As of Lately

I've been emotional lately. I stop myself before tears stream down my face because, really, who has the time? Big events are coming my way, ready or not.

It all started with Theo walking. WALKING! Yes, I said walking. Who does he think he is? He was barely 10 months old when he decided it was time, and I could do nothing to stop him. In the past few weeks I've started to wonder where my baby went. I feel like I've missed something. Have I taken enough pictures and video? Did I cherish the time when he wasn't mobile or when he was just crawling? Am I reading and singing enough to him? I never EVER in a million quadrillion years thought I'd say this but I'm actually enjoying his middle of the night feed. While most babies his age are sleeping 7am-7pm (and when I say most I mean only a handful) my little guy still enjoys a nightly meal around 3 am. I should be upset, right? I mean, he's old enough to cry it out and sleep through the night, but that time for us together is the only thing I feel still makes him a baby and I'm holding on tight to that one. He'll be one in less than a month and a half. I feel like life has gotten a whole lot faster with him around. When Anna turned one it was definitely a fast year but this past year, where did it go?! We're closer to him being a toddler and no longer an infant and I don't know if I can handle that right now. Even though he's constantly on the move and getting into and climbing everything he is still a big mama's boy and loves cuddling and giving open mouth kisses, and I wouldn't mind if it stayed that way for a very long time.

Be still my heart...and time.
Anna will be three in less than two weeks. Let me just say there is such thing as a "three-eenager" because we got one. We've got ourselves a sassy, strong willed, little princess. I never thought I'd have one. Let me just stop myself right there. I know my mom is rolling on the floor laughing as she reads this because that is exactly what she had in me. My former 3 year old self has come back to haunt me through my daughter. She's constantly singing, playing in her own world, reserved in crowds but jumping off the walls in her own home, loves everything pink and sparkly and super girly but loves her cowboy boots and fishing with her Daddy. Dresses for days, I mean all.day.e'ry.day. She didn't wear a pair of shorts one day this summer. And if she wasn't wearing a dress, she was wearing pants with her tutu over them. Since I'm dealing with a mini-me I've decided to chill out a bit. The control freak in me wants to control the control freak in her and I have a feeling I'm going to lose. So I've decided to let go and let her have her fun. And I'm having more fun too.

These days are fleeting. I so wish they'd just slow down.
On the same day Anna turns three I will turn 30. Thirty. I think I'm somewhat in denial because I'm not experiencing a quarter life crisis like I feel most people do. I'm actually totally okay with it. Or maybe I just haven't had time to really think about what that means. Thirty. Maybe it's because I'm exactly where I wanted to be at thirty. I love my life. Jesus is at my center. My husband and I have a great marriage. I have two beautiful children who bring me so much joy. I have wonderful friends who bring laughter to my soul. My extended family, while far, we still see each other frequently and I cherish those times. I love where we live and can't imagine having different neighbors that we do now. I'm excited to see what this next decade brings. Thirty, you're looking good and I don't care who knows it!

Grays are shining through my hair but I don't care! It's a sign of wisdom, right? ;)
As the next few months fly by I hope I can stop for a few minutes and cherish all that is around me. As Theo begins to talk and Anna learns new steps in her ballet class and I enter a new age bracket I hope the small moments don't get away from me and I can see the beauty in life of simply being present.


Week Two

Second week down, and already when I ask if Anna wants to do school she says no. Hmmm, maybe I'm going about this the wrong way!... During the middle of the week I stopped saying we're doing school and instead I would start something by myself relating to school (painting, play dough, sorting blocks, reading our little Bible) and more often then not she'd wonder what I was doing and want to join. She's still only 2 so of course she doesn't want to "do school", she just wants to play! And I definitely want to encourage that. I recently read an article (I read it from Facebook and now I forget who posted it so I can't link it up) about the differences between German children and American children. I loved it, and now I want to pack my family up and move to Germany. Not really, but I am ready to be different than what I've witnessed here in America. I had a friend tell me that her son's kindergarten teacher told her that school (and she's referring to kindergarten too) is for learning, home is for fun. I'm sorry--what?! I thought learning was supposed to be fun?! Shoot, I still have fun learning! In Germany the main purpose of kindergarten is to play and socialize. Everyday children are expected to play outdoors, rain or shine. One of the main reasons we're deciding to homeschool is because we want our children to find joy in learning. We both attended public school and feel like the joy of learning was stripped from us at an early age. I went to college for education and the schools I observed, did my practicums, and student taught in most days were spent teaching to test. Most of my fellow collegemates were encouraged and wanted to change what they saw. I greatly admire them for that, however, for me, I turned the other way and knew I didn't want my own children to attend schools where testing was the priority. So homeschooling is our only option at this point. Which I love so far--granted, we're only in week 2 of pre-K, ha! Ask me again in a few years ;)

Check out what we learned this week. We're following the ABC Jesus Loves Me Two Year Old curriculum.

The Bible Theme: God Made the World Around Me, Creation Day 3
This week we continued learning about how God made the world around us. We read about God creating the land and the plants on the third day. We read from The Beginner's Bible pages 9-12. We continued our Creation Day Book by making Day 3. We glued brown and green construction paper to make trees and plants, and Anna painted the water blue. We planted poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, and cilantro seeds and talked about how plants need sun, water, air, and dirt to grow. We've been watering our plants everyday. I glued uncooked curly pasta to construction paper to look like flowers and had Anna paint on the pasta. We're continuing to recite our creation fingerplay and have added "On Day 3, God created the land and the plants". I'm realizing if it's not with music it's harder for her to remember but if it is to music girl's got it down! So everything we're learning we're putting a beat behind it.

Starting to paint her water that turned into a snake. 
On Day 3 God created land and plants--and according to Anna, snakes.
My little flower girl planting her first flowers.

Verse: Genesis 1:1-In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 
Tune: Are You Sleeping? 
Same verse as last week. I love that she's already memorized a Bible verse! 

Song: The B-I-B-L-E
When I first introduced this song I was surprised to hear her pick it up so quickly. I asked if she'd ever heard that song before and she exclaimed "yes, at church!". We sing it together before we read our Bible story.

Color: Blue
We started the week with a color walk where we looked for blue objects. Anna found blue trash dumpsters, blue letters on license plates, blue cars, and my blue shirt. Anna knows her colors really well. This week it got to the point where I'd ask her to find the color blue somewhere and she'd just say "no". Stubborn much? 

Letter B
I printed out a block letter "B" and we dipped her thumb in yellow paint to make bumblebees on the "B". After the paint dried I added wings, stripes, and stingers with marker. We talked about how bumblebee starts with the letter B. Throughout the week we looked for the letter "B" around the house and while we were out. (I failed to mention last week that the two year old curriculum doesn't focus too heavily on letters. The objective is for the child to learn to say the letters of the alphabet correctly.)

Bumblebees start with "B"!

Information: First, Middle, and Last Name
We continued reciting Anna's full name plus Mommy, Daddy, and Theo's full names. 

Self Care and Manners: Say "Please"
Anna knows "please" really well. She knows that if she whines and doesn't say "please" we won't listen to it. However, this is something she definitely still needs to work on. I'm trying to get better at saying "Anna, I will be happy to listen to you when you say "please" first and in a big girl voice." 

Number: 1
We counted to 1 on our button counting card. I love how every time I ask how many buttons there are she says "just 1". She knows the number 1, she knows how to count to 1, and she knows how to find 1 object. Bring on the number 2!

Shape: Line
We made lines, er snakes ;) out of play dough. We put Anna's wooden blocks in a line. I drew vertical lines on a piece of paper using a highlighter. On one end of the line I added a green dot and the other I added a red dot. Then Anna traced each line starting at the green dot down to the red dot (this is prewriting activity). I glued uncooked spaghetti to a piece of paper and had Anna use blue (color the week) paint to trace down the spaghetti.

Book of the Week: When the Elephant Walks by Keiko Kasza
We would read this book in the morning, before nap, and at bedtime. It was an easy book for Anna to read along (recite) since there weren't a lot of sentences. We also made an elephant mask one day using a paper plate, cardstock paper, and paint. We didn't have gray paint so I mixed blue, brown, and white. I wasn't sure if it'd come out gray but I'd say I did a pretty good job guessing!

Motor Skills: 
Fine Motor: Sorting Activity
After borrowing this sorting toy from a friend I quickly realized that Anna has already got this motor skill down. She still enjoyed it but I wanted to give her more of a challenge so I switched our activity to one I found from a friend's blog (Katie's Chasing Vowels). I love that it's super simple to set up and with items we already had around the house (pipe cleaner, beads, and paper). The child strings the appropriate amount of beads onto each pipe cleaner. It was great for counting and for fine motor skills. It turned into Anna pouring the beads into a cup and less about the counting and stringing.

Gross Motor: Jump forward
While I played music each morning Anna worked on jumping like a frog, kangaroo, and "runny babbit"--she said this one day on accident and thought it was the funniest thing so we've continued calling it that. I love how she cracks herself up because she sure cracks me up!

Two weeks down and so far we're having a great time. I love seeing how fast and how much Anna's learning. My baby girl is officially a big girl now *sigh*


School is in Session!

We officially began homeschool preschool last week. Hip Hip Hooray! We started sooner than I had initially planned. I was thinking of waiting until middle of September to really get the ball rolling. However, Travis has been super busy, and if you personally know us then you know exactly what I mean, so to pass the time I decided to go ahead and begin school the first week of August. I've been researching for a little while on the best way to begin with an almost 3 year old, what curriculum would be best, and what approach would benefit Anna the most. I can imagine all the veteran homeschool moms chuckling as they read this. I already had one chuckle from a dear friend of mine after I asked for advice on how to get started. Play, play, and more play she advised. And throw in there letters, number, shapes, and colors, and Anna will be fine. Perfect! Except for someone like me; I like a plan, direction. If I don't have either one then Anna would play with her LaLaLoopsies all.day.e'ery.day. I like seeing what others have done before me, what's worked, what hasn't. So after a few weeks researching I found a curriculum I believe will work really well for us.

As soon as I found ABC Jesus Loves Me I was sold. For one, it's free (for in-home family use)! Two, they talk about Jesus, and not just that, it's their focus, which I love. Letters, numbers, shapes, and colors are included in each week's activities and play is encouraged above all. I also liked that I didn't have to go out and buy a bunch of supplies. A lot of the activities suggested items found around the house and books we could borrow from the library. It also encouraged incorporating learning into normal activities throughout the day from singing songs in the car to counting at the grocery or finding the color of the week while out walking. We can make it as elaborate as we want or as simple as we want picking and choosing the activities we feel best suits our family. Along with simplifying our home, I'm trying to make homeschool simple as well. This curriculum allows that, for which I'm grateful.

Since this was the first week I had no idea how Anna was going to handle school. She's gone to childcare at church and the YMCA and has been a part of a dance class for 8 weeks but she's never really been in a classroom setting for an extended period of time. I told her the night before we started that the next day during Theo's morning nap we would start school where we'd read a story from the Bible, sing some songs, and do an art activity. She seemed excited so I was excited. The next day came and after I put Theo down for his nap right on schedule I asked Anna if she was ready for school. "Nah, I want to play with my 'WaWaWoopsies'" Hmm, ok. After I sat with her for about 5 minutes letting her play I directed her over to the couch and we started our story. She seemed happy at that point and so I continued. We read our story, I introduced her to a few new songs, and then we did our craft at her new school space in our kitchen. First day was a success! The next 4 days were great too. A little push back a few times but all in all we both enjoyed it and it kept us busy while Travis was gone, Theo was napping, and kept us away from the LaLaLoopsies! Plus it was sweet seeing her learn and retain so much in just a week's time. It makes me excited for what else she'll learn in the coming year!

Read on to find out what we did this week. You can find more activities on ABC Jesus Loves Me.

The Bible Theme: God Made the World Around Me, Creation Day 1 & 2
Each morning we would read from The Beginner's Bible pages 9-11 which is the story of God creating the first two days. We started our Creation Day Book by making the first two pages. The first page was God created the night and day (you can see the first page in the picture at the top). The second page was God created the sky and water. We did a fingerplay: "On day 1 (put up number 1 with finger), God created light (close fist and then quickly open in the air and bring down to side creating arches. On day 2 (put up number 2 with finger), God created the sky (wave arms in air) and water (make waves with hands)". Using a coffee filter, markers, and a spray bottle we made the earth. We colored the coffee filter together with blue and green markers and then Anna sprayed the coffee filter with water. When it was dry it looked like the earth.

Creation Day Book Day 2: Anna glued cotton balls at top of page for the sky and the water was made from shaving cream and blue paint.
Turned into painting herself, naturally. 
Coffee filter earth. She loved spraying the water!

Verse: Genesis 1:1 - In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
Tune:  Are You Sleeping
In the beginning, (2x)
God created (2x)
The heavens and the earth (2x)
Genesis 1:1 (2x)
This ended up being one of my favorite things about this week. Anna picked up on this song super quick and I would hear her singing it by herself a room away. This is one of the reasons I love this curriculum so much because it's teaching kids bible verses through music. What a great tool to help children retain what they've learned!

Song: This Little Light of Mine
We sang all four verses ("This little light of mine", "Hide it under a bushel, No!", Don't let Satan blow it out", "Let it shine 'til Jesus comes"). Anna loved this song and can now sing all four verses by herself.

Color: Red
We began our week by taking a color walk searching for all the red items we could find along the way. Anna found cars, car lights, Theo's stroller, her shoes, and a stop sign. In the middle of the week Anna used a red crayon to color a balloon that I drew on paper. We paired this with the fine motor skill activity and had her color on a vertical surface (the refrigerator). Throughout the week we looked for the color red in our house and while we were out. Anna wore her red sparkly shoes most days and we ate red raspberries.

Letter: A
Although Anna already knows the letter "A" pretty well she's not quite ready to practice handwriting so I printed out a block letter A and we added "Animal Stickers" to it. We worked on her knowing that her name and animal starts with "A".

Information: first, middle, and last name
ABC Jesus Loves Me suggests working on saying first name in the two year old curriculum but Anna's already past that. Instead we worked on her first, middle, and last name. We also talked about Mommy, Daddy, and Theo's full names.

Self Care and Manners: sitting quietly
We worked on sitting quietly while I read our Bible story.

Number: 1
We're making number flashcards and each week we will be adding to the cards. This week we made our first card. On the flashcard I wrote the number 1 and then Anna picked out a button and glued it below the number. Each day we counted the button on the card. We also found ways to count to one throughout the days. (You can see our number flashcard in the picture at the top.)

Shape: Circle
We searched for circles around the house. We took a circle walk looking out for circles like tires and balls. We drew circles on paper albeit not perfect ;) 

Book of the Week: Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney
This book is super cute. Anna really liked it and by the end of the week she was able to say the last word in each sentence. We would read this story before nap and at bedtime. Throughout reading I'd ask Anna to find the red items and circles.

Motor Skills: 
Fine Motor: color on vertical surface
As mentioned above I had Anna color her balloon on a vertical surface. Coloring on a vertical surface allows extra muscles in the wrist and hand to be strengthened. These muscles are not used when writing on a horizontal surface.

Gross Motor: Play "Put the Fire Out"
This game lasted for about 1 minute before she was done. The idea was to draw a ladder with sidewalk chalk leading to a chalk drawn "fire". On the other end of the ladder you place a bowl of water with a sponge. The child fills the sponge with water, hops over each rung to get to the fire, and then squeezes out the water to put out the "fire". Anna did this once before she decided she just wanted to play in the water. So I let her.

Since this is all very new for us all we only spent 30-45 minutes each morning during Theo's nap on formal lessons (Bible reading, singing songs, and the art activity of the day). Everything else was thrown into our normal activities throughout the day. This schedule seems to work for us now. I also want to mention that we're working through the 2 year old curriculum although she turns three next month. She is further along developmentally in some areas taught in the 2 year old curriculum, however, a majority of it she still has yet to learn so I decided to keep her back. I felt the 3 year old curriculum would be too challenging for her at this point. When we get to a concept she has already mastered I'll alter the lesson to meet her needs.

I'm excited for what this year holds. It could fail miserably and my dreams of homeschooling my children throughout their school years could come to an abrupt end but I'm hopeful that it will be an amazing year full of play, laughter, and lots of learning.

{I received no compensation from ABC Jesus Loves Me. I just really liked it, and thought I'd share how it's helping our family.}


Storing Treasures

I'd like to think my little family are simple folk. At least we're trying to get back to that. I love the word simple. It's just so...simple. It means clearing the mess, the unnecessary, what's not essential to make room for only what matters. We've been trying to simplify our home for the past month or so. It's definitely a work in progress, and with kids, it'll be an ongoing project for a while. And I should probably admit I'm a pat rack so the thought of purging sentimental items that don't belong in a simplistic home gives me hives. We're getting there though. We've been reading books that help hoarders like us gain new perspective and take steps to live a simpler life (book list below). And that's what we're doing, taking steps, baby steps. 

This is not ok. "What to Expect When You're Expecting" when I'm not expecting anymore,
old lotions I haven't used in months, water bottle that's probably a week old (ew)

The first place we started was our bed side tables. I told you, we're taking baby steps. It ended up being a couple hours project! But once I was done with my table I was on a roll and breezed through my closet and bookcase and moved on to the bathroom while Travis was still working on his table. I took an afternoon while the kids were napping to work on the kitchen. I felt like we were moving out. It was as if my cabinets had vomited all its remnants onto the floor. (I really should've taken a picture. I'm doing a horrible job documenting all our work). But when I was all done I had cabinet doors that actually shut, the broken blender and quesadilla maker were finally put to rest, and every item left had a place to call home. Plus I feel so much better being in my kitchen. It just feels cleaner and simple. We still have a lot more work to do in order to simplify our home. We have closets and Anna and Theo's bedroom and toys that still need tended to but we've got a good start to the simpler life. 

Only storing books I'm currently reading: the Bible, "Food" by Jim Gaffigan, and
"The Meaning of Marriage" by Timothy Keller. I also have the kids' baby books
accessible so I can easily pull them out when a special moment pops up. 

My new tiny dresser between the bags full of clothes I'll be dropping off at Goodwill.

You may be asking why. I wonder the same thing somedays but as I'm throwing things out and taking items we no longer need to Goodwill it just feels right. We're a family of four living in a small two bedroom apartment without the prospect of moving anytime soon. Our closets our packed to the max, we're constantly stepping on toys, we're wasting time cleaning decorations we don't need. It's just time to live a life free from the clutter. Living the past four years in a neighborhood made up primarily of refugees we've learned a thing or two from our friends. When they moved to America they came with very little. While many have added a few things to their homes, they still live minimally. They aren't storing items that are of no value or use. Toys aren't strewn around the rooms and decorations hung mean something to them. They've really taught us the joy in living simply. I'm often convicted when I mull so much over what my home looks like or what clothes I should buy this season. When I need a reality check I just think about my beautiful neighbors and am reminded of what really matters in this life: relationships. The verse that I keep hearing over and over as we try to get back to living simply is from Matthew 6:19-21,

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth or rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

My treasures are my family, the sweet relationships we have with our friends, the experiences we have together, Jesus. I don't want to waste another minute with things that just don't matter in the end. Making our home a simple home allows us the opportunities to devote more time to our treasures and, I'm certain, will bring a more joy filled life. 

Come along with us as we simplify our lives (home, work, play, homeschool, spiritual). I'll try to do a better job of documenting our process. Maybe you'll be encouraged to simplify areas of your life as well. If nothing else I hope it'll be a time for you to reflect on what matters the most to you and lay up for yourself treasures in heaven. 

Books we've been reading :
Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne and Lisa M. Ross
The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan


These are a few of my favorite things

1. Anna crawling into bed with us when Theo is crying in the middle of the night. My BK (Before Kids) self would always say "I'll never let my kids sleep with us!" Now I love middle of the night cuddle sessions. Except when they turn into me getting a foot to the face. Then homegirl can march herself right back into her bedroom with her crying brother.

2. Anna's creativeness. It's beautiful to witness. From making up her dolls' names--Tuti, Peiver, Hever, Pah, and sometimes they are just sounds; to how she dresses. We're already experiencing push back when it comes to clothes and she's only 2! It's either dresses all the time or mismatched tops and bottoms (when I say bottoms I mean pants, never shorts, even when it's 100 degrees) and maybe with an added tutu. She's also named her dresses. The big pink frou frou one is her "Anna dress" (like from Frozen, "Ah-na") and her African one from Aunt Stef is her "Merida dress" (the movie Brave). I'm learning it's not the worth battle especially when I want her to be able to express herself. But if the mismatching continues much longer I may have to hang a sign around her neck that says "I dressed myself".

Princess "Ah-na" eating a donut. Naturally.

3. Almond milk. Who knew?! We recently discovered Theo may (but most definitely) have an allergy to dairy so I've had to eliminate it from my diet. Sad day. Until I tried almond milk. I may not go back to cow's milk after I'm done nursing. Except when it comes to ice cream. I'll always go back to ice cream--and the real kind, not soy or coconut milk.

4. Anna quotes: "Mommy, I want to wear your boobs." (aka my bra) "Cause it happens" (after pooping in her underwear) "Oopsie-DAN-sy" (instead of oopsie-daisy) "Cinder-Aura" (mix between Cinderella and Aurora), "foop-pops" (flip-flops), "ers that?" (what's that or who's that or where's that or when's that? It's all one in the same) and the kicker: "Mommy, you're beautiful!"

5. Theo's long bangs that curl up when wet (most likely from sweat since it's been 500 degrees here in the south).

6. My little music man. Whenever Theo hears music he starts bouncing and even hums along. I was singing him his lullaby just the other day and he started humming. Super sweet.

7. My little dancing queen. It's always "shut up and dance wif me!" Not really but might as well be. At a recent wedding we couldn't get Anna off the dance floor. It was 11 o'clock, the bride and groom had left, and Anna was still dancing! We eventually left with her kicking and screaming.

 Dancing Queen in her Merida dress.

8. Their already amazing friendship. I love seeing how much they love each other. I only pray it continues as they grow. I wish you could hear the laughter going on as I took this pic. My heart was a puddle on the car floor.

9. Our little neighbors who come over almost daily to share with us their findings in the creek. Turtles, snakes, and crawdads/crayfish/whathaveyou.

Notice the tutu and this is one of her favorite shirts, usually paired with fuchsia pants and hot pink flip-flops.

9. Theo's bottom tooth popping through. It's the cutest little tooth that I ever did see. I wish I could take a picture of it but he just won't sit still long enough. Rude.

10. And this man right here. Can't get enough of my baby daddy ;)


On the Move

It's official: we have a mover. No more placing baby in one spot and expecting him to be there upon return. This stage has come way too fast and I'm not ready! We're finding that we're having to re-baby proof the house which the second time around is proving to be a nightmare. Having a toddler who has tiny dollhouse paraphernalia, minuscule hair ties, and leftover crumbs of food splayed all across the floor all throughout the house is driving me insane as I try to make sure Theo doesn't choke on anything. Thankfully he's more interested in power cords than Anna's hair ties (insert eye rolling emoji). He's not quite crawling, it's more of an army crawl or pull. The belly isn't officially off the ground just yet but that isn't stopping this guy. I've lost him a few times on the side of the couch, under the table, or the absolute worst, behind the toilet. And not only has he started crawling, he's also pulling up on anything in front of him: boxes, large toys, baby gates, the steps, my leg. He's not very steady and most of the time it ends in him falling and then crying, but again, it's not stopping him from trying. This guy is on a mission and I think it has something to do with trying to catch up with his sister, with whom he is madly in love. I mean, can you blame the kid?!

And for the books, here is his 7 month stats:


Home Bodies

After the winter we had of staying indoors all.the.time. I was so ready to be on the move and out of the house. It would be an understatement to say we came down with cabin fever. About the time the weather was turning beautiful and our constant sickness was subsiding Theo started to get into a groove. Which for most mothers is a wonderful thing! Yay, routine! What could be better?! Except for the fact that his two hour morning naps keep us stuck, yet again, indoors. Don't get me wrong, I'm so thankful he's finally in a good routine. Two hour nap in the morning, two hour nap in the afternoon, maybe a 30 minute cat nap in the evening, and in bed by 6:30--I couldn't ask for a more perfect routine for the kid. But for Anna who just wants to be set free from the four walls that encloses her she gets bored in about 2.5 seconds after I put Theo down for his morning nap.

I knew I needed to come up with something other than "go find something to do, Anna." I knew I needed to be proactive especially when she's begging me to play with her. "You wanna pay with me, Mommy?" How could I say no? The asking only lasts for so many years until I'm begging her to play with me. We're really considering home schooling in a few years so I began to think "why not start now?" She is only 2 1/2 years old but she's a sponge and I'm observing the earlier she learns the faster it comes.

I started researching and the first place I went to was, of course, Pinterest. I typed in "toddler preschool" and so many pins popped up full of great ideas and resources. Most of the suggestions were super simple and super easy...Carving out intentional time to sit and play with your child while encouraging learning, using materials and toys you already have around the house--no need to go out and buy a bunch of stuff. I found this awesome blog from the Intentional Momma with printables. I immediately printed out the "Super Simple Tot Pack" and stuffed the pages into paper protectors to save on ink and paper. I found Crayola WASHABLE (thank the Lord!) dry erase markers for Anna to write with, added the paper protectors to a binder, and voila! Anna has her own little notebook.

Every day that we're home during Theo's morning nap I try and sit with Anna for about 30-60 minutes playing while inconspicuously encouraging learning. I've started very simple.

One day we may read books.

Other days we may go through her "Super Simple Tot Pack" binder that I mentioned above. It includes letter, number, and shape recognition, tracing, and matching.

We've used bath time to work through our letters.

We've built towers (or wands as Anna would say) out of blocks to separate colors.

Puzzle time has turned into make believe where one time Mommy was the hippo, Daddy was the giraffe, Anna was the ostrich and Theo was the zebra.

Excuse the laundry basket full of clothes--folded, I might add. Multitasking at its finest.

I used paint swatches and clothespins to make a color matching game that, again, turned into make believe where the clothespins are people.

I may be the one bringing out the materials and toys to play with but I allow Anna to lead the playing and learning. I don't want to force it. She's not even 3 yet and by allowing her to lead she feels in control and at the same time is learning so much. I'm shocked every day with what she already knows. My mind is blown that she knows her letters so well, she can count to 20, and her colors are coming along. She can call out blue, orange, and white like it's her job. We're still working on purple, green, and red. As we continue and as she gets older I plan on incorporating more worksheets to her binder and more activities to get her mind thinking. I've thought of doing scavenger hunts inside and outside (close enough to our home where I could still hear Theo if he wakes). I'd like to add activities that work on her eye-hand coordination such as threading laces through cardboard (the paint swatch game is great for working on eye-hand coordination!) More books, more puzzles, more materials that incorporate letters, numbers, colors, shapes, and more. Dancing and songs would be a great addition as well!

Even though we're home bound until Theo grows out of his morning naps I'm excited for the precious time Anna and I have to spend together. It's giving me a taste of what this whole home schooling thing could turn into and that pumps me up. Plus seeing Anna blossom and turn into a intelligent little girl is simply amazing. I don't take for granted one second the fact that I get to stay home with my children. It's been such a blessing and I'm grateful and humbled that I'm the one teaching them.

If you have any other suggestions for Anna and me I'd love to hear them! Again, we're taking it really slow. I plan on implementing a schedule that feels more like preschool come September but for now I'm looking for activities that cost hardly anything and that look more like "play" rather than "school".