Saturday, December 12, 2015

A Nativity Celebration

Recently, we had the opportunity to travel to Apex, NC to attend their annual Apex Christmas Nativity Celebration. We had heard many good things about it and wanted to see if it was something we could make a tradition in our family. Because we did not know really what to expect and we were on a tight schedule due to another event we were attending that night, we did not spend nearly as much time as we wish we could have. However, even our rushed 25 minute stop there was well worth it.

About the Nativity Celebration

It is held at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Apex, North Carolina. While it is sponsored by the church, it invites those from all over the community to participate. There are literally hundreds of Nativity sets from all over the community that people have graciously donated for a 3-day celebration of the birth of our Savior. There are musical performances by high school choirs, quartets, soloists, the Apex Stake Children's Choir, the Triangle Community Orchestra, and various other bands and musicians. It is a very popular event. The photo below shows how it looked just after opening at 6 p.m.

My older two children, ages 6 and 3, were mesmerized. They wanted to look at each Nativity in detail. I had to "shush" them when they tried to shout with excitement about what caught their eye.

The Nativities

There are Nativities of all types. Some come from various places throughout the world. Some are handcrafted/homemade. Some are very, very unique. Some of them are absolutely breathtaking. I took way too many pictures (as I usually tend to do) and narrowed it down to a few about twenty of my favorites. Especially while looking through the Nativities from various countries, it really puts into perspective how this one event in history has impacted the hearts and faith of people from around the world, and this is how they choose to commemorate it.

From Around the World

"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord." - Luke 2:11

"Each of us is an Innkeeper who decides if there is room for Jesus."  
- Neal A. Maxwell

"Look for Christ and you will find Him. And with Him, everything else."  
- C. S. Lewis

"Christmas is the spirit of giving, without a thought of getting."  
- Thomas S. Monson

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace"  
- Isaiah 9:6

"As the Christmas season envelops us with all its glory, may we, as did the wise men, seek a bright, particular star to guide us in our celebration of the Savior's birth."  
- Thomas S. Monson

 "The glitter of the season should never ... prevent us from truly seeing The Prince of Peace."  
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf

My Children's Favorite

How Unique!

My Favorite "Homemade" Nativity


 Just Beautiful

Live Nativity Scene

"And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men."  
-Luke 2:13-14

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Classic Minestrone

This is one of our family's favorite soups. We enjoy it "Olive Garden style" with homemade breadsticks. I love it because it is full of delicious vegetables; my husband loves it because it goes great with breadsticks. Add a tasty side salad topped with roma tomatoes, olives, and Italian dressing for a "soup, salad, and breadsticks" trio and you won't be disappointed.

Classic Minestrone

1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 carrot, julienned or chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can tomato sauce
1 can diced tomato, drained
6 c. water
1 zucchini, halved and sliced
1 can Italian green beans, drained
1 can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 c. medium pasta shells (or 1 1/2 c. small pasta shells)
2 c. baby spinach
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. basil
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper

1. In a large pot, add onion, celery, carrot, and garlic. Sauté over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes.
2. Add tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, 6 cups of water, zucchini, Italian green beans, kidney beans, and cannellini beans. Bring to a boil.
3. Once boiling, add pasta shells and lower the heat to medium.
4. Add spinach, parsley, oregano, basil, sea salt, and black pepper. Cook on medium heat for about 15 minutes.
5. Simmer on medium-low for an hour, to allow all of the flavors to mingle.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Week in Review 2015: #32, #33, #34


Our second week of homeschool started off well, until George woke up early Tuesday morning, threw up in his bed and then threw up in ours, then threw up 7 more times within an hour. After that, the bug was gone. Later in the week, I got a cold that stayed with me through the weekend and the beginning of the next week. It was not fun. I got behind on housework and schoolwork.

My husband and I also celebrated our ten year anniversary. We left the kids with my parents and went to our favorite Chinese place. After dinner, we headed to Toys R Us without the kids to check out possible birthday/Christmas presents. Even on a day about us, we're still thinking about the kids.

We took off of school last Friday to spend the day with my mother-in-law because it was her birthday. My husband happened to be off work that day anyway, so we made an entire day of it. We also ended up going back to his parents house on Saturday so he could fix something for them. We stayed most of the day and the kids got to spend some time with their cousins, which I know they enjoyed.

We also scheduled Bridget for dance classes. She has been taking ballet lessons for the past two years but this year will also be adding tap lessons (with the same dance academy). She is so excited. It makes our afternoons rather busy, but it is something she enjoys. Once George and Liam get more involved in extracurricular activities, I may need to have Bridget choose what she prefers (she also does gymnastics).


We've completed our fourth week! We're a little behind due to sickness one week and visits the next, with other issues in between, but the few things that we are still behind with can very easily be caught up. My focus has mainly been on Bridget, because she is the one with an actual curriculum and schedule to follow (and she's the one I've gotten behind with). I've allowed George to play in his room or to watch some morning PBS shows while I've done school with Bridget. He hasn't complained, but I hope to have him back at our school table with us next week.


We had gotten an entire lesson behind in math. On Sunday evening, I had her take the test for lesson 2 and on Monday she did an entire lesson and took the test for that and got it all correct. She was very proud that she earned herself a sticker. This past Tuesday we began lesson 4 and have been back on track ever since. I'm glad that she enjoys math so much.


We've had two lessons with spelling lists so far and Bridget is catching on well. She gets frustrated at times when I make her sound things out, but doesn't realize until after her meltdown that she knew how to spell the word all along. This is still a new 'subject' for her and will take some getting used to.   


This is currently my favorite to teach. I love history, but I'm very excited that  we're also getting more involved in science. As I mentioned in a previous post, our library didn't have a good selection of habitat books to choose from, and while there were a couple of habitat books good for children Bridget's age, many of them were geared toward the older elementary aged child. I found the perfect habitat books on and after a week of pondering, finally purchased them and they arrived two days later (gotta love Prime shipping!). I'm happy about the investment and after looking through the books, they are perfect for her age and will still be good to use when we repeat biology in the fourth grade.

I had this display board sitting around the house for the past few years after using it for a project of my own. The board itself was a little beat up but after covering it with some construction paper, it is back to good use again. It's our new "habitats board". Because I'm weird and like to color code things, I have white for the arctic and Antarctic (with the arctic on top and Antarctic on the bottom, naturally), black for caves and underground habitats, blue for water habitats, brown for forest, green for rainforest, orange for grasslands, and yellow for deserts (which are also divided into Sahara and Sonoran, as I have yet to find wild camels living in New Mexico and felt it important to differentiate between these two desert habitats... and while I wanted to include parts of Australia and other deserts around the world, I held back because my daughter is only a first grader after all).

I found images of each habitat via Google images and printed them off on cardstock to give her a visual of what each habitat looks like. After we finish reading up on each habitat individually, we'll begin learning about the animals that live in these habitats, and place pictures of them in the appropriate areas. Hopefully the board is big enough. I wanted to save the board for when we study plants in the Spring so that we can have pictures of various plants in each habitat, but the I think the animals will fill it up. Bridget is just as excited as I am about our science unit.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Thai Peanut Sauce

I am always looking for new and creative ways to feed my children their vegetables. I also try to get them to experiment with new flavors. Their taste buds are still very young but I feel that the earlier I start them on a variety of flavors, the better.

This sauce was the first way I got my oldest to eat broccoli and enjoy it (she was 2 or 3 years old at the time). It has worked every single time, with all three of my children. My oldest now loves broccoli, and my middle child is very close behind. My youngest, who just turned one, had his first try of broccoli with this peanut sauce. He could not get enough!

Thai Peanut Sauce (Kid-Friendly)

1 large onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 c. creamy peanut butter
3/4 c. hoisin
1 Tbsp. agave
2 Tbsp. ketchup
1/2 c. water

1. In a medium saucepan, saute the onions and garlic in oil until soft. 
2. Add peanut butter, hoisin, agave, and ketchup. Mix well.
3.  Add water and mix until well combined. Continue cooking until heated through.
4. Serve with broccoli or spring rolls.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Week in Review 2015: #31 (Back to School!)


We had a birthday to celebrate this week! It's probably the least exciting birthday in our home, as it was mine. I'm not too big on celebrating my birthday. It's not that I'm ashamed of my age or that I'm getting older (I just turned 30, by the way). I'm just not a center-of-attention type of person. I don't need gifts, parties, pampering, etc. The kids tried to be more well-behaved for me though, which is always nice. Bridget made me a card. We went out for dinner to my favorite Thai restaurant, then came home and had cake. The cake was actually a 4th layer that I didn't use for Liam's birthday cake in July. I put it in the freezer and figured I could whip up a batch of frosting, plop the one-layer cake onto a plate and frost it. And that's exactly what I did, at 7 o'clock in the evening on my birthday. And only because the kids really wanted cake.


It was our first week back to school! Can I just say how much I love not needing to get the kids ready in a hurry to take them to school each morning? If I want to snuggle with the children in bed for an extra 20 minutes, I can (and I did). We still started school at around 8:30 every day this week. Sometimes earlier, sometimes later. The new subjects were implemented nicely. George and Liam behaved enough for me to instruct Bridget. It was a good week.



Because we had taken a 3 week break from math over the summer, Bridget had a little trouble with the beginning of her new book. We've been working on the hundreds place value and using her math manipulatives. She's great at building the numbers but when it comes to saying them, she confuses herself by saying "thirty-twenty-five for 325. Now she is finally saying "three-hundred-twenty-five", at least most of the time. It really throws her off when I add a 0 in there.

George has a good time building puzzles and playing with whatever math manipulatives Bridget isn't using. He's not using those for counting purposes and instead builds towers and bridges. Whatever keeps him busy!



This is a new subject we've added this year. I think Bridget has enjoyed the first 5 lessons, as they have to do with writing the first letter of the word or circling pictures of objects that begin with the same letter. Fun stuff. Next week, we begin with our first spelling list.



This is also a new subject this year. We learned what a common noun is, and learned proper nouns later in the week. I'm actually two lessons ahead of where I had planned for us to be because I had been doing a lesson each day when in my schedule, I only need to do it three times per week. As Bridget likes to say, "Silly Mommy!".



While we did handwriting in kindergarten (and we are still doing it this year as well), we're also doing writing. Our copywork and narration exercises this week came from The Little House in the Big Woods. Bridget loved the excerpts and wanted to hear more of the story so it looks like I'll be reading The Little House on the Prairie books to her soon (although I don't know how I'll squeeze these in with all of the other books we're going to be reading).



We began the week learning about history and historians. The kids each made a timeline of their lives (so far) and we read a book about family trees. We also learned about archaeologists. Bridget enjoyed the books for these and made me read them again later in the week as our "for fun books". We then learned about nomads and read some books about them. We had briefly done this last year, so it was more of a review. Next week is when we begin covering the exciting stuff: Egypt!



We learned about animal habitats. We will continue this through next week. I was very disappointed that our library didn't have a good selection of habitat books, so I think I may be ordering some from Amazon. I hate to spend that much money on books but the one's I have found look interesting and child-friendly, so hopefully the kids can look through them for fun. Or I might do something entirely different. We'll have to see.

A Few Books We've Read...

One Small Blue Bead by Byrd Baylor
The First Dog by Jan Brett

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Sunday, August 2, 2015

Week in Review 2015: #30 (Our Last Week of Summer)


Our last week before school begins. Wow. Summer flew by fast! While most moms might be getting their kids on a schedule (go to bed early, wake up early) to prepare for the school year, I did the opposite. I let the kids stay in their pajamas all day if they desired, we watched movies late into the night (which is about 9 or 10 o'clock for them), and played all day. Okay, they played all day. I finalized homeschool lessons and continued working on our school room.


We start tomorrow!!!!! Bridget will be starting a formal first grade curriculum and George will be working on some preschool activities and joining big sister whenever something we're learning interests him. Liam will have free reign of all the toys in the living room, although I have a feeling he'll be more happy pulling books off the bookshelves and fussing at my feet wanting to be held.

Everything else is ready to go. The most exciting thing for the kids has been our new supply tote. We have every color of pencils, markers, and crayons imaginable, and lot's of writing pencils, erasers, scissors, tape, and glue; you name it and we've got it! Their eyes get so big when they see it, as they both cannot wait to dig in and create something. We'll be using it for just about every subject.

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Week in Review 2015: #29 (Preparing for a New School Year)

We made a trip to the library this week and I was able to get a lot of books we'll need for the first week of school. We also got a pile of "for fun" books to read. Sometimes I feel I should be bringing a wheelbarrow to the library to help us get back to the van. I love that my kids enjoy being read to, but it is such a heavy task.

School starts in just over a week from today (we begin the first week in August) and I am frantically purging, cleaning, and organizing the homeschool area. My in-laws donated their old kitchen table to us so that we may have a nice area for Bridget (and George) to do their work without a little Liam grabbing at everything. It's the perfect size and we are looking forward to our new work space. It is chaos at the moment, but progress is being made! I am determined to begin this school year with not only an organized school room, but a clean/uncluttered house as well. Yesterday, I filled up an entire trash bag of just paper. I've also been packing up books and other supplies that I know we will not be using this year. That little guy in the bottom corner has been "helping".

Bridget is anxious to start school. She has seen all of her new books and now her new table and is beyond excited about everything. She tells everyone that she is going to be a first grader this year. George just can't wait to color while Bridget does school.

If you missed my post on our curriculum choices for this year (first grade and preschool), you can check it out by clicking here.

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Saturday, July 18, 2015

Week in Review 2015: #28 (Colonial Williamsburg)


Nothing too exciting going on right now day-to-day, but we did take an exciting family field trip.


We went to Colonial Williamsburg! It was only for two days but we had a blast. We are fortunate that it is only a 3 hour drive from where we live. The kids did great during the drive and we started our historical adventure at Jamestowne.

This captures Bridget's feelings about all of the animal skins hanging everywhere. She knows and accepts that is what people had to eat back then, but it still made her uncomfortable. She was glad to get out of there. I love how compassionate she is but I wish she hadn't been so bothered by it, as it is a part of our history.

Making cornmeal outside was much more fun!

Next we headed to the ships and toured a replica of the Susan Constant. There are actually three ships to tour (the others were Godspeed and Discovery), but this was the biggest and we felt that by seeing one, we've seen them all (we had also toured the Nina and Pinta replicas a few months back so we've had our fill of ship tours for awhile!)

George thought it was a good time to take a nap in the officers' cabin.
The Susan Constant

The next stop was Fort James. Some older boys were finishing up a week-long summer camp and took part of a "battle" we were able to witness. One of the leaders talked to us bystanders about the camp and what the boys did all week. My husband admitted to me later that he wished he had gone to a summer camp that awesome! The boys did a great job.

George was precious wearing his military armor. Being a soldier, I'm sure he wasn't going for "precious", but I'm his mom and I call it like I see it!
We finished up at Jamestown in the afternoon and felt it was time to check in to the hotel.
There was so much more to do at Jamestown and we'll have to go back when the kids are a little older (maybe in 3 years when we cover that time period in history).

At the hotel we had some time to kill before going to dinner so we went for a swim! We had the entire pool to ourselves and he kids had so much fun. Then we went to dinner at Food For Thought.

After a good nights rest, we were off to Colonial Williamsburg. We toured Great Hopes Plantation on the way to the city. They had a good sized garden where the women worked and the men were in the tobacco field. As enjoyable it is to have a nice big garden to tend to, I'm glad that I live in todays age where I have a water hose to water the garden rather than carrying a heavy water bucket back and forth from a water pump. Also, if my garden fails, there is always the grocery store.

When we arrived at the city, one of our first stops was the military encampment. I have no pictures of us being trained with our muskets, as the sergeant would have yelled at me if I stepped out of line. Haha. Our sergeant was very much in character and we had a good time (except George, I think he was feeling a bit intimidated so he just stood frozen in line). We then moved on to another part of the encampment where Bridget learned to wash clothes. The kids then picked fresh green beans from the garden for the soldiers.

There was so much to see and do and I stopped taking as many pictures so  that I could enjoy everything with the kids. We toured the capitol building, various shops, houses, and then finally the royal governor's palace.

Another highlight of the day in Williamsburg was this woman:

She played this Irish harp so beautifully and when Liam began watching her, she started playing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" for him. I could have listened to her play all day. I wonder how much one of these harps would cost so that I could have Bridget learn to play it for me. Wouldn't that be lovely!?

We spent a lot longer at Williamsburg that we thought we would, so we were unable to make it to Yorktown to finish our historical adventure. We did, however, drive on the Colonial Parkway toward Yorktown after dinner before we made the drive home.

Colonial Parkway, on the way to Yorktown.


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Friday, June 26, 2015

Week in Review 2015: #24 and #25




I've had Bridget do a lot of writing practice this week. She normally writes well (for a 5-year-old), but I noticed her penmanship looking a little lazy. So I sat with her and watched as she wrote every letter and made sure she was holding her pen correctly. Now she's back on track. Then I noticed she was writing all of her numbers backwards again. She knows how they're supposed to be but again had gotten lazy with it, so we worked on that again. Practice, practice, practice. Some days she doesn't mind, other days she complains.



We experimented with dilution using Kool-aid. It was very simple and fun. I love it when George gets to participate and learn something right along with his big sister.


We learned about Benjamin Franklin. Bridget was fascinated by all he did in his life, and so was I! I was familiar with his role in history, but I hadn't really studied him until now. Reading the picture-book biographies of him was just as much fun for me as it was for Bridget. I think I may have another favorite historical figure to add to my list.

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