Sunday, July 31, 2011

Living in July: A Trip to Chicago

I've been MIA for a few days because our family took a 4 day trip to Chicago.  I should clarify, we never actually went down town (we're not much for the hustle and bustle), so most people wouldn't actually consider that a trip to Chicago, but we were close, so that's what I'll call it =) 


Trevor showing off his golf skills at one of the hotels we stayed at.  Notice Mackenzie in the background...she likes to cheat =)

This highlight of the trip was actually a stop that we made on the way home.  Trevor loves trains (really anything that goes!) and I happened to find a steam museum that was a few miles off of the expressway, so I figured it was the perfect place to stop!  It was pretty much in the middle of nowhere, so I was thinking "are they really going to run the train just for us?!?" but much to my surprise there were lots of people there!  I have no idea where they came from, but they were there =)

The main attraction at this place is that you can ride three trains.  There is a mini train that you actually sit on top of, a little train that you barely fit into, and a close to normal sized train.  We chose to ride the big train (it's $5 per person to ride, but kids under 3 are free...thank you Trevor for not turning three until next month!)  It took us on a 20 minute ride through trees and around ponds and across the Michigan/Indiana boarder.  Trevor was tickled pink over the idea of riding on an actual train.  Mackenzie loved the "toot toot" of the trains telling of their coming and going.  I absolutely recommend stopping for a ride if you happen to be passing near there.

They also had a little gift shop selling train paraphernalia where they had a train table set up for kids to play with while their parents browsed.  Of course both of my kids loved it.  Trevor said that he was sad when we had to leave because he really wanted to keep playing.  He was visibly upset we had to go, but I praised him for controlling his emotions and expressing them in a good way (unlike the other little boy who was throwing himself on the floor and screaming when his parents told him he had to go).  This experience made us think that getting Trevor a little train set for his upcoming birthday would just thrill him!



Getting ready to board the train.



So excited!



Hard at work at the train table in the gift shop.



Mackenzie getting the hang of it too!


If you've ever had a train set for your kids, what do you recommend?  After looking online and hearing thoughts from some of my friends on facebook I think I'd like to get just a basic figure 8 set of the Thomas the Train brand and add onto it in the future as gifts for birthdays and such, but I'd still love more personal recommendations!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

I've got a real website!

Well, I guess I've always had a real website, but now you don't have to remember the .blogspot on the end =)  I feel like a big girl blogger now! Other than that, it is business as usual.
The old web address (www.livingandlearningathome.blogspot.com) will now transfer you to the new web address:

I'd also like to take the time to thank all of you who read what I share.  I love connecting with you in this way!

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Yummy Smoothie Popsicles

I'm always on a quest to eat healthier.  Sometimes I don't have the energy to think about it, but it's always floating around in the back of my mind and pops back up from time to time.  This past week our family decided to start an elimination diet.  Anyone with food allergies is probably familiar with this sort of diet.  Basically it's eliminating lots of foods (or just a few if you're pretty sure what your issue is), letting your body sort of rest on easy foods for a while, and then reintroducing the foods one at a time to see how your body reacts.  No one in my family has any serious allergies, but we all have something that bothers us, from tummies, to skin, to energy, etc., so I thought this would be beneficial.  Anyways, all that to say that the foods we have to eat these days are quite limited and I am trying to find yummy variations of the foods we can eat so we don't burn out from food boredom!

Since it's been so HOT around here this week, I thought that trying to make up some popsicles would be fun (plus, Trevor is obsessed with things that freeze and melt =)  Since the back-to-school merchandise has already taken over the stores, popsicle molds were a little hard to come by, but I eventually found some.  Since we are going for healthy, I looked around online to try to find ideas for an all-fruit popsicle.  I basically followed this recipe for All Fruit Popsicles.  I used all cantaloupe (because that's what I had) and raspberries instead of strawberries (because strawberries are on our no-no list right now!)

Just cut up your fruit (I used 1/2 of a cantaloupe and a handful of raspberries) and throw it in the blender.  Pour your (thick) mixture into your molds and let freeze for a couple of hours. It's as simple as that!



Our molds.



They look like little sailboats!  I was suspicious of how they would work since the molds were only $1, but they come out perfectly!



The kids enjoying their popsicles.  Trevor ate three =)  He would have eaten more if we hadn't stopped him!


Once I made them up I realized that really it's just freezing a smoothie, so I poured some of Tim's leftover smoothie into more molds and this morning I checked and they came out great as well!  Now as long as Trevor doesn't notice the spinach in the new batch I think I've got a winner!  It's a fantastic, yummy, fun way to have your kids eat their fruits and veggies on these hot summer days.

Happy Summer!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Bible Memory Time!

Pin It

Like I mentioned a few days ago in this post, we want to start having Trevor memorize Bible verses.  I figure if he can memorize songs and numbers and the sounds that letters make, he can memorize verses!

I have been working on sorting through Proverbs and pulling out verses dealing with character traits, categorizing them, and then picking out one from each grouping.  I want to spend a week (starting in the fall) on each character trait, and the verse for that week would go with the trait.  Then I got a recommendation of the book, Child's Book of Character Building, which seems to expand on the same concept, so we are going to start going through that and memorizing those verses in the fall.

I was made aware of that book from looking at simplycharlottemason.com.  On the website, they have a scripture memory system that seems really great. (See ours here!)  Essentially it's writing all the verses you want to memorize on 3x5 cards.  Then you have a 3x5 card box with dividers in it (Daily, Odd, Even, Monday-Sunday, 1-31).  Every time you start a new verse, you move the previous verse back to either the Even or Odd divider, then move the one there back to one of the days of the week, and move the one from the day of the week divider to a number divider.  So each day you do the verse behind the Daily, Odd or Even (depending on the day of the month), one day of the week, and one date divider.  I think it's a great system! You are slowly practicing each verse less and less as you know it more an more.  For a more detailed description, check out the link above.

That website also has verse recommendations, so I looked through those and threw in some extras.  I don't know how much Trevor will be able to handle this year, but if nothing else it will get him in the habit of listening to and memorizing scripture.  It will also be great for Tim and I, who always want to be memorizing more (or refreshing what we know), but never seem to stay consistent with it.

Here are the first few verses that will probably get us through the summer before we start working on the character trait verses...

  • Genesis 1:1
  • Genesis 1:27
  • Genesis 1:31
  • Genesis 2:7
  • Psalm 23

Trevor has his first verse down!  He needed a little help in this video, but it's been a few days since I shot that and now he has it perfectly.  (Oh, please don't mind all the toys in the background =)


Genesis 1:1 "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." 

I can't think of a better place to start =)

Do you do Bible (or poetry, or speeches, or whatever!) memorization with your family?  I'd love to hear how you do it and what you're memorizing.


Happy Memorizing!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Being Crafty - Making a Slipcover for my IKEA Chair

About four years ago, Tim and I bought dining room chairs from IKEA.  They are fairly simple, and what I loved most about them is that they have a slipcover.  I generally hate slipcovers, they never fit right and look more like a sheet thrown over a piece of furniture.  Not so with IKEA slipcovers!  Since they are specifically made for the type of chair (or couch, etc.) they fit perfectly and are super snug!  The other great thing is that when we bought them I figured that in a few years we could just buy new covers and essentially get new (looking) chairs for not much money.

So fast forward four years to a couple of weeks ago and Tim and I are at IKEA hoping to get new slipcovers for our chairs (in addition to a few other things).  We are looking at the slipcovers (which range from $10-$40 per cover) and are not super impressed with the style selection.  We are trying to get our condo ready for selling in a few months, so I wanted something that would complement the new paint color we are thinking of getting, and have a bit of a pattern to disguise the messes that children inevitably make.  We finally settled on one.  We didn't really like it, but it was the best they had to offer, I didn't want to come home empty handed, and really I didn't know of any other option besides picking from what they had to offer.

We get home and the next day I try one cover on a chair.  I couldn't believe it, but it was way too big!  It fit nothing like the covers we currently have on our chairs.  So I searched on the internet and, much to my frustration, IKEA had changed the size of our particular chair sometime between when we originally bought them and now.  What were we going to do?  We chose these chairs because of being able to change out the slipcovers instead of getting new chairs.  As I continued looking online, I noticed that some people sell custom made covers for our chair.  This was great because the fabric selection was much better, but now your talking $70 and up per cover. No way!  Then I stumbled upon this blog where a lady actually made her own beautiful slipcovers for her dining chairs (same kind as we have).  I was inspired!

Now I am not a great crafter, but I am a "get it done" kind of person, so I was confident that I could make this work!  I first created a mock cover by hand with an old table cloth I had lying around, just to see if this was actually possible. I was so pleased with the result!  The lady on the blog I found made her covers a little fancier than I wanted, so instead of following her pattern, I decided to just rip apart one of my covers to use as my pattern...check it out!


I went to the store with my mom and picked out this fabric.



I ripped apart all the pieces of the old slipcover and marked which pieces would need to be sewn back together.



I pinned my pieces onto my new fabric and cut around them, leaving a little extra room knowing that my seams wouldn't be as narrow as the original ones.


I didn't take any picture of the actual sewing part.  I do not have my own sewing machine, so my mother-in-law was so gracious to let me use her machine.  She even got our her second machine and helped me so we would get done quicker!



The finished product.  I love it!  It's by no means perfect, as I am not a seasoned seamstress, but it's plenty good enough for me!  Now I just have seven more to make =)



Close-up of the seat.


Happy Crafting!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Our (Not So) Summer Break

At first I had every intention of continuing preschool with Trevor this summer.  I figured, why not? it only takes a little while every other day or so.  Then I realized how completely bored I was with what we were doing, so I was very unmotivated to prepare for the days lesson.  That is when we stopped.  But then Trevor kept asking to "do school."  I tried to give him fun things to do on the floor (think games, sorting and counting things, etc.), but that didn't satisfy him, he would say "No! On the table with papers!"

I have been hard at work putting together my lesson plans for the start of this coming school year, so I thought, why not just start with some of that stuff.  Breaking from the plan makes me nervous =) so I had to come to terms in my brain that starting early and not doing everything in exactly the same order as I had planned was going to be ok.  So this is what we have been doing....


Floor Time: we do this first thing in the morning after breakfast
  • Changing the calendar pieces
  • Bible memory verse (this past week was Genesis 1:1)
  • Singing (nothing in particular, we take turns picking songs)
  • Reading (we've started Alice in Wonderland)

Chores (around 9:00am)
Room Time (Trevor and Mackenzie play together for about 45 minutes)
TV Time (Trevor loves Word World)

Writing or Math (around 10:30am when Mackenzie is napping)
  • Trace and Build Pages
  • Handwriting Worksheets (from Confessions of a Homeschooler)
  • Counting groups of 10 (using craft stones Trevor found in a box) in preparation for learning to count to 100
  • Skip Count song (I'll have to write a post on this one =)
  • Counting the money he learns from doing his chores

We don't do this every day, but I'd like to try to work up to that.  Trevor and I both function better on a schedule, so when we don't do school I usually feel like we are both floundering a bit!  There are a few other elements that I want to include for the start of the school year, so maybe we will slowly start incorporating more of those things too.

For those of you who homeschool, do you school all year round (maybe taking small breaks more frequently throughout the year), or do you take a long summer break like the public schools do?

Happy Learning!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Giveaway: Large Family Logistics

Large Family Logistics


A few months ago I discovered a new blog, Smockity Frocks, that I really enjoy (thanks Danielle!)  Today I read that her and a group of three other bloggers are going to be doing a "book club" using the book Large Family Logistics.  I by no means have a large family, but I could sure use some better logistics to manage my home and family!  I am really looking forward to reading their blogs and learning some tips from mamas who are more experienced than I am.

The fun part is that each of the four blogs is going to be giving away a copy of Large Family Logistics to help a reader follow along in the club.  If this sounds interesting to you (like it does to me!), you can go to the following blogs and enter to win your very own copy =) 

Smockity Frocks
Life in a Shoe
Raising Olives
The Common Room

Happy Winning!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Like Mother, Like Son

Trevor is a great little kid.  He is so smart and inquisitive and is a critical thinker.  At home he is loud and silly and always ready for what's coming next.  But when we go out, all bets are off.  He turns into a shy, hesitant observer.  This at times has frustrated me, but it has become obvious that he is that way because of ME.  I will take him to the play place at the mall, but if there are too many kids there he just wants to sit on the edge and watch.  When we had family over for Mackenzie's birthday party he did well for a while, but by the end he say saying "Mama, I just want to go home."  We went to a friend's house to swim last night, but he just wanted to sit on the edge and put his feet in.

It hit me last night how similar we are when I realized that I was mentally exhausted from being out around people that I am not used to being with all the time.  It's like the Myers-Briggs personality test type question, "After prolonged periods of socialization, you feel like you need to get away and be alone."  YES! It's not that I don't thoroughly enjoy spending time with people, but after a while I find myself, like Trevor, saying "I just want to go home."

It's so interesting to think about how people are so different, but I'm glad that my son is so much like me =)

 
My little observer...how I love you.