Thursday, February 12, 2015

Just in time for Mardi Gras: 5 Educational Resources

What exactly is Mardi Gras? As an adult I know bits and pieces about the event from things I have read or heard over the years but only the basics, and I have never even been to New Orleans to experience it. I thought it would be fun to do a little research about this extravagant holiday.

Mardi Gras dates back thousands of years and has early ties to pagan spring and fertility ceremonies. Although it is celebrated in other countries it is first mentioned in North America in 1699 by French Explorer Pierre le Moyne, Sieur d'Iberville who was camped on the Mississipi River near the present location of New Orleans. It is now more well known for its religious roots. The Roman Catholic Church permitted the festival as an event celebrated before the season of Lent. In New Orleans the festivities begin each year on January 6th, the Twelfth Night of the Epiphany.

Mardi gras is French for "Fat Tuesday". It is the Tuesday before Ashe Wednesday which is the beginning of Lent. Often Christians, especially those of the Catholic faith, give up something they enjoy leading up to Easter. So on Tuesday people are encouraged to indulge in food and drink before the fasting period of Lent.

Of course the festivities held in New Orleans, Louisiana go way beyond that. The biggest celebrations are held on Bourbon street and includes parades, Mardi Gras beads,and lots of food and drinks. The floats in the parade are extravagant and so are the costumes worn by people celebrating the event. The event even has official colors! Purple- which represents justice, Green- stands for faith, and Gold- stands for power. They were originally chosen by the King of the Carnival, Rex, in 1872. If you are an observer watching the parade you may get beads or doubloons handed out to you.The beads resemble jewels that royalty would wear and the doubloons also come in various colors, are about the size of a silver dollar, and have the krewes emblem and their theme for the year stamped on each coin.

A tradition of Mardi Gras is to bake a King Cake that has "plastic babies" inside. Whoever gets the slice of cake with the baby in it is crowned King or Queen of Mardi Gras and is responsible for hosting a party the following year. Want to learn more about the festival of Mardi Gras? Check out these great resources I found!

1. Mardi Gras Spelling List

Here's a list of words that would be great to use in correlation with any study of Mardi Gras. Another idea would to make your own list at Spelling City based on your child's grade level.

2. Mardi Gras History Videos

Here are several great videos on the origin, traditions, and food of Mardi Gras

3. The History of Mardi Gras

This site gives a more indepth history of how the holiday of Mardi Gras originated.

4. Mardi Gras DIY Ideas

From how to make a King Cake, making a Jester Hat, to a healthy gumbo recipe...this site has all kinds of neat things to make and create!

5. Official New Orleans Mardi Gras Website 

Maybe you would like to plan a trip to New Orleans? This site includes a schedule of events, tells about the parade and also has videos and historical information.

I do want to put a slight disclaimer on some of the information as it can also be a bit of a risqué holiday. I would look through some of the information and videos before showing it to your children to make sure it is age appropriate. From all that I looked at I would show it to my children but they are 13 and 15. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Confession: Things Will Not Always Go As Planned

Oh my poor neglected blog. I'm not sure I have went this long without writing here. December was a rough month and every time I think of updating my blog I think of the bad stuff that has happened so I have avoided it. I have learned over the years though that things do not go as planned and often bad stuff happens by the bucketful. I swear I was getting to where I thought I needed a steel umbrella to go outside as I wondered if a brick would fall on my head next.

totally stole this picture off the internet....sorry is a summary of the past month in a run-on sentence paragraph that will make you think this homeschool mom NEEDS an online spelling program and possibly needs medicated.(please ignore spelling/grammar/and excessive amounts of ellipses for a few minutes)

It all started one night when due to the dry air in the house with the heat on I decided to run the very noisy humidifier (note self inflicted guilt here)...meanwhile outside unbeknown to any of us some type of critter...raccoon? crazed dog? coyote? chupacabra? decides to tear a small hole in one of our outside rabbits cages, pull my bunny by it's fur through the little hole literally skinning the animal leaving it's bald body dead for Z~girl to discover the next morning. Earlier that same night (I think it was the same is all a terrible blur) hubby hears a commotion outside before he goes to bed and runs off a dog trying to tear apart our chicken coop. A week later our early bird Z~girl wakes to discover a yard full of dead chickens...6 to be exact scattered from our house to our neighbor's. These were her young chickens and somehow our 2 year old chickens thankfully remained in their own coop unscathed by the poultry violence. Results of 7 of Z~girl's pets (FRIENDS her critters go beyond being pets) being slaughtered? Anxiety attacks, depression, and an incredibly unhappy and understandably upset 13 year old. This in turn breaks a mama and daddy's heart, causes a lot of sleepless nights worrying about the rest of the chickens, remaining outside bunny coming in at night causing allergic mom asthma attacks. Oh...and the sighting of what may have been a coyote out in the yard by Z~girl yesterday. I haven't even mentioned Prader-willi syndrome and the holidays. So add in a few cups of PWS anxiety and excitement to the mix. I'm sure I have left out something. It has been TERRIBLE!! Not to mention January and the first part of Feb are hard on me due to it being my fathers birth/death month. My miscarriage eons ago in February. (1992 I think? We would have had a 23 year old by now)

The end of February brings on happiness though. The second weekend of February 15 years ago we got at a call from DSS saying they had a medically fragile infant that needed immediate placement. We didn't take him that weekend as we had weekend plans away which sounds selfish especially considering our years of infertility woes but if you consider that was the last overnight we spent was priceless. Even more priceless was that the following weekend we became parents of a most awesome A~man. The end of February 5 years after that we were awarded guardianship of this awesome boy. So I look forward to February!

PHEW....I am done with the bad stuff...I can move on with the good. Something very special did happen in December. This isn't typical with PWS but when we go to the grocery store Aubrey LOVES it. He loves talking to the people that work there and everyone ends up knowing him by name. (think of Norm off of Cheers) of the main butchers from our store got all of the people's names on a Christmas card and sent it for A and Z. So very special and I did send a letter to the store's corporate office praising the meat department and the store in general as they are awesome. Especially after our unfortunate event at a restaurant this fall. I think I will mention the awesome store which is Ingles. (no I do not work there! haha!)

Despite the crappy month I want it to teach me to look for the good in the next year...and not let it be overshadowed by the bad stuff. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Working From Home, Homeschooling, and Making it Work

Being a homeschooling, work from home mom has both its challenges and also its very unique perks. I honestly feel like I was handed my current job as a wonderful gift. It was a little over three years ago and I was out hiking with a friend and she presented me with an offer I absolutely could not refuse. It was to do some online marketing for a homeschool site that I was already familiar with, because it was the curriculum that we had been using even before my children's third grade online curriculum. I am able to work from home for Time4Learning AND I get to feed my passion for books by being an admin for To say I was ecstatic is an understatement. (years later I still am!)

A few years ago I was also blessed to do homeschool curriculum reviews for the Old Schoolhouse Magazine. We were able to try out all kinds of fabulous curriculum and I did not have to spend much money at all for a couple of years on our curriculum. I've never really posted about this in my own blog but both my husband I also dabble in Doterra essential oils. Yeah, we are oily people. ;)

Here are just a handful of benefits I have found being a homeschooling, work from home mom-

1. I can set my own hours

2. I'm already a homebody so this helps me to able to stay at home sweet home.

3. I do not need an extensive wardrobe.

4. If a child is sick I do not have to call in to work...I just adjust my schedule around my family's needs.

5. I get to spend lots of quality time with my family.

6. I can pick what hours my children work best at and work it into my own hours.

7. To some extent as long as I have access to a computer I can bring my work with me if we take a short trip.

Of course there is also the other side of the coin-

1. I have no insurance as I only work part time. This is probably one of my biggest stressors. Fortunately I am pretty healthy and I am currently not using any medications but paying for health care out of pocket when I do need it is not fun.

2. Sometimes too much family time, hahah! There are definitely times when all of us need a short period of time away from one another.

3. Not being able to leave a building. What do I mean by this? I work from my computer and there are times I admit that I'm looking at work related stuff when I should be doing home/family things.

4. I do not need an extensive wardrobe BUT there are times I should probably dress up more. No, I do not wear my yoga pants everyday,haha, but I live in jeans and a t-shirt. I am now realizing that my daughter is picking up on this and it is hard to get her to wear anything else. Nothing wrong with wearing jeans and a t-shirt but it is fun to dress up every once in awhile.

This isn't for everyone but there are some key tips in making it work for my family-

I am not a real stickler for a seems like every year I try to adhere to one but it never ends up working in the end. Yet still with the many activities we have- school work, athletic events and practices, field trips, music lessons and work, I do have a bit of a relaxed schedule.

Most every week day I carve out at least 2 hour chunks of time in the day to work. Tuesdays it is 10 am- 12 pm but most days it is 3 pm- 5 pm with an occasional midnight work hour thrown in as I am definitely a night owl.

Our 13 year old daughter is an early riser and ends up getting up before us and doing a majority of her work before we even wake up. (did I admit that?) She does a lot of interest led activities in the afternoon and also reads a lot. In the evenings either hubby or I will help her with her math program which is an area she needs extra help with. After that she practices her violin.

With our 15 year old son with Prader-Willi Syndrome and autism I supervise his computer work with about a 2 hour chunk of time either in the morning or before dinner depending on what part of the day I work. In the afternoon he has a short quiet time in his room followed by working on some self help skills. (I will admit here to my special needs friends...when my son has a quiet time I typically take a short is what it is!)

Also, most every day unless it is REALLY cold we will either go walking or hiking for 3-5 miles.

Housecleaning? Well I'm finally coming to the realization that my house is not going to look like the pictures I see in magazines. I am always working on de-cluttering but with having two teenagers now, I have a lot of help around the house. I try and keep the living room, dining room, and kitchen especially as neat as possible.

It also is very important and beneficial to connect with other homeschool moms who work from home. An awesome way to do that is through this linkedin group called Homeschooling and Working ParentsWhat better way to get advice than from other homeschool parents who work from home?

I can't tell you how much I appreciate a particular friend who on occasion will take Z~girl with her own daughter to swimming. We all went last time to the homeschool swimming but I think it is good for her to get away from us and also from her brother too on occasion. I hope to reciprocate that in the future!

I feel blessed as my hubby is often home too and able to watch the kids so I can go out to coffee with a friend, or a hike....this month I'm looking forward to going to a mom's cookie exchange!

The way I do things may seem hectic but that is what works for our family and that is the key, finding what works for your own individual family. Having a child with special needs demands flexibility in scheduling.

What are some things that I will be working on in the coming new year?

There is definitely room for improvement in how I do things though. The main thing I want to do after Christmas is find a better space to work at that is quieter as I am easily distracted. Of course this would mean an additional computer as a lot of the kids school work is done on the computer.

I want to prioritize going on a date with my husband at least once a month instead of once a year. Our daughter is about old enough to stay home alone but I know she wouldn't be comfortable doing so. Our son requires near constant supervision so finding someone to watch him is no simple task.

I really want to get back into doing some of the hobbies that I love but have not done in a long time like sewing and art. It's easy to put me time on a back burner but I need to change that.

Is working from home and homeschooling easy? No, but it is definitely doable and I am thankful that I am able to make it work for our family!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

5 Ways to Make the Holidays More Enjoyable For Your Prader-Willi Syndrome Family

The holidays can be a stressful time for everyone but for a family with a child with Prader-Willi Syndrome it can be extremely challenging. Time off from school, anticipation of presents, decorations, the hustle and bustle at stores, and all of the extra food and treats that go along with this time of the year can be absolutely overwhelming! There are things though that can be done to help life go on as calm and peaceful as possible. Of course what works for my family and I might be different than another family but I would like to share some things that we have discovered over the years.

1. Routine- Our children do not go to "school" as we homeschool but I have learned that time off, beyond a few days, only results in behaviors and anxiety. When a child with PWS gets bored...bad things happen, LOL. (laughing but NOT as it is the honest truth!) This is why for the most part we homeschool year around. We do take July off and a few days here and there throughout the year but keeping a routine going has only proved to be beneficial. Whether it is a first grade online curriculum (or whatever grade you child is at), learning games on an iPad, puzzles, workbooks, or even work boxes. (do a search for workboxes on Pinterest for lots of neat ideas!) We also have both children keep up with their daily chores such as taking care of our many critters, doing their own laundry, and helping around the house.

2. Food- Yes....the F word. I try and keep up with eating the same type of diet we normally eat. I usually only make a couple of desserts for Thanksgiving (easier to pick from two than say....6 choices) and he gets one piece that day and one the next. During Christmas we normally make small batches of a couple of kinds of cookies. For both Christmas and Thanksgiving meals we keep the food very basic. When I was growing up the counters in the kitchen were covered with every holiday food imaginable! This is just not a good idea for someone with PWS. Truthfully all that food is overstimulating for even me!  We will have ham or turkey, some type of potato, dressing, a couple cooked vegetables and always a tray full of raw vegetables. Often I prepare A~man's plate (I do not let him do it himself but he gives me input in what he would like) in the kitchen. (we do not place the serving bowls on the table) It helps to start with the raw veggies as they take up a lot of room on his plate and then add the other food. The only seconds he ever gets is a few more raw veggies. That sounds kind of strict but that is the way we have always done it so there are very rarely any complaints. After eating we try to put the food away as soon as we can as having it sitting can really cause him to feel anxious. He will actually remind us to put the food up if we do not right away.

3. Exercise- We walk daily (3-5 miles) and we especially try and keep up with it this time of year. Just this week though it has gotten bitterly cold so we plan our big walks for the days over 50 degrees...and on the other days we go walk at the mall. A~man LOVES to walk at the mall as it also gives him the opportunity to people watch. Our mall is never really busy but if it was it is also open before the stores are so people can walk in the winter. Another idea is swimming. A couple of winters ago we took the kids to an indoor pool and they swam laps (which they actually love) and played 4-5 times a week. We also have a treadmill which our son doesn't mind but we only have him use it if we cannot do any of the other options.

4. Activities- We keep things pretty simple with presents and make a lot of them ourselves. Shopping can be hard for our son as he gets so excited to be getting something for other people AND he sees so many things that he wants. Hubby and I normally take him out once each so he can buy a present for each of us but most of the shopping I do is online. I'm not a big fan of crowds myself.

There are a lot of extra fun activities that happen this time of year. We try to limit it to one a week and what works for our to only tell him the night before if we are going the next day. I know some people do well with calendars with the events happening over the month but this only causes our son to obsess, repeat what's happening, and get anxious about it. Of course telling him the night before doesn't always work as he has eagle ears and sometimes figures it out before hand. ;)

5. Last but certainly not least we talk about why our family celebrates Christmas. We have lots of books and videos that make this time of year very special for all of us. I'll share more on that later.

I'm hoping to do another post when I think of more things that work for us but I would love to hear what works for other peoples families during the holidays!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Friday Five Freebies~ Kindle Books 10/3/14

Better late than never right? Well, I guess it is still Friday but I intended to have this finished up and posted this morning but it was a busy week! Now I remember why I do not plan out lessons daily because after a couple of weeks we always settle into our own schedule and everything pretty much falls in place. I do plan out goals and skills I want to cover during the year...but we always end up doing it in our own eclectic way. That's the awesome thing about do what works for you and your family!

Now on to the free (one is not free but it is cheap) books that I uncovered.

Elementary Books-

2. My Muddiest Adventure Ever

3. 101 Facts... Ancient China (101 History Facts for Kids) This one looks like it may also be good for middle school age children.

4.Orangey the Goldfish: Side Story No. 1

5. Cody Greene and the Rainbow Mystery  This one is only available for free if you have kindle unlimited. I have read this particular book and if you are interested in my review it is here at

Middle School books-

1. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

2. Children's Book: Sacred Stories (Moral Stories for Children (Volume 1)) If I got these I might look through them before I had my child read them but it looks pretty interesting.

3. Prairie Academy (Carlile Corners Book 1)

4.Fierce Winds and Fiery Dragons

5.Adventures in the Neighborhood Woods #2: The Secret Baseball Card This one isn’t free but is 1.99. It’s a great read and if you want to read that review click here!

High School books

1.A Tale of Two Cities

2. End of the Road

3.Jump When Ready

4. Lake Caerwych (Copper & Cobalt Book 1)

5.Fallen (Chronicles of the Broken Book 1)

Mama books

1. Pride and Prejudice (I have never read this!!)

2.Lemon Cure: 45 Healthy Lemon Recipes for Skin Care, Hair Care, Home and Laundry Cleaning

3. An Unforgivable Secret

4. Mother Teresa: A Life Inspired

5. Speedy House Cleaning: How to Clean, Organize, and Declutter your Home in Half the Time A woman can dream can't she?


Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday Five Freebies~ Kindle Books

It has been a busy month and a half with school starting back up and we had loads of fun entering things in the fair a couple of weeks ago. I've also discovered planning the school year for a 7th grader is a lot different than when I was planning around my daughter's 4th grade online curriculum. I have had a bit of a writer’s block the last couple of months so I had an idea since I LOVE books. Until the end of October and maybe later, I am going to come up with a free Kindle list of children’s books, plus some mama books for Fridays. I will also try and add a couple books that I have read that are inexpensive. I haven’t read all of these books but I’m pretty picky about books and the ones I will list are ones that either I would allow my child to read or that I would consider reading myself. (with the exception of the high school ones’ as my children are not to the maturity level of some I may suggest) Use your discretion on what looks appropriate for your own child.

Early Elementary Books

1. Rikki-Tikki-Tavi

2. Search for the Pirate's Treasure

3. Fairy Tales Every Child Should Know

4. A Hound for Hannah (Hannah's Island) This book is only free if you have Kindle Unlimited. I have actually read this book awhile back and if you would like to read the review here is the link at The plus with this book is that the main character is even a homeschooler!
5. A Tale of Four Birds and Their Quest for Food and Happiness This one is also only available through Kindle Unlimited but looks super cute!

Middle School Books

1. The Secret Garden

2. NO EXIT (The Apple Grove Gang Book 1)

3. Aster Wood and the Lost Maps of Almara (Book 1)

4. Deity Chronicles: Origins (The Deity Chronicles Book 1)

5. The Perpetual Papers of the Pack of Pets (Stanley & Katrina Book 1) This one is only free through Amazon Prime. (and no, I do not work for Amazon this is just a fun list as I LOVE books) I actually downloaded this one to our Kindle today and briefly looked through it. hILaRiOuS, but keep in mind I have an odd sense of humor.

High School Books

This category gave me the most challenge. My daughter is still just in the middle school range, yet nevertheless a teen who reads through books fervently. She honestly DEVOURS books and she has since she was 5. She would much rather read than play on the computer or Xbox. Her strength is reading and she could read high school/college level books and comprehend a lot but her maturity level is not ready for much of it. Plus there is a lot of junk literature out there not worthy of the time spent reading it. I found a lot of the free Kindle books are junk literature for this age range...yet I’m sure I read a bit of this genre of books myself at a bit older age. I did have a recent mishap of a book she read that I thought would be okay when she brought it home. I picked it up after she was done and my jaw dropped. It was a classic but if I completely knew what the content was I would have NEVER let her read it at 13. 16? maybe. I did ask her a few questions about it later and I do not think she really got some of the content either. Good conversation for later I guess. My advice, for what it’s worth...make sure what your child is reading!

1. Little Women

2. Divergent: The Ultimate Interactive Quiz Book (Divergent Series Quiz Books 1) This is not the Divergent book but a Quiz book for kids that have read the book.

3. Keeper of Reign: Young Adult/ Middle Grade Adventure Fantasy (Reign Fantasy Book 1)

4. Zero (The Nephilim Chronicles Book 1)

5. The Key (The True Reign Series Book 1)

Mama Books

Moms need to take time for themselves too and reading is such a fun escape. I like to get a good book and hide in the bathtub... shhhh! Here is a list of books that I have not read yet but they definitely caught my interest!

1. Les Misérables (I can't believe that I have never read this one!)

2. Paradise Valley (The Daughters of Caleb Bender Book #1) I think this one is already on my Kindle waiting!

I hope you enjoy some of the books on this list and I look forward to searching for more to add next Friday so check back.