Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Kitchen Counters - Top 40 Organizing

As part of my New Year's Resolutions I am purging excess STUFF in our house and organizing everything I can get my hands on.  I am following the plan outlined here: http://www.home-storage-solutions-101.com/organized-home.html

My first order of business was to declutter the kitchen counters.  We have a small, eat-in kitchen and counter space is at a premium.  Also, flat surfaces in our house tend to become dumping grounds for junk and paperwork (as evidenced by these pictures).  Warning: these are real, lived in pictures.

This is our main counter space. There's not much to it. The stand mixer and Keurig have to stay out on the counter due to lack of storage space (we use them a lot too).

Our teeny tiny counters next to the stove.

And after several hours of hard work and two full bags of trash we have the after...

I eliminated the bread basket in the corner (the bread was moved to a drawer) and put the Keurig in its spot.  This makes it closer the coffee mugs and now the Keuring doesn't hit the bottom of the cupboard when we lift the top.

Same counters, but from a different angle.  I'm searching for produce storage solution that is better than one basket on the counter.  I haven't found anything I love yet though.

The stove area.  Another of my resolutions was to give up soda pop.  With the bottles gone, it looks a lot better in this area.

Though technically not part of the counter declutter, I thought I'd add this picture of our dining table.  I repurposed the old bread basket to hold art supplies for kids.  In an ideal world I'd love to have nothing on the table (except maybe some fresh flowers), but the reality is that my kids spend a lot of time drawing and coloring at this table.  At least the basket looks better than the paper piles they usually leave behind.

The next step is to organize the cabinets and drawers.  After that I may get crazy and even shop for some window coverings.  Ha!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Controlling Paper Chaos - Top 40 Organizing

I shared in an earlier post that I was spending time this summer organizing the areas in my house that need it the most. I wanted to share the first area I tackled because I'm so excited about it.

With 4 kids in school and activities, the paper clutter in our house was out of control. I really wish I had taken a picture of all of the papers that the kids brought home on the last day of school. It literally filled their backpacks so that they could barely zip them!

I wanted to sort through the piles to keep the most memorable pictures and papers and also to file away the important papers that I would need to reference later.  I had saved so many papers through the year though that the thought of sorting through everything was very overwhelming!

I started, as I start most projects, by scouring Pinterest.  I have always loved this idea by A Bowl Full of Lemons, so when I saw it again on Pinterest, I knew I had to try it. It seemed like fate that when I went to check the prices of the totes and folders that they were having a great sale!  I ordered them on the spot - in 4 different colors (coincidentally, the 4 colors they had available were also the 4 colors that we already used to sort our kids' things).

They aren't perfect, but they look so much better than the stacks of papers on my dresser or the counter.  Having a limited space to store things really helps me to weed things out and figure out what's most important.

To label the file folders I ordered a Dynmo label maker (which I also happened to buy while it was on sale for $9.99 - I had a lot of dumb luck with this project).  I LOVE my labeler and can't believe it took me so long to buy one.

The totes took care of the keepsakes, but I still needed a handy place to store important papers that I need to reference quickly (and storing them in files was an out of sight, out of mind issue for me).

I came up with my school year action binder.  I made the cover quickly in Publisher (you can download it for free by clicking on the picture).

Inside I added dividers and folders for each child and each activity.  Here I can store class newsletters, contact info and class lists.

I also have a general school section for both our elementary school and our preschool.  This is where I store info that is relevant to both kids at that school - things like calendars, handbooks, and login passwords for homework websites.

Here's hoping that the next school year is less stressful and chaotic and more organized!

What tips do you have for keeping school papers sorted and organized?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

What My Child is Reading

For our family, summer means lots of trips back and forth to the library.  The kids are a part of their school's summer reading contest as well as a few other contests in town so we like to keep a fresh supply of books on hand at all times.

Here's what we've been reading so far this summer:

I checked out The Complete Calvin and Hobbes for myself.  Pinky, who also loves Calvin and Hobbes, swooped in and grabbed the books before I had a chance to read them.  I can't argue with her love of reading or her love of Calvin and Hobbes.

 She also plowed through the sequel to My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish, aptly named - My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish: The Seaquel. 

Chaos and I are reading two new chapter books together.  The first is Galaxy Zack: Hello, Nebulon.  It's a beginner chapter book series about a boy and his family who move to the planet Nebulon.  The story depth is what you would expect with a beginner chapter book, but Chaos loved hearing about the new planet and the illustrations kept him engaged.

The second book was fun because we recommended it for purchase to our library - and they listened!  And let us be the first to check it out!  The book is The Pirates Legacy by Alain Surget.  It's the story of orphaned twins, Benjamin and Louise who run away from their Parisian orphanage and set out for freedom.  They stumble into adventure when they discover their long lost father is a legendary pirate.

Wild One and Sprout:
We picked up a few fun reads at the library this week.

Dot is a clever book with illustrations that are even more clever.  The kids asked me to read this one over and over.

Exclamation Mark is a book about finding your own voice and embracing what makes you uniquely you.  It's a fun book to read and even Pinky tried her hand at voicing all the different punctuation marks.

Mrs. Crump's Cat was a recommendation from Pinky!  It's a sweet story of a stray cat who finds its way into Mrs. Crump's heart - even though she has no need for a cat.

Z is for Moose wins for the book that made us laugh out loud the most.  Moose REALLY wants to be a part of Zebra's alphabet line up.  He's at times annoying, angry, and sad as the pages are turned.  It's a great ending though and definitely worth a couple of re-reads. 

What have you been reading lately?

Linking up to some of these great parties.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Summer of Science - Week 1 - Magnets

This week kicked off our first week of what I'm calling our Summer of Science. I am using Memorizing the Moment's Alphabet in Simple Science and adapting it to fit the needs and ages of my kids.

We began with Wild One's first First Start Reading Lesson on the letter M.  I really enjoy the simplicity of these lessons and the fact that everything is done for me.  Wild One was really excited to start her very own workbook too!  She loves to write and draw - she will sit for hours and write letters and draw pictures - which is one of the reasons I chose this curriculum for her.

After she finished her lesson (it took us about 15 minutes), we began reading some books about magnets.  I've done a magnet theme in the past for the older kids so it was fun to revisit some of our favorites.  Some of the books and supplies we used are listed in the widget below (nonaffiliate links).

Before we kicked off our experiments with magnets though, I asked the kids if they wanted to keep a science journal.  I want the focus of our studies to be on having fun and exposing them to science concepts, not on writing.  Pinky in particular is not fond of writing, and I didn't want something like a science notebook to stand in the way of her participating and enjoying our lessons.  They all agreed that they wanted a notebook, so I pulled together some free printables and made a couple of my own as well.  I will let them choose when they want to use the notebooks and when they don't.

The cover of their journals is a free printable from Read Like a Rock Star on TpT.

Chaos, Wild One and Sprout are all using the the free printables from Memorizing the Moments.

In addition, I made an observation sheet for Chaos and Wild One to use while viewing experiments.  Again, I wanted to focus on the science, so I chose to allow them to draw what they could see - something they both love.  You can download this very simple page by clicking on the picture.

For Pinky, I created a page for her to write out a definition of the topic we are studying and to make predictions about what she thinks will happen.  I also left room for her to draw a picture of what she sees.  You can download this page by clicking on the picture.

Because we've done a unit on magnets already, we repeated a lot of activities.  For that reason, I didn't really take pictures this week.  Here are some pictures of our last magnet study.  You can click on the pictures to learn more.

Some of our fun included:

A magnet sensory box:

Testing the strength of magnets (magnet "jumping"):

Painting with magnet marbles:

Discovering if magnets work when submerged in water:

We tried a few new things as well.  Together Pinky, Chaos and myself read The Magic Schoolhouse Amazing Magnetism.

We also tried making a paper clip dance like Kaysha did on Memorizing the Moments.

It was a fun week and the kids were excited to be back in "Mommy School."  I'm really excited to spend the summer diving into science with the kids!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Summer Plans

It's summer vacation and once again I'm excited and motivated for another summer of learning with my kids! Here's hoping that the motivation lasts all summer and extends to regular blog posting!

To be honest, I wasn't sure if I was going to do much besides summer bridge books and flashcards this summer, but I changed my mind because of two things:
  1. Wild One has a huge desire to learn to read.  And not just any books, but chapter books.  :)  I told her that we would take it one step at a time, but I just can't ignore her enthusiasm to learn!
  2. I stumbled upon the "Alphabet in Simple Science" over at Memorizing the Moments.  If you haven't see it yet, you should definitely check it out!  After reading through the posts, I was inspired to try it with my kids!
I've decided to adapt the science curriculum that Kaysha at Memorizing the Moments has developed to make it work for all 4 of my kids.  For the younger 2, we will focus on letters and sounds and the introduction of science concepts.  For the older 2, we will delve deeper into topics and maybe even do some science notebooking (I've created some experiment observation pages that I plan to share).

In addition, Wild One will be working through the First Start Reading program with me.  In fact, the order that letters and sounds are introduced in this curriculum will determine the order that we tackle the "Alphabet in Simple Science" series.

As for the older 2, they will both be completing their summer bridge books as they do every year (I take them out for ice cream when they finish it).  Pinky has been struggling a bit with math this year, so she's also working on the Math Mammoth review books this summer.

 I also picked her up this book just to prove to her that math can be fun.  

We'll also be reading plenty of books, and I plan to continue our "What We're Reading" posts throughout the summer.

This summer we're finally trying out the Summer Challenge that Carisa created at 1+1+1=1 too!  I had fun stocking up my prize bucket and coming up with tasks for the kids to complete to earn a point.  I will share our prizes and challenges in another post.

Finally, I have taken on my own sort of challenge and am working on organization (a task that will take much longer than just this summer).  I started by listing 40 areas of my house that need to be organized using this printable from White House Black Shutters.  I plan to take them on one at a time and document befores and afters.  If I feel brave I may share those here too.

Well, that's another ambitious summer for us.  What are your summer plans?

Sunday, May 11, 2014

What My Child is Reading

The weather is turning warm (sort of), so it's time to update our "what we're reading" list.

Pinky has been on a real graphic novel kick lately.  I love to check out the book recommendations at A Mighty Girl, and the Zita series caught my eye.  Pinky has read the first two books in one day and is patiently waiting for our library to get a copy of the third book.

I picked up Sketch Monsters on a whim.  A story about a girl who draws her feelings as monsters in a sketch book (who then escape and nearly destroy her town), it was a hit with Pinky.

Pinky's also in the midst of reading the Lunch Lady series and Timmy Failure (which she has deemed hilarious).

My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish was another quick and fun read for her.

Much to my delight she is also plowing through the first Harry Potter book.  We started reading it together, but when I wasn't home to read it to her one night she just continued on without me.

Chaos has really taken off in his reading lately.  After reading lots of Bob Books and readers from his school he was pretty excited to get his hands on some new books from the library.

We checked out the Fly Guy series on the recommendation of a friend and were not disappointed.  Chaos loved these books and the reading level is perfect for him.

We're also loving the Elephant and Piggie series by Mo Willems.  Both Chaos and Wild One crack up at the stories (even Pinky has been seen with her nose in these books).

We just started reading Captain Underpants together.  It's not my type of humor, but is right up his alley.  Sometimes we have to stop reading because he's laughing so hard he can't hear me.

Wild One and Sprout:
We usually read to the little girls together so many of their favorites have been the same.

Another 'A Mighty Girl' recommendation, The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes, was a great read with a great lesson.

The Watermelon Seed was a short and funny book that they wanted to read over and over again.

Little Hoot was a cute story about a little owl who just wanted to go to bed early, but his parents made him stay up.  From the same author as Little Pea, this book is a fun story.

Fanny came in Wild One's Easter basket this year, and it has quickly become one of my favorite books.  When Fanny's mom won't let her get the Connie doll that all of her friends have, she sets herself to making her own Connie doll.  The result isn't perfect and Fanny is a little insecure about her doll at first, but she soon recognizes that her doll is different in a good way.

Linking up to some of these great parties!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Free Geography Printable

I've received a few requests for a copy of my US Geography sheet.  I am providing this printable free of charge as long as you agree to comply with my Terms of Service Just click on the picture to download.

US Blank Geography Page

I am unable to share pictures of the flags and state quarters as they are not my own, but here is a link to where you can find them to print for yourself (or you could color your own flag and tape in real state quarters).

State Flags:  http://www.50states.com/flag/#.UwD4ALSpDdU

State Quarters: 
Coloring Pages: https://www.usmint.gov/kids/coinNews/50sq/

This site has a great informational sheet about each quarter/state: http://www.usmint.gov/mint_Programs/50sq_program/?action=designs_50sq

I hope you find this printable helpful!

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