September 28, 2013

Ojai Family vacation - summer is winding down

Before I go any further - let's discuss how I have turned into "those people." This picture totally took my breath away at that realization. "Those people" are the people with a lot of kids (by LA standards), you might think twice about inviting them over due to the invasion/noise/mess that ensues, those kids might have dirty faces now and then or refuse to wear shoes or better yet their own mother may forget their shoes - often, they might have mismatching clothes or in fact no clothes at all, their children whine or throw fits in public despite the best of the best patient & loving parenting, they have too many bikes on the back of their car, and speaking of cars - it might have a mystery smell. 
We are those people. And I'm kinda cool with that cuz the rest of the time those punks are awesome.

Now on to the nature of this post:

We took the kids up to Ventura Ranch a few weeks ago to "glamp" What is that?
Glamp: verb To camp in style, comfort, and/or luxury while still experiencing the great outdoors; to go glamping. Uses: Tim: Hey, do you want to go camping this weekend ? Alan: Nah, that's beat. I'd much rather glamp and be comfortable.
I am not a big fan of the camping myself. Maybe I would be if I didn't have small children clamoring for bottles and snacks and the fact that camping means dirty feet (I HATE dirty feet) and dirt in general. Or maybe it's the fact that I wasn't raised by a family that loves camping. Ya - let's blame my parents for something else! :) Maybe if that had all been different....I would really like it! Riiiiiight.

Anyway - so we headed up to Santa Paula to have a mini vacay. We didn't hit Utah or Arizona this summer and the natives were threatening mutiny if we didn't do something cool.
The cabin was mini perfection. The one huge downfall to staying in a hotel is that we need a kitchen and two bedrooms. Big time. We had a full kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, living room, and sleeping loft. I have now found the ideal way to travel! It was awesome and the setting beautiful.

Babyproofing?? No problem! Mr. LeBaron brought a pack of these babies and went around fixing up the place so I could enjoy myself. That's true love.

Baby loved loved her some quality daddy time.
John tried to sneak in a nap. Riiiiiiight

The glamp site has a little stream running through it. My river rats had a ball.

One of the days we loaded up the bikes and went into Ojai for a leisurely stroll. Riiiiiiiight.
The only thing leisurely about it was..............wait it wasn't really.
C's right bike pedal kept falling off causing - drama.
L kept going waaaay far ahead causing John and I city folk concern.
William kept standing up and ripping that flag off and shoving it into my spokes. AMAZING!!

But actually - since I am used to that kind of drama all the time - I still found the little moments in between very leisurely and peaceful and perfect.

Post bike ride pose

Letting off steam post bike ride. I always love these kinds of shots.

C and I had a fan-flipping-fastic trail ride adventure. Miss C - I love that you love horses. I love that you love gymnastics and crafting. I love that we are so similar that way. I love you.

We were excited to try ziplining. It was a perfect gradient to someone to wants to skydive but is very afraid of heights. My kids? Fearless.

I on the other hand might or might not have screamed like a little girl and shut my eyes for the first part. I might or might not have tried to back out at the last moment.
I might or might not have been sucked off the edge against my will by an eager Charlotte who was strapped to me.

I am super glad you wouldn't let me back down C. That was totally worth it.

Here's celebrating the first time we have slept in the same bed on vacation in 3 whole years. William sparked a downward statistic of horrible sleep while away from home. He is now almost totally over that nightmare. We rejoice!

September 19, 2013

Arboretum Gardens - Homeschooling

These baby girls are gonna be good buddies :) 

It was SO DARN HOT momma friend L suggested sprinkler run throughs. It was divine. Willsie didn't think so though. LOL He was not lovin it.

I love this shot. Love love love it. Our Madam S with her buddy Little J

Bugs in a tree - cute homeschooling girlies.

LA Zoo field trip

Thursday is field trip day. At least we try to do that. It's also Nana Day, errand/apt day, and just another day day.

But today it was field trip day. We went to the LA Zoo......which is built in an alternate universe by the way. Don't believe me?? Go there, and try and contest that EVERYWHERE you want to go is uphill from where you are. How is that possible?! I just know that I do hate that part and must gripe about it every time I go. Moving on!

On this hot summer day we found refruge in The Lair. A beautifully and blissfully air-conditioned indoor exhibition of reptiles, etc.

Savannah was a blur of activity. She loves animals so this was heaven for her.

"Oh yook momma!" I heard this a lot 

Bearded dragons (I think) were a big hit

gotcha!!! that's fake ;) When I saw her out of the corner of my eye I almost fainted.
Snakes take me to my dark and scary place.

Love this moment.....why I homeschool. They were on a mission to talk me into the merry go round. Turns out they were successful.

First time!! Milestone! She was a little leery but since the older kids were enjoying themselves it helped.

L - I have a feeling outings will become more difficult with you next year. Right now I am savoring every last minute of you still enjoying just about everything we do. You are rad.

Oh sweet cool mist fan - thanks for that! Future Charlotte - please don't kill me for including this picture.


Value Tales - teaching character qualities in a secular (ish) way

Many moons ago I came across a great idea from Michelle Duggar. She is an amazing woman with 19 children. Yes 19!

I have written about her before here and here But ai! I digress! This is not the place to gush about my obsession with that amazing woman and her ways......

While reading her books & watching her show I learned about their character qualities list and how they use it. I absolutely LOVED this idea but alas I am not Christian - so what's a mom to do?!?

It seems the character based teaching materials out there are written from Christian perspectives and worldviews which are great in many ways (which is why I use for most of our homeschool curricula)  but I really needed something that aligned with our family value system and Scientology religion better.

So I spent.....ummmm......a really long time.....too much time maybe....creating my own chart. I used the Duggar's as a base and took out or changed ones to suit us better and searched our religious texts for more insight. I spent hours combing through, thinking it over and pouring over dictionaries for good definitions. I also read through The Way to Happiness many times (non-religious moral code) to get ideas.

It was a labor of love. And I loved every minute. Even the ones that were way too late getting the excel spreadsheet to format properly.......ok maybe not those.

But I wanted more meat. I needed more books and items to give it "body." I used trusty ol' Facebook to ask the good people for help. And a friend turned me on to Value Tales. This series for children takes a famous person from history and uses their main character trait to tell their story, while emphasizing that trait. Perfect!!!!!!

Here's my system:

1) Several times a week (is my goal!) I will pull out our chart which I keep on my kitchen cabinet but also in a manilla folder for easy portability.

Ideal Character Qualities Document
(I am new to sharing on google docs & can't seem to make it appear as it does in Excel. If you want a copy comment here with your email and I will shoot it over to you. Or better yet help me figure out google docs! :)

2) I will have one of the children pick whichever one they want for that day. And I write it down on the folder. It ain't pretty but it's functional. This way I can keep track of what we've covered.

3) I will read that character quality definition aloud to them and explain it up a storm. 

4) I then ask them to give me examples of both the ideal character quality and it's opposite. For example they would talk about Compassion and examples of such, and then Indifference and examples of such. 

5) I usually have them act them out too. They love that part. Right now C is very into horses and L is very into spy's and weapons - so if they are having trouble I will give them an example within their zone of understanding/reality.

6) I then have them spend some time (5-10 minutes) reading from one of the Value Tale books.


Before Value Tales......................................After Value Tales (riiiiight)

7) I then ask them about the book and the character's quality and how it helped him/her succeed. I also ask questions about what they think would happen if that person didn't have that quality, etc. I might ask how they are that way/not that way in their life and how it help/harms them. Not sure if the cog wheels really turn the way I hope - but I can only lead the horse to water right?

This is not a perfect system. It's a baby begining. If anyone out there in cyber space has a great system for teaching ideal character in a secular way - please share!


For those wondering how/why to use Sonlight if I am not Christian.....

Why: It's a fan-flipping-tastic homeschool curricula. And that is an understatement. Have I really never shared my love of Sonlight before?? 

I chose them because:
1) I fell in love with the highly organized and almost scripted daily checklists.
2) It was recommended by Heather Sanders of the homeschooling section of
3) It is literature and history based. This appealed to me as I think an education based on textbooks is pointless - too boring and bland. History does not come alive via textbooks. Sonlight uses quality novels galore in addition to a few textbooks. It's maybe 10% textbook and 90% historical novels, etc.
4) YOU CAN TEACH SEVERAL CHILDREN AT ONCE SPANNING AN AGE RANGE. This might be the #1 reason I chose Sonlight.
5) Because it's Christian based - the novels are quality, they are based on moral character and true heroes. I have cried more than once while reading a novel because I was so moved by how much a single person can do for the good of mankind.
6) They have have incredible customer support system. And their teacher's manuals and weekly notes are incredible. I could weep for how much I love them, and how they have literally thought of everything. 

How: I just don't read or do any of the specific bible activities. I bought a children's bible that my kids love and they can read through that to get acquainted with the bible stories which I think is incredibly important. There are times when Christian world views come about in the general readings, and I use those moments as teaching opportunities and social studies. Since Christianity is a widespread religion with many teachings agree with, I don't find harmful or confusing to expose the children to other people's religions and views. On the contrary, I love that it's ME exposing and being available to answer questions. It has also lead to many, many very deep conversations about our own religion and how our views differ on some things.

Bento Boxing Part Duex

If you missed part one just scroll down. Or click. I'll wait. No really - it's cool.......

You know what Bento-ing is now??


Here's what I've been up to since first starting last month in my attempt to handle our picky toddler whom we swear is a breath-a-tarian and in general make the kids happy about food.

Right up front I am going to apologize for not linking all products. I am just not that cool. But I bought just about everything from and LOVE them. Cheaper than Amazon or anywhere else I have found.

The top half of Willsie's snack Bento. 
Oval Bento box which I love & it's only $4 & has two tiers
Dividers (balled Baran) I don't recommend these ones - too flimsy

C's fish & dog sandwiches :) and super thin apples

A new bento shipment!!! YAY!



Alien hardboiled egg :)

My "alien's attack" bento

Excitement & awe
A "make your own" Love themed bento box

This was today's bento for W. LOL!! Those lips are from a sucker that I cracked off and threw away knowing those lips would make hundreds of hysterical lunches. I love this idea - it's from Jill Dubin

W's "Panda Love" bento

C's crazy face sandwhich. Love those candy eyes. I save up my JoAnn's coupons and run in there real fast every few weeks to grab ONE thing for 50% off. Why not? I pass by there 3x a week anyway.
These lips are from our Mr. Potato Head supplies

And when you need a toddler babysitter - pull out the bento supplies and some soap! ;)

Or open the supply drawer and let them get crazy!

I've been having a lot of fun. I sure don't do things this fancy every day. Some days I open up the boxes and wrack my brains for what to fill and kinda throw it in there with some picks. That's ok by me. They  never seem to notice. Love Bento-ing!!!