Wednesday, February 29

Letter of the Week S

Hannah and I had a great time in our letter "S" preschool this week, even getting our "sisters" involved in a few activities!

For a list of fun "s" related questions for pre-schoolers, click here.

"S" is for... Stories

I read a lot with our older two for school, and I have a "girl time devotions" each night with them before bed (more on that later).  One activity I've been focusing more attention on this semester is reading one on one with Natalie. At 2, she has a much shorter attention span and different way of interacting with books than my 5 and 7 year old. At nap time each day and usually at night, she and I read together on her bed. Now every night she asks, "Mom, lay down me and wead book!" How can I say no to that?? :)

"S" is for... Scavenger Hunt

"Sally" the Doll

Hannah, 5, is a very hands-on learner. She loves activities where she can move around and hunt for things. So I gave her my phone with a list of items beginning with 's' to photograph, such as the ones above. Linsey went along and read the items to her. Apparently, she was also the model :)

"S" is for "Snow" and "Santa"
 The girls enjoyed pulling out our Christmas-themed books again, adding cotton snow to pictures, and visiting for some Christmas learning games.

"S" is for... Sand Letters

So simple, but the kids loved this! We took our papers outside, traced the letters with a glue stick, and stuck the letters face-down in the sand glitter-style (we live in the desert so sand is easy to come by!)

"S" is for... Super Socks!!

It was crazy sock day, and our plans involved sliding in socks on our wood floor, designing our own paper socks, making sock puppets, and playing a fun game called "Surprise in my Sock." I gathered items from around the house and put them one by one in a sock, and the girls took turns guessing what they were by feeling. (You could also select only objects that start with 's'!)

We sang this tune before each guess:
Surprise In My Sock
Tune: The Farmer In The Dell

There's a surprise in my sock,
Surprise in my sock,
Super silly, special stuff,
Surprise in my sock!
(cheesy, I know...)

I was surprised the girls loved to sing the song as much as play the game! In fact, Nattie and Hannah were playing this game on their own all week, and I was continually finding "surprises" in random socks around the house. I love it!!

Tuesday, February 21

Toddlers in the Kitchen

Yesterday a rare thing happened. BOTH my older girls were at a friend's house, and I had just Natalie with me, who is two. Visions of cleaning out our homeschooling room or my overflowing inbox were put on hold when I realized how rarely I get to spend one on one time with her.  I scrapped those plans and decided to have a Nattie Date.

We were having company last night, so what better way for two women to bond than in the kitchen preparing delicious food? My girls have always helped in the kitchen and loved it, from toddler age up, and I think it's a great way to 
   ~ instill in them a love for cooking and helping,
              ~ spend quality time together, and
                     ~ keep them from messing up other parts of the house while you're busy!

We made black bottoms, currently my favorite dessert (click here for recipe or scroll down for my adapted one). They are rich chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese filling. Ours were mini cupcakes, but you could make them regular sized too. If you would love to have your kids in the kitchen with you but think it sounds overwhelming, here are a few tips:

1) Take a couple minutes to prepare the kitchen. If your kids are too small to help you gather ingredients, have them out at arm's reach before you call your toddler in. My older girls love to help me get out sugar, eggs, etc., but Nattie is too little to do this and lost interest quickly as I ran around. Also, grab a sturdy chair or stool to bring them up to your level.

 2) Prepare your toddler. I love tiny aprons, and so do my kids! If you don't have one, just make sure whatever they are wearing is washable. And of course, have them wash their hands and get their hair out of the way, just as you do.

3) Intentionally find pint-sized jobs. They can't read the recipe. They're too little to measure. What does that leave? Stirring, pouring, kneading, rinsing, sampling (my kids like to sample every item as it goes in!) Sure, it's easier to pour the sugar yourself, but remember, you're setting a precedent of helping and bonding for years to come. Take the extra time and get them involved.

4) Make it fun for both of you by being patient and working together. Remember they're not adults. Don't get frustrated if they move at a different pace or ask a million questions or even get a little messy. It's the experience, not the recipe itself, that is important to come out great. Use the time to review colors, explore textures, etc. Or sing your heart out to some toddler tunes!

5) Always reward a job well done. Natalie loved licking the beaters when we were done! If you don't like this idea, give them a few chocolate chips or a sample of the frosting, but again, let 'em know how fun it is to help.

The cupcakes turned out great with only a few mishaps, and the experience couldn't have been better.

Black-Bottom Cupcakes


  • 1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/8 t. salt
  • 1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 T. cider vinegar
  • 1 t. vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tins with paper cups or lightly spray with non-stick cooking spray. (hint: if you are making mini-muffins, definitely grease the top of the muffin tin too, these tend to stick when they rise!)
  2. In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese, egg, 1/3 cup sugar and 1/8 teaspoon salt until light and fluffy. Stir in the chocolate chips and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, 1 cup sugar, cocoa, baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Make a well in the center and add the water, oil, vinegar and vanilla. Stir together until well blended. Fill muffin tins 1/3 full with the batter and top with a dollop of the cream cheese mixture.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes for regular sized or 10-15 for minis, until puffed up and barely golden. Yield: about 24 regular-sized cupcakes, or 48 minis (unless you overfill like I do!) Happy baking!

Sunday, February 19

All in a Day's Work

A glimpse into the life of a homeschooling seven-year old:

This morning I awoke to find my mortal enemy standing over my bed.

After effortlessly defeating her him it in a battle of wits, I had a balanced breakfast of bacon, oatmeal, and half a pop tart with my best friend.

I completed my studies flawlessly, then had lunch with royalty.

And danced the dance of scarves with gypsies.

I had glamor shots taken - can you believe that's even me?

Then I hurried to perform gymnastics in an open arena that seats thousands!

After my gymnastics debut, I was swarmed with adoring fans who took me out to an internationally-known restaurant (ok, maybe it was McDonald's...). All in all, it was a great day :)

Saturday, February 11

Bite-sized Fun

It's no secret my girls love to help me in the kitchen. Most nights, at least one of them helps me prepare dinner, sometimes all three. And when they find snacks they can make for the family "all by themselves," like these Mozzarella Bites from Farm Rich, they are thrilled.

Here is my 7 year old, the "boss" of the kitchen, telling her sisters how to prepare them:

1. Open bag and pour into pan.

2. Flatten into a single layer.

3. Heat in a 400 degree oven for 8-10 minutes.

4. Pose for a cheesy picture with the bag :)

5. Eat... and enjoy!!

This, of course, was the best part. The reviews were unanimous:

7-year old: "These are really good, Mom, can I make them again tomorrow?"

4-year old: "Yum, do they have string cheese in them?"

2-year old: "Mmmmm!"

Dad: "These are really good. And they would be amazing with pizza sauce!" (I confess I did serve them plain, and they were still great!!)

Mom: "I love that they're bite sized, so there's less waste from half-eaten food. And because they're filled with cheese, they make a hearty snack so my kids aren't hungry ten minutes later."

Bottom line: Farm Rich Mozzarella bites are simple to prepare and delicious to eat! Try 'em and see for yourself :)

Thursday, February 9

Ode to Sisterhood

We went on a field trip and then to the park today, and the pictures inspired this little poem:

Sisters will cheer you on when you're on top of the world...

 And they'll draw you out of your shell when you're afraid.

Too tired to go on alone? 

Sisters will give you a push when you need it the most.

And when your world seems upside down,

A sister will be right there beside you...

And you can count her to carry you through!


Blessed to watch these sisters develop friendships...

And blessed with two sisters of my own  - love you both!

Sunday, February 5

Moments to Remember I

Believe it or not, when you're with your children 24/7, and they're expected to learn academics mainly from you, there are frustrating moments once in awhile. A homeschooling friend of mine created a "Moments to Remember" link up to remind us to focus on the amazing benefits of homeschooling - watching your kids play together, focused time with each child, that pure delight when your child finally "gets it." Here are some of our moments from this week:

 "Q" is for Queen

Queen Nattie has recently started trying to create actual pictures and trace letters on our white board. She had a lot of fun this week making smiley faces and tracing lines. :)

 "Q" is for Quilt

 Hannah was so proud of her wrapping paper quilt - she made a different pattern on each line. I was impressed that she stayed still long enough to complete it!

We also took a trip to Grandma's for a quilting lesson. My mother-in-law is a wonderful seamstress and quilter; she has made beautiful quilts for each of us over the years. The girls loved seeing quilts that have been in our family for generations, and Linsey especially took right to quilting. Grandma enjoyed passing down her knowledge to her granddaughters, and me? I got to take a nap :)

Wednesday, February 1

Letter of the Week - P

Last week we had the most fun with the letter "P" for Hannah's preschool (I love it when there are activities all 3 girls can enjoy!) We've gone through the alphabet with a letter by letter emphasis, just to give some structure to our days and streamline activities.

"P" is for...Penguins

 We learned facts about penguins and made these adorable crafts, found here. (The only change we made was to use construction paper, since we had no paper plates on hand.) My girls all love penguins and had fun trying to imitate their walk. The first time we saw penguins at the zoo, Hannah bravely remarked, "I'm not afraid of penguins, they waddle!"

"P" is for... Painting

Linsey's art is through the K12 curriculum, so I just have the younger girls to modified versions of whatever she is doing, which happened to be painting this week. (This shirt was trashed when Nattie finished! "Tummy to the table" does NOT apply in painting.)

"P" is for... Policemen

We set aside a day to read and learn about policemen, and review how to call 911. Here Hannah is making "police patterns." We even took our fingerprints!

"P" is for... Endless Possibilities

One day for lunch we reviewed the steps to making pizza and then assembled our own. Another day we ate pickles and peaches and read "Pinkalicious," a household favorite. You can explore pumpkins and pigs and potato chips, eat pudding and pie and pepperoni at the park! For more great ideas, check out Tot School, First School, and Letter of the Week. This site also has great questions, songs, and games for each letter.

"P" is for... My Princesses

Technically, they're ballerinas in this pic... but aren't they cute?!

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