Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Target Haul - Back to School Edition

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Yesterday I talked about savoring summer, and here I am today talking about back to school shopping!  I am definitely not wishing away the summer days, very much the opposite actually, but back to school shopping is something that I enjoy immensely, and my children also enjoy it!  Add in that we are year round homeschoolers, and back to school shopping starts a little earlier than normal.

A couple of years ago I tried really hard to get the best deals on school supplies.  I waited until everything was marked down.  It was still before school started around here.  What happened?  The stores did not have all the items that I had hoped to purchase.  To avoid that issue, I now go ahead and shop earlier in the back to school season.  There is a better selection, and the deals are still quite good.  I do still hit up the crazy discounted prices after school starts, but that is instead for filler items, extra notebooks, more pencils if the kind I like are still available.

Make sure you read through my entire post to see my corresponding YouTube video!

We are starting our new school year next week!  I can’t believe that it is that close.  I have mentioned before that we are year round homeschoolers, so while we do take time off during the summer, and also have a much lighter load on the days we actually do school, we prefer to have largish chunks of time off throughout the year.

Because we are starting next week, I realized that we would need to pick up a few things at Target for the kids. 

Surprisingly we didn’t need nearly as much as I originally thought.  My main concern was to get notebooks for the kids, and that is such a basic piece of equipment for the kids’ schooling.

Notebooks are probably my favorite tool for homeschooling.  They are incredibly versatile, and can be used for anything from planning, to drawing, to actual school work; and they are incredibly cheap - $.17/notebook for the wide ruled right now!

A couple months ago I saw a blog post by Sarah Mackenzie, author of Teaching From Rest, and she discussed how using spiral notebooks was simplifying her homeschool planning.  I have used spiral notebooks for planning out what I need to do with the kids for school regularly, and only this year decided to purchase an Erin Condren Teacher Planner to help with my planning.  But, spiral notebooks are an amazingly cheap and easy way to plan out your days, and to encourage your kids to take ownership of their schoolwork.

The kids picked out new backpacks and also got lunch boxes for the first time.

This year I am going to try packing the kids a lunch and snacks in the morning (or if I am super organized, the night before!).  My purpose in this is to streamline our school time a bit more.  I allow the kids to eat when they are hungry, instead of adhering to specific meal/snack times.  The reason I do this is because my kids are hungry constantly, but eat small portions at each meal so they need to eat more often.  My hope is that if there is a lunch/snacks already packed, we won’t have to interrupt our school time for me to go and fix them a snack, they will be able to get something out of their lunch box and continue on their day.

Some of the other new school supplies we picked up are new markers and crayons, drawing pads to use for science notebooks as well as artist notebooks, new pencils and extra erasers, and large construction paper.

I am really excited about our new school year.  I have all of our books now (in my video I mention they were going to arrive Wednesday, but they showed up yesterday instead), and am ready to sit down and plan out our first week of school!

Where are you in the back to school process?  Are your kids starting school soon, or is it closer to Labor Day for your area?

Monday, July 27, 2015

Savoring Summer

We are loving these long summer days!  The weather is absolutely beautiful, the days are long, we can go for long walks or spend the day at the pool; it is definitely a great summer.

Last summer I was having a bit of trouble with low blood pressure while I was pregnant with Lucy (normally people worry about high blood pressure!), so I didn't get to enjoy the summer as much as I would have liked, instead resting most of the time.

This summer is different though.

The past several weeks we have been getting outside as much as possible.  

It is amazing to me to watch my kids play outside and play well together.  I love to see them create their little games, to watch them chase each other all around the yard and to race on their bikes when they ride up and down the street.

I realize that these moments are fleeting and it is going to be cold again soon.  We had a little taste of it yesterday when it was rainy and only 64 degrees – definitely different than what we have been used to!

I have been shifting over to party planning mode with a certain little boy celebrating his 5th birthday pretty soon.  It is a big one and I know I am not ready for it.

This year has been flying by for me.  I realize that I am probably not the only one.  Thinking about August starting next week, and knowing that our new school year will be starting soon as well, it reminds me to savor every moment that we have of the warm weather, and of every day really.

I don’t know if it is because I have another little one in the house now, if that is why the days seem to be speeding by, or if there is something different about this year specifically, but I want it all to slow down.  I feel the need for more than 24 hours in a day. 

At the beginning of the year I spent time reading several books that spoke to making the most out of every minute of your day.  I feel like I have been living that this year.  Not spending time on the activities that don’t bring value to my life, and instead spending a lot of time on what my family and I love doing.

There is definitely a learning curve.

It has been an amazing summer so far, and I am excited to finish it out getting every minute of time used to enjoy my family.  Now to get outside for a walk!

How is your summer going?  Are you enjoying every minute?  Is it moving too fast for you as well?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

US Cellular Presents Big Country! #USCCBigCountry

I am part of the US Cellular #BetterMoments Blogger Brigade.  I have been compensated for this post, but all opinions are my own!

Travel.  It is something we all want to do.  Unfortunately, a lot of the time we are unable to make it happen, whether it is money or time, it is easy to let life get in the way.  I’m not sure why we do that, why don’t we take the bull by the horns?  Go for it, instead of waiting for the “right” time.

One trip that I have always wanted to take, but have yet to make happen is a trip across the country.

I live in Maine, and love living in Maine, but would be incredibly thrilled to have the opportunity to make a cross country trek in an RV, with my whole family.  I am a bit of a history nerd and dream of visiting all the historical landmarks in our country.  What an amazing adventure that would be!  I think perhaps my mom telling me of her adventures going cross country with her friend after high school probably had something to do with it.  I have been a lot of places, but not all the way across the country!

I know I am not alone.  Millions of Americans dream of that one big trip.  In fact, a lot of them have never even left the state that they were raised in.

I remember in high school taking my best friend across the Maine/NH bridge for the first time.  It was great to share her first experience leaving the state.  Perhaps a little nerve-racking for her with her fear of bridges…but that is another story. 

*A recent survey conducted by US Cellular found that about one in three Americans have not traveled across the country – I guess I would be included in the ones that haven’t!

“This summer US Cellular, a wireless carrier offering national coverage, is teaming up with award-winning television personality, chef and food writer, Andrew Zimmern, to premiere “Big Country,” a five-episode digital series where the mobile carrier and Zimmern find deserving customers from across the US and take them to places they have always wanted to visit, including New York City, Portland, Maine, Bend, Oregon and San Francisco.”

I was really excited to see Portland, Maine on the list!  Awesome little city in my home state!

US Cellular developed the series with Scripps Network Interactive and Zimmern to allow customers to experience some of the most amazing sights and tastes from around the country.

You can watch the episodes on here on the US Cellular site.  It is also being featured on ulive.com,  foodnetwork.com and travelchannel.com. 

They have already chosen 4 lucky winners, but US Cellular is still searching for one more hopeful!  That is where you come in.  You can apply or nominate others here until August 10th.  This opportunity is only available for US Cellular customers. 

One of the most important parts about traveling is being able to connect with your family back home.  I always love to share my experiences with others, whether it is through pictures on Instagram or FaceTime with my family.  I’m not alone either, most (81%) share photos of their vacation with Facebook being the top place to share.  The fact that US Cellular has a great 4G LTE network nationwide allows me to share in real time, which I love.

What one trip  have you been dreaming about? 

*Results are from an online survey of 3,562 nationally-representative smart phone owners conducted by Ipsos Marketing on behalf of U.S. Cellular. The survey was conducted from Jun 18-25, 2015.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Homeschool Planning - Creating Monthly Themes

When I started to think about this school year, I kept coming back to monthly themes.  I like to have a sense of where we are going throughout the year, and I think themes are a great way to do that.  When I got the Erin Condren Teacher Planner and saw that they included a calendar page listing all the holidays throughout the year, major and obscure, I thought this would help in my deciding on themes.

What is the purpose of a monthly theme?

I see the monthly theme as a way to broaden the kids’ school using projects.

I love project based learning, and want to continue to incorporate it within our homeschool every year.  By taking a monthly theme, Independence Day in July, it allows the kids to go deeper within a subject. 

What I want the kids to do is take an aspect of the theme and make it a project.  I want them to be able to learn how to research, learn how to put together some sort of report or presentation, and delve deeper into the learning process.

How will the kids use the monthly theme?

My kids are still quite young, so I am not entirely sure how this theme idea is going to work out.

I plan to go over the theme at the beginning of the month, and then use that theme to go deeper with the kids.  I want them to decide on an aspect of the theme that interests them, and give them direction on how they can use the theme to work on a project.

My kids absolutely love to write and illustrate stories, and I thought having the blank books, one for each monthly project, would allow them to use a medium they enjoy currently for further learning.

What themes am I thinking about using?

Some of the themes I have been considering are pretty straight forward, The First Thanksgiving for November, Advent and Christmas for December.  I thought apples for September, and perhaps an entire month of Dr. Seuss in March, since that is when his birthday is.  Space is another one I thought of, because the kids absolutely love to learn about the stars and planets. 

Using these themes will help us to work towards a longer range project, and I think that the kids will be excited to take some ownership in their projects.

My concern is that perhaps one month is too short a time span to work on a project, so I definitely reserve the right to change my mind as we go along.  But, for the time being, I think that the projects are going to work out nicely. 

Our first theme month will be August, and it will be a “back to school/all about me” theme.  This will be a way to ease into the school year, and our use of themes each month.  I am really excited about seeing what the kids come up with, as well as encouraging them to delve deeper into the different topics we will be focusing on.

Do you use themes in your homeschooling?  Do your kids enjoy working on a large project over a longer period of time?

Friday, July 17, 2015

Zucchini Noodles with Fresh Pasta Sauce

One of my favorite vegetables in the summer is zucchini.  I know, most people are so sick of zucchini and try to give it away as the summer goes on.  I am not one of those people.  I think maybe because I haven’t had much luck growing zucchini in the past.  My mom would always tell me that I only needed one or two zucchini plants.  Unfortunately, I have squash bugs and cucumber beetles that enjoy eating my plants.  I’m hoping that the fact that we didn’t plant a garden this year, all those bugs decide to move on to someone else’s garden.

Even though I am not growing zucchini, it is still readily available at the farmers’ market and at our co-op.  With this fresh summer veggie there are so many recipes.  One that I started eating in the past couple years is zucchini as pasta.

Now, I do not have one of those cool spiralizers, so instead I spend the time to thinly slice the zucchini into long strips like spaghetti.  Then I place the “noodles” in a bowl and sprinkle with a little sea salt to soften them up.  At this point they can be treated just like pasta and put in your favorite pasta dish.

My absolute favorite way to eat pasta is with a fresh raw tomato sauce.  I chop a couple tomatoes, some mushrooms, mozzarella, garlic and basil and toss it with some olive oil and salt, and serve it over pasta. 

With the abundance of zucchini right now, I decided to replace the regular pasta with zucchini noodles.  It is so delicious I can’t even explain how delicious it is.  It is fresh and doesn’t make you feel like you have eaten too much with all the pasta that I usually consume with this dish.

What is your favorite way to eat zucchini?  Do you have a tried and true recipe you would like to share? 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

knitting and reading

I went to AC Moore this past weekend to look for some yarn.  I found some really pretty deep pink yarn that I think will look great on Emma.  I was so happy to finally get some yarn to start the Momoka that I am planning on making for Emma.

So I sat down to look at the pattern on my computer.  Well, first step, i-cord cast on.  Hmmm...I don't know how I normally cast on, I just do, and hope for the best.  First step, figure out i-cord cast on.  

The i-cord cast on doesn't look too difficult, I'm ready to see what is next - purl - got it!

Then comes the part that I am scared of:

Do you see those LL1 and RL1 codes?  Yup, no clue how to do that.

After I stared at the pattern for about 20 minutes, I realized that I was not ready to start this pattern.  I definitely need to look on YouTube for some pointers.  I'm sure that once I see the stitch being done, I will be able to do it, but it definitely challenged me a bit when I was ready to start the pattern.

I do love learning new things though, and have self-taught myself everything else that I have done with knitting, so I am excited to try something new.  But, I need to do a little more research before I cast on this project.  I'm kind of a perfectionist when it comes to knowing the stitches before I use them in a pattern.

Maybe next week I will actually have the yarn on the needles!  Baby steps, people, baby steps!

As far as reading goes, I am still reading Life Skills for Kids which I am definitely enjoying, and trying to figure out how I can incorporate these lessons in our day.  It seems like there are so.many.subjects.  I want to fit into our day between homeschool, extracurricular activities, character qualities, chores, there doesn't seem to be a lot of free time in there!  

I often find that in my own life as well, there are so many things that I want to do and learn, giving them all attention is impossible.  Maybe I need to write a ranking list from most important to least important, perhaps that will help me move forward with the kids and with my own skills and hobbies.

How is your knitting and reading going?

Monday, July 13, 2015

Amazing Summer Weekend

We enjoyed an amazing weekend together as a family this past weekend.  What a wonderful thing to be able to sit back and relax, especially with all the heat and humidity.

It has been an interesting time, not having a garden this year.  I feel like there are things I should be doing; watering the garden, weeding the garden, picking the produce.  That isn’t the case though.  It has thrown me off a bit in the way of what we are able to do.  I’m not as concerned about being away from the house for long hours, knowing I don’t need to rush home to water my wilted plants.

Instead, I have been having leisurely weekend mornings.  The ability to sit and drink my coffee, and chat with my husband has been wonderful.  No concerns about what the day will bring; the perfect way to spend summer days, in my opinion.

Saturday morning found me up at Target with only Lucy, which was amazing by the way.  I forgot how easy it to bring only one child out with me, instead of two or three.  I ended up picking up a small blow up pool for the kids to play in.  I am thankful I did!  We don’t get a lot of hot and humid weather in Maine, but when it comes, it is often a little much for me. 

The kids were ecstatic about the little pool and proceeded to spend every hour of light (minus our morning at church Sunday) in the pool. 

It made me so happy to see the kids enjoying something as simple as a $13 blow up pool for hours upon hours, and reminded me of an article I read recently.

I think in the summer we often want to fill up all those extra hours that aren’t taken up by school, but we forget that our kids, really, just want to be kids.

It takes a lot of pressure off the parent if you don’t need to make all these plans, and instead are able to slow right down.

To me, that is the purpose of summer, to slow down.

I want my kids to have an amazing amount of fun, absolutely, but I also want them to know that they can make their own fun out in nature.  There seems to be a fine line for me on whether I am the cruise director, or if I instead give them the tools they need to make their own fun.  I want them to make their own fun.

This week looks like it will be a beautiful one, and I hope that the kids decide to spend most of their time in that pool.  The warm days are short in Maine, and I want us all to make the most of it.  Especially since I am already thinking about the next school year, eek! 

How are you slowing down during these summer days?  What is your favorite way to spend the long and warm days?