi Darcy if you read this) and we are going to craft from Pinterest this weekend YAY!

Good night for now! I will dream of Stage 7....RELAX IN BACKYARD!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Death...I hate it!

This morning, as I did my usual FB check in, I was reading the status of a friend and read some heartbreaking news. Cathy, a young teen from our previous church, passed away last night. Boo had gone to school with her and had raised money for her medical bills last year. She has prayed for her and I knew that it was one of those dreaded Mommy moments I was now facing.

Cathy has been battling cancer for a few years now. She was always so brave and even continued doing her schoolwork while at the hospital. She would video conference into the school everyday so she could still be a part of her class.

Since we left a few months ago, we haven't really heard much about her, so it was kind of shocking to wake up to that.

After waking Boo up I let her know that Cathy had died. The look on her face was so hard as a mom to see. She started crying and asking why...she is a teenager. She has begged me to go back for the funeral, but I don't see a 3 day trip in our budget or schedule. I will probably go onto a florist site and let her pick out something to send the family or find a place to donate to in her honor.

Death is one of those things that even as adults we struggle with. Boo has had 3 grandparents die since she was born, but she didn't really know them. This was the first person she really knew that has died.

As a Christian, it is slightly easier to deal with this. We have the hope of Heaven. I reminded her that one day we would see her again.  But the Why question is still sometimes hard to explain. We know we live in a sinful world. We know the Devil is attacking us. But it still is hard to explain.

I am trying to just let her cry when she needs too. If she needs to talk with me, I am here for her. I may take her out somewhere today for some one on one time. I know that in our lifetimes this conversation will happen again. We will all go through grieving processes and as a parent all I can do is to hug them,  let them cry, and be there to help them try to make sense of it all.

To Cathy's parents my heart aches for you. To everyone else...go hug your kids! Love on them. Take time today to do something special just with them. We already know they are kids for only a short time...enjoy each moment!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Schooling the Senses: Hearing

While in high school I remember our US History teacher, Pastor Ferguson, turning music on during testing or just when ever we were working on our class work. I still remember listening to the soundtrack for the movie Gettysburg while studying US History. I knew when I grew older that was one CD (I feel old LOL) I wanted to own.

A few years later, Trent and I lived close to many of those Civil War battlefields I had studied about while listening to that soundtrack. As we drove the roads through these National Military Parks, we would often find this on our ipod and listen to it through the drive. Driving through these parks can be a moving experience in itself, but add the music and you can sense the emotions these men were grappling with.

Nothing made this more clear then the first time I experienced driving through Antiteam National Battlefield for their annual Memorial Illumination. The first Saturday night of December, you can drive down those roads, made hallowed by the blood of men who gave their lives for what they believed to be right. There is 23,110 luminaries placed along the drive, one for each person who gave up their life. We played this music and the emotions that took place with in me....I can't begin to explain.  If you can be in MD at this time of year, it is one of those things you must do in your lifetime.

Music can do this to you. It can calm and soothe. It can transport. It can challenge you.

Maybe you have heard of the Mozart effect or just the thought that the complexity of classical music can make you smarter. I am not a researcher so I have no definitive answer to this, but I do know that I get more done with music on. I retain what I read better when I listen to the classics (and I mean Bach and Beethoven, not the Beach Boys and Beatles).

We know that children learn better when more senses are involved in the learning process. I am trying to incorporate a multi-sensory approach to my homeschooling. Todays blog is focusing on their sense of hearing.

We always have classical music going on during school hours. It is just quietly playing, but I can sense a difference when I forget to turn it on. Currently we are mostly listening to the Brandenburg Concertos by Bach (One of my all time favorites). I plan to work through many pieces this year. I am also educating my kids to what they are listening to and who composed it, so it is kind of like Music Appreciation at the same time.

This year I plan to introduce them to new pieces each month: Holst's Planets, Mozart's Sonata in D, as well as pieces by Smetana, Beethoven, Dvorak...well and many more.

During our Unit Study time, I have downloaded two new albums from iTunes. The first is Patriotic Classics for Kids. This is fantastic as it has everything from America, the Beautiful and the Star Spangled Banner to the Marines march, Yellow Rose of Texas and Dixie. They are all done without words as classical pieces. We are using this as the background music for when we talk or are doing our silent reading.

During crafting time (which we have a lot of) we are listening to Songs of America by the Cedarmont kids. This album has children singing to songs like Yankee Doodle, Battle Hymn of the Republic, You're a Grand Old Flag and many more. Plus a great perk with this one is that it is a split track so your kids can learn it and then sing it themselves!

The arts are struggling to stay alive in our schools. With each round of budget cuts they become more and more vulnerable. Even if you don't homeschool you can keep them alive in your home. During dinner turn some classical music on in the background. While the kids do their chores crank up the tunes. Teach them to listen for instruments. Encourage them to actually listen to the words. Take the time to explain what the artists may even mean.

I would love to hear from you. Are your kids schools being hit with the cuts? How do you incorporate Hearing, primarily music, into your homes? Do you even know who Smetana is? Do you just want to say hi? Leave me a comment...they make me happy  :) Also if you totally love what I am writing (HA HA) you can also subscribe on the right hand side so you get ever post in your email box. Don't worry you won't be spammed. How would I find the time in my day to write that many posts LOL.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Strawberry Lemonade Cookies

Our church is having a meet and greet for the the students at Southwestern Adventist University (SWAU) where my husband started working this year. Every year the church, which is right on campus, holds this event, and church members bring watermelon and cookies to share with them. I decided I wanted to go so I looked through my Pinterest boards for some cookie recipes. I picked out three but only had time to make two of them.

Roo helped me make the first batch -- Strawberry Lemonade cookies! Boo and I had already done the shopping in the morning to get all the ingredients so I had everything set out on the cupboard all ready for Roo's special time with me!
all the ingredients laid out for the cookies

We immediately got busy. Roo loved using the hand mixer. I was going to use my kitchen aid but wanted to teach her about over mixing wanted her to feel like she was doing it not just some machine.

So she mixed it all up and then it was time to make the cookies. I totally love Pampered Chef's (PC) Small Scoop. It was easy enough for her little hands and made perfect scoops each time. We also put them on PC's Large Stoneware Bar Pans. I love stoneware! I have never had anything ever burn on them. They always turn out perfect.

frosting made and ready to decorate!
So after baking them (btw, the recipe made 54 for us) I made the frosting and got out the sprinkles. I frosted each of them and then handed them to the girls to decorate. They had a blast! I did have to rotate evenly through though so that that one kid didn't get more then another and as a side note there were actually 55 cookies but we only decorated 54. One lucky cookie got a trip through my digestive system so that everything was fair. Aren't I the best mother ever ?!?!

I also enjoyed watching the girls decorate. It was a picture into their creative thinking. Loo used the sprinkles  with no real thought pattern except that Mommy had said don't waste them. I let her know she could use more then 10 sprinkles per cookie and then we were all good. Roo made hers to look just like the cookie I had demoed for them. Almost exactly! We really are twinies :). Boo on the other hand was super creative making some half and half with the colors, some just pink, some with the crystal like sprinkles. They sky was her only limit.  I love how even something as simple as this can show me another insight into my children!

This is the finished product along with the Lemon Crinkles that Loo and I made from one of my Pinterest boards as well. Look for that post coming soon. The students of SWAU seemed to really enjoy them and because I made so many of each we also brought a plateful over to our Fire Station.  The visit turned into an impromptu fire station tour and the kids had a blast. We have decided to adopt C company and bring them stuff all year! Without much planning we had a very fun home school day!

So here is the recipe as well as a cute layout I whipped up for the pictures. The kit will be going live in my store soon and I will post the links! Also here is the link to the site I got it from.

Kit Used: Strawberry Lemonade by Truman Studio (releasing soon)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Definition Day: Flexible

flex·i·ble [flek-suh-buhl] adjective

1. capable of being bent, usually without breaking; easily bent: a flexible ruler.
2. susceptible of modification or adaptation; adaptable: a flexible schedule

Mr Webster apparently knew that life happened when he thought this word should be added to the dictionary. In a normal school setting, there is little allowance for much flexibility. Standards need to be met, subjects to get through, etc. I don't fault teachers...honestly I 100% get it.

I love schedules...LOVE THEM. I am forever making lists and schedules, but that is a post all in its own. Today was about learning what Mr. Webster meant.

HOA pool. We were the only ones there today.
I woke up this morning with a thought that I would like to take my kids swimming today and I would like to go BEFORE the Texas heat gave me my third heat stroke of the summer. Our HOA pool opens at 10 am, but my schedule shows that is English time.

But not today! Nope today I was going to practice that very word. I mean isn't that a major reason why we love gives us the flexibility to alter our days and schedules to let life learning happen.

So today we went swimming. As a former swim teacher, I believe swimming is an important life skill to learn. You rarely fall on a floor and have to dance, or on a beam and have to perform a cartwheel. But if you fall in a pool or an body of better hope you can swim!

So I decided until our pool is shut down for the season we were going to practice for an hour at least 2 to 3 times a week. So this morning, I worked with my girls  on their swimming. The older two started off with 20 bobs and Loo worked mostly on blowing bubbles. I did have her go under with me 3 times.

We moved to doing some laps next. Boo, is quickly catching up to where she was. Did a lap with the front stroke and one lap with the elementary backstroke. Roo, was still struggling and wanted her noodle constantly. Loo, well she kicked and I got numerous face fulls of water.

We then moved to jumping and diving. I had all three jump to me. After Loo had jumped 10 times I let her go eat a snack. Then Boo and Roo worked on the sitting dive. They were doing pretty good. I told Roo she could go eat her snack but she wanted to stay and JUMP! She proceeded to alternate with Boo, who was practicing kneeling dives with jumping and swimming to the ladder...WITH NO NOODLE!!!! I was so proud of her and Boo was rocking the kneeling dive.

So today, we have had school in the afternoon. The kids are still focused and we have had fun. I feel like a good mother and teacher today!

A few other milestones worth noting:
  • Roo and I worked on our English yesterday from our incredible Language Arts program. We learned all about the squeely ee's (need, speed, bee). Anyway today she grabbed our Ted and Friends phonics reader for her quiet time. I stopped her and asked if she wanted to try and read it to me. That was about the end of the world...until we started. She has never read to me before. Today she read 3 pages! It was awesome.
  • Boo and I spent yesterday working on a spelling placement test. After yesterday we discovered she was spelling 3rd grader words...7 months into 3rd grade. So we finished the second test today and indeed, my second grader will be using the third grade (level c) spelling words. She loves to read and it showed!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Day 1 Lesson: Nothing is perfect the first time.

So today didn't turn out exactly how I planned but it certainly wasn't as bad as it could have been. For the most part our morning went according to plan...until English time.

We started off with back to school pictures. Yesterday, we went to Crazy 8 and picked out some fun little outfits for them to wear for the first day. I figure just because we are having school at home doesn't make it any less special. So this morning they got all dressed up and then right before worship posed in front of our front door. I think they look pretty cute!
Loo, Boo and Roo ready for first day of school!


We got started but I didn't take into account how hard it would be to balance teaching a 2nd grader, Kindergartener, and a "PK-3". Loo constantly wants my attention so that is something we will have to work on.

Handwriting really went well. I was very happy with both of the older girls pencil skills and their neatness with making their letters.

Roo finishing handwriting while Mommy teaches Loo her numbers.

Math went really well as well. They love Math-U-See. They really enjoyed working with the manipulatives. They both covered it really fast and were ready to move onto English.

Boo doing her Math sheet for today
 Then issue number 2 came up! The English program we are using (which is going to be fantastic) I had done some basic reading and thought I knew what I was doing. When it came time I realized I needed to spend a tad more time reading. So we did some basic workbook pages and I spent that time really reading a lot more intensely. Think I have it...think :).

We moved onto our Unit Study. This year our family is going to be studying America and all our states. I have written the entire thing myself. This part of the day went well.  This first week is studying about America, our symbols and basic map kind of stuff.

Unit Study project!
Today we learned about the cardinal directions (N, S, E & W) and even made up a little song about it. We then looked at the map and each kid took turns saying which direction we would go to get to visit different family and friends. Amazed at how quickly even Loo (3) caught on.

After that we made a craft I found on Pinterest. Each circle showed where they are in the big scheme of things. We started with our street then it moved onto: city, state, country and then our continent!

To find this craft idea you can find it here on my Pinterest board. We didn't do it exactly the same but they had fun with it!

So I think today went okish...hoping for a better day tomorrow :)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Here I Am it is! My official life blog. This blog is going to be a record of  our life through my eyes.

A great friend said my life was like a kaleidoscope and I think that is very true. When you look through one all these little pieces combine to make a picture. It is rarely the same picture with the twist and turn of a wrist or a day later. But all those pieces are still there.

My life is much like that. There are so many pieces to me. Things that make me who I am. But because life changes and just the regular twist and turns we go through I am constantly changing. I am still the same person...just you see different sides of me at different times.

I am a passionate person. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I struggle with depression yet I love life! I am me...the person God created me to be! Ever changing to be more and more like Him and struggling with how to be that person. I am vulnerable. This is me it is who I am.

I am an east coaster who has recently made the move to Texas and am enjoying it. I love it here (which may come as a complete surprise to many...most especially me!) We moved here to follow God's leading which lucky for my husband was to let him live his dream of being a teacher.  I will be posting the story of God's leading in this because it is an amazing story with many tears, frustrations and ultimately triumphs!

So a  little more about me and what you will find here:
  • I am a wife to the man that God had waiting for me, Trent. He is the love of my life and I can't remember, nor would I want too, life without him. He is a talented graphic designer who is finally getting to live his dream of teaching. He has always encouraged me to be creative and eats whatever I put in front of him! I love him with ALL my heart!
  • I love being a mom! God has blessed me with 3 beautiful girls. Since this isn't private they all get fun nicknames too! Boo, 7, my oldest, is brillant and amazes me with how fast she comprehends stuff. She loves music and is always making up songs and trying to learn to play the piano by ear. We are hoping to get her in some lessons. Roo, 5, is my twinie. She is our middle girlie and has brown eyes just like me! But above that we are still very similar. She is very caring, compassionate and emotional! She is our little artist. They all like art but she LOVES art. Finally is little Loo, 3! Polite is her in a word...and heartbreaker. She is a happy outgoing little girl who loves nothing better then smiling and hugging you.
  • I am embarking on a new adventure this year...Homeschooling. I have written my own Unit Study for my kids for social studies/science. So you will see a ton of US Geography based stuff on here...just a heads up! This blog was partially created for that reason. To chronicle our school year and what we do.
  • I love to bake and cook. You will see posts with recipes...hopefully a lot! I adore it but it is always a struggle to balance that love with real life. So I am going to be trying to be better at menu planning and prepping ahead of time.
  • I have a home based business, Usborne Books and More. This blog will not be post after post of me trying to sell you stuff...but you will get a picture into my life doing this as well. I believe that illiteracy plagues much of America and provided with engaging material in the youngest years we could reverse this trend. If you don't have a library in your home for you and your kids you are missing out. Yes you can borrow books, but seriously there is nothing better then having a familiar book to go back to and read. Ok stepping off bandwagon now
  • I love to read. You will also find random book reviews because I ADORE reading. I believe in lifelong learning. We are never out of school...we just are self taught after college graduation.
  • I am a scrapbooker. This is my outlet of choice on stressful days. I am a digital scrapbooker and designer. You will see my layouts and maybe even some of my own kits on here. I may share some tips and tricks...who knows.
  • I am Creative. If you have never heard of pinterest you are missing out...seriously. I am going to make an effort to share the things I create from there and just in general. This is my therapy...and I love it
  • I thinking traveling expands horizons. We don't have the budget to be exotic...but I believe that taking my kids to explore the world around us helps them become more rounded individuals. So you will see a glimpse of that here on this blog.
So there you have it a glimpse of me...and my kaleidoscope of a life. Hope you enjoy this journey that I am embarking on!

Love, Aly