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My little Penelope is two!

With her birthday a week before Christmas, I still have a lot to figure out in terms of keeping the celebration of her separate from all the other festivities of the season, but right now all festivities are fun and exciting and make her pretty happy.

So for her birthday we had some family over for a Peppermint Party.

She was very excited about the cupcakes and even tried to blow out the candles. Our peppermint cupcakes were made with a white cake mix with pink food coloring and crushed candy canes sprinkled on top.

We played “candy cane hunt” (like an Easter egg hunt with candy canes). Poppy was maybe a little young to really get into this game, but Charlie loved it and Poppy enjoyed putting the candy canes in the cup we had out to collect them.

Then we opened presents and played!

At two years old Poppy is walking independently, loves to play with dolls and look at books, and is finally becoming a lot friendlier to people other than Mama. This past year we have definitely seen her turn the corner from babyhood into being a full-fledged toddler, and her personality is really starting to take shape. I can already tell you that she is more of a daredevil than her big brother, but also very sensitive and empathetic. She thinks Charlie is the most fun and hilarious person, but won’t hesitate to stick up for herself if he gets in the way of her fun. While her communication skills are still limited, she is very emphatic when telling stories. And she’s turning into a real Daddy’s girl, which Chris is falling for… hook, line, and sinker.

Happy Birthday my beautiful girl! It’s such a joy to watch you grow!

Preschool at home: letter activities

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Our preschool at home adventure has been going well so far. As I mentioned before, I’m trying to keep it low-key and low-pressure. Charlie spends most of his day playing, as it should be. Official “school time” only happens for maaaybe half an hour 3 or 4 times a week.

With that said, Charlie really likes doing school. And I really enjoy it too. When it comes to planning I’m finding it works best for me to plan out about 10 days worth of activities all in one sitting. This means I only plan for school about once every 3 or 4 weeks.

One of the things we’ve been focusing a lot on lately has been the letters of the alphabet. My goal right now is for Charlie to recognize and name all the upper and lowercase letters and begin to learn some of the sounds associated with them. He was already picking up on a lot of the letter names just though osmosis, so our school time is really just reinforcing and filling in the gaps. I fully intend to do another round (or two) of “letter of the day” type lessons farther down the road to go along with a greater emphasis on phonics and handwriting. Right now it’s just about recognition and exposure.

I’ve found a few resources that we’ve been using over and over. They make planning activities easy and Charlie really seems to enjoy doing them.

Letter Activities

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  • Alphabet books: To help reinforce the letter sounds, we’ve been using these alphabet books from The Measured Mom. I’ve found that they give really good examples (with clear pictures!) of words that start with each letter. I’ve been wanting to give Charlie opportunities to practice using scissors, so rather than print it out as a book as intended, I’ve been printing them all on one page to create small picture cards. I draw lines between each picture for Charlie to cut on and then we use the pictures to either glue to a collage or save for a letter sorting activity.

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  • Letter sorting: Using our pictures from the alphabet books, I would read to Charlie the word on each card (exaggerating the beginning sound) and have him decide what letter it started with. We started with letters that have very different sounds and will eventually work our way up to more challenging pairs.

  • Letter Hunt: Another printable activity from Confessions of a Homeschooler are these letter hunt pages. The funny sentences on each page reinforce the letter sounds and I think it’s good practice to be able to identify a particular letter out of a sea of other letters. Once again we use our Do-A-Dot markers to highlight the letter we are searching for.

  • Letter flashcard match: Charlie actually made up this game one day as we were looking at some Dr. Suess letter flashcards we had on hand. As I would hold up a card, he would run to the kitchen to find the matching letter from his set of alphabet magnets on the fridge. It was a fun way to add a bit of movement to an activity that’s usually pretty stationary.

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  • Letter pre-writing in playdoh: Charlie isn’t quite ready to begin handwriting practice yet, but that doesn’t mean he can’t learn about the shapes of the letters. One activity we’ve tried is pressing beans in playdoh along the outline of a letter. It’s a great little activity to develop those fine motor muscles.

So far these have made up the bulk of our school time together. I’m sure we’ll have to mix it up eventually and find some new activities to teach the letters, but I’ve been really happy with these so far. If you’re looking for more resources for preschool learning activities be sure to follow my pinterest board. I’m always finding great ideas and resources!

Follow Amy’s board Homeschool on Pinterest.

These Days // 2

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These days I am:

enjoying: a kid free weekend. My parents took Charlie to spend some time at their house, so Chris and I have had the whole weekend to ourselves. We went on one weekend trip without Charlie last year, but this is the first time we’ve spent time in our own home without him since he was born. It think it’s been a good time for everyone.

accomplishing: lots of little house projects that I never find the time to do with a toddler underfoot.

feeling: tired. It’s been a productive day!

anticipating: the arrival of our baby girl at the end of the year! We found out a few weeks ago that our life of cars and trains is going to be shaken up a bit by dolls and tea parties. We’re excited for the new adventure heading our way!

And here are some snapshots from recent days…


We brought home some girly cupcakes to share the news with Charlie. While I couldn’t tell if he was excited about having a baby sister or not, he was definitely excited about having some cupcakes.


I found a pretty moth on my way home from work one day.


Selfies with my boy



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My younger sister made a big move to Chicago a little less than a year ago. She’s working downtown and living in a little studio apartment and navigating the transit system like a pro. But I hadn’t had the chance to visit her and see what her new life is like until this past weekend when my mom, youngest sister, and I invaded her tiny apartment for a girls weekend in the big city.

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We fit a lot in just a few days. Walking the lakefront, the Navy Pier, Lincoln Park, and the general downtown area.

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We also went spent a full day at the Art Institute. It’s a huge museum with more art in it than you can really take in in a day. I think one of my favorite parts was their large Monet exhibit. They had several examples of paintings Monet had done of the same scene at different times. It was fascinating to see the paintings side by side and compare the way he depicted the way the light and color changed.

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The Chicago River runs right through the middle of downtown, so we ended our trip with a twilight river cruise. It was basically one giant photo-op, and a perfect way to end our weekend in the city.

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Books I Love

On a recent weekend home to visit my family, we decided it would be a fun activity to each make a list of our top books of all time and share them with each other. That’s right. My family really is that cool.

It turned into a fun evening of sharing and discussion, and gave me a good start to my “to read” list. So just for fun, I thought I’d share my list of favorite books here – in no particular order.

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The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis

I love all of the Chronicles of Narnia, but this one is probably my favorite of the series. The depiction of the creation of Narnia is  beautifully magical.

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

I distinctly remember checking this book out of the church library when I was a little girl (maybe 3rd grade?). I thought it seemed like a very big and impressive book. And then I read it and loved it. It was the first real “classic” I ever read and it opened me up to a whole new world of literature.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

What can I say? Anne is my kindred spirit and Gilbert is my literary crush.

Harry Potter (the whole series) by J.K. Rowling

I can’t pick just one of these to put on the list. Although I guess if I had to I would say Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Or maybe the Prisoner of Azkaban. Anyway, I can’t wait to introduce Charlie to these books someday when he’s older. Especially since he probably won’t go for Anne of Green Gables.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle

One summer when I was a kid my parents decided not to spend their money on cable. So every evening instead of watching TV my mom would read aloud to us, and this was one of the books she read. It was terribly exciting. Since then I’ve read it probably 6 or 7 more times, and read every other L’Engle book I could find. I’m a big fan.

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

I think I read this whole book during a family vacation one summer during the long hours in the car. Scarlett got on my nerves (will she never learn?!) but Melanie was the true hero in my mind. She was a good deal stronger than she seemed on the surface.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Gothic Romance at it’s finest. Way better than Wuthering Heights. Why do they always insist on teaching that one in schools?

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

When I go for a long time without reading anything more substantial than blog posts and news articles, I can feel myself losing intelligence. As Bradbury describes in this book, a world without books is a sad one.

1984 by George Orwell

This books makes me thankful for many things. Mainly that things aren’t as bad as they are in this book….yet.

The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Pretty gripping for a book about Puritans. It makes you think about the nature of sin and redemption, freedom and guilt.

Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Tragic, but a good read.

The Giver by Lois Lowry

A great book to introduce young minds the the Distopian genre.

The Chosen by Chaim Potok 

I honestly don’t remember a lot about this book except that it’s about a couple of Jewish friends and I loved it. I should read it again.

Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis

This first book of the Space Trilogy is by far the quickest and easiest of the three to read (the others get pretty dense at times), but the series as a whole is one of those that can blow your mind if you can get through it. It brings up a lot of philosophical and theological questions.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I think every romantic comedy ever made is based in some part on a Jane Austen novel, with the most popular plot being based on Pride and Prejudice. Two people who can’t stand each other falling in love? Classic.


After coming up with my list one of the biggest things I realized is that I read most of my favorite books in high school or earlier. This tells me I need to be reading more as a grown up. So I’m looking for book recommendations! What are your favorite books?

Perhaps I’ll find the time and quiet to read them someday…