My sister Amy had her baby!!  Their little baby girl was born around 3 'o clock in the morning on May 16th.  She weighs 6 lbs 9 oz and is 19 inches long.  (I believe those are the exact measurements that Seth was when he was born and he was a little guy, so she's pretty small too.)  The delivery was pretty rough on both mother and baby, but we are glad she is here and both she and Amy are doing well.  They named her Annika, but I'm not sure if that's the spelling they chose, so don't quote me on the spelling!  On to the pictures!  That's what you all really want to see anyway!!






Quilts and Cakes

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I have been up to my ears in fabric and quilt batting while in the process of making 4 blankets.  The first quilt is for my sister Amy.  She is having a baby girl in May and she has always made quilts for each niece and nephew, so I thought I'd return the thought for her.  We spent two days picking out fabric for it.  She wanted something sweet, but contemporary.  This is what we came up with:

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I appliqued some of the plainer squares with flowers and used minky fabric for a more textural blanket.  The picture is of the squares before I appliqued and sewed them together.  Since then I have sewn it and basted the layers together with the batting.  All that's left is quilting and binding. More pictures to come when it's done.

I had to put that blanket on hold when I found out about an opportunity to make blankets for Disney's "Give a Day, Get a Day" promotion that is going on this year.  Each member of the family had to make a blanket and Seth had to pick out fabric for one of the blankets.  He ended up helping me cut out and sew the newborn blanket we made too.

Here are the blankets we made:

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Here Seth is showing off his mad sewing skilz.  Actually, he sat on my lap while we sewed it together, but for the picture he had to go it alone.  This blanket is only 36"x36" and the organization we are donating it to sends this size to the babies in the NICU at Primary Children's hospital.   

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I really enjoyed making this quilt because it was so easy and yet is totally cute.  The fabric was printed with all the wavy stripes and I just used the walking foot James gave me for Christmas to follow the white lines between the stripes. When you first see the quilt it looks like I pieced it myself, but thankfully I didn't have to.  This whole quilt probably took about 3 hours.

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This quilt was my first attempt at free motion quilting.  It went really fast and it was not as hard as I thought it would be to move the quilt around under the needle.  This is the fabric that Seth picked out.  It's totally boy-a-licious. 

I need to work on my binding skills a little bit, because none of the binding were very fabulous. But it was really fun to make all of these and even better that they are going to such a good cause.  All of them go to hospitals or for police officers to keep in their cars for when kids need a little comfort from whatever situation they are in.  I plan on making a few more blankets over the course of the next year to donate as well.


Jacob turned four on Sunday and wanted an Orange Submarine birthday party.  One of the toys he's been coveting all year is an Imaginext submarine that is dark yellow (slightly orangey).  He had a friend party with his preschool friends and his cousin Caleb, for that party I attempted to make cake pops.  Which are cake and frosting all crumbled together to make a ball and then the ball is dipped into chocolate to form a hard coating.  These were a pain in the butt!  I don't know if I just did it wrong, but out of the 12 cake balls I had rolled, only 6 of them actually stayed on the stick when I dipped them. Then I couldn't get any of the decoration quite how I imagined them.  It was a valiant effort, but I don't think I'll be attempting these again any time soon.

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For his real birthday I made a submarine cake.  It turned out so cute.  I used marshmallow fondant and had much better success with it this time than the last time I used it.  I also made a cute shirt for Jacob to wear so he was totally matchy with his cake and his present. 

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Here are some more detailed views of the cake:

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James started a diet and I have been trying to help him (and me) eat a little bit healthier by making whole wheat bread with wheat from our food storage.  We use a mix of hard red, hard white and soft white wheat berries and grind them in the handy dandy electric wheat grinder that is who knows how old, but still works just fine.  Then I make this wonderful bread....

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Are you totally drooling yet?  Here's the recipe that I liberally adapted from the back of the Blue Chip Baker Dough Enhancer canister:

Easy Whole Wheat Bread

1 1/2 c.  Warm water
1 Tbsp. Yeast
1/3 cup Honey
6 c. Whole wheat flour (freshly ground if possible)
1 Tbsp. Salt
3 Tbsp. Vital Wheat Gluten
1 Tbsp. Blue Chip Baker Dough Enhancer
1/3 c. Cooking oil (vegetable, canola, etc.)

    Stir the yeast and honey into the warm water and let sit for about 5 mins until the yeast is dissolved and the mixture becomes frothy. 
    Put the flour into your Kitchen Aid mixing bowl (if you don't have a Kitchen Aid, simply erase the word "easy" from the title of this recipe and try and mix it by hand.  I've never tried it by hand so I can't tell you if it will turn out the same or not, but I can tell you it won't be nearly as easy :)! ) 
    Along with the flour add the salt, the wheat gluten, and the dough enhancer.  Give the mixture a few stirs to mix all the dry ingredients together.  The add the oil and honey-yeast mixture to the dry ingredients and mix on the 1st or 2nd setting on your mixer.  Mix until all the ingredients come together and form a ball.  Check the dough for stiffness or sticky-ness.  If it's too stiff add more water a little at a time, if it's too sticky add more flour a little at a time.  You want the dough to be slightly tacky, but not sticking to the sides of the bowl.  (I usually end up adding about 1/4 c. of water, but that's probably because I don't measure my flour very carefully.)  Once you get a nice consistency, knead the dough in your mixer for about 8 minutes. 
    When the dough is nice and smooth and somewhat elastic, take it out of the bowl, shape it into two loaves (or one loaf if you have a mondo loaf pan like mine), place the dough into greased loaf pans, cover loosely with a towel or plastic wrap and let it raise in a warm place for about 45 minutes.  Keep an eye on the dough after 30 minutes or so, because the last bit of raising goes really fast and it might raise too much. 
    While the dough is raising, heat your oven to 350 degrees.  When the dough has risen just slightly over the top of the loaf pans, pop them in the oven and cook for 30-40 minutes.
    Then sit back and enjoy the smell of freshly baked bread wafting through your house! 

I know that the Walmart's and Macey's in Utah are carrying the Vital Wheat gluten and the Dough enhancer that I use, and I also know you can order it online at The Blue Chip Group .

I recently completed one new project and one seriously overdue project and they both turned out fairly well. 

The new project was a desk for Jacob.  He's been asking me for a desk of his own since we started school at home for Seth.  I found the chair at the DI about a month and a half ago.  It was nice and retro and totally cute.  Plus it was only 4.00 which was awesome.  Of course every cute chair needs a great desk to go with it, so I started going to the DI two and three times every week to try and find that perfect piece.  There is an unwritten law that if you go to the DI when you are looking for something specific you are never going to find it.  The other problem I was having was that the chair seat is only 13 inches high, which meant that I had to find a desk short enough to go with it.  Finally, I struck gold.  I found an old school desk that was close to the right height and only 10.00.  The desk was a light grayish blue with maroon around the edge of the desk top.  It was not an appealing color combination for me.  So I broke out some orange spray paint and went to work.  There are two things I've learned from this project; first, is that you can't be impatient with spray paint and second, is that primer should be used when making dramatic color changes.  The paint job on the desk is not as perfect as I would want, I had some drips and the light blue seemed to come through no matter how many coats I put on (hence the primer lesson learned).  But as long as you don't look at it too closely it looks really cute.  Some day I may take it back out and give it another coat of paint, but I'm pretty sure that won't happen until spring time.  The desk is a tiny bit too high for the chair, so I am in the process of making a foam cushion to lift Jacob up one or two inches.  I wish I had taken a before picture, but I didn't, so you just get the fantastic finished project!  


The project that was severely overdue was painting some wooden shoes that my mom had given me a long time ago.  They were light blue too. (Hmm, maybe I have something against light blue.)  Along with being light blue, they used to have a design on them that had almost all been chipped away.  They looked pretty sad.  So this time with primer and spray paint in hand.  I gave the shoes a face lift just in time for my kids to put them out for Sinterklaas last night.  I'm really pleased with how they turned out.  One day I might get brave and paint a decoration or names on them or something, but I'm not confident enough in my skills just now to ruin the beautiful new paint.  My mom also gave me a new shoe last night for Lia, so I need to go out and paint that one too one of these days.  I just hope it doesn't take 5 years like the last four did. :)

Here's a before picture:
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Here's the after shot:
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Much cuter in red, don't you think?


Seth was asked by his teacher to turn in a sample of his writing.  The subject was what he did over the summer.  Even though it wasn't over the summer Seth decided to write about Yellowstone.  He dictated to me what he wanted to write and then he used my copy to write it for himself.  He did a great job.  I haven't heard anything from his teacher about it yet, but I think she will be pleased too.  I took pictures of the work, but I'm not sure if you'll be able read it or not.  After the pictures I'll type up what is written.



(On my trip to Yellowstone I saw lots of animals.  My favorite geyser was Old Faithful.  I went to the Grand Prismatic Hot Spring.  I did the Young Scientist program.  I got to use a laser thermometer.  Yellowstone was rockin' awesome.)


In Science class Seth has been learning all about Matter and its different states.  James has taken over teaching science which Seth loves!  He is always excited on Science days to have James come home for lunch or after dinner and the two of them go down and have an hour or so just to themselves. 
They've talked about liquids, solids, gases and molecules.  They've done experiments where they've frozen things, thawed things, and boiled things.  Seth built models of molecules using marshmallows to show how molecules look when they are in a solid, liquid or gas state. 




In History we have been learning all about the Ancient Egyptians.  It has been a great set of lessons for us.  We have been reading every age appropriate book on the subject that we can find.  I've been showing Seth pictures of the trip James and I took in 2002, when James' parents lived there.  Today we learned about the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt by King Narmer.  When the unification was complete Narmer combined the two crowns of Egypt.  The course material had us cut out the shapes of the two crowns and paste them together, but we took it a step further and actually made a crown that Seth could wear.  I used craft foam I had left over from Halloween last year and ta-da:


We had so much fun in our lesson today, we decided to push on to the next lesson which was all about hieroglyphics.  We learned about papyrus and Seth was actually able to look at and touch some real papyrus we brought home from Egypt.  Seth was also able to spell his name in hieroglyphics and then he did Jacob's name too.  I printed out some cartouches and we wrote his name again in royal style!  He liked it so much he even did some of his Phonics lesson in hieroglyphics (he spelled "pull" in hieroglyphs).  So, here he is...  Seth: the Pharaoh of the United Kingdoms of Ancient Egypt!


Isn't he cute!?! 


Seth continues to make good progress in math and his reading skills have improved astronomically.  I think he is finally starting to enjoy reading a little more, which is great!  I have realized as we have been in school a little over a month now, how much my attitude affects the way Seth feels about things.  I'm not much of a math person and I think he can tell.  Also there are days when I get frustrated and my patience is too thin and on those days it is hard for either of us to learn.  I am trying to get better at being more positive and patience. 

Jacob and Lia are cooperating fairly well with our school schedule.  Lia still takes two good naps during school time, and when she is awake she will hang out downstairs, getting into whatever she possibly can, but mostly being good.  Jacob participates in some of the lessons with us and I have also started him on making his very own alphabet book and teaching him some very beginning phonics.  He has been extremely clingy lately and I am wondering if it is because of how much time I need to spend with Seth for school.  James and I are working on trying to spend an hour or so exclusively with Jacob every night so that he doesn't feel too left out.  Jacob is also enjoying his neighborhood preschool and spending every Wednesday with his cousin Caleb. 

All in all, we are still loving our School at Home and are extremely happy with the results so far!

Yellowstone School

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This was the best school ever! 
We spent Labor Day weekend in Yellowstone National Park.  Friday we drove for about 6 hours and Seth and I did Phonics and Reading on the way.  On Saturday we headed over to the Old Faithful visitor center to sign Seth up for the Junior Ranger program and the Young Scientist program. 

For the Junior Ranger program Seth had to hike one of Yellowstone's trails, listen to a Ranger Talk, and complete several activity pages in the Junior Ranger book.  Right after we watched Old Faithful erupt, Seth was able to listen to a Ranger talk about how geysers erupt, so he completed one of the requirements for the Junior Ranger program right away. 


For the Young Scientist program he had to conduct an actual science experiment about whether geysers are alive or not.  We were able to check out a science tool kit that contained some rock samples, colored pencils and a laser thermometer.  Seth LOVED the thermometer.  We hiked around the Old Faithful geyser basin and Seth was able to measure the temperature of hot springs and geysers and even compare them to the cold temperature of the creek that runs through the basin.   For his science experiment he hypothesized that geysers and hot springs are alive.  First he had to figure out what around him was alive and what was not alive, then he had to observe some of the geysers and hot springs, he learned that even though geysers and hot springs are super hot that they can still support some life in the form of bacteria, so although the actual geyser is not alive things can live in it.  He also learned that different kinds of bacteria like different temperatures and that the beautiful colors that surround some hot springs and geysers are made up of the different kinds of bacteria.  When his experiment was done Seth turned in his tool kit and received his Young Scientist patch.  He had so much fun exploring and figuring things out.  I'm pretty sure he wished he could have taken that laser thermometer home with him.



Later that day we went to the Grand Prismatic Spring, which is one of the most famous springs at Yellowstone, because of rainbow of colors that surround it.  Seth was able to explain to me why there were so many colors and to guess how hot the water might be in each of the color rings.  It was a good review from our science project earlier in the day.


On Sunday we drove up to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.  There Seth was able to complete his hike for the Junior Ranger program as he hiked down a series of switchbacks to get to the lower water fall on the Yellowstone river.  At the end of the hike was an awesome view of the Canyon and Seth discovered why Yellowstone is called Yellowstone.  The canyon is walled by bright yellow rocks

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Next we headed up to Mammoth Hot Springs, Seth was able to read the map of Yellowstone and tell which direction we were going and I read him the map legend so he could identify different symbols on the map.  On the way we passed through Hayden Valley, where we saw hundreds of Buffalo just hanging out on either side of the road.  Seth had been keeping a tally of all the animals we saw in the park, but there were too many buffalo to count.   I think he just made tallies until he got tired of making them.  We still need to make a graph of the information that he collected. 

As we hiked around Mammoth Hot Springs, Seth saw more colorful bacteria and he also saw some springs that were no longer flowing so the bacteria had died leaving just white tiers of mineral deposits.  As we made our way back to our camp, we stopped at Tower Falls which is quite impressive in how far down the water falls.



While we were waiting for dinner that nigh Seth and I completed his Junior Ranger pages and talked about all we had learned over the last two days.  I was amazed at how much information he remembered. 

On Monday morning we went to the Grant Village Visitor Center and Seth received his Junior Ranger patch, he also learned about the huge fire that swept through Yellowstone in 1988.  We had seen a lot of burned trees and it was good for him to learn a little more about why they burned and what good can come out of a forest fire. 

As we drove home Monday afternoon we did a Math lesson and another Reading lesson.  It was a wonderful school weekend and the whole family learned a lot about Yellowstone. 

*As a side note*:  Last night Seth was over at my mom's house watching PBS when a show called Yellowstone Serenade came on.  The show is made up of pictures of Yellowstone set to classical music.  Seth was able to identify many of the landmarks, tell my mom why Yellowstone is called Yellowstone, and about the bacteria in the hot springs.  I guess the whole learning aspect of the trip was a success for him to remember all of that! 

Who knew?

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Who knew that Science would become Seth's favorite subject?  He likes Art too, dislikes Math and Phonics and tolerates History and Language Arts because we get to read cool stories sometimes.  Anyway, today our Science lesson was about using the Scientific Method to answer questions about the world.  It was really fun.  Seth had to find out if a popsicle would melt faster in the sun or in the shade.  His hypothesis was that it would melt faster in the shade, so we started our experiment to find out if he was right.  We put one popsicle on a plate in the sun and one in the shade.  Then we took pictures every ten minutes until one of them was completely melted. 

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Ten minutes turned out to be a little too long, because by the end of 20 minutes both popsicles were melted completely.  Luckily, we were able to make our conclusion from the pictures taken at the 10 minute mark and didn't have to do the whole thing again.  Seth was happy to know which popsicle melted more quickly, but was a little sad that his original hypothesis was wrong.  I had to explain very carefully that even real scientists are sometimes wrong and that is why scientists conduct experiments in the first place; to find out if they are right or wrong.  I think it ended up making sense to him.  We finished up by enjoying a non-melted popsicle.  Who knew Science could be so fun and so yummy?



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I have a couple of funny stories to share about Jacob.

The first one was two Sundays ago when I was smothering him with kisses.  He pushed me off and said "Stop Mom.  I hate kisses."   He then went on to say, "And I hate boobystraps (booby traps), baby soap and baby costumes."  It was so random and the boobystraps part had me rolling on the floor. 

The second one happened today when we were just about to eat lunch.  I was reading a Magic Treehouse book to the boys as part of school time and at the end of the book, the characters get home to a lunch of peanut butter sandwiches.  So I asked the boys if they'd like to have peanut butter sandwiches for lunch.  Seth said yes, but Jacob said, "I don't want a peanut butter sandwich, I want a Lucky Charm sandwich."  I had to ask him what exactly a Lucky Charm sandwich was made of.  His reply was, "Well, there's bread, and then you put Lucky Charms in the bread, and then you eat it."  While I made Seth's PB and J, I gave Jacob a piece of bread and he proceeded to make himself a Lucky Charm sandwich.  He ate almost all of it too, before deciding that it was "disgusting" and throwing it away.  I'm not sure he'll try it again, but the boy sure has a great imagination! 


School is Cool

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Today was the first official day of school.  Things have been working out pretty well so far.  Seth's school area is all decorated and mostly organized.  I'm still tweaking some of the organization things as we go along, but what is organized so far seems to be working well.  The only thing our classroom lacks is some overhead light.  I tried to wire in some track lighting, but another wire has to be pulled from the existing lights to work and we haven't torn that part of the basement ceiling down yet.  :(  The lighting we have works ok, but I would prefer for it to be a little brighter down there.


We start each day talking about the date, weather and about what order Seth wants his subjects to be taught.  Then we will say the Pledge of Allegiance and work on the poem we are memorizing for the month.  I might switch it to a poem every week though because Seth is extremely good at memorization.
Everything is magnetic so Seth can move things around and change the date and weather
(the flash blew out the "Subjects" label)

Then we get right into lessons.  Today we did Math, Science, Art, Phonics and Language Arts.  We also had a welcome assembly with the school.  They do nearly everything online and the assembly was no different.  The school uses an interactive classroom program called Elluminate.  It allows the teacher to talk to the students, the students can talk back or type questions, they can raise their virtual hands, tell the teacher if they are confused or if they understand, they can write on a virtual whiteboard and do problems with the teacher too.  It's a pretty cool setup. 

Math was fast and easy today, so it only took us about 20 minutes.  Seth's favorite subject so far, is Science because it is so hands on.  He has learned how to measure length in centimeters, mass in grams, and today we measured volume in milliliters.  This involved using a graduated cylinder and some water dyed blue, we took common household items (a measuring cup, an ice cream scoop, etc.), filled them up and then poured the contents into the cylinder.  Then Seth had to read the measurement and log his results.  It was pretty fun, but the table was soaked by the time we were done.  Art was all about using lines to draw things.  We talked about the different types of lines (i.e. wavy, zig-zag, diagonal, long, short) and then looked at some famous art work that was drawn using lines.  At the end Seth got to draw his very own picture using different kinds of lines.  In Phonics we reviewed the short o sound, reviewed and spelled sight words, did dictation and then read some sentences.  Language Arts was about writing sentences correctly; making sure the first letter is capitalized and that there is a punctuation mark at the end.  We also reviewed a story we read last week and did some critical thinking about what happened in the story.

We started the day at 9:00 and were done by 2:30, that included at least an hour for lunch and about a 15 minute recess before lunch.  So it wasn't too bad time wise.  If we hadn't had the assembly we would have been done at 1:30.  Seth is still supposed to do some reading tonight and I am planning to incorporate that into our traditional, nightly story time.  I also need to figure out how the school's handwriting program works, it's a separate curriculum and I'm not sure what to do with it yet.  I plan to study it tonight after the kids go to bed.    

Seth seems to love the work he's been doing.  We did some last week just to get a feel for things and yesterday (Sunday) he kept asking me if he could do some school work.  I feel so good that I am helping him learn and that he is getting such great one on one time with me as his teacher.

I'm still a little worried about what to do with Jacob and Lia while we have class.  Jacob is interested in some of the stuff we are doing and I let him help and mimic what Seth is doing as much as I can, but sometimes having him down there with us is a bit of a distraction for Seth.  Lia has been sick since Friday and is sleeping a lot, so she hasn't been too much of a hindrance so far.  I have some toys next to our classroom area and a portable DVD player so hopefully Jakes and Lia can find something to do while I'm helping Seth.  Jacob will also be attending a "Joy School" two days a week with some neighborhood kids, so that will free up a couple of hours where I can work exclusively with Seth.  Although, the weeks I am in charge of Joy school, will be extra hard instead of extra easy.


So that's our first day.  It went better than I could have hoped for and I am excited to see what we will learn about tomorrow! 

School at Home

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James and I have been disappointed with the school choices for Seth here in our neighborhood. We considered homeschooling but I didn't feel very qualified or organized to try homeschooling.  Yesterday, I was reading the blog of a relative who home schools and she mentioned that her kids had been in a state sponsored program and really enjoyed it.  I decided to check out if Utah offers something similar and opened a whole can of worms.  I started to research a charter school here called the Utah Virtual Academy.  The school allows parents to teach their kids at home with the support of accredited teachers and they provide all the cirriculum and supplies all for free because they are a public school. 

After looking at everything I could find about the school and the cirriculum online, James and I decided to try and get Seth enrolled.  We weren't very hopeful because it is so late in the year, but James called them to see if there were any openings and we were surprised that they were still enrolling.  I filled out the enrollment application online, and then I went to my mom's house to check out her new kitchen cabinets.  I asked her what her thoughts were on trying to homeschool Seth with this method.  The cirriculum the school uses is called K12 and my mom said that one of her students had used K12 and that his mom really liked it.  Then my sister, Marrisse, walked in and overheard us talking and she says, "I got a DVD in the mail from K12 today."  She had been thinking about homeschooling her kids at the beginning of the summer and had requested information from them then.  We decided to watch the DVD and while we were watching it Marrisse got a phone call from the Academy asking if she was still interested in the school.  So in one day I went from knowing nothing about K12 to having several encounters with it from different sources.

James and I attended an information session for the school this afternoon, we both felt really good about it and decided to give the program a shot.  I kind of feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders even though it's going to be a lot of work for me.  I hope I feel the same way when we are in the midst of the school year.  :)  I'm going to try and keep this blog updated regularly and let you know how the program is going and how Seth and I are enjoying it.  School starts on the 24th so wish me luck!