Planners, Homeschool and a Deployment

I am coming to terms with the fact that I am NOT a “slacker blogger”, as I have referred to myself in the past. I am, however, an extremely busy, homeschooling, mom of 4 whose husband is often out of the house, out of town, out of the state, or out of the country. (And I’ve recently signed on as co-leader of our new FRG during a deployment because I wasn’t busy enough.) I’m still a writer, even if it’s not here, though I anticipate many more writings here in the future as I do tend to get wordy during deployments and sometime in the next two or so weeks, my husband will be gone again… This time, for nearly a year… This time, it’s Korea… This time, he’s the company commander… This time, I am instrumental in helping to form our FRG and the families of our unit. I’m excited and nervous. Our first FRG meeting as part of the command team was a few weeks ago and I’m torn between being authentically me, and being the “commanders wife” (because we all know SHE wouldn’t have purple hair and Batman themed shoes, right?)… Everything is changing, all at once, but the show much go on, and on it will.

Our school books for next year have already been purchased. Sissy is a soon-to-be seventh grader! Holy goodness y’all! I started this blog when she was so little, and though I haven’t always been here to write, she has been by my side growing into a beautiful young woman. I’m excited to see how she continues to grow and learn in the coming years. Bug is nearly 8. He wants to be “The Flash” when he grows up… The boy was born earliest and hasn’t stopped moving since. Punkin will be three in August and isn’t talking yet. He’s starting to manifest some autistic-like behaviors and he’s already seen more specialists than I can count in his short years. From failure-to-thrive to possible apraxia, he keeps me on my toes. Mini Mouse just turned one this past March. She does her best to keep up with her brothers… Seems I’ve got three speedsters in my midst.

Part of getting next year’s school work together was getting my new planners. I love my planner! I mean, I really love my planner. I’m not the most organized person in the world, and this thing helps keep me together on the day to day business of running a home: FRG meetings, basketball season, doctors appointments, the military and homeschooling.

To be honest, when we started homeschooling, I had no idea what we were doing. I’d tried using planners and could NOT make my brain function in a linear enough way to make my life simple AND use the planner. They seemed to just make things harder. I couldn’t keep up with the writing and the teaching and lesson planning was NEVER my strong suit in school. In fact, I repeatedly got marks off for having incomplete, incoherent lesson plans. I was always taught the purpose of a lesson plan (from a teaching standpoint) was so that anyone who walked into your classroom could teach your lessons in your absence. That doesn’t fly with homeschool and I was freaking out. My best friend had a planner that she had barely used and wanted to throw out, but as is her style, she thought of me instead and passed it on. I WAS HOOKED!

The Well-Planned Day is easily the best planner for OUR family. I stress that this is what works for us because the planner was given to me by a friend whose family struggled to use it. Our family has thrived on it for at least three years now and I couldn’t imagine using another planner. I look forward to ordering it every year and get excited when it finally arrives. This year, knowing my husband would be deployed and I’ll have slightly more obligations outside the home, I got my typical planner as well as the On-the-Go Planner. This, I feel, will allow me to keep notes on lessons and our day as things happen throughout our day.

The Well-Planned Day has loads of features that extend beyond just a homeschool lesson book.

The front of the book contains: Before the lesson planning begins, there are keepsake pages and so much more. On the keepsake page, you get to fill in some basic information about your family for this school year. Things like, grade levels, ages, favorite things to do, all of this will change year to year, so it’s nice to have these little mementos (with a place for photos) each year. There is a page for “staying in touch”. This is a great place to write names and special dates. Anniversaries, birthdays, just special dates that you’d like to reach out on. There is a section for special projects and household chores. These can be written by the day if you’re anything like me and need to focus on certain tasks per day, or by week, more as a chore goal, AND there’s a place for monthly projects. I LOVE the monthly projects! These are really helpful when I know the garage needs to be cleaned out or I have to budget for something big. I can set a deadline on that budget at a certain month OR I can simply write in “Clean the Garage” on the May box and know that I don’t have to worry about the garage right this minute because I’m doing that in May. Then, I just have to focus and get it done during that month. It’s so easy when I have things written down. I don’t make it through deployments or long separations without writing my chores down because I get easily overwhelmed by having to do everything on my own.

There are separate pages for each child to have there own unique schedule as well as your own (if you write out daily schedules for lessons). These pages also include room to write which books your student is using (so you know what not to use if it wasn’t a good book for your particular child’s learning style), it also includes space for your child’s stats and a photo so you have a second place to keep specific information on each child, each school year. There’s a Year-at-a-Glance page featuring all major (and some minor) holidays throughout the year and each half of the planner features a Semester Goals page (I like to make notes here on where our lessons should be by the end of each semester).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Each month, you’ll find: Each month begins with a Month-at-a-Glance calendar. There’s a place on the side of this two-page spread for notes and plenty of space to write in appointments and happenings for the whole family (remember that we are a family of six and still have plenty of room for appointments, sports, meetings, etc.). Each day on the calendar has a scripture reference printed to facilitate reading through the Bible within the school year, if that’s what you choose to do. Sometimes, I read them. Other days I don’t. We school year-round, so there’s plenty of references to facilitate that. There is an entire page of tear out shopping lists (six lists per month) and a two-page article on a homeschool specific topic. These topics range from how to pick curriculum for each child’s learning type and challenges and how to budget meal plans and stick to it. Each year, these articles are changed, so in the four years I’ve been using this planner, I’ve never received the same article twice. Also each month, is a small section for your monthly budget and a section for book lists for that month or field trips you’d like to take. Then come the detailed lesson pages. Now, I only have two kids in school now, but this planner supports up to four students per subject. Each of these lesson pages comes as a weekly planner. Each week has a section for Weekly Priorities, Dinner Menu, Bible verses for the week and an organization or teaching tip.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Nearing the back: At the end of each semester, there is a section for your successes. I love this section because this is the stuff my family has done, the places we’ve been and the challenges we’ve overcome in the past few months. When you have kids with learning disabilities, when you have kids with special needs, when you have a husband who is deployed, SEEING THESE SUCCESSES MAKES A DIFFERENCE! It is such a blessing to not have to see the day to day crap to be able to see where we have made progress. Included within that section is the semester attendance reports and grade progress. I use these to track our work daily (or weekly) because our umbrella school requires us to check in twice a year with attendance and grades. There is also a color printed, gloss finish report card to be filled in for each child (remember this planner is workable for up to four students). Future plans and the next Year-in-Advance pages are helpful to me because it allows me to plan out any changes to next school year in terms of books or scheduling. With my husband deploying to Korea soon (like before the first of June, he’ll be gone, SOON!), comes the realization of block leave when he returns. Here at Ft Hood, TX, they get 30 days when they return (that’s new to us). Future planning makes it easy to set up our schedule, in advance, knowing that he’ll have that 30 days at home and that we DO NOT have to use that precious time filling in worksheets and answering quiz questions.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In the first semester section of the planner, there is a special section just for holiday organization. Gift buying, card sending, get-togethers, budgets, etc., all the planning in one place. LOVE IT!


Well-Planned: On-the-Go has a lot of the same features, in a smaller format and a much more portable design.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


I’m so excited to have my books, in hand, and ready to go. As daddy leaves us behind for Korea, our schedule, our routine, it’s what’s going to get us through. We support him, we support each other, and these planners help to support us.

Soul Mates

The amazing thing about knowing you’ve married your soul mate is when thousands of miles apart, separated by continents and oceans, and having gone months without seeing each other, you still manage to get each other the exact same thing for Valentine’s Day.

That is the status update I posted to Facebook just moments ago. You see, that package, the one my husband sent from Afghanistan for Valentine’s Day, it finally arrived today. I waited all afternoon, just like he asked, so that he could see my face on Skype when I opened it. It’s not a large envelope. Maybe seven inches high, nine inches wide, but it had my name on it and a post mark from an APO and that’s all that matters. Opening the envelope, I pulled out a letter. Just a small slip of paper, carefully torn out of the little green notebooks he meticulously writes everything down in. I know this by the size and line layout on the page.

Along with this tiny, hand-written note is a block of Post-It sticky notes. My husband has been putting these on his computer monitor when he needs to remember something important, like when to call home or something I’ve told him that I want him to take a look into. This block of Post-It notes is about 100 or more thick. At the top of each sticky page is a date, beginning with Feb 14.

From my husband to me.

From my husband to me.

Hand-written on each of these 100 or more notes is a Bible verse, a song lyric, or other writing to show love, encouragement, appreciation or support. Some of them are silly, like the one that reads “Be Sexy (That is all)”, some are more thoughtful and some are serious. But the greatest gift I think we could have given each other was this support, and what are the odds that we both thought of the same thing this year?

My husband and I have always joked and said “Get out of my head!” more times than I can count. If you remember my Valentine’s Thankful Thursday post, I made my husband a book with a deck of cards and two pieces of rope. A list of 52 (well 53) reasons that I love him. Things like “You look hot in your uniform!” and “You kill the SPIDERS”. Again, some silly, some serious, some thoughtful.

From me to my husband.

From me to my husband.

I love my husband so much.

The amazing thing about knowing you’ve married your soul mate is when thousands of miles apart, separated by continents and oceans, and having gone months without seeing each other, you still manage to get each other the exact same thing for Valentine’s Day.

Happy Birthday to Me (you? Mommy?)

When you plan your own birthday “party” and the only people in attendance are you, your two kids, your best friend and her infant son, singing “Happy Birthday” gets a bit dodgy in the middle. I have to admit, the whole thing made me laugh, and for that I was grateful. I really needed to laugh on my birthday of all days. Being near Christmas, my birthday has rarely been the best thing I do all year. Having my husband half a world away makes the whole month of December that much more lonely.

I admit, I did not handle December very well. But 2012 is behind us and 2013 is three days in the making. I have been 28 for a whole four days, and I’ve taken that time to write a list. A bucket list of sorts, but these are all the things I want to do in the next year. Twenty-nine things to do before I turn twenty-nine next December. But first, some birthday cake:

" “The angels have the phonebox”. That's my favorite. I've got that on a t-shirt. " -'Blink', Doctor Who, Episode 3.10

” “The angels have the phone box”. That’s my favorite. I’ve got that on a t-shirt. ” -‘Blink’, Doctor Who, Episode 3.10

Now to my list. Some of these will be silly, some of them very serious. Some will be well within my comfort zone (hence the time constraints placed on some of them), and some are so far beyond anything I’ve ever done that I’m pretty sure they wont get done until after my husband returns from Afghanistan this summer. Wow, this summer… He sounds so close and yet, he’s still so far away.

Yes, the list, sorry about that.

29 Things to do Before 29

1. Complete a book of Sudoku Puzzles in the month of February, cover to cover in order, no cheating.

2. Get shot with a paintball gun. Of course, this means I have to go paint-balling with my husband, but what better way to bond after a deployment then to fire balls of paint at each other, right?

3. Go zip-lining. This one requires me to overcome my severe aversion to heights and falling.

4. Climb a rock wall. No doubt this is a precursor to #3.

5. Read 29 books. This averages 2.5-3 books a month. I got this one.

6. Kiss my husband on the lips.

7. Do Zumba three times a week for at 3 consecutive months. I got the game disk for Xbox Kinect from the husband for my birthday, I will use it to tone the rest of the baby pudge let over from giving birth to children weighing the same as the standard bag of sugar.

8. Finish my first novel: in March and April.

9. Complete my figure drawing sketchbook.

10. Have portraits taken of myself (whether I post them here or just write about the experience I’m not sure yet). This one is an exercise in learning to appreciate my own beauty.

11. Wear three pieces of refashioned clothing in the month of June. (I should have plenty of options by then.)

12. Take one photo of myself everyday for a month (can’t be February, it’s too short)

13. Get another tattoo (I already know what and wear, just need to get on with it)

14. Complete my blog series: 30 Days with Autism that I started in 2010.

15. Blog every Friday  Thursday about something I am grateful for that has occurred in the past week. Let’s keep the gratitude fresh.

16. Write one short story a month, no minimum word count.

17. Pay off my truck.

18. Craft 31 piece of jewelry in the month of August.

19. Give up Soda (once I finish what’s left from my birthday party.)

20. Give up my hair for Lent. Headscarves all day, every day from Feb 13- March 30.

21. Learn to play guitar. Hubby plays guitar… Another one of those re-bonding activities… Maybe while I’m recovering from being shot with a paintball gun?

22. Stop biting my nails (again). To be successful, I have to have real nail growth on a continuous basis during the 12 weeks leading up to and including my next birthday.

23. Lay under the stars with my husband (possible sleep on the back deck, that counts as camping, right?)

24. Blog a video of myself reading a children’s book like I do to my kids.

25. Fire a gun. Another one of those “Let’s celebrate your homecoming” activities.

26. Buy “embarrassing” lingerie and actually wear it. Wear it again in front of the husband. (There will be no pictures on the wearing, there may be pictures of the buying. FYI, almost all lingerie is embarrassing, we really only wear it because we think our husbands will like it.)

27. Take my husband to an archery range. He has yet to see me in my element. Archery was the only sport I was good at in middle school and after the gun range, and a paintball course, archery is a nice change of pace.

28. Fully potty train my son, no more diapers. We are slowly venturing into the world of pooping in the potty. This will save me $60 a month once we get this down.

29. Solve a Rubik’s Cube. (This may take a while)

So there you have it. my list of 29 things. These are all realistic and completely doable. That’s why I chose them. I wanted a list that I could actually finish and say “I did that”. So, I’m a few days behind on some of these already, but I will be updating this list with other blog posts as I complete each number. My goal is to have the list completed by December 30, 2013.


I did it, dear readers, I actually did it.

I wrote my novel of 50,041 words… Of course, that includes a dedication page and two epilogues (I couldn’t figure out how to end the story… So I wrote two).

I love it! My story is complete and final.

Thank you, dear readers, followers, and friends for all the support and encouragement you have given me over these past 30 (-ish) days. Without the encouragement of people I care about, I would not have made it as far as I did.

I’m gonna go eat junk food a decompress for a few days.

I need to get caught up on laundry and dishes, and I trip to the commissary wouldn’t hurt either 😛

The world of self-publishing is still a confusing place for me and I’m not sure I’ll ever release my story to the public, but yay that it is written.

NaNoWriMo 2012: Update 11.26


November 26, 2012, 0935 Central Time, USA

Well, folks, my mad dash finish is working. I am 11,079 words from 50,000 and I’m pushing hard to get this done. I spent part of Thanksgiving writing chapter outlines and it really seems to have helped me see where my focus should be headed and what I want to have happen in each chapter to maintain my word count goals. I am little more than a day behind PAR and it’s only ten in the morning. I have all day to write (and do dishes… those are starting to pile up). I’m excited. I CAN DO THIS!

Just look at all that green on that widget now! YEA BABY!



Can I update on an update? I’m not sure that I can, but I am certainly going to try.

As of November 26, 2012, 1402 Central Time, USA

I have 8,992 words left to finish… I’m halfway through a climatic battle to the death and I’m nearing the end of my story. I fear my word count may not reach 50,000 before my story is wrapped up. If that is the case, expect the unexpected and you will find a random chapter near the end of my novel involving a fire ball wielding blood elf in the middle of a crowded mall… Hilarity may or may not ensue.


There has been life, death, births, abortions, a feline mutilation. It has been wild and it’s not over yet!



Preparing for NaNoWriMo

Okay, so it didn’t take a lot of prodding to get me into the idea of writing for the month of November. I was an active participant in the 2010 NaNoWriMo and last year, I used the time to help my daughter work on her fine motor skills and imaginative thinking (something I myself am not particularly good at).

So, last night I came across a blog that had been Freshly Pressed entitled, “NaNoWriMo – Embrace the Icky Sticky”. In this entry, our resident blogger, Dave Farmer discusses what he terms “the Icky Sticky”. I’m not good with gross things on my hands but the imagery works, so “when in Rome”. His theory is when you hit the point in your writing he calls, “The Lifeless River Bed of Despondency and Meh” (which is actually kind of catchy, maybe we could build “The Writer’s Block” bar, pub and coffee shop on the banks of this river bed?), you need something to bring life back to your characters and move your story forward, such as stepping in chewing gum, to use one of his many examples.

This is a problem I often have in my own writing. I can write great scenes worthy of high praise from the wall I read them to (literally, my husband is deployed, I talk to walls.), but I have a lot of trouble moving from one scene to the next. It’s not like writing a screenplay or theatrical production where you can just type “End Scene” and move on to something completely new in the next act. There has to be an action that brings the characters to the next scene, something that forces them to move in that direction and thus progress the story you are telling.

This, my dear readers, is where I need your help… I often get stuck in these no man’s lands between scenes and I’m not very good at bridging the gaps. My mind and way of thinking really only function on one level and unfortunately, being non-neurotypical puts me at a disadvantage in terms of creative writing. This is something I am working on, which is why I keep forcing myself to write fiction, though it would be so much easier to just write events in chronological order and call it a book.

I’m asking you, dear friends and fellow bloggers, for ideas. I need “ick”! No matter how random they may seem. I don’t have a specific genre for this book, so if you suggest a Blood Elf wielding fireballs running through the streets igniting the police vehicles chasing it bumps into the main character singeing her hair as she falls, I would probably include it. It’s fast paced, interesting, completely unexpected and maybe that fall in the street makes her late for a meeting or prevents her from being in her apartment when a serial killer breaks in and she comes home to a large police presence outside her building. If a bus breaks down preventing my MC from getting to bank before it closes, or if a new character shows up for a page or two, these are all the types of things Mr. Farmer suggests can help move the story forward.

These are the types of actions I lose sight of once I’m actually in the moment and writing. These are the places I falter, I just can’t seem to come up with the “Icky Sticky” that helps bridge the scenes and move the story. I know where I want to go, but not how to get there. It’s like being late for an appointment held at a location you’ve never been before and your GPS is broken… I see the painting and not the brush strokes, I see the forest but can’t find the trees.

50,000 words in 30 days, I think the breakdown is 1,667 words a day if I remember that correctly (which I probably do because I’m better with numbers than with words). I’m toying with the idea of posting each days writing here to the blog so each of you can follow the story as it progresses. Any ideas I use would be credited to the originating party, with a link back to your own blog, on the day that they were used.

So let’s have it!? A character, setting, action, doesn’t matter what it is. Anything that you think is interesting or would add interest to an otherwise failing storyline (and let’s face it, we’ve all read a failing storyline at one time or another), please leave it in the comments. I look forward to reading what you have and the possibility of using it in our story this November.


P.S. I would encourage you all, if you feel adventurous, to take on the challenge of NaNoWriMo. I didn’t succeed my first go round, but I’m excited for the chance to do it again. I’m currently proofreading what I did write for the 2010 NaNo. Remember, this is about words on the page, proofreading is for December 😉 And we can borrow ideas from each other… Just because we include the same fire wielding Blood Elf, doesn’t mean our story is going to take the same turn after the encounter is over.


30 Day Drawing Challenge: Day 6

Day 6: Favorite Book Character

When my daughter was four, we read Lewis Carrol’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I know most kids would have been reading Dr. Seuss, but we had also read Peter Pan, and the Wizard of Oz.

Anyway, some of my favorite character have come from books I read as a child, or have read to my children. Alice, Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter, Dormouse, the Walrus, so many great characters come out of Wonderland. Watching the animated movie is always fun, and the newest Tim Burton movie was above and beyond. I know that this one specifically mentioned “not a movie”, but since I really did base my drawing on the image I saw in our copy of “Wonderland”, I included it anyway.

The Mad Hatter has always been a fan favorite. He’s nutty, but charming and endearing. However, many people forget that Time was the fourth guest to the tea party, before Alice. This is why the Mad Hatter gets upset when Alice speaks of beating time “when I learn music” and when she says “I think you should do something better with the time …than waste it asking riddles that have no answers.” The Mad Hatter is quite mournful when he speaks of the falling out he had with Time at a concert given by the Queen of Hearts. (During his performance the Queen “jumped up and yelled out, ‘He’s murdering the Time! off with his head!’ ” Time wont have anything to do with the Hatter since and “it’s always six o’clock now”.

This part of the story was always my favorite. I very much enjoy reading the story of Time and the Hatter, so my favorite character from a book is a tie.

I give you, Time and the Hatter:

the Mad Hatter and Time

The importance of books in the lives of children

In an age when everything connects to the internet, TV, phones, computers, e-readers, nearly everything, books, I feel, are slipping away as something we value. I, personally, own a book of American poetry that was published in 1905. I got it at a yard sale for a quarter and wanted it both because I love poetry, but because it was also printed the same year my great-grandmother was born. The binding is in good condition and there is a note, handwritten, in the front cover. This book once meant something to someone and as a teen, I bought it for twenty-five cents.

Books have always meant a great deal to me. I’m slowly coming around to the idea of actually owning an ebook reader, though it would be a simple one, not anything with a lot of flash. It might have a backlight, but nothing flashy. I still place a great importance on the ability to open a book and lose myself in the characters. Maybe it’s because I’ve never really understood the people around me that I cling to these characters so deeply. I cry when they cry. I laugh when they laugh. I am betrayed, loved, overjoyed right along side of them. It’s a great feeling to be able to get inside someone’s head and truly understand what they are feeling, what their motives are and who they are. What makes them tick?

This is one of four bookshelves upstairs. It has 149 books on it. We still have boxes of books downstairs I haven’t found a place for yet.

This love of books has played heavily in my parenting. We easily have over three hundred children’s books in our home and we only have two kids. I can say ‘NO’ to any toy in the toy store, I can deny requests for candy, but I stutter and hesitate to say ‘NO’ when they ask for a book.  One of the characters my daughter has fallen in love with is “Junie B. Jones“. Junie B. (that B. is quite important I assure you) has become a best friend to a little girl who struggles with peer relationships. She has given a voice to a little girl who has trouble speaking. Junie B. is just a typical little girl. She’s witty, sarcastic, a bit rude, and undeniably funny. She is a hoot (a hoot I tell you) to engage and captivates my daughter for hours at a time. Her adventures through Kindergarten and First Grade joined our family when my daughter was just four years old. Chapter books were a little out of her range to read alone, but we had a blast reading Junie B., First Grader: Toothless Wonder when Sissy started loosing her teeth. Spending that time with Sissy and sharing Junie B. with her made loosing her teeth less traumatic and Junie B. has had many adventures that keep us laughing for days.

The books are engaging and the titles are wonky!

Another series of books my daughter has discovered more recently (since we now own all but three of the 27 books in the Junie B. series AND we have the journal, the puzzle book and plush doll), is actually THREE series’ of books. Written by Dan Gutman, “My Weird School”, “My Weird School Daze” and “My Weirder School” have taken our house by storm. Though we only own five of the 41 books that make up the three series’, A.J. has become a fan favorite. Though a bit more… crass… than Junie B. (a trait I don’t forgive easily), he too has assisted my daughter to find a voice, albeit a rude, snarky little voice at times, he has helped her to learn that I don’t appreciate words like “stupid” and that being mean to others just because you don’t like them will not be tolerated, so he too has brought valuable lessons to our home.

Both of the characters, Junie B. and A.J. are about my daughter’s age or are in the same grade, which makes them easily relateable. These characters, for better or worse, have brought joy, humor [Junie B. Jones Jingle Bells, Batman Smells (p.s. So Does May), anyone?], and lessons we all need to learn. My daughter emulates these characters, they have become her best friends and for that I am grateful. They have allowed her an even greater list of phrases to recite ecolalically and have allowed her better understanding of social situations for children her age.

Every child should read this book!

I am a firm believer that every child should have books and often donate books to local libraries, friends and classrooms at my daughter’s school. No child should go through life without knowing that this one time in a coconut tree, the letters all fell out! or that “Where the Sidewalk Ends” really is the same place where imagination begins.

My children have read classics such as, “Alice and Wonderland”, “The Wizard of Oz”, and “Peter Pan”. They have read such nonsense as “Marvin K. Mooney, Will You Please Go Now!” and the works of Shel Silverstein. At six and a half, and barely three, they know the value of turning off the TV and playing together or sitting quietly with a book before bed. They have little knowledge of imagination, but they know that when they open a book they are about to experience something totally new, totally wonderful and totally unique.


And the next book they pick up with be just as good.


Sissy in her “I look just like Junie B.” outfit.

I think they could be sisters, what do you think?

                      Ms. Junie B. Jones, herself.                                    Created by Barbara Park, Illustrated by Denise Brunkus