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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Just Playing

Fun craft! And it certainly doesn't have to be a Valentine's Day craft.

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Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day

Hearts for Valentine's Day.

This was a fun little project.

We took sheets of paper and painted all over the page, one side only. When we were done and sure our page was painted enough we folded the paper in half and mashed all the paint together, letting it blend and ooze. After opening the paper we let it dry and then cut the hearts out, using the fold-line we'd created as the fold line for the hearts (so they'd be the same on both halves). We cut two hearts of each specific size, mod-podged them together and then mod-podged the outsides.

The most fun thing was seeing what happened to our painted pages when the paper was folded (that and seeing the look on C.'s face when we told her to fold her pretty picture and mush it all together). The new colors and patterns were really neat.

The plan was to make strings full of hearts to hang from our kitchen light fixture but I didn't like the way it looked so I'm not sure what we'll do with them now ... maybe hang them from a different chandelier. In the meantime they're awfully fun to play with.

I must recommend these paints. We got a bunch of sets of them on clearance at an office supply store for 90% off, and we saw them at Sam's Club today for about $20 a set, more than I'd actually pay for them, but still they are really handy and after googling a bit it looks like they can be found for a good price.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Mr. Suave

Because I'm Me valentines ties for men and boys

Happy Wednesday.

There's still time to order Valentine's Day ties, available in the shop.

Ties ship within 1-3 days of the order being placed and are sent first class mail (with an option to upgrade to priority here) and generally arrive, within the US, within a week of ordering.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Purex + Make-A-Wish, and win free Purex laundry detergent

Purex Laundry Detergent provided me with Purex coupons in exchange for sharing the Purex Make-A-Wish Campaign. However, all the opinions expressed here are mine.

I'm super excited to share some news and a giveaway with you today.

Purex is teaming up with Make-A-Wish for the month of February and they're sponsoring the free detergent giveaway at the bottom of my post. Read on to get the scoop ...

Everyone is familiar with Make-A-Wish and the wonderful work they do with ill children. What I didn't know, though, is just how much work they do - a wish is granted every 38 minutes and in 2013 over 14,000 wishes were granted. And almost all the funds for these wishes (costing an average of $8,141) come from corporate and individual donations - that's $8141 x 14000 ... a whole lot of money. For more information on Make-A-Wish and the wishes asked for and granted visit their website at wish.org (bring a tissue ... the sweet kids and their wishes ... ).

I'm thrilled to share that Purex is giving $.05 to Make-A-Wish for the first 4 million bottles of 75oz+ liquid detergent sold from February 1 – February 28, 2014, and will increase the payment to $.10 for every bottle above 4 million, with a minimum guarantee of $200,000 up to a maximum of $300,000 and $.08 to Make-A-Wish for the first 620,000 bottles Classic and Ultra Lines in Mountain Breeze and Lavender fabric softeners sold from February 1 – February 28, 2014, and will increase the payment to $.10 for every bottle above 620,000, with a minimum guarantee of $50,000 up to a maximum of $100,000. More information can be found on the Purex website. Follow Purex on facebook as well. 

I purchased Purex Liquid Detergent a few months ago when there was an incredible deal on it at a local store. Normally I make my own powdered detergent and that's all well and good, but I don't think homemade is the way to go for really dirty clothes, especially camping clothes, and absolutely not the way to go for campfire scented clothes - they come out smelling a lot like when they went in. Hence the Purex purchase (and it was an incredible deal).

I have to say I've been quite impressed. The clothes smell good - no more aroma-de-campfire smoke, the campsite clothes come out looking as if they'd never been camping, and everything feels good. While Purex is less expensive than other brands it works just as well, there's absolutely no reason at all to spend more.

I will admit I had to read the Purex cap closely to figure out how much detergent to use, because it required much less per load than some of the other big brand detergents - as a happily frugal Mama I appreciated that, knowing the bottle would last longer.

And now the giveaway: I will be giving away (1) coupon for a free bottle of Purex Mountain Breeze detergent to 2 different winners, so you've got two opportunities to win! Good luck.


Please share this giveaway and great Purex promotion, and stock up on Purex - the more Purex buyers this February the better for Make-A-Wish and the kids and families they bless with wishes. Every bottle sold will help Make-A-Wish reach their so-important goal of being able to grant every wish requested of them.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Home Schooling Essentials: The Schedule

5 Days of Homeschooling EssentialsThis week I'll be posting some of my "home schooling essentials", a couple of the items that I can't live without when teaching the kids at home, as part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew's winter blog hop: 5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials. The items in my posts this week may seem very simple and some even silly and, yes, they are simple items. Home schooling, like life, is as simple or complicated as we choose to make it and I prefer to keep it simple. I know no magic secrets or products that make home schooling successful, but after many years of teaching at home I have found a few things that make my world flow well and I'm excited to share them to you. 

I keep two home school schedules - an annual one, listing my goals per child for the year, and a weekly one, listing what each child must do each week. These schedules are organized in my 1" binder, which is then kept in my bucket.

Because I'm Me home schooling essentials, the schedule and how it's organized

At the beginning of the year I sit down with The Well-Trained Mind and previous years schedules and write an annual plan. This plan gives me general parameters of what we will accomplish over the school year.

The annual schedule's used to be kept taped to a wall, but are now kept in a separate section of the weekly schedule binder so they're easy to look at, allowing me to see if we're staying on track or what I have planned to do next when we finish a book.

Because I'm Me home schooling essentials, the schedule and how it's organized

The annual schedule stays similar from child to child ... what Cassie did as a seventh grader is similar to what Adam is going this year. Having her schedule, and Ian's and Mia's, to refer to helps to keep the annual schedule writing pretty simple, and allows me to double check and be sure I'm not forgetting something I did with them that worked well.

After writing the annual schedule I can then proceed to write a weekly schedule.

Because I'm Me home schooling essentials, the schedule and how it's organized

Right now the weekly schedule is just for Adam and Kaden. River works closely with me, so I know what's he done. I don't believe he should have to do schoolwork at his age (not yet Kindergarten) so I work at his pace and keep it fun for him, and when he doesn't want to do school he doesn't have to.

Back to the schedule ... I started doing the schedule this way pre-divorce when both parents were teaching and needed to be on the same page, and wrote about it here. It allowed us both to quickly know what needed to be done and what had been done, and we could both easily work from the same schedule page.

Cassie worked very independently and, when given her schedule, would just barrel through it and have plenty of free time. Mia worked this way as well, but the boys prefer to be given a day at a time, not an entire week, so with them I go day by day.

The schedule lists exactly what they need to do in a given week. If I've checked everything off at the end of the week then I know they're done.

Like our other binders, the schedules are organized with the newest on top. I take this binder to our annual review, to show what we've been working on.

The schedule is not set in stone. I can add or subtract from it as needed. My goal is to get everything we set out to do done by the end of the year, and as long as we're on track to accomplish that then I don't sweat it when day-to-day issues come up that throw us off track. Allowing for give and take is part of the reason I don't write the schedule more than one week at a time.

If you have any questions about anything I mention this week feel free to ask.

Please visit these other Home School Review Crew members' post this week as they share their homeschooling essentials:
Shalynne @ Wonderfully Chaotic
Melanie @ A Year of Jubilee Reviews
Emilee @ Pea of Sweetness
Nikki @ Angels of Heart
Sara @ Embracing Destiny
Heather @ Only Passionate Curiosity
Jennifer @ Simblissity Cottage
Kathy @ Kathys Cluttered Mind
Annette @ A Net in Time

For even more terrific blog posts in the 5 Days of Home Schooling Essentials series click the image in the top left corner.

Throwback Thursday: Love-ly Inspiration (with tutorials)

Originally posted in January of 2011.

The site for the Valentine's pins is not currently working, but should be any day now.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Home Schooling Essentials: A Few of My Favorite Resource Books

5 Days of Homeschooling EssentialsThis week I'll be posting some of my "home schooling essentials", a couple of the items that I can't live without when teaching the kids at home, as part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew's winter blog hop: 5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials. The items in my posts this week may seem very simple and silly and, yes, they are simple items. Home schooling, like life, is as simple or complicated as we choose to make it and I prefer to keep it simple. I know no magic secrets or products that make home schooling successful, but after many years of teaching at home I have found a few things that make my world flow well and I'm excited to share them to you.

In my bucket are two books, The Well Trained Mind, a Guide to Classical Education at Home by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer (1999), and If You're Trying to Teach Kids How to Write, You've Gotta Have This Book! by Marjorie Frank (1979).

Because I'm Me Homeschooling Essentials - a few of my favorite resource books

These books are two of my most trusted resources and most well-worn "go to" books.

The Well-Trained Mind teaches using a classical approach, which I agree wholeheartedly with. The book lays out, in pretty good detail, how and what to teach each year. I've found the approach the Bauer's use to work very well with my family.

Because I'm Me Homeschooling Essentials - a few of my favorite resource books

The book is divided into three stages based on the age/grade of the children - grammar, logic, and rhetoric. Each fall I open the book to the section(s) we're in and re-read each chapter, coming up with my overall plan for the year. I deviate from the books suggestions often, but it acts as a excellent starting point and their recommendations, if followed, aid in developing a well-educated college-ready child.

The second book, If You're Trying To Teach Kids How To Write ... is my absolute favorite writing book. It takes the boring monotony out of writing and makes it fun. The book was written in 1979 and it shows - in the language, illustrations, and free thinking ideas. The book is just chock full of fun and creativity. I've written more elaborately about this book here - and I have to say my opinion hasn't changed in the three years since I wrote that original post.

Because I'm Me Homeschooling Essentials - a few of my favorite resource books

When I'm lacking for a creative writing prompt (we do creative writing every day) I open the book to a random page and grab an idea. We've written ransom notes, designed soup cans, laid on our back in the yard and written poetry, and created "wanted" posters for ourselves. No dry dull writing here!

Because of the frequency with which I turn to these books and the knowledge gained from them these two are a must on my "essentials" list.

*I linked to Amazon for these books. If you do decide to purchase one please consider doing so through someone who is an Amazon affiliate (I am not) so they can earn a little something from the sale.

Please visit these other Home School Review Crew members' post this week as they share their homeschooling essentials:
Shalynne @ Wonderfully Chaotic
Melanie @ A Year of Jubilee Reviews
Emilee @ Pea of Sweetness
Nikki @ Angels of Heart
Sara @ Embracing Destiny
Heather @ Only Passionate Curiosity
Jennifer @ Simblissity Cottage
Kathy @ Kathys Cluttered Mind
Annette @ A Net in Time

For even more terrific blog posts in the 5 Days of Home Schooling Essentials series click the image in the top left corner.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Home Schooling Essentials: Buckets

5 Days of Homeschooling EssentialsThis week I'll be posting some of my "home schooling essentials", a couple of the items that I can't live without when teaching the kids at home, as part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew's winter blog hop: 5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials. The items in my posts this week may seem very simple and some even silly and, yes, they are simple items. Home schooling, like life, is as simple or complicated as we choose to make it and I prefer to keep it simple. I know no magic secrets or products that make home schooling successful, but after many years of teaching at home I have found a few things that make my world flow well and I'm excited to share them to you.

Each home schooling child has a bucket. A square storage box or bin, rather than a sand bucket - but in our house, for some unknown reason, they're called buckets. As in, "Grab your bucket and let's get started on schoolwork."

Because I'm Me Homeschooling Essentials: Buckets, sharing what works for a larger homeschooling family

The buckets fit perfectly into my fantastic Ikea Expedit bookcase that lives in the dining room. While the dining room is an odd place to keep schoolwork it's close to the kitchen table and the pretty (at least when they were new) buckets, supposedly, hide the mess and look nice. I'm so embarrassed by the following photo, we clearly need some new buckets and the shelves are usually much more organized, but this is real life homeschooling and sometimes it's a mess ...

Because I'm Me Homeschooling Essentials: Buckets, sharing what works for a larger homeschooling family

Ok, moving on ... Each schooling child has a bucket. Actually, each child in the family has a bucket, even Cassie still has a bucket (mostly because she hasn't ever cleaned hers out). The buckets are in order by age so I always know who's bucket is where and can quickly toss things into the right bucket.

In their bucket the kids keep their binders. They have 1"-2" 3-ring binders for Language Arts, Math, Science, and History. Some years they have more binders than others, it just depends what we're working on. The binders are divided by topic - the Language Arts binder has a section for each different area we work in in that field, such as spelling, creative writing, and the various books and worksheets we use. Every week the kids are supposed to put their completed work into their binders, with the newest work on top. In theory, when it is time for our annual reviews we can just grab the bucket with the sorted binders and run out the door. In reality, this sorting and organizing happens 3-4 times a school year, with most of it being done the morning of our reviews. Even with our less than ideal end-of-year hustle we can get ready for reviews in an hour or two, because each child's work is already in their own space and we only have to sort by subject. After reviews the binders are emptied and all the work stored away, giving the kids clean empty binders for the next year.

Because I'm Me Homeschooling Essentials: Buckets, sharing what works for a larger homeschooling family
Adam had just finished organizing his bucket

Also in their buckets is the work they've just completed or are working on, as well as texts, pencils, calculators, and rulers.

Because I'm Me Homeschooling Essentials: Buckets, sharing what works for a larger homeschooling family
Kaden's bucket, below all this paperwork it's very organized, he's just hard at work

Each morning their buckets are brought out and they can get to work. There's no digging and searching for anything, it's all just there in their own buckets. Also, clean up at the end of the day is simplified as everything can go straight in their buckets until the next morning.

Because I'm Me Homeschooling Essentials: Buckets, sharing what works for a larger homeschooling family

I too have a bucket. My bucket contains the answer books for their texts, joint books the kids are using such as History and Science texts, the schedule binder (more on that later this week), some of my favorite idea books (also to be discussed in more detail later), my "must have" writing utensils, some of River's workbooks, and, and I give River the credit for this one because I have no idea where it came from, quite a bit of glue.

Because I'm Me Homeschooling Essentials: Buckets, sharing what works for a larger homeschooling family

Each morning my bucket comes out and sits next to me. Everything I need is right there with me.

We've used the buckets for about six years. Before that we used a kitchen island and everything got stacked with each child having their own pile. The island was wide enough for 3 children's work. When Adam reached school age a new plan became absolutely necessary or schoolwork was going to be all over the place, and that plan was the bucket system. It has worked wonderfully for us.

If you have any questions about anything I mention this week feel free to ask.

Please visit these other Home School Review Crew members' post this week as they share their homeschooling essentials:
Shalynne @ Wonderfully Chaotic
Melanie @ A Year of Jubilee Reviews
Emilee @ Pea of Sweetness
Nikki @ Angels of Heart
Sara @ Embracing Destiny
Heather @ Only Passionate Curiosity
Jennifer @ Simblissity Cottage
Kathy @ Kathys Cluttered Mind
Annette @ A Net in Time

For even more terrific blog posts in the 5 Days of Home Schooling Essentials series click the image in the top left corner.

Stash Busting: Pajama and Play Pants

Because I'm Me stash-busting sew your own boys flannel pajama and play pants

Time for a little fun sewing. Mixed in with some stash busting.

Because I'm Me stash-busting sew your own boys flannel pajama and play pants

While on our last camping trip I realized, as I was taking pictures, that River was roaming around the campground in his pajamas. I have no problem with that, at all, but thought he might appreciate some comfy flannel sleep "pants" rather than knit "legging looking" bottoms to do his exploring in.

Because I'm Me stash-busting sew your own boys flannel pajama and play pants

I have quite a bit of flannel hanging out on my shelves. It's not a fabric I use for ties so it tends to just sit there. Time to dig on in and make a dent in it.

Because I'm Me stash-busting sew your own boys flannel pajama and play pants

I did consider making pants for some of the other kids, but River is the only one little enough to wear a pair of pants squeezed out of just one yard of fabric, which is what I had of these.

I do have some fun girlier flannel in 2 yard pieces that I make make into pants for Mia.

Because I'm Me stash-busting sew your own boys flannel pajama and play pants

I didn't use a pattern for these pants Instead I simply traced a pair of pajama pants he already owned, adding an inch or so to the top, bottom, and sides, to allow room for the seams and room for him to grow.

I opted to not put pockets in these pants. In hindsight I think pockets would have been a good idea - this boy, like every boy, always has a pocket full of treasure.

Because I'm Me stash-busting sew your own boys flannel pajama and play pants

I added a coordinating fabric to the hem of one pair of pants, just to add a little character and fun to them.

Because I'm Me stash-busting sew your own boys flannel pajama and play pants

To put the pants together I sewed the front and back crotch seams, then the inside leg seam (one long continuous seam), the pant hems, and finished with the waistband.

Because I'm Me stash-busting sew your own boys flannel pajama and play pants

I don't have a serger (I wish!) so I sewed the pants with french seams.

Total sewing time for the two pairs of pants: About an hour.

Because I'm Me stash-busting sew your own boys flannel pajama and play pants

These pants will be great for camping, perfect for evening s'more sessions, late night trips to the potty, and morning exploration adventures.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Home Schooling Essentials: Writing Utensils

5 Days of Homeschooling EssentialsThis week I'll be posting some of my "home schooling essentials", a couple of the items that I can't live without when teaching the kids at home, as part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew's winter blog hop: 5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials. The items in my posts this week may seem very simple and silly and, yes, they are simple items. Home schooling, like life, is as simple or complicated as we choose to make it and I prefer to keep it simple. I know no magic secrets or products that make home schooling successful, but after many years of teaching at home I have found a few things that make my world flow well and I'm excited to share them to you.

Every morning, after getting my bucket, I grab my writing instruments - a black or blue ink ballpoint pen (preferably a nice one ... I love a nice good pen but so do my children, so typically I find myself with something basic grabbed at a back-to-school sale), a red ink ballpoint pen, and a yellow highlighter. I also grab my water bottle and phone, but it's the writing instruments that I absolutely must have to get into my groove.

Because I'm Me Homeschooling Essentials: Writing Instruments, sharing what works for a larger homeschooling family

The black or blue pen is used to write the schedule on Monday morning. I also use it throughout the week to take care of my business stuff and notes for myself. When the boys have questions and need help with their work this is the go-to pen for math examples.

The red pen is for checking. The majority of our schoolwork is still done with pencil on paper, the boys have a few online classes but 85% of their work is done at the kitchen table with pencil to paper. All mistakes are circled and all must be corrected. Yes, much to the dismay of my children, they do all their work until it's correct, and I just keep circling until they do. The red pen is also used to check off work on the schedule, it stands out from the blue/black the schedule was written in so I can easily glance and see what's done. I also use the red pen to put a checkmark on their completed work. This way if I forget to check something off on the schedule they can show me, easily, that they did the work.

The yellow highlighter is for my green-brown-red colorblind child (the three youngest boys all have varying colorblindness issues - if you play "I Spy" with them don't let them pick anything red or green ... just saying). I can circle his math errors til my red pen runs out of ink, but he still won't easily see it. He sees the shape, but he also circles his problem numbers and answers, so my red circles just blend in with his pencil circles. As a result, all his mistakes or things he needs to be aware of are circled and highlighted.

So there you have it, as simple as it sounds those three pens are very essential to me and I do not sit down and begin the home schooling day at the kitchen table without them.

Please visit these other Home School Review Crew members' post this week as they share their homeschooling essentials:
Shalynne @ Wonderfully Chaotic
Melanie @ A Year of Jubilee Reviews
Emilee @ Pea of Sweetness
Nikki @ Angels of Heart
Sara @ Embracing Destiny
Heather @ Only Passionate Curiosity
Jennifer @ Simblissity Cottage
Kathy @ Kathys Cluttered Mind
Annette @ A Net in Time

For even more terrific blog posts in the 5 Days of Home Schooling Essentials series click the image in the top left corner.

Crosses and Fishes



This very sweet tie has been added to the shop, in both a bow tie and a necktie for boys.


I see it at confirmation, baptism, first communion, and Sunday church. A perfect complement for any occasion, with such a versatile color palate.


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Valentine's Daycare Craft

Originally posted February of 2011, back when the daycare was going strong. This was an unbelievably easy fun project, so much so that we might do it again this year. ♥
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This is the best craft ever. Today.

Because I'm Me easy and fun Valentine's Day craft for preschoolers and toddlers


This is the paper towel (or toilet paper) heart craft I mentioned the other day.  I got the idea from this wonderful tutorial.

The little ones who made these ranged in age from 1 to 4. I put different shades of red paint on paper plates and let them have at it with their heart shaped toilet paper rolls (I shaped the entire roll, so they could use the top or bottom). They had absolutely no problem at all dipping and painting on their owns. Every once in a while I'd switch the plates around so they'd have different colors to work with.  Most of the time, though, I had the pleasure of just sitting back and watching them create.

My oldest son turned from his schoolwork at one point and said, "That's really very cool."

Tomorrow we'll cut them into big hearts and glue them on red paper for their parents.

Valentine's Daycare Project from Because I'm Me, super simple craft for kids of all ages

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Suspenders Are In the Shop

Boys Suspenders from Because I'm Me

Suspenders are now available in the shop.

Turn around time will be a little longer than standard 1-3 days ... the hardware for the straps is on the way to the shop and until it arrives I only have enough sets to make a few pairs.

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