Meal Planning

Ahhh… food.  Love it or hate it, we gotta have it, and we definitely need to make sure we have healthy stuff on hand for the munchkins.  Because the second half of 2013 was hectic, our family had gotten into a no-so-great habit of eating out.  A lot.  And when we didn’t eat out our diet consisted of soley spaghetti, tortellini, quesadillas and grilled cheese.  Not exactly a diverse menu.

So, as 2014 is the year of the PLAN, we decided to see if we (I mean really, *I*)  could plan and make dinner for the whole entire month of January.  I know this sounds silly.  I bet there are people out there (and not just in other countries…) who never eat out.  Or only eat out for special occassions.  That is how I was raised, actually.  Birthdays, anniversaries and vacations were the only real reasons to eat out.  Otherwise we had a homecooked meal on the table every night.  Clearly my mother was the original super mom.

So, because I do not enjoy meal planning at all and really do enjoy finding lists that help me check things off my own lists, here is what we’ve eaten in January for dinner.  Every night.

January 1:  Lucky Bean Soup

January 2: Roasted Broccoli Pasta

January 3: Tomato Soup and Grilled Provelone Sandwiches

January 4: I am not sure… but we didn’t eat out!

January 5: we went to my parents’ 🙂

January 6: I am not sure… but we didn’t eat out!

January 7:  Black Bean Burgers (I only put the cayenne in with the adults, and I grilled the onions.)

January 8: Pot Pie Soup (Not sure where I got this recipe…)

January 9: Vegetarian Stew

January 10: Oven Baked Bean Chimichangas (definitely a favorite, use ANCHO chili powder.  Trust me.)

January 11: Don’t remember. Some days we just do easy stuff like sandwhiches.

January 12: My parents had us over.  We had an amazing cod with saffron rice and brussel sprouts. 🙂

January 13: Wild Rice Mushroom Soup (hubby said this “tasted like Thanksgiving”).

January 14: Egg Salad Sandwhiches (run of the mill egg salad on sourdough toast)

January 15: Lemon Dill Salmon with Red Potatoes

January 16: Salad bar (girls request)

January 17: Homemade Mac and Cheese with spinach (I use an old Cooking Light recipe I’ve changed over the years)

January 18: Chimichangas again… took dinner to friends with an adorable new baby.

January 19:  Green Chili and Corn Enchiladas (very, very good)

January 20: Tomato soup and sammies again

January 21: Couscous, garbanzo beans, feta, tomatoes and cucumbers tossed together

January 22: Egg, cheese and biscuit sandwhiches

January 23: Tuna salad lettuce wraps

January 24:  Nachos w/black beans

January 25:  Pizza w/ homemade dough (I like to sub in some white whole wheat flour)

January 26: Best Ever Black Bean Soup  – seriously.  best ever.

January 27:  Tortellini w/ homemade crock pot marinara.  This is delish and super versatile.  We’ll use left overs for pizza again in the near future, I’m sure.

January 28: Veggie Wraps (Spinach tortilla, cream cheese seasoned w/ Italian dressing mix, chopped veggies, shredded cheese.  So simple, so good.)

January 29:  Chimicangas (yes, again!)

January 30: Vegetarian Chili

January 31: Pizza for the kiddos.  Getting together w/ friends for the hubby and I.  🙂

And that’s it!  We made it!



Just one week into our second semester we had one of those weeks.  You know the ones.  The ones where you think you have everything under control and then somehow… you don’t.  Luckily we caught up, but our Penguin unit lacked art of any kind, which always makes me sad.  It also lacked pictures.  But not ideas!

We used Nat Geo Kids, this book and this book (but paid way way way less on iBooks) as our resources.  There are of course 100 other great penguin books out there.  These are the ones I could find on my iPad, but if I’d had time we’d have gone to the library.

We’ve started using Can/Have/Are graphic organizers (there is one here, though we just made our own), which Molly really likes a lot.  She had to work on it on the fly (hence the convenience of iBooks books…) but it really helped her pull facts from the text. (if you click to zoom in you might be able to see what she is working on…)


We then made a big chart of all the facts we knew about penguins to use to write a penguin report.  Basically we wrote a post-it note for each fact we learned.  They then chose 4 of the post-its for their report and wrote a closing sentence.  I encouraged them to make the report their own.  My hope is this is the beginning of writing to inform… not just what she learned but also what she thinks.  This process went ultra smoothly, and we are using it again for both Polar Bears and Whales later this month. (BTW- you might notice enrollment is up at Tiny Spark Academy!  With all the “snow” (really just colder-than-bleep) days we’ve been having we’ve been lucky enough to have some of our public school friends come hang with us for school.  We all love it.  Shakes things up a bit!

photo 1 photo 2


We also kept on keeping on with our regular curriculum, of course.


Are everyone else’s children as obsessed (and I mean that in every sense of the word) with the movie Frozen?  I wouldn’t even say we are a family who gets super into Disney movies, but man… this one caputured our hearts.  I think its the sisters.  🙂  Using that obsession, we kicked off our second semester with a month of all things FROZEN.

Anyway, as a New Years resolution (of which I have one… PLAN.) I sat down and planned all of January.  And seriously?  Life is so much better when I plan.  I’ll do a little post on planning soon.  For real.  Stop laughing.  I’ll do it.  You can plan on it.  (Get it?  Plan on it…. nevermind.)

So here is the January line up:



Polar Bears


Be Awesome.

Just kidding on that last one.  But that is pretty much how it felt to have an entire month planned, with shopping list, ready to go.  BAM!

I didn’t take many snow pictures, but we did lots of fun stuff. 🙂

We read Over and Under the Snow and talked about hibernating animals and the subnivean zone.

We made these adorable snowmen.


And this fun snow art.  (I got this idea from someone else, but I can’t remember who…)


We tried the Borax snow crystals but it didn’t work.  We need to try again!

We talked about symmetry and drew the owl from Draw Write Now.

We also did paper snowflakes, again talking about symmetry.


We read Snowflake Bently and talked about the uniqueness of snowflakes, why they would be hard to photograph and their structures (all snowflakes have 6 “legs”).  We also looked at this website and watched the short movie.

We drew a big snowman on the chalkboard and filled it in with adjectives for snow.

We did the life cycle of a snow man.  I don’t think they’ll ever forget the states of matter.  (solid, liquid, gas)  They had a blast singing about Olaf from Frozen while we did this.  😉


2013 Wrap Up

When I started this blog I knew I would need to be gentle with myself.  I know that if I don’t have to be at a computer I will avoid it at all costs.  I know that I don’t have the time to mess around with the layout to get it to look exactly as I want and that that alone will suck motivation out of me to get on here.  But, I also know that each time I write an activity in my planner or read a homeschool blog that speaks to my heart (because goodness knows I don’t mind being on my iPhone…) I am grateful that someone sat down and put the time into recording their journey so that it makes my own just a little bit easier.  Because I can’t go back and fill in all of our first semester of this year, and because I have an unhealthy love of bullet points, I’ll attempt to recap September-December of 2013.


We decided our first few months were going to be literature heavy.  So we took our time studying Charlotte’s Web.

After that, we did a unit on Africa.

Then, frankly, our lives started to get rocky.  Our oldest was scheduled for open heart surgery, and I’m not going to lie… some weeks we did the (very bare) minimum.  My head wasn’t in the game.  It was elsewhere.  There were lots, and lots and lots of doctors appointments.   My heart ached and I was so distracted that most days I just let them play.  Because, every time I thought about interupting them, I thought “I just want them to enjoy each other”.  And so that is what we did.



Molly’s surgery was scheduled for October 8th.  Until in the last week of September she came down with a cold and it was rescheduled.  So, for a couple weeks in October I was able to pull myself together and decided we were not going to take the entire month off, and we dove into a study of insects and James and The Giant Peach.  While I wanted to get things done, I was still really looking for “crutches” and used a lot of TPT materials those weeks.  Here is what we used:

James and the Giant Peach Study – great vocab cards in this

Insect Unit – this was awesome.  I would totally, 100% buy more stuff from her.

Molly had her surgery on October 24th.  She rocked it.  We were home on October 29th.  This crazy trio was back in action within an hour of walking in the door.



We took a week or two off in November.  I honestly don’t remember exactly.  But I felt like we all deserved a little time to relax.  breathe.  sleep.  smile.  laugh.  live.  Well, as much living as you can do when you aren’t allowed to leave the house.

We started back to school slowly.  We listened to/read The Secret Garden and did some math, grammar, spelling.  Nothing too crazy, but a good lovely way to ease back into life.

We got a puppy.  Because why wouldn’t you?


We had a PARTY.  Because we could.  Because she could.  Because we needed to celebrate the people in our lives who held our hands through the last 6 months.  Because.  (It was obviously a Woodland Theme).

image_8 image_7 image_6 image_5 image_4 image_3

After that, we studied Thanksgiving, reviewed math concepts, worked on handwriting, finished up the Grammar Bundle books.  A good short week that was closer to our normal schedule.


In November a town very near to us was quite literally demolished by a tornado.  Lives were altered forever.  Molly heard us talking about it a lot, and wanted to know more.  So our first week of December was dedicated to weather.  We did a lot of reading, but a few projects most from this unit as well.

We did rainbow mosiacs and tied in figurative language because that was our Grammar Bundle for the week.  We reviewed the water cycle, made shaving cream clouds, did the ivory in the microwave experiement, and cloud in a jar.

image_9 image_10 image_11 image_12 image_13

(Guess what?  I’m running out of steam to want to explain these things.  Let me know if anyone needs clarification.  I think all of 0 people look at this blog anyway… unless its for the pumpkin muffin recipe.  People are loco for pumpkin!)

Lucy got to pick the next unit and she picked baby animals.  We got some books on life cycles, and one cool book of 101 baby animal facts.  Molly was required to pick one animal a day and write a few facts about it.  Lucy spent some time learning the names of baby animals.  It was a fun unit, but admitedly I was a bit lost for ideas.  Life cycles really saved me this week!  We also broke out the Hot Dots for some math review.


We did a few Christmas activities, but now I can’t even remember what.  That’s terrible.  It was last year, people.  😉