Sunday, January 26, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up – January 12th-18th

Here’s a rundown of our happenings this week.


In Saxon Math 1, Holden was learning about how to count by 10’s when starting from any random single digit number.  The lesson suggested a really fun rap song to practice this while looking at a hundred number chart.  I found a website that has the rap song typed out for you if you’d like to try it, too.


It was so much fun and so catchy that even Haylee joined in to sing along.  It was so memorable that by the time we got to the worksheet, Holden could answer the related questions without even looking at the hundred number chart.  It was such a great idea, and it helped to make our math lesson fun and started our day out with a positive attitude for the school day!

I happen to have a giant hundred number chart poster that I got at Dollar Tree for $1.  It’s hanging on our school room wall.  It’s handy for activities like this so he doesn’t have to be sitting still while looking at it.


The kids had some money from Christmas to spend, so we stopped in at Toys R Us on our way home from Friday’s gym class.  They had one little endcap with some 75% off clearance items from Christmas.  We found these super cool Melting Snowman kits.


It comes with a ball of putty and some plastic accessories to decorate the snowman such as the hat, googly eyes, carrot nose, branch arms, and scarf.  So you just roll the put out into snowballs and decorate your snowman.  Set it on the table and watch it “melt!”  In no time at all, it gradually sinks down onto the table until it’s a nearly flat blob.  It’s so cute!  You can use it over and over again, and the parts store in the sectional plastic storage container that it came in.  What fun!  This cost the kids a whopping 50 cents.  Cool find!


Holden came down sick on Thursday.  He got up at 5:15 AM throwing up.  He got sick 3 times that morning before being afflicted with horrible diarrhea.  Poor baby!  I had to drive Hayden to school, so Holden had to sit with a plastic tub in his lap in case he had to get sick.  I felt so bad for him.  Unfortunately, the diarrhea continued for 3 more days before it began to improve.  He could hardly eat anything.  Most days, he just had breakfast and then not much of anything else.  He wanted so badly to be better, but he really wasn’t.  He’d get a burst of energy and start running around, only to find that he was exhausted shortly thereafter and wanted to lay down.  Sad smile 

Needless to say, we didn’t do much else this week.  They did do their Friday gym class, and my long-time dear friend, Roslyn, stopped by for a visit on Saturday night.  But that was about it. 


Hopefully, we’ll have more fun next week!  Hayden will have 2 days off from school, so the kids will have more time together to find some adventures.  There’s a Homeschool Day at the local aquarium on Friday, so we’re hoping to do that.  Stay tuned!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up – January 5th-11th

We were back to school and work this week, so there wasn’t as much going on.  The kids were fairly uncooperative in terms of getting back into the routine with their work, particularly on Monday, so we had to keep the extras at a minimum.  Here’s what we had going on:


On Monday, I had to take Haylee to see her CHKD Pediatric Cardiologist, who monitors her cholesterol levels.  At age 7, she was diagnosed with hypercholesterolemia.  This is a hereditary condition in our family, caused by our livers making too much cholesterol.  This means we are forced to compensate with a low-fat diet and plenty of exercise.  Unfortunately, it runs on both sides of the family, so she came by it honestly.  Both Steve and I have high cholesterol, as well.  Anyway, it was time for updated tests.

HDL:  93 mg/dL

LDL:  114 mg/dL

Total:  217 mg/dL

So although her total cholesterol went up from two years ago, it was mostly comprised of an increase in HDL, or the good cholesterol.  So the cardiologist was once again not concerned since she has no other risk factors such as inactivity or being overweight.  He’s going to check her again in 2 years but said that once she reaches puberty, hormones will wreak havoc on her cholesterol levels, so he’ll want to start monitoring it every year at that point.


Tuesday was Steve’s 43rd birthday!  Usually, he has an Uncle Harry’s ice cream cake just like me (in fact, we usually buy one big one and split it between us for our birthdays). 


But we still had leftover cake from Holden’s party on Saturday, so I stuck a candle in a piece, and we sung to him after dinner that night (notice the Spongebob plate, too! Smile)


That’s about it!  Check back for more of the life and times of the Burgess family.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up – December 29th-January 4th

Check out our final activities of the year, as well as those that rang in the New Year!


New Year’s Day happens to also be my own birthday!  And for my birthday this year, my daughter decided to enlist her dad in helping her make dinner for me.  She selected two recipes from her collection from Young Chef’s Academy classes, and she decided to make me some sausage tortellini soup and little pizza turkey sliders.


DSCF1062My Birthday #1

My Birthday #2

The soup was especially yummy!  And it was nice not to have to cook for my birthday.  We’d just had an ice cream cake for Holden’s birthday 3 days before, so I decided not to get one for my birthday as I normally would.  So instead, I put a candle in my pizza slider and let everybody sing to me!  It was unconventional, but hey, it worked for me!  And if you’re wondering, I’ll admit I turned 42.  Smile


As I neared the end of my stockpile of Purex liquid laundry detergent, my husband and I prepared to try out making our own homemade laundry soap.  We took the recipe from the Duggars, because who else would know a little something about doing tons of laundry and saving money while doing it but a family of 21 people?!?  We figured they’d surely come up with a tried and true recipe, so we gave it a shot.  Here’s all you need.


There are just 4 ingredients:  a bar of Fels-Naptha soap, which costs about $1.50, a box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda for a couple of bucks, and a box of Borax laundry booster, which is also a couple of bucks.  I found everything together on one shelf at Wal-mart right beside all of the stain treaters.  If you want to add a scent, you can use about a teaspoon of essential oil…I picked up a cheap Jasmine fragrance oil for $1 at Dollar Tree.

First, you start by grating the bar of Fels-Naptha soap into a saucepan on the stove.  The soap is extremely hard, and you’ll want to use your finest grater because it will melt faster in smaller pieces.  When you,re all done with this part, you’ll get a fine powder in the pot.


Add the hot water to it and boil it, stirring constantly, until it’s completely dissolved.  Then gather up some empty detergent bottles.  I’d been storing empty bottles for about a year.  This recipe will make 10 gallons of detergent, so you’ll need a lot of bottles.  Then I poured the melted soap into an unused 5-gallon bucket with lid, which I bought at Home Depot.  I think I paid around $8 total, as they sell the bucket and lid separately.  Then Steve got a mixer attachment for his big drill and blended it with the Borax and Super Washing Soda in the bucket until it was well blended.  This gives you about 2.5 gallons of super concentrate, which you have to blend again with another 2.5 gallons of hot water.  After the final blending, you put the lid on the bucket and let it sit overnight to thicken.  The next day when you take off the lid, you’ll find a thick layer several inches deep floating on the top.  You just blend it again with the mixer until it’s well blended.


You can add your scent if you desire and blend again.  Now you have a total of 5 gallons of concentrate.  Based on the size of your saved empty detergent containers, measure out enough concentrate into the bottle that so that it’s a little less than half its capacity, and then match that same measurement with hot water.  You’ll have extra room at the top of the bottle, and this allows you to shake the bottle to blend it.  Each time you use the soap, you’ll need to shake it again before use.  Then measure as you normally would when you do your wash!  About 1/2 cup is all that’s necessary.  You’ll find that this soap produces hardly any suds at all, so it can also be used in a front-loading machine that requires HE detergent.

I’ve been washing with this detergent every day for about a week now, and I have to say that it’s been really great!  It smells very clean and fresh, and I haven’t had any issues with stains.  Give it a try!  For just a little bit of effort and a few dollars investment, you’ll have months and months’ worth of detergent for your family.  And when you’re ready to make future batches, you’ll have plenty of the other ingredients left to use…you’ll just need a new bar of Fels-Naptha soap each time for $1.50.  I read that this recipe costs about 1 cent per load to make!  Give it a try!


I run a homeschool field trip group that serves over 400 families.  Each month, I try to organize a new field trip or activity for kids to participate in, and sometimes I am able to negotiate a discounted group rate for ongoing classes for a variety of activities.  For this winter, I set up homeschool gym classes on Friday afternoons, and we’re paying about $10/class instead of the regular rate of $17/class, plus the lifetimes membership fee is waived.  We held an Open House the Friday before the class started so folks could come out and try a class for $5 and see if they liked it before committing to the 3 months of homeschool classes.


I was able to set up the classes for after Hayden’s school hours, so he is still able to participate.  He was really happy about that because we did these classes last winter, and he really had a lot of fun.  The photo above shows Haylee doing a backflip on the rings.  She was so proud to make it over by herself!


On Saturday, January 4th, Holden got to have his 6th birthday party.  Because his actual birthday is just 3 days after Christmas, we always wait and have his party in early January so that friends have a chance to finish up their holiday visits and activities before squeezing in our party.

Holden wanted a Spongebob theme this year, so I bought a cake kit of 3 little plastic characters at Harris Teeter and made him a strawberry cake with strawberry frosting.  I hand-drew some stencils and used spray-on edible color to make the background shapes.  Then I drew on an icing border in the shapes and set the characters on the cake.  I wanted to draw pink jellyfish at the bottom corners, but I ran out of pink icing!  So I filled in the space with confetti sprinkles and called it a night.  Smile  I also spent hours the night before making cake pops, dipping them in chocolate candy melts, and covering them with sprinkles.  Haylee helped me with the bags so I could tie each one to keep them fresh.  Our guests love taking these home!


Everyone had a great time, and I bought lots of poppers and snaps for the kids to play with outside.  This is where after-New Year’s clearance came in handy!






Holden really enjoyed his party.  He got lots of fun toys, and he also got new oven mitts and a handmade denim apron since he loves to help in the kitchen!  He was so excited that the mitts actually fit his little hands!


Stay tuned for more updates of our January events.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up – December 22nd-28th

Here’s another recap of stuff we did in December!


We have an annual tradition of going to the Winter Wonderland at Hunt Club Farm in Virginia Beach.  Steve normally goes with us, but he stayed home to wrap Christmas presents this time.  The kids and I had a great time, and it was again unseasonably warm, which made it a be more pleasant to spend time outside.

First, we went through the Winter Wonderland barn, which exhibits tons of animated Christmas displays, most of which came from the local landmark Coleman’s Nursery, which burned down many years ago.  It was an icon of the community here, and I recall visiting it as a kid myself, so I love taking my kids to see some of the same animatronics now that they are at Hunt Club Farm.

      DSCF0991              DSCF0995


Next, we go through the petting zoo, enjoying the light displays and best of all for the kids, visiting the chicken pen!  This is their favorite part of the farm, and it’s near impossible to drag them away once they’ve gone in to chase the chickens!  Poor, helpless creatures…



This chicken seemed to want to roost on Hayden’s head and sat there forever!  The only thing that lured the kids away from the chicken pen was the promise of roasting marshmallows on the open fire pits they had set up…so finally, we went to the campfires to get all sugared up.


On our way out, we noticed a wooden cutout of the Grinch.  We lovingly call Steve the Grinch because he’s generally so crabby and can’t seem to have any real fun doing anything in particular, so we stopped to pose for a picture, jesting that dad really was there with us after all!  Winking smile


It was a lot of fun, and I can’t imagine letting a Christmas go by when we haven’t stopped in there for a family good time.  In fact, a Groupon type deal came up for an annual pass to the farm for $12/person, so I grabbed that up so we can visit the farm all year long whenever the kids get a hankering for some chicken-chasing fun! 


A quick dash through the lighted tunnel on the way out, and we were off on our next adventure!


When we left the farm, we headed out to see a house we’d heard about in Chesapeake that is known for a crazy Christmas light show that is coordinated to music.  This guy has his own FM transmitter, so you can pull up, turn on the music in your vehicle, and enjoy the show!


We’d never seen anything like it!  It was really crazy!  Not to mention that a steady stream of cars turned out to see what the fuss was all about.  I sure would hate to be one of his neighbors!


The next day, the kids and I decided to break out the Chocolate Holiday House kit we’d bought and put it to good use.  We’d bought it on the Bed, Bath, & Beyond website after Christmas when it was just a couple of bucks and then saved it to use this Christmas. 


We thought it would be more fun than doing a gingerbread house because we’d be more likely to actually eat it when it was done.  To no one’s surprise, the kids managed to polish this thing off during our Christmas break!  I have to admit it was fun and easy to make together, and it was very appetizing to eat afterwards!  No gross frosting…every bit of it was made of chocolate candy melts, even to “glue” it together.  Ingenious!


Another Christmas tradition I have with the kids is to take them out on Christmas Eve and drive around looking at Christmas lights in the area.  Usually, we just drive through random nearby neighborhoods, but when we visited that house in Chesapeake, we saw a recommended list of other residential light shows on the Holt Family’s website.  So we jotted down the addresses and made what seemed like an endless trek all over tarnation, taking us where the GPS told us to go.


Wow!  That was really a lot of fun.  99% of the houses we visited had their own FM transmitters with music coordinated to their light shows.  It was really something else to see, and the kids declared it made this year’s trip to look at Christmas lights the best one ever!


Christmas Day finally arrived!  After opening gifts, we did our final tradition of posing in front of the tree for family pictures.  With 5 people and 2 dogs to photograph, this quickly turned into an adventure!


We had a wonderful holiday together!  I usually end the day by declaring that Christmas is over and packing up the tree and all of the decorations (much to the chagrin of all my friends), but this year, I set up before Thanksgiving and actually made it until 2 days after Christmas before packing it up!  That was as late as I could go, as Holden’s birthday was 3 days after Christmas.  I like to set one occasion aside before celebrating the next!  Smile


Then Saturday brought Holden’s 6th birthday.  Happy Birthday, my sweet baby!  This definitely means there are no more babies in my house any more.  Sad smile  He opened up his gifts, with his favorite being a brand new blue (his favorite color) football (his favorite thing in the world)!


Throughout the day, Haylee and I came and went to the school table and worked on an awesome 300-piece jigsaw puzzle of a quilt pattern.  We finished it the same day!  Isn’t it pretty?


Then after lunch, I surprised Holden with an ice cream cake I’d stashed at the neighbor’s house earlier in the week.  He was so surprised! 


During the day, I thought about how his car seat was becoming a tight fit and decided to weigh him, check the seat’s limitations, and read up on the requirements of VA law.  I realized he was ready to have his seat converted to a booster!  Wow, what a milestone!  So I spent the remainder of the afternoon taking his seat apart, washing everything, and putting it back together as a booster seat. 

That night, we took Holden to IHOP to use his birthday coupon to get breakfast-for-dinner.  He got to enjoy his first ride in his “new” booster seat on the way!  Sniff, sniff…just when exactly did he do all of this growing up?!?  Anyway, the staff surprised him with a free ice cream sundae and a song! 


When the waitress saw how much he loved the maraschino cherry on top, she brought him a whole bowl of them!  He ended up eating the bowl of cherries and gave his sundae to the rest of us!  Crazy boy…


Stay tuned for our final wrap-up of December and our early January events.