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My dear, sweet, baby girl,

How has one year gone by already?  One year ago, you made a rather dramatic entrance into this world.  You’ve kept us on our toes ever since.

You weren’t content to do things like your older brothers and sisters…that just hasn’t been your style.  Just when I thought we had this “parenting” thing down, you’ve taught a little humility by proving to us that we haven’t actually seen it all!  Sometimes I just throw up my hands, because you have me completely baffled!  I’m sure you’ll probably continue down that path.  

It started out the day you were born.  We expected a 4 hour labor…just like all your other brothers and sisters had been (except your oldest).  So did the doctor.  He even had things all timed out when he started the induction so that he could finish seeing the rest of his patients for the day, then come back.  Boy, did you have different plans!  You were here after an astonishing 66 minute induction.  It set off all the blinky lights in the hospital and caused the doctor to break a lot of traffic laws.  The cops are probably still looking for him.

After you got here, you already had opinions of your own, and you had no problem letting us know about them.  You screamed at us at dinner time daily pretty much from the first day you came home.  You finally grew out of it about 6 months ago…mostly.  You still want your dinner on time, and you’re rather adamant about bed time too.  

You never did like a binky, or your thumb.  You never wanted to suck to sooth yourself like most babies do.  When you were mad, it really seemed that you just wanted to be mad.  You started fighting the swaddle months earlier than your brothers and sisters as well.  Oh, the things we tried to help you stop crying every evening at seven!  Your daddy walked up and down the driveway every evening while the rest of us ate.  Then, he’d come back in and get your brothers and sisters ready for bed while I nursed you and put you to bed.

You like food.  All kinds of food.  In fact, you like food so much, you gave up nursing early.  It nearly broke your poor mother’s heart.  But, I still pump every day, twice a day, so that you’ll still have some milk to drink.  When you see your cup come out, you still get excited.  But then, when I have to heat it, you get angry because you have to wait.  I keep telling you that if you’d go back to nursing, you wouldn’t have to wait for it to heat up…but so far, you haven’t listened.  

But, for all of your stubborn ways, you are still so affectionate.  Even though you went on a nursing strike at 10 months old, you still want to snuggle every night before bed.  You also give the sweetest little hugs and kisses. 

When I walk into the room to get you up from a nap, your giant, dimpled smile lights up the whole room.  You have an exuberance for life that is contagious.  You have a precious little laugh that makes your whole family smile with you.   

You often toddle about the house, getting into all kinds of mischief.  When discovered, you give us that big smile of yours and chuckle at us as if to say, “That’s fair…you caught me!”  Then you run away with your pilfered item as fast as your little legs can carry you.  Lately, you’ve been stealing carrots off the front porch as they’ve been picked.  As your mother, all I can do is shake my head and laugh.  Go ahead…eat that carrot.  I dare you!

You don’t say much yet, but you do try to copy things that we say.  One of your favorite things to do is throw something off your high chair then look up at the rest of us and say something that sounds suspiciously like “Uh, oooooooh”.  Then you grin while you wait for one of your dutiful subjects to start playing fetch with you.  Out of your 4 other brothers and sisters, you can usually find at least one who will follow your command. 

The other day, I’m pretty sure I also heard you say, “I love you Mommy”.  [*Daddy wants me to edit here that you most definitely said, “Love you Daddy”, not Mommy.]  Don’t worry, dear daughter, this little argument will continue for many, many years!

Happy Birthday my sweet little girl.  I’m looking forward to watching you grow up even more!  


Check out this video of Baby’s first taste of her birthday cake…with a surprise ending!


How Life of Fred Saved Math: An In-depth Review

Before Life of Fred

Math has long been the bane of my existence!  We started our long-term feud way back in the 5th grade.  After many, many years of struggling, I was relieved to finish my last math class during my freshman year in college.  Imagine my chagrin when I changed my major a year and a half later and found that I now had to suffer through not one, but two semesters of calculus!  This is the stuff nightmares are made of!  To this day, I still do not understand why Genetics majors (yes, I have a B.S. in Genetics) had to take two semesters of Engineering Calculus.

Suffer through, I did.  I won’t admit how many times I had to try, but I finally managed it.  I passed two calculus classes…barely.  Then, an hour later, it was gone.  I brain-dumped calculus…all of it!  I would NEVER have to worry about math again.  That era of my life was over!  Whoop!

Then one day, I woke up and realized I was homeschooling.  How did that happen?  Well, that’s a totally different story…but now, I would have to not only deal with dreaded math again, somehow I was supposed to help my dear, sweet, unsuspecting daughter understand something that I couldn’t explain.  

Once again, math became the bane of my existence.  I desperately wanted to save my daughter from the wounds of life-long battle with that undefeatable enemy, Math.  But I knew I couldn’t do it by myself.  I began painstakingly perusing every homeschool website I could find to help me decide which of the myriad of options would be the silver bullet in my battle with my arch nemesis. 

We didn’t want a never-ending parade of workbooks.  We needed something that would be re-usable.  After all, we had more kids coming up behind.  It’s really easy to start spending money hand over fist when you use consumable curricula for a bunch of kids.  Bear was my only one of school age at the time, but that was no reason not to think ahead!  When you rule out workbooks, you’re left with a much smaller pool of options.

After consulting at length with my husband, we finally made a choice.

…and it was wrong.

But I wasn’t going to let that stop me!  I was going to stick it out.  This was the material we had chosen, and it would work, come Hell or high water!

Bear was miserable.  She was falling further and further behind.  Math was becoming her arch nemesis too, and I was just making it worse.  Math became a fight every. single. day.  As soon as I brought out the math book, she would just shut down.  I could see it, and it broke my heart.  By this time, Lizard was starting school too.  She started pretty strong, but then noticed all of Bear’s protestation.  She started saying that she hated math, and she had barely begun!  Something had to give.

So I started experimenting, curriculum-hopping, really.  As we all know, that can be a big problem with math in particular.  But I just knew that eventually, we’d find the right solution.  We had started with Strayer-Upton’s Practical Arithmetics, we tried a little Math Mammoth, and some Miquon Math, then Math Lessons for a Living Education (which is a workbook, by the way!).  Every one had their strong points, but they were far outweighed by problems for us.

Fred to the rescue

During all of my searching, I had run across the Life of Fred books several times.  I wrote them off as a fun little supplement for kids who really enjoyed math.  I figured the story line either overshadowed any math content, or that it was so contrived that it would be miserable to read.

But one day, in my desperation, for some reason, I opened a sample.  It wasn’t tortuous to read…it was actually pretty funny.  It was definitely outlandish, but entertaining.  Bear would enjoy the story, of that I was certain. 

Perhaps even more surprising, however was the amount of information contained in the brief little sample chapter I had downloaded.  There was actually math (and a lot of other stuff) there!

So, I headed over to review site after review site; forum after forum.  I really wanted to finally get things right and defeat Math once and for all.  It turns out, the reviews for the Life of Fred series are actually quite mixed.  Some said there wasn’t enough practice, others said there was just enough.  A few folks claimed that the series couldn’t stand as a complete curriculum, others said it was complete and added elements from across all the subjects.  Nearly everyone agreed, however, that their kids enjoyed Life of Fred.  

I knew Bear was an avid reader.  I thought a literature-based approach to math might be just the thing to finally make math manageable.  So, I went to Educents, and I ordered.  I started out with the first 4 books in the Elementary Series.  A few weeks later, I ordered the rest of the series, plus the Intermediate Series, and Fractions and Decimals and Percents.

About Life of Fred

I’ll get back to my story in just a second.  First, I want to pause and tell you a little bit more about Life of Fred.

The names of these books are enough to make you giggle a little before you ever learn anything else!  The elementary books are named alphabetically.  So, the first book starts with A, the second with B, and so on.  There are no grade-level designations on the books themselves.  The author recommends these elementary and intermediate books for Kindergarten through 4th grade.  The names are:

Next up is the Intermediate Series:

After that, the names get much less creative (for 5th grade right up through college):

Life of Fred is a whole series of books for elementary, clear up through college level math.  There is also a series of early readers and grammar books, for those interested.  So far, we have used the elementary series.  I have the intermediate series waiting on my shelf along with Fractions, and Decimals and Percents.  I also have the first set of early readers on order for my boys.

The Life of Fred stories follow a five year old genius named Fred who is a math professor at KITTENS University in Kansas.  He gets himself into all sorts or ridiculous situations.  After all, while he is a math genius, he’s still a five year old boy, with no one but his doll, Kingie to look out for him.  He uses math in all kinds of ways to help himself or others.  Sometimes, he just enjoys playing with numbers.  

At the end of each chapter is a “You’re Turn to Play” section where students have around 3 to 5 problems to work out.  Word problems will not phase a student who is accustomed to working with Fred!  These short little problems are jam-packed with material.  Not only does the author test understanding of the skills already presented with these sections, he also uses them to illustrate methods to solve new types of problems.  Starting in Cats, there are also useful “Rows of Practice” in most chapters.  These rows are very helpful for practicing and learning math facts.

I also really like that the author brings all kinds of other lessons into the story as well.  Aside from math, Fred learns about Archimedes, star clusters in the Orion constellation, and a little about homonyms all in the first few books.  The stories and practice questions are also a fairly good barometer for reading comprehension.

Now for just a few cons for these books…after all, life can’t be all sunshine and fluffy bunnies!

First off, there isn’t a whole lot of paper and pencil practice with this course.  For us, this was actually a selling point, but for many, it may be a liability.  I’ve been using games and Times Tales to take the place of extra worksheets and drill.  Plus, there is no shortage of extra math material in this house.  If we need extra practice on a concept, we can find it!

Second, some of the subject material that enters into the story may be a little offensive for some families.  So far, I have not had a problem with any of it, but I use some of the situations as teaching points about the fallen nature of man.  There is a recurring character, C.C. Coalback, who is constantly taking advantage of Fred.  After all, Fred may be a well-read math genius, but at the end of the day, he’s still a naive five year old with no one but his doll to look after him.

Additionally, Fred never eats.  Whenever he gets food, he puts it in his pocket “for later”.  Now, I have 5 voracious eaters at home, so they find this part of the story particularly amusing.  However, if you have a little one who doesn’t eat so well, you may find this problematic.  

Lastly, the answers for the “You’re Turn to Play” questions are right on the next page of the book.  So, it’s not hard for students to take a peek at the answers before trying to solve them on their own.  However, if this becomes a problem for your student, there are a number of ways to fix it, if you get creative.

The Rest of Our Life of Fred Story

Now that we’ve found Life of Fred, math time looks a little different at our house.  Bear has started doing 5 chapters a day.  Now, eventually, she is going to have to slow down.  But, right now, she’s still working below her skill level.  The author of Life of Fred suggests that all elementary aged students, in fourth grade and below, begin with Apples.  That was a ton of review for Bear…which was a really good thing for her!  Right now, she’s about to finish Goldfish.  I’ve been reading along a book or two ahead of her, and I have a feeling our pace will slow significantly within the next couple books.

Lizard had been working through Miquon Math, but has recently requested to go to working just with Fred, just like Bear.  She has already worked through Apples and Butterflies, so she’s ready to move on to Cats.  She does not move through the books nearly as quickly, since she has pretty much caught up with her level already.

We do use some math games to practice our facts, as I mentioned earlier.  We also use some notebooking pages so that I can make sure everyone is understanding the things they read.

Bear is already carrying over a lot of the information she learns into her everyday life.  She will often make mention of some random pattern that she finds as she goes about her day.  She tells me all about it, and then says, “I can play with numbers, too…just like Fred!”  It’s music to a homeschooling momma’s ears!

I can also see how public or privately schooled students could really benefit from the Life of Fred series as a supplement to their math work from school, or possibly to keep up their skills during the summer.  There is no shortage of problem-solving practice in these books!

I know we are still at the beginning of our journey with the Life of Fred, but, I really do have to wonder, “Where were these books when I was learning math?”  Perhaps if I had been able to travel with Fred, my math skills might be a whole lot better!  Who knows, maybe Fred will even be able to teach this old momma a few new math tricks.

If you are interested in trying out the Life of Fred series, I’d really appreciate it if you would use my affiliate link for Educents

Click Here to go to the Life of Fred storefront  

Educents has fantastic prices on the Life of Fred books, from Apples all the way up to Five Days.  They also carry Times Tales, which I mentioned as a supplement for this program.  I do get a bonus if you make a purchase using this link.  However, I have not been paid or compensated in any way for writing this review.  All of the opinions given are my own!

How Life of Fred Saved Math: An In-depth Review


My big girl,

Time passes so quickly. It was only yesterday that we were bringing you home from the hospital. But, now, here we are, 7 years later. You were the first baby we brought home to this house. We still lived in town when your older sister was born. I know you often get frustrated because Bear gets “all” the new things first. But you have that distinction…the first baby in this house.

You have grown up so much this past year! Last year, you were still barely reading. You could do it…when you wanted to. But, most of the time you didn’t want to. This morning, as you read to me from your school reading comprehension book, my eyes teared up a little. You’re reading fluently now, and hardly need me at all.

You’ve learned to add and subtract, multiply and divide this year as well. You fight with math quite a bit, too. But secretly, you know you’re really good at it. You’ve picked up near-instant recall of most of your addition facts without any prompting from me. You did it by yourself.

But enough with the academics.  You are so much more than phonics and multiplication tables!  Your energy and enthusiasm for life are infectious.  I have to laugh sometimes as I watch you play with other kids.  You can march right into a crowd of kids and take charge, handing out parts in your imaginary games like a casting director.  Those kids never knew what hit them!  Most of the time, they even think it was their idea.

But, when things don’t go your way, you do have a bit of dramatic flair.  How many times have I heard, “Momma!  Monkey won’t be a fairy.  I’m NEVER going to be able to play my game!”

You should see the annoyance painted on your face at my typical sing-song response, “Never ever ever in a hundred million years!”  You know then that I won’t play the drama game today.  Most of the time, you walk off in a huff…and then promptly figure out how to play nice with your brother.  

You always want us to tell you stories.  You can hardly get enough, and it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve already heard it, either.  You like to ask for stories about Trinity, my old dog who now lives only in our memories.  You want to know about Trinity getting run over by the horse, or Trinity and the squirrel, or maybe the story of how I got Trinity.

But you don’t just like animal stories.  Some of your other favorites are the one where G-Pop dropped a brick on his brother’s head (for those concerned, everyone was ok!), and the story of Granddad getting his tongue stuck to a railroad track.  Of course, we won’t leave out the story of you or one of your siblings “getting born”.  You’ve heard all of those at least a hundred times. 

You’ll hear them a hundred more, if you can get us to keep telling them.

You seem to need that connection to the past.  You’ve told me that you’re afraid you’ll forget Trinity and Granddad…that’s why you want to hear the stories so much.  So, I’ll keep telling, as long as you’ll listen.  Even when you correct me when I don’t tell it right!

Most of the time, if I want to find you, I can go look in your room, amidst the costume wreckage that you’ve thrown about your room, looking for the perfect outfit to be a princess, or a fairy, or a mermaid.  You are so full of imagination.  You make me smile when you come prancing by wearing your “heel shoes” and a glittery dress, dripping in “jewels”.  I know the magic will someday fade.  But today, you’re the queen, with a brand new baby-doll princess.  I’m glad that you’re still little, time is growing short.

I love you, my sweet little princess.  Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday Laura

Save with Black Friday Eve specials!

Thanksgiving in America is a proud tradition with a long history…though it has only been an “official holiday since the Civil War.  Of course, every school child is taught the story of the first Thanksgiving, with the Pilgrims and the Indians…usually culminating in a big feast at school, complete with costumes and a pageant!

But, over the past several years, Thanksgiving has slowly been pushed aside in favor of the bigger money-maker: Christmas.  The stores put up their big Christmas displays before the last Trick-or-Treater has even made it home to sort their candy!

Now, I like Christmas, don’t get me wrong.  What’s not to like?  We get to celebrate the birth of Our Lord with cookies, candy, and presents!  But, when we skip straight from Halloween to Christmas, we miss something…something important.

Why is Thanksgiving Important?

1.  Time to slow down.

Many (but not all) of us get a little time off work during the week of Thanksgiving.  We get to slow down and take a little breather.  Of course, I’m a mom, so that doesn’t really happen for me!  But, we do usually take a trip up to visit my parents.  It’s the closest thing to a break I ever get.  Everyone needs a break now and then.  It helps us clear our heads.  When we come back, we feel refreshed and ready to tackle all those problems again.  It’s nice to have a change of pace!

2.  Time to remember who is really responsible for all of the blessings in our lives.

Just before Bear’s first Christmas, I had quit my job a few months earlier to be a full time stay at home mom.  Money was tight…very tight!  We had a long (expensive) trip to make…which would turn out to be the last Christmas we ever traveled to Odessa.  We had a baby to (obsessively) buy gifts for.  Our list of bills was never-ending.  How were we ever going to pay for all this?

I sat down at the computer one afternoon to check on our checking account before we paid a bill.  I clenched my teeth as I logged into our account.  Then the screen popped up…

“There’s nearly a thousand dollars more than there should be!  Where on earth did an extra thousand dollars come from???”  I was frantically going through scenarios in my head.  I was very sure that I had no rich uncles…not even the kind that live in Nigeria.

I clicked on the account details.  Something had to be wrong, something must have gone unpaid.  There was an automatic deposit in the account from my former employer.  They had finished paying out all of my vacation time months ago.

I called my husband…I couldn’t think what to do.  He told me to call payroll for my old department.  So I did.  They had to put me on hold while they looked it up.  When the secretary came back to the phone, she very nonchalantly explained that because of some sort of glitch, they had failed to pay me for all of the compensation hours I had earned for working so much overtime in my former position.  As soon as they caught it, they had sent a deposit to my account.  There was no mistake, the money was rightfully mine.

You see, we were in an hour of need.  God sent us those funds at exactly the right moment…a moment when we would remember and know that He was really the one in control.  

I have more stories, similar to this one.  Some have happened to me, some to my husband (one even involving a deer).  These things happen to us to remind us that God is in control, He will provide when we call on Him.  

Thanksgiving is the perfect holiday to remember and reflect on all of those instances, and then to give thanks that He cares about us so much!

3.  Time to spend with family and friends.

When I was young, we spent many Thanksgivings at my grandparent’s house in Odessa, Texas.  We would spend the morning together, watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade and preparing in the kitchen for our big “feast” at lunch.  Then, we would sit down together at the table, pray to thank God for all the blessings he had given us out of His bounty.  As we ate, we sat around the table telling stories about family…both those gathered in other places, and those that had already gathered in Heaven.  Eventually, we would get up, and clean up the mess inevitably made by the festivities in the kitchen.

When we finished the clean up, we would often sit around a card table, putting a puzzle together, or maybe playing dominoes.  My grandparents and mom and uncle would talk about memories of their childhoods, or maybe trouble they got into with their cousins.  I learned about our family history, and in doing so, I learned about myself!

When the game-playing was all done, my mother and grandmother would eventually turn their attention to the newspaper ads, to try to quickly coordinate their plan of attack for Black Friday.  There would always be jokes about how the stores seemed to open earlier and earlier every year.  I specifically remember one year, when I was a teenager, I quipped back that by the time I had kids, Black Friday would begin on Thanksgiving itself!  Everyone laughed and said, “No way!  People would never stand for that!”

Black Friday Eve

Until they did.

To many, Thanksgiving means little anymore, other than an excuse for gluttony, followed by a marathon of greed…a rush to the store to get the most stuff for as little money as possible.  If you have to beat someone up to get it, no problem!

Unfortunately, that greed marathon requires many thousands of people to leave their families to serve the shopping hordes.  For them, Thanksgiving can no longer mean slowing down, thanking God for all his blessings, and spending a little time with family and friends.  Now, it’s just another day at work, with even longer, harder hours than usual…hours spent breaking up fights over big screens in the electronics department, or Legos in the toy department.

Thanksgiving has lost its meaning.  All it is to many is just Black Friday Eve.  The day of early Early Bird sales.  Doorbusters start at midnight on Thanksgiving!  Better get on out there…you might miss out on the stuff.

As for me and mine, I think we’ll live with it…missing the stuff.  We’ll slow down, thank God for His many blessings.  We’ll spend a few days with family that we don’t get to see very often.  We might even peruse a Black Friday ad or two together.  But, you can bet we won’t be there on Thanksgiving.  It’s not the time or the place.  We’ll save it for Friday afternoon.  The stuff will still be there…if it isn’t, we’ll order it online on Monday.  Life will go on.  What is stuff compared to time with your family?  Mere nothingness.

Thanksgiving precedes the first Sunday of Advent, usually only by a few days.  What better way to enter into a period of making our hearts ready to welcome Christ than to slow down, and thank God for the blessings in our lives?

Don’t forget Thanksgiving.  Remember it, dress up like an Indian if you need to.  Just don’t forget to slow down and be thankful.

This year, will you celebrate Black Friday Eve?  Or Thanksgiving?

This year, will you celebrate Black Friday Eve? Or Thanksgiving? Click To Tweet


 Thanksgiving or Black Friday Eve?

sick teddy bear

Well, it’s getting to be that time of year.  The holidays are right around the corner, there’s so much to do!  But it’s also cold and flu season.  In our house, when someone gets sick, everything shuts down.  Once the first kid goes down, there are 4 more waiting in line to get it.  Even with the best prevention measures in place, chances are, that bug is going to make the rounds.  We just live too close to each other to prevent it in most cases.

We have quite a nasty bug going around our house at the moment.  Severe headaches, sore throats, high fevers…the works.  It seems congestion and cough follow the sore throat after a couple days.  Just to make things interesting, it seems to disappear entirely from about 2-5 pm every day.  But, boy, does it come back with a vengeance at 5:30!!!  Bear came down with it Saturday evening/Sunday morning (sometime overnight…I didn’t look at the clock), and we’ve been playing this game ever since.  Now, everyone else under the age of 35 has it, with the possible exception of Baby.  She had a fever Sunday evening, but as of yet, no other symptoms.  I’m unclear as to whether that was from teething or (crossing my fingers) she’s getting some passive immunity from nursing and has come through relatively unscathed.

Anyway, all this sickness started me thinking, “What are some of my best tips for surviving the inevitable viruses that pop up so often in childhood?”

Mommy Survival Mode

Right from the first alarming “beep” of the thermometer, my mindset has to change.  All of my current plans and items on my to-do list have to go on the back burner.  I have entered “Mommy Survival Mode”.  It’s a defensive place in my mind, I think, fueled mostly by adrenaline and Dr. Pepper.  I will lose my mind if I start thinking about all the things that aren’t getting done or the sleep I’m not allowed to have.  At the end of the week, the house will be a bigger wreck than it already was, I’ll be 2 weeks behind on laundry, and my face will not have felt the outside air in seven whole days.  I don’t sleep more than 2 hours at a time for the entirety of the ordeal.  But, it’s all worth it to make sure my fever-ridden children are as comfortable and safe as possible.

Fever is actually a good thing.  It’s one of  the ways our bodies fight off infections.  But, we all know that too much of a good thing can be dangerous!  And so it is with fevers.  It’s good to let our bodies turn up the heat just a little to make us inhospitable for those germs…but, as a mother, I have to make sure my kids’ immune systems don’t get carried away when they turn up the sauna.

One of our little ones is rather infamous for her ability to spike a 104 degree fever within a period of about 5 minutes.  It’s an impressive, terrifying thing to witness…especially when she’s already had as much acetaminophen and ibuprofen as she’s allowed for the next 2 hours.  We have had to resort to cold baths upon more than one occasion to cool her off.  She is the reason I cannot sleep when the children are sick.  It’s my job to check on them every couple hours to make sure no one’s immune system is cooking them.

So, what are the tools I can’t live without during my stay in Mommy Survival Mode? 

Good Drink

Find something your kids will drink.  This is so important.  When you’re running a fever, your body loses a lot of water and electrolytes…even more if there’s also a stomach bug in the mix.  Little bodies need to stay hydrated.  Plus, good hydration helps to keep a fever under control.  Buying enough Gatorade or Powerade, or especially Pedialyte to keep 5 kids hydrated while ill is rather cost prohibitive for our family.  So, we make up a little electrolyte drink ourselves with Kool-aid (made with only 3/4 the recommended sugar), water, and 1 teaspoon of salt per quart.  Now, if you want to avoid all the artificial dyes, there are a plethora of homemade sports drinks options you can find on a simple search.  Find one your kids like.  They’re all pretty easy to make, and so much cheaper than the commercially available alternatives!

Different colored string

All of our cups look the same.  Most of the time, that’s no big deal.  But, when something starts going around, cups start leaving the kitchen and going on to various end tables in the living room.  Pretty soon, I have no idea which cup belongs to which kid.  Since we have a bug going around, you can see why I might be rather concerned with making sure the right cup stays with the right person!  I could put a piece of tape and a name on each cup, but then there’s condensation, and the tape falls off.  I have several different colors of string that I use to make products available in my Etsy shop.  I assign a color to each child, then cut a section of string and tie it to the handle of each child’s cup.  Now, I know which cup goes with which kid.  It saves me from having to add extra dishes to my list of Mommy-I-needs.

Books and Movies

I spend a lot of time sitting on the couch reading stories when the kids are sick.  It’s always nice to have a few new ones available from the library.  But, of course, I’m bound to read the family favorites several times a day, too.  This can also be a great time to introduce your children to some truly great classics, like Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, or Treasure Island.  Of course, eventually, my voice is going to give out.  That’s a great time to have some favorite movies on hand.

Special Meals

When your kids have fevers, sometimes they just don’t want to eat very badly…even if you’re not dealing with a stomach bug.  Find some special things that are easy on the stomach to offer your kids.  Applesauce and bananas are great options.  Bananas are high in potassium, which can be lost due to dehydration during a fever.  Also, pancakes and biscuits are usually big hits in our house.  Last night, it was popcorn and spaghetti (with no sauce).  It was quite a bland dinner for my husband and I, but the kids ate something…and that was a win.  Nutritionally speaking, keep in mind that bending the usual rules when the kids are sick is ok.  A few days of carb loading isn’t going to do any lasting damage.  They need a few extra carbs to give them energy to fight the illness, anyway!  

An Extra Dose of Cuddles

This morning, I just sat on the couch and hugged my little Rhino for nearly an hour.  He was burning up, and I was sweating under all that extra heat, but it didn’t matter.  He needed me.  Most of the time, he’s a little bundle of energy, and has a hard time sitting still for longer than 30 seconds at a time.  But, when he’s sick, he still wants to just sit in my lap and cuddle with me.  For a little while at least, Mommy can still make everything better.  

Fever Reducers

Where would a list of Mom’s sick day arsenal be without a mention of fever reducers?  Good ole acetaminophen and ibuprofen can still work wonders for a sick child.  Sometimes, I have a little giggle at the transformation that occurs in a sick child half an hour after a dose of medicine.  This morning, Rhino got up, ready for his next dose of medicine.  I took his temperature, and it was an alarming 103.3, and he still had to wait another 30 minutes until he could have his next dose (remember, I had been up throughout the night, giving medicine or cool compresses as needed).  We made it through that half hour (and a little more), cuddling on the couch, with a wet washcloth on his head from time to time.  I gave him the next dose of medicine.  I settled him as comfortably as I could, and went to take a shower.  My husband hadn’t yet left for work…it was my last chance!  I finished, and said goodbye to my husband for the day.  Pretty soon, Baby woke up and needed to eat.  By the time I got done feeding her, and came out of my room, Rhino had on a backpack and was playing some sort of game.  When I came out, he proudly announced, “Mommy, I not sick anymore!” and gave me a huge grin.  I knew it was only temporary, and before lunch, sure enough, he was once again languishing on the couch.  But, these few moments give me hope.  Hope that this won’t last forever. 

By next week, my kids will back to their usual antics, and this will all be merely an unpleasant memory.  We’ll be trying to get back to normal, and playing catch-up on all the things we didn’t get done this week.  We will have survived another ordeal. 

Mommy Survival Mode, deactivated.

Dear Monkey,

It’s official.  Five years goes by so fast.  You’ve gotten so big this year.  Somehow, you’ve transformed into a little boy.  Not so very long ago, you used to be a baby.  Sometimes, it’s hard for Mommy to let go. 

Five years ago, I was exhausted…Daddy was tired too.  After a 4 hour induction, you were finally with us on the outside.  Your doctor was so happy to come deliver you…he got to leave a meeting.  It turns out, though, that your momma didn’t need him very long.  So, a few minutes later, you were here, and an irritated doctor had to go back to his meeting.  It’s a story that I’m sure you know well…you think it’s funny, and ask to hear about it at least every other day!  But that’s alright…we think it’s a funny story too.

You are a very thoughtful child, and you wear your emotions on your sleeve.  One minute, your little brother is tormenting you, and your world is falling apart.  The next, the two of you are conspiring and giggling in your room together.  I must always be on my guard…sometimes, when you ask me for something, you’re really requesting supplies for your plot.  Whenever the two of you are working together, I must be extra vigilant.  Otherwise I may need a shop vac to clean the bathroom.

Silly faces are your specialty.  Your pirate face is infamous.  To be honest, when Mommy had Bell’s Palsy last year, that face was one of the few things that managed to keep her in good spirits.  Then, there’s “the eyebrows”.  One of these days, when you get bigger, the little girls won’t stand a chance!  But of all the faces you make, I still like you’re happy smile the best.

Your laugh is infectious.  You like to laugh, and you always want to make sure everyone else is laughing, too.  Knock-knock jokes are your favorites…they don’t need to make any sense.  In fact, I think you like the ones that don’t make sense the best.

One of your most recent favorite activities is grasshopper hunting.  You’ve figured out that you can usually talk your daddy into fishing in the pond if you catch a grasshopper.  If Daddy isn’t home, you enjoy throwing them to the chickens then laughing at the game of keep-away that ensues.

You think you can conquer the world right now.  You can run faster, jump higher, and hit harder than any of those stinky old superheroes!  Just in case there was any doubt of your skill, you try to make sure someone is watching you every time you attempt any daring feat…like running up and down the driveway, or riding your bike through the grass.

But, your favorite thing to do is still sitting in my lap.  You’re starting to get kind of heavy, and I don’t let you just sit with me nearly as often as I should.  Sometimes, I need to remind myself that the dishes can wait a few more minutes (after all, they’ve been waiting several hours already).  Because right now, my little boy needs my lap.  You won’t always.

Happy birthday, little Monkey!  I love you more than words can express!

A Letter to Rhino...A Letter to my son

Rhino and MommyMy dear, sweet little boy.  Where does the time go?  It seems like just yesterday we were meeting you for the first time (though you’d already been kicking and punching me for quite some time!).  Your birth itself was rather uneventful.  It was a four hour long induction.  At the end, there we were, holding our fourth baby.  A little boy weighing in at 8 pounds 7 ounces…bigger than any of your older siblings (though your little sister would eventually beat you by 8 ounces). 

 You’ve been a little rambunctious from the beginning, and so you still are today!  You are a happy, healthy, strong 3 year old boy.  You have no sense of pain (we’re fairly convinced you have a future in the NFL at defensive tackle), and rarely show any signs of fear.  Sometimes, I wish you had just a little more fear.  You make your old momma so nervous sometimes, while you climb furniture and old tractors without a thought for your own safety.  You think fist fights are hilarious.  Luckily, when you do get hurt, a kiss and a band-aid still makes you all better. 

Rhino with a pipeA year ago, we were worried, because you didn’t seem to talk much.  You’d get frustrated and angry when you didn’t get what you wanted, but you didn’t talk much.  You’ve come so far over the past year.  You jabber up a storm these days.  Unfortunately, it’s still mostly spoken in a foreign language.  But, at least you’re talking!  You’re speaking more clearly each day.  By this time next year, I wonder if we’ll even be able to remember your special language! 

You have an exuberance for life that is infectious.  Everything is exciting for you…even if it’s just an episode of Paw Patrol (or is it Pop Control, as your big brother calls it…or maybe Bah Bole, as you assert?) that you’ve seen a thousand times…today.  After all, we bought them on DVD so we could see them over and over again.  You come grab my hands and start jumping up and down, telling me that you want to dance at least 3 times a day.  I need to agree far more often!  Just, maybe not while your baby sister is trying to sleep. 

Muddy RhinoSometimes, you look up and smile at me, and you have a certain twinkle in your eye.  That’s when I know that the proverbial brown matter is about to hit the rotary cooling device.  You’re up to something.  If I say, “What are you up to?” in my biggest, gruffest Mommy voice, you’ll get a huge grin on your face and start giggling maniacally.  Then, you’ll say, “I Doh-nooooo!” (that’s “I don’t know”…if you don’t speak Toddlerese).  Perhaps, when I get up to follow you, there will be a flood in the bathroom, or I’ll walk through the door just in time to see you scramble up the side of the bathroom counter to a perch you’ve found standing in the bathroom sink…why is it always the bathroom?  Your cuteness at these particular moments, when you know you’ve been ‘busted’ is incredibly endearing.  But, no…for your own good, I must stand firm…all while hoping that someday you have a little boy just like you.  Then you’ll understand.  I just hope your future wife is a patient woman (Bless her heart!). 

For all of the mischief you make, you pour out just as much love.  You bring Mommy flowers, and give me huge squishy hugs.  You can be as sweet and gentle with your little sister as you are rough with your big brother.  You have a big heart, my dear son, and you use it well.  I pray you keep it that way.  I pray for you every day.  On good days, I pray for all the big, grand things you might do with the life God gave you.  Some days, all I can manage is constant prayers that your guardian angel is being extra vigilant!  Thankfully, you’ve made it another year. 

I love you son.  More than you can possibly understand.  Happy Birthday! 

Easy Peasy Pleasy

Halloween Alternatives to Door-to-Door Trick-or-Treating

It’s already fall…where does the time go?  Even though it doesn’t quite feel like it yet (it was 94 degrees here yesterday), that means Halloween is right around the corner.  We don’t make a huge deal out of Halloween around here, but we do like to celebrate it a little bit.  It has always kind of felt like a gateway holiday to me…it really kicks off the holiday season.  My kids really enjoy dressing up as their favorite princess or superhero for an evening of fun.

I know many parents these days worry about the safety of taking their kids door to door, requesting little bits of sugary, sticky goodness from complete strangers.  Indeed, the world has changed quite a bit since my freewheeling days as a young child in the 80s.  I was wontonly set free into my grandmother’s neighborhood every year for this grand tradition (where she knew each and every one of her neighbors…and they all sat around and chatted after all the candy was gone).

You can argue with me later about whether or not we should even celebrate Halloween…that’s a different subject for a different post.  I’m going to assume that if you hang in there and keep reading, you’ve already made that decision for your family.

We live in the middle of nowhere.  We do have a few people who live within a reasonable proximity, however, walking all around a rural “neighborhood” after dark in costumes is just not the smartest move ever.  So, we have to be a little more creative in order to engage in this time-honored holiday tradition.

Take a Treat to Someone Else

Find out if there are any nursing homes, hospitals, or children’s homes in your area.  Often, these types of places will plan events for Halloween.  See if you and your family can volunteer.  Giving back to people who are in a difficult spot in life can be a really rewarding experience for your family.  Plus, it takes the focus off the candy, and puts it on to people who currently need a little extra help.  You never know, you might actually make some new friends, too!

The Mall

Many shopping malls host events for kids to come and trick-or-treat around the different participating stores.  Often, there are also costume contests for different age groups, as well.  So, do a little research, and find out if any of the malls in your area host an event.

Neighborhood or City Sponsored Festivals

In the town just down the road from us, the Chamber of Commerce hosts an event every Halloween on the county courthouse square.  Kids of all ages are encouraged to come out and walk around the square and trick-or-treat from the local businesses.  We’ve gone every year since we moved to the area, and the kids have lots of fun with it.  Check with your local Chamber of Commerce.  Maybe one near you does something similar.

Church Festivals

Many churches hold Fall Festivals each year, usually within a week of Halloween.  These festival vary in size and complexity from a basic “trunk-or-treat” set up to a full-fledged fall themed carnival, complete with games, treats, and hayrides.  Our kids have had tons of fun playing games at these types of events in the past.  Though, I do have to mention that these festivals often bring out big crowds.  My kids aren’t really used to being around huge crowds of people.  If yours aren’t either, be aware that they may need a few minutes to sit and take in the scene before they’re ready to play!

Police or Fire Departments

Often, the police department or fire department in your town may have a special activity for kids on or close to Halloween.  They will often have safety demonstrations at these events as well.  They can be both fun and educational activities…and who doesn’t like that?

University Events

The university where my husband works always has a couple of student groups who put on Halloween events for kids in the area.  We went to one with our kids one year, but due to the distance, the past couple of years, we’ve opted for something a little closer.  Much like the church festivals, crowds can be an issue for these activities as well.  If you have a university or college near you, find out if there is anything fun going on for neighborhood kids.

Doctor’s Office or Pharmacy.

A few years ago, Monkey was spinning in circles (trying to make me laugh) in the living room two days before Halloween.  He crashed and managed to hit his eye on the side of the coffee table.  The next day (the day before Halloween), he woke up with a huge red spot in his eye.  So, off to the doctor we went.  It turned out that he was just fine, but it sure looked awful. 

All of the kids had a bit of a cold, too.  Bear had been telling me all day that she didn’t feel good.  But, I was so worried about Monkey’s eye, that I kind of brushed it off.  I kept telling her I knew she didn’t feel well, no one felt well…everyone was coughing.  After we got home, she fell asleep on the couch, coughing on and off all afternoon.  Everyone else was starting to get over it, I figured she would be feeling better by the next day too.  But, by that evening, she was struggling to breathe.  Andrew took her to the emergency room while I stayed with the rest of the children.  After a breathing treatment and a course of antibiotics for severe bronchitis, they came home. 

The following day was Halloween.  All of the kids were so disappointed that there wouldn’t be any fun activities because of the sickness.  So, I told them that they could go ahead and wear their costumes out to the pharmacy.  That helped a little.  So, I took Silvermist, Tinkerbell, and a construction worker to the pharmacy to pick up all of Bear’s medications prescribed by the emergency room doctor.  The folks at the pharmacy felt so bad for the kids that they gave them two whole bags of candy for them to save for after they were well (after all, lots of candy isn’t good for a recovering little one!).  I was so grateful to the ladies at the pharmacy for being so sweet to the kids on what has gone down in history as the worst Halloween ever.

So, if you ever find yourself in a bad situation on Halloween, keep in mind that even mundane places (like a pharmacy) can occasionally be a fun place to go…if you have a great costume, anyway!



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Fall Homeschool Bucket List

It’s almost Fall here in Texas.  It’s that time of the year when we Texans start compulsively checking the 10 day weather forecast for that first 89 degree high along with a 50% chance of rain.  The autumnal equinox means little to us.  It’s all about that first real cold front.  While we impatiently await the return of fall, I’ve put together a little fall homeschool bucket list of sorts.

Since we homeschool our children, we really have a lot of freedom.  Some times during the year, the weather gets so nice that you just have to take advantage of that freedom…at least a little!  But, alas!  We have to make sure we get our work done, too!  We’ve been cooped up in the house quite a bit because of the dangerously hot conditions.  So, we are really anxious to get out and enjoy some nice fall weather!  Here’s my little fall homeschool bucket list of activities to celebrate the return of fall, but also get some learning done in the meantime.

So, what are some good ways to take advantage of the change of seasons in your homeschool?

A Fall Homeschool Bucket List

1. Plan a fall-themed unit study.

Make one yourself, or find one online.  A quick web search will pull up plenty of options.  Some are free, others will cost a few dollars, but it’s a great option if you just don’t have time to create something of your own.  

T is for turkey, P is for pumpkin…there are plenty of phonics games you can play.  Count leaves for some math time.  Head outside and do some plant identification for science.  The possibilities are endless!

2. Use fall-themed notebooking pages.

As luck would have it, I have some you can download for free.  Print them out, use them for your family.

Using themed pages really helps us get in the mood for fall, even if the weather hasn’t quite gotten there yet.  These pages would work wonderfully to learn about the history of Halloween and the first Thanksgiving as well!

Click here to download your free Fall-themed notebooking pages.

3. Take school outside for the day.

The sun is shining, there’s a soft, cool breeze blowing.  You know full well that no one is going to pay attention to their work while they look out the window, longing to be outside.  So, pack up your books, grab a blanket to sit on, and sprawl out on the lawn for lessons.  The fresh air works wonders for keeping the mind focused!

4. Take a nature walk.

What better way can you think of to celebrate the arrival of Fall than taking everyone on a nature walk?  Collect some leaves, watch some insects busily preparing for the coming of winter.  Enjoy the beautiful weather.  You don’t have to go far…your backyard is probably teeming with life you never take the time to notice!  Have everyone slow down, and take a look at the world around you.  I promise you won’t be disappointed.

5. Learn a little plant biology.

Why do leaves change color in the fall?  Why do they lose them?  For that matter, why does that cedar tree get to keep its needles?  Do a little research project as a family and find out the answers to all those fall-related pressing questions.  This one is easy to adjust for different age levels, too.  Your preschoolers will enjoy making the collection (on your nature walk!), and you can turn it into a full-blown biology research project on photosynthesis for your middle or high schoolers.

6. Plant a fall garden.

Turnips, broccoli, carrots…lots of things grow wonderfully in the fall.  Make a little fall garden.  Learn all about root vegetables.  You can even make observations about growth.  Keep a lab notebook and take measurements.  When the project is done, you’ll have a nice little salad!

7. Make some leaf rubbings.

Ah, the classic fall art project!  It brings back memories of my own childhood!  This is the kind of project that even the smallest of your pupils can enjoy.  Plus, the mess is minimal…definitely my kind of art project!  Just gather several different kinds of leaves (on your nature walk, remember?), then put them under a sheet of paper on a hard, flat surface.  Turn a crayon on its side and rub back and forth.  The results really are quite nice.

8. Make a Thanksgiving tree.

You can approach this one several different ways.  You can use sticks that you may find out in your yard, or you can make a paper tree on your wall.  Then, use leaf shaped cutouts, to write (or draw a picture of) something that you are grateful for each morning.  You could even cut around your leaf rubbings and use them for the leaves on the tree.

9. Keep your eyes to the skies for birds that migrate.

This is the time of year you will start seeing all kinds of migratory animals moving around.  One afternoon, why not grab a blanket and find a nice spot on the grass to spread it out and watch for birds.  

While you’re waiting, make up stories about the cloud shapes moving by.

When you finally see a flock of birds moving by, notice the kinds of sounds they make, and the way they fly by.  Use your observations as a jumping off point for a research project if you like.

10. Start a nature journal.

A nature journal doesn’t have to be fancy.  We just use a $.25 spiral notebook (I stock up on these, though, when they’re on back-to-school specials for $.20 each…we use them for a LOT of things!).  It’s a blank canvas.  Bear likes to draw pictures of things she finds outside.  Once, she found a bunch of snails and had them make trails all over a piece of paper.  She glued the paper inside the spiral.  Then, she wrote all kinds of observations about them on the facing page.  She also writes nature-themed poetry.  It’s quite a collection!  

11. Start a weather journal.

This time of year is famous for its weather changes.  Keep a record of them this year.  It’s fun to look back the following year and watch the differences, too.  Chart the temperature (pick a specific time to record each day), write observations about storms or cold fronts, and note the wind.  Again, you don’t have to be fancy.  A simple spiral will do.  If you want something a little cuter, a web search will return plenty of options!

12. Take an outdoor field trip.

My kids love going to the zoo.  But during the summer, at 105 degrees in the shade, it just ain’t gonna happen!  After that first glorious cold front, however, it’s time to load up and go to all those outdoor spots.  

Don’t forget about historical sights, too.  Here where we live, we’re only about an hour from Washington-on-the-Brazos which is full of our rich Texan history!

I also have a couple spots to see dinosaur fossils, and a cave trip on the radar.  

Do a little digging to find some cool spots in your area.  Lots of places even offer homeschooler discounts, or special homeschool days.  Find out all you can!  It’ll be worth it!

13. Take a trip to see family.

We always take a trip to see my side of the family over the week of Thanksgiving.  It gets us out of the house a little.  It’s also a great time to take advantage of all those cool places the Dallas area (where my family lives) has to offer as well.  

Take advantage of your time with family, too.  Make sure your kids get to hear plenty of embarrassing stories about you as a youngster!  But, also make sure that they hear stories about life when your older family members were growing up too.  It helps bring history to life!  

  • My great-grandparents met during the 1918 Flu epidemic…my great-grandfather’s family was particularly hard-hit.
  • My grandfather hunted a crocodile while he was stationed in New Guinea during World War II.  He was later sent home after experiencing complications from yellow fever.
  • My great uncle trained pilots during World War II.
  • My grandfather’s family were sharecroppers.  His parents had 5 kids, just like we do.

These were real people…my people!  Your kids will never tire of hearing family stories.  Just make sure you’re paying attention, because they will want to hear them over and over!

14. Make a work day to rake up all the leaves in your yard.

Sometimes it’s nice to take a break from working those brain muscles to flex some skeletal muscle instead. Have a family work day to rake up all those leaves in yard. You’re giving your brains a break, enjoying the weather, and practicing some important life skills all at the same time. Just don’t forget to jump in the piles when you’re done!

15. Learn how to make a fall treat together.

Working in the kitchen with small children can try your patience.  But, it can also be a great bonding and teaching experience if you let it.  So roll up those sleeves and find a fall treat to cook all together!

So, what’s on your fall homeschool bucket list?

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My kids have toys.  Tons of toys.  Toys, toys everywhere.  They have so many toys, they don’t all fit in their rooms at the same time.  Plus, in case those aren’t enough, they get more toys every Christmas and every birthday.  That’s 10 new toys coming into the house every year…not even counting the grandparent contribution!  So, what do they do with all of those toys?

Well…sadly, not much.  Don’t get me wrong, they do enjoy the toys, and they play with them from time to time.  However, most of the time, I note them playing with all sorts of other things…not toys.  It does beg the question, “Why do we bother?”

Here’s my list of some of my kids’ favorite not toy toys.  See if you can relate:

1. Sticks

What is so cool about sticks?  I guess it’s because they can do anything you want them to!  The biggest ones are often made into clubhouse teepees.  I’ve also seen fishing poles, horses, guns…pretty much everything can be mimicked with a stick!  Plus, once you’re done with them, you can throw them in the pond and make the dog chase them…and who doesn’t like making the dog take a swim?


2. Rocks

We have a plethora of rocks around here.  Not only can the kids dig them up from the dirt, our driveway is also made from rocks.  If we go on a walk, our road is made of rock.  So, we have no shortage of rocks.  We go out walking empty-handed, and by the time we come home, I’m carrying a huge load of rocks in the stroller, my pockets, and even in my hands.  Wait, why am I carrying all the rocks???

Once back at the house, they are investigated thoroughly.  Then, the ones that contain the proper level of sparkliness will go on to become eggs in a pretend bird’s nest, or dinosaur nest, or turtle nest…you get the picture.  The ones that don’t make the cut either go back in the driveway (if they know Mommy or Daddy are watching) or they are flung into the pond one by one so that, you guessed it, the dog will chase them.

3. String

Oh, all the uses of string!  Tie some string to a stick, and now you have your very own fishing pole.  If you can find a piece that’s long enough, tie it together at the ends, and now you have a glamorous necklace to use for your next ball (it’s starting in 5 minutes in front of the refrigerator).  Bear once tied several knots on one end of a piece of string to make something that vaguely resembled a dragon.  Everyone else immediately had to have a dragon pet of their own.  We had string dragons floating around the house for days!

4. Cardboard box-small

Ah, the cardboard box…it’s infamous!  Any time we receive a package in the mail, the children immediately claim the box and the bubble wrap (see #6).  Why do children like a cardboard box so much?  We adults will never understand.  I guess all our make-believe magic grew up and moved away…or maybe got packed away in one of those boxes!  Cars, trucks, boats, aquariums…those little boxes can be magical! 

You never know what they’re going to put in the box, either.  Last night, I came out of my room, after having fed Baby.  When I emerged from my room, I was confronted with a highly suspicious sight.  Three out of four of my mobile children had found a box that my dad had sent something to us in.  They were standing around the box, and Bear was hurriedly closing the top of the box.  

“What do you have in that box?” I demanded in my most authoritative Mommy voice.


Bear flashed me one of her patented sheepish grins and piped up, “Monkey!”

Maniacal laughter from inside the box ensued.  Then all the children started laughing.  Monkey popped out of the box.

Their dad and I started laughing too.  “Alright,” I admitted, “with you four around, perhaps I should have asked who!”

I have no idea what kind of game they were playing, but it sure was funny…especially after it aroused my suspicion!

5. Cardboard box-large

Need I say more?  What parent hasn’t bought their kids the best toy of the century only to have it thrown by the wayside in favor of a refrigerator box?  Shocking, but true.  Jails, castles, houses…the possibilities are endless!

6. Bubble Wrap

Lizard starts jumping up and down any time she sees the delivery truck bouncing up the driveway.  She’s already calling out, “I get the bubble wrap! I get the bubble wrap!” before I even get out the door to claim the package.  I have to meet our drivers at their trucks…they’re scared of Patch (as are all the meter readers, and the guy who works for the county grading the roads).  LIzard’s still bouncing when I come back in, and I can barely make it in the door, because they now all want a piece of bubble wrap.

Oh, the disappointment that ensues when a package comes with brown paper stuffing instead of bubble wrap!  There is wailing and gnashing of teeth!

I have to avoid the shipping materials aisle at WalMart just as meticulously as I do the toy aisle.  At least if I want to keep the “Momma, can I have?”s away.  You should have seen Lizard’s face the first time she noticed the shelf full of giant rolls of bubble wrap!  No birthday or Christmas morning has yet been able to compare to the joy and desire mirrored in those little eyes that day at WalMart!

7. Strangely melted metal

They call this little gem “Rudy”.  When they first found it in the yard, one of the children decided that it looked like the big, bad dinosaur creature from Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs that Buck called Rudy.  I’m not actually sure what it really is, but we’re pretty sure it originated from the burn barrel.  Don’t worry…we checked it for sharp edges.


8. Shovels

Yes, my kids play with shovels. Not the toy shovels you find in the sandbox seasonal aisle or the role-play toy aisle, they ‘play’ with real, full-sized shovels.  Every once in a while, someone gets a hankerin’ to dig a hole.  It makes no sense to me, but, hey…they have a blast.  Their Daddy will give them shovels and real jobs that need to be done.  They get a shovel, Daddy gets a fence post hole, and, after they’re done Mommy gets a quiet afternoon nap time since they’ve exhausted themselves digging a hole!

9. Pile of bricks

A few years ago, while we were visiting my parents’ house up in the DFW area, we were over at my grandparents’ house, visiting with them one afternoon.  My granddad had a pile of bricks stacked up next to the shed behind their house.  It was a fairly decent-sized pile of bricks.  Bear found them while playing outside and immediately set to work building a pint-sized castle.  She asked to go back over to their house every afternoon.  My granddad was so amused with her building, that at Christmas (the same Christmas that the giant Lincoln logs appeared), he sent at least half of his pile of bricks down with my parents so that Bear could have bricks at her house too.  Since then, they’ve been castles, walls, chairs, stages, corrals for wild stick horses…you name it!

10. Old coffee cans

Oh, the fun you can have with an old discarded coffee can!  My husband buys his coffee from Sams, you know, the big, giant 2 pound canister.  When he’s used all the coffee inside, the cans (or rather, plastic canisters) meander out to the barn where they are then given a second life as a feed scoop, or egg transport device.  If, however, the children gain control of them first, however, many interesting things can happen to these unsuspecting containers.  They make fantastic sandbox toys or mud pie makers. 

They like to collect rainwater in these cans and turn them into “soup”…the main ingredients of which appears to be water, dirt, leaves, grass, and sticks (to give it just the right amount of texture).

Sometimes, though, their stick horses become stick cows, and the rainwater in the coffee cans is actually milk.  With the milk they collect, they can make cakes or ice cream…both of which look strikingly similar to aforementioned “soup”.  Woe to the onlooker who guesses incorrectly!

I could write an entire post about all the uses for old coffee cans…maybe I will!


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