Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Everything and Happy Always!

I will be off the computer and celebrating the holidays with lots of my favorite people for the next few days.  I hope you will be as well.  So, in the words of a favorite card we received, MERRY EVERYTHING AND HAPPY ALWAYS!

Love, The Handley Five

Friday, December 21, 2012

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

That's A Wrap!

Last year I posted about our gift wrap bin.  I thought it was time to resurrect it this year, and the kids have been having a blast with it.  I put in wrapping supplies, gift bags, pipe cleaners, boxes and tins, trinkets, tissue paper...just things I had on hand.  The kids have been wrapping gifts for me, for each other, for Santa and baby Jesus.  It gives us a nice chance to practice gift giving etiquette (THANK you so much for that thoughtful gift!  I never would have guessed that it was a jingle bell!) and talk about how to say thank you, how to receive a gift that isn't your favorite, or be gracious when you get something you already have. Plus, wrapping up gifts is just fun!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A little pageantry

The kids were in our church's Christmas Pageant this past weekend.  There is just so much that I love about this is just what a little church Christmas program is supposed to be...just what I want my kids to remember being a part of. 
An excited shepherd.

The only picture I managed to get of the sheep with his head on straight!

Cows and donkeys and wisemen, oh my!

Thank you to whoever decided NOT to give my children a staff.

Seriously, does it get cuter?

One part sweet, one part chaos, and a dash of Charlie Brown. If I wasn't in the Christmas spirit before, I sure am now!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

First Piano Recital

Here is Matias' first piano recital.  He was a bit nervous, but he got up there and did a great job.  We are SO proud of him!

Friday, December 14, 2012

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


For Matias' birthday, my awesome sister and brother in law sent Matias a "unit" on Singapore- their new home.  You can read their blog here. It was really awesome...a gift and a homeschool lesson rolled into one.  Here are some of the cool things they sent.

Trying out some chopsticks...on yummy Koala bear snacks from Singapore.

A pretty lantern

This is called "sticky"...the kids love it!  Hard to get a good picture, but it is so beautiful and every piece looks like the flavor that it is.  

Of particular interest to my little GPS was the map of Singapore they sent- with the train stops marked.  

Matias  got to connect the stops to draw the different train lines, and then answered some questions they sent about which trains they took.  Very cool.  I am jealous of Singapore's awesome mass transit- they have no need for a car!

Milo- a favorite hot chocolate drink of Hannah's both in Singapore and during her time in South Africa.  Though why they need HOT chocolate in Singapore I'm not sure!
One the our favorite activities was the money they sent , along with questions like "what is the oldest coin", "can you find a coin from the year you were born" and "do they have the same coin denominations we do?"  We made coin rubbings in their journals and taped in the money and questions to save.  

We love a good theme dinner, so we cooked up some Chicken Satay with a recipe they included.

The kids really liked the peanut sauce!

We broke out our Asian dishes and chopsticks, hung up the big Singapore flag and the lantern and had a nice Singapore dinner.

Thanks for such an awesome gift Hannah and Jacob.  We loved it!  And I don't know about the kids, but I sure learned stuff!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

I'll Throw in some Rope and Tie it to the Car for you.

This year we were not quite sure when we'd have time to cut down a tree, so we randomly decided to stop on the way home from Violet's Christmas Program at school.  It felt a bit like that scene in "A Christmas Story" (ain't no needles comin' off this here tree...), but we had fun.  Pretty much anything done as a surprise that delays bedtime goes over well with our kids!
Our little angel singing in her program.

We found the tree for us...and it turns out it is a REALLY beautiful, soft tree!

Watching the man make a fresh cut and reminiscing about our first Christmas together where we sawed our tree with a steak knife to get it to fit in our tiny apartment! Good times...

Tying it to the top of the van for us.

Too excited to hold still for a picture.

This sleepy girl loves the tree- and all the ornaments she can reach!

It turned out to be a really nice tree, and we had it up and decorated in time for the little Christmas party we hosted this weekend.  Win!

Friday, December 7, 2012

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Ever had one of these days??

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Reading Nook

We have a pre-reader in da house! Something has clicked in that head of hers and suddenly letters and sounds and sight words all have meaning. She is SO enjoying being included in all the reading fun, so we thought it would be fun to celebrate that a bit.  This weekend we moved her bed and made her a reading, not an honest-to-goodness old fashioned nook. The kind the e-readers were presumably named after.  

She got the beautiful fairy house for her birthday, so we added a floor pillow we had, an old teddy bear of mine for her to read to, a magnetic fridge phonics game in case she wants to hear a letter sound, and some Winnie the Pooh First Words flashcards.

Then I hit up Goodwill for some 39 cent books.  I got an alphabet book, a couple of Bob books, a set of easy readers about Worm, a couple of picture-dictionary style books and put in a copy of Brown Bear, Brown Bear that she made at preschool and can read herself.  The idea was to get books she could read on her own.  I spent five whole dollars!

She has really been enjoying reading in HER nook (and her brother is oh-so-jealous, which she also enjoys).  This morning she was reading to her baby sister when I went in to say good morning.  She is taking her new skills very seriously. There is a fine line between encouraging her and pushing her...we hope we fall on the encouraging side...she seems proud of herself.  We certainly are!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Small House

Some days it feels a bit like this

We live in a beautiful house.  It is a 1,700 square foot ranch, and we use every inch of it.  It has four bedrooms, a living room and family room, two bathrooms, a laundry room, garage and a good sized (albeit dodgy to access) attic.  We have a backyard with a shed and several garden beds. We live across the street from a playground (aka the yard we don't have to mow).  We LOVE our house.  

I can't help notice, though, how many, MANY comments we get about how we can't possibly stay in our house now that we have three kids/the kids are growing up/the kids' stuff is getting bigger/we are homeschooling.  There are days where we feel rather squeezed.  We have toyed with the idea of adding on and may well do so at some point.  I have friends who live in even smaller places and I admire their mad organization skills and know they get asked the same questions I do.  Compared to homes around the world, 1700 square feet is huge.  And yet, our house is considered small for our sized family in our part of the country.  This got me thinking- haven't people been living in much smaller homes with many more children for years?  The answer, of course, is YES.
Graph found here
The average new home size has more than doubled in the past 50 years, while we are having fewer children.  With the recent recession, new home sizes have decreased slightly, but for the most part, people still desire more, more, more space.  I understand this, really I do. There are things we dislike about our current space.  But for the moment, we are staying put in our "little" house and making it work for us.  Here are a few things we like about our place and some ways we make it work.

What we like about our "small" home:

1) We are together.  There are spaces for us to have some alone time, but for the most part we are together. Life is never boring when you're together.  Plus, we can supervise our kids easily.  No baby monitors needed.  Not to say that they don't occasionally sneak away to color on the walls or splash in the toilet...but at least they have to work a little harder at it.

2) I can pick up the house in a few minutes and deep clean it in a few hours.  Since children seem to mess up every available inch, fewer inches= less mess.

3) It is affordable. Heating, cooling, all costs less, and if we're lucky (and disciplined), we might just pay off that mortgage sooner than later.

4) It is cozy.  We know every nook and cranny of this monsters hiding anywhere!

5) It makes us want to be outside more...especially in the summer, our sliding door opens and the yard becomes part of our house.  I can see the kids playing outside from my kitchen window, and feel safe with them out there.

6) It makes us pare down our stuff.  We can't have everything, so we make decisions about what stays and what needs to find a new home.  Everything that stays has a place and value. Goodwill loves us.

Tips for making it work:

1) Use every inch. Our front hall closet holds toys and games.  Our girl's closet holds the changing table. We don't have a guest room, we just have our kids bunk in together when we need an extra room.  Our daughter naps in our bedroom so her sister can still play in their room during the day. Every room is used every single day.

2) Every item must earn its keep.  We recently realized that neither of the two lovely desks in our office had been sat at in months.  We sent them to new homes, purged old textbooks, consolidated two bookshelves and moved the sewing table.We added a loveseat and a new table Matias got for his birthday and voila...a comfy office/craft room/homeschooling room. Even something nice is just in the way if it is not being used.  Don't hold onto things thinking you'll use them in the future.  If they haven't been used in a while and you won't need them in the immediate future, take them to the attic or pass them on.

3) Rearrange to meet your needs.  Our kids have shared rooms in all possible combinations. Matias' room was a playroom for a while.  Our office has morphed several times.  Our living room is rearranged frequently.  Our computers and printer have lived all over the house. The master bedroom held the changing table and nursery furniture when new babies came home.  Nothing is set in stone...move it!  (Pro tip...marry a man who enjoys moving furniture as much as my dear husband.)

4) Be creative.  It started out as a tv stand.  Then it held a dollhouse. Then it was a bench in the laundry room that held hats and mittens.  Now it holds dress-ups and Duplos and is our puzzle table.  A cabinet, with the doors removed, becomes a shelf.  A shelf with a cash register and some toy food becomes a play kitchen.  The "linen"drawer under the crib holds the dolls and toy animals.

5) Don't fear the "lived in" look.  We have a time line running around our living room, maps on the walls, a solar system hanging in the kitchen, instruments on the floor by the piano, and guests hoping to hang their coat are greeted with a closet full of games.  No denying it...we have children.  "Lived in" doesn't have to look messy- we keep things neat- but this is where we live and learn, and it shows!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Our Solar System Unit

Welcome to the Moon
I've had a few people ask me what curriculum we use for homeschool preschool, and how I plan our units.  The answer is that we don't use a set curriculum, and I make it up as we go. I thought I would give you a little look into our latest unit on the Solar System, and how it came to be.

I have been planning to study space with the kids for a while, so I have been pinning ideas on a Pinterest board, hitting the library and collecting books and resources from thrift stores and the Target dollar section for a while.  Things like this:

Space has been a topic in our house since Matias received Space Legos for his birthday.  We started our unit by listing everything we already knew about the solar system, and listing some questions we'd like to answer.  Then we read through a few of our books, and did some of the space jigsaw puzzles from the Solar System book.  Then we took our our space cards and arranged the planets (and dwarf planets) in order in Matias' pocket chart.

Space Legos
Planet cards
We also painted, cut and glued rockets from a fun printable craft site, LearnCreateLove.

We researched the relative distance between the planets and then colored and cut out the planets and spaced them in the correct ratio throughout our house.  Poor Pluto (who we decided to include, despite his downgraded status) had to hang from the tire swing outside, because our house just wasn't long enough! This was a great math activity that the whole family helped with...and a good opportunity to practice REALLY big numbers!

I love the website 1+1+1=1, and used a bunch of her themed printables for a memory game, planet sorting and some handwriting practice.  The kids love writing with dry-erase markers, so we did quite a few letter tracing and word writing sheets.  

As luck would have it, Matias got some AWESOME space-themed birthday gifts, so we broke those out as well.  He and Matt found a website that diagrams the night sky minute-by-minute, and they placed the glowing planets and stars around his room in accurate positions. They made the stars into constellations: the little dipper, cassiopeia and cygnus.  

We also had the chance (on a beautiful Indian Summer November day) to try out his Green Rocket.  

Too excited to hold still for a picture
Assembling the rocket and launcher

Figuring out how to aim it
It is easier to stomp on the launcher when someone is holding your hand so you don't fall over.  Besides...they weren't quite sure just what it was going to do, and holding hands makes you braver!

It flew REALLY far!  
To play a bit more with our ideas, we created a moonscape sensory bin.  First we watched a YouTube video of the first moon landing.  Then we mixed "moon sand" and "cloud dough" along with some tinfoil, some egg cartons, a flag, a few astronauts (Buzz and Neil) and some homemade lunar landing modules.  We talked about how to make craters and made a great mess.

So by now, the kids had learned quite a bit about space, so we decided to have a little space celebration.   We watched The Magic Schoolbus: Lost in Space and enjoyed a treat of Astronaut Ice Cream.  The movie and snack totally took me back to my childhood...I always used to buy astronaut ice cream at the museum shops when I went on a field trip. The kids decided it was also pretty awesome.

So there you have it- our space unit.  We worked on this for about two weeks, off and on.  We tend to go in spurts where we will spend a few hours on a topic one day and then take a day or two off.  Though I leave out the workbooks and games and books, so the kids dig into it on their own even when we're not officially working on it together.  It didn't take too much effort to put together because I had been collecting things for a while...a few hours perusing the interwebz and printing things off, a trip to the library and one order from Amazon Prime (love).  I have to say, the Internet has revolutionized homeschooling- I have videos, information and the work of a thousand other dedicated teacher moms at my finger tips, and I try to take advantage of that!  Why reinvent the wheel?!  

Hope you enjoyed this INCREDIBLY long post...if you made it this far, congratulations.  You're out of this world :)

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