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Thursday, March 26, 2015

How To Spark A Love for Books

leisure time of drawing, reading and climbing up tables to look out the window
Warning: This post is a brag session, which can be entirely annoying, but it is also a form of journaling all those warm fuzzy moments I want to remember.  And it is all true.  I can complain about the messes, whining and frustrations another day.
As you know we are BIG into reading aloud.  We read some picture books, but most of my time is spent reading them poetry and chapter books.  The girls are now 7, 4 and 1, which are perfect ages for picture books.  And they do plenty of thumbing through those on their own.  I read them many picture books, but I LOVE reading longer stories with them and for me .  I started when Elly, my oldest was 4.  At that time she did not have the attention span of lasting through a whole chapter.  Now she doesn't want me to stop, while the 4 year old begs to stop after a chapter.  It is definitely an age thing.  In the past 7 months we have read: Little House In the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, On the Banks of Plum Creek, By The Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, A Pilgrims Progress,  Thee Hannah, The Magic Tree House: Leprechaun In Late Winter, Charlottes' Web, The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow, Rip Van Winkle, Aesop Fables, The Snow Queen, The Gift of the Magi, A Christmas Carol, 3 poetry books and countless picture books (covering Abraham Lincoln, to Martin Luther King, every holiday, to silly things such as dragons and made up lands)  there are too many to count.  And guess what my kids LOVE me reading to them. They ask me to read to them so frequently I often find myself turning them down.  But I see Elly reading to her sisters often.  She is not reading at a fluent level yet so she narrates what she remembers or creates a whole story on her own, and her sisters love it.

St. Patty's Day green pudding

Our book club held once a month is mainly picture books.  I tend to read the book right then and there and then we discuss things such a character, theme, etc.  We usually have snacks and craft and then the girls on their own decide to act out the book we just read and put on a play.  It is a good time, and they look forward to it every month.

Most recently the girls and I saw the newest Cinderella movie which was wonderful! The girls remind me now that courage and kindness are important...on a daily basis.  And the movie sparked an urge to write something as a family.  And so together we are writing a fairy tale.  Elly is eager to do the illustrations and write with mom.  Everyone gets a say in the story line and characters.  The girls are so excited that when Elly wakes in the morning she asks "When are we going to write the story mom!"  It has been so fun for all of us to use our imaginations and work together.  I advise any family to spark their families love of books by creating one together!! 

Soo I am completely illiterate in technology.  I am the opposite of savy.  I always admire those who make their blogs look professional.  Honestly have no idea how they do this and do not seem to have the time to figure it all out what with homeschooling and keeping house.  Anywho, sorry about my random pictures everywhere below. I do not know how to move them!  I've been trying but with no success.  No making fun!

Some blogs that will really inspire you:
great illustrations by Jason Cockcroft

I love illustrations by J.P. Lynch 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014



This picture is from this past Sunday September 28th

Boiling down maple sap into syrup

   Well I can not believe it has been 10 months since I last posted; but life gets busy and before you know it, winter, spring and summer has gone and we are in a crisp fresh, fall.  In winter we had a baby and tapped our maple tree and made maple syrup.  In the spring, my sister and her family moved from Utah, back to Pennsylvania and is living in the same town as me (dream come true.) The summer was a the girls dance recital, trip to Lancaster and vacation to Myrtle Beach with Cooper Family (where we all got the flu, but still had a blast) and now we are entering the fall where school and activities began. I am soo happy October has arrived.  If you know me at all, then you know it is my VERY FAVORITE month!  It is so beautiful outside.

Girls dance recital

      Last time I checked in here I was about 8 weeks from having a baby.  Hayzel was born in February.  She will be 8 months old soon!  She is by far my easiest baby, all smiles, social and cool as a cucumber.  I'm grateful for this calm and quiet little girl.  Of course she can be loud and scream as well, just not as often as she is docile.  She began smiling at 2 weeks, no lie.

     Elly got her ears pierced for her 7th birthday, Brinley will be 4 this month! My girls are growing up!  We are busy with homeschooling, co op, girl scouts and story hour.  Life is soo good. 

     At church Danny is the Scout Master he is as busy as ever and loving it.  I am in nursery which has been a lovely break, I never thought I would love nursery, but I do!

    Things new:

*We have  Hayzel who is such a joy to our family

*I have started a book club for elly and her friend once a month.  We are just reading picture books but afterwards we discuss characters, setting.  I hope to introduce plot, theme, and such.  We have only done this once last month but WAY excited about this.

 *We are reading outloud A LOT as a family.  We always have, but to the umpteenth power, now. 

 *I feel more organized and with it than a year ago...yet my house it messier..hmmm.

* In a walking club- just started this with friend who started this

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Three New Meaningful Christmas Traditions

Christmas has come and gone, but we so enjoyed the season.  We have created some new traditions in its honor.  We still have some favorite traditions we have continued onward such as:

-Read A Christmas Carol every night till it is finished
-Re-enact the Christmas Story on the Eve
-Have a Caroling Party

What we have kicked:

-Santa, he went Bye Bye last year and the girls now know the truth.  we have read the story of Saint Nicholas, so they know he was a Christian man doing good.  Grandparents gave us Santa stickers for the windows and they enjoyed decorating with that, snowflakes and other festive things.  But Elly knows, she has gotten tired of telling all the adults who ask her that Santa is not real.  She just looks at me like, don't these people know??  However that cute three year old with the chubby cheeks does not get the concept yet.  Her cute line of the season:

"Santa isn't real.  He bring me gifts, I love him."

It was pretty darling and with neighbors and friends constantly asking the girls about Santa, I understand her confusion.

Anyways, on with the new traditions:

1) Recently I bought this awesome advent candle holder from the blog . Every night we lit a candle, sang a Christmas hymn and said a prayer. You should have seen the blaze Christmas Eve! We really need to get to know our Christmas hymns better.  This simple act has really set the mood for the holidays and I love it!

2) Also, We looked up Salvation Army on the internet and watched some tear jerker videos.  Our Christmas goal this year was to earn coins through extra chores and watch for good deeds between one another; to add coins to a Salvation Army Jar.  Before Christmas we brought a FULL jar of coins to the bell ringer, along with some hot cocoa for the volunteers.  I feel it was a very good visual for the girls.  And for them to know that THEY helped someone else out is golden.  While the girls were chugging away at pushing coins into a tiny red slit, a man came up with a lot of change to donate from his pockets. He smiled and said: 

"It's great that you do this, I wish Salvation Army had these out all year, it does so much good. I was homeless once and I'm grateful for organizations like this." 

Yeah, I tried not to tear up until we got to the van. 

3) Also we went simple and natural this year with d├ęcor.  We went out on the second and cut some branches of pines at my parents and came home and decorated the mantle with them.  Naturally there was Christmas music and hot cocoa accompanying such a festive event. 

Hope Your Christmas was as wonderful as ours and Happy New Year!  Time to make some New Years Goals!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Homeschool Update and the Curriculum we Use

This kindergarten year is going great! We are ahead in math, right on par with reading and writing, excelling above average in history science and geography.  And to think I almost gave up the fight before even trying.  Instead I ignored the fears, bought curriculum and joined a co op with fifteen other families.  And I am happy and content. 

I love homeschooling.  I love that I can teach my kids for fifteen minutes and then when they get ancy, sidetracked or bored I set the timer for twenty minutes and they go play.  I love that if Elly needs help with her reading or math she has my one on one attention.  I love that she recognizes all seven continents, all four oceans, a few countries in Europe and the English channel.  Yeah, that is so much more than I knew or remembered like a year ago.

I love how much I am learning!  I am really learning a lot about the world.  It is amazing what you forget.  I actually wonder if I ever learned some of these things in school, because honestly I don't remember.  I love that my girls are the best of friends, it warms my heart.  And I love that I get to spend time with my girls reading books, making lunch together and cuddling through out the day.

Yeah, so my house is pretty much always messy, and let's be honest life isn't always rosy and full of butterflies, I lose my cool once the whining begins, but I truly feel like this is what we as a family are meant to do, at least for now.  And I feel in complete peace with it, and that is pretty cool.

We have a bit of things we work on through out the week and I thought I might share our curriculum.

Math: Math U See.  We are about to finish up kindergarten (we started that last year) and begin the first grade version in a week or two.  I love it!  It is easy to teach and uses manipulatives. Two pages a day is just enough.

Reading: I have a dyslexic husband and I myself didn't learn to read until my repeat year of first grade.  We have been using teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons.  It has taken a bit more than 100 and not always so easy, so I have also introduced hooked on phonics and this is helping with sight reading better.  A lesson from each plus an easy level one reader where she reads specific sight words and I read the rest.  I find just reading with her these easy reader books have made a HUGE difference, and over the course of three weeks, she is now READING!!  Words can not express how ecstatic and overjoyed I am about this!!


Writing: This is where dollar store finds come into place.  Some cheapo, small writing books. We do a page a day.

Critical Thinking:  I got a great 1st grade book at Barnes and Noble that help with all subjects including critical thinking we do a page or two a day.

Mondays: Science and Music

Tuesdays: English and Religion


Wednesdays: Co-Op

Thursdays: Crafts and History


Fridays: Geography, Nature and Art History

We also use memory cards from Classical Conversations, they come with CD's with songs to help you memorize timeline and history facts.  Really love this!


Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Comeback to Minimalism: Or Five Ways To Begin the Journey

If you recall, about a year ago...or two, I was ever so zealous of becoming a Minimalist.  I was on a de cluttering rampage, and was convinced I would be living the star Minimalist lifestyle I desired by my six month mark.  Well, that didn't happen. I mean I DID get rid of a lot of "stuff" I never used, and it felt good.  The house was better than it had been in a long time.  And I have maintained that.  Danny is not exactly on board, and I think I got a little distracted with life.

Then, guess what I decided to homeschool, and went to a homeschoolers convention this past May and bought a TON of fun books to read with the girls and classics and curriculum.  I was a bit over zealous.  I get that way.  I do not regret getting any (okay well maybe a few) of those books, but suddenly the house felt a bit more cramped.  And then birthdays come and go, and toys take center stage.  In June I became pregnant and was incapable of taking care of anything including myself.  Come mid September when the fog was lifting and I was throwing up less, I became more aware of my surroundings.  My house, had somehow become, a disaster.  Clothes, toys, games, crafts, trash, and "stuff" seemed to me; to be bursting from the seams. 

 I live in a cute cape cod, circa 1948, so closet space is minimal, square foot is just over 1,200, and anything extra just makes the place seem claustrophobic and dark and dingy.  It was time for an overhaul.  Being in full on nesting mode, probably helped my desire to get serious once more about chucking things I hadn't used in years, but was sure I'd need it someday!  Yeah, that day never comes, because by the time you actually need it, you have no idea where it is, and which pile of bins it might be in, so instead you give up before you really try and go out and buy another.  Being a pack rat obviously defeats its true purpose if you can't actually use the items your storing because you either forgot you had it or have no idea where you stored it. 

And so I have been busy reclaiming my space.  Trust me, I have such a long ways to go.  The basement is still an overwhelming nightmare, but I have been managing to find some simple and effective plans to whittle down the mess.  The key is to start small.

1)  Before even moving any big ticket items out, make a list of what you could do without and write the pros of having it out of your life and space. 

2)  What big bulk items or furniture have you been wanting to get rid of?  Set a task to ridding yourself of this distraction.  For example we still have an old broken washer in our basement that NEEDS to go.  Unfortunately I am unable to help Danny move his out at the moment (prego) , so I'm not sure how long I will have to wait this item out.  Dang blang it! 

3)  Take Out a Garbage bag every couple of days and see how much you can fill it.  Begin in one room, or do as I do, travel from room to room and pick up the items that are small, no one uses and should really be considered trash. 

4)  If organizing or being in a single cluttered room is too overwhelming set the timer for two or three minutes and commit to de-cluttering, trashing or giving away just two items in this particular space.  The key is not the amount you declutter in one day, but the consistency in which you do it.  And I completely get that feeling of ummm....where do I start?  I absolutely do this almost every day, and it is amazing the things you begin to notice and realize you can live without.

5)  Minimalism isn't just about stuff, but your time.  Make another list about useless activities or overscheduling that eats into your time, frazzles out your stress and just causes an overload of anxiety.  We tend to do too much in a day and fill our schedules with un necessary commitments.  Evaluate what is best for you and your family.  Keep the necessary and best and discard the rest.  I am taking full stock of this right now in my life and attempting to learn to politely say NO.  I will have to write more on this and how it is affecting my life.

This list has been helping me tenfold and I hope it can help you too!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Inequality for ALL

Danny is taking a Sociology Class right now.  He gets to write all these fun papers.  I usually, strongly dislike editing and helping with his papers, but sociology topics are way fun, I think.  So I thought I might share his paper with you.  We are on the same page in our views.  Enjoy and comment, sociology topics are always, a bit controversial.

Inequality for all

               It is true that none of us are born into the same circumstances.  Everyone comes into different financial, relational, spiritual, physical and intellectual means.  In this sense, none of us are equal.  We are all individually unique.  Some of us are born with high IQ’s, athletic abilities, organizational talents, sociable skills, drive and perseverance.  Others may lack in these strengths and may struggle with them.  Two types of people can even come from the same family.  Take my brother and I for example, my brother Kevin seems to be a natural at everything, but he especially excels in math, writing and reading.  Kevin could read a book in a day, while I was still learning the basics.  My brother and I are a year apart, he learned to read in a snap, while I struggled with dyslexia and couldn’t read for years.  I find it interesting that the things he excels in are the very things I struggle with.  We come from the same parents and same gene pool, yet we are so different.  I suppose the study of my family would be social stratification at its best.  We were raised the same, treated both well and had different struggles and talents.  

There are obvious blatant inequalities in life.  William the Conqueror defeated King Harold of England in 1066 and started Feudalism.  This may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but feudalism is anything but fair or easy, unless you were the king that is.  Basically the king owned all the land and then got to tell people what to do.  People were divided by namesakes or royalty, and then went down the pyramid of mistreatment.  The serfs got the worst of it, they had to till the ground, pay high taxes and barely had enough to feed their families.  They had no say in the vocation they chose or how they got to live their life.    It was first rate inequality. 

Slavery crept up all over the place, from Europe to Africa to America.  Owner would barely feed their workers and force them against their own free will to do as they say.  They didn’t get to choose their vocation or be compensated for it, and they had no security with their families, as they could be sold at a moments’ notice.  This is the worst inequality I can think of. 

And now we have today.  In the United States is there still inequality?  I believe for sure there is inequality.  I believe there probably always will be some way or another.  There are homeless people, and those who live in mansions, there are mentally challenged and geniuses.  But the real question is which inequalities can be avoided? 

Are those whom are born into poverty at a disadvantage?  Clearly, they are deprived in, education and safety.  Yet there are many people who have overcome these circumstances and have gone on to be huge successes.  My dad was born in poverty.  He is the youngest of twelve.  Food was sparse, their house was a small shack, there was no plumbing and had to use an outhouse.  He found himself in survival mode most of the time with an abusive alcoholic father.

My dad did not follow in the footsteps of his father.  He worked hard, built successful businesses, and provided a comfortable living for our family.  He does not drink and was never abusive to his children. How did he not follow the circumstances he was living in?  He has siblings that have made a good life for themselves and a few whom took to alcohol.  Each had their different talents, weaknesses and personalities and took the same environment and did what they could with it.  To me there is no arguing that being raised in the ghetto is unequal to suburbia, but the point there is still hope and that people can overcome it.  Also, I’m not sure if poverty can be avoided,  or John says in the Bible the poor will always be with us.  I believe there will always be inequality and poverty so long as there is substance abuse, domestic violence and laziness.  And how do you stop people from doing these things?  We all have free will, so I guess as soon as they will it, one person at a time.

What about the lovely middle class?  People say that the middle class is the best and worst place to be in.  I happen to be right smack dab in the middle of middle class.  I work hard for my family of four, with a baby on the way.  I live a comfortable, happy life.  I don’t drive an escalade, but an old beat up truck.  And I am happy.  Sure I am not living in a McMansion but a quaint cape cod.  In the 40’s after World War II, GI’s were able to buy homes.  Most didn’t own their homes before this, most rented in the city or tended to farms.  Then houses were being built, suburbia brought newfound responsibilities and joy.   The average size house being built was 700 square feet.  That is almost half the size of my home, and with no air conditioning or color tv. 

  I think the problem with our middle class today could be two things: contentment- or lack of, and financial thriftiness.  I think what should be measured more is not what we make, but how grateful we are for what we have.  My mother in law was raised in a cape cod the size of ours, but with six other siblings, less clothes and toys, no cell phones and still has fond memories of her childhood. Our inequalities these days are not in how much we make, but how hard we work, one feels better when they earn what they have and how appreciative we are for the good things we have. (De Graff, Wann, Naylor, Affluenza, pg. 24)

“When the film Affluenza was produced, Americans were saving just under 4% of their incomes, half the German rate and only a quarter that of Japan.  That seemed at the time, very bad news, since the savings rate had been 10% as recently as 1980.  But today our national savings rate hovers near zero and in some months, falls below that line.  Steve Lohr of the NY times reports that Americans now save only 2% of their personal incomes – about $1.50 a week on a salary of $40,000.  Meanwhile residents of the European Union save 12% and impoverished Chinese, Indian and Pakistani workers save a quarter of their incomes,”  (DeGraff, Wann, Naylor, Affluenza, pg.21-22)

It really makes me ponder whether middle class Amercians have forgotten that it has only a few decades ago that we were listening to radios, going to the bathroom outside and washing clothes in water basins.  We get obsessed with our iphones, texting, computers and cars.  We feel the urge to buy the latest and greatest and then dub ourselves “poor” if we have to wait and save up.  We look for the next get rich quick scheme and forget that we do have wealth.  We have all our needs taken care of plus, many luxuries.  I think this would be quite an interesting topic to truly study and discuss.  In equality will not be solved in a day a month or a year but the start to such success begins with hard honest work, gratitude, and living within your means. 


Friday, November 1, 2013

Love Story Part 9

The doorbell rang and I quickly touched up my make up.  He was here.  My heart raced as I heard my mom answer the door.  There was muffled small talk before I climbed up the basement stairs to the first level.  My cheeks flushed just thinking of the last time I had seen him the week before.  He had driven two hours to take me out on a date.  Two hours worth of gas, two hours of time, and another two hour drive on the way back home.  Since then we had talked on the phone every night and the more we chatted, the more attracted I was. 

"Danielle! Danny is here!" 

 My mom shouted as I neared the top of the steps. Yes I still lived at home.  I had just come home from serving an 18 month mission for my church two months prior.  I recently started a full time job at a local sewing factory (One of the last ones in Pennsylvania I suspected, since everything seems to be outsourced out of the US these days.)

I rounded the bend and saw him sitting in the living room with my mom, carrying a single pink carnation in his hand.  He stood up when he saw me.


He said, greeting me with a hug and the flower.  I thanked him nervously and scrambled away for a vase for my flower.  He looked even cuter with a striped blue and white shirt which made his oceanic eyes sparkle brighter. 

Everything was a blur after that.  I remember saying good bye to my mom, while we drove off to a quaint river town by Jersey, called New Hope.  We walked to art and antique shops and lovely overpriced products, laughing and joking all the way, linking fingers and cupping hands. 

I remember strolling into a handmade furniture store and creaking up the steps to the second story, dying to plant a kiss onto his plump pink lips. We were the only ones upstairs, just us and the delicately carved creations.  I'm not sure what was said, but I recall curling into his arms and reaching up for a kiss. Thankfully he returned the gesture. Mmm, it was nice. 

I was rushing again, trying to speed my way through a relationship.  I used to be different.  There was once a time I waited to kiss anyone or determine whether I truly liked them after the third date.  We hadn't gotten half way through the first date and I was already handing out kisses.   I was in trouble.  I liked him...a lot.  And I was very attracted to his easy going personality and handsome good looks. 

We had a nice dinner outside on the veranda and walked some more, getting to know each other's likes and dislikes, hobbies and goals, life's dreams and failures.  I was hooked.  The ride home, the kiss at the door, the phone call on his way home, was perfect.

That evening I lay on my pillow content and lost in the day.  How could I feel so different from a week ago?  Was this it?  Was he the one?