Monday, December 31, 2012

A Photographic Walk Down Memory Lane: Our Look Back at Year 2012

Our first Schoolhouse Review Crew Blog Cruise for 2013 goes live on Tuesday, January 1st. The topic will be 2012: A Look Back.

We are counting down the hours until the new year begins. God has tremendously blessed us this year and we are most grateful for an incredible year! Now is the time of year when I look back at the past 12 months and dig through old photos; it's a time for me to reflect, re-evaluate, and remember significant, life-changing, and candid events in our life. As I reminisce the occurrences and re-evaluate our life choices in 2012, I embark on an amazing yet teary-eyed trip down memory lane. I hope you will have a few free moments to read this post as I highlight several major and/or memorable family events. Please join me as I take a photographic walk down memory lane. 

Before  I get started, I will mention my most popular blog posts for the month if applicable. These posts exclude giveaways and reviews (well ... I did include one review). This post will contain links to photos from previous posts however I will also indulge by sharing a few never before seen photos. Please click on any of links below if you missed reading some of my most popular posts this year. I would love to hear from you so please leave me a comment. 

Alyssa was given her first dollhouse as a Christmas gift. She played with dollhouses everywhere we went. I wanted a dollhouse when I was younger, but we couldn't ever afford the luxury. Last year Grandma asked what Alyssa wanted for Christmas and I jokingly said a dollhouse ... thinking it would cost way too much. Her grandmother wanted to buy just one gift, but I never imagined it would actually happen. We celebrated Christmas with my in-laws in January and they surprised my daughter with a dollhouse. She plays with it all the time. It is almost as tall as I am and her Barbie dolls fit inside. Alyssa insisted on helping her father assemble the dollhouse and she immediately took charge.

Alyssa was consistently using Math U See Primer. This level was completed shortly after beginning it. She also started and completed Math U See Alpha this year. You can read about her updated progress at this post. I pray that we will be able to start Math U See Beta soon! I also introduced her to multiplication in February. Please read about her multiplication bead board here. It is a great hands-on way to gently introduce and explore multiplication with young children. I have been known to substitute centimeter blocks for pins to make the activity more kid friendly and safe. I had a zillion Valentine's Day themed math activities planned for this month. In the photo below you can see just one of the activities Alyssa completed. She was working on ways to make ten. We came to the conclusion that manipulatives or counters were no longer needed when working on single digit addition facts - her mathematical thinking became more abstract.

Alyssa honed in on her baking and cooking skills this month. She made green eggs as part of her Dr. Seuss unit and since this day she has requested to help in the kitchen more often. She used spinach to tint the eggs green. Check out the lunch she had that day! The turkey stars represent the stars on the Sneetches belly. The strawberry and banana represent the well known Cat's hat. The fish are from the One Fish Two Fish book read during the unit. Click on the link to see my post about other Dr. Seuss Resources and Inspirations. A big investment was made this month. My hubby purchased a used RV so we scurried off on a camping trip. We took a field trip to see the caverns in the area. It was a two hour tour and surprisingly my daughter walked the entire tour without complaining. She listened to all of the stories from the past and found a bat friend hanging upside-down.

My sister and brother-in law visited from New York. Alyssa's relationship with them flourished. She still talks about their visit and asks when they can come see us again. You can view the pictures of our visit to Guadalupe State Park with them on my blog. We took Alyssa to the Alamo too. During their visit, my daughter decided that she wanted to sing and dance for them. Alyssa hammed it up and this turned out being an unforgettable photo session with Uncle Hans. The last photo is one of my favorite photos that we took of her that day. He is an amazing photographer and of course it helps when you have a subject willing to strike a pose! She did NOT get that from me. Easter is also a time for us to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. We focused on His resurrection but we also enjoyed several secular activities. I can remember the first time she ever dyed eggs. She handled the eggs with such care. Daddy had to work this year so we only decorated a dozen eggs. Alyssa loved participating in Easter egg hunts at Grandma Lynn's house and at our house. Many surprise blessings occurred this month. We attended our first ever homeschool conference in Tennessee because we won a family admission at the last minute. It was an eye opening experience for both my husband and myself. I also met Marcy with TOS in the elevator and begged for five minutes of her day. I hope she didn't think I was CRAZY. The next morning before we departed, I received an e-mail from Deb at Living Montessori Now stating that I won the Montessori Printshop Deluxe CD. I woke my husband up with a loud scream. This has been an invaluable resource this year!

We rescued and named our new cat Oreo. You can read about Oreo's story here. As a family, we gave him a flea bath in hopes to exterminate the pests. He was covered in fleas! It was a horrifying experience for Oreo as he was not very fond of water - I know ... most cats don't like water! It was a night to remember and a story we'll never forget. I can't tell you how many times Alyssa's timeouts ended with giggles, because Oreo always saved the day by interrupting her four minutes. He would instigate and tease her as she sat on the step. However, a month later we found out that we needed to give him to another family, because it would be harder to sell the house and we really needed to leave the neighborhood. My daughter was devastated. She LOVED Oreo and I also grew very fond of him. The family that owns Oreo now sent Alyssa a Christmas card this year with his picture on it. Alyssa broke out in tears when she saw the card, but she was happy that she was finally able to see him and how much he has grown. She misses him but she knows that he is in a good home. My daughter also participated in Mini Olympics as part of her gymnastics group and received her first medal. Alyssa's interest in writing began to blossom this month. In the photos below you can read a letter she wrote to her Aunt Sammie and Uncle Hans after their April visit. This month was especially important for me because I was accepted as a crew member on the Schoolhouse Review Crew. This was the start of a new adventure with many unexpected blessings, encouragement, and friendships. Thank you to the Schoolhouse Review Crew leaders ... for everything that you do for all of us on the crew and for the readers who follow. You all have made my first time around a pleasant experience with numerous learning opportunities. I look forward to growing even more this year with your guidance. My most popular May posts were Multiplication, Area, and Skip Counting and Story of the World Resources.

Alyssa participated in her first dance recital this month. The performance was touching. She feared getting on stage upon arrival since the stage was larger than the one she practiced on during the previous months. God helped her handle her fear and she gracefully performed her routine with big grins. Alyssa FINALLY got her big girl bed and we moved her bedroom downstairs. She slept in the master loft and it was considered her bedroom since the day she was born, but we made the necessary changes based on the stager's recommendations. We also went on vacation again this month (camping). You can read about our camping experience by clicking on the most popular link for the month of July. June was the prime time for us to put our house on the market so we decided to list it before we left on our vacation. We were in dire need of a break after all of the home improvements and preparation ... three families saw the house while we were gone that week. Our real estate agent, stager, and photographer did an excellent job and we are forever thankful for their hard work! While on vacation I received an e-mail stating that we won a $100 All About Spelling giveaway. I was thrilled that we would be able to buy the nest level and continue using our favorite spelling curriculum. My nephew was also born this month as we were driving home in the opposite direction I might add. We decided to go home, do laundry, and head to Houston the next day to meet him. My most popular posts for June were about our Montessori Stamp Game and Top Ten Spelling Resources.

The house went under contract in July. WOW ... it happened super quick and was unexpected since we had the house on the market previously for two years with another real estate agent. The paperwork process began and we tried not to get too excited and was told not to start packing in case they backed out. This was also a time for new beginnings. Alyssa's Uncle Keith found a lovely, kind-hearted woman to marry so we attended their beautiful outdoor cowboy wedding. Alyssa was such a ham. She sat quietly and behaved well. I also caught her praying for them and their marriage so I snapped a photo to capture the moment for the happy couple. My most popular post was Trailer Camping: Learning and Exploration.

Alyssa was captivated by her Homeschool Legacy's "Birds of a Feather" unit activities during the active and hectic month of August. Beautiful birds flocked to our bird environment this month. We also took a field trip and rode a tram through the Safari. Several birds were seen on the premises. I loved seeing how happy she was exploring each concept within the unit. August was the month we began seriously packing our house. I didn't realize how much I actually had to pack and I have to admit ... I am a HUGE pack rat! I am actually a bit embarrassed to show you the messy packing photo, but felt the need to let you see how out of control things can get. Packing ended up being more disorganized than originally planned which in turn caused us a lot of stress that month. I tried not to include any reviews as my top posts, but my Ancient Civilizations and Bible Review was the most popular post in August by far.

It was official ... our house SOLD and we needed to be moved out by Sept. 11. We moved to my in-laws apartment. We are a bit crammed and living in boxes galore but we are making it work until the new house is built. Thankfully, we have an affordable place to stay until the house is ready. On the last day, as we stuffed the vehicle full of the rest of our belongings, Alyssa decided to take one last run around the wrap around porch we loved so dearly. This reminded her of her aunt and uncle's visit. I wish I had permission to post those photos, but I would rather be safe than sorry. During their visit they chased each other and raced around the porch. Alyssa said good-bye to the only house she ever knew. It was a very emotional day for both of us. We also noticed major behavior changes after the move. I believe that the move caused too many drastic changes all at once which stressed her out. It was a sad day but a necessary step in our life. Book Should be Free and Candy Corn Math were the popular posts in September. Have you read them?

The Halloween party at the library was fun as usual. We enjoyed seeing friends we hadn't seen since the move. The children drew faces on pumpkins and participated in a scavenger hunt. One of our loved Halloween traditions is to walk downtown on Halloween night. Many of the businesses close early and pass out candy to the trick-or-treaters. It gives me a chance to see students that I taught ... of course I realized this year, they are getting too old to participate in the nightly events. Gee wiz ... I must be getting old! Just kidding. This month I also took owl pellets to Avis's house. The girls were able to dissect owl pellets for the first time. Alyssa dissected owl pellets the month before but wanted to share the excitement with her friends. The posts that were most popular this month were Christopher Columbus and Candy Corn Graphing and Fractions.

Alyssa had a wonderful birthday bash with her friends and family at the Jumpy Place. She turned five years old this month. What? Where did the time go? She is no longer a baby. We had so much fun watching the children and adults playing. All adults were allowed to jump! It was hilarious. We had the whole place to ourselves and there were no rules. Her fondest memory of that day is when she received a birthday mango from Peterson (my husband's colleague and fellow firefighter friend ... Alyssa's future husband if she gets her own way). The kiddos had a blast and we loved the privacy. This month also marks the first time my niece spent a night out with us. We took her to see a Magik Theater show. Beforehand, the girls frolicked on the playground and walked on the sidewalks while they viewed the sculptures in the area. They had a grand time making faces and posing for the camera. The most exciting event at the end of November was that we finally and thankfully started working on the house. Several trees were cleared and the workers prepared the house for concrete which was poured in December. My most popular posts are To School or Not To School and the Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookie Swap Recipe post. Yummy! My favorite cookie recipe was posted ... be sure to pin it so that you can try it later. Come back and let me know if you like them. The title of the other post is deceiving ... it is chocked full of gratitude activities.

This was an extremely busy month for us. We went to our local North Pole Village and had a blast! Alyssa visited the petting barn many times to see the gigantic dog pictured below - she is definitely an animal lover. He looks mean in the photo but he was the sweetest dog ever. The dog was crying out for more popcorn in the photo. We also went to Trail of Lights in Wimberley and Christmas Eve Eve service with our close friends. They invite us every year for dinner before service. Alyssa posed in front of their tree for me since we didn't have room for a tree in the apartment. Thank you Grandma Lynn for the beautiful Christmas dress! Alyssa twirled the night away as she wore it around town. The family served yummy tamales beforehand and afterwards we gathered around the table drinking delicious hot cocoa while eating tasty desserts. We adopted their family and they adopted us so we are considered part of their family. We also joined their family on Christmas Day this year for dinner and holiday cheer. The most memorable part of the night was when the cork was stuck in a bottle of wine. A cork screw could not be found so a drill was used to open it ... and it worked! Is this a Texas thing? My husband is making progress on the house. They prepped for and poured concrete this month. He has been doing most of the work by himself since the concrete was poured. I am sure after the new year more workers will be available to help. I admire his dedication and how hard he works for our family. I hope to post more updated photos soon. Please check out my top three posts for December: Book Tree Countdown Tradition, Colors of Faith Tree Craft, and The Jesse Tree Tradition. I love writing about our traditions and hope to add more posts to my blog next year.

It is time to say good-bye to 2012 and hello to 2013. Happy New Year! As another year passes we thank God for providing and guiding us in the right direction. As I ponder over the major events in my life ... I can't help but wonder what choices will be made this year and which direction God will send me. I look forward to finding out what He has planned for us in 2013. I know the God will provide. We will always have faith in You. I look forward to a new year with new curriculum, new beginnings, and new memories. I have a feeling it will be full of many ups and downs yet will still be magnificent! Thanks to our Heavenly Father!

I must say taking this stroll down memory lane has definitely opened my eyes and helped me appreciate where we are today and what is to come in the future. I am forever grateful for the obstacles faced and blessings received this year. I have learned so much from all of our experiences.

What do you remember most from year 2012? What was your favorite memory?

Please visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog to read other crew member posts on this topic. Please check back to read their posts tomorrow morning.

God bless, 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry CHRISTmas!

I can hear my daughter waking up on the monitor and her father just walked in the door 5 minutes ago so I wanted to say Merry CHRISTmas and Happy New Year to all my wonderful readers! May you be surrounded by hope, happiness, and love. Let us all celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, Our Savior on this blessed day. 

"And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21)

"And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at His birth (Luke 1:14).

God bless, 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve Tradition

Christmas is tomorrow! Are you ready? I can honestly say that I am NOT prepared for tomorrow yet. 

I am cleaning the apartment and doing laundry so that my hubby can come back from the fire station to relax in a cleaner home. Christmas Eve is usually a busy night for them! I don't want him to be bothered by a mess as soon as he walks in the door. I still have many gifts to wrap. Last night I couldn't sleep so I am dragging today. I went to bed at 11:30 p.m. and woke up at 1:45 a.m. I have been up since then because I couldn't get back to sleep ... too many things on my mind I guess. I am in dire need of a burst of energy for tonight. Coffee is not helping at all.

It will just be my daughter and I tonight because her father is working at the fire station. We will eliminate a few of our family traditions in order to keep it simple this year. We are planning on Christmas music, movies, and game night. She will also help prep Christmas breakfast so that we can leave earlier tomorrow; we have been invited to the homes of several of our special friends. We always have a blast with them!

I have another Christmas tradition to share with you all. Every year I purchase a new pajama set for Alyssa to wear Christmas morning. She usually forgets that I do this so it always ends up being a complete surprise. She saw that a present was propped in the corner and said, "Where'd that come from?" I told her that tonight she would get to open a present from us along with her Christmas Eve book. She is so excited! She has been very helpful with chores today. She made a looong list of games that she wants to play, but I am sure we won't have time for every single one of them. She listed several of my favs too which makes the night even better. Later this evening, we will watch The Polar Express while drinking hot chocolate with red hots and marshmallows. We will also read Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement Moore. Furthermore, I have the book on tape so that she can listen to it before bedtime while we brush her teeth and hair.

Want a sneak peak at her new pajamas? I found this set on sale at Kohl's online. They were also offering 30% off the discounted price with FREE shipping so it was a steal of a deal for me. I didn't have to leave my house nor did I have to deal with crowded stores and traffic. I think it is absolutely adorable! The set includes a doll nightgown for her bedtime bear. I am sure she will choose her musical white bear to sleep with tonight. She told me that she needed to go to bed early so that she won't be cranky tomorrow. I hope this is true!

I can't wait to see her face when she opens the box! Aren't they so cute?
Doll or Bear Nightgown

You are reading about just a few of our Christmas Eve traditions. Please check out several of my other Christmas tradition posts. The two most popular links are my Book Tree Countdown and our Jesse Tree. I would love to hear about your traditions so please consider leaving a comment. It is always a joy hearing from my readers. If you have enjoyed reading this or any of my posts, please follow my blog (A Learning Journey) and my Pinterest boards.
Merry CHRISTmas!

God bless,