Communication is Key

Throughout the Summer months, I tend to linger in bed a bit longer than I ought to in the morning. However, lest anyone think I am lazily lying about, be assured it is worse than that. I am one of 65% of adults who sleep with their phone on or right next to their bed. This means before my morning restroom break I have already checked my e-mail, Instagram and Twitter accounts while simultaneously texting my oldest child, who is also lying in her bed deciding whether or not to get up and make me a cup of coffee.

Effective communication is the absolute key with teens, don’tcha know?

I keep expecting to be asked to teach a parenting class.

Friends, Homeschooling

NON-POP Quizzes and Happy Hats

On Monday I learned it’s not called a “Pop Quiz” if the class knows its coming – which my class does, since they have a “Pop Quiz” over their previous week’s reading EVERY Monday morning.

So FINE, I get it already. Special thanks to friends Shannon and Cindy who can always be counted on to smile lovingly before saying, “Yeah, you’re wrong.”

Uhhhh, good friends.

Next, see the photo above? That is my 20th Century World History and Literature class taking their NON-POP Quizzes.

Don’t they look like they are having fun??

Admittedly, it isn’t the same as my friend Jessica’s classes, but I honestly can’t figure out how to work in Play Doh and Oreos into 20th Century World History curriculum (not that I haven’t tried).


We DID play a review game on Friday covering our independent readers and the textbook highlights from 1900-1911. While I promised NOT to have a cumulative final (instead there are 2 research papers and weekly NON-POP Quizzes), I do want them to retain some of what they are learning. I have found that games + Starbucks gift cards encourages retention.


So, I divided the students into two teams and let them each select their team’s “speaker”. Obviously, I did this BEFORE showing them the glorious hats the speakers got to wear.


These hats come straight out of the “Happy Hats” box in our schoolroom. What? Don’t all schoolrooms have a “Happy Hats” box?


Well, ours was born out of necessity. When three children can barely muck their way through the day due to poor attitudes and less-than-loving interactions, the “Happy Hats” box really comes in handy.

On those terrible, no good days, I get up from my chair without saying a word and pull down the box. The eye rolling and moaning ensues as I distribute the hats.

Bottom line, no matter what kind of issues the kids have with each other, no one can maintain a sour outlook when looking across at a sibling wearing a mandatory “Happy Hat”.


Thankfully, my high schoolers in co-op are pretty nice to each other, but I may bring along the “Happy Hats” box just in case. What’s one more thing tossed into the back of the Suburban, right?

What do you think Josh?

heh heh

Friends, Homeschooling

It’s official, the new homeschool year can start.

A few weeks ago my friend Cindy, who knows my love language well, gifted me with 8 newly designed monster tissue boxes she scored at Target. Then, my friend Beth gave me a roll of monster duct tape, also found at Target.

Oh Target, how we love you so.

So, with Monster Puffs and tape in hand, I am fully equipped to handle any kids running at the nose or mouth! Whoohoo! Bring on the new school year!

It’s the little things, ya know?

Of course, there have been other incidentals that also paved the way to a smoooooooth jump back into the educational arena:

  1. I completed the syllabus for the junior high level Paragraph Writing course I’m teaching at co-op this year.
  2. Then, I completed the syllabus for the high school level “20th Century World History & Literature” course I’m teaching at co-op this year.
  3. With the help of a few hundred readers over at The Pioneer Woman’s Homeschooling blog, I compiled an incredibly rich list of American History Readers (Year 1 of 2) for 5th grade and up for Kenny. They began arriving yesterday and we will get the rest of them today. If you are also on the look-out, I will post the completed list on the Pioneer Woman’s Homeschool blog tomorrow. It will be a downloadable PDF of over 120 books and resources.
  4. In addition to the readers, I also scored a few videos, online resources, and even two games (though I only purchased one because the other one was more than the $3.00 left in my budget when all was said and done).
  5. I completed and turned in my interview questions for Lorilee Lippencott’s newest book, You Can Do It Too! 25 Homeschool Families Share Their Stories. Published August 23rd, the book is available for only $9.99 in PDF and Kindle format; it packs a punch with over 80,000 words and 250+ pages!
  6. I wrapped up several design jobs over the summer: Noble Pig, The History Kitchen, Celebrity Baby Scoop & Celebrity Teen Scoop, and two more I’ve not yet had an opportunity to write-up at my blog, but you can view online at The Shiksa Market and Home School Happy. It was a VERY full summer of web design!
  7. Finally, I managed to get the family into a 2-week dinner routine we call The Deal with Meals. I complete and print-out two weeks worth of Deal with Meals sheets and post them on the fridge. For the most part, everyone loves knowing what we’re eating and who is responsible for making it happen. I also list what I have stocked for lunch options. If there aren’t leftovers, the kids will select from what is listed below. You’ll note we pickup Sonic on Tuesday evenings. It used to be 5 burgers for $5.00 so we still call it 5 for 5. It actually is 5 for $6.44. We bring home the burgers and add whatever else we want: cheese, jalapenos, mustard, mayo, vegetables, bean sprouts, etc… I love the ease of Tuesday nights.
  8. OH! And I dropped all the weight I gained after breaking my knee in March so I don’t have to go buy new school clothes for myself to start the new school year. HAHA!

Now, I just need to get ahead a week or so in the history readers for my co-op class and I’m good to go.

For now…


Are you strapped?

It has been more than a decade since I first met my friend Jessica online. We came together over a mutual interest in cloth diapering and natural parenting. We shared a drive for growing our online businesses and, in the midst of it all, we came to know each other on a very personal level – talking daily about our kids, cloth diapers, relationships, challenges of parenting, personal growth, lack of sleep, and of course, work. We worked A LOT.

Jess and I finally met face to face at a blogging conference in 2006 and forever sealed our friendship. In 2007 we attended the same blogging conference together, in 2009 I flew out to help take care of her and her family a few days after the birth of her 4th baby, and last summer (2011) our families finally met up when Jess and her husband invited us to stay with them at the halfway point of our family’s 3-week trek across the Central and Western United States.

I guess what I’m trying to say is we have a long history and I truly love this gal and her family.

Sooooo…when she shared with me a bit of what her family was going through financially I naturally wanted to help. And when I read her blog post, The State of the Union, I knew just how I could do it…I could brag.

Yes, brag.
(With stolen borrowed photos from her site and her flickr, no less.)


Back in December 2011, Jess started making beautiful, custom DSLR fabric camera straps as well as simpler, but equally fun Point & Shoot fabric camera straps.

She sent the one you see in the photo at the top of this post for my birthday and I love, love, love it. I still use it almost every single day.

As you can tell from my Instagram photo directly above, my camera strap looks just as nice now as the day I received it in the mail.


Since then, Jessica has sewn and sold several other straps in a variety of different colors and prints.

The DSLR straps are about 23″ long with the nylon webbing adding even more length. The entire strap can be adjusted to be as long as 50″ if preferred.

The webbing is 3/8″ wide and fits most DSLR cameras.


She also sews Custom DSLR Patchwork Camera Straps.

The girl’s got skillz.

Best yet, she’s uber picky (which totally jives with my anal retentiveness) about what she puts her name on, so you are guaranteed a high quality product.


Each of the camera straps are secured with leather ends (vinyl is available if you desire it). The fabric is cut out by hand and then she sandwiches the webbing between the fabric as she sews.

To prevent the feed dogs from scratching up the leather she uses tear-away paper on the underside. Like I said, she is very detailed in the way she works.


If you don’t need a long strap, you may want to consider her shorter Custom Point & Shoot Camera Wrist Straps. These measure 14 – 14.5″ inches around and have adjustable metal hardware so you can cinch the strap to comfortably fit around your wrist.

As with the longer DSLR straps, the fabric is 100% cotton, fully lined with interfacing for durability, but unlike the DSLR straps, this one only measures 14 – 14.5″ around.

Fabric Selection: Jessica has a significant fabric stash of her own you can choose from or you can also send your own fabric and she’ll create a strap from it.


Soooooo…if you are in the market for a camera strap, I encourage you to visit her store. After all, it’s for a good cause.

I’m actually wondering if I can order one of the wristlets and turn it into a key fob.