Amy Beth

December 24, 2016


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!

May 4, 2015

Preschool at home: letter activities

Letters pin

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.

August 24, 2014

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


July 30, 2014


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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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April 22, 2014

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…

March 3, 2014

Cars Galore Birthday Party!

Charlie only says two words clearly and with any regularity. One is “Mama.” The other is “cars.” So when planning for his 2nd birthday party it only seemed fitting that cars should be the theme of the day. I wanted him to be able to tell us what a fun time he was having, after all.

For the most part we kept things small and simple – much like last year. Some family came. We opened presents. We ate cake. We did a couple car themed activities and then took advantage of a rare warm(ish) day and played outside. It was a lovely day!

The Cake

Race car themed birthday cake

The cake this year was actually brownies. This saved me from having to ice a whole cake. It also kept it to a reasonable size. I baked the brownies in a round cake pan and used some decorating icing to draw a road going around the cake. Green icing was applied to resemble grass and bushes, and matchbox cars were set on the road. I thought using the toy cars gave a really nice effect on the cake while keeping it super simple. And Charlie loved getting to play with the cars once we cut into the cake.

Birthday cake for a car themed party

Tire Track Painting

Our first activity was a painting made with tire tracks. Due to his love of cars Charlie was much more engaged in this activity than the finger painting we did last year. The main skill requirement for the craft was driving toy cars around on the paper, so he was already an expert in how to do it.

Tire Track Painting

We started with a long sheet of paper (with a plastic tablecloth underneath to cut down on the mess to clean up) and paper plates for each color of paint. To keep it looking somewhat attractive, I picked out four coordinating colors to work with rather than just giving him every color under the sun.

Tire Track Painting: use toy cars to create tire track prints on paper.

Then we ran the wheels of the tires through the paint and drove them around on the paper. I tried to find tires with interesting ridges and textures so the tracks would have some variety.

Tire Track Painting: make a fun abstract painting using toy cars instead of paintbrushes!

This craft resulted in a pretty fun abstract painting that I plan to hang on a big empty wall in his room.

Clean up was pretty simple. We threw away the plastic table cloth and paper plates, wiped up any smudges from the floor (we used washable paint) and moved the paint covered cars to our next activity – a car wash!


Shaving Cream Car Wash

The car wash kept Charlie busy for much longer than I expected. Everyone else had moved on and were visiting in another room while Charlie kept washing his cars.


We started with two large plastic bins. We filled one with shaving cream and one with water. From there Charlie just moved cars back and forth from one bin to the other. He’s get a car all foamy in the shaving cream, then rinse it off with the water, lather, rinse, repeat.

Shaving cream car wash


Shaving cream car wash


It was so fun to see Charlie actually engage in these activities and enjoy his special day. It’s amazing how much he’s learned and changed in the past year. It makes me think that next year’s party will be even more fun!

For more party ideas and inspiration, check out my DIY Party pinterest board!


February 28, 2014

February in Review


I stopped reviewing my months for a while there. The break in routine that is the holidays took a while to recover from this year. But now I’m getting back in the swing of things and am back to learning small tidbits during the month. Here’s what I learned in February.

1. Babies. They grow up SO FAST!
I remember as a young pregnant lady, people would get all nostalgic when talking to me about their own kids and say things like, “Before you know it they’re all grown up” and, “Having kids will change your life completely.” And I was all like, “yeah, yeah… everybody says that. You’re all just being nostalgic.” But now I know. ALL those people were RIGHT! My baby is about to turn two. How?

2. Potty training is exhausting, even when it goes surprisingly well.
OR, maybe it’s going well because we’re exhausted?

3. Sometimes I like to think that we have an awesome kid because we’re such good parents. But then I realize that we probably seem like such good parents because we have an awesome kid.
At least the kid is awesome though.

4. Global warming has undergone a “rebranding” of sorts.
I was realizing when listening to the news the other day that no one calls it “Global Warming” anymore. Now it’s “Climate Change.” I suspect this is to counteract all those naysayers out there who liked to make such remarks like, “You call this Global Warming? It’s the coldest winter we’ve had in years!” As if the temperature in their own backyard was all the evidence scientists needed to be like, “Oh, yeah. I guess we can go on polluting the earth then since this cold temperature you recorded is proof that our children will not suffer any devastating consequences from a warming globe.”

5. Speaking of climate change. It affects the jet stream. And that explains all the unfortunate weather we’re having all over the country this winter.
I found this story on NPR to be very fascinating and informative. Also, I am a nerd.

February 18, 2014

Rainbow Birthday Party

About a year ago I was busy planning a 1st Birthday Party for my baby. I couldn’t believe he was already a whole year old and I wanted to make sure his birthday was special. Or at least looked cute in the pictures. Because, really, what baby remembers their first birthday?

I knew this was probably the one year where I could choose a theme based on what I liked, so I chose rainbow colors! The party itself was kept pretty simple – just family, and cake, and presents. But the colors made it cheerful and fun. I thought I’d just share a few of the things we did.

The Decor

The decorations were very simple. Just several different colors of streamers hung around the house. Hanging the streamers straight down across a blank wall made for a really nice photo backdrop.

Charlie's First Birthday!

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February 4, 2014

Snow Day Treasure Basket

We had a snow day this week. Since I am no longer in school and don’t technically get “snow days” I now define a snow day as a day when the snow is deep enough to play in. These days can be rare in our part of the world. Often any snow we get is just a dusting. But we had a couple inches this week – just enough to play in. So, it was a snow day.

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