Lunch is more fun on a TRAY!

A super simple but effective little meal time tool I’ve used over the years is the ‘cafeteria tray’.  I bought these fun colored ones at my local Target, I see them in each seasons new set of colors every time I’m there so I suspect you can still find them.  My kids love their trays for meal time and the fun benefit to using them that I’ve found is that it instantly encourages more variety in the meal, both for whomever is preparing and in the kids eating and trying more things.  Its like they get a special satisfaction out of seeing every compartment has an item in it.

Take today for example:

kids-‘Mom, is it lunch time yet….?’

mom- ‘yep, what do you guys want to have?’

kids- ‘I don’t know’

mom (in the middle of some paperwork and wondering how on earth noon came so fast)- ‘um, can you go check what we have?’

kids- ‘there is nothing’

mom- ‘oh come on guys’

kids- (enter here a long list of their many culinary desires, none of which do we have ingredients, time or interest for)

mom- ‘ok let me look’ (when I enter the kitchen I stare blankly for a few minutes, then find some leftover PB and honey sandwiches in the fridge and a watermelon- there, that should do it)

The kids watch as their culinary desires are dashed in favor of stale leftover sandwiches. 

Suddenly I remember the long forgotten food trays, the ones we haven’t used since before the move!  The heavens part and rays of light fill the kitchen, the children rejoice and dance with glee, inspiration arrives as I look at the many adorable little tray compartments and options flood my mind- string cheese! raisins and craisins! yogurt! graham crackers! a quick micro zap of that refrigerated sandwich to make it more appealing and voila!




Happy kids munch away at their feast!




Now if you’d like to be about a million times cooler than me, or if you just happen to have a day where you can do a bit more pre-planning (as I hope to have throughout the school year), you can take lunchtime to a whole other level with these great links!

Lunch trays and muffin tins and bentos- oh my!

Muffin Tin Monday

Pirate Muffin Tin Monday

Food Art

More Food Art


More Bento

May your meal times be happy, and healthy and fun 🙂

The yearly question…

Each year I ask my kids a simple open ended question.  The results are often entertaining, often encouraging and always insightful.  I love getting a window into their hearts and their passions.  Much of it I already know (encouraging) but some of it can be surprising as I realize they’ve been pondering ideas or themes I wasn’t aware of (entertaining and insightful).  I like to write down their answers, word for word, in the notes section of my school planner and refer back to it throughout the year to guide and influence some of my curriculum choices, field trip ideas and library book check outs.  I encourage you to take  the time with your kids, one by one, and sit down and ask them…

‘What do you want to learn this year?’


Elias, age 11, entering 5th grade studies:  ‘I would like to learn about robots.  I want to learn about narwhals and animals that live in Australia and the Galapagos Islands.  I need to learn about the benefits and downsides of logging to research for my book.  I want to learn how to make stuff out of metal and learn some more art.  I want to learn about species of otters and also animals I’ve never seen before or ever learned much about.  I also want to learn about the rainforest and about parrots and parakeets and other birds that are similar to parrots.  I would like to learn more about the red fox and other foxes and wolves, also arctic foxes, I like those, and wild dogs.  I want to learn about knights and history and stuff.  And I want to learn more about machines, and planes- the fighting and the not-fighting ones.  I want to know about frogs and all kinds of birds.  I want to learn about hippos.  I would like to go on more adventures and I want to learn about more artists and inventors.  I would like to to on some go-carts and I want to do different kinds of art, all sorts.’


Hannah, turning 10 in one month, entering 5th grade studies: ‘I want to learn how to sew dresses for myself.  I want to learn break dancing.  I want to do more swimming and swim faster.  I want to learn how to crochet.  I want to learn more languages and how to ride a horse.  I want to be a better draw-er.  I want to learn more songs (to sing).  I want to paint more and do more crafts and hands on things.  I want to go on big bike rides and to the zoo and travel more.  I want to learn about more cultures and people of other places. I like having family events; like movie and game nights and stuff like that.  I want to know how to do my hair better and in more styles than a headband.  I want to earn money.  And also I want to read more books and carve and work with metal.’


Bayus, age 6, entering 1st grade studies: ‘Science! But with real science stuff.  Wooohooo! That is the best, do you think that is a very cool idea mama? Ummm, and nothing else.’

So, what do you want to learn this year?

Prepare yourself…….for the MOST PERFECT, AMAZING, BEST PLANNER EVER!!!

And now you can own one for your very own!

‘Amazing and most perfect’, as in I’ve refined and tweaked it to meet my needs perfectly- I don’t promise it will be perfect for every home but I am sure it will be for many. Years ago when the planner I was using (that was almost perfect) went out of print I set out on quest to find a new planner. I went to store after store and looked at website after website and never found one that fit my needs. At the prompting of my local home school friends (who loved my planner previously) I developed my own and as is true any time you ‘do it yourself’ I was able to make everything just the way I like it. As of the 2011-2012 printing this is our fourth printing- thank you to all my loyal customers!



Laminated Cardstock cover with original artwork- Having a firm front and back cover that is water resistance protects the insides of your planner. I had my planner on the coffee table a few months back and my son spilled my full water bottle (28oz) all over the table and the book. I moved quickly and was so pleased to find that the combination of the laminating and the spiral binding that lifts the book from the table just the slightest bit kept my inner pages safe. Also the nature of laminating means that the cover pages are slightly bigger than the inner pages and this protects your pages from damage even when it is being shoved in and out of your purse or a tote bag.
Spiral bound and 3-hole punched- Your planner is self contained and opens to lay flat due to the spiral binding while at the same time can be put in a 3 ring binder if you like to store it with other information. I like to keep my planner in my purse, some of my friends like to keep theirs in a big binder with divider pockets for field trip flyer ideas and other such information.

Pages tailored to the unique and changing needs of a home school family- Throughout the book you will find touches you’ll come to appreciate. Pages are a slightly heavier weight to handle the writing, turning and stapling needs. The calendar pages start at August and end at July, covering not just the traditional school year but a full year time and yet split in such a way to not have you scrambling come September to get into a new planner. I like to use my planner more like a journal in that my calendar pages have our family calendar (not just school related activities) and I have filled all empty space with lines so I can put notes like….’look up local concert’ or ‘look into summer reading program’. At the beginning of a new month I do a quick look over the lined areas of the previous month and copy over any notes that I didn’t get to. The planner pages have a place for you to write the date so that if a few weeks get forgotten there aren’t pages of blaring blank-ness reminding you that you’re ‘behind’ according to the publisher- nope just pick up on the next page where you left off with whatever week you are on. I use the actual school record pages to note what we do (as opposed to what we plan to do) and I staple to the week any flyers for places we go (sometimes I’ll even print out our library book list and staple it in there).



Note that the record pages have not just the week days but also a weekend category- because we all know lots of fun stuff happens in the life of a home school family on the weekend and I like to notate it somewhere. One thing that has changed since previous years book (shown in example picture with stapled flyers) is that I now have a spot at the lower right of the page for book notations. I use this spot to note whatever chapter books we are reading together as a family or listening to on audio (I used to write this in the upper margin). I make a point to not over label any category in an effort to make it easy for you to customize how you use your planner. I have several friends that have a whole post-it note system they use with my planner to be able to plan and then record cleanly. The extra ‘notes’ pages in your planner are great for taking notes when you are at a meeting and don’t have paper (I have notes from home school mom’s meetings with ideas and books I want to look up later) and also to staple things to such as the flyers or invoices from the books/curriculums you used for that year. I also write on those pages my brainstorms, things to look up, and at the beginning of each year I ask the kids ‘what do you want to learn this year?’ and their answers are always fun to record and keep. By the time I’m done with a planner for the year its got everything in it I need to be able to look at what we did and I’m always suprised at how much happened (even if I’m feeling like a lame duck….which is one of the big reasons I keep a journal/planner). Its so easy to forget all you’ve seen and experienced in a year with your kids, so even though I’m not required by my state to keep these records I still choose too. I love looking back on it and I love having web links and field trip info and book titles at my finger tips should I ever need it. The cover of your planner has the school year listed so you can file it on a shelf and its all self contained to come back to when you need it. I’ve pulled my planner from a few years back when my olders were pre-k-ish to get ideas for my 5yr old- its a great tool!


Here’s a link to how my best friend Val uses her planner in combination with a household binder for the ultimate in organization!

Ballroom Dance Camp, another summer comes nearer to its end

For the past 3 years Elias and Hannah have taken a week long ballroom dance camp together.  They love to dance and love to dance together and I adore watching them dance together.  I’d like to think that someday Elias’ wife will thank me for this but even if she doesn’t I know that its something special that they share together and enjoy doing together as siblings.  Here are some pictures to show how they’ve grown together.




As they dance, Bayus and I get to have ‘Mommy-Bayus Camp’ at the local mall.  We ride the carousel, eat cotton candy, play indoor mini-golf and his favorite….the CLAW game! 


We have a Tiger Cub!

Bayus has been anxiously counting down for the past few years until he was old enough to be a cubscout, the time has finally come.  Elias prepped Bayus in the van on the way over and then grabbed his hand and escorted him in for the ceremony where he would officially join the pack!





World Geography- its whats for dinner!

I want to share with you one of my favorite home school finds, a cookbook called Eat Your Way Around the World (make it to the end of this post for another link and a coupon deal).  This tasty little cook book is divided into continent chapters and each continent has a selection of countries with about 3 recipes each, selected for their ease of cooking and finding ingredients and ability to make a yummy complete meal!  Included with this book is a passport which is formatted for your kids to earn ‘passport stamps’ from each of the countries they visit during meal time and to rate their experiences with that food.  We’ve used this cookbook in combination with our world studies as a kick off or grand finale to any particular place study and so far we’ve enjoyed everything we’ve tried- its a winner!  This year instead of doing all the cooking myself I’ve opened the doors of the kitchen and made the whole experience part of the school day (my kids love to cook, but had not yet been a part of the list making/ingredient checking/grocery shopping process in whole).


Here they are reading through the ingredients listings of the Brazilian recipes and filling in a grocery shopping worksheet I made for them to use.  Next I had them take their finished lists into the kitchen and work through the list to mark off what we already have on hand.

IMG_3617 IMG_3619

Off to the grocery store!  I had the kids push the cart, find their items and debate together what their best choices were for their recipes.

  They handled the checkout line and loaded the car with our groceries to head home.

IMG_3620 IMG_3621 Back at home it was time to hit the kitchen and get to work!


IMG_3623 IMG_3624The kids even decided that some table decor was in order for our Brazilian dinner.


IMG_3630 IMG_3637

Shown here is Feijoada (a Brazilian meat stew), Couve (collard green dish) with fresh sliced oranges.  For dessert we had a Brazilian Ambrosia which looks and tastes much like a traditional flan but made with orange juice.  It was SOOOOOO good!




This and many other great books and resources are available from Geography Matters, check out their facebook page for a 20% off coupon!

A tasty building project

In May we were invited to a friend’s birthday party, his theme- Architecture! It was a completely fun and imaginative party including giant cardboard building projects and this tasty take home gift, gumdrop domes!


Bayus was surprisingly capable of making his domes after a small amount of instruction. He seemed the most interested in the details of his domes and hypothesizing what would make his the strongest.  We had a great time testing the strength of our domes to hold library books (after letting the gumdrops dry out over night) and now the kids are begging for gumdrops in bulk so they can make bridges and other structures!  Here’s a link that is similar to the instructions we received from the party


Our NEW School Room!

A lot has changed for us in 2011, in particular we’ve moved to a new home and with it have the joy of a new and improved school room space!  Come on in!



As you enter the room and look to your left you will see our ‘classroom pets’, Apple and Carrot the guinea pig brothers. I have big plans for this big blank wall, but I’m taking a mental break from the to-do lists before I tackle it.

IMG_3562 Apple says ‘hi, thanks for visiting’

IMG_3563 This is my reading chair that I hope to one day recover in some fun funky fabric. I got the chair at a thrift store for $5 🙂 Beside this chair on the wall is where I plan to put some shallow bookshelves (think raingutter bookshelves only out of wood) for library books

IMG_3564 This is primarily where Hannah and Elias work. Lots of natural light and a few visits from friendly birds throughout their day. I’d like to put some feeders outside their window (this is the front of the house)


On the right hand wall we have our classroom pet fish named Floppy….or as I like to call him ‘Cannibal’ (he ate the other fish once when we were on vacation and the vacation feeder malfunctioned). You can see the trofast system there under the countertop which I have 2 deep so that each kid has 12 boxes ala workbox system (Bayus only currently uses 6 of his boxes daily). This is the end of our school day which is why you see boxes stacked rather than put away entirely. I need to refill boxes with assignments for tomorrow.

IMG_3566 Floppy says ‘hi’ or ‘my you look tasty’ (Bayus drew the fish tank backdrop)


Now you can see the rest of the counter. The white trofast bins hold craft supplies and such, they are also two deep. The upper cabinets hold current school supplies as well as one whole one is puzzles and another is board games. The stool is in front of a cabinet that will have a sink installed eventually.


Here you can see the kids computer desk as well as my laptop sitting on the counter next to the printer. I made this my standing station throughout the day with my water bottle, phone, planner and calendar and to-do list. I alternate between my own office work (house stuff, doula stuff, photography stuff) and with helping the kids through their lessons (some of their workboxes are marked ‘work with mom’ and some they are expected to read the directions and work through on their own. Bayus does everything with me)

IMG_3569 That concludes the tour of the room, thanks for coming!