GF, Dairy Free Summer Vegetable and Sausage Dinner Recipe

I have always loved cooking and have been told by many people that I am pretty good at it. Until we were hit with an insane amount of dietary restriction.  A few of my kiddos have had some allergies over the years and I have adapted slowly. Most recently due to some complications after my last birth my immune system has been struggling and now I have some issues with food. Currently these are the foods that someone in our house cannot eat: beef, egg whites, almonds, gluten, dairy. Do you have any idea how hard it is to make meals with all of this restrictions? Close to impossible! Cooking moved from my most favorite daily chore to my most dreaded.  I have had to reorganize how I make all my meals on top of everything else I have going on. However, I have found keeping it simple with just fresh veggies and a protein has made it much more bearable.

The past few weeks have been crazy as I am gearing up for the school year so I am trying to keep my time making dinner to 20 minutes or less. Last night I made the most delicious dinner that was cheap and delicious. I shared some videos of the process on Facebook and Instagram and had several requests for this quick and yummy recipe. It is gluten free, dairy free, and egg free.

Easy Summer Vegetable and Sausage Dinner

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Ingredients

  • Prepared brown rice
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Various Veggies from your summer garden (I used zucchini, squash, bell peppers, and onions)
  • GF sausage of your choosing, cooked
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt, oregano, and cumin
  • heaping 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
  • Hot sauce (optional)

Method

  1. Prepare brown rice as desired
  2. Warm up the oil in a large skillet and add the garlic. Saute until fragrant but not brown and ad veggies
  3. Saute veggies for 5-7 minutes until slightly tender, but not mushy
  4. Add in sausage and seasoning, mix, and cook until sausage is hot and flavors have blended nicely
  5. Serve on top of brown rice with hot sauce on top if desired

My Thoughts

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This was my cutting board full of veggies before I put them in the skillet. Insanity! I am afraid for the teen years.

I will say that I feed a small army of boys every single day that can eat me under the table even though they are all under the age of 10. So the amount of food I prepare is massive. The great thing about this meal is that it is easy to adjust the portion sizes. If you are preparing for 4 normal eaters or less I would decrease the seasonings by half. I am not kidding.

Also I have been coveting this beauty for quite some time now:

If you are blessed with one of these beauties you have to use it for this recipe and send me a picture. It would make this so much more fun and tasty! 

Entering the Dialectic Stage – Simplifying Essentials

We joke all the time about all the “Why?” questions when our children are little. We lament about all the questions we get asked each day. I recently discovered that the questions asked in early childhood are nothing like the questions your child starts asking when they start entering the dialectic stage of learning. Below is a picture of my handsome 9 year old to put a face with just some of the questions I have been asked by him over the past 48 hours or so (and will also give you a little amusing insight into our life):

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  • Why is there a flood in Louisiana when God said he would never flood the Earth again?
  • Why are their flies? They are annoying, what would happen if we just killed them all? What do they do? Why did God make them?
  • What does the word infuriated mean?
  • Why do people get divorced? If they are mad at each other why don’t they just forgive each other? Then kids would be able to always have their mom and dad.
  • How do you make a car? How many parts are there inside a car?
  • Why does gas make cars go?
  • What makes the air cold coming out of the vents?
  • Why don’t you like Trump?
  • Do you think I could build a tractor out of legos that actually works?
  • What makes the corn get so tall?
  • Did Abraham Lincoln have any brothers?
  • How come you only had boy babies? Why don’t we have a sister?
  • Where is Jamaica? Why are all the people there so dark?
  • Why does the rooster mate with some chickens more than the others?

Can we just go back to the “Why?” question repeated over and over again? I end each day with my head spinning from all the questions he asked. Last week I wrote a post on keeping learning simple in the early years. I got such incredible feedback on that post, but had one resounding theme in the comments: what about the Essentials years? How can I prepare them for Essentials?

Preparing them for Essentials

If you fully understand that the Classical Model then you should understand that aside from doing the memory work in Foundations there really isn’t anything you should or can do to prepare them. Essentials intentionally begins at the age when the dialectic level of learning and development should start. Trying to prepare your child for a milestone that hasn’t occurred yet would be like buying your newborn walking shoes to prepare them to walk. Foundations IS the preparation for Essentials. The best thing you can do to prepare them for Essentials to help them master the memory work in the early years, so they can use it later. Just like you help your infant master sitting and crawling to strengthen their muscles before they are ready to walk.

Organizing Essentials Materials

When you get your amazing Essentials guide for the first time it feels huge and overwhelming. It isn’t bound in anyway, but just a big stack of loose leaf paper. After speaking with some experienced Essentials moms I absolutely love the way I chose to bind mine with their suggestions. I made a quick video for you to see what I did and how I did it.

Essentials on Community Day

Essentials is often described as incredibly overwhelming for first year families. As a director, it has been great to be able to sit in on several Essentials classes as well as attend tutor training for Essentials. I am actually walking into my first year as an Essentials parent feeling empowered and prepared as a result. The most important thing to remember about beginning Essentials is that you cannot help your child too much. Let me say that again: you cannot help your child too much. Modern education has us thinking that our child needs to be able to do this all on their own. We model it to them a few times and then they should be able to repeat it and apply it. If we help them we are allowing them to “cheat”. This is a big fat LIE. We don’t show our children how to walk and expect them walk right away. We don’t demonstrate swimming and then throw our kids into the deep end! So why do we think that we should behave that way with reading, writing, and arithmetic? Essentials presents the exact same information to you and your student every year for three years for a reason: it will take that long for your child to begin to master it. Sit next to your child in class. If they are feeling overwhelmed with all the writing, let them dictate to you and you do the writing. If they have a question and are nervous to ask, ask for them. You should leave class each week as a team, ready to tackle the weeks work together.

Essentials at Home

As I mentioned in the video above, Part 1 of the Essentials Guide is FULL of rich, wonderful, helpful information. Starting on page 19 you will be able to read some awesome ideas for what you should be doing at home. I did want to point out that the guide only recommends that you spend only 20-30 minutes a day on Essentials work. That is it! How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Please do not stress your student or yourself out by trying to eat the Essentials Elephant all at once. You will both get sick and tired real fast. Here is the plan I have formed in my head for our first year. If you are a second or third year parent, your schedule will likely look different. My goal is to focus on Chart A this year first. My son does have an incredible memory, so we may end up memorizing more, but if we can get Chart A memorized this year I will count that as success.

  • Day 1 – Attend class together and learn together
  • Day 2 – Copy charts, dictate 1 sentence from dialectic discussion, start and finish the outline. If we still have time we may add in the editing exercise
  • Day 3 – Work on mastering Chart A from memory, dictate a sentence, create a rough draft together and edit
  • Day 4 – Work on mastering Chart A from memory, dictate a sentence, write second draft of paper
  • Day 5 – Work on chart A from memory, work on additional sentences if he can handle them, finalize paper with dress ups, write final draft

Foundations in the Dialectic Stage – Cycle 2

As I mentioned earlier, Foundations lays the groundwork for Essentials. The memory work presented in Foundations will help the student in Essentials. A child can still learn and be an active member in Essentials without having attended Foundations, but having that ‘foundation’ will be such a blessing to you and your student. If you have students, like mine, that have been in Foundations since they were 4 or 5 you may find that they are ready for a little more information as they go through the cycles for the second time. Having some things on hand may help you answer some of their rather difficult questions as well. As I shared last week, we try to incorporate leaning into our everyday life. These items below are absolutely not needed, but are items I have loved having available for them to learn with without them actually knowing they are learning. The best thing you can do for your kiddos is to read to them. Read, read, read, read and read some more! I shared some great book lists last week you can get some great ideas from. I have included a few of my favorite books for older kids below as well. You can click on any item to get pricing from Amazon. I have an obsession with Amazon Prime. Some of these items are on my Amazon List for this year and have not been purchased yet.

These puzzles are amazing! They make geography tactile while having the countries all cut out into the pieces. It also allows the kids to feel the shape of each country.

 

The Food Chain Game makes science memory work come alive.

Classical Medieval History Go Fish Game is another great game for this cycle

 

The Draw Europe book is a great way to encourage your student to practice drawing the map

This is just one of the many books in the “Who Was…” biography series. These are great books for independent reading or reading aloud


A Final Thought

Just remember this is a process, keep it simple. My rule of thumb is to start the year off with only the most basic supplies and add to them when I need them, IF I need them!

Our New Homestead – An Update

It has been awhile since I have had time to write. I have really missed it. A cross country move, a surprise baby, homeschooling, adjusting to a completely different life, and then finding our forever home – I have been just a tiny bit busy. Writing is cathartic for me so I thought I would take the time to give you all an update on our new home and life. Look for me to start posting regularly again. At the bottom of this post I share a way for you to try Amazon Prime, which has been a lifesaver for me living so far out in the boonies for FREE.

A Dream Come True

Some of you may remember when I announced  almost two years ago now, that we would be moving our family across the country. A lot has happened since then. We were renting and getting a feel for our new town with hopes to think about buying this winter. Our landlords decided they wanted to sell the home we were living in and so we had to move our timetable up a bit. As stressful as it was I am so glad that we did, because we found our forever home. You know the place you dream about when you are a little girl? Yep, we found that.

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Our New Home

Early this spring we found this amazing home in a teeny tiny (no really the population of our town is right around 500) farming town about 45 minutes from Boise. It is just under 2 acres and has the most stunning views of the Owyhee Mountain Range from the backyard.

The boys and I in our back pasture.

The boys and I in our back pasture

My hubby with the boys just down the road from our house

My hubby with the boys just down the road from our house

Life is settling a bit and I am adjusting to being at least 15-20 minutes from the nearest grocery store. It is a huge lifestyle shift for sure but we absolutely love it. We have gotten started on building our own homestead and I am looking forward to sharing the process with you. I have so much to learn. I can’t wait to share all the resources I have discovered along this journey with you. I have shared a few below.

The Animals

Right away we got some animals. As soon as the boys heard the news my second son wanted to get some chicks. That is all he wanted for his birthday. Here is is with his favorite hen “Stripe” the day he got them.

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We have been learning all about raising chickens together. We are starting out with some egg chickens with plans to add meat chickens and heritage breeding chickens at some point in the future. This book as become a family favorite:


The boys and their dad built an amazing coop for them and as you can see they are some very happy birds.


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If you you know me in real life, then you know I have a little bit of an obsession with expensive, beautiful yarn. So we also have a few fiber animals on our property.

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My favorite sheep: Paisley. She was bottle fed because her mama rejected her so she is the sweetest thing. Plus she has the most beautiful fiber.

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George

Bogart the Angora Goat

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George, Georgia, Peaches, and Paisley

This coming spring you can look forward to having some amazing yarn available to purchase if you are a yarn lover like myself. I will be taking some spinning classes this fall. Just for fun, I have the most hilarious video to share. As I mentioned above, Paisley was a bottle fed baby. I never realized how violently sheep nurse on their mamas. Enjoy this hilarious video of Paisley enjoying her bottle.

 

The Garden and Orchard

We got a late start on the gardening this year since we didn’t move in until May. This year we only got two 4×8 beds in the ground. The property also had raspberry and boysenberry bushes already. This fall we have plans to put in a full orchard and next spring we plan to double or triple or garden space. I have found a ton of books on this subject and have been working my way through them. Below are some of my favorites.

Are You a Homesteader?

If so I would LOVE to hear from you and exchange ideas. Feel free to contact me or leave a comment below!

FREE Amazon Prime!

Since moving out to the boonies I have established quite the love affair with Amazon Prime. After living in Atlanta, which is a major international shipping hub to here shipping can take forever. Amazon Prime has been a life saver. I had no idea how many amazing things you can get to you in just three days! Even out here in the boonies! If you click on the graphic below you can give it a try yourself for FREE and see how awesome it is!

 

A Special Giveaway

Five years ago, while pregnant with my third I met a wonderful friend who was due just a few short weeks after I was. Chelsea and I became fast friends and looked forward to having babies together. Just a few weeks before I was due tragedy struck and Chelsea lost her sweet baby girl. It was heartbreaking for me to watch my sweet friend go through such a horrific experience. I will never forget her sweet Evelyn. Chelsea and her husband walked through the season that followed with such grace and Chelsea and I became even closer. She now has had two beautiful rainbow babies, we have both moved across the country, and we both own our own businesses. I still treasure our, now long distance, friendship. Every year when August comes around I am reminded of beautiful Evelyn and the strength of her wonderful mama. This year Chelsea asked me if I would be willing to host a giveaway on my site in Evelyn’s honor and I am happy to do so. Giving away something wonderful in memory of a wonderful tiny person is the perfect way to keep her memory alive.

Beautiful Evelyn

Beautiful Evelyn

The Giveaway

In honor of Evelyn’s 5th Angelversery we are having a wonderful giveaway for all of you. This giveaway will include a LuLaRoe Carly dress from LuLaroe Chelsea Wallis, a key fob from The White Owl Studio, a mother charm from Luxe Links and a pair of sandals from Scandic Footwear!!!

The White Owl studio is owned and operated by Morgan Hinkle. In addition to having impeccable sewing skills, Morgan has the biggest heart of anyone Ive ever known. Today she will be giving away a key fob to one lucky winner. Morgan also creates bags, quilts and other beautiful creations.

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Luxe Links was created by the gorgeous Shani Brown. She is lovingly giving away a Mother Charm. One of her most highly sought after pieces. This beautiful peace of art is hand crafted from fine silver. The perfect finishing piece to outfit of the day!

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Lularoe Chelsea Wallis is joyfully giving away one of Lularoe’s hottest new items. The Carly Dress! The Carly dress is a flattering, flowy swing dress. It comes with a high low hem, front pocket and comfortable sleeves. Winner will get a beautiful Carly in their size!
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Scandic Footwear are handcrafted from natural materials in New England. These clogs and Sandals are one of a kind, created with love and a skillful eye. Winner will get a free New York Braided Sandal in the color of their choice.

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How to Enter

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Our Daily Classically Home-schooled Life

As we enter into our fourth year of using Classical Conversations for our boys education I am walking into this year feeling more confident than ever. It is not because I have it all together, it is because I feel like I finally have a well grounded understanding of what the model looks like and how to implement it at home. Bottom line: less is more! Keep it simple! That is my mantra. As a Classical Conversations Foundations/Essentials director I get asked quite frequently what I use at home and how I use it, as well as what that looks like each day. So below I have detailed that out for you. This post is a little lengthy but I have tried to have lots of headings to make it easier to scroll through. I wanted to have all the info in one place.

Before I start let me reassure you: the memory work is enough, the memory work is enough, the memory work is enough. Should I say it one more time? The memory work IS enough! Simply add a math program and phonics if your child is not reading yet. If your child is reading simply take a trip to the library and pick out some amazing books to read from one of the many available reading lists (see below). That’s it. Really it is. Everything else is extra and unnecessary.

Our Set Up at Home

Over the years I have tried many different set ups including a big fancy “classroom”. I have learned that what works best is when our learning spaces are incorporated into our daily life. Our current home has a dining room and a small breakfast nook with the kitchen being in the center of the home. This is perfect for me to be able to do this. I have utilized our breakfast nook to be our work space with a small table, place for pencils, markers, etc. and our calendar. Being so close to the kitchen allows me to keep a close eye on them while I am cleaning up or making a meal. Also be warned, I don’t really clean up to take pictures, this is real life, not pinterest.

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Looking into our breakfast nook workspace from the kitchen, you can see the memory work on the wall to the right.

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Close up of our breakfast nook workspace. Notice the box still in need of unpacking. We still have a few weeks before we officially get started.

Directly to the right of our table is a small wall next to the door to our patio where I hang our memory work for the week. We happen to live on a small farm with the most incredible views of the Owyhee Mountains behind our house. As a result, the entire backside of our house is windows, which I LOVE, but it leaves little space for hanging a board for our weekly memory work.

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This is my backyard and the reason for all the windows <3

So instead I bought six $4 8×10 frames from Hobby Lobby, mounted some burlap (construction paper or even plain white paper would work just fine) inside them and use them to write my memory work on. They hang directly next to the table.

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Did you notice that Geography is missing? Oh I am so glad that you did! That is because I have it in the dining room! Geography is always the one piece we struggle to work on because it requires that I get a map out. Why, yes I truly am THAT lazy. So this year I solved that problem by grabbing a big map from Costco and hanging it on my dining room wall.

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So this year we can practice geography at the dinner table. This map from Costco is amazing. It is huge, dry erase friendly, and it isn’t primary colors (which I despise). It was only $15 for a double pack of one world map and one United States map (perfect for cycle 3 next year). I just got it there last week, so they should still have them. Plus I love that my kids will work on the CC maps during community days and then come home and transition that work to a different map.

Timeline cards are kept in page protectors in a small binder that we can flip through located on my single shelf with all our needed supplies. Mainly my teaching manuals and math manipulatives. You will see my timeline card binders on the second shelf from the bottom. Just one bookshelf, that’s it. It sit across the wall from the memory work frames, right next to the kitchen counter.

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The only other items not pictured are all the bookshelves. It is so important to keep books accessible for your kids. Have them in every single room of the house. Even the bathroom. Although I must confess, with four boys with do NOT have books in the bathroom. I will spare you the gross details of what that would involve. We have bookshelves in the family room, the dining room, all the bedrooms. They are everywhere. Yes, I am constantly picking up books, but that means they are being read. One can never have too many books. I have some book list resources below for you to check out to start building your at home library.

Math

It has been said that parents often reclaim their education while teaching their own children and that has been absolutely true for me in the area of mathematics. My third grade teacher gave up on me ever learning my multiplication tables and as a result I never did. Then in high school I was randomly selected to participate in a new experimental math course that involved us learning math using a TI-83 calculator for everything. When I got to college I had to take three remedial math courses and I still struggled to pass the regular math courses. That being said, it is so important to me that my kids have an awesome math education. We use Saxon for all our boys and I plan to use it all the way through. I could elaborate on this but Leigh Bortins and other CC leadership does a much better job than I ever could so please take a moment and read these two articles: “Why Saxon?‘ and “Four Benefits of Saxon Math

Saxon and Common Core

The newer Saxon editions (2010 and earlier) have been aligned with common core, which is something I do NOT want for my kids. However, the older editions are still readily available and fantastic. I have bought all my teacher manuals at sales or on ebay and have not paid over $15 for any of them. I then order the student workbook and fact cards from Rainbow Resource Room for about $35 per student. The older editions all look like this:

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11700995_10153463171475505_6615346991646405836_oI personally do not use the K book. I start my kids in Saxon 1 when they are 5 and we work our way through very slowly. I usually take their K year to go through the first semester’s material and their first grade year to go through second semester material. Just remember the beauty of homeschooling is that you can go however fast or slow your student needs for you to go.

A Final Thought on Saxon

One of the most common negative comments I hear about Saxon is that it is redundant and not colorful. Both are true. The textbooks are just black and white, but they are also the most affordable. The redundant comment always makes me giggle inside a little bit when it is coming from a parent using the classical model. Repetition is the heart of the classical model. It is how our students can master what they are learning. Sometimes I do have to expect my kids to do math drills they don’t want to do because it is hard and boring. However, I have observed over the years that the more they do them and master the drills the more they like them because they can tangibly see how much they have mastered. So yes, I like the fact that Saxon is redundant and not colorful.

Other Math Programs

There are other math programs on the market that I have heard excellent things about and I know many parents love. Below are some of those programs if you would like to do a little more research.

Phonics, Spelling, and Reading

If you have a child that is not reading you will need to have a phonics program for them. Reading has been a big struggle in our house, especially with 3 children needing to learn to read at the same time. Fitting time in every day for three kids to have time with mom for phonics instruction was seriously stressing me out. And that didn’t include spelling time with any of them. It wasn’t until this past winter when my Support Representative from CC recommended Spell to Write and Read that I finally felt confident in this area. This program is phenomenal and can be used for all your kiddos from preschool through 6th grade. It teaches your child to read, write, and spell all at the same time in a reasonable amount of time each day. It can be a bit overwhelming when you first get it and attempt to figure it out. However the best thing to do is to read through the first 12 steps and then just get started with your kiddos.

What You Need

To start with all you will need is the Core Pack. This is a one time purchase and has all the materials you will need for every student in every grade. Similar to your Foundations guide. If you have children capable of writing then you will need a Learning Log for each student. The learning logs are only $5 each.

I bought my kids a small white board as well to practice their handwriting on before putting it in the learning log, but that is completely optional. It really is that simple.

Read, Read, Read!

Then you just need to read to your kids. Read all the time. I read to them aloud for about half an hour each day. Then I send them each to their beds for a mandatory hour of reading and quiet time afterwards. Weekly library trips to get new books will help make this time more exciting for them. Have older siblings read to younger siblings that cannot read. Some days we even build forts in the family room and they read in the forts with flashlights.

A reading fort. All the boys are inside reading.

A reading fort. All the boys are inside reading.

What to Read?

There are some really excellent reading lists out there. I will link a couple of my favorites below. There is one book that I absolutely love that has several exhaustive lists and I think should be on every mom’s shelf:

This book is an encouraging read for moms and gives excellent tips on how to ignite a reader in your child. Then the back of the book is full of amazing exhaustive lists that you can use to choose books for your kids to read. In addition my two favorite blogs for reading lists are Half a Hundred Acre Wood and Read Aloud Revival. Both sites have great book lists and ideas. half a Hundred Acre Wood has CC cycle specific book lists as well.

Additional Resources

Don’t even think about adding these extra things into your day until you feel like you have a handle on the above items. No really, don’t. However, if you feel like you need (not want, but need) a little more to fill your day here are some other items I use.

Computer Time

We do not use screens in our house. No iPads or computer games or TV. The only exception is for family movie nights a few times a year or if the boys are working on one of the following three programs. This is a something we feel we as a family are called to and we are always open to when the Lord may change this commitment, but as of now we do not use any screens with the kids.

  • Xtra Math – This is a free program that will help your children master their addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts. It is amazing and takes about 5 minutes a day per child. We have been using this for about a year and I have been blown away by how much it helps my kids. It is a very basic, simple program that I sometimes have to ask them to do, but once they see their percentage mastered go up it becomes a game to get it all the way 100.
  • Reading Eggs – This is a paid program (and somewhat pricey) but I have found it to be very much worth it for my boys who struggle a bit in reading. It works on phonics with the littles starting out around age 4 and then works on reading comprehension for the older kids once they are established readers. The reading comprehension program is actually my favorite part.
  • Typing.com – Another free program for older kids. I would say around age 8 or 9. We just started this with my oldest to prepare him to start typing up some of his Essentials papers in the years to come. I am sure I will have more feedback on this as we become more familiar with the program.

Additional Curriculum

I know, I know. I started out this post saying you don’t need any additional curriculum and you don’t. However, there is just one curriculum I felt is worth mentioning: The Story of the World.

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This program is a narrative of history that is easy to incorporate into your read aloud times. We love it. There are also activity books and audio CDs that you can get to go along with the program. This would require a post all by itself, but I wanted to give it a quick mention. 

Our Daily Schedule

Now that I have shared all of the resources that we use, you likely want to know what our day looks like. It varies a bit but on an average day this is what we do. Life with a toddler can make things interesting that is for sure. This is also our very first year in Essentials, so I have a pretty good idea of what this will look like but it may change as we get into it throughout the year.

Morning

I am not a morning person. Believe it or not my kids get up before me. In fact,  them being up and about doing their morning chores ever so quietly (can you hear the sarcasm dripping in my voice?) is what normally wakes me up around 7:45. They get up and feed and care for our various animals while I get up and get dressed and start breakfast. After breakfast (around 9 or 9:30) we sit down and they start working through their math. After math we jump into reading together. Once we review the phonograms together we start the one on one rotation with one student sitting with mom while the others work on their computer work. Then we are done with our morning work usually around 11:30 or when the toddler starts to get fussy.

Afternoon

We make lunch and have lunch together. Around 1 o’clock I send the older three off to their rooms to be read to by their oldest brother and then if they finish they can quietly play or do a puzzle. I lay the baby down. Once I have the baby asleep I will read aloud to them for 30 minutes while they color or draw what they see in their heads while I am reading. Then I send the younger two off to finish quiet time in their rooms while I work on Essentials work with my oldest. When he finishes he joins them in quiet time. We are done for the day around 3 or 3:30.

Wait, What About the Memory Work?

I don’t have a set aside time for memory work… Gasp. It hangs on my wall and we talk about it throughout the day. We also play the memory work CDs in the car. At dinnertime we practice on the map. In the evenings we may play a board game where we take out the cards that came with the game and use the review cards instead. Memory work is just a part of our life. We don’t have notebooks or art projects or required time spent. We just do life and talk about it as we go about life. That’s it. This leads me to the verse I would like to close this post with:

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your house and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the LORD swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth. ~Deuteronomy 11:18-21

Our Father is present in all our studies, you can teach your children all they need to know. You are enough. You have enough. Our gracious Lord has given you everything you need. You CAN do this!

Our Struggle with Reading – A Success Story

I remember my student teaching years with fondness. I also remember the one lesson I took away from the several months I spent in a first grade classroom: I never again want to teach children to read. Not ever. I never thought I’d say that, given what an avid reader I am. (God sure has a funny sense of humor, doesn’t he?) I was one of those crazy kids who taught myself to read in my preschool years. Not only do I not remember a time before reading, but I also don’t remember not loving to read. And while I may or may not still need to use my fingers for simple addition, I can devour a good novel in less than a day. I read the entire Harry Potter series in a week. Suffice it to say, I really love to read.

Fast forward about 9 years from the student teaching experience… and the Lord calls me to homeschool my children.

Fast forward another year… it is abundantly clear my oldest child did not inherit my gift of teaching himself to read. And suddenly I realize I am going to have to do that one thing I said I never wanted to do: teach someone to read.

Getting Started

My son already knew all his letters, but getting started with phonics I didn’t know where to start. We started with a popular phonics curriculum. It was full of worksheets, charts, worksheets, games, worksheets, oh and some more worksheets. He was not a fan and I was not a fan that he was not a fan. That first year I ended up putting him in private PreK by November.

download1The next year was our first year in Classical Conversations and several moms in our community recommended a program called “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons“. Easy? I am in! Only 100 short and quick lessons? Even better. We got started and got through about the first 25-30 lessons and we were making progress.

 

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However, the reading portions kept getting longer and more difficult. My very busy, active little boy was starting to get frustrated. He would see his reading for the day an immediately get defeated. He would see me pull that book out and immediately his whole body language would change. Soon the tears started and then his flat out refusal to do the lesson at all. I so wish I could go back and talk to that mom that I was. I felt like I had to push him through it. He was over 5 at this point he should be reading and we were no where near reading at all. I tried positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, bribery, begging. None of it worked, my son just grew to hate reading more and more. Every day he was crying, I was crying, and if by some miracle we made it through the lesson it had taken us well over an hour. Knowing what I know now I wish so much I could go back and hug that little boy and that mom!

Something had to Change

So finally after one particular bad day of us both in tears I just looked at my son and said: “honey, we are not going to do this reading book anymore” and I just stopped. I didn’t know what to do. I started getting online and researching all the thousands of language curriculums that were out there. I called a few companies and spoke to them and shared our story. Then one day I came across All About Learning Press and their All About Reading program. They were fairly new at the time but I remember they were the only curriculum I read about that I couldn’t find one negative review. I called and spoke to them and spent about an hour on the phone with them, I believe I even cried. They were so kind, spent so much time with me, and really believed my son would like their program and that it would help it.

When the curriculum arrived I was a little nervous how he would react, but he was really excited. He wanted to start that day. So we did and we made it all the way through a lesson and he loved it. He was making strides and we made it all the way through level 1 that school year and we both were super proud of his progress. He was still behind his public schooled peers, but he was making progress which was exciting.


If you are not familiar with the program there are several aspects about it that I personally believe make it the BEST reading and spelling curriculum on the market:

  1. It is very tactile. To get started you purchase a pack of letter tiles and a magnetic board. The children get to manipulate the tiles to create words while standing (or I guess sitting, but standing was good for us) to spell the words they are learning.
  2. The lessons are all broken up into small, short, and very different parts. This was key for us. Lessons in other programs can be so very lengthy The staff a AALP told me they designed their program differently on purpose so that when children start to get fatigued you can stop at a good stopping point. My son, who likes to finish things he starts, doesn’t have to feel like he is failing for not completing the lesson because each lesson has several different lessons inside it. Each section is also very different so one part may be standing up spelling with tiles while another part is cutting and pasting.
  3. The lessons teach the same thing several different ways. This was also key for us. As I mentioned above the lesson isn’t all just sitting, blending, and reading. There are the letter tiles, coloring, cut and paste, flash cards, and even some physical activities all in one lesson. It teaches the children the same thing without being so similar the child gets bored or feels like he is just doing the same thing over and over (which my son cannot stand).
  4. It teaches them how to read (and eventually spell) anything. Even as a voracious reader myself, I am learning rules about phonics I had never learned before and I love this. It doesn’t just teach my child how to read specific words on their level it teaches them why letters say what they do when they are in a certain order.
  5. It is affordable. Love this part. The first time you have to buy the letter tiles and a few accessories so I spent a total of about $150. However, the great thing is that you use those same letter tiles all the way through and for multiple children. After that initial investment each subsequent year has been between $45-130 depending on the level and what optional extras I choose. That is incredible for a language curriculum.

 

New Challenges

The next year we started Level 2 and as the year progressed it felt like it just wasn’t getting it. He didn’t like blending words and even when he did he would get a word and then completely forget it by the time he got to the next page. He was also forgetting simple words like “and”, “he”, and “the”. Frustration was rising again. This was about the time we made a big move. I contacted the awesome people at All About Learning Press again and they told me to try taking a break. So we did. About 2 months of no reading at all.

When we arrived in our new home we picked it back up again and he was still not getting it. I spoke to a few moms back at our Classical Conversations community and came up with a new plan.

The First Break Through

I made reading a privilege for him. In our new house he had his own room, which really helped. Although even if he didn’t I probably would have let him read in my bed or a special reading area in the house. Each night he got to stay up 20-30 minutes past his bedtime as long as he was laying in bed “reading” books. I also started a simple chapter book with him and would read a chapter to him each night before lights out time. This was also special because it was just him and I (or his dad).

Then one night about a month later it happened. He came downstairs one night in the middle of his reading time and said: “Mom can I read you this book?” Now he had done this before and it consisted of him telling me what was going on in the pictures and maybe pointing out a few words. There was never any actual reading involved. Not this night. On this night he sat down next to me and read me the entire book, every single word. I was astonished. It was not a book I had read to him before, so it wasn’t memory. It was one of his library books that he had read on his own. I cried I was so proud of him. From that night on he would select certain books to read to me or to his brothers. We picked up our All About Reading lessons again and he went through each lesson with no problem. We also started All About Spelling and he was flying through it. We had made it through another hurdle and I officially had a reader that loved reading.

 

download3Another Change

As the weeks went by and we were moving through our spelling and reading I began to feel a little bored myself and I felt like he was getting a little bored with the mundane as well. Reading for me is an adventure and I want my children to feel that same way. I didn’t want it to be another just another lesson, but a gift. It was about this time I came across the book The Well Trained Mind again. I had read it several years ago when we started our journey into Classical Education but I really felt drawn to re-read the sections on reading. I am so glad I did. After reading through again I made a few more changes to our reading. Specifically I was more intentional about our library trips. I now go to the library and we choose three types of books together each week:

  1. Easy Readers: just like I mentioned above, these are books that are right at or below my son’s current reading level. They are books he can read on his own with very little frustration. We choose about 20-25 of these a week.
  2. Story books: these are still picture books but they are above my son’s reading level. These are books we read together each week and as I read them I point to the words as I read. I get about 10-15 of these a week.
  3. Chapter Books: Each week I choose one chapter book (usually a classic or a classic rewritten on a lower reading level) for me to read to him each night. This book is usually significantly above his reading level. As we read I have to stop every few paragraphs so we can talk about what is going on and also so I can define any new words for him.

And we read. We read and we read and we read. Each day I would read 2 story books to them, he would read 3-4 books to use, and I would read 1-2 chapters to him. As we came to words and sounds he didn’t know we talked about it right then and there. His confidence grew, his love of reading grew, and his skills grew. It was so great to watch. We still did a reading or spelling lesson as we felt moved, usually about 1 or 2 a week instead of 4 or 5. We were still loving the spelling and reading from All About Learning Press. His reading skills were skyrocketing.

Another Success

Just this week we sat down to do a reading lesson on the “ee” sound. I opened the book and he already knew it! He didn’t know it from any lesson we had done together, but from our reading. We had come across enough words with the “ee” sound while reading that he already knew that when he saw “ee” he needed to make the long e sound. We skipped the whole lesson and he was so incredibly proud of himself. And I wanted to scream: “IT IS WORKING!” So we called it an early day and celebrated with some yogurt topped with dark chocolate chips for snack because that’s how we roll.IMG_0008

To The Stressed Mom of Years Gone By

I wish so much I could back in time and hug that stressed, worried mom that I was. If I could I would tell myself to breathe, stop wasting time on curriculum he isn’t ready for, snuggle up on the couch and snuggle that little preschool boy while reading some amazing books. I would tell myself to stop comparing him to all the public schooled children out there. If I wanted him to be educated like the public schooled children, I wouldn’t have chosen to homeschool him. I would tell myself not to be bound to a certain curriculum, but to be prayerfully bound to praying for direction for his education. I would look that sweet little preschooler in the face and tell him how much he is going to love reading one day, how his little brothers are going to prefer his reading over mine, and how incredibly talented God made him to be. I would tell myself to trust the method of education that we feel the Lord has called us to use to educate our children and believe that he knows what is best. I would tell myself to put my pride aside and be okay with having a preschooler who couldn’t read yet because he has so many other amazing qualities and part of the reason why we chose to educate the way we do is so that our children can learn at their own developmentally appropriate pace. And most importantly I would tell myself that I was chosen to be his mama over all the other mamas in the whole entire world and that when I slow down, breathe, lay down my pride and need to be right, pray, and listen to my God and my instincts I will always know the direction I need to head.

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The Post Every Pregnant Mom Should Read

If you want a natural birth don’t have your baby in a hospital, you will end up with a c-section. Having your baby at home is dangerous and stupid. Birth centers are amazing because they feel like home but if your baby isn’t breathing they can’t help you. Hospitals are the safest. Hospitals are dangerous because they will make you have procedures on your baby that you don’t want. Is anyone confused yet?

If you are pregnant or even mention that you are thinking about getting pregnant everyone and their mother (literally) will have an opinion on where you should have your baby. Really you don’t even have to tell anyone just check out the comments on social media on articles surrounding birth and be prepared for an all out war. However, now that I am on my fourth pregnancy and I have learned something I wish every mom would understand:

It does not matter where you have your baby, at all. Read that again. It does not matter where you have your baby.

Have your baby at home, have your baby in a hospital, have your baby in a birth center, have your baby squatting in the woods (although I have to say that sounds the least appealing to me personally). It doesn’t matter.
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Why doesn’t it matter?

Over the past 8 years I have been pregnant 4 times, have given birth 3 times, and am about to give birth again in a few short months. My first birth was a very typical 21st century birth. I labored for a long time, had an epidural, and had a baby in a hospital. Not exactly what I had planned, but nothing was terrible about it other than the 6 months of my upper thigh being numb to the touch from the epidural (one of the side effects I wasn’t told about). My second birth was probably the worst and most traumatic day of my life. He was also born in a hospital. You can read the story at the link above. My third birth was also in a hospital, but this time was the first time I took the time to really choose who I was going to have taking care of me. I think I interviewed half a dozen different OB/MW teams. This hospital water birth was the most incredible, healing birth I had ever had. Many of the natural birth crazies would say it was because it was a natural birth. I would somewhat disagree. It was because I trusted the birth team that was with me and my wishes and rights were respected. I was cared for like a real person and not just another patient. Having a natural birth is one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had, but I don’t think that is what made the biggest difference.

I had 3 hospital births and they were all completely different experiences. I learned the hard way during my second birth that hospitals aren’t always the safest places to have a baby if you don’t have a good team taking care of you. Both my baby and I faced moments where our lives were in jeopardy. Then I learned during my third birth that there are doctors in hospitals that will take phenomenal care of you. I experienced terrible care in a hospital setting, but I have also known women who experienced terrible care at home and in a birth center. It can happen everywhere, just like incredible care can.

So what does matter?

What does matter is who you choose to be there with you when you have your baby. This matters so much, so very much and I don’t think many moms grasp just how much this matters. Where you have your baby doesn’t matter, but who is there when you have your baby matters more than anything else you need to consider while pregnant. In fact, I am going to say that who you choose to be present when you give birth is the single most important choice you will make while pregnant. More important than the nursery design, more important than what travel system, crib, or baby toys you register for, more important than your baby shower guest list. It should be at the top of your list. Most moms that I know choose to go to the most well known practice in the area, the practice at the top of the list on their list of in-network OBs, or the practice that most of their friends go to. They make the choice and then blindly go to their appointments and trust everything that provider says. They are the doctor, right? As a new mom that is what I did. Most of the time moms wanting a home birth or a birth center birth are a little more aware of the choices they are making due to those choices being less popular, but still I have read home birth and birth center stories that are just as scary (and often more scary) than hospital situations.

First Things First

Before you can choose a care provider, you actually need to know something about pregnancy and birth and what is going to happen in your body during the process. This seems like common sense, but again it has been my experience that very few women have a clue about what goes on in their bodies during the 10 months (yep it’s 10 months, not 9) they are pregnant and during the labor process. You can’t really know how to choose medical professionals to care for you during the process until you know what kind of care you want to receive. So how do you do that? First, promise me you won’t read the book “What to Expect When You are Expecting” unless you want a book with zero references and just want to be told not to worry and just trust your doctor. I have compiled a list of some of the best resources I have found on learning about pregnancy and childbirth below. You may notice that several of the books have a very pro natural childbirth stance. The reason for this is because I have found that those are really the only books that seem to give real, evidence based information. As I mentioned above I have had 2 medicated births. I strongly believe that moms should be free to have an epidural or pain management if they choose, however I also believe that we need to have all the information on such choices in order to make a confident choice. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but some of the best I have read. Feel free to share your other recommendations in the comments.

How to Choose?

Once you have an understanding of what you want for your pregnancy and delivery you are now equipped to choose a provider for yourself and your baby. I recommend interviewing several different doctors and midwives until you find one you really feel safe with. Let them know what you are hoping for and find a doctor that is supportive of your wishes and doesn’t brush you aside. I think many moms are used to being brushed aside by “doctor speak”. I know I was. Until my third pregnancy and I was interviewing the OB I ended up choosing. He was so kind and even apologized to me for the way I had been treated in the past. No doctor had ever done that before. I was under the care of the midwives for my pregnancy, but it is so important to know the OB as well. All the midwives are under his/her authority. Chances are if the OB is fantastic, the midwives will be so as well and unfortunately the opposite is not true. Fantastic midwives do not always mean fantastic doctors. Childbirth Connection has some really great articles on how to go about doing this that are worth checking out. If you find yourself having a hard time please reach out to me, no matter where you live I can help you find the places to look for really great care providers.

Santa is Dead! An Update

One afternoon last week I went to grab my kids from a neighbor’s house and my awesome neighbor pulled me aside and told me my oldest son was telling her son that Santa was dead. Not my proudest moment. Sigh…

The Back Story

Last year, my post regarding how our family handles Santa was published in a magazine and my site got more hits than it ever had. I was so happy we had figured out a way to handle the whole Santa thing without our kids turning out to be “that kid”. and I wanted to share what we did. Well, turns out my seven year old was “that kid” now. If you go back and read my post you will see that we most certainly do not tell our children that Santa is dead, but if you knew my seven year old you would know exactly how he came to that conclusion.
My seven year old is just like his daddy: extremely logical and analytical. He has very little imagination and almost no creativity. He is extremely concrete and likes things to be just so. He is a math genius, has an awesome sense of direction, and can assemble and build amazing creations with no directions. He is the opposite of his mama. We have always told our children the story of Saint Nicholas. We tell them he was a man that loved Jesus and gave to others as a result. so each Christmas when we see his face we are reminded to give to others at Christmas time. They know the story of the dowry and the stockings, so they know that people hang stockings and they are filled with goodies in remembrance of that event. We also watch and enjoy Christmas classics like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and other Santa based shows, just as we watch any other fun family shows like Toy Story. We don’t ever have serious conversations about them afterwards, anymore than we have conversations about whether or not Buzz Lightyear is a real Space Ranger.

The Aftermath

So that evening I sat down with my seven year old and included his five and a half year old brother as he was present for the conversation at the neighbors and asked them what happened. My oldest told me that his friend kept insisting that Santa was real. I told him that Santa is real. To which he replied, “No mom he was real, now he is dead!” Didn’t I tell you he is a realist? My second son is much more like his mama. He is a dreamer with an impressive vocabulary and has probably ten times the dose of creativity that I have. He says: ” Right, but his spirit is still here at Christmas reminding us what Jesus wants for his birthday.” I was impressed. what am I here for if my five year old gets it? Then my oldest says with arrogance in his voice: “Maybe, but he is still dead.” I couldn’t help but laugh. I knew he was not going to relent so I agreed with him. “Yes honey, you are correct Saint Nicholas the man is dead, but lots of people still like to celebrate him today and remember his kindness by giving to others. Some parents like to pretend to be him and give their kids gifts and let them be surprised and we need to respect that. So you are not allowed to tell children that Santa is dead because that is not kind to the children who still like to be surprised. Do you understand?” To which, he agreed and then asked if we were done talking. And so far this week we have been without any dead Santa incidences.

My Takeaway

Parenting is always evolving, as my children get older I have realized that my parenting style and conversations need to change. It goes beyond Santa. My children’s curiosity changes and their ability to observe and understand more increases. As parents we need to be open to changing our stance and continue conversations that we thought were done.
Christmas is full force in our house right now. The advent wreath is sitting on the table and our Jesse tree is in the works. This year my seven year old has asked to read some of our daily verses from his own Bible, which has been so much fun. This year since we live in Idaho we took a family trip up into the mountains and national forest to cut down our Christmas tree. Afterward my husband and I decided that moving forward this would be a special trip reserved only for children over the age of 6. Trekking through a foot of snow up a mountain with a three year old was less than fun. Don’t be afraid to adjust family traditions and add new ones as your kids get older. Honor and respect your child as they grow it will make them feel great as they get older and get more privileges and it will give the younger ones something to look forward to.
My oldest in a rare quiet moment in front of the Christmas tree.

My oldest in a rare quiet moment in front of the Christmas tree.

Westward Move Day 2-3: Omaha, Nebraska

Disclaimer: my westward posts are all written via iPhone while on the road. Please excuse any spelling, grammar, style, or formatting errors :)

We spent most of today in Omaha, Nebraska which was a surprisingly (to me) beautiful city. We arrived super late last night thanks to a scary thunderstorm in Kansas and Nebraska but we woke up this morning to beautiful weather. Our hotel was right next to a beautiful park with bison and geese sculptures which the kids loved:

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We then headed over to the Omaha zoo and aquarium, which was incredible. I highly recommend this zoo to any travelers. The zoo does a really amazing job of including visitors in the exhibit. We got to walk through deserts, caves, and swamps. Very cool. The kids especially liked the penguins feeding time.

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Tonight we are driving through South Dakota to Rapid City, which I have been looking forward to so much. I spent several months living in Rapid and working with Native American children coming off the reservation. This is also where I really fell in love with the west for the first time. I am so looking forward to taking my family to all the areas I loved. On the way in tonight I am hoping we make it to Wall Drug before they close so the bus can pick out a fun prize. On the agenda for tomorrow is Mount Rushmore and the Dinosaur Park. Then we plan to take the beautiful drive through the Badlands and stop in Cheyenne, Wyoming. We still have about 3.5 hours left of driving tonight before we reach Rapid.

Nick and I have the transfer from car to hotel down to a science from the past few days, it is really funny to watch I bet. But we are all looking forward to settling into our new home.

Westward Move: Day 1-2 St. Louis

Disclaimer: all my westward move posts are posted via my iPhone while on the road with varying levels of coverage. Please don’t use any of these posts to judge my spelling, grammar, formatting, and/or style. :)

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What an adventure we are on! This is something Nick and I have said many times over the past month. Moving across the country with three kids, two dogs, and a cat is not the most relaxing thing one can do. However, this is a dream come true for us so we have tried to repeat that phrase over and over again as we have hit some want to punch someone it is so stressfuladventurous situations along the way.

The Drive to St. Louis
We left early Saturday morning and headed out. I had prepared a fun bag for each of the kids to have in the car. I let them choose two things to open on the way. I bought 3 awesome series for the kids to watch on the trip: Where in the World is Carmen Santiago, The Magic School Bus, and Liberty Kids (which was accidentally packed and sent ahead of us). My poor kitty cried the first 3 hours and my little dog refused to go to the bathroom on a leash, but other than that we arrived just in time for dinner.

St. Louis Fun
After checking into our hotel we headed downtown for dinner at a Root Beer Brewery called Fitz’s. The kids loved the fresh root beer and I was super impressed with the quality of the food and their gluten free menu for my oldest son.

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The next morning we woke up and headed to the arch and to check out the Mississippi River. The park surrounding the arch was beautiful and gave the kids a much needed place to run. We didn’t have time to ride to the top of the arch. br />
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The Expansion Museum under the arch was amazing an FREE. The kids each got a Junior Ranger activity book to complete for a medal. The kids loved the challenge and they leaned so much. We talked a lot about all the families that did wha we are doing hundreds of years ago in a wagon. The exhibits were amazing for all ages. This is for sure a must do for St. Louis visits.

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On the way to the car we stopped at the Mississippi to take a few pictures of the dirty water. The boys did love all the barges and also throwing sticks into the water.

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Up next we headed to The City Museum, which is an incredible museum/art exhibit/playground. The kids loved it. Not exactly the best place for moms who are afraid of heights and get nervous in places where it is impossible to see all their children at all times. With three young children and only two adults it was challenging to keep track of all three of them at once. The imagination and talent that was out into the museum are incredible and my boys just loved climbing and running and playing.

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After the museum we were all sweaty, tired messes so we went back to the hotel for showers, packed up, and headed back on the road. Up next we will head through Independence, MO to Omaha. I believe we are going to check out the Omaha Zoo in the morning before heading out.

Currently all three boys are totally passed out from a busy morning.

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