Saturday, July 30, 2011

McLoughlin Family Xmas Letter in July Written by Samuel!

It’s hard to cram the events of a year into one letter in December, and I think that’s why a lot of people don’t even attempt it. Since retail stores are having Christmas in July sales, I think it’s time to write a Christmas Letter in July. This one is written from the perspective of our own Samta Claus, Samuel Scott McLoughln, aged to perfection at a mere 21 months.

What’s going on, family, friends, coworkers (fellow mess-making babies) and neighbors?
I’m gonna start this letter talking about my idol, my Da. As I write this he’s lying on the couch scratching his belly and reading Cook’s Illustrated magazine. He might switch it out later for a Woodworker's Journal. He likes to cook us yummy meals when he has time. He still works as an engineer and is a Scout leader. He built us a new swingset and fills our sambox (sandbox) with sand on a regular basis. He’s a good Da.

Ma got a laptop after she turned 40 and danged if she isn’t on it all the time writing down every move we kids make. She says it’s her 6th child and she puts a little blanket on it when we watch DVDs on it so we don’t get crumbs on the keyboard. I think I saw her nursing it one time, and I got mad because I still own those boobs. For fun and challenge, she gets her writing in more magazines every month, and still scrapbooks sometimes. She’s found a rockin’ local homeschool group on Facebook and is making friends. Here's a picture of her driving in her rental Mustang convertible that Da got her for her birthday weekend:

Dole (Joel) just finished a week of half-day gymnastics camp. He’s a swimming guru who goes off the high dive all the time. He and Da did a whole week of Cub Scout camp in June and enjoy shooting off their homemade water rocket. He turned 10 in June and got 2 hermit crabs from Jordan to put next to his hamster Daisy.
Bubby (Michael) did gymnastics camp with Joel. Otherwise I see him sitting at the dining room table a lot building new Lego creations. I like to climb up and mess up his Legos when he’s playing somewhere else in the house. He recently learned how to make cool shapes out of Legos, and loves his Betta fish Henry. In the spring he was in a Lego Robotics competition and rocked!

LaLa (Callie) can swim like a pro and was so pretty at her dance recital in June. She is headed for Broadway for sure. She sleeps in her own bedroom and makes it messy a lot, which takes some of the heat offa me. Da calls her Princess, which she digs.


E.P. (Eva Peeva) is off the glump-glump bottle and would sit around watching Barbie and Dora and Princess movies all day long if Ma would let her. She is a sweet pea most of the time, but sometimes she likes to mess with me just because can. She and I are in a daily Naughty Competition, and we like to make art on the walls.

As for me, well, I just kinda go around making messes all day. My proudest accomplishment to date is getting into the pantry (why don’t they lock it up?) DAILY and dumping out some sort of cereal or oatmeal or noodles or beans. I like to help Ma vacuum, so I have to help make messes, right?! Oh, and I also like music a lot.


My kinda sister and ex-neighbor AliAl (Alex) has been spending the night a lot and lately is over every day while her mom works, and I LOVE it because she is so sweet to me and likes to change my diaper and play with me. She’ll be in 4th grade in about a month. We like to have picnics.
Jor (Jordan) will be 14 in September and is getting tall and very pretty. She is also smart and funny and kind, so Ma tells her to wait a long time before choosing a boyfriend. Jordan is also my kinda sister and watches us when Ma goes to the dentist or the library or to the clubs (just kidding; making sure you’re paying attention). Jor’s gonna get something called an Escalade and drive us kids around someday. She buys me onesies sometimes because she's my sugar mama.
As a family, we like to go to the swimming pool. We went blueberry picking in June. We went to Crown Center a couple of times for kid exhibits, Sheridan’s and fountain-playing. We go to nature centers and visit Poppy, Nana, Tutu and Dave. Grandma Mac comes over every other week to clean our kitchen and play with us. Ma had a big 40th birthday party courtesy of Da, and LaLa, Bubby and Dole also had parties this year so far. Mine is in October and I will be 2!!!

Gotta go … time to go put some peanut butter in my hair! Write us soon!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Deanna Rose Farmstead in Kansas City

Another reason I like blogging is that when my husband leaves town (for work, not because he's simply had enough of us), he can still check in and see what's going on around here. Although I'm not usually posting up-to-the-minute breaking news posts, he can still see photos from our past exploits. Lately we don't spend much time going over digital photos taken every day like we used to when we first got the camera back in 2006.

So recently we went to Deanna Rose Farmstead in Kansas City just for fun. It was a pretty day, and apparently the rest of the city had the same plan as we did because it was cuh-razee there!

Okay, so here is Callie doing something I am totally opposed to: bottle-feeding an animal just so it will be kept tame for the kids to handle. I want them to show nursing animals at Deanna Rose, too! I'm such a big baby; I could never work on a farm because I'd be trying to milk a dairy cow while it's baby nursed on it at the same time. It would be like tandem milking. I couldn't stomach weaning an animal from its mom.

Thanks, Joel, for taking this picture of the rest of us.

My sweet babies at the waterfall at what used to be the entrance. Do you know how hard it was to get them all to face the same way?!

Little Sam is not afraid of anything, least of all a little goatie.
I love getting out of the house with my kids. Why have kids if you're going to sit around on your butt all day at home? I'm reading a book called The Idle Parent and the author suggests rarely going anyplace and just playing with your kids at home. That's cool, and we do that ... I let them have a lot of playtime together and I play with them, too, but getting out into the world is nice, too. We just normally try to pick days when most other kids are in school (another reason why I lightly homeschool in the summer is so we can get out and have some fun in the fall!).

Thursday, July 28, 2011

My Name is Kerrie, and I'm a Bravo-holic

I think I’m watching too much TV, which is like 7-10 hours a week, mostly while Sam sleeps on me early in the morning or while he sleeps on me for his naps and the kids run amok in the house. Specifically, I'm watching shows my mom tapes for me from http://bravotv.comBravo Channel. It’s no secret I love all the Real Housewives (although I’m falling out of love with the New Jersey one), much to my husband’s disappointment. It's not exactly uplifting television, I know.

Lately I’ve been watching something I never thought I would like called Million Dollar Decorators. The other day I said something to my husband like, “Hmmm, the pea green chair next to the pea green glider with the pea green drapes as a backdrop and the rose-colored carpet is not the aesthetic I’m aiming for in our living room.” Yeah, he looked at me like I'm crazy because it generally takes an army to get me to wash a dish, and why the H would I care what the "decorating" looks like?
Watching this show makes me want to rip out my dark wood cabinets with gold pulls in my kitchen and put in something a little more "fresh." It makes me want to touch up the paint on the baseboards. It makes me get more mad than usual when Eva covers her body with hot pink lipstick and then rolls around on the light gray carpet. [Aron, "Who would give a 3-year-old this color of lipstick? Who in their right mind?!" And I have to sheepishly reply, "Oops, uhm, me."]

I also love Flipping Out because Jeff Lewis makes me laugh my butt off when I can't figure out if he's being funny or a serious jerk. I love everyone who works for him and dig his design aesthetic. Specifically, I love wallpaper like this? You?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Kansas City Children's Museum: Kidscape

Back in May we hit a cool place called Kidscape at the Johnson County Museum in Shawnee, Kansas. It's FREE (donations gladly accepted), and is small. My only beef with it is that there are two ways out of it that lead into the main museum, so you can't relax if you have a kid like Sam who will keep trying to run out of one side or the other. Then again, the benefit is that you will lose some weight. Unless you use chocolate to medicate any mommy problems you may have.
The first room has a Wii, which we don't own and I had never played. I dug bowling! The big boys played it while Callie taught Sam how to fish.

Eva had a blast in the medical room caring for her 7 babies of all nationalities.
Michael found a cool box of connecting tile thingamajigs.
This is the front of the dress shop, where you can work on your fashion creation skills. Boys love it.
There's also a theatre where the kid can play dress-up and put on a play while you sit in cushy red velvet seats. Did somebody say red velvet cake? Gotta go.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Blueberry Picking

 This summer we took 6 kids (our ex-neighbor and friend is with us a lot, and we love it!) to The Berry Patch in Kansas City. We went at night so Aron could come with us, and also it was a little cooler and a LOT less crowded. I like to stay on the down-low like that a lot ... go places when they are less crowded. I figure I bring enough of a crowd of my own!
 Sam and I dressed in blue for our blueberry pickin'.
After we were done we rode on the blueberry train ... plastic barrels connected together. We rode all over the patch, and it rocked.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Guest Post: Tips for Getting Your Family Active

Today we are fortunate to have another guest post from Kathleen Thomas from Primrose Day Care Schools. Today's is about: Daily Physical Activity: the Foundation for a Healthy Lifestyle. When I told Joel about the 60 minutes of daily activity that kids should be doing (not to mention adults!), he was like, "Is that all?" Between swimming, riding his bike, chasing his siblings and more, he racks up quite a bit, as do my other kids! And I'm thinking the reason I recently effortlessly lost 15 pounds is because of literally chasing Sam everywhere we go! Check it out:

By: Kathleen Thomas, Primrose Day Care Schools  

Experts suggest that young children need to accumulate at least 60 minutes and up to several hours of physical activity every day. Unfortunately, many children are not nearly as active as they need to be. It is clear that along with poor diet, physical inactivity has contributed to a large increase in childhood obesity in the United States in the past 20 years. The following statistics are unsettling: 

Between 16 and 33 percent of children and adolescents are obese nationwide. (Source: American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry). The percentage of obese or overweight children is at or above 30 percent in 30 states. (Source: Trust for America's Health) 

Research has shown that children who develop basic motor skills such as throwing, catching, kicking, jumping, skipping, and balance are more likely to grow into healthy active adults. Studies have shown that daily physical activity helps children academically as well. Learning basic physical skills is essential to the healthy growth and development of your child. 

Dr. Stephen Sanders, author, professor, and director of the School of Physical Education and Exercise Science at the University of South Florida is a member of the Primrose Schools Education Advisory Board. He says that children do not necessarily learn physical skills on their own. He has found they need guidance and assistance from adults, challenging activities, and opportunities to practice and refine physical skills. 

“The amount of time children spend daily in physical activity is decreasing, and it will take a determined effort from parents to reverse this trend.” 

So, what can parents do to teach their children about the importance of being physically active and help them learn these necessary skills? Trying the tips below will help you and your family create a fun environment for physical activity and will contribute to everyone’s physical health. 

Tips for Getting Your Family Active: 

Find appropriate, safe spaces for quality physical activity: Provide safe spaces inside and outside for your child to be active. 

Ensure the availability of age-appropriate supplies: Being physically active is like learning to read, write, or do math problems in that each requires proper materials or equipment. 

Provide abundant supplies of balls, hoops, hockey sticks, bats, paddles, racquets, musical
instruments, jump ropes, etc. They need balls of all sizes, shapes, and weights such as beanbags, sock balls, and rubber balls. Equipment should be soft, lightweight, and made for children.

Be active with your children: Don’t just send your children outside to play--be a role model!  Go outside with them and participate in games and other activities that require physical exertion!

Use sidewalk chalk to create your own four-square or hopscotch grids; blow bubbles then chase them around the yard to see who can catch them; go on a walk around the neighborhood or through a park as a family; play music and dance inside or outside; and when the weather is nice put on your bathing suits and run through the sprinklers.

Promote a feeling of success when you play with your child. If your child is not yet able to successfully throw and hit a target, encourage them to move a little closer so they can be successful. Skills are acquired incrementally. Children who do not experience success have a tendency to quit and not practice. Acknowledge their efforts with specific comments. No matter what your child’s skill level is, be a supportive coach. They will benefit from your encouragement. 

When children come into the world, physical activity is at the very center of their lives. They have a mission to learn to crawl, walk, run, throw, catch, and kick. If they are going to enjoy participating in physical activities now and as adults, they need to build on that foundation of success an enjoyment that begins in infancy. So, grab a ball, badminton racket, or jump rope and set aside time each day to play with your child!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Reasons to Homeschool: Time With Grandparents

OK, I admit this was taken in the summer, but it could be in the spring or fall or winter. It's a photo of my dad pushing a few of the kids I brought on the merry-go-round at the park by his house. To me, it's cool to be able to hang out with my dad during the week. We have plans to go to the nature centers by his house, and to me that counts as a field trip, only less noisy and crazy and with zero permission slips to be signed and no nasty school busses.

We also like to chill with my mom, although now that she's working we don't get to as much. On her day off during the week she likes to work on her tan with her friend. Once cooler weather hits, though, we'll be alternating weeks at each other's home ... heading to Mickey D's playland for lunch, maybe to the pet store, maybe just sitting around watching movies and playing games and talking.

We also get to have my MIL come over every other week. She is retired now and likes to help out ... somehow I always end up relegating her to my nasty kitchen. I know she's coming, so I let the dishwasher run and let dishes pile up in the sink and have her make Koolaid and cook meat for dinner and such when she arrives. She also cleans my fridge. She is a Godsend!

Then there is my FIL ... who sometimes takes Joel to our local food bank to volunteer with him.

Let's not forget my step-parents ... Nana who will be an amazing resource for quilting and cooking advice and how is nice to just chill out with. She makes the most beautiful quilts for the kids! And Papa Dave, who scares the crap out of the kids by chasing them around the house and the yard with water and a scary voice.

What a great set of parents. A reason to homeschool AND a reason to never move away!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Conquering Homeschool Clutter

I am on a major paper recycling kick lately. I love dumping boxes of crap from my house into the recycle bin at church and knowing they are getting a little bit of money from my stuff while I empty my house of junk that is serving no purpose and never will. Here are some ways I do this:

  1. When well-meaning people give us homeschool things, I go through them immediately. I figure out what I might use and get rid of the rest (recycle, give to a friend, donate). Then I go through again about a week later to see if I've even thought about or touched the "keep stack" ... if not, I get rid of some more.
  2. You will drive yourself nuts trying to save every bit of paper your precious child has ever touched. I am a big baby and want to keep everything my kids ever drew or wrote on, but I know I never look at it and also that they won't want it all in the future. For now, I keep select pieces in the basement in a box and go through it regularly. Basic coloring pictures end up getting recycled a lot through the years, but original drawings and early handwriting attempts will be kept for more years!
  3. Along those lines, I had to start getting rid of workbooks. I started tearing out about 2 select pages that showcased my kid's handwriting or superior intelligence (!) and make sure the pages have a date and kid's name and put them in the basement keep box.
  4. I realized I don't have to put money out on things like math manipulatives when I have M&Ms, beans, beads and so on. This saves loads of space.
How do you tame the homeschool clutter monster? And if you don't homeschool, how do you tame the paper monster?


    Friday, July 22, 2011

    Schwarzenegger/Shriver/Alimony and the Media

    So I'm hearing about how Schwarzenegger doesn't want to pay "spousal support" to Shriver, right? But I'm confused already. I mean, it doesn't sound like he is trying to get out of giving her the 50% she is "due" per California law. It sounds like he doesn't want to give her ALIMONY.

    Didn't alimony go out with the 80s, when women needed the extra cash to buy their cocaine and globs of makeup and hairspray?

    Seriously, though, I get annoyed with the media sometimes. They spin crap with no problem whatsoever. It's easy to spin Arnold because he screwed up. He made a baby with another woman and didn't tell his wife for TEN YEARS. That is messed up. But let's put that aside for a second ...

    I ask you, doesn't Maria Shriver have like loads of her OWN money? I mean, the feminists say we better damn well be able to take care of ourselves, and she sure can. She probably has inheritance money since her poor relatives die all the time. She probably has money from when she was a big-time working professional and author. She can make another million in the next year without even trying. She's AMAZING.

    So the media likes to get us all worked up about stuff. We are stupid. We believe what they want us to. Arnold is bad. Maria is good. Give her mo money. That will make her feel better, at least, right?

    NOW ... if this were a REAL couple, like say my hubs and I (which it ain't gonna happen, so don't get any ideas here ... I'm just illustrating) ... I would have to throw the kids in daycare and school and get a J.O.B. Alimony would be a huge laugh! Alimony is for those with loaded husbands. (Child support is a totally separate issue, folks, and I would go after my man for loads of that so I could perhaps attempt to keep homeschooling and work from home, BUT a judge would probably not let me get away with it and just tell me to get a job.)

    Or ... is alimony for the women because they are taking care of the kids and want to be stay-at-home moms? Is alimony like payment to them for watching the kids? That's sweet if you can afford it. But Maria's kids are grown and in school.

    Does the media ever get you riled up and then you find out later the story was totally different. I'm trying to learn to suspend my disbelief ... and belief.

    Homeschool Elementary Grammar With a Big Family ... Cheap

    So when my oldest was in 2nd grade, I bought "Language of God for Little Folks Level A" by Nancy Nicholson, which is through Catholic Heritage Curricula and was a great basic grammar resource. I realize it's not for everyone, as some of the sentences to correct are religious (specifically, Catholic). The thing is Joel went through it really fast, and it was going to be $13 plus shipping for me to buy one every other year for each of my homeschooling kids, not to mention the price goes up for each year you need it for.

    While I do love this resource and recommend it, I just can't afford a standard curriculum and so I use resources like "What Your X Grader Needs To Know", Evan-Moor workbooks, Basic Skills workbooks, etc. I also RE-USE stuff.

    So I came across "Language of God" in the basement ... trying to clear out old homeschool stuff because I save every piece of paper my kids touch! I realized I could re-use it ... not as a workbook but as a basic resource. It takes a little bit of time to type of my own sentences, etc., but I save them on the computer and they are ready for the next kid.

    Also, I use the used workbook as a guide. Like instead of having my kid spend time working on something they have probably already learned through basic common sense, I verbally quiz them based on the workbook questions. Like I'll say, "Where would we use a capital letter?" instead of having them do countless workbook pages. If they can answer, I leave them alone. If not, we do some pages and revisit with a verbal quiz later.

    How do you save money homeschooling a tribe?

    Thursday, July 21, 2011

    Teach Your Kids to Detach from Stuff ... But How?!

    I have been fortunate enough to be invited to come with my mom to a restaurant every now and then to hang out with her and her high school friends. They are the neatest bunch of 60-year-old chicks out there, and I love being able to go meet with them. I was able to get away recently thanks to Jordan (Aron was working on our wooden fence that's falling down, so I needed my daughtersitter). I got to spend an hour and a half with 5 cool women, including my own mom, AND eat the best pizza out there AND drink iced tea AND eat a big old slice of white cake. Don't tell my husband about the bad diet (never mind, he reads the blog, so the jig is up).

    One topic that came up was junk we have in our homes. One woman has cool crap that her kids are going to want someday, but that's because she has traveled the world and has unique crap. The rest of us, though, decided long ago that if we don't want our parents' crap, why would our kids want OUR crap?

    Crap (aka material items, some that have emotional meeting and most that do not) can make us depressed, it can take over our lives, it can make cleaning our home seem almost impossible. Little kids love their crap because they are just starting to collect it and everything is special to them (ah, the rocks!).

    How do you teach your kids to detach from crap? I know my kids see me getting rid of more and more stuff over the last few years and not accepting new stuff. Recently my dad gave me a bunch of framed photos of my from when I was a kid and I'm thinking, "What am I going to do with these? I'm not going to put them up all over the house because (1) it's narcissistic and (2) I don't have the room!" So they are in the basement because I am stuck and don't know what to do with them and don't want to hurt Dad's feelings. (I think I'll just take the pics out, see if he wants the frames and if he does not, I'll donate them and just file the pics away).

    I know this is a topic that could span many a blog post and this is just the tip of the iceberg, right (I have lots of posts under the label down the right side of the blog under CLEANING where I talk about getting rid of crap, storing crap, etc.)

    What are your ideas? And by the way, happy birthday to my dad, who is one cool guy and grandpa to 8 kids (I have 2 step-nieces and 1 brand new step-nephew!).

    Tuesday, July 19, 2011

    Homeschool Science Experiment: Diving Raisins

    Check out this wicked cool science experiment we recently did. It's called Bobbing Raisins or Diving Raisins. You put about 2 T. of baking soda in a tall, clear glass. Then you SLOWLY pour in white vinegar. You can pour it in fast and get that volcano effect and amaze the little tots; just put a towel under it. When it's as full as you want it to be, pop in a bunch of raisins and watch them sink. Then come to the top. Then sink again. It's cool. Something about releasing gas and then going back to the bottom. I told the boys it's like the raisins swim to the top to fart, then sink to the bottom to get more gas. Hey, when you're dealing with boys and small tots, you have to be creative! Have fun! video

    Monday, July 18, 2011

    Bust Summertime Boredom (Guest Post)

    Happy 3-year Blogging Anniversary to me (actually it was on Saturday, but I totally forgot)! I started this blog in Phoenix when we had driven across the country with 4 kids in a minivan to be with my husband for 3 weeks. Instead of sending countless emails about our adventures, I started a blog and never looked back.  Here's my maiden post

    Bust Summertime Boredom with 10 Wallet-Friendly Ideas from Primrose Schools



    By: Kathleen Thomas, Primrose Child Care


    What could be worse than a rainy summer day, when your children are cooped up inside and you have nothing planned? For parents, even sunny days that seem filled with endless opportunities, still yield the inevitable “I’m bored!” Undoubtedly, your children will utter those words at least once during the upcoming summer months.



    Studies show that without stimulation, children can lose up to 60 percent of what they learned during the school year. Primrose Schools, a family of 200 accredited private preschools, suggests the key to overcoming summertime boredom and the “brain drain” effect is to encourage imaginative play and have a plan in place to keep children engaged during the summer months.



    “It’s important to keep children’s minds active during the summer, but it doesn’t take an expensive activity or big vacation to capture their attention,” said Dr. Mary Zurn, Vice President of Education for Primrose. “After all, imagination is free.”



    Summer is a great time to encourage children to let their imaginations soar.  School schedules can sometimes be demanding and time for less structured, imaginative activities is often scarce. The freedom of summer gives children large blocks of uninterrupted time to create projects of their own choosing that can last several days or even longer.



    Here are 10 ideas parents can use to keep young minds active during the summer months:

                                                                                                                                                                                

    1. Beat the Boredom Jar: At the beginning of the summer, sit down with your family and brainstorm a list of activities that can be done alone or that you can enjoy doing together. Encourage your children to share their own ideas and help you decorate and label a simple jar as the family “Boredom Buster Jar.”  They’ll feel more involved in the project and more likely to think this is a “neat” idea, if they participate in the creation and idea generation. Next, write everyone’s ideas down on slips of paper and as a group decide which ones should go in the jar. Anyone in the family can pull any idea out of the jar to fight the summertime boredom blues.



    1. Stories Alive: It sounds too simple, but reading is one of the most important ways to keep young minds engaged during the summer. Make reading even more fun by finding ways to bring the stories to life. For example, in the book Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran, children create a make-believe town in the desert out of rocks, boxes, and their imaginations. Read the book with your children and then challenge them to create their own town with materials they find in the backyard.



    1. Art Treasure Chest: You’ll need to gather basic art supplies–child safe scissors, glue, markers, tape, and construction paper. Put them in a special box along with empty oatmeal boxes and paper towel rolls, colorful magazines, and bits of aluminum foil. Occasionally add a special surprise like chalk, stickers, or stamp pads so there’s always something new for the children to find. Even if you normally have these supplies around the house, it‘s fun for children to know that the Art Treasure Chest is just for them. They’ll probably have some good ideas of other household items that can be recycled to fuel their creative energies.



    1. Family Performances: Break out old clothes or costumes and encourage children to make up characters and create a play to act out.  They are the directors, actors, and producers.  They can also make musical instruments out of pots/pans, wooden spoons, empty canisters and have a parade; or everyone can play along to your family’s favorite songs. Record or video the performances, and enjoy the replay.  You’ll also be capturing a bit of family history everyone will enjoy for years to come.



    1. Fort Building: Children love to build all kinds of structures--from small towns to large towers. Constructing forts or tents is an activity that can keep children focused and problem solving for hours. All the items you need can be found around the house–some chairs, cushions, blankets… and of course adult supervision.



    1. Cookbook Fun: Have you ever shared your favorite cookbook with your children?  Take it out and ask your children to choose a recipe to try. Measuring can be a fun and easy way to keep math skills fresh.



    1. Summer Scrapbook: All you need for this project is a spiral notebook. Encourage everyone in the family to draw pictures of favorite activities and collect mementos from special events throughout the summer.   Children love to go back through scrapbooks and albums and tell about what happened at each occasion.  They will also be building their storytelling skills at the same time.



    1. Listening Game: Lie down in the backyard, in the den or at the park and listen.  What do you hear? Do you hear what I hear? Can you imitate the sound? This is similar to watching the clouds and naming the shapes, and it encourages everyone to slow down and focus on listening.



    1. Camping Out: Pretend to campout in the backyard. Plan a meal, pack a backpack and set up a campsite.  You might even decide to spend the night!



    1. Scavenger Hunt: Make a list or picture cards of common household items and have your children find the items on the list. Invite friends or neighbors to join in the fun to make it a competition.



    Parents can use this list of ideas as a starting point for summer activities that offer a balance between the freedom of child-initiated play time and more structured activities.



    “Keeping children engaged with open-ended activities that stretch their imaginations during the summer months helps them develop their independence, creativity, and thinking,” said Dr. Zurn. “We want to help parents keep the “brain drain” at bay while their children play.”



    When preparing for a brain-drain-free summer, remember to suggest or provide age appropriate activities.  Many times, children say they are bored because the activity they were doing was either too simple or too advanced to keep them occupied for long.  Activities should be fun and challenge what they know, but should keep in line with the interests and developmental levels of your children. 



    Ultimately, we know every child is different, with different interests and learning styles so having a variety of ideas is a great way to be prepared during the summer months. Involving children in the planning of ideas gives them an opportunity to express their individuality and creativity.



    So with these tips in mind, sit down with your family and make a plan for an engaging, imaginative and fun summer.

    Sunday, July 17, 2011

    Ouija Boards and Kids

    I’m trying to get used to not having a mouse on my new laptop. It’s weird only having a little patch of silver to move my finger around on. Sometimes I’ll be moving my finger one way on the pad and the arrow goes another way on the screen, and this reminds me of an experience with a Ouija Board I had once. 

    My friend Ambre (who was like my sister, really) and I were probably around 12 and were hanging out in my bedroom. My parents and I had just moved in to the house recently, and had heard that a baby or kid or something had died there. It was a Cape Cod house with two large bedrooms upstairs. My room had a wall put up to turn it into two rooms … something about twins were expected or lived there and one died. Anyway, one night Ambre and I were doing the Ouija Board … which made a comeback in the 80s. 


    We were asking the usual questions like what’s your name and how did you die? We’d done the Ouija Board before and it usually “worked” … which meant we weren’t sure if the other one was moving it or what. This time was different. 

    This time I can’t remember exactly what happened (maybe I wrote it in my diary … I’ll have to dig around to find out), but the thing you put your hands on (lightly is the idea) was moving faster and faster to spell something and we couldn’t keep up and were accusing the other of moving it. 

    We both got pissed because accusing the other of moving it and we both took our fingers off of the cursor-like thing. 

    It started moving around by itself. It moved OFF THE BOARD and onto the dang hardwood floor and kept moving around. 

    We freaked out. One of us picked it up and threw it back in the box and then put the board on top of it. I don’t think I’ve touched a Ouija Board since. I get chills just writing about it. 

    Look, I’m all for good spirits and all that. I believe the dead can communicate with us. But doesn’t that mean that bad spirits are also around? I don’t know what we were dealing with that day, but it didn’t feel right. 

    I saw a Ouija Board “game” in my aunt’s garage recently. The boys wanted to get it out. It still creeps me out and I said no.

    Saturday, July 16, 2011

    How to Have a 40th Birthday Party

    My husband dressed the boys in 70s garb ... don't they look all smarmy and cute? I think they're saying, "Hey, there, ladies, give me a call in about 15 years!"

    I don't have a pic of Aron AND the boys with Aron in his 70s stuff. He did shave his facial hair to be all 70s and smarmy and then put on one of the wigs like the boys have on. He made me wear one, too. I embraced it.
    Hubs rented me a 2011 red Mustang convertible for the WEEKEND since it's my very favorite kind of car in the world and always has been. Do you like my wig? How about the 4-inch platform Barbie heels? I dig them so much. They give me attitude ... until I fall on my face. I'm here with Callie. Sam is parking the car.

    A shout-out to Bethenny Frankel and Skinny Girl drinks above. Mom and I were dying to try it. Let's just say there's a reason it's called "Skinny" ... I put some Koolaid in it and it was good to go!

    If you're in KC and need a DJ, these people were awesome and open to suggestions!

    After the DJ left the party was pretty much over at my house ... imagine what the neighbors were saying! There was a big ole tent in the backyard and a bouncy house and lots of debauchery (not really). So I took my pals Michelle, Ellen and Eva on a spin around town. We were free of kids for about an hour, then ready to go back to our families. I love my friends!
    As always, what would we do without Jordan? She got a 'fro on Sam and he rocked it.

    Friday, July 15, 2011

    LEGO MBA (Master Builder Academy) Kits

    Like I need more LEGO stuff to spend money on! So in the recent LEGO magazine I found the coolest thing that would make a great birthday or Christmas gift for the LEGO freak in your life. I'll just type it verbatim:

    The gift that keeps giving all year long!

    NEW! LEGO MBA Kits 2-6 Subscription

    Ages 8-12 947 pieces EXCLUSIVE

    Includes 1 LEGO MBA kit delivered every 2 months (5 kits total) and the members-only website! Each kit includes an 84-page Designer Handbook teaching 2 MBA techniques, building instructions to build 3 models, one at a time, and exclusive minifigure or accessories. Subscribe beginning in July 2011!

    Subscription includes:
    Kit 2: Microbuild Designer

    Kit 3: Robot Designer

    Kit 4: Flight Designer (this is where you get the exclusive LEGO MBA minifigure)

    Kit 5: Creature Designer

    Kit 6: Auto Designer

    4659018 LEGO MBA Kits 2-6 Subscription $69.99 plus shipping and handling fees

    You can order at http://LEGOmba.com or call 1-800-453-4652

    Thursday, July 14, 2011

    Kids at Funerals

    Would you dare take 5 kids ages 10 and under to a funeral? I did just last week. My great uncle died, and he was one of 5 children himself and was one of the funniest people I had ever known. I pictured him in Heaven laughing at the antics of my kids as I chased Sam around a puddly parking lot at the funeral home.

    I was holding up well until the military played "Taps" ... then I lost it and was grateful for my prescription sunglasses and the fact that the little ones had to be in the van and so I was away from the crowd as I cried. Then when the flag was folded and handed to my wonderfully ornery great aunt, I lost it again. Imagine 68 years married to someone culminating in a US flag being handed to you and 3 shots being fired.

    I hugged my dad with extra fierceness and hugged all my uncles and my grandpa as well. I think I hugged everyone and held them tight.

    There was a lunch after the funeral at the church my family attends. This is a church where I grew up and went with my grandparents when I would stay with them on weekends. My parents were married there in 1970. It was where I decided I'm not a fan of church nurseries because I remember being scared out of my mind to go stay with kids and adults I did not know a few Sundays a year.

    Please take a moment and consider helping out somewhere. I never thought about how wonderful food tastes after sorrow, and certainly never considered that there was a team of wonderful women cooking it all and serving it to mourners. I'm pretty sure someday I will be a woman cooking food for post-funeral luncheons because it's something I've appreciated several times.

    Melburn, you will be missed.

    Wednesday, July 13, 2011

    Homeschool Discouragement

     Recently on a Facebook homeschool group a mom was talking about getting discouraged and wondered what the rest of us do on days like this. I told her how I live right across the street from a fabulous public school and sometimes joke with my kids that they are driving me so crazy that I'm going to walk over and enroll them in school. Then I told her on extra hard days I remember that I'm not necessarily homeschooling because of my faith, but because of the freedom it affords.

    I love that if one of my kids is sick I don't have to throw them all in the van to take x number of kids to school in the morning, pick up a kindergartner at noon, then pick up more at 3:15. I love sitting around nursing while reading to the kids, being able to watch educational shows that I pick out versus some stranger teacher or administrator picking them out. If we stay up late doing something fun as a family, we get to sleep in a little.

    Field trips consist of all kinds of fun things and can happen anytime: the zoo, the farm, the circus, a kid art exhibit, a children's museum, to Phoenix where their dad is working, to Colorado for a vacation in September when there are no lines on rides. My husband comes home on his lunch break. My house is filled with happy sounds (and yes, sometimes the sounds of kids fighting and I yell KNOCK IT OFF !@#@#$). Oh, and how nice it is that if my kids aren't "getting" something in their learning, we skip it for a few weeks and come back to it and keep doing that until it clicks.

    Also, we get to hang out with extended family as much as we can. And my hope is that my kids might be great friends when they are older because they are together a lot doing fun things.

    My kids are only young RIGHT NOW. I want to enjoy it RIGHT NOW. I'm not saying that people with kids in school are not enjoying their kids. Most of my best friends do not homeschool, and we are not at odds in any way. I support them, they support me. But when pressed to come up with reasons why I homeschool and how I make it through every day, the above is what I come up with. I will never say that everyone should homeschool. But I also don't believe it takes a "special" or extra-patient person to do it.

    You can do it. If you don't want to do it, don't. But please don't step on my choices. Let me take things further than I should, as I am prone to do. Feminists: you are pro-choice, right? So support my choice to homeschool and have a ton o babies!!!!

    Tuesday, July 12, 2011

    Blacklisted from the PTA

    lelacover2
    I have to admit that I am only in the middle of reading my advance copy of Blacklisted From the PTA, but I am totally in love. I have loaded it onto my sweet new sixth child, my Toshiba Laptop McLoughlin (yes, she has a middle name now, ElfMom!) and read it every chance I get. I love the irreverent humor, and you will, too! She says things we all think, like how we all need to date our hubby more, and she gives us tips, like to make sure you shave before you go out and don't tell him to order the diet plate. She also shares her brief foray into the world of cloth diapering (brief, as in hours!). I love Lela Davidson and can't wait to read more of her essays. She is going to be a popular writer, so watch out for her! If you want to know more, check out the links below to get her book in paperback, on Kindle, to follow her on FB or Twitter. I guarantee she'll have you laughing!

    P.S. You gotta love the red pumps on the cover!

    Twitter @leladavidson, #BlacklistedFromThePTA, #PTAoutcast

    Monday, July 11, 2011

    Diversity Training in my Homeschool

    This is a picture of Michael patiently teaching Sam to mess around with crayons on PAPER instead of WALLS. I love the diversity in my homeschool. We're around black people, white people, brown people, mocha people, purple people (just kidding!), bullies, crazies, oldies, babies, doctors, janitors, engineers, nurses, writers, mailmen and soooo much more. I suppose I am the best teacher for my kids (along with their dad) of tolerance and the fact that diversity is good. I'm NOT saying we tolerate being treated badly or watch as others are treated badly. I'm not saying that the diversity of a person who mistreats animals is okay, either.  Well, I've totally lost my point now, and that's just the way I am. Just enjoy the cuteness of my boys being sweet together.

    Sunday, July 10, 2011

    Procrastinating Mommies

    Do you procrastinate when you have too much going on? Sometimes I find myself dragging my feet when I have only a few minutes to get 5 or 6 kids fed and into the van and dressed for dance class. I find a dish to wash. I find a phone call to make. I hurry and get Sam dressed and then rest for a few seconds of well-deserved but ill-timed down-time (loving-the-hyphens!). I write a blog post. I dig around in my bag. Then I rush everyone into the van and we go. Sometimes we're a few minutes late. Then I rush the remaining kids to buy hamster food because the dang thing has been out for days and we've been feeding her things we probably shouldn't. Then we take their friend-who-spent-the-night home. Then we pick up Jordan, pick up the Activitied Child and head home. Or to the pool. No wonder I procrastinate. And this is SUMMER, which means there is LESS going on!

    Saturday, July 9, 2011

    Rosetta Stone Free Demo CD

    I called 1-800-349-5311 to get the Rosetta Stone free demo DVD. It rocks. Too bad my memory is so bad after having and caring for 5 kids over the last 10 years that I probably couldn't learn a new language at gunpoint. I have enough Spanish in my brain to get by ... I get to practice it sometimes here in Kansas City. I would learn more if I had to, just as I would easily learn sign language if I had a deaf child. As for teaching my kids a foreign language, however, I'm stuck. I always thought we'd easily learn Spanish together, but I have enough trouble fitting regular stuff into our homeschooling days.

    What are your thoughts on foreign language learning? I know a lot of people who are teaching their children LATIN, for gosh sake. I think it would be cool but am so scatterbrained and disorganized that I don't know where we would fit it in. Tips?

    Thursday, July 7, 2011

    The Well-Planned Day GIVEAWAY!!!!!

    Rebecca Keliher of Home Educating Family has generously offered to send one of my readers a copy of her wonderful homeschool planner called The Well-Planned Day. I can vouch for this $24.95 resource ... I just bought one and love it. It's gorgeous and includes articles about homeschooling. You can check it out here, then come back to leave me a comment, which will enter you into my drawing. If you don't feel comfortable leaving contact information on the comments section, please leave a comment and then email me at mommykerrie at yahoo dot com.

    Tell your homeschooling friends! You can also head to http://www.wellplannedday.com/ and sign up for a sample issue of Home Educating Family!

    This giveaway ends on the 14th, when I will draw a name and post it here.

    Thanks for participating!

    Wednesday, July 6, 2011

    LEGO Master Builder Academy Building Challenge!

    I love LEGO contests for kids! Just got the new LEGO magazine in the mail yesterday. Well, the boys did, but I think it's cool, too.  I don't see this Building Challenge on their website so if your kid is a LEGO freak and doesn't yet get the magazine, here are the details of the Challenge:

    It says to take a look at the sneak peek LEGO Master Builder Technique on a page of the magazine, and they call it "Sideways Building." It's basically just making something cool out of LEGOs that is not going straight up and down!

    "We'll pick 10 of our favorite models and give each of their builders a LEGO gift card worth $100.

    How to enter:

    1. Build a model of an outer space vehicle using pieces from your LEGO brick collection. Make sure it includes Sideways Building!

    2. Take a color photograph of your model. Color photos or photo-quality computer print-outs only. No Polaroids, please.

    3. Write a description of 150 words or less telling us about your model. Don't forget to say how you used Sideways Building to make it!

    4. Mail your photo along with your name, age, address, daytime phone number and the name of your model to:

    LEGO MBA Building Challenge
    PO Box 1625
    Enfield, CT 06083-1625

    All entries must be received by September 30, 2011!"

    Sidenote: my husband grew up in Enfield, CT!!!

    Monday, July 4, 2011

    Fourth of July

    What is it about lighting a firecracker, throwing it REALLY fast and then hearing it BANG! that is so much fun? Most years I'm inside nursing a baby or being pregnant and hot. I did miss festivities last night due to a baby who likes to fall asleep for a nap/bedtime at 7 p.m. lately, but I did get to blow up some firecrackers yesterday. It's actually illegal in my city/county, so don't tell the fuzz, okay?

    So today we went to a parade in Lenexa and got tons of candy. Now we're at my aunt's house in another county so we can LEGALLY blow stuff up. Later we'll go out hunting for a great display ... we haven't seen a real display since like 2001 when Joel was a mere week old and I sat in the truck nursing him while we watched fireworks.

    What are your plans? Whatever you do, enjoy your independence and your freedom!

    Sunday, July 3, 2011

    Guest Post: Seed Catalog Curriculum

    I'm so glad to have Carol Alexander back as a guest poster, this time about homeschooling! Check out her information below, and be sure to head to her blog!



    When I got my first seed catalog in the mail this year I was really excited. Not just because I get anxious to get my hands in the dirt. But because of all the school assignments that come in those catalogs.


    What? You’ve never seen all the wonderful school curriculum hiding in your seed catalogs? Well, let me introduce you to a few assignments.


    Math:


    On the front of my Gurney’s catalog is a giant coupon that reads: “Good for $25.00 worth of products in this Gurney’s catalog when you buy $25.00 or more of additional products at the catalog price.” Have your child go shopping in the catalog. Using the order form found between pages 32 and 33 have him “order” $50 worth of product, figuring the totals, the tax, the discount, and the shipping.


    If you get $25 free off of a $50 order, what percentage is that?


    One ounce of summer squash seeds contains about 225 seeds and sows a 100 ft. row. If you get 25 seeds in a packet for $3.99 or ½ oz. of seeds for $12.99, which is the better deal? If you want to sow 300 ft. or row, how much will the seeds cost you?


    Language:


    See the customer reviews in the shaded green boxes on the pages of the catalog? Have your child write his own review of his favorite vegetable.


    Have your child write some ad copy describing his favorite fruits, flowers or produce.


    Here are some vocabulary words: hybrid, lumina, vigorous, unique, exotic, Latino, resistant. I’m sure you can find a lot more!


    Science:


    See all the sprout seeds on page 29? Grow sprouts at home. There’s no better way than to learn the science of growing plants.


    Assign a paper answering the question: “What is the difference between hybrid, open-pollinated, heirloom, and genetically modified when it pertains to garden seeds?”


    Do a research project on Gregor Mendel and his work pertaining to hybrid plants.


    Art:


    When your garden is in full beauty, sketch plants, flowers, and fruit in your nature journals.


    Discuss and approach the challenges of photographing produce in the garden as well as on the table.


    Home Economics:


    Create three recipes using fresh fruits or vegetables from the homestead.


    Learn to cook and eat three new vegetables this summer.


    This is just a sampling. You can get more than 50 lesson plans using your seed catalogs from my e-booklet Seed Catalog Curriculum. This e-booklet is full of ideas to use with elementary, middle, and upper-grade children. You can use any catalog. In fact, the more the better. Plus, I give you the names and contact information to order your own...if you don't already receive them in the mail.



    Start integrating your homesteading with your homeschooling now. Buy Seed Catalog Curriculum and you will see how easy it really is. It's only $3.99! Just click here for more information.


    Blessings,


    Carol

    Freelance writer and mom of six, Carol J. Alexander writes about homeschooling and homesteading from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Her articles have appeared in BackHome Magazine, Grit, Urban Farm, Home Education Magazine and various Regional Parenting Publications. Visit her blog http://everythinghomewithcarol.blogspot.com/.

    Friday, July 1, 2011

    Homeschooling: Getting It All Done

    Let's jump right in to Homeschooling Month on the blog. I certainly don't mean to alienate those who don't homeschool. My very best friends don't homeschool! But something we have in common is that we want great things for our kids and we want them to love learning. Some of the things I write about this month may definitely be of interest to those who don't homeschool, so don't write me off just yet! Soon I'll be back into writing stories of my bad behavior in public and of the goofy things my kids do. Ah, heck, I may just put a few on here for fun this month.

    Anyway, above is a picture of something I tried that failed. I try lots of things that end up failing and it used to really get me down. Then I realized that if I'm never failing, I'm never trying, right? Anyway, we are always looking for ways to keep our homeschool days on track. I'm not great at schedules since I'm a go-with-the-flow mom with a baby always attached to my boob. Someday I might be able to have a schedule and stick with it, but for now I'm going easy on myself and we are doing the best we can. Amazingly, more gets done than we realize.

    So the above is a planner I wrote up for my oldest son, who was only 9 at the time. He wasn't ready for his own planner. Eventually he will be, especially since I NEED HIM TO BE, and especially since he NEEDS TO BE so he can be all self-sufficient at college and in life, right? So for now Mom will keep track of the daily assignments and the kids are free to look ahead and see what's planned.

    If you homeschool, I'd love to hear about your successes and failures and when you decided to go easy on yourself as a teacher and as a mom.

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