Bubbling with Joy

Well hey there! Long time, no chat! I’m excited to be back posting again, although I can’t promise how long it will last or how consistent it will be. I do have 3 kids (and all the accompanying laundry). Anyway, it really does feel nice to be logged in and get to share a little about what the kiddos and I have been up to. Let’s catch up:

  • Punky has officially finished Kindergarten!!! We are homeschooling , and this was the end of our first “official” year. We have really enjoyed the experience and are looking forward to starting 1st grade this year. Hopefully I will get a chance soon to write up a full review of the curriculum we used, so keep an eye out for that!
  • Bay will be starting Kindergarten this year! It’s a little early, but he tagged along with Punky over the last year so I think he’s ready. He already has a lot of the Bible and science concepts down pat, so we will focus on the math and phonics pieces, and be sure to take it nice and slow. One of the beautiful things about homeschooling is that it all happens at the pace our family chooses. So we can start Kindergarten a little early and take 1.5 to 2 years to complete it if we want – no problem!
  • We have added a 3rd rugrat to our crew! LouLou is 9 months old now and super spoiled by her big sissy and brother! It’s going to be interesting trying to do school with both big kids with a toddler around – pray for us!
  • We’re building a house! Just when we thought it couldn’t get more interesting than a 1st grader, Kindergartner, and a toddler, let’s add all the stress, decision fatigue, and busy-ness of building a house to the mix! But seriously, we are so blessed to have the opportunity to build our family dream home! We have been trying to move or build for several years now, but the timing just hasn’t been quite right. We are getting to build on my husband’s family’s property within 5 minutes of my parents as well – it is truly a dream come true for us! We are just in the beginning stages, so it’s going to be a while yet, but I will keep you posted on our progress!

So, yeah, those are the biggest things that have changed since I posted last. It’s a lot to be excited about and thankful for! However, there have been lots of long days (and nights) when I didn’t really have an attitude of gratitude. I’m sure you can empathize with me when I say that it is hard to be joyful when you haven’t had much sleep, the older kids are arguing for the hundredth time, hubby is calling wondering what’s for dinner, and you feel like 2 pots of coffee isn’t enough to get you through the afternoon! Being a parent is HARD! There’s always about a million things going on! The one thing you want when everything is going off the rails is a bit of quiet, but when you get it, you get this terrible feeling that the kids are up to no good. What’s a mom to do?!

The kids and I have started working on a little Summer unit to keep us going a little with school work without being too demanding. No workbooks or formal lessons. Just some basics and lots of fun. The theme of the unit is the Fruits of the Spirit. We really love to listen to this Fruits of the Spirit song – gets us up dancing and acting crazy every time. It has also helped Punky memorize all 9 fruits! (By the way if you don’t know what the Fruits of the Spirit are, click HERE for more info!) Today we worked on the second fruit – joy. The thing about joy is that it’s more than being happy. Having joy is totally a God thing, because it’s having that deep, from-the-heart, no-matter-what kind of happiness. It’s HARD to be joyful in all circumstances. To find joy, not in spite of the crazy and stressful things, but IN the crazy and stressful things. To count all the tantrums, boogers, snacks, laundry, errands, teachable moments, messes, and chaos as JOY is nothing short of a miracle! But it is so freeing. When you can look at each moment, good or bad, and remember that it is being used to glorify the Lord and fulfill His plans, Mama you’ve got a joyful heart and a much less stressful day!

I was trying to share this with the kiddos today – get them to understand that true joy is more than just feeling happy or being nice. That’s a tough lesson for most adults and even more so for the littles, but every opportunity to share a little about God, what He has done for me, and what He wants to do for them is a seed planted, so I’ll take it! We started by making a joyful noise along to some fun worship songs. The kiddos love getting out their box of noise makers and being allowed to be as loud as they want with them! Our selection is just a random assortment of instruments from various gift sets over the years like castanets, maracas, egg shakers, and even a cow bell! Sometimes we use them a little more calmly to work on rhythm and beat, but today was about joy, so we gladly made a LOT of noise! Even LouLou got in on the action! Then we read the story of Paul and Silas in jail (found in Acts 16) and how they managed to be joyful despite being imprisoned, and how being joyful in those dire circumstances helped bring the jailer and his family to Jesus. In case you weren’t aware, kids have a keen sense of what is fair, and being put in jail for believing in Jesus was completely outrageous to Punky! This story definitely got her attention!

Just to really seal the message, we moved to the kitchen for an object lesson. A great visual for joy is bubbles – they’re light and fun and always bring a smile to your face. We also tend to think of bubbling brooks, an overflowing cup, or feeling lighter than air when we think of joy – all things that can be associated with bubbles. So we made some bubbles, but not the traditional kind. We had to go all science-y with it and talk about chemical reactions while we were at it. First, I spread some baking soda out on 2 plates. I also mixed a couple drops of food color in with some white vinegar in a glass. I let the kiddos use some cheap droppers to drip the vinegar onto the baking soda, which of course produced pretty bubbles. It’s kind of like us – we’re the baking soda and when you add Jesus (the vinegar) we get all bubbly with joy! Punky enjoyed adding the vinegar one drop at a time, while Bay went to town squirting it on in big splashes. Then we took it one step farther by blowing up a balloon with the same chemical reaction. If you’ve never done it before, it’s easy. Just add about a cup of vinegar to an old water bottle. Use a funnel to put about 1/2 a cup of baking soda in a regular balloon. Then fit the balloon over the bottle opening, being careful not to let the baking soda pour into the bottle until you have a good seal. Once the baking soda falls into the vinegar, it starts making bubbles and the gas blows up the balloon, kind of like how we are full of joy once Jesus comes into our lives! Of course, once you have a blown up balloon, you MUST tie it off and play “keep it up” all around the house!

It’s been a fun day, full of adventures and lessons. Some parts of it were harder than others and it required an act of prayer to find the joy in those moments. I hope my kiddos notice when I’m struggling to find the joy and take a moment to send up a silent prayer for help being joyful in ALL circumstances. I hope and pray that you are finding joy no matter what your circumstances are as you read this. It truly is a blessing to put aside our fear and stress that we so often cling to, and just….be. Until next time – play, grow, & learn 🙂

Food: the way to the heart or to the mind?

There is something about food, isn’t there?  We all eat, so it is a perfect social experience.  Everyone is going to eat sometime today, so why not do it together?  We go out to eat with friends, we host dinner parties, celebrate moms-to-be with brunch baby showers, and the list goes on!  There is nothing quite like the prospect of food to get our attention either.  Boring meeting?  Add donuts and coffee, and voila! everyone is a little happier to be there.  Want to get new people involved in a committee or organization?  Promise there will be food and you’ll get people to show up!  Need help moving, painting, or building something?  Pay them with pizza!  Everywhere we look people are gathering around food.  Then there’s the popular saying, “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”  I know my hubby seems to enjoy when I choose to say “I love you” by cooking up a special meal or treat.  I’d like to take some creative license with that old adage though, and suggest that food may not only be the way to the heart but also to the mind.

There is plenty of research around showing the correlation between healthy eating and focus, learning outcomes, productivity, etc.  And if you’ve ever tried to really concentrate on a project while your tummy was grumbling away, you’ve experienced first hand the importance of food to your mind.  So we can all agree that healthy eating is of the utmost importance.  As a homeschool mom of two littles I am also aware of the endless barage of requests for snacks!  There are days when I wonder if I accomplish much more than making, eating, and cleaning up snacks!  It’s hard work coming up with easy, no-mess, and healthy snacks all the time, and without breaking the bank, am I right?!  I have found that prepping some of those snacks ahead of time really cuts down on my workload during the day.  I buy the full size boxes of baked cheese crackers in the shapes of various water-dwelling creatures, bags of dried cranberries, apple and veggie straws, and other little tasties the kids love.  When I get home, I measure out a serving-ish into snack size zippy bags and dump all the bags into a couple of buckets I keep where the kids can reach them.  Now when it’s snack time, they can grab the bucket and pick out their own snack.  It’s a little tedious, but at least it’s only that way once a week instead of a million four times a day.  And it’s soooo much cheaper to buy the full-size packages than the individual ones.  My two also like cheese so I’ll buy it by the block and cut it up into little squares and put those in snack baggies as well.  You could do the same with grapes, strawberries, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, or any other little treats your heart (or their tummy) desires.  [A few of you may be wondering about all those plastic bags, and to be honest I considered it too.  I just decided that it wasn’t any worse than all of those little packages I could be buying from the store and that my sanity was worth it.  There are plenty of more eco-friendly options though if you choose to use them such as the reusable zipper bags.  Heck, who says you can’t reuse the regular zippie bags as long as you rinse them out…. and your child doesn’t destroy them.  I might even try to use small resealable containers one day.  Anyway, please don’t judge me for not being 100% eco-friendly with this idea. Us mamas got to do what we got to do!]

Another idea I had was to just combine snack into their playful learning.  If we need food in our bellies to learn, then it makes sense to learn while putting the food in our belly!  The activity I want to share isn’t the most healthy in the world, but it helped Bay start counting and working on his one-to-one correspondence as well as helping Punky start recognizing the numerals for some quantities.  And there’s nothing like marshmallows to get a kid’s attention, even a kid like mine!

All I did to set this one up is write some numbers on index cards.  I also spelled out the word for each number so Punky could work on some spelling while we were at it.  Then to assist Bay, I added little circles for each marshmallow to go in.  You could use a ten-frame instead if you wanted but this worked for us.  Then I let the kids choose a few cards, fill the bubbles with marshmallows, and enjoy a tasty snack after they had finished all their cards.  That was it.  Using something edible as the manipulative made clean up really easy too – there was very little left to put away when they were done.


So, do you think it might work to mix snack time and learning time in your house?  What foods would you use and how?  I’d love to hear your ideas – drop them in the comments below!  Happy snacking 🙂

The Blessing and the Curse of Motherhood

My kids are 2 and 4.  They haven’t yet had the chance to go to school, not that I plan to send them to public school anyway, but it hasn’t even been something I’ve had to go through yet.  Both kids have stayed with sitters, either my dad or a good family friend, while I work, so they’ve never been to day care.  It was such a blessing to know that my kids were in the hands of someone I knew well and loved while I worked.  Don’t get me wrong – there is NOTHING wrong with day care or preschool at all!  In fact I have several friends who work in day care and my best friend since elementary school directs a preschool that I wish I could duplicate in my town.  But God blessed our family with the opportunity to have our kiddos spend all day with their second favorite person, Papa, or with our friend who has three children about the same age as our kiddos.  The closest I’ve come to the “going to school” experience is sending them to the nursery for an hour while I go to worship on Sunday since they are not ready to sit in the sanctuary.  We’ve even had our share of tears at drop-off, especially the first couple of weeks or if they were meeting a new teacher.

Tonight, though, I took my kids to Vacation Bible School. Continue reading The Blessing and the Curse of Motherhood

Mom Friends

Today I had the pleasure of hosting a play date with a very good friend of mine and her two boys, 2 and 3 months.  L and J are so cute! Punky and Bay have become infatuated with babies so they were happy to have J over to snuggle.  And having her friend over was all Punky could talk about all morning – “Are they here yet?  When are they going to be here?!”  I love that Bay and L are about the same age so they get to grow up together, and he’s a good playmate for Punky too since she’s used to playing with her brother.  Of course, squabbles ensue when a guest encroaches on your territory, but playing together this way really is the best way for kids to learn to problem solve and communicate with others.  I loved listening to them hash out their problems.  There’s something to be learned from the way kids can work through a problem – even if they need a grown-up’s help – and then move on without resentment.

Beyond the kids having a good time playing together, there is nothing more important to a mom, Continue reading Mom Friends

Dirt…It’s for dessert

No, I have not gone completely nuts! I am not feeding my kids dirt, intentionally anyway. I did however stumble upon an old memory and set out to reincarnate it. I have very fond memories of my Nanny (the name my cousins and I called our grandmother) bringing a certain dessert to all the church potlucks. She would pull a stool over to the counter and let me help her crush, mix, and scoop. Then she prepared its final presentation carefully and quite creatively. It was always the first thing to run out-you had to be at the front of the line if you wanted any!

Continue reading Dirt…It’s for dessert

Who Needs the Beach?

What do you think of when you hear the word, “beach”?  Vacation? Sand? Breeze? Waves?


You want to know what I hear?  Sand on everything. Crabs. Sharks. Wind burn. Sun burn. “Mom, I have to potty!!”  Yes, I know.  That’s a pretty miserable way to think of the beach.  It’s supposed to be fun and carefree and relaxing, but with a toddler and a preschooler….it is decidedly not!  At least not for me.  You see, I’ve lived at the beach my whole life and I have never liked it!  I always got sand in my bathing suit and I’m not a fan of the waves.  I mean, who can swim in that?  And then if you go out past the breakers you have to worry about whatever it is that might be swimming with you.  No thank you!  I hear from my friends with kids how much fun they have had at the beach playing with their littles, but it just doesn’t suit my fancy.  I try to go once or twice a year just so I can say I took the kids but other than that, we stick with the pool. Continue reading Who Needs the Beach?

Bust the indoor boredom blues

It’s been a while, huh?  But I’m still here and still working with the kiddos on playing, growing, and learning!  We’ve had some family in town so it’s been a bit hectic and our schedule is all screwy.  But what’s new?!  In the past few days we have been to toddler story time at the museum to learn about the sun and shadows, gone to the aquarium on the ferry with a big group of friends, played at the splash pad at our local park, gone fishing with daddy, and had lots of snuggle time with my sister’s new baby.  Whew!  It has been a crazy week, but so much fun!  And the best part… Continue reading Bust the indoor boredom blues

Piles and Piles of Fun!

A couple weeks ago I had to clean out my classroom. Quite the ordeal since I had basically lived in that room for 2 years. I had decorated with self-made curtains to shade the windows, printed shelf liner adorned my cabinets and tabletops, canvases painted by Punky and me were all over the walls, matching baskets and bins stored all the goodies I had purchased for students and I to use. So many markers, clips, sticky notes, notebooks, and pens galore! So I packed it all up, brought my hubby to load it all in the truck, and toted it back to the house. Hubby cried, “oh no no no” all the way home! Continue reading Piles and Piles of Fun!

Dollar Store Staples

As an educator, learning is a major priority to me, and I am a believer in putting your money where your heart is. I have been known to spend way more than I should have picking up school supplies for home and my classroom. It was to the point my husband was more afraid of the office supply aisle than of the shoe department! However, I have learned over the past few years how easily entertained little kids are and how unimpressed they are with name brand stuff. If you don’t point it out, they just don’t notice. So most of my craft-tivity supplies come from my favorite store: Dollar Tree. Of course, you have to watch yourself. Not everything is cheaper there, and sometimes the quality, or lack thereof, deducts from the value of a dollar item. I have compiled a list of my favorite supplies to keep on hand that are easily found at most dollar stores. Continue reading Dollar Store Staples

Sticking to the plan

Sticking to a plan is harder than it seems! I know I can’t be the only one who struggles to maintain the will power to stick with eating healthy, spending less, or a schedule, right?! I’ve been working on a loose schedule for the kiddos and me so we don’t end up wondering, “What did we do all day?” But it is tough! I feel like I’m always making something to eat for someone and it’s exhausting. I’m hoping we can get into a decent routine soon so the kids and I can have an idea of what’s next and I won’t be constantly battling the million questions and supplying the seemingly endless desire for snacks!  So far our days look a little like this: Continue reading Sticking to the plan