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!