Thursday, December 5, 2013

Christmas List ~ 2013

Once again I am posting my childrens' Christmas wish list.  Things are a little different this year than they have been in previous years.  We used to set a budget for each child and buy them as many gifts as we could within that budget.  While it was great that we stuck to a budget and didn't go into debt for the holidays, it was bad because our kids were getting way too many gifts.  Christmas morning was turning into a nightmare.  The kids would open gift after gift without showing much appreciation to the giver or all of the thought and effort that went into that gift....not exactly how I want my children to celebrate Christmas. 

So, this year we changed how we do things.  We still set a budget for each child to make sure we didn't go into debt, however, we are only buying each child three gifts.  They will get something they want, something to read and something to wear.  They will still get gifts from other family members but at least the gifts coming from Mom and Dad will be limited to three.  I am also going to try to fill their stockings with things they actually need (socks, new undies, cool toothbrushes) or things that they actually really want (small Lego sets, favorite candy, art supplies) instead of random junky toys that I find at the Dollar Spot. 

*Small confession ~ I didn't actually just stick to only one item for each category.  For instance, each child did receive a few books bundled together, however, I figured this was ok because books are fabulous and not junk!  Plus, my kids are reading nuts and would fly through one book by the time lunch rolled around on Christmas day.  I also got them more than one item of clothing but again I think that's ok since they actually really need winter clothing. 

So, without further ado, here is what the Herrera kids are getting for Christmas!

~ Annie~

Want ~ Disney Infinity for the PS3  I was so lucky and stumbled upon a great deal for this the week of Thanksgiving!  It is normally priced at $75, which I was prepared to spend.  I noticed that it was going to be on sale for half of that on Thanksgiving night, however, I was not going to leave my family and guests to go shopping on Thanksgiving.  I wandered into Target earlier in the week with the intention of buying this at full price.  Thanks to a wonderful guy in the electronics department though I got it for half of that!  Apparently, Target already had it marked down on their website so they price matched it for me!  Score!!!  Annie's grandmother and great-grandmother are getting her some of the characters to go along with this system (the Frozen girls, Dash and Violet from The Incredibles).

Wear ~ Annie has a thing for owls these days so I knew this shirt from Old Navy would be perfect!  She also asked for a fleece or sweatshirt so I got her this one, also from Old Navy.

Read ~ Annie is a big fan of the Warriors book series and a new one was just released so that is what she got!  I also have a dear friend (Hi Heather!) that is a rep for Usborne books so I got Annie this book to feed her creative side.  I also purchased her a few Nancy Drew graphic novels that were on her list.

~ Megan ~

Want ~ Megan has really been into Legos lately.  So, when she asked for the Lego Friends Summer Riding Camp I knew it was worth the money.  It would be something that she would play with for hours.  I never see Legos as a waste of money because they are the one toy that is consistently played with by all of my children at various ages.  I got a great deal on this right before Thanksgiving and only paid about half of what it is going for now!

Wear ~ I opted to get Meg a dress from Old Navy and a shirt from Gymboree.  It's so hard buying clothes for girls at this age.  Most stores carry things that are either too grown up or too childish for this age.  I would venture to say that the majority of Gymboree's clothing is too childish for Meg but occasionally I will run across something that I just know she will love.  That was the case with this shirt!  It's trendy chevron plus it's sparkly! 

Read ~ Of all of my children, Meg is the one who is not a book lover.  She reads when the mood strikes her, which is pretty much never.  She does still enjoy reading the Rainbow Magic Fairies books so that is what I went with.  I also ordered her a couple sticker books that she enjoys doing.

~ Lily ~

Want ~ Here again is another Lego fan!  Lily wanted the Lego Ninjago Golden Temple, so that is what she will be getting.

Wear ~ I ordered several shirts/leggings sets from Gymboree for Lily.  She prefers to wear dresses for the most part, however, that can be a bit chilly in the colder months.  She will wear leggings and tunics if they are soft and comfy.  Gymboree has the most comfy leggings for my Lily so I ordered her some with matching tops.  I also ordered her a skirt that coordinates so she can mix and match a bit.

Read ~ Lily is really into comic book style books these days.  A big favorite with her is the Tiny Titans graphic novels, but since we own all of those I went with a Superman version instead.  She is really into super heroes these days so I figured this would work well.  I also ordered her some new Lalaloopsy easy reader books and a few sticker books (like Megan).

~ Noah ~

Want ~ Yet another Lego fan!  Instead of a specific set of Legos I purchased a big bucket of Legos for Noah.  I ordered it from the Lego website, which oddly enough seemed to have the best price on it.  I also ordered him a box of doors and windows so he can build houses to his heart's content.  I did purchase him one small set of Lego monster trucks since he loves anything that combines Legos and cars!

Wear ~ Noah was in need of a pair of winter boots.  So, I found a cute pair of slip on winter boots at Old Navy that would fit the bill.  He is forever playing outside, even with cold and yucky weather.  He had an old pair of rain boots that he favored but the lining had become detached and they were a bit on the small side.  Not to mention that his feet would get cold in the winter months.  So, now he has a warm pair of boots that he can pull on himself and head outside to play in the muck this fall/winter/spring.

Read ~ I opted for another Usborne book.  See Inside Trains looked like it would be right up his alley.  I also ordered a beginner dot-to-dot book from Usborne that I can use to help him with his numbers.

~ Claire ~

Want ~ Claire is into horses.  She loves anything that has a horse on it.  She calls them "neighs" and pretty much goes nutso when she sees a real horse.  So, I knew that getting her the Klip-Klop Stable was the way to go.  She will have so much fun with this!

Wear ~ I ordered Claire some leggings/shirt sets from Gymboree.  She is always in need of new clothing since she is forever staining her clothing.  Gymboree had a great 40% off sale right before Thanksgiving so I took advantage of that along with a 20% off coupon.  Claire wont really care about new clothes but I really enjoy shopping for my last little girl.

Read ~ I ordered Claire a book from Usborne.  It's called On the Farm and it looks super cute!  I also plan to find a paint with water book for her.

So, that's it for the Herrera kids!  I think they will all be happy with their gifts and I am certainly happy that we won't have a living room taken over by ten million and one gifts and kids with bratty attitudes on Christmas morning. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Fall Break

We finished up Fall Break yesterday.  Today it's back to school.  I have mixed feelings about this.  I certainly enjoyed relaxing for a week.  It was nice not to have to set the alarm.  I was able to finish a couple of books.  I did some cleaning and organizing, which were badly needed.  However, I am looking forward to getting back into a routine....following a schedule each day.  So, what did we do over Fall Break?

I took Claire and Noah to the pediatrician's office.  Claire needed to have her eczema checked and get a new cream.  Noah ended up having bronchitis, which required an antibiotic to send it packing.  He finished his antibiotic yesterday and he is doing better.  He still has a lingering cough but he is eating well and more energetic. 
I seem to have caught some sort of cold.  I have had a yucky cough for four or five days.  I am hoping I don't end up at the doctor's office, but I have a sinking feeling I won't be able to avoid it.  I think I have a case of bronchitis going on. 
So, most of our Fall Break involved staying inside and resting.  We watched lots of movies, read lots of books and worked on puzzles.  Sounds kind of lame but it wasn't.  It was nice to just be together.  I did take the kids to Target and out to lunch on Friday to break up the monotony of the week.  They seemed to enjoy the little outing. 

I took this photo of Annie before church yesterday.  She looks so grown up to me!  I just bought her these boots and they have a small heel, so she is almost as tall as I am when she wears them!  Yikes!

Claire let me put a bow in her hair yesterday!  Normally she tears them out the second I put them in but this one survived for several hours. 

The rest of my gang before church yesterday.  For once they were all wearing cute outfits that we could all agree on.  Normally my Sunday mornings involve an argument with at least one child about what I picked out for them to wear to church.  It's either too tight, too loose, too itchy, too pink, too babyish, etc.... 

We were fortunate enough to have Natalie Grant lead worship at our church this weekend.  She is one of my favorite Christian singers so it was such a treat to start my Sunday off hearing her sing.  Megan is the music lover amongst our children, so she was eager to meet Natalie and get her autograph.  Natalie was so sweet to Megan and it just made her day. 

When we came home from church, Noah and I promptly put on our Steelers gear!  My team has had a lousy season so far and yesterday we played the Baltimore Ravens....big rivalry.  None of my kids actually like to watch football but they all know how Mommy feels about the Steelers so they jump on the bandwagon.  My hope is that as they get older I will find one football fan among the five.  Carlos doesn't like watching sports so I am on my own for now when it comes to cheering for my favorite teams.  The great news is that my boys in black and gold won!  It was a nail biter of a game and I was so nervous that we were going to loose.  It was so great when they pulled off the win!  It certainly made my week.  I went to bed last night all smiles.
So, that was our Fall Break.  It wasn't glamorous or exciting but it was relaxing.  My Mom arrives today.  She will be spending the week with us.  The kids are beyond excited.  Now, I just need to get them through the school day.  :)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Life Lately

We are on Fall Break this week!  I have been looking forward to it since Labor Day.  An entire week with no school!  I had big plans.  I envisioned packing the kids up for a picnic at the park, doing a little hiking, visiting the pumpkin patch, a fun day of shopping with my girls, etc....  Things are not turning out the way I had planned. 
Noah started running a fever last Tuesday or Wednesday.  Just a low grade fever accompanied by a little cough.  I figured it was a cold.  He missed two days of school last week so we didn't share his germs at school.  On Saturday he woke up and seemed fine.  I figured we were done.  On Sunday morning we went to church.  Megan was being baptized so we all went and we all sat in the main sanctuary.  I was sure that Noah was going to have a terrible time sitting still.  Know what?  He sat down, leaned his head against the pew and was totally quiet.  After Meg's baptism, I reached out to ruffle my boy's curls and was astonished to find his head felt like a furnace.  We quickly packed up and came home.  The above picture is Noah about ten minutes after walking in the door.  His fever was back with a vengeance.  By the afternoon his fever was around 103....with medicine on board I could get it down to 101.  Fast forward a few days and my little guy is still spiking high temps.  He has added a yucky sounding cough to it where he is gasping after a cough.  So, today we are going to the doctor's office. 
So, our first few days of Fall Break have been spent at home.  The kids have watched way too much TV and played way too many electronic games.  However, we were left with little choice.  Claire and Megan are now running fevers as well.  I imagine the rest of our Fall Break will be spent in much the same way the beginning of it was.  On the plus side I have been doing a lot of reading, which is something I love. 

Megan and I are doing a mother/daughter Bible study this year.  It's called the P31 Princess Study.  We will work our way through Proverbs 31 over the course of the year.  She will learn what it means to be a Godly woman.  We started back in September and she is loving it!  We have done a lot of Bible study, baked bread, sang old hymns, learned to sew, etc...  We meet with a group of six other girls and their mothers once a week.  New friendships are being formed by Megan and myself.  It's been great.  Last week the girls learned to sew on a sewing machine.  The end result was a little purse made from an old pair of jeans.  The girls got to sew it and then decorate it.  Megan really enjoyed this project.

Megan was baptized at church this past weekend!  She has been thinking about this for quite some time and finally decided she was ready for it.  We are so proud of her.

It's hard to see in the photo but Carlos is getting ready to baptize Megan.  She was so nervous.  She actually wanted me to be the one to baptize her but I just couldn't do it.  I hate to be in front of large crowds and our church is a mega church so the crowds are large....2500+!  Plus, her Dad baptized me and Annie, so I thought it was a nice tradition to uphold. 

Annie had another art class last weekend.  She learned about a Canadian artist by the name of Geoff Slater.  He's a very talented individual.  His technique is beautiful.  He tries to paint an entire painting with one line.  It's very challenging.  Annie struggled with it.  She did a great job and then came home and spent the rest of the day working on that technique until she was more comfortable with it.  I now have a kitchen full of beautiful paintings! 

So, that's our life lately.  My Mom is arriving in a few days.  She will spend a week with us!  The kids are beyond excited.  They love it when Grammy comes to visit!  Stay tuned....

Friday, October 4, 2013

Homeschool ~ Weeks 6,7 & 8

Well, I certainly didn't mean to take such a long break.  One thing I wanted to do this school year was to update this blog on a regular basis.  However, we have been dealing with a few issues so finding time to sit down and blog has been difficult.  So, today I am catching up on the last three weeks of our homeschooling year!

Annie took another art class.  This time she was learning how to use oil pastels.  She worked on blending with both her fingers and with the use of baby oil.  She also drew her first still life!

It's hard to tell from the lousy photo above but we set up an experiment in science.  We hung two identical bird feeders in our backyard.  One feeder is filled with sunflower seeds and the other feeder is filled with thistle seeds.  The idea is to see which seeds the birds in our yard prefer over the course of a one week period.  We hung our feeders near our patio which we can view from our finished basement/schoolroom.  The kids have had a fun time observing the birds that have visited our feeder.

I taped a sheet on the wall next to the patio door so that the kids can record their observations.  I thought it would be neat to not only see which seed our backyard birds preferred but to also see which types of birds visit each feeder.  We have been using our field guide quite a bit to figure out which types of birds we have seen.  Even Lily, at age six, is able to locate birds in our field guide!  The neat thing is that by doing this experiment we have become more aware of all the various types of birds that live in our backyard.  We even saw a hairy woodpecker and a ruby throated hummingbird (male and female)! 

Megan and Lily are continuing to learn about what life was like for the pilgrims.  This week we focused on what a typical village would have been like.  We learned about the job of the town crier and the job of the tithing man.  Do you know what a tithing man does?  His job is to stand in the meeting hall during church services.  He holds a wooden stick with fur on one end.  If a child whispers or giggles during the service he would rap them on the head with the wooden stick.  If a child or adult fell asleep during the service he would tickle their nose with the furry end of the stick.  The girls made their own tithing man sticks and had quite a good time tickling one another with the furry end.  I did have to confiscate them once they began to whack each other on the heads though.  :)

In keeping with the theme of oil pastels, we tried our hand at working with oil pastels and water color.  I have found several fun art ideas on Pinterest, so we tried one of them.  On a side note, what in the world did we do before the days of Pinterest?  I am forever scouring my Pinterest boards to come up with ideas for us to use in our homeschool classroom, what to make for dinner, fun ways to celebrate birthdays, etc... 

Here is the finished product!  We simply took a leaf from our yard and traced it on paper with a black oil pastel crayon.  After that we kept enlarging the image over and over until the paper was filled.  The final step was to paint the leaves with water colors.  The kids thought it was neat how the water color would not paint over the oil pastel lines.  I love how they turned out!  I plan to frame these and hang them along my stairwell.
We have also been plugging away at math.  Annie has been reviewing the metric system, which is a huge step out of my comfort zone.  I remember learning the metric system in school and despising it.  Fast forward 25+ years and nothing has changed.  I still despise it.  I suppose it's mostly because I don't use it on a regular basis so each time I have to teach it I have to relearn it all over again.  Thankfully, she doesn't seem to struggle with it the same way I did/do. 
So, that's what we have been up to.  We only have one more week of school before Fall Break!  I am so looking forward to the time off.  Normally my Mom visits us during Fall Break but this year it didn't work out that way.  So, I am looking at our calendar and it is blank!  That's exciting!  It means lots of sleeping in, movie watching, book reading, library trips, park visits and bike rides. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Homeschool ~ Week 5

We are five weeks into our homeschool year and it's still going great!  We have had a busy week full of projects.  I think the kids really enjoyed school this week. 

We are using Abeka for History this year and for the most part we are loving it.  Megan and Lily are working their way through American History by studying various famous individuals.  They just finished studying Miles Standish.  We decided to add a little bit of fun into our studies though and we are taking a quick break to work our way through History Pockets.  We are learning about the Pilgrims and what life was like in Plymouth.  The girls are enjoying the hands on activities that we have been doing and it's a nice change of pace.

We did a small craft project on September 11th and spent some time discussing the events that unfolded that day.

We finished studying the state of Delaware and made our own version of the Delaware Memorial Bridge.  The bridge was a fun project.

Megan has been plugging away in math.  I have been pushing her extra hard because she is a grade behind.  When I first began homeschooling her we used Singapore for math.  Long story short, it didn't work well for her.  We ended up using Abeka (just like Annie uses) and it has been going much better.  However, we lost almost a full year because of this.  So, we have been playing catch up ever since.  We even continued math work over the summer to get back on track.  I'm proud of Megan though because she does it without much complaint.

Annie is taking art classes once or twice a month.  I took Megan and Claire with me when I dropped Annie off at her art class.  The classes are held at a local arts center that is housed in an old meat packing plant.  The entire building has been rehabbed and turned into artist studios, cafes, shops, etc....  The whole place has an industrial vibe to it and it's pretty cool.  Megan and Claire enjoyed exploring while we waited for Annie to finish her class.

Annie studied Miro in her class.  This is her finished piece inspired by his work.  I love it!  I am planning to frame all of her pieces and hang them along the basement stairs in our home.  It will be like her own little art gallery. 
So, that's week 5!  Heading into week 6 in a few moments.  This will be a tough week for the girls because there aren't any big projects scheduled for the week.  We will do some bird watching though as part of science and continue working on our History Pockets....those things will break up the monotony for the girls.  Have a good week!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September 11th

I remember exactly where I was when it happened....everyone does.  Carlos was in St. Louis for work.  I was scheduled to fly out and join him for a little vacation that weekend.  I was settling down in my Anatomy class when someone rushed in and told us to turn on the TV.  I sat in horror watching what was happening.  The classroom was filled with gasps and tears.  I called Carlos immediately but couldn't get through to him on his cell phone.  I felt panic.  I had just found out I was pregnant a week before.  My stepbrother had just finished basic training and was shipping out to the middle east.  After an hour or so of watching with my classmates I went home.  I went home to our empty apartment that was eight hours away from anyone else I knew.  I eventually reached Carlos and we were both too stunned to do much more than say "I love you".  I spent the day on the couch watching the TV.  I spent the day sobbing.  I ended up calling my OB, who I had yet to even see, because my heart was racing and I had a killer migraine.  He called in a prescription for me that was safe to take while pregnant.  I curled up on the couch and slept.  When I woke up I felt sure that it had all been a nightmare, but turning on the TV quickly confirmed that it was not.  Needless to say, I did not get on a plane that weekend and fly to St. Louis.  The following week when Carlos flew home from St. Louis I was a nervous wreck.  I was so happy when he called me from the airport and told me that he had landed safely. 
Fast forward several months....Carlos was in NYC for work.  I decided to fly up and join him for a long weekend.  I was almost six months pregnant.  The entire flight I was a nervous wreck.  I was glad to land at JFK and climb into a cab.  I spent four days in NYC only months after 9/11.  I am not a city person by nature.  I don't enjoy the crowds or the noise.  However, spending that time in NYC was so soothing to me.  NYC had picked itself up and dusted itself off.  People were living their lives.  Seeing native New Yorkers doing their thing made me feel better.  It grounded me.
Every year on this date I remember all of that.  Last year I finally decided my children (the oldest two) were old enough to really learn about what happened on September 11, 2001.  We spent an entire day discussing it.  We watched the news footage from that day.  My girls were horrified and sad.  They cried a bit.  We all cried and held on to each other as we prayed for our country and all those victims. 
Today, we discussed it again.  This year, Lily, joined our discussion.  Again, there were some tears.  My girls were saddened by what we discussed.  We even made a little craft in memory of 9/11/01.

Here's the thing though.  My girls know what happened on that day but they didn't live it.  I am glad of that.  I lived it and the events of that day will haunt my soul for eternity.  I spend a significant part of this day each year in tears.  It's impossible to remember and not cry.  Looking at this photo of my sweet smiling girls holding their little flags with images of the twin towers just brings me to my knees.  I am so grateful that their innocence is still intact.  I am so grateful that, while they understand what happened, they don't carry it with them the same way so many of us do.  I hope and pray that they never experience a tragedy like this that scars them deep down. 
We prayed together this morning.  We prayed for the victims.  We prayed for the victims families.  We prayed for the firefighters, police and all the first responders of that day.  As we were wrapping up our prayer, Lily prayed asking God to give extra hugs to all the people in heaven because of what happened.  I know God heard her prayer and I am sure he is busy wrapping his arms around all of the victims of September 11, 2001.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Homeschool ~ Weeks 3 & 4

Today we finished our fourth week of the school year!  I am happy to say that I have remained organized and things have gone great!

We have been using Road Trip USA and we began working our way through the 50 states.  First up was Connecticut and we made homemade clam chowder to go along with our study.  I had never made clam chowder before and I was surprised at how well it turned out.  The kids ate it without too much complaint, which leads me to declare it a success! 

Noah started his second year of preschool this week!  He is in the 4 year old class.  He attends preschool at a local church three mornings a week.  I thought about homeschooling him for preschool but I have my hands full with his sisters.  Plus, he has a speech delay and being around other children several times a week will help him out in that regard. 

The girls and I went on a nature scavenger hunt at a local park.  They had to find items such as an orange leaf, a beetle, a bird that had red on it, an acorn, a yellow flower, etc...  We opted to do this on a morning that Noah was in was one less kid for me to worry about and chase around.  The girls really enjoyed this.  They found most of the items on their list as well as a snail, a rock shaped like the state of Delaware and a small blue heron.  I didn't take notice, before we left the house, that all the girls were dressed in pink!  I was wearing green...bummer.
Annie has been working hard on her math lessons so far this year.  Math is not her favorite subject but I am proud of the effort she is making and her lack of complaining.

We have been studying American Indians and the girls tried their hands at making their own tepees.  We used a kit ordered online and they turned out pretty well.  The girls decorated the outside of their tepees with traditional Native American symbols.  Upon finishing this project, Lily rushed her tepee up to her room where her mini Lalaloopsies promptly made it their home.

Lily has been plugging away in her first year of homeschooling.  She still voices her dismay at having to leave the school she attended last year, however, I hold out hope that she will begin to enjoy homeschooling in the future. 
So, all in all things are going very well.  The newly designed school room has been working well for us and my determination to remain organized has made things flow easily from day to day.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Homeschool ~ Weeks 1 and 2

We have two weeks of school under our belts this year.  We started week three off today.  How are things going?

Things are going well....very well.  The girls are plugging along and learning.  Yes, there were a few tears and a bit of whining the first week.  However, I am happy to say that those are less frequent now. 

I am uber organized this year.  I have been setting aside an hour or two on Sunday afternoons when Claire is napping.  I spend that time prepping everything for the coming week.  I go over my lesson plans so that I am fresh on what we will be covering.  I print out or copy any papers that we will need.  I bookmark websites that we will need to utilize.  I order library books for the coming lessons.  I prep supplies for upcoming experiments.  It has made a world of difference.  In years past I wasn't as organized and it showed.  It was not uncommon for me to have to scrounge things together at the last minute.  I am homeschooling three kids this year!  One thing I could not afford to do was to be unorganized.  I was bound and determined to stay on top of things this year and so far it is paying off.  I am less stressed and happier and so are the kids.  I asked Annie what she thought of the school year so far and she said that it was better than previous years because it was more organized!  From the mouths of babes....

We did our first science experiment last week.  We made gliders with different wing shapes to reinforce our lesson on air pressure.  It went perfectly because I was organized.  I had everything ready to go ahead of time.  The kids enjoyed it and I enjoyed watching them learn outside the classroom. 

I prepped everything for this week yesterday.  We are making our own teepees and longhouses as well as dioramas to learn about habitats.  It's going to be great!  Know why?  Because I am organized!  I am declaring "organized" my favorite word for this school year!