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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Reading day

Today was really a fantastic day.  You know, aside from the thunder storms and torrential rain.  Seriously people, is it really the end of January?  Don't worry, we're supposed to get snow tomorrow despite it being 60 today and the kids playing outside with umbrellas.

I let the kids watch movies this morning because James was still recovering.  Then we went to the library for story for Carolyn.  I'm not sure that she likes this one as much as in Wauconda.  She was miffed at the end, because they each get to take a book off the cart and other kids were taking 2 so she didn't have much left to choose from.  I reminded her she already had a whole bag of books to check out, but that didn't seem to help.  She's very into everything being fair these days.  We came for lunch and naps.

After nap time is when things really took off.  Carolyn read a book to me while I finished up some work, and then started on a second one.  Then James woke up.  We snuggled for a while and then headed into the kitchen for snack.  While the kids ate they worked on some mazes.  When Carolyn was finished with her mazes, we brought out the umbrellas and I swept the floor while the kids played on the driveway.  Fantastic that I can see the entire front yard from in the kitchen.  And awesome that I have 2 kids that are well-behaved so they stay within their known boundaries.  They played outside until they heard thunder, so came in as I had asked.  While I finished sweeping the floor, both kids got out their journals.  Carolyn started to draw a picture and tell a story about my sister.  Her imagination is awesome.  I helped her with spelling some words, but she really was just verifying how to spell words.

Then Carolyn asked to work on reading.  She did some phonics pages while I cut out pieces for Bob book Set 1 #3.  She matched beginning sounds with pictures.  Then we worked through the activities for the book Dot.  She read the book with no help.  She spelled some words and interchanged letters.  We grouped some words and then rewrote the book with paper words.  And finally she did the word climb.  Check out "In Lieu of Preschool" on Teachers Pay Teachers for free downloads with the Bob books.  Carolyn is really liking it.  After finishing that she wanted to keep going, so we did some more phonics work sheets dealing with beginning and ending sounds like "ck", "sh" and "ch".  It's amazing to see how when she's ready to learn, she understands it all and moves effortlessly through the lessons.  She continued back to work after dinner until Jon came home and I had to go tutor.  While Carolyn was working on reading, James had his first experience with scissors.  He did pretty well, too.  Definitely needs some practice and seeing how he's not even 3 that's prefectly okay.  He enjoyed being able to do something similar to his sister since she was cutting for part of the reading activities.  So much for my plan to work on math today... haha.  That's what's great about preschool at home though, follow the kids' lead!

Watching Carolyn today makes me more nervous for sending her to school.  She's the type of kid that resists learning until she's ready.  But when she's ready she picks it up in minutes.  No repitition needed, she locks everything into the vault immediately.  We're in a great school district and she'll likely love being around more kids, but I'm truly afraid she is going to be absolutely bored to death.  I will try to talk school up and not let her know my feelings.  And we'll see how things go.  But with over 6 months before day 1 and her already reading pretty well, I'm not sure what she's going to learn.  Many will say socialization, but honestly, she's already fine with that.  I don't really want her learning bad habits from the other kids.  Time will tell I suppose!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Wonderful Sunday

We had a terrific day today.  Although both kids woke up quite early.  We snuggled in bed for a bit and then read some books until I was ready to make breakfast.  I decided to try out a new recipe and made pancakes today.  Although I think I will add more milk next time to make the batter more runny, the kids devoured these.  I will need to make a double batch next time as well, because I prefer to have leftovers.  Next weekend or perhaps even on Friday this week for my birthday I want to try making waffles.  The blog I've linked to above has some awesome recipes, and if they all turn out like these pancakes it'll be awesome.  With finding these new recipes I've decided to institute baking Fridays with the kids while the weather is cold.  On Friday afternoons we'll pick a recipe and work together for a new creation.  They'll learn some math (James counted to 5 this morning helping with the pancakes!) and we'll get some yummy things to eat.  I'm looking forward to this endeavor and thinking I will end up making some alterations to recipes over time which I'll keep you updated on.  Although I'm really bad at using recipes for cooking, I swear by it for baking.  Can you tell I'm excited to get to bake again with my kids?

My dad treated us to Disney on Ice today.  Both kids loved it and I was taken back to bit of my childhood.  I ice skated to several disney songs and remember listening to the sound tracks all the time.  In particular, the songs from the Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast truck a chord today.  I wish I knew what happened to the CDs I have of those, but they seemed to have disappeared.  I was impressed by some of the skating skills as well, as I don't remember seeing as many actual skating jumps last time we went.  Both kids crashed in the car on the way home and then James fell asleep on me on the couch while waiting for dinner.  When he woke up he got sick, but then ate some dinner so I think it's the - only have sugar in my tummy and am exhausted - rather than being actually sick.  If no further developments we'll still head to gymnastics tomorrow.

Looking forward to a great week ahead, although Tues/Wed will be interesting with trying to get to tutoring after Jon gets home.  I'm thinking about skipping my game on Thursday as well, as I don't want to deal with overtired kids on my birthday Friday.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Toxin Free Home

Due to the $$ aspect, I'm going to tackle the cheaper issues first.  So as we run out, I will be replacing all of our cleaning products with toxin free ones.  As I'm demoing lots over the next few days I have time to do research and accumulate websites.  I will be posting them here to keep track.

Laundry detergent
OR  Since James has such sensitive skin I may go for no Borax to start with

Dishwashing detergent

Cleaning spray - using waste we make anyway!

Dishwashing liquid   

Several different cleaners

Friday, January 25, 2013

Getting Rid of Chemicals

What a rarity, the kids are still asleep and I'm finished with work!  Playing out in the snow must have tired them out.  Although James seems to be going through a growth spurt as well. 

I keep seeing more and more articles and posts about the chemicals that surround us.  And I want to get them out of house.  But where to begin and how to do this while not blowing our budget evades me at the moment.  I will obviously need to start with a discussion tonight with Jon.  But I need to create a gameplan as well.  Organic food, natural laundry detergent, natural shampoo, natural soap, natural cleaners for the floors and dishes.  These are all things that I am thinking I need to look into.  But which to start with?  My gut says food, but that would also be the most expensive.  So do I do the others or do as much as possible with food?

More later as both kids are of course now awake.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Annual Aunt Ollie visit

Life has been pretty crazy lately as I catch up with work so I haven't had much time to write.  Things are settling down now and I'm getting into a better rhythm, which is great as Jon starts coaching on Thursday.  I've had some great visits lately though.

Kim was able to stop by yesterday for a while.  After the kids showed her their rooms and gymnastic tricks, Jon took them to the store.  It was nice to sit and just chat for a while.  As her busy season at work slows, we might make some lunch dates since she works so nearby.  It will be nice to rekindle this old friendship.

We spent this afternoon visiting my grandfather's sister Ollie.  Being so far away we missed out on this visit last year.  She is doing very well though and we were surprised with her homemade pierogi and mini cookies.  We chatted about my grandfather and how she is doing.  It's great to see such amazing longevity in my family with my grandfather turning 95 this Spring and Ollie in her 90s as well.  She enjoyed watching the children and they made her happy by gobbling up the food she made.  The kids were super excited to bring home some of her cookies as well.  We got some pierogis as well, which I need to find time to make!

I am enjoying how life is settling down now.  I hope to start devloping more learning activities to do with the kids and really want to keep the pace down as we venture forward.  I'm praying that Jon gets the NT job so that I can focus more on the kids and developing fun learning activities for them.  Now that the cold weather seems to truly be here, we might have more time.  We love the neighborhood park and took advantage of warmer weather last week with several visits.  Such active children!  I am looking forward to the next few weeks as my stress levels hopefully decrease and we can fall into a nice schedule.  Tomorrow Jon has the day off so he will go with to gymnastics.  We are looking forward to some extra time with him home before he is gone a lot. 

Time to go relax while I can.  Focusing on the great parts of life going forward!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Changed plans

I had planned to go to the museum with the kids on Thursday.  But with the warmer than usual weather, we opted for the Grove.  As expected, the kids had a great time.  We couldn't get into the log cabin or teepee, but I suspect we may have just missed those being unlocked.  We arrived before 10AM and I think that might be when the outer buildings become open.  I will have to look into this for next time.  We enjoyed walking around though and got to watch several young deer running through the forest.  James wanted to chase them, but luckily they were far enough away.  We did find a replica of a covered wagon that they climbed onto.  Carolyn was pretty excited about it as we connected it with the wagon from the Little House books.  It is so cool to me how both kids will use things/ideas from their books in life/play.  We were able to get into the workshop building that houses all sorts of tools from the pioneer days.  We again saw some items that had been discussed in the Little House books, and both kids enjoyed looking at all the different things.  We then ended up back by the animals.  Both kids seemed to get a sense of peace watching the turtles and fish in the main display area when you first walk in.  I swear they could have sat there for hours just watching the turtles climb on and off the rocks.  But alas I dragged them home for lunch.

We spent Thursday afternoon baking cookies for Jon to take to work and I headed off tutor once he arrived home.  It was definitely a long evening as I met with 3 students for 3.5hrs of tutoring plus plenty of driving, arriving home at 9pm.  I am looking forward to finals being over so I don't have to drive around so much.  And truly, I'm looking forward to next year and hopefully a new job for Jon so that I can cut back on work.  I really miss the time with the kids and just time as a family.

Today we had a day at home.  Carolyn was in a dress shortly after waking up, it's cute how she has those girly days.  We read some, had breakfast, and then played some board games.  Carolyn chose Chutes and Ladders and James hung with us just long enough to win.  Carolyn was sad not to win, but I don't believe in fudging things for self-esteem with board games.  She stated that she was sad and I acknowledged it and stayed with her until she did get to the finish.  We then threw the laundry in (the kids love to help with this) before choosing Sorry as the next game.  This seems to still be a bit beyond Carolyn's grasp.  We played for only 5-10 minutes before she just wanted to play with the pawns.  Both kids then dumped them in and out of James' dump truck for a while before moving on.  I brought out their coloring for the day, with the number 11.  James wasn't interested so we read for a while instead.  It was a nice relaxing morning, but apparently not active enough because both kids had trouble napping.  So next time we'll be sure to fit in gross motor activities.  I'm thinking an obstacle course is a good plan.  This afternoon we did some more reading and Carolyn worked on a phonics sheet.  She's becoming a little resistant to school "work" these days as it becomes slightly challenging for her.  But I think the next few sheets are easier so that will be good next week.

I'm now looking forward to a relaxing day tomorrow and a much calmer week next week.  I don't have as many tutoring sessions lined up and work online should be more manageable.  I hope to take advantage of the extra time as a family in our last week before Jon begins coaching.  Tomorrow is supposed to be warm so we might be heading to the park.  And on Sunday we might get snow!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Science - Skeletons

Both kids were up unusually early this morning.  They weren't very interested in snuggling in bed either.  So we came out to the couch and started reading.  After a couple books I suggested they grab the stack of "science books" we got at the library yesterday.  So we read a few books about the human body and the skeleton.  I had them feel each other's spines, which apparently stuck with them as they told Jon about it tonight.  Then we took a break for breakfast.  Afterwards we read one final skeleton book and then set to work on the "experiment".  I taped some paper onto the front window and had them each stand up against it so we could trace them.  I then drew in some of the bones.  We talked about the names of some of them.  Carolyn enjoyed drawing a brain into each head.  She gave James 2 brains - do you think that means she believes he's super smart?  It was a fun project and both kids were excited to show Jon when he got home.  We'll see how long it lasts on the window.


I had intended to do an art project of snowflakes this afternoon.  But with temperatures near 50, we had a snack and went outside instead.  The kids played while I took down most of the Christmas decorations.  I packed them all away and organized the garage as well.  We now truly have room to work out in there and I discovered we should have as much room as I want to bring things from AZ.  So I just have to figure out what makes sense to ship.  Felt good to get that accomplished today since Jon starts track 2 weeks from tomorrow.

Tomorrow I had planned to head to the museum.  But I'm going to see whether the forecasted rain develops.  If the weather holds we may go to the Grove instead.  I figure not too many schools are likely scheduled there this time of year.  So we might be able to see some of the cooler things.  Carolyn would love to see some of the things we've read about in her Little House books.

Monday, January 7, 2013

We have a reader!

Today was a really good day, even with it being Jon's first day back at work after break.  James woke up not feeling so great, but we snuggled in bed for about an hour before Carolyn woke up at 8:30.  It was amazing to sit and listen to him jabber away given that Carolyn usually doesn't let him get a word in edge wise.  Seeing him respond to the noises of the buses and garbage trucks outside was awesome.  I will forever treasure our early morning snuggles.

The morning wasn't too eventful, having breakfast and watching the kids color in the seven to put on the wall.  James is having a hard time understanding why Carolyn's gets put up, but we can actually see the number when she's done.  Then we all got dressed and went to gymnastics.  James actually stayed put today and did a great job following directions from his teacher.  Days like today I think he'll be ready for class on his own next fall/this summer.  I wonder what I'll do for 45 minutes with both kids in class.  We came home, had lunch and the kids went down for a nap.  Of course, Carolyn chose not to nap much, having slept in.  So I let her play reading eggs on the tablet while I got in a bit of work.

After James was up we fit in a snack and some reading work.  Carolyn did some worksheets as she loves them.  I think she really likes the attention she gets while doing them as well.  After a few she got fidgety and James was clearly done humoring me as I tried to quiz him on colors.  He's got most of them sorted out now but yellow and orange.  So we headed outside to enjoy the warmer winter weather.  It being 40 in January, we pulled out some toys and the kids rode around while I got in a quick workout.  I am so sore today that I knew I needed to do something to help alleviate the soreness.  The kids enjoyed the fresh air though and I'm really looking forward to spring in this house.

The reading didn't occur until dinner was in the oven.  Have I mentioned how much I LOVE our new kitchen?  As I finished up, Carolyn started to ask to do more "work".  I directed Jon to her papers (stowed so James can't make a mess of them) and we spread her things out on the counter.  She filled in the blanks and then read back to us 4 sentences.  I helped her with 1 word in there, and otherwise just pointed to each word for encouragement.  I truly believe that if Carolyn had a touch more patience to sound out new words, she could read an actual book.  I'm considering finding a book with familiar words for her to read to me in the morning so she can take it with to the library in the morning as her first independently read book.  They have a special program for it.  I think it's awesome that she's reading before her 5th birthday!  I would say preschool at home has been a success so far.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Family Time!

I'm thinking we're going to start a new tradition that involves more family time on Sundays.  I'm even thinking of switching my non-work day to Saturdays.  But that has yet to be determined.  In any case, I had a great day today.  While Jon and the kids were at church I got some work done.  I stopped when they arrived home and we all played in the playroom until lunch.  After lunch was of course naps, although James put up a little fight.  I hope he isn't getting sick, because he's become super snuggly and fought going to bed tonight because he wanted to be by me.  I love the extra snuggles, but I hope he's feeling okay in the morning.  After naps the kids had a snack and then we bundled up to go for a walk.  We went down the block and over to Kim's street.  Rang the doorbell but her parents didn't answer (not to self call Kim first so I'm not freaking her parents out).  The kids enjoyed looking at all of the "big" houses.  There are quite a few tear downs around here.  Carolyn declared we could hold her birthday party in them - the mind of a 4yo!  Of course on the way home we can got sidetracked by the park.  The slides were fairly wet so it didn't last long.  When we returned home I worked more on the kids' rugs and we all played in the living room.  It was some really nice family time and I think I'd like to repeate next weekend.  Of course, we also have other Sunday excursions coming up including a trip to my Great Aunt Ollie's (been 2 years I think) as well as Disney on Ice (thanks Dad).  But with Jon starting to coach in about 2 weeks, I think these afternoons together could be a good chance to regroup as a family before heading into another long week together.

We also colored the number 6 and put it up in the playroom.  Tomorrow we will work on some reading either in the morning or afternoon.  It might warm up again, in which case we'll head outside in the afternoon and possibly even go the park.  I decided today that we'll be investing in rain gear for the kids and me this Spring so that we can get outside each afternoon, unless it's storming.  We all seem to sleep better with some fresh air.  Maybe tomorrow I'll even fit in some lifting while the kids play!  Time to get some rest for what promises to be a very busy week!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Back to preschool activities

I had a chance while on the plane to sit and think about activities to do with the children.  I wrote a list of plans for the next few weeks to fill our mornings and afternoons.  Of course, I included our pre-planned gymnastics, library, and swim lessons.  I added in a trip to the museum and one to the Grove.  I scheduled to stay at for science, art, and game days.  This is mostly to keep myself accountable as Jon starts track - to put down the computer.  But also to keep bickering among the kids to a minimum as the cold weather continues.  I'll continue to encourage free play, but when the kids can't seem to play together anymore or are clamoring for video games, I'll start with that day's plans.  I'm looking forward to having some things down on paper.

One thing Carolyn had expressed interest in is counting to 100.  James is starting to be able to count to 10 as well.  We finally got him over "1, 2, 3, 8" and now he does 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10!  Just have to sneak that 7 in there and he'll be good.  But I figured number recognition would be good for both of them.  So today I found some coloring pages and arranged them so I could print 1 page with 2 numbers so they could have matching projects.  I explained to Carolyn the need to color neatly, which she did well with at first.  We are going to do one page a day until we reach the 100th day of the year.  It being the 4th though, they completed 4 pages and when she got to 4 she got a little sloppy.  It's okay though, part of being a 4 year old.  I then took Carolyn's 1-4 and taped them to the top of the wall in the playroom.  Since that will be one of the last rooms redecorated, I figured this would make a good decoration.  We'll go all the way around the top of the room with a new number each day.  James' sheets were bundled into a clip for the kids to look through.

Very much so looking forward to getting back into a routine on Monday!  I'm excited to see what the kids can learn in this second half of the school year.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Memories that last

What a great trip!  We arrived pretty late on Monday evening, but everyone slept in Tuesday and in the morning we headed over to see my grandpa and Doris.  We walked over there and my grandpa met us on the sidewalk, a huge deal as this was his first venture out without a walker since his surgery.  We enjoyed just sitting and talking until the kids got cranky and we headed back to the other house for lunch and naps.  It was great to get out and walk in the sunshine with hats and coats!  We went back in the evening for dinner which was also nice.

On Wednesday my grandpa came over to his house while Jon took the kids to the park.  We went through some things in the house and talked about what he would like to see happen to them.  I will be looking into the price of shipping his stained glass materials including a saw and grinder to our home.  I also might look at the price of shipping some of his other tools and a couple furniture items at the same time.  He really wants us kids to have his things and I think we might really use them.  First we need to clean out our garage to see what we have room for.  There's a sewing table with sewing machine that I have my eye on as well, so we'll see how it all works out.  What was great about this visit though was a chance to talk with my grandfather.  I think I got him to understand that we visit with him because we want the memories.  He tried to say that talking on the phone is just the same, but I pointed to James' phone skills to highlight that not being true.  He lamented his vision being poor and his hearing not so great (he lost a hearing aide) and I told him that our reason for visiting is selfish - we want the memory of being with him.  Unfortunately I made him cry, reminding him that family is what matters.  He has decided to move towards selling the house, although backpedaling a little now that Doris looks to be on the mend.  I told him that even if he sells his house I will still be coming to visit him.  I'll never forget sitting in the room and hugging him as we both cried over the idea that he won't be with us forever.

Another great memory from this trip took place on Wednesday night.  Since Sheri (Doris' niece) treated dinner Tuesday, we brought pizza over on Wednesday.  Everyone ate their fill and then we sat around the table talking and the kids played their video games a bit (thanks for both systems Dad, a major life save on this trip!)  As usual, James continued to nibble at food, telling Jon as he started to clean up plates.  He then found the cup of ranch dressing for the salad and put some on his plate.  Shockingly, he didn't make a huge mess.  He proceeded to dip his pizza into the ranch and take a bite.  My grandpa then commented on this and James offered him a bite.  It was the cutest thing in the world to see him try to hand my grandfather what was left of his piece of pizza.  Grandpa said no, and told James his stomach was full, pointing to the top of his throat.  We had another good chuckle about that at bed time back at the house.  These are the memories life is made of, and time we'll never get back.  I'm sad to think it's possible I may never see my grandfather alive again, but I continue to pray that my kids will continue to make memories with him for a few years.  And I hope that Grandpa will get to meet Tim's new baby in a couple months.

Time to get some rest as it's back to the grind with 2 tutoring sessions and plenty of work tomorrow!