Tag Archives: homeschool

Winter Escape: Sanibel Island

I hate winter. I can’t stop saying it. I have been wanting to take a break from Iowa winter and travel somewhere warm for years, and 2018 was the year to make it happen! In late January, we spent a week on Sanibel Island, Florida.IMG_3071

After traveling all day and then stopping for groceries (because that’s the kind of traveller I am…) we rushed straight down from the condo to the beach. My mom and stepdad were joining us on the trip and when my stepdad took this photo, I thought, “I’m done. We don’t have to do anything else. This is what I needed.”

Even though I thought that, we totally did more.


We spent our first full day hanging out on the beach, looking for sand dollars on the sand bar and exploring Sanibel Island. The birds in the courtyard by Jerry’s Foods was an immediate hit with the kids and we made many trips back over our few days there.


We did more exploring the next day and finished off our day with a “fancy” dinner at the hibachi grill at our complex. The food was delicious and it did my soul good to walk to dinner in my dress and sandals.


On our third full day on Sanibel, we went to the J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Preserve. In addition to learning about Ding Darling, his Iowa roots and all the animals at the preserve, we also quizzed math facts and state capitals in the car throughout the day. So we totally counted this as a school day 🙂 PE was spent swimming in one of the heated pools and we finished off our day with ice cream at Pinnochio’s.


The kids spent the morning of our fourth day at Sanibel Sea School, learning all about seahorses and other sea-related things. Aaron and I were busy not being with the kids, so I can’t say exactly what they did 🙂 I do know that they had a lot of fun though! We spent another afternoon hanging out at the beach and collecting a few more shells. Fun fact: Sanibel Island, Florida has some of the shelliest (That’s not a word. I don’t care.) beaches in the world!


On our last day on Sanibel Island, we went on a naturalist led boat cruise around Tarpon Bay. They also had a touch tank and several animal shells and skeletons to look at on land beforehand. It was fun to learn more about the history of the island and some of the animals who live there, but the best part was the dolphin spotting in the bay before we even left for the cruise! We spent the afternoon soaking up the sun, or swimming if you were under the age of 30, before finding seafood for dinner one last time.

When we got up to go to the airport the next morning, Chloe told me, “It isn’t nearly as fun to wake up early when we’re going back home!” So true, baby girl!  Even so, our kiddos continued to be great travelers, we made it home safely and we all warmed up enough to survive the rest of winter.

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2016 Christmas Letter

…or is it a New Year’s Letter at this point? Either way, we didn’t get cards or a letter sent out this year, so I thought I’d do a year-end update here.

This last year definitely came with its share of changes and challenges, but in so many ways, things stayed the same. Our family took a few small trips, we attended Aaron’s 25 year class reunion and celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary.

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We are blessed to continue to be healthy and Aaron continues to provide for our family at a job he likes – at a company he loves 😉  While his job title is the same, the second half of the year brought lots of travel for him, which has not been a regular part of his job in the past. Since June, he has been to Bozeman, Detroit, San Diego, New York City, Washington DC, Akron, OH and Newport News, VA. While most trips were strictly business, he did manage to fit in some hiking in Bozeman, a baseball game in San Diego and a trip to Times Square and a taping of Stephen Colbert in NYC. There is more travel on the horizon for him in 2017, but hopefully the kids and I will get to join him on a trip or two.

We are homeschooling Chloe again this year, and in addition to the standard subjects, she’s loving cursive and Spanish. Now that she’s in 2nd grade(ish), she gets to pick classes to take through the homeschool assistance program. During the first half of the school year, she’s taken outdoor games, Spanish, virtues and art. She has enjoyed all of them, probably as much for the content as the chance to see friends, but really enjoys art and is happy she’ll be taking it the two remaining quarters as well!

This fall, Devon started going to preschool 4 days a week. It has been a great opportunity for him to spread his wings a bit. He really enjoys the playtime they get at stations and often brings home creations out of boxes, masking take, pipe cleaners and whatever else he can find. I enjoy that most of the mess involved in creation is taken care of at school 🙂 He’s a math rockstar, without any help from us or his teacher, and has really enjoyed learning the letters and their sounds the last few weeks. It’s been fun to hear about all of his preschool experiences (they went on a field trip to a local pizza place!), but I’m looking forward to having him home for kindergarten next fall.

Both kids became semi-obsessed with watching American Ninja Warrior last season and loved creating their own obstacle courses in our backyard all summer and fall. For Christmas, we signed them up for Kid Ninja classes at a local gym and they got to spend time this last week learning skills and doing obstacle courses. They were pretty excited! At the same time, *we worked on transforming their playroom into an indoor gym. We now have indoor monkey bars, a small trampoline and a hammock chair. (The hammock chair is for me and not really for swinging. My thoughtful daughter heard me talking about wanting one when we saw one on a walk this summer and convinced her daddy it would be the perfect Christmas present for me!) Additionally, we have a foam balance beam, an agility ladder and a gymnastics mat on the way from Amazon. I’m hoping this makes another Iowa winter a bit more tolerable!
*Just to clarify the use of “we”: I came up with the ideas and my amazing, handy husband made them a reality!

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Aaron and I spent our last ten Thursday nights taking the PS-MAPP classes. Those letters all stand for something, but basically they’re the classes you’re required to take before you can be a licensed foster or adoptive parent in Iowa. We just finished the classes this week, and I’m sure all 30 hours of classes have sunk in… 🙂 Shortly after the first of the year, we’ll have a final meeting with our licensing working and be official. We plan to offer respite care at first, which is when you have kiddos in your home temporarily – overnight, for the weekend or maybe a week or two – while their current foster parents are unavailable or in need of a break. Our long-term plan is to keep an open mind, and at some point may offer long term foster care or adoption, but we’re starting out small. ‘Foster care’ and ‘exciting’ don’t really go together, because it’s a tough situation all around, but we are looking forward to being able to help out in a small way.

And, finally….

After several delays, failed transfers and many needles, I am pregnant with a ‘surro-baby.’ (A baby I’m carrying for another couple as a surrogate.) I’m mostly over the morning sickness and have started to look pregnant, instead of looking like I just ate a few too many cookies. I’m looking forward to being able to deliver this baby to the waiting parents in 2017. (Get it?! Deliver!! I still think I’m pretty punny :-D)

In addition to starting foster care and having a baby – but not losing any sleep afterwards, we’re also looking forward to traveling more, homeschooling both kids and working on some updates to our house in the next year. Hopefully 2017 is as good as 2016!

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“If You Give a Mouse a Cookie…”

If you’re unfamiliar with this story, it involves a demanding little mouse who requires milk after being given a cookie. Then he needs a straw for his milk. And it snowballs from there. By the end of the story, he’s back to needing a cookie. Our recent project around the house feels a bit like that to me. 

Aaron found out he was getting a year-end bonus and we decided to use some of the money to buy a new laptop. Ours is older than our children and wasn’t that great to start with. It is painfully slow to use at this point. 

Upon deciding to get a new laptop, I wanted to add a workstation in our dining room. Our laptop currently sits downstairs, plugged in, connected to the printer. That’s pretty much the only way it’s functional. With a new computer, I hope to be able to use it more on a daily basis, but want it somewhere safe from crazy dogs and spilled drinks. We had a slightly broken bookshelf that was no longer serving its purpose, right in the perfect little corner. 

But before we installed the workstation that my handy husband was making, we decided to paint the dining room. 

In order to paint the walls, we moved the broken bookshelf (straight to the garbage!) When we moved the bookshelf, which had pretty much been there since we moved in, we realized how dirty and disgusting our tile floors really were. So I spent a day scrubbing every grout line and tile by hand. Then Aaron could paint. 

After several trips to Lowe’s and a little time in the freezing cold temps, we were finally ready to go! At that point, I realized my husband is a genius. Here’s his version of a stud finder – a magnet to find a nail holding the sheetrock the the stud. img_7005With only a few choice words, which required me to distract the kids in another room, Aaron got our desk and shelf installed. It looks so much better than the bookshelf, seems like it will be more functional, and should require less dusting on my part. Pretty much perfect!

img_7010It won’t be somewhere we can sit and work for hours or spread out to work on a big project. But we tested it out with Aaron’s work computer and it seems like it should work perfectly to write a quick email or store a pile of bills to pay. 
 Now all we need is the new computer…

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Shhh! Don’t tell my kids!

As soon as my kids were done with breakfast today, they were begging to go outside and use their new shovels on the snow we’re getting. 
 We need a little work on technique, but they kept at it for quite a while and were having fun. So, please, don’t tell my kids that shoveling is a chore most people prefer not to do!

After we got back inside, C asked to do school stations. D was totally on board. The kids spent about 10 minutes per station, doing spelling/drawing, creative writing/coloring and Think-it-Through tiles. So, please, don’t tell my kids that it’s winter break and they’re not supposed to be doing schoolwork!

For Christmas, C got some new fuzzy lined boots and D got a new bike helmet from us. They also each got a new book and a sled from us and they each picked out a toy for the other. Today is the 4th day since Christmas and the 4th day that C has worn her boots all day long. D has been out riding his bike in the cold, because he wanted to use his new helmet. They are in love with their fairly ordinary presents. So, please, don’t tell my kids that some kids get lots of fancy, expensive presents! 

Often times, when I’m emptying the dishwasher or folding clothes, one or both kids will ask to help. When Daddy is cooking, more often than not, a kid will ask to help. I’m not sure if they want to help because they truly enjoy the chore, or because they like to be helpers to mom and dad, but they ask to help and are improving each time they do. At 6 and 4, they don’t receive an allowance, so their motivation isn’t monetary 😉 So, please, don’t tell my kids that stereotypes suggest that they whine every time they’re asked to do a chore!

When we visit Daddy at work for lunch, and have a big, delicious buffet full of foods to choose from, the first thing D always goes for is a spinach salad with craisins. His other salad toppings and food choices vary, but that is a constant. At the same amazing buffet, C always has a slice of pizza and then tries something new – rock shrimp with squid ink pasta, a bison burger or miso salmon – just to name a few examples. And she usually likes them. (Now I’m guilty of this one, because I used to be a super picky eater and am still hesitant to try new things sometimes, so this reminder [well, really all of them] is totally for me as well.) So, please, just because my kids are young, don’t assume they won’t want to try new things or eat a variety of healthy foods!

I am certain I’m making my share of mistakes along the way, but I’m trying to raise loving, responsible and tolerant children. That’s the big picture. I think it’s the every day, little things, that will shape them the most. So I need to remember, and I need others in their lives to remember, that my kids are their own people. They are not the kids who have come before them, or the kids who will come after them. 

As a human being, it’s difficult not to make assumptions or judgements about other people. I find myself doing it all the time – both with the people I know and love and complete strangers, for things big and small. But if we had ignored our children’s desire for shovels, or discouraged them from helping, they would certainly become the teenagers, and then adults, who loathe shoveling. As it is, both kids had a blast this morning and D got a lesson in proper shoveling technique from his daddy this afternoon. Maybe in a few years, they’ll be able to take this skill and help our elderly neighbor, or a friend who just had a baby. Some day, they can be the spouse who does all the shoveling when their husband or wife hates the cold. (This is obviously a theoretical situation and not pulled from my real-life experience…) 

My point of all this, is that if people act like it’s the craziest thing in the world that my son likes spinach or are shocked when we’ve done schoolwork outside the hours of “normal school,” it will have an effect on my children. If people act like it’s weird that they like to shovel or empty the dishwasher, they might start to believe that too. However, I don’t think we’ll ever have magic chore fairies, so they need to know how to and not hate doing these things. And I don’t want my kids to change. These very things are what make my children the amazing little people that they are. So, please, love my children for who they are and don’t try to change them!

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And we’re off!



Chloe Mae is an official “half day homeschool-er.” Since returning from winter break, C attends school in the morning, when they primarily cover reading and writing. We pick her up right before lunch, then cover math and do our Five in a Row (FIAR) activities at home with D. To say the kids are loving it would be an understatement!


On her first day home, C covered herself in post-its that conveyed her excitement. Due to the excitement level, the notes weren’t her best work, but they said things like, “First day of home school!!!!!” and “Devon will do it too!” She then requested that I take her picture for everyone to see 🙂

IMG_3186We’ve gotten into a pretty good routine within these first couple weeks. We usually manage to get school work done before quiet time, and C’s attitude seems improved with daily quiet time. In fact, she’s usually freakishly happy and energetic after spending an hour in her room looking at books! But even better, we’ve also been able to bypass routine to do things like visit the animal shelter to learn about adoption – which relates to the FIAR book we’re currently reading – and visit daddy at work for lunch.

There’s a lot to do before we’re ready for full-time homeschooling next year – like finishing the school area in our living room and picking out curriculum. That might be important, huh? 🙂 But if my happy kids are any indication, I feel like we’re off to a good start!


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Kindergarten – Half a Year in Review

It has been fun to see Chloe learning and growing the last few months. She loves to write and illustrate stories, practice her math and play school as often as possible. With a little work at home as well, C has become a reader. It’s great to be able to go to the library and pick out books that she can read ALL BY HERSELF! In addition to the basics, she also spent the last month or so learning about the traditional celebrations and customs for Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. To finish up their studies, the class put on a musical performance for the families yesterday afternoon. Since our school doesn’t do any sort of music concert for elementary students, this was a treat! C did a great job learning all the words and actions and it was a lot of fun to watch them perform. Here they are singing, “Up on the Rooftop.”

Today marks the start of C’s 2 week winter break and the end of the first semester, which means my baby girl is halfway done with kindergarten! She’s also done with full days at school. Starting with her return to school, we have dual (public school and homeschool) enrolled her so that she will be in school in the mornings, doing her reading and writing, and at home in the afternoons when we will work on math, social studies and science. As much as C loves pretty much everything about school, she is pumped to start half days!

If all goes well, we’re planning on homeschooling full time next year. The kids are super excited about homeschooling. C loves that she won’t miss out while she’s at school all day and that she’ll get to help decide what she studies. D is looking forward to having his sister around more and getting to join in on the learning. This mom is also excited – although a bit hesitant, because I still don’t have a firm plan in place. For an organizer like me, this is unnerving. However, I have discovered that there’s a great homeschooling community here and I have a few friends who homeschool that I know will be great resources for ideas and support.

So, for now, we enjoy Christmas and time with family 🙂 In 2015 though, we’ll be full steam ahead into the world of homeschooling!

Oh , and C and her class wish you a Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year.

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Filed under BabyMort, babyproofing, School