How to Throw an Awesome Summer Party!

Summer Party

Any great summer party needs 3 things: food, fun, and friends! I’ve rounded up some awesome ideas for food and fun – you just supply the friends!

Summer Party Drinks & Food


Non-alcoholic Pineapple Mojito (What WhatU Eat) are a yummy start to a party. Light, refreshing, and family friendly!


Watermelon Lemonade (DrinkedIn) is a sweeter drink, and maybe a touch less “puckery” than the Pineapple Mojito! Kids and adults will enjoy this non-alcoholic beverage.

sweet tea

My daughter recently found this amazing sweet tea recipe – you add baking soda to cut the bitterness! Perfect Southern Sweet Ice Tea (Love Bakes Good Cakes).

flag dessert

This Easy Flag Fruit Dessert (Family Fresh Meals) is patriotic, sweet, and good for you!

buffalo chicken

Buffalo Chicken Tortilla Pinwheels (Home Cooking Memories) make great finger food!


Every celebration needs smokies! Bacon Wrapped Smokies (Clarks Condensed)!

Summer Party Fun

bbq invites

Free, printable BBQ Invites (Confetti & Bliss).

sponge bombs

Learn to Make Sponge Bombs (Inner Child Fun) and have a sponge bomb bucket toss!

tic tac toe

Tic Tac Toe Frisbee (U Create Crafts) and other life-sized outdoor games!

summer songs

You’ll need a great playlist! 12 Songs for a Carefree Summer (The (Reformed) Idealist Mom).



Shaving Cream Slide Fun (Growing a Jeweled Rose) looks like so much fun!!

Check out my Pinterest board Summer Fun for more party ideas, food, games, and decorations!


Posted in Dessert, Family fun, Mom life, Parenting, Party ideas, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

What I Forgot to Remember

What I Forgot to Remember

Child #4 has graduated high school. Her graduation was last week. She’s an infant, she’s a toddler, she’s a preschooler, she’s in middle school, she’s in high school, she’s a senior, she’s graduated.

Then she leaves.

What I forgot to remember is how little she was, how she liked to be swaddled tightly and tucked up by my side for a nap, how she would play with her older brothers and sister, how she giggled and crinkled her nose, how she loved, how she learned.

She’s grown up now.

Well, not totally. I know that. But she’s old enough that when I say, “Be careful,” or “Be good,” she gives me ‘the look.’ The look that says, “I know mom, I’m not stupid.” No, she’s not stupid. She’s smarter than I’ve ever been, more beautiful inside and out than I could have imagined, kind, funny, silly, serious, gentle, loving.

I’ll miss her.

I’ve done this four times now. One more to go. Does it get easier? No. Do I still forget to remember? Every day.

What I forgot to remember is that when they’re little, they seem like they’ll never grow up. Those endless days of chalk and bubbles and books and story time and baths and sunscreen and shopping and giggles and squeals. Those non-stop days of bedtimes and bug bites and chickenpox and strep throat and dirty diapers and dirty clothes. Those, what seemed then, mind-numbing days of sameness and repetition.

But they grow up. And fast.

And I turn around and she buys her own clothes, has her own style, likes her own books and movies, giggles over what she thinks is funny, drives her own car, makes her bed, she even vacuums and puts dishes away.

It’s amazing that I forgot to remember – remember those little things, the things that don’t change and the things that do. As much as I loved my kids as babies, I adore them as adults. I’m proud of this girl/young woman, and so very thankful for the person she’s become.

My friend.

‘As soon as I saw you, I knew

an adventure was going to happen.’    ~ Winnie the Pooh

This post was shared on The Homeschool Nook and This is How We Roll and Wonderful Wednesday Blog Hop.

Posted in Blogging, Homeschooling, Mom life, Parenting, Personal | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Summer Learning Made Easy!

Summertime is awesome, but how about throwing some summer learning in the mix?! Keep the kids from “summer brain drain” and have fun too!

summer learning

Summer learning made easy!

Beginning Architecture

Mini Frank Lloyd Wrights of the world unite! This interactive, 3-part series provides the early fundamentals of structures, home design and even zoo design! The sky is the limit, and this series provides a strong foundation, putting the FUN in fundamentals with a truly engaging program. Summer is a perfect time to give this comprehensive online course a try – you’ll be grabbing marshmallows for camping, anyway. Why not do s’mores after you complete a project?


Zone Cleaning


Every season is a great time to teach your little ones, but the summertime is a special opportunity to learn about cleaning! Kids often have a little more time on their hands – and do a little more outdoor activity that brings in the dirt! Zone Cleaning comes with a DVD that explains cleaning step-by-step by room using visuals, and includes a dry erase flipbook with checkboxes for each task to be completed. Kids learn from professionals, and get a sense of accomplishment when they cross off their tasks.

Best of all, it teaches a more thorough approach to cleaning each zone, so the area doesn’t need extra attention afterward! Time well spent – and time saved for years to come!

Check out this blogger review for more insights: Zone Cleaning is What Every Mom Needs! Right now it’s 20% off. Stock up for summer!


Tegu On-The-Go Magnetic Blocks


These are the coolest! Remember geometric blocks from your own early school days? I used to have Haba brand and they’re no longer being made. But fear not! The Tegu blocks take the concept and run with it. These handcrafted geometric blocks have a beautiful color palette and more importantly – magnets! The possibilities are endless with hands-on play-learning about magnetic fields and chemistry while creating something unique. It comes with a handy carry pouch, too – perfect for road trips and easy-to-pack-up activities when you reach your destination to keep that summer learning going!

Right now they’re 20% off at Educents.


Peel, Play & Learn Solar System Wall Play Set

solar system

Summer star gazing has always been a favorite activity. With clear skies and warmer nights, kids can simply look up and discover the universe! This reusable wall decal set brings it all back to learning (and hands-on fun) – in turn making the sky a boundless source for wonder and education. I love that these are made of non-toxic, reusable fabric that can be easily cleaned. A discussion about constellations during the day leads to discovery in the evening and vice versa, creating a fun, virtuous cycle of activity and learning. The solar system mini-set is perfect for summer trips, and you can expand the knowledge at home with the larger set.

Both are on sale at Educents now.

Mini version is $13.99 down from $22.99.

The larger version is $19.99, down from $28.99



Peel & PlayMini USA


Summer time often means time on the road visiting relatives. I love the idea of incorporating learning about the states with all of this travel! This mini-set of non-toxic, BPA free decals of the United States is a great way to avoid brain drain and boredom with relevant learning. And since it’s small, you can pack it up during a road trip and prepare for a 4th of July Quiz! How about a timely treat for those who can name all the states? The beauty of this set is that it’s great for many aged learners.

The set can also be used as a tool to keep track of the states you and your little ones have visited so far, and learn about what’s to come with visual and hands-on activities.

On sale now at Educents, for $14.99 down from $21.99.



eMedia Guitar Beginner Pack for Kids

guitar for kids

Time to face the music – but in a good way! SUMMER is coming and kids tend to want to flex their creative muscles a bit more than the rest of the year. This quarter-sized guitar is a great fit to kick-off a lifelong love of music.

Designed to keep kids engaged and learning, the comprehensive set includes software with 60 guitar sessions that use videos, songs, and specialized interactive music games. Maybe my favorite part is that you don’t need to know guitar for your learner become a rock star – instead, animated Gary the Guitar will lead the way, and guitarist and instructor (with a PhD!) demonstrates the skills your little one will learn. Music to my ears.

The set is on sale now at Educents for $79.95 down from $119.95.


Summer Worksheets


Stave off summer brain drain with worksheets! This tried-and-true method is more creative with the Evan Moor set. There are tons of worksheets to choose from, with age-appropriate challenges in subjects ranging from math to creative writing. How about a summertime creative writing challenge? Or working up to a sought after summer toy with math sheets? These are great for summer learning during road trips and making sure that your little ones are building on learnings from previous months. I really like the “How to Write a Story” for grades 1-3. Step-by-step guidance and writing prompts like “retell a fairytale” make learning doable and inspired.

Worksheets range from $9.99 to $29.99. Check them out!

I’d love to hear what you do for summer learning! Structured or relaxed, what are your ideas and goals for this summer?

This post was shared on Titus 2 Tuesday, Hip Homeschool Hop, & Coffee and Conversation!


Posted in Curriculum, Education, Homeschooling | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Get Started Homeschooling!

Get Started Homeschooling

I don’t know why you’re thinking about homeschooling, or if you’ve already made the choice, but there are several important things you need to know. There are actually two sides to it – the “how to” (learning style/choosing curriculum and scope/sequence), and the “what to” (as in what you legally can and need to do). I’d like to share with you what I’ve learned in the eight years we’ve been homeschooling.

We didn’t start homeschooling until our 3rd son started middle school. I knew a little but not much. My sister had homeschooled for a number of years, and, at the time, we lived in the same town as HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association), so there were a lot of homeschoolers in our area.

Homeschooling How To’s:

Learning styles & choosing curriculum

Knowing your student’s learning style definitely helps in choosing curriculum. In Cathy Duffy’s 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum she explains learning style categories – Wiggly Willy, Perfect Paula, Competent Carl, and Sociable Sue. Each category has certain characteristics and their corresponding preferred methods of learning. My son was a Competent Carl (likes to be in control, logical/analytical, prefers to work alone) with a bit of Perfect Paula thrown in (likes structure and organization, wants to be “correct”). You know your child best, and you will recognize his unique traits as you read through the different categories. Your student will likely have several category traits, but usually one is more dominant.

Homeschooling Learning Styles

Copyright 2009 Cathy Duffy

Scope and Sequence

Scope and sequence are what your student will learn and when. For example, 7th grade math typically covers prime/composite numbers, square root, order of operations, absolute value, inequalities, numeration, rational numbers, etc. There are boxed curriculums that tell you exactly what to teach at each grade and specifics of what each course covers. Some examples include Bob Jones (, Abeka (, and Sonlight ( I use a variety of materials for different subjects, so I use their website or catalog for guidance.

Suggested sequences for middle school are:

Courses 6th grade 7th grade 8th grade
History World history Ancient history US History
Math Math 6 Math 7 or Pre-Algebra Pre-Algebra or Algebra 1
Science 6th grade science General Science Physical Science


English courses should include vocabulary, grammar, composition, and literature. Other possible courses are foreign language, art, computer application/keyboarding, health, PE, and other electives. As the parent/teacher, you can increase, or decrease, the difficulty level of the courses your student takes. Following a typical sequence, especially in math and science, will help keep your child on track for high school.

For more information on scope and sequence check out HSLDA’s webpage “Where do you start?” They have lots of information and links to books and other websites. I’m only familiar with the middle and high school track and wouldn’t want to give you incorrect information! A terrific guide to homeschool planning for late middle school through high school can be found on the HSLDA website:

Homeschooling What To’s:

According to HSLDA, you need to follow the state’s homeschooling laws of the state you live in (even if you’re a legal resident of another state). Homeschooling IS legal in all 50 states, but you must check with your state guidelines to find out what you need to do. Many states have different options. For example, in Tennessee, we use an “umbrella” school, but you can also register through the school board or use a Category III distance-learning school. See the HSLDA webpage about State Laws and click on your state for more information.

Knowing what is required by your state, and also what you need for your child, will give you the power to do what’s best for your family. Do you have any tips or suggestions about homeschooling? I’d love to hear them!

For more homeschooling information, click on my posts Why We Switched to a 4-Day Homeschool Week and 6 Best Places to Get Your Homeschool Curriculum.

And check out my Pinterest board Homeschooling Info & Ideas for more tips and information!

This post was linked-up at The Homeschool Nook, Hip Homeschool Hop, This is How We Roll Thursday, and Sitting Among Friends!



Posted in Curriculum, Homeschooling, Personal | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Connect the Dots (Skin Cancer Awareness)

Skin Cancer Awareness

My step mom has had numerous bouts of skin cancer. In the last couple of years, she’s had her entire upper lip and end of her nose redone – removed and remade. She visits her dermatologist regularly and still has different things on her skin that have to be burned, biopsied, or removed. She is fair-skinned and red-haired and grew up in an age where sunscreen wasn’t considered, but baby oil and baking in the hot sun were the “in” thing. She’s the outdoorsy-type – always has been. But skin cancer has affected her life in huge ways.

Skin cancer awareness

Not only is May “Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month,” May 2nd is also Melanoma Monday.

There are 3 basic types of skin cancer: basal cell, squamous cell, and melanoma. Basal and squamous are non-melanoma skin cancers that usually respond to treatment and rarely spread. Melanoma is more aggressive and although only 2% of skin cancers are diagnosed as melanoma, it causes the most deaths from skin cancer.

Unexpected news

On Valentine’s Day, my daughter and son-in-law told us they were pregnant with our 2nd grandbaby. Yay! A few days later, my daughter saw her OB doctor who spotted an “odd” mole on her thigh. She was at the dermatologist the next day and within a week was told the biopsy came back as malignant melanoma. I don’t think I’ll ever forget how I felt when I heard those words. I was speechless and in shock. She said, “Mom, they can remove it all tomorrow or in a few weeks.” I was getting ready to leave for a long weekend, but I told her, “Tell them you’ll be there tomorrow.”

Thank God her friend went with her; I was an emotional basket case at that point. Technically I understood it was stage one, but it was cancer. My baby had cancer. Not something any parent ever wants to hear.

The dermatologist got it all, and my daughter has quite the scar on her thigh, but it’s gone. All gone. Thank God! She will get regular checks from the dermatologist and has had a couple other places biopsied, all with no problems.

My decision

What I realized in all this was I needed to get myself in to get checked. Time to quite putting things off! The doctor visually scanned for anything strange looking, biopsied one mole (all clear!), and told me to check back yearly. We’re a “moley” family and sometimes those little spots need a second opinion to keep you healthy.

One thing that was really hard for me, and surprised me, was getting that head-to-toe check. I’m not particularly modest, but for some reason this was tough. Plus, my bra and panties were both black and polka dotted. Not matching, mind you, oh no! Totally different patterns. <sigh>

A, B, C, D of moles

Here are some things to look for when you’re checking moles (from Cancer Treatment Centers of America)

  • A is for Asymmetry: A mole that has an irregular shape, or two different looking halves.
  • B is for Border: Irregular, blurred, rough or notched edges may be signs of skin cancer.
  • C is for Color: Most moles are an even color – brown, black, tan or even pink – but changes in the shade or distribution of color throughout the mole can signal melanoma.
  • D is for Diameter: Moles larger than ¼ inch (6 mm, the size of a pencil eraser) across may be suspect, although some melanomas may be smaller than this.

Prevent sun damage

The Skin Cancer Foundation lists 9 specific skin cancer prevention guidelines:

  1. Seek the shade between 10am-4pm
  2. Do not burn
  3. Avoid tanning beds
  4. Cover up – long sleeves, broad-brimmed hat, and sunglasses
  5. Use sunscreen – broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen SPF 15 or higher. Use water-resistant sunscreen with SPF 30+ for extended outdoor time
  6. Apply 1 ounce (2 TBSP) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before you go outside. Reapply every 2 hours or after swimming/excessive sweating
  7. Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreen on babies over 6 months
  8. Examine your own skin every month – all over
  9. See your doctor yearly for a professional skin exam.

The National Cancer Institute has a great article, “How to Check Your Skin for Skin Cancer” that instructs you on how to do an all-over body check.

My advice

Anytime you have a sore that won’t heal, pigment or redness that spreads outside its border, itchiness or tenderness, or changes in texture (including oozing and bleeding) from a mole, get it checked. Questions or concerns? Get them checked. It’s easy and fast and so much better to find out sooner rather than later.

My last tip – A sense of humor helps when you get your yearly exam. So does matching underwear!

This post was linked up on Coffee and Conversation, Sitting Among Friends, This is How We Roll Thursday, Hip Homeschool Hop, and Titus 2 Tuesday!

Posted in Mom life, Personal, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Yoga – My Style

Yoga My Style

Whatever stage you’re at in life, there is a yoga for you! There’s gentle, hot, vinyasa flow, senior, prenatal, and nude yoga, to mention a few. Gentle or senior yoga are more my style; I think I’ll skip the nude yoga, and with my hot flashes I have hot yoga covered!

My Style
Last summer I started on my yoga journey, and I jumped in with both feet – sore, tired, slightly arthritic feet, actually. I had no idea if my 53-year-old, overweight body could manage, but I went in with an open mind. At the beginning of our first class we started with a cleansing breath and were instructed to set our intentions on class.

My Intentions
If I was going to do this (I’ve jumped on a few bandwagons in my time but usually hopped off pretty quickly) I was going to have to be “intentional.” Intentional with making the time to go. Intentional in my thoughts and attitude. Intentional with doing something good for me. And, probably the hardest of all, intentional in not beating myself up, comparing myself to the others in class, making negative comments about myself. That last part – wow! That one’s a doozy all in itself!
The classroom we were in had one whole wall covered in mirrors. I “intentionally” placed my mat where I couldn’t see myself.  I knew two of the dozen or so women, and I vaguely knew the yoga instructor, my yogi. With a smile on my face, I bravely followed her directions. Twenty minutes in I thought, “Yeah, I can do this!” After thirty minutes, I really wanted to find the clock. And, about the time I thought I might die, we started our cool down and relaxation.

My take
Yoga has clicked for me, and while it’s not easy, it’s fun and it feels right. Every class I’ve taken has been different. My yogi has been doing this for years, and she loves to target specific problem areas. It’s never boring or monotonous. There are still classes where I think I might pass out or die, but overall, I feel my body responding. I see strength and some muscle tone. I am more limber and “bendy” than before, and more capable of doing something right for myself than I’d imagined.
I feel, well, I feel good!

My rewards
Last week I was playing with my new grand baby, and she was on the floor. I knelt by her, put my hands on each side of her, and bent down and blew on her tummy. I did it a few times, and then I realized I could do it! I could lean down, sort of like a push up, and come back up. I could do it several times in a row. I could do it and not hurt!! And you know why? Because of yoga.
So, if you’re young, old, or middle-aged like me, I recommend yoga. It’s good for you – body and soul. And for me, it gives me the chance to get some extra sweet baby kisses.

This article has been published on Huffington Post and in Yoga Digest as The “Right” Yoga.

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15 Homeschool Blog Post Ideas


I love blogging, but I get bogged down sometimes and can’t come up with fresh ideas. I love homeschooling, but I get stuck in a rut sometimes and it shows in my attitude. So, I decided to come up with 15 homeschool blog post ideas to shake out some new ideas in my blogging and also in our homeschooling! No matter what part of your school year you’re in, or you’re blogging life, you can be refreshed and renewed!

15 Homeschool Blog Post Ideas:

  1. Why We Homeschool
  2. Favorite Homeschool Memories
  3. Tried and True Homeschool Curricula
  4. Homeschool Fails
  5. What Homeschooling Has Taught Me as a Mom
  6. Homeschooling Laws
  7. Organizing Your Homeschool
  8. How Homeschooling Benefits our Children
  9. Using Netflix to Homeschool
  10. 5 Things I Wish I’d Done Differently in Homeschooling
  11. Homeschooling Trends
  12. Online vs. Textbooks for Homeschooling
  13. Homeschool Co-ops
  14. Combining History & English in our Homeschool
  15. Moving Towards Independence in Homeschooling

If you’re looking for homeschooling ideas, check out my blog posts Math Styles & Choices and Our 5-Year High School Plan.

If you blog and/or homeschool, I’d love to hear your blog post ideas or new homeschooling ideas!

This post was linked-up on Coffee and Conversation, The Homeschool Nook, Titus 2 Tuesday, Hip Homeschool Hop, and This is How We Roll Thursdays!

Posted in Blogging, Homeschooling, Writing | Tagged , , | 6 Comments