Books We Love: Preschool Edition

 Posted by on April 11, 2013  2 Responses »
Apr 112013

If you have been a parent for any length of time, you can probably tell me what the Very Hungry Caterpillar ate on Saturday without thinking twice about it.

One piece of chocolate cake, one ice cream cone, one pickle, one slice of Swiss cheese, one slice of salami, one lollipop, one piece of cherry pie, one sausage, one cupcake, and one slice of watermelon.

And I’m sure you know just where to find that sneaky little mouse on each page of Goodnight Moon.

Goodnight stars. Goodnight air. Goodnight noises everywhere.

goodnight moon 2

I just treasure those books, don’t you?

Here are a few that we love just as much that are maybe not as well known.

A very boy-friendly book, Little Blue Truck, was just introduced to us a couple years ago when a friend gave it to us as a gift for our fourth child. This book has everything. A lovable little truck, a barnyard full of animal sounds, and a lesson on being kind even to those who aren’t very kind to you.

Everybody heard that “Beep! Beep! Beep!” The cow came running with the pig and the sheep.

I am a Bunny, with the beautiful illustrations by Richard Scarry, may be familiar to some of you. I had never read it until a few years ago when I ordered it as a Christmas present for one of our littles. When my husband saw it, he said the Golden Book version was one of his favorite books as a child. The simple story follows a little bunny named Nicholas through his adventures in all four seasons.

I am a bunny. My name is Nicholas. I live in a hollow tree.

Chugga Chugga Choo Choo, by Kevin Lewis has been the hands-down favorite of all my boys. The rhythmic choo-chooing of that little train and the incredible illustrations in this book bring us back to this one time and time again. And it never fails, every time we read it, someone decides they need to build a train track that goes all around the house and under the furniture.

Sleepy-sleepy choo-choo, till tomorrow, whoooooo whooooooo!


Jamberry has to be one of the most entertaining read-alouds we own. It starts off with a simple berry-picking adventure and turns into a nonsensical, dream-like berry fantasy land.

Moonberry, Starberry, Cloudberry sky. Boomberry, Zoomberry, Rockets shoot by!

Another berry-related favorite is The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and The Big Hungry Bear by Don and Audrey Wood. Just what is Little Mouse going to do when he finds out that a big, hungry Bear is after his red ripe strawberry?

The big, hungry Bear can smell a red, ripe strawberry a mile away… especially one that has just been picked.

And speaking of bears, have you read Bear Snores On? In the dead of winter, a bear is slumbering away in his den and some woodland critters decide to sneak in and have a snack and keep warm. But what happens when the bear wakes up?

In a cave in the woods, a slumbering bear sleeps through the party in his very own lair.

So what about you? What are your favorite preschool read-alouds?

~written by Kendra

Books We Love

 Posted by on March 21, 2013  2 Responses »
Mar 212013

We’ve just finished up our reading obligations for the Six Flags Read to Succeed Program. Sometimes it can be a challenge to find books that will delight their young minds and feed their little souls. So, I thought I would share a few kid-tested, mother-approved treasures that we have discovered.

summer reading 2

(Disclaimer: I have not personally read many of these books. I usually find books for my kids on by reading reviews and descriptions. If you are very particular about what your child reads, please preview them yourself.)

The Mice of the Westing Wind Series by Tim Davis. We stumbled onto these books when an excerpt of the first book was included in our reading curriculum a few years back (3rd grade, I think). My oldest son read the excerpt and then was disappointed that we couldn’t read the rest of the story. So, I was delighted to find out that not only could we buy the whole book, but there are four others in the series as well. Recommended for ages 6 and up.

And speaking of mice, I’ve already mentioned how much our family loves the Redwall books by Brian Jacques. If you haven’t read those yet, definitely check them out. There are dozens of books in the series. Recommended for ages 10 and up.

The Door Within Trilogy by Wayne Thomas Batson. I gave these books to my 10-year-old for Christmas this year and he and his older brother devoured them. They both claim they are “the best books ever!” They have raved about them so much, that I now have a shopping cart full of other Wayne Thomas Batson books. Recommended for ages 10 and up.

The Kingdom Series by Chuck Black. Another allegorical action series that is fantastic for boys. Recommended for ages 8 and up.

And a couple classics:

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I was so surprised to discover that my boys love these books. There is just enough action to keep them interested. We read the whole series last year and we’ve been watching the show via Netflix for a while. It is so nice that my children are enjoying these stories as much as I did when I was their age.

Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery. If I was surprised that my boys liked Little House on the Prairie, I was absolutely floored that they liked this one. I didn’t even know we had it. My oldest found it in a pile of old books and told me how great it was. I had to admit to him that I had actually never read it. This Christmas, I found that old, yellowed copy of Anne of Green Gables wrapped under the tree as a gift for me from my sweet son. I read it and am now dying to know what happens to that unpredictable Anne-girl! Don’t tell me. I’m ordering the rest of the series soon 🙂

So, what are some of your kids’ favorite books? We’re always on the lookout for new ones!

 ~written by Kendra

Unit Studies by Amanda Bennett: Your Passport to Learning Adventures!

Let Your Light Shine

 Posted by on February 21, 2013  3 Responses »
Feb 212013


You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.   Matthew 5:14-16

Seems like every time I turn on the TV, the radio, or try to see what is up on Facebook, it is nothing but bad news. The political and economical climate in our country is such that hackles are raised on both sides of the aisle. Tensions are high. Times are frightening. It feels like our world is slowly being swallowed by the darkness.

Late the other night I opened up Facebook and it went something like this:

  • a status about gun control
  • an article about abortion
  • a status hating Obama
  • an article about gun control
  • a status about gun control

and then I saw this…

Come thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy praise…

Oh, Friends! Let us remember why we are here. We are called to be a light in the darkness. We are called to point people to the Light, not the darkness. Yes, things are bad and getting worse in our nation and around the world. But God is GOOD! Let people see and hear about the wonders of God rather than the mistakes of men.

And thank you, dear Friend, for letting your light shine at times when it seems like all I can see is darkness.

~ Written by Kendra

Hearts and Trees: Art, Handicrafts and Nature Study for your Homeschool

The Great Christmas Breakfast Debate

 Posted by on December 4, 2012  12 Responses »
Dec 042012

When I was a kid, every Christmas morning my mom would make a huge batch of hot cocoa and a towering pile of buttered toast. And that was breakfast. Cocoa and toast. Simple, but I loved it. I still do. But when I got married, that was one of the first Christmas traditions to go out the window. See, my husband tolerates hot chocolate and considers toast an accompaniment to breakfast, not the main course. So, while a cup of hot cocoa and a couple slices of toast might do for an average Tuesday morning, it certainly wouldn’t do for Christmas breakfast.

As much as I loved my mom’s Christmas breakfast tradition, I have to say I agree that it should be something a little more special. Now 13 years and four children later, we still haven’t settled on that one perfect breakfast. Here are a few of the options we’ve tried.

Candidate #1: Pioneer Woman’s Baked Cinnamon French Toast

I loved this one. But even after baking it for longer than the recommended time, it was still too much like bread pudding for most of my texture-sensitive crew.

Candidate #2: Blueberry Buttermilk Breakfast Cake

Everybody loves this one. I’ve made it several times now. The only think keeping this not-too-sweet breakfast cake from rocketing to the top of the list is the fact that fresh blueberries are hard to find in December. I’ve made it with frozen blueberries and it works, but it isn’t as good. The frozen blueberries don’t mix well into the batter without turning the whole thing purple and the frozen berries are more tart, so they don’t work as well in the lightly sweetened cake. Still on the list though, because it is a family favorite.

Candidate #3:  Cinnamon Scones

I don’t have a photo of these one because I haven’t made them in a while. I use the Simple Scones recipe from Allrecipes and modify it a little bit. I leave out the raisins and add a teaspoon of vanilla and a half teaspoon of cinnamon. Then instead of plain sugar on the top, I sprinkle them with cinnamon sugar. Pioneer Woman also has a recipe for cinnamon scones that sounds good, but very sweet.

Candidate #4: Mimi’s Christmas Breakfast

This is the photo from Confessions of a Former Couch Potato, the source of the recipe. Mine didn’t look anything like that. I know I did a couple different things wrong. First, I forgot to put the bacon on top til after it was baked. Second, I baked it too long. But see how she hers has this nice bread layer on the bottom and then a cheesy gooey layer on top? Mine didn’t work like that. The bread floated to the top and the eggs went to the bottom, and the cheese just cooked on top of the bread. I don’t know what happened. I’m still drooling over her photo though, so I think I’m going to have to try it again.

So friends, what are your favorite Christmas breakfasts?


One Chore

 Posted by on September 4, 2012  1 Response »
Sep 042012

Over the years I have tried many different approaches to cleaning house. For the first several years of our marriage I had a monthly cleaning schedule that worked very well. It looked something like this:

But by the time I had a few little guys running around, it was no longer practical. If it was a hectic day and I missed one of the monthly tasks, would it then be a whole month before I got around to it? Or would I do it the next day and throw the whole schedule off? Or would I do it on the weekend? And what about all the things that didn’t make it to the list? Eventually I gave up on the schedule completely and moved to an entirely as-needed cleaning regimen. Really what that means is I just accepted living in a dirty house most of the time.

Since I’ve been on Pinterest, I’ve seen several seemingly revolutionary cleaning ideas, and most of the ones that really resonated with me are those that suggest one chore a day. Two of my favorites were this one from Fun, Cheap, or Free, and of course chore sticks, a fun twist on the one-per-day idea. But what I’ve settled on is somewhere between the two, I think.

I found this great almost all-encompassing, downloadable list from Housecleaning Central. It comes from a professional cleaning company, so it is pretty thorough. I LOVE that the list has a column to mark the date the chore was completed (or maybe it is for a check mark or initials, but I use it for dates). I started with their list, took out the parts that didn’t apply to my house, added a couple things, tweaked it a bit to make it fit our needs, and now I’m using that as my jumping off point for the one-chore-a-day idea. I set up a little reminder on my phone that pops up each day reminding me to do “One Chore”. Then I pick something from my list and do it.  If it is a busy day, I pick something small. If I have some extra time, I pick one of the bigger jobs. Sometimes I’ll choose a project I’ve been putting off, like sorting through the kids clothes for the next season. Sometimes I find I’m in a rhythm and I’ll do more than one in a day. This is the first time, probably ever, that I can say I’m actually enjoying cleaning the house.

Now, I have to stress here that I don’t count any of the daily maintenance jobs as my one chore. Otherwise I’d be done first thing in the morning after I unload the dishwasher 🙂 I don’t count laundry, vacuuming (needs to be done almost daily at our house), washing dishes, etc… Those are the no-brainers that have to be done every day. But those chores that I rarely remember to do, like clean the cobwebs from the ceiling, or the things I find myself putting off, like cleaning those dusty blinds… those are the things this method is perfect for.