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23 Sep

My little guy is in “a stage”.  He is clingy, whiny and very fussy.  I don’t know if it’s the burgeoning of teeth or the oncoming allergies.  Perhaps he simply doesn’t feel well.  I don’t understand his language so I’m kept guessing and wondering.

Yesterday, I couldn’t get the lunch dishes cleaned.  Never mind that I had let the clutter go once (or twice) due to his incessant crying.  The kitchen counter was littered and my patience was running thin.  What could I do to distract him long enough to complete a single chore?

Quickly, I grabbed a half cup of Cheerios, dumped them into a plastic cup, covered it with the lid and handed my son two straws.  I pushed the first straw into the hole in the lid.  Simple yet entertaining for a 14-month-old.  Phew!

He was amused for a while.  I sped like lightning to get the glasses, cups, plates, bowls, and silverware loaded into the dishwasher before he noticed that I wasn’t paying attention to him.

It’s funny – another mommy blogger recently added photos of her youngest inserting straws into a container lid.  Unfortunately, my cup only had one hole in the top! 

Then my son noticed the sounds coming from inside the cup and he gave up the straw game to search for the prize.

Cheerio targets captured and eaten.  Thankfully, my distraction worked for the few minutes I needed it to.  Next time, I want a lid with more holes!


Review: Homeschool Tracker Basic Edition

22 Sep

I’ve been using the Homeschool Tracker Basic Edition tool for almost three weeks.  I love it! 

Before I downloaded the free version of Homeschool Tracker Basic, I’d print a blank schedule and hand-write each assignment.  Unfortunately, I began to drown in papers and preferred a software planner.

I use Homeschool Tracker Basic to record our weekly assignments, attendance, extra-curricular activities and field trip notes.

The main menu displays the school name and address, the student names, and days present or sick.  Homeschool Tracker Basic permits the user to record hours and grades, however, right now I only use the hourly feature for field trips, recess, reading and extra-curricular items.

There are eight additional tabs at the top of the planner window:

OVERVIEW– A snapshot of each student’s total days/hours per subject.

ASSIGNMENTS – I spend the majority of my planning time here.  I can browse by individual student or by the group.  I can also use the filter to view past due or future assignments.


  • The subjects can be customized.  While typing in the daily assignment, the user can specify the student, subject, resources and materials, time allotted, points to be earned and lesson information in the directions and notes fields. 
  • A copy feature enables the assignment to be scheduled for another student or used as a template for a future date.  This saves time and typing! 
  • Each assignment has a completion date and the ability to reschedule the task to a different date.
  • My first grader loves to read beginner chapter books to me, so I add a reading assignment for her and record the book title and author.  The assignment feature also gives the option to tag the book as borrowed material! 

ATTENDANCE – A monthly attendance calendar by student.  A single click allows the user to choose “present”, “sick” or “holiday”.

READING LOG – Track the student’s reading assignments.

FIELD TRIPS  – Add/Edit field includes the trip description, date, time spent, subject and a large note section.

DAILY JOURNAL – Automatically opens a new window for the current date.  Offers generous space for note-taking.

MAINTENANCE – Allows the administrator to change different tables such as: school info, activities, resource types, subjects, etc.

REPORTS – Choose a report type and date parameters.  I don’t know if I’ll use this feature during our school year or if I’ll wait to print specific reports to use as a permanent record at the conclusion of our learning levels.  Either way, I’ll share a sample report in a future posting.

Homeschool Tracker Basic Edition is easy to use, contains all the pertinent information in one tool and eliminates the need for a bulky binder and paper.  Best of all, Homeschool Tracker Basic is FREE!  I still spend approximately two hours each night prepping for the following school day (sigh) but Homeschool Tracker Basic certainly keeps my sanity in check.

A Personal Observation

16 Sep

Must be my whining session for the week!  Seriously, I’ve discovered something on public forums – people are quick to judge and discredit.  Perhaps people always exhibited these traits and I didn’t pay attention until now.  I didn’t scrutinize others’ comments until the words were literally typed under my nose.

A knee-jerk emotional reaction used to be my trademark in discussions, debates or arguments.  I wonder, did I sound judgmental and ignorant?  How I wish I could retrieve some of those words.

It’s okay to have an opinion, but don’t make broad generalizations of others or scoff at a person’s comment without further research into the topic at hand.  When the ridicule or disdain is directed at me, I remember this:

Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile.  Psalm 34:13


Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.  Psalm 141:3

Easy, child-pleasing pizza using Bisquick

2 Sep

Last night, my middle daughter asked me, “What’s for dinner?”  When I answered, “Chicken”, I heard a soft moan.  “Can’t we have pizza?”  she whined.  I typed a quick search online and found a recipe on for pizza crust using Bisquick.  Luckily, I had shredded cheese, pepperoni and a jar of pizza sauce! 


How to make super-easy bisquick-crust pizza!

By amb3rgrismarch, eHow Member
  • 1 cup bisquick all-purpose baking mix
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • meat source! one chicken breast, or one cup of cooked ground beef, or sausage
  • (Optional) sliced green bell peppers,red bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, and garlic  [My kids don’t touch these foods with a ten foot pole!]

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.  Mix bisquick mix, milk, and egg in a bowl until pretty even, and spread on a circular pizza pan, or a rectangular cookie sheet (cover the pan with aluminum foil if it’s not non-stick!).  If the dough is too sticky, keep adding pinches of more flour mix. 

2. Spread uncooked tomato sauce evenly on top of the dough, and sprinkle the cheese on top.  Then chop your veggies and add them as well.  For meat, you can use packaged sausage, or pepperoni, or cook some ground meat, or chicken breast chopped into tiny bits.  Season the meat with some salt and italian seasoning if you have it, cook on med-high heat for about 20 mins. 

3. Throw the meat on, and put that pizza in the oven!  It should be done in about 10 minutes.  Take it out, have it cool a little bit, slice, and enjoy! 

My oven doesn’t brown evenly or reliably so I cooked the pizza at a lower 425 degrees and turned the cookie sheet around at the 8 minute mark. 

The chicken/pepperoni pizza was a hit!  All four children devoured their slices.  A small triumph for me.  Since I had leftover cooked chicken, and remembering that my girls could eat a Mexican meal every single day, I decided to make an Old El Paso-inspired pizza tonight. 

I decided to use a bit more Bisquick so the crust wouldn’t be as thin as yesterday.  My only complaint?   The crust is spongy; I prefer my pizza crust crispy! 

Again, I used a cookie sheet and poured the Bisquick batter onto it.   

A rubber spatula works great to even out the batter. 

I chopped two pre-cooked chicken breasts into tiny pieces and added half a packet of Old El Paso taco seasoning.  I poured about 1/4 cup of water to the chicken and tossed until the pieces were coated. 

I added some taco sauce to the top of the batter.  It spreads nicely.  My daughters told me that the pizza could’ve used more sauce.  Go figure! 


Next, I sprinkled Monterey Jack cheese as the initial layer, added the chicken and then sprinkled more cheese.  We love cheese, so I added a bit of shredded cheddar to the top too! 


I followed the recipe directions and cooked the pizza for exactly 10 minutes at 450 degrees.  I turned the pizza at the 7 minute mark.  And here it is: 

If I had been cooking for myself and my husband, sans kids, I would’ve used sour cream and perhaps even peppers.  But my girls are very picky so I couldn’t experiment tonight. 



31 Aug

I think that I enjoyed our vacation so much because the amount of stuff was condensed.  We only had enough clothes to last 7-10 days, and we only brought a handful of matchbox cars (for the baby), two Leapsters, less than a dozen books, crayons and a big binder of coloring pages.  I admit, the condo got messy and cluttered during our week stay, but nothing compared to our house!

Is it coincidental that I ran across a homeschooling mother’s blog that stated simplification is best for a family?  Have I mentioned that I don’t believe in coincidences?

Our sleeping arrangement is a bit funky lately; my oldest is crammed into the shared bedroom with my younger two daughters because of her nighttime noise fear.  We had a brief family meeting and my first-grader and kindergartener agreed to do a trial sleep on the main floor while my oldest daughter slept alone in the big bedroom upstairs.  If all goes well, we may be moving a lot of furniture around and what better time than to weed out, throw out and donate?!

If you are like us, most of the toys are untouched.  Only special ones are picked up and played with on a constant basis.  I doubt the kids would even notice if I donated all of the toys in the basement closet!

And the mountain of children’s clothes.  Even though I did laundry almost every day while on vacation, I could actually put the clean, folded clothes back into the dresser drawers!  At home, the drawers are bulging and no additional clothes can fit.  This is ridiculous and now is the time to re-evaluate and donate.  My husband and I are not immune either.  We have plenty of purging to do in our own closet.

Usually cleaning out closets is a spring task, but I completely missed the mark this year.  So the possibility of bedroom exchanges creates the perfect opportunity.  Wish me luck.