Monday, July 18, 2011

Life is CRAZY!!!

Those of you that have been following for awhile have surely heard about my constant quest to slow down and focus on what matters! You may have noticed that I haven't been blogging since our move this spring. I have a million excuses, but basically it comes down to focusing my energy on what's most important at the moment. I appreciate all of my readers, and hope to someday soon be able to focus on blogging again. In the meantime, here are some of our highlights from the past year.

As my son was learning to read this year we did lots of fun sight word activities! A very popular post was our Sight Word Garden. A year later we still enjoy our beautiful flowers, and use them regularly to practice new sight words.

Thanks to our Writing Center, my son was able to develop a love of writing. We have made several friends very happy by gifting them their own writing writing centers and art centers. We used the supplies in our centers to create this fun color book.

We loved owls even before they were so trendy! These owl pillows were easy for the kids to make and could be adapted to any theme.

I love to come up with new ways to play with toys that we already have. When I was trying to come up with new (non-destructible) tot school games for my daughter, I posted a bunch of fun ways to play with your chunky puzzle pieces! Her favorite was when I tossed a sheep puzzle piece in a bag. I shook
it while saying “baa, baa, what’s trying to get out of the bag?”

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We have been trying to teach my daughter the letters in her name. Her favorite activity so far was this do-a-dot art project, and it looks so cute on her bedroom door!


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Mom Chores~ Trying to Keep a Clean House

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We are so settled into our new house that I even plugged in the laminator today! I’ve quickly discovered that moving to a house twice the size means twice the chores!!

In our old home I had developed a system that was working really well for me, so today I recreated it for our new home. As you can see I made a spreadsheet of lists. The master list contains chores for each day of the week that remain the same each week.


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For example, every Friday I vacuum downstairs, sweep the kitchen and clear my inbox (a girl can dream right ;) On Fridays we spend the day watching my nephew at his house, so I make that my light chore day :) 

Wiping down the bathrooms twice a week makes it so that I only have to deep clean them once a month and they usually don’t smell like a public urinal… Of course this schedule was made with a perfect world in mind and there are days when I just don’t get it all done. That’s when I remind myself to focus on what really matters :)

Then each week I have a different focus zone. So one week I focus on deep cleaning the kitchen and our bedroom, the following week I do all 3 bathrooms, etc.

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I printed out all of the lists, mounted them on cardstock and laminated them. I hang the master list and that weeks zone by our family calendar. As I do my chores I get great satisfaction crossing them off the list with a dry erase or overhead marker. At the end of the week I can quickly see how much I got crossed off, then erase it and remember there's always next week!!


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Big News

Things have been crazy over here! It’s official- we are moving in less than 3 weeks! We are really excited! Our new home will be just a mile from Super Daddy’s new office, less than a block to Kindergarten, and in a great area for me to run and bike!!

Aeron ® Basic Chair With Polished Aluminum Base

Plus, our new house is more than twice the size of our current home! My mind is spinning with all of the furniture and decorating possibilities. Of course, one of the first things I did was check out the over 200 online stores at They have furniture for every room of the house, including these Herman Miller chairs which would be perfect for our office! I won’t be blogging from my dining room anymore!!

You know I’m a huge believer in focusing on the important stuff, so I’ll be taking a break from blogging. See you in a month, I promise I’ll have lots of fun stuff and updates on our new home :) I will occasionally be updating our facebook page during this break, so if you don’t already ‘like’ me,  please do. (Super easy with the buttons on the right hand tool bar).

**I received a $35 promo code to csn stores for linking to them in this post. Check back in a month and I’ll show you what I got for the new house!!

Pick & Draw Winner

Thanks to all who entered our giveaway for the awesome Pick & Draw Game! Our lucky winner is comment #3, Kylie (of Our Worldwide Classroom)!

If you didn’t win you can buy your own set for only $10! Well worth it for the hours of family fun and creativity!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Pick & Draw Review and Giveaway!

We frequently play games as a family after dinner. The usual games are fun for the kids. We love seeing the kids excited to play games together, but the games themselves are usually pretty lame for us. Not anymore!!
Pick & Draw is an incredibly simple and fun game! All you need to play are the playing cards, pencil and paper. We usually add crayons and clipboards (since we play our games on the living room floor).
The high quality cards come with very clear, easy to follow  instruction cards, and 5 different sets of features (face, eyes, nose, mouth, and hair)
To play you select one card for each feature. It’s fun to see how players can use the same shapes to create very different pictures by simply changing the features size, location, angle, etc.
Beyond being a fun way to spend some family time together. This game is a great way to get creative juices flowing, practice fine motor control, and build self-esteem. Ryan has been so impressed with some of his own drawings! Even two year old Ella gets super excited to play. She likes when we draw the face shape for her and then she adds in features, and lots of extras :) It was during a game of Pick & Draw that Ella first drew eyes as two circles with circles inside!
As you can see in the pictures, we like to name our characters, create silly families, and tell stories about our drawings!
To give the game a try, check out:
At $10, this is cheap family entertainment! If you would like to win your own copy of Pick & Draw  become a follower of my blog or comment if you already are  (1 entry) (use the follow button on the right hand side of the page :)
* ‘Like’ Giving Up On A Clean House on Face Book  (1 entry)
* Blog about this giveaway and leave a comment with a link (3 entries)
Giveaway ends March 6, 2011 at 11:59PST.  Be sure to leave a valid email address otherwise I won't be able to contact you if you win.  Winner will be chosen via  If the winner does not contact me within 48 hours, a new winner will be chosen.  Good Luck!
**I received a free copy of Pick & Draw, as well as a copy to giveaway, in exchange for this honest review ;)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Learning Your Name with Valentines Games

Life has been crazier than usual around here! We thought we were moving, but now we are staying put for the time being. We are about to leave on a mini-vacation, but I wanted to share some Valentine activities with you before it's too late!

I'm starting to work with Ella on identifying the letters in her name. We have been spelling it a lot, pointing out the letters when we see them elsewhere, and trying to incorporate her name into art projects.

When I hosted preschool co-op a couple of weeks ago I made these felt hearts to play with. I used puff paint to write a letter on each heart (super easy and super cute!) Remember, that our felt board is just our $14 Ikea easel with felt stapled over the chalkboard side (because I hate chalk and needed a felt board). During circle time I had the kids guess which name was which. Another time I gave them the letters of their name and worked with them to re-assemble it. There is so much you could do with these cute hearts, and it was great for the kids to be able to hold and manipulate the pieces of their names.

Using a new heart press, I created this simple file folder game for Ella. Her job is to match the correct letter to the letters on the game board. Of course, it's most beneficial when I play it with her and say each letter. This would be fun to turn into some sort of fishing game, or even just put the heart pieces in a bowl and have her draw out one at a time.

Another simple game that we will be playing in our yurt in the snow this week involves making hearts with the kids names on them. Today I'm going to show Ryan the magical trick of making his own hearts by folding the paper and cutting on the fold. For Musical Hearts spread the hearts on the floor and turn on some good music. When the music stops the kids have to hustle to stand on a heart with their name on it. They can collect them as we go.  For Valentines Beanbag Toss spread the hearts with names on the ground. Toss a beanbag and try to have it land on your name. Collect each heart you land on with your name. You could also do letters of their name. Older kids would have to collect them in the correct order, and younger kids would identify the letters they land on and lay them out to spell their name.

Happy Valentines Day!!


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Tot School

Ella (33 months) has been getting more and more interested in doing ‘school’ activities with me.


She loved using an eye dropper to put drops of water in the suction cups of these bath pads. We included mixing colors, sucking the water back up, and using a rag to clean up our own mess.

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We finally finished our Christmas thank you cards. Ella loved painting a snow scene with a cotton swab, cutting felt, gluing pieces and decorating snowmen.


Ella and I created counting cards together using stickers and large index cards. We can practice counting by adding various counters (bears this time) to the stickers on each card.


I put large pieces of scrap muslin out on the grass and let the preschoolers paint with a variety of materials. Ella LOVED it and wants to do it every day now…too bad momma’s not up for that kind of mess everyday!


Our sensory bin is way packed this month, but Ella plays with it several times a day. She especially likes the funnel. We sort hearts by size and material (plastic, glass, wood, felt, and foam).


Ella is into pretending to write and pretending to read :) I just got out these early tracing books and she is doing really well with them.


What better way to practice our balance than with a bunch of fallen logs and tree stumps!


Not tot school, but too cute to not include ;) Can you find Ella?

I can always use ideas for tot school!! What have you and your toddler been up to?

I’ll be getting ideas this month from Quirky Momma’s An-Activity-A-Day Calendars. Print out your February version today!

Check out what other tots are doing:
Tot School 


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Delicious Everything (and oatmeal) Cookies

Well, a mama on a January diet should not be baking. But, we were hosting playgroup and I didn’t want to empty our snack cabinet. Everyone loved the cookies even though I omitted the chocolate (to make them less tempting to me :)

I didn’t get a picture before they were gobbled up… next time :)


  • 2 sticks of softened butter (1/2 pound)
  • 1 packed cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1.5 teaspoons almond extract
  • 1.5 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1.5 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2.5 cups uncooked oatmeal '
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup of good chocolate (I prefer high quality chocolate chips or good ol’ m&m’s)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and lightly grease your cookie sheets. Beat the butter, brown sugar, and sugar until creamy. Add the eggs one at a time and then the almond extract and vanilla.

Add the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Mix well with the blender. By hand stir in the goodies (cranberries, walnuts and chocolate).

Try to get them on the cookie sheet without eating all of the dough (I should probably add some kind of disclosure about the potential danger of raw eggs). Bake them for 11-13 minutes, until they start to turn a golden brown. Cool and Enjoy!!!


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Good Storytellers Make Good Writers

When I taught in the classroom and as a homeschool adviser, I saw a lot of bad writing. We’ve all heard that reading quality books helps create good writers, but don’t forget the classic art of storytelling.

Being able to envision stories in your head without an accompanying illustration, is an important skill that can lead to a growing imagination, and increased reading comprehension.

Books on CD are a great way to introduce the idea of storytelling. We love to listen to stories in the car. Our current favorites are almost all from Barefoot Books.  Our library also has a great selection of audio books. Usually we listen to the story uninterrupted the first time (as uninterrupted as a story can be with a two and four year old;) The next time we listen to the story I may occasionally pause it and ask questions, such as “Ooh, I love how they described that dragon! Do you think it looks nice or mean?” At the end of stories I usually ask questions, to see how much they were able to follow the story.  I have found that they have a harder time with these comprehension questions with the audio books than they usually do with visual books.

After introducing storytelling through audio books I started to fabricate stories for the kids. I model good stories by making sure that I use vivid descriptions, and include a beginning, middle (with some sort of climax), and an end. They especially love when they are characters in the stories.

Including fun variations has had us telling stories almost all day long! The kids love choose your own adventure type stories where I ask them questions and their answers dictate the direction of the tale. For example, “Ryan and Ella soon came to a dark cave. As they stood outside peering in, they saw a faint light flickering deep inside. Should they go inside or keep trying to find the castle?”

We have also enjoyed a lot of round table story telling lately. We take turns each adding a few lines. These stories get pretty silly!

My favorite story telling activity is telling the same story from different points of view. For example, I could tell the kids a story about a group of kids hunting for a dragon and then tell the story a second time speaking as the dragon. This is a great tool for helping kids think from other peoples point of view. [This less egocentric thinking is developmentally appropriate around age four.]

Of course this is all leading up to having the kids create their own stories. If they have a hard time coming up with ideas you could brainstorm together, or even give them some props to use. Don’t be surprised if in the beginning the stories sound a lot like the ones you have been telling, or tend to ramble on forever. You can ask questions to illicit more details or more vivid descriptions. You can talk about their story at the end saying, “I like how at the beginning of your story ___ happened, then in the middle ____ happened,  and then it ended with ____.”  Though the best way to keep improving their stories is to keep reading to them and telling them great stories.

We are just starting to turn our stories into fun puppet shows :)

Remember, great story tellers grow into great writers!


Monday, January 10, 2011

How Our Sight Word Garden Has Grown!!


Happy New Year!! My winter break is officially over, and I have lots of fun posts lined up for you. I’m working on learning how to make printables, and hope to provide some fun materials from our current unit on mammals soon :)

I’m so proud to say that Ryan’s reading is really taking off (especially in the last couple of weeks)! We had  been pretty stagnant lately since he hasn’t wanted to work on his Explode the Code. In fact, I’ve had to be pretty sneaky about getting any ‘school work’ in. I tried to stay patient, not force him (remembering he’s only 4), and remember that his interest and growth comes in waves. Remember when he went from hating writing to loving it being completely obsessed with it in a matter of weeks?

Anyways, we are still working on our sight words. On We Teach,  a few bloggers were discussing our favorite posts from 2010. Our Sight Word Garden was my favorite because it was 100% my own idea and we still use it on a near daily basis.


When our garden started to grow so quickly, (and the sister and pets started picking flowers from our garden) we had to adapt it. I thought about putting floral foam in planter boxes on Ryan’s huge dresser. But, again we would outgrow it quickly. If you want to focus on a handful of words at a time the planter may be a good idea. 

So we transferred our flowers to three flower pots that rest on the shelf in our play kitchen (where we see them constantly). The pot on the left is for words that Ryan knows instantly. The middle pot is for words that he knows but needs to get a little quicker with. The pot on the right is for words that we are still working on. It’s been working great for us! Have you planted a sight word garden? If so, be sure to let us know. You could do vocabulary words or math fact gardens too! It’s fun to brighten up bleak winter days with beautiful flowers!

You can check out our other sight words activities from 2010, and you can bet 2011 will be full of more :)

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I added this post to the ABC and 123 Show & Tell Blog Hop- check it out!