Friday, September 23, 2011

Week in Review: Lazy Sunday, Writing Skills (Sept. 16-22, 2011)

This past weekend saw some cozy, lazy, quiet time after Sunday church and dinner -- much needed after what seems like a long summer of go-go-go. We spent part of Sunday afternoon with our games set (a box with several boards, cards, playing pieces, etc. all in one) and played a round of dominoes -- matching the numbers on the tiles -- and tried to play mancala. (Unfortunately, the "all-in-one"-ness of this set means it's not great for mancala -- the holes on the side of one of the playing boards are way too small for all the pebbles that need to fit in there to actually do so.) We also opened the deck of cards that came with this set and, after I got out my grandparents' copy of Hoyle (an edition probably from the 1940s) to refresh my memory, taught Nora how to play the card game "War."

She and I had spent Friday evening at the Unbirthday Party I coordinated for my women's service group, where we met other members and kids at a local pizza restaurant and packed bags with donations of birthday party supplies for the local food shelf. Packing over 50 bags (and loading them into two cars -- mine and the co-chair's), supervising rambunctious kids while simultaneously teaching them about charity, and then delivering the bags the next day was a tiring but satisfying part of the weekend.

This week, we also had a Parent Information Night at school, which proved very valuable in providing a lot of general information, curriculum overview, and an opportunity to meet other parents. The kids, meanwhile, identified their learning goals for kindergarten. According to Nora, one of her classmates wants to "learn how to be a paleontologist," while another wants to "learn how to ride a motorcyle." She identified her own goal as "learn how to read."

Her after-school activities this week included creating a version of hopscotch with blankets spread out indoors for "stepping stones." She also offered commentary, after reading a bedtime story of Jesus's healing of the 10 lepers from the Spark Story Bible, regarding one of the lepers in the illustration: "that guy looks like a potato."

What's the Weather: The week was cool and gray, with occasional rain. We needed to retrieve from the car a jacket with a pocket for hands that got cold on the metal monkey bars at a park. (After monkey bar mastery this summer, we've been trying them out at a variety of different parks.)

From the Kitchen: Some of the blueberries that came home with us from a family Michigan vacation this summer came out of the freezer this week got turned into Blueberry Muffins; the Beef and Cabbage on the menu plan went over better than I had expected (possibly because it was served with blueberry muffins...); and a bag of carrots that needed to get used up from the fridge were shredded in the food processor and turned into Carrot Cake, which proved to be a hit. (And if soome of us had it for breakfast for a few days -- well, carrot cake has veggies in it, right?)

Lifelong Learning: Nora seems to have been assigning herself homework; she spent much of the week working on early reading and (math skills with a sticker book she received for her birthday. (My Pretty Pink Sticker and Doodling Purse book) She's also been  practicing writing letters and numbers, and appears to have demonstrated her grasp of the value of writing by creating a sign filled with printed letters (not actual words) that she taped onto the door of her room and interpreted as stating,  "No Coming in My Room. Just Knock." She's also been helping with dishes, and with making blueberry muffins -- and, coincidentally, our card and board games work on number skills.

Something Seasonal: The fall decoration I won last week and the apple placemats are on the table, and that's pretty much it.

Feelin' Frugal:
Freebies received: 
Cerra Act, Think, Reflect kit
Nivea Touch of Cashmere body wash
Scholastic Parent and Child magazine

Whatcha Readin’?: Born To Rule by Julia P. Gelardi

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Menu Plan for Week of Sept. 19

Good grief, this is an incredibly lame menu. At least the banner from orgjunkie, the host of Menu Plan Monday, is pretty.

Monday: Leftovers or Hot Dogs

Clean out the fridge time! Don't we all love that? (Hint: if not, you can make yourself a sandwich, and not make a big deal out of protesting the Eggplant Parmesan from the weekend.)

Tuesday: Fish Sticks and Green Beans

Slightly cool factor: the green beans are of a variety that is purple until they're cooked -- they're from the CSA produce box we're doing this summer/fall. (The CSA also explains the eggplant.)

Wednesday: Church Supper

Thursday: Crockpot Beef and Cabbage

Guess what else was in the latest CSA box? If you guessed a head of cabbage, you'd be right. DH actually likes cabbage, and we've had and liked this dish before -- it's kind of like stuffed cabbage, without the work of stuffing. It will use the last of my previously browned ground beef from the freezer and some tomato sauce along with the cabbage -- planned to be shredded via food processor.

Friday: possibly sandwiches

I also shredded up a bunch of carrots this past weekend that I needed to use up; they became Carrot Cake, which lasts for a few days (of breakfasts, perhaps) in a family of three.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Week in Review: 2nd Week in September

My original plan was to post the first weekly wrap-up of the fall on the Friday after Labor Day -- but that week's schedule got thrown out of whack due to family circumstances. (DH's aunt passed away and he needed to go out of state for the funeral. She was 97.) So, second week of school, here we are. I'd like to find a somewhat structured meme to participate in for this, kind of like the Homeschool Mother's Journal at -- except our family isn't called to homeschool at this time. (I love reading Annie Kate's weekly wrapups at and Abbi's slices of life at  I might also try to categorize these things based on my own goals -- my "wannabes" in the blog header. I guess I'm saying this thing may evolve. :)

So, even though this was the second week of school, last week was a short school/work week due to the Labor Day holiday. Which means that we've had a lot of information meetings/orientations/kickoffs in the past week, for dance classes, Girl Scouts, Sunday school (complete with church picnic, petting zoo and bouncy house), church book group, women's service group -- I think that's it. In regard to my things, it's good to see friends again after being somewhat disconnected from friends for the summer, but this week has been just too busy.

What's the Weather: Second full week of September, and we had a frost overnight Wednesday into Thursday morning, and a few days with highs in the 50s or 60s. We'll probably warm up again for a while before true cold weather sets in, and the everbearing strawberry plant we got at a local plant sale this summer has been producing again the past few weeks. We also still have chives and mint outside, so we moved the plants closer together and covered them with the sheet for the guest bedroom. We'll wash it before our regular guest comes again. Probably.

From the Kitchen: The forecast had originally called for the cooler weather last weekend, which didn’t happen, but I kept my menu plan in place and we had the first soup of the season: some yummy ham and bean soup made with some of the leftover ham from last Easter that I’d ground up and put in the freezer.

Lifelong Learning: Nora has been pulling out her dry-erase letter tracing book in the afternoons and weekends, and asking how to spell different words and phrases. She’s practicing her writing. She also got out painting and stamping supplies this week, colored one of the pages in her stained glass flowers coloring book and added accents of glitter glue, and did almost all of the mazes in a little Dover Publications animal mazes book. We did science experiments on identifying acids and bases using goldenrod paper from her science kit, and then “homemade” paper from grape juice and coffee filters. She’s also working on memorizing The Lord’s Prayer.

Around the House-Keeping: Due to this week’s cooler weather, we spent most of the only evening without at least one outside commitment sorting through the box of fall/winter kid clothes. Other than that, I haven’t had time for any “extra” housekeeping beyond the basics. I did get the swimsuits washed up and ready to put away for winter, now that the beaches are closed.

Something Seasonal: Picked up our third-to-last box of produce from our CSA half-share for the year. Harvests are abundant right now, but we know the time is running short. Also saw an old red farm truck go into a driveway carrying a load of knobbly pumpkins. Seems a little early for that.

Feelin' Frugal:
            freebies received:
$1.00 off any milk coupon
won a fall plant decoration at women’s group meeting

Getting Organized: Had a few moments to make returns of things (and get the money back into my accounts or my hands): Target swimsuit bought on summer clearance that I realized would be too small by next year; one of the leotards found at the children’s consignment store that turned out to be too small  (the other two fit), Disney movies that I didn’t order and don’t want

Whatcha Readin’?: Simplify Your Life with Kids, The Cheapskate Next Door, If I Have To Tell You One More Time…           


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Read-Aloud Thursday: Kindergarten Books

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As I get back into blogging more, I hope to participate in a few more memes. It's fun, I enjoy reading them, and they help keep me accountable to my goals. :) In this case, Read-Aloud Thursday, hosted by, is all about my love of reading, kids' books and, of course, my kiddo.

Said kiddo started kindergarten this month, so our summer (and these first couple of weeks of September -- which I consider "unofficially" fall) reading has included a few of those "get ready for kindergarten" books. Two in particular that I have enjoyed are Kindergarten Day U.S.A. and China and Panda Kindergarten. (I originally saw the recommendation for the first one, at least, via Not sure about the other one -- I really wish my library's "list" function to save, well, lists of books you'd like to request in the future allowed you to annotate your entries.)

Kindergarten Day U.S.A. and China by Trish Marx and Ellen B. Senisi is a "day-in-the-life" book about a kindergarten class in upstate New York, and one on the other side of the world -- in China. The pictures are actual photographs of each of the classes, and the "plot" walks you through what each class does at each specific time of day (there's some not-so-subtle telling time education going on there).

In terms of getting ready for kindergarten this book actually did a better job of presenting the kinds of things a class would do than some of the oft-recommended others (Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten, Adventure Annie Goes to Kindergarten, etc.) that have been in our pile, many of which deal more with the feelings/worries associated with this milestone. Seeing the pictures and the description of the playground, lunchtime, listening to stories, getting along with other kids, etc. made it valuable even without the geography/cultural awareness aspect of the book.

Of course, I did also like that element of the book -- although one wishes there had been a bit more pronunciation guidance for a couple of the Chinese words (particularly on the days when the visiting grandma had to read it aloud ...), and so did Nora. She made friends this summer with a couple of little girls who were adopted from China, and she noted that the kids in the book looked like her friends. Reading the China section brought home both the similarities and the slight differences (different words, slightly different food, etc.)

Also appealing is the "gimmick" factor of the book: each half is bound upside down to other, so once you've finished Kindergarten Day U.S.A., you flip it over to read Kindergarten Day China -- or vice versa.

The second favorite among these, Panda Kindergarten by Joanne Ryder, is actually not about kids' kindergarten - it truly is about pandas. It's another true story, illustrated completely by photographs, of the pandas at the Wolong Nature Reserve in China. The photos of the baby pandas, particularly the "tiniest one" in the photo of the lineup of 16 of them (Nora took the initiative to count them herself) are awe-inducing. And they're still cute and fuzzy and lovable as they grow and play on their playground -- with a child's teeter-totter in winter -- and all collapse into naptime together. The book is mostly about how the pandas grow and how the staff cares for them (did you know that pandas often have twins, but a mother can care for only one at a time? so the staff switches them off so that both get good care, but both also have time with the mother), and only gently touches on pandas' endangerment at a level that's very appropriate for little kids. (Some of the pandas that grow up from this panda kindergarten may go back to live in the wild, and use the skills they've learned.)

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Suddenly, It's *Last* Summer

So, it seems that I took the summer off from blogging. That wasn't exactly intentional (at least at the beginning), but we had a good summer full of beach visits, berry picking, birthday parties, family reunion, festivals, parks, picnics, pony rides, science experiments, State Fair, swimming lessons  -- and a weeklong stay with family at a lakeside cottage. (There was debate as to whether it was properly a "cabin" or a "cottage." The dictionary was consulted.) With the travel and the activities -- and the soaking up the sunshine before a Minnesota winter (we're supposed to get a light frost tonight) -- wow. that went fast.

Wordless Wednesday: So Long, Summer; Hello, School