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We’ve been experimenting with dual Montessori trays for our 4.5 year old and our 20 month old. I set them up the night before, and I try to use Montessori trays 2-3 times a week as a start to our morning.

Eric (20 months) is doing very well with the trays, proving that starting the trays at a younger age than we did with Katie is definitely a good idea for him. He is excited when he sees the trays set up, and so far, he has risen to the level of dexterity required for each task.

In this dual tray set-up, Eric started with the “matching-lids-to-jars” tray and Katie worked on a  water transfer with two glass milk bottles, water, and a baster. Eric LOVED his first tray, and he put the lids on and off several times. We took the natural opportunity to work on the words “off” and “on” and we also arranged the lids by size and worked on our comparative words.

After a time, the kiddos switched trays. It has worked out so far that I start Eric on the easier tray first and Katie on the more challenging tray. I believe that Eric benefits from watching his sister work on the more challenging tray, before he has his turn.

Today’s trays included a station to make bubbles with dish soap, water, and a whisk. This tray required water pouring skills, also, as well as pumping skills. The second tray made use of an old parmesan cheese container and q-tips. The object was to insert the q-tips through the little holes in the top.

Eric understood what to do right away.

Katie whisks her bubbles.

Working in parallel


This morning we also officially started our “Monsters and Imagination” unit.

After the Montessori trays, the kiddos had breakfast while I introduced them to our guiding questions (yes, I will always be a high school English teacher at heart) for our unit: 1) What is good about having an imagination? What is not so good?; 2) What is the difference between having fun and making mischief? 3) How do you know the difference between real and make-believe? I got the idea for the last two from some wording I ran into online, but I cannot remember the source…Our main text for this unit is Where the Wild Things Are, and we’re also focusing on The Monster at the End of this Book (thanks Tom and Delynn for guiding me toward this one!), There’s a Nightmare in my Closet and Berenstain Bears in the Dark. We’ll use some other sources as well, as well as clips from Sesame Street (new and old) and Monsters, Inc. and Nightmare Before Christmas.

Then we filled in our two-sided chart with ideas for 1) Things monsters do… (verbs) and 2) Words to describe monsters… (adjectives)

Then we had a great discussion! We brainstormed as many “famous” monsters and kinds of monsters (zombies, swamp, etc) we could think of. About the time that Katie brought up Voldemort as a kind of monster (we read all of Harry Potter together last year), we started probing more deeply about what makes a monster a monster. Are they human? We wondered. Or are monsters always slightly removed in some way from being human? (Dead, a wizard who has split apart his soul, made from slugs and bugs, even an alien–Katie brought up Jabba the Hut). I also asked her about “good” monsters (she named all the Sesame Street monsters that came to mind) and also Sully and Mike, as well as the monster from There’s a Nightmare in my Closet. This last one led to my question, “How does the author let us know that that monster is actually good?” (He cries). We talked about how crying is a distinctive human feature, where our tear ducts are, and all the reasons why we might cry, most importantly, out of empathy. “Do  bad monsters feel empathy?” The discussion got thoughtful and deep fairly quickly.

While I cleaned up breakfast, Eric colored the letter “E” and Katie did three pages of work involving the counting of pennies and nickels.

Then we blew the train whistle for circle time, went into the living room, and sat by our new calendar system. We LOVE IT. Such structure, such a visual. It is already improving our homeschool experience and our understanding of the way time passes. We started our “Thought of the Week” yesterday and today we worked more on memorizing it. Our “Question of the Day” focused on money: how do we get it? what do we use it for?” Good discussion there, too. Both kiddos helped to change our weather card and moon phase (waxing crescent) card today.

Then we sang some monster songs that I found online. Their favorite was to the tune of “Johnny Comes Marching Home”: “The monsters stomp around the house/Boom, boom! Boom, boom!” etc. We started making up our own verses, including a chase and tickle verse that got the kiddos (and me) moving all over the downstairs. Fun time!

We also played “The Monster Mash” (a favorite from October this year) and read some books.

That was it for our morning session, because we had an errand to do. After lunch and nap and a bathroom clean, Katie and I had our second session. We used this quiet time to work exclusively on reading. A little everyday (or most everyday) has really been helping. I was also able to make dinner off and on while I set her small word family exercises in between reading practice.

A great day of homeschool!

One of the main goals of the McGaugh Academy for this school year has been to launch Katie into literacy and to build a solid phonics-awareness base for her well before she reaches Kindergarten next year. Our objectives focused on short vowel sounds, beginning phonemes, and a sight words.

Now at 4.5 years old, Katie is handling words quite capably. The process of learning to read English is long and nuanced, but her progress excites me and gives me confidence in the efficacy of our homeschool.

Reading to Daddy

The long “i” book is more complicated than the first selection.

And just in case these videos don’t work or play correctly, here are some stills:

Katie read three of her learning-to-read books (actually the very books I used in Kindergarten at Friends Christian many years ago when I was a bit older than she is) to her Daddy tonight after dinner. She chose the book focused on the short “a” sound, the book highlighting the “long i” sound, and the book showcasing the short “e” sound.

We are thrilled, of course, and it makes me feel much more assured heading into “official” homeschool Kinder curriculum next year. Teaching our daughter how to read has seemed like a HUGE milestone/hurdle to me. We have a long way to go, but now at least I have more faith in myself that I can really do this.

Katie, too, seems to be understanding how much freedom comes with literacy. She wants to be able to read everything, and I see a hunger for it that is alive and well in her.

So my friend Steve sent along these pictures from his camera, taken last Saturday during our mini-we-still-need-Marguerite-reunion.

The amazing thing? These were all taken by his son Alex. Alex is going to be three years old in June… This little guy can already do subtraction (partly in his head, too—yes, I witnessed this), so I am not surprised that he can also take centered, clear pictures! They are just so good, I had to share!

This was how Alex saw us on Saturday:

Training children to be the photographers of our group shots is a great idea! Thanks, Alex!

Rosa and Baby Nolan

Nolan visits with Emily

Next time Beyonce asks, “Who run the world?” I have my answer. That’s right: Rosa run the world. 😉

Laughter at lunch

Little Alex was sitting right across from us at lunch

Marguerite, we missed you today. Somehow, somewhere, we will all be in the same place again at the same moment.

This morning the kiddos and I drove over to the Los Angeles area to visit with Rosa, Emily, and Steve at Rosa’s house. She made a delicious warm pasta salad, and all of us brought something to go along with it.

Although we have spoken on the phone and e-mailed, it has actually been a couple of years since I’ve seen Steve in person. Carol and their new little girl Abby were at another function, but Steve brought Alex to visit. The last time I saw Alex (to the Bay Area), he was still in his early infancy.

Steve and I first met when we were 14-years-old and in the 9th grade, at a meeting in Mr. May’s room for Academic Decathlon. We had come from different middle schools, and we had so much in common. Over the years, we were in several clubs and classes together and became fast friends. I love his sense of humor, his sarcastic wit, and his analytical mind. Seeing him today was a true pleasure, and sitting with my friends, I had one moment where I wished we could spend one day back in time all together in high school again. We’ve had so many adventures together since then, but I would love to go back in time and just hug them all a little tighter when they were their 18-year-old selves.

Steve, now a lawyer, entertained us with tales of his work, and Emily and Steve reminisced about Steve’s bachelor party (Emily was Steve’s Best Woman for his wedding). Steve also brought an album of his high school photographs—some of them I remembered looking at long ago. Where does the time go? That seems to be a theme of my life lately. I need to scan many more of my high school pictures and get them online, but here are a few:

Emily, David, me, and Steve: summer mornings playing tennis followed by Axis and Allies.

Graduation from TVHS, 1998: Ryan, Angie, me, Steve, Victoria, Jenny, and Marguerite

Goodbye breakfast with Rosa before we part for college, at the old Rocky Cola’s.

Sacramento, State level Mock Trial competition: still one of my favorite pictures ever.

Angie, me, Emily, Rosa, and Michelle for graduation practice

I definitely, definitely need to work on digitalizing my whole collection…

Today we played with the kiddos, ate lunch, talked, reminisced, caught up, and everything went way too quickly but I am so glad for it all.

Emily, Rosa, three kiddos, and Steve

Forever friends

Steve shows Katie something

Eric and Alex play

I am having a difficult time capturing all of my thoughts tonight as I sit to write this blog entry. Partly, I am very tired and the words aren’t coming out quite right. But partly, too, I feel the deep vibration of emotion this evening, thinking about all of my friends and the passage of time. What a golden time we lived in, in high school, when we could have each other present everyday, when life was truly lived all together. Such a gift that was, such a time it was. I hope I truly appreciated it then as much as I do now—I suspect I did not, if only because when we are 17 and 18 we have a tendency to think things will go on just as they are, forever. Now I realize how truly lucky we are all to be still in each other’s lives and thoughts. At the very moment when we are all living different places and leading different lives, I find myself most craving the chances to make new memories with everyone.

I’ll leave off with lyrics from Anna Nalick’s “Breathe.”

‘Cause you can’t jump the track, we’re like cars on a cable
And life’s like an hourglass, glued to the table
No one can find the rewind button girl,
So cradle your head in your hands
And breathe, just breathe…

I am just so thankful for days like today.

I am deeply indebted to the amazing stay-at-home and homeschooling mom Mari-Ann of Counting Coconuts. She is s certified Montessori teacher, who now stays at home and schools her own two children on the island of Bermuda. I love her blog and have found inspiration in it during this, our first official homeschooling year. As we head into our “Kindergarten” year (although we’ve mainly been working on Kindergarten state standards this year), we are so excited about our new calendar system—which is completely Mari-Ann’s brainchild. I contributed no original thought to this, other than to change one of the pockets to suit our need for weekly memory work.

Interestingly, I never encountered this calendar by reading her blog: I never went back that far in Mari-Ann’s archives. Instead, her idea came to me by way of Pinterest. And just in time, too! I’ve been comparing and contrasting and pricing school calendars for many months and have found none that fit everything we need/want. Mari-Ann’s creation solved my dilemma, and I worked on making one of my own this week.

Here is our new calendar:

Features include:

1) Calendar with changeable-by-month dates (although Mari-Ann made her twelve sets with clip art, I purchased both the calendar and twelve different date sets from the teacher supply store). To use the calendar, I have an ornament (this month, an Easter basket) hanging from the push pins. Katie moves the ornament to the correct day each morning.

2) Seven colorful library pockets underneath the calendar are  labeled with the days of the week and are used to keep track of “today,” “tomorrow,” and “yesterday” with labeled wooden markers (library pockets and wooden markers were at the teacher supply store).

3) Two library pockets on the side of the calendar are labeled “Question of the Day” and “Thought of the Week.” I am planning on rolling these out at the start of next week. The “Thought of the Week” is my own creation, and I left a space to the side of that pocket to pin up the “Thought of the Week.” We’ll practice it daily and try to have it memorized by week’s end.

4) Up at the top is the month and the year (I had a party with my laminating machine this weekend)!

5) To the left side is a list of all the months, to rehearse every morning.

6) There is a space to change laminated cards showing the phase of the moon (I got those from Montessori Print Shop and laminated them).

7) Next to the moon phase space is a place to change the daily weather (made here and laminated).

8) We also keep track of the seasons, using four apple tree pictures I found online and laminated. We did a big project at the start of this year—which we have kept hanging up as a reference—on the way an apple tree progresses through the seasons, so I thought this would be highly relatable for Katie.

* I bought the cork board through Amazon.

Katie organizes her wooden markers, placing the “tomorrow” marker into the “Saturday” pocket.

We have an early roll-out time on Friday mornings for our music class (new term started today!), so we didn’t have a full circle time this morning. We did test out our new calendar/circle time routine yesterday, though. We worked through all the places on the calendar, and then we had songs and reading before heading off to the Rose Haven (see post below). I love, love, love teaching my kiddos!

We have this calendar hanging in our living room, as that was the only room with enough wall space to accommodate it. I’ve actually thought about turning the entire living room into our classroom space… We’ll see…. Right now, we love having our circle time in the bright light that comes in through the living room windows in the morning. Homeschooling certainly is an adventure, and it really does become integrated with everything we do. It is a full time job, and then some. Fortunately, I find that my passion for teaching my children has only increased. Plus, I love a good challenge. 😉

So, a big thank you to Mari-Ann of Counting Coconuts for solving my calendar dilemma! I am so glad that we have it up and running with months to spare before Kindergarten commences!


The kiddos and I recently brainstormed a collection of little adventures we want to have around town this spring (pack a picnic or get Golden Spoon frozen yogurt and take it to a park, watch the machines work at the hospital construction site, etc). We made an attempt at the construction site a couple of days ago, but we happened to go right when none of the big machines were in use. Part of the fun now will be trying again! I love being with my little people and watching them discover the world. There is magic all over the place if we look for it.

Katie wanted to visit the Rose Haven Heritage Garden again, now that all the roses are springing back into bloom. It really is the simple beauties that make life so full. The garden is tucked away between an old-fashioned ranch house with cactus and wagon wheels and horses on the one side, and a small street with a house that owns several alpacas on the other. It is a quiet and serene place, with the Temecula breeze coming through the hills.

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My parents gave me the kind of childhood that Emerson would have loved: equal parts books and nature. I can see why I often feel so close to Emerson/the transcendentalists philosophically: days spent running wild and creative and free on the bank of our backyard puts a sort of spirit into a person. I used to play almost daily with the Cardinale brothers. We built forts (“bases”), created working booby traps, climbed trees, had whole little worlds in our wide outdoors. We biked in the fresh air, we hollered and whooped, we ate my mom’s chocolate covered popcorn trail mix sitting on a low tree limbs, we played with chickens, we chased and caught bees, and we hunted lizards. We played and created and wondered, and when it was time to go inside for the night, I hunkered down with my books and polished off several in a week, wrote in my journals, wrote stories, wrote poems, sang songs, drew fashions/clothes, and sometimes, played “banker” or “nurse.” These were the best days of my childhood, and the essence of who I feel I am at age 32. Part tomboy, part girly-girl, but really, just me.

This afternoon, Eric discovered all the joys lizards bring.

Boppa caught a lizard for Eric, and Eric wanted to take it for a ride in his green alligator wagon. Eric had the orange top down from the get-go (he knew that the lizard could get out otherwise), but he had opened it up to have it say hello to Bill.

And then, that lizard escaped! See it on the back of the wagon?

Can Mommy catch it?

Yes! I think I surprised even Bill with this skill set… He’s never seen me catch a lizard before (funny how lizard catching doesn’t always come up in early married years). He happened to be taking pictures of all of this. Nice to know I can still surprise him!

The lizard had a blue neck and a soft belly…lizards are beautiful creatures, definitely. I love their speed, their feet, and tails.

There you go, Mr. Lizard. Stay in the wagon this time!

Eric takes Mr. Lizard for more of a ride… Eventually we let him go in the garden.

It was cute that Eric wanted to take it for a wagon ride. Sweet boy.

With our homeschool schedule (which can be flexible if we need a travel day to see family), Tuesdays and Thursdays are errands/clean/review/play days: days essentially to get caught up on the many other responsibilities of running a household. We had reading time and errands this morning, followed by lunch and nap (for Eric). While Eric napped, Katie worked on review/practice assignments that she could do totally on her own while I vacuumed, tidied up, put away groceries from Costco, and ran around as quickly as possible. Two of her fairy books came in the mail, so she also spent time looking at those. It turned out we even had time to start reading one of the new books before Eric woke up.

Then she made a fairy potion outside while I adjusted the straps on Eric’s car seat. Inside again, we used some oranges from a friend of my dad’s to make freshly squeezed orange juice pops to freeze for tomorrow’s afternoon/afternap/after school recess. We also made our new favorite healthy treat: smoothie granita. It’s not really a true granita, but that’s what we’re calling it because of its consistency and how, when it gets really hard, we fluff it with a fork before eating it. We whizz up the following in our blender: a variety of berries (usually fresh, but today I bought a huge frozen pack of mixed berries from Costco and added my own strawberries), 0% fat Greek yogurt, bananas, 2% fat milk, and a drizzle of honey. That’s it. Not a bunch of sugar, really low in fat. It freezes up  in a big tupperware, and the kiddos think it is ice cream—and are just as excited. I put a few mini chocolate chips on it and a dusting of coconut. They LOVE it. We’ve already made our second big batch, and it is cost effective, too. I discovered this by accident a week ago when making homemade yogurt berry pops. I had extra that wouldn’t fit into my molds, so I just froze it to see if we could make a dessert out of it. Now we’ve got a new springtime treat!

Then when Eric woke up, we made lemonade:

Right as we finished making it, my parents came over. The kiddos wanted a lemonade slushy, so the blender came back out. Blended with ice, the lemonade had the taste and feel of the lemonade slushies we can get at Disneyland. We took them into the back yard and kicked balls, used the swings, and read with Amie. We also played “fairy chase” and had a little water fight. Walking around the yard on a spring afternoon with our lemonade slushies had some magic to it, definitely.

While I finished making dinner (roasted chicken from Costco—so easy!, roasted haricots verts and onions, strawberries cut into hearts, and baked potatoes), Eric and Boppa investigated circuits and Amie and Katie played “library” with one of the spare library pockets that I bought to make that calendar I posted about a few days ago. They used a 3 X 5 to insert in the pocket, and they also made library cards.

Boppa and Eric playing with the circuit. When the switch is thrown, a bell sounds. Boppa made this—awesome. Eric started saying, “Ding! Ding!”

Then Katie helped to set our outdoor table (she decided to wrap forks in her princess napkins and secured them with pipe cleaners—inventive), and she decorated the table with a basket of leaves and got glasses of water for herself and Eric. My parents stayed to visit while we ate outside, watching the twilight and looking at the glow of the sun on the new tree buds. Oh, Spring. I often think of myself as loving the autumn best, but when it really comes down to it, I savor all of the different seasons and the way we are different with them. We know it is springtime when the lemonade comes out, when the days are longer, and the weather is warm enough for dinners outside. Each season has special hallmarks, now, for us as a family, and I just relish fully inhabiting each phase of the year. We know that blueberry picking time is coming, and the month of fairies. Roses are blooming again in the city’s rose garden. Special Mother’s Day Weekend dates with each child one-on-one await us happily in May. We have been enjoying these past few weeks of gardening and watching new life (birds, baby lizards, tree buds) become part of the cycle in our yard. This is a magic time, and I am so grateful to be a part of it.

It has been awhile since I’ve posted a true “McGaugh Academy” update. We are not in a big unit right now, although I am gearing up for a “monster and imagination” unit soon. (I was going to do a space unit, but I decided to anchor myself to literature instead—always the planning method that works best for me in big units. We’ll be using “Where the Wild Things Are” as our main text—one that I can differentiate easily for both kiddos—along with supplemental works). Katie and I have been working hard most days while Eric naps in the afternoon, and we’ve been making progress in her literacy, her ability to tell time, and her counting of money and addition.

The drawback to saving most of our work for Eric’s nap time is that she and I are both more tired ourselves by then, and Eric misses out on some of the more formal “school time” (although we do learning play and reading together in the mornings). I want to return to the structure we were using for all of the autumn, with most schooling in the morning and differentiated lessons. It takes more work, but it is worth it. I can only hope that it will get easier and easier as Eric grows older and can do more activities on his own, just as Katie can now.

I am also reminded that it serves everyone better when I lay out and prep everything the night before. I’ve been winging it a bit lately—and that works—but it is not as efficient. So last night I hauled myself out of bed at 9:44 (I had been lying there thinking about leaving the prep until the morning), and laid everything out including the “opening activity” at their table places. For us, it makes a difference. It takes the guess work out of getting started for the day.  It means I’m accountable, too: it means, for example, that I don’t have a thought about putting on the DVR’d American Idol from the night before and postponing our start time. Accountability is a good thing for me, a great virtue for all three of us. The kiddos know they can work on their opening activity while I prep breakfast.

Today, Katie and Eric colored houses with lines on which to write our home address. I had written Eric’s in for him; Katie traced hers (that way I don’t have to stand right there and spell our street for her while I am prepping breakfast). Katie cut out her house all on her own; I helped Eric with his. We also cut the door to be a flap, so that when we pasted it down (both kiddos worked on that), we could paste a picture of themselves underneath the door that really opens…

Each kiddo has a journal. When Katie lifts up her flap, she sees herself in her house. She told me she was coloring “stained glass windows” today. Eric is inside of his house. For the purposes of this blog, I blocked out the place where they wrote our address, but it is on the roof of each house. This is a fun way to review their address with them.

Each of them took a turn misting the classroom terrarium with water:

They both worked on a separate journal entry:

Eric and I looked through magazines and cut out “red” objects. I helped with the scissors, but he is starting to understand what they do. He liked pasting the pictures down.

And Katie and I worked on a poem/imagery journal entry. I used “Fog” by Carl Sandburg:

The fog comes/on little cat feet./ It sits looking/over harbour and city/on silent haunches/and then moves on. 

There is not too much rhyme nor reason to my picking this poem (I don’t like that—there are better ways to plan, and I am hard on myself when our studies lack thematic cohesion), other than we’re in a middle of a light, light, light and quick series about weather fairies. We’re so heavy and meaty with our literature much of the time, and we found these books at the paperback shack the other day. She loves this particular fairy series (there are different sets: Rainbow Fairies, Weather Fairies, and Jewel Fairies). We all like lighter books sometimes, and I figure I am promoting the joy of reading. I can read them to her in two sittings, and there are seven of them. We’re on the 5th one in this series: the Mist Fairy.

We talked about what we knew about cats beforehand, and we defined “haunches.” We talked about watching the cat who comes to visit our yard, and how it darts so quietly away when it sees us. Then we read the poem and talked about it three or four times. Then we brainstormed how to illustrate the poem and the poem’s imagery. She decided to draw and city and a harbor (she knew that that was from other books) and to surround it by fog. We looked for a cat in a magazine and found the perfect grey one. It is not visible in the picture I have up here, but she drew just a hint of the sun (her idea) which, she said, showed that the fog/cat creeps away at the end. That was cool… I took that as a sign that she “got” this activity. After she drew her “skyscrapers” and harbor and surrounded it with grey, we glued down the cat. Then we wrote lines from the poem (I read it again) on places in the picture that matched the imagery—according to Katie). We also wrote some of her own interpretations around the scene: “mist” and “a quiet scene” (she used the word “silent” as evidence for this—we talked about the importance of  textual evidence), and “slowly wanders away” and “pitter-patter.”

This would be a GREAT poem to use in a weather unit; alas, I was not that organized with it. But I am on top of the poetry selection process for our “monster and imagination” unit!

We also love morning RECESS!

(And yes, my kiddos were in their jammies until shortly before lunchtime today, I admit. This is not always the case, but I was concerned with keeping our momentum going this morning).

The kiddos hopped on their trikes and Eric chased Katie (their idea). I helped to push him a little and we would “rev the engine” together…vroom!! I love how you can tell that Katie is leaning in and pedaling full force here.

Get her, Eric! Who can spot the hiding Katie?

Finally, he decided he would be faster on foot. He hopped off his trike and ran full steam ahead and caught her! Observe his look of glee!

We also had some preschool playtime with our Melissa and Doug sandwich making kit (all wooden pieces with velcro to build sandwiches and cut them apart) this morning. Eric loves practicing his cutting, and Katie pretended to be serving us food from In-N-Out. Katie also initiated about 40 minutes worth of intent work on her Kumon time-telling workbook. She LOVES it. I don’t even have to prod her along. This is a new book that I found to supplement our use of our clock manipulative. I don’t prefer to use worksheets alone, but this is great reinforcement. We have had great success with Kumon materials. At the start of Eric’s nap, we also finished one of her fairy books and started another one.

I love teaching our children. It is hard work, but so rewarding, too. I am excited for them to go to bed tonight, only because I can’t wait to sit down and plan our “monster and imagination” unit some more. Lesson planning is unrestrained nerdy time!

I love Pinterest, which, I think, celebrates living life with flair. A public online clearinghouse for DIY, fashion, all things kiddo related, wedding planning, travel, literature, and more, Pinterest seems to me to work almost by virtue of “an arrow of truth.” Really great ideas rise quickly to the top, achieving “repins” exponentially and diffusing rapidly, hence saving hours of Internet research time. I have a range of boards I manage, and I only pin ideas/images/references that truly resonate with me. My favorite kind of thing to curate, of course, are projects and DIY related to the kiddos.

Pinterest has its detractors and even a bit of self-effacing humor circulating within the world of boards (users have been known to pin quotes about how much time they spend enjoying Pinterest in lieu of spending time completing projects they’ve pinned), and I can understand the concerns. If we spend our lives wishing for what will be, might we not lose out on the time we spend doing? Yet I think that Pinterest has the potential to increase our overall productivity, mainly because of how efficiently good ideas spread and how easy so many of them are to enact. My boards are also, for me, a place to go recharge and to feel inspired. If I am feeling in a creative slump, I can go pick something off of my boards and plan to do it/make it/experience it. As a mom, this is important for me: it is a way to stay fresh. Make life artful and full of whimsy—this is the message I receive from Pinterest. It’s a good one.

This morning, I took a cue from (the source of one of my pins) and made teddy bear toast:

I added a strawberry and grape flower to the plates for the kiddos. I am not sure if the original teddy bear toast used peanut butter (it might have been honey), but I thought peanut butter would taste good with the bananas.

This was super simple to make, it hardly took any time, and it was a way to start Katie and Eric’s morning with something cute and fun and happy.

By way of observing trending, I will say that “cute food” seems to be surging in popularity these days. is only one such site (there is also a “cute food for kids” site and others). My best friend Rosa curates several examples of cute food on her Pinterest boards, as do a few others of my friends. I think I would like to make it a personal goal to start playing with our food at least once a week. The kiddos love whimsy, and it is excellent for their brains. This teddy bear toast was a good “entry” into cute food, because it was so easy. I love the idea of bento box lunches, all done in the cute style.

I am also working on making this, this week:

Source: via Sarah on Pinterest

This is one example of the way in which good ideas disseminate efficiently on Pinterest. I’ve actually been reading “Counting Coconuts” for about a year (although the author of that blog posted about her creation of this calendar long before I started reading her). I did explore her backlogs, but I never went back quite this far. I saw this homemade calendar (made by a homeschooling mom) a few days ago on Pinterest, and I am obsessed with it. I’ve been comparing/contrasting and pricing calendars for several months. Most of them are “pocket” calendars—a utilitarian look that I would love in a classroom, but maybe not so much in my home. Or maybe I would, if I had our homeschool space set up differently (ours is really infused into our daily family-life spaces). Even personal aesthetic aside, none of the  more “school-y” types of calendars have had all of the features we want. I want a calendar, plus a means for the kiddos to change the weather on a daily basis and to identify what day of the week we’re on. I’ve never yet landed on a calendar system I really like… until now.

I think this mom is GENIUS. I love everything about this calendar, although we’ll be changing “Prayer of the Day” to “Thought of the Week” and asking the kiddos to memorize it. (I had to do weekly memory work in elementary school, and I think that early training was extremely beneficial to my future learning). I even love the “moon phases” section, since my astronomy-loving kiddos are enamored of the moon.

At the teaching supply store this morning, we got all of our supplies to make this board, and I have a huge cork board on its way from This calendar system will become an important part of our daily routine and circle time. I love it. But for Pinterest, I might never have encountered it. What a solution to a big dilemma I’ve been in for months!