Holiday Hiking Trip

One of the gifts we received from friends this Christmas was a terrific book about the hiking trails in the area. We haven't done a lot of hiking since all the kids came along because we just weren't properly outfitted to carry the gear we needed. As we have learned, when you have 3 children under 4, a 2 hour hike can be a pretty big deal! One of things we lacked was a good day-pack that would be a good size for me to help carry gear. Well, unexpectedly, the day after Christmas, we came across a perfect backpack--sized for a woman, a good brand, and just like new. It was a steal! S snatched it up immediately, so on Saturday, we decided to use the new pack and our new book and go on a hike. We decided that we needed to find an easy, low-altitude trail so the kids wouldn't get too tired, and so I could use it as training. We found the perfect hike--an old railroad that has been converted. We were even able to take the jogging stroller for the kids. Although I didn't need the pack for this hike, we decided I would take the opportunity to stuff it and train with it a bit before we do anything longer. Here are a few pics from our adventure.

The new pack is just big enough for JR to fit into! Who needs those fancy kid-backpacks?

There are several tunnels along this hike. It looks small, but it is big enough for a train to fit through. If you look closely, you can see a person standing on the other side.

A family photo just inside one tunnel. Little A is fast asleep beside M in the stroller.

Another family photo-op moment in front of beautiful lake view.

S thought this would be a cool shot of us walking out of a tunnel. Nice to see he still has the eye for good photos!

The hike was several miles, so we were all pretty tired when we got home. I am little sore, and obviously out of shape. Need to do more training hikes I guess--all for the kids of course!! There are few things that make me feel closer to God then being out in nature, where you are just surrounded by his beautiful, perfect creation.


Merry Christmas!

We had a wonderful family Christmas. It started at 6:30 this morning with some Christmas music, and the Christmas story from Luke 2. Here are just a few pictures from the morning:

We tried to take a pic of the kids by the tree, but JR disappeared to get dressed (and came down looking like a cross between Steve Urkel and Farmer Brown), and after reading the Bible story, M decided she was the Mother Mary (yes, that is her gown that has been pulled up over her head). We decided that trying to round-up excited children for a picture on Christmas morning was futal.

JR doing a little jig after opening one of his gifts.

JR receiving his 2nd annual collector's nutcracker...or "peanut cracker" as he calls it. This is something special between him and Grandma, who got him hooked on the Christmas ballet "The Nutcracker."

A few of M's gifts were a new robe, new slippers, and
a collection of Bible story books.

She got a princess dress-up set from Nana and Grandpa. So now she can really lay
claim to being "Daddy's Little Princess!"

And her new bike almost brought tears she was so excited!

A had way more fun playing with the paper than with his gifts.

The kids each had several other gifts, some of which I will show in the coming days. I gave S a long-desired self-teach piano instruction manual and a good set of bicycling gloves for those cold morning trips to work. I got a GPS navigation system....something I have missed terribly since we sold our Prius. I get lost in my own backyard without a good map, as I have NO sense of direction! Thank you so very much, honey!! We also got some very nice items from friends and family, so thank you all very much as well!

A quick spin on the new bike before the rain came.

I spent the morning preparing a yummy Christmas lunch. I totally failed in both the organic and health departments today, as my desire for some good Southern-style cookin' overcame my desire for healthy. I will have to come up with some new recipes that are at least more organic. Nonetheless, we enjoyed a lunch of honey glazed ham, homemade french bread, sweet potato souffle', green beans, and my first ever pecan pie.

Hope your day was as Merry as ours!


Project Monday

Here is a little school project we worked on today. I got the idea out of a cute little Bible craft workbook I use. After they make the craft, you talk about how shepherds take care of sheep in the same way that God takes care of us--he guides us, provides our food and shelter, keeps us safe, and so on. It is a cute little activity that teaches a Biblical lesson while also practicing counting skills.


1 egg carton, cut lengthwise to make 2 6-cup "feed troughs"
cotton balls
black construction paper or felt, cut into small triangles
black puffy paint
Sharpie marker
small snacks such as cheerios, goldfish, etc.


Glue 2 cotton balls together to make a head and a body, then glue the body of the cotton onto one side of the egg carton--one cotton per egg cup. Glue two triangles onto each "head" cotton ball to make ears. Use the puffy paint to create 2 eyes and a nose on each "head" ball. After all the glue is dry, label each cup 1-6. Then, have the child count out their snacks to "feed" the sheep-- 1 cracker in cup #1, 2 in cup#2, 3 in #3, and so on. After the activity is complete, they can eat the sheep food!

Dear Santa....

I have been a really good girl this year. Of course, I have had my faults, but who doesn't, right? I mean, I try really hard to behave, be a good wife, and a good mom.

Can we just forget the time that my dear husband tried to help my morning by pre-filling the baby bottle with water, and I dumped it thinking it was just soaking?

Or his favorite chair that I promised to sew a seat for 7 months ago, and have yet to do.

And the time I laughed at my 4 year old who, while relieving himself, kindly shouted a warning, "Mom, I'm sorry if the kitchen stinks, but the smell goes out the space under the door, and I can't help it!"

Or the way I have taught my children to recycle to the point that my 4 year old asks, "Mom, if we die, and we leave our skin, and God makes new people who need skin, then why doesn't God just use our skin instead of making more?"

I mean, my kids love going to church, at least...even if JR only goes to watch the drummer, and M only goes to see what yummy snack they are having that day.

It can't be all that bad that my 2 year old honestly thinks the technical name for hiccups is either "hic-em-ups" or "hiccup-a-potamus?"

And let's not even bring up the REALLY bad mommy-moment when I was a new mom-of-3, and I loaded all the kids in their carseats, and started backing out of the driveway, when JR suddenly stated, "MOM! You forgot A!" Sure enough, there was little A, securely fastened into his carseat, sitting happily in the middle of the kitchen floor. But, I have learned to do in-car headcounts now!

OK, ok, I guess I can resign myself to a bag of coal this year. Maybe it will actually inspire me to plan a camping trip when the weather warms up.

Merry Christmas Everyone!!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I was in an overwhelming baking mood today, so I decided to try a new recipe. These are by far the BEST chocolate chip cookies I have ever made! While I must confess it came off the chocolate chips package (with some modification by me), I was able to use all organic ingredients.

1 1/8 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup softened butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375. Mix flour, baking soda, and salt, and set aside. In medium mixing bowl, beat butter, sugar, and brown sugar until smooth and creamy. Add vanilla and egg, and beat on low speed. Gradually add flour mixture and beat until well blended. Add chocolate chips and stir well. Spoon onto greased cookie sheet, and bake 10 minutes or until golden brown. Enjoy!

This recipe makes about 15 2-inch cookies.

Note: You can also add 1/2 cup chopped nuts if desired.

Tuna Casserole

Here is a recipe that is far from healthy, and, in fact, I haven't even found a way to make it organic. I do try to use as many natural ingredients as possible, though. But, oh, it is SOOOO good, and is no doubt a family favorite around here!

16 oz. pkg pasta shells
12 oz. canned tuna, drained if necessary
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of celery soup
1 cup milk
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp garlic
1 can sweet peas
12-16 slices cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups crushed regular potato chips

Boil pasta according to directions, drain, and set aside. Preheat oven to 350. Mix tuna, soups, milk, and spices thoroughly. Gently stir in peas. Pour half of mixture into a greased casserole dish. Layer with 6-8 slices of cheese. Pour remaining mixture on top of cheese, and layer remaining cheese on top. Finish by sprinkling crushed chips on top of cheese. Bake for 30 minutes, or until chips began to golden. Enjoy!


Exciting Week!

We have had a terrific week so far, with lots of adventures. It all started with a trip out of town to visit friends at our old church and attend their Christmas concert. We returned home on Sunday, and picked up Grandma from the airport.
Between playing with the kids, seeing the sites around here, and participating in our unexpected final adoption homestudy, she stayed pretty busy for the few short days she was here.
As if we didn't have enough to be excited about with Grandma here, on Wednesday it started SNOWING!! OK, so a little snow is no big deal in the northern states. In fact, our lowest temp only got to about 30 degrees. Nonetheless, in the actual area that we live, snow only happens about every 2-4 years is my understanding. JR has seen it before, but was too young to remember. Oh, was it beautiful! I love snow (at least for a short period of time), and particularly around Christmas! We got about 2-3 inches, and it stuck around through the next day. We were all so excited!

This is the street in front of our house. Palm trees really are not crazy about snow. They all looked so depressed after a few hours!

JR refused his hat and gloves, because he wanted to "feel" the snow. He lasted about 15 mnintues like this, then came in to get some on.

M didn't know what to think, period!

Daddy taught JR how to build his first snowman!

After all the excitement over the snow settled, we decided to have a little early Christmas and open Grandma's presents while she was with us.

We had a lovely time together and look forward to Grandma's next visit!

Beef and Barley Stew

I needed to find a yummy way to use some beef bones in my freezer, so, on S's suggestion, I learned to make this stew. It is delicious and perfect for a winter day! You can take shortcuts, but I did it totally from scratch:

Step 1--

2 approx. 6" beef bones with bone meat still on
4 qts. water

Boil the bones in water at low-med. heat for about 4 hours. Remove the bones and meat and set aside. Strain the broth through a cheese cloth (or similiar linen) to remove any particles. Set aside. Remove meat from bones, and seperate meat from fat. If you want to gain a friend at this point, feed bones to dog. Divide meat into small stew chunks. At this point, you can save some broth and meat to freeze if desired, store it overnight in the fridge to stew the next day, or continue to the next step.

Step 2--

Beef Broth and meat from 1st step.
Carrots, chopped into bite-sized pieces
Celery, chopped into bite-sized pieces
Onions, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1.5 cups raw Barley
2 bay leaves
2 tsps. oregano
2 tsps. Seasoned salt
1 tbs. garlic
2 tsp. pepper

Mix all ingredients in crockpot, and simmer for 4-6 hours. Serve with homemade dill bread.

Note: you will probably want to add more salt and/or pepper. We don't season with much of either. The great thing about this recipe is that you can't really mess it up. All ingredients are added in desired amounts, but I wrote what we did to give you an idea. Enjoy!


Adoption Update #4

We are officially waiting to be adoptive parents! We got an unexpected phone call from our social worker yesterday that our finger prints, FBI clearances, and DCFS abuse/neglect records had all come back much faster (a whole month) than expected. He wanted to come today to do our final inspection. So, needless to say, I did some last-minute cleaning this morning, he came, and said he would be mailing our offical report to the agency today. I called the agency to let them know it was on the way. So now the wait begins. I am eager to see what child God has in store for us.


More Recent Happenings

We had a bit going on over the last couple of weeks, so I have tried to divide it into several posts tonight. Here are a few other miscellaneous occurrences:

M got her first haircut. Her hair was constantly in her face, and it appears as though she is cursed with my cowlicks, so I thought I would give her a trim. She felt so special. I only slightly trimmed up the back, but I actually cut the front and created bangs for her. They turned out a little shorter than I had planned, but not too bad.



We spent some time this past weekend assembling a Christmas train Nana and Grandpa sent for the kids. There was only one problem. The kids past experience involved edible gingerbread houses and candy, so they were convinced that this foam train was edible as well. A left lovely little chew marks all over several of the wheels (guess he thought they were some kind of biscuit). Later, the little white "chimney" (I have no clue what it's called) that goes on the front of the train came up missing. We soon discovered it in M's mouth...she was convinced it was a marshmallow, and she was doing her dead-level best to chew the thing. It still has molar prints all over it, but it was pretty durable, and we were still able to use it.

Notice that I am blessed to have a man who actually reads directions!

The finished product

The following are just some miscellaneous shots from the last couple of weeks:

In related news, A is finally learning to crawl! He is so much happier now! He gets up on all 4's and bounces, he can use his legs to lunge himself forward, and he can pull himself along with his arms. Now he just has to coordinate all those motions to get the crawl down. He is so happy now, that I have let him go to only 2 naps a day (from his previous 3). I think we have also FINALLY managed to shift his schedule ever so slightly so he gets up with the older kids, still naps around the same time as them, and goes to bed shortly before them. It seems to be working well. Another milestone!

Kitchen Adventures

Something happens to my brain around this time every year, and I get into such a domestic mood. I want to bake, but since my family really doesn't like to eat all the sweets I so enjoy baking, I am always searching for other projects.

My most recent project has involved trying to make my own baby food. A is finally eating well enough that the food can have little chunks in it, and so far he seems to like my creations. So, over the last couple of evenings, I have spent a total of probably 2.5 to 3 hours cooking and blending up baby food. I discovered it is a great way to use up any unneeded produce or certain leftovers that I don't want to go to waste! I put the mixes into glass jars I have saved, label it, and freeze it for future use. Here is tonight's tally:

  • 5 jars yellow squash
  • 2 jars chicken pot pie
  • 4 jars baked macaroni
  • 3 jars carrots
  • 2 bowls green sweet peas
Making baby food didn't quite satisfy my baking need though, so I decided to try my hand at homemade soft pretzels. I don't think these are worthy of passing on the recipe, but they were fun, and they are pretty good. The kids really enjoyed helping.

Another sorting activity

We have added a new homeschooling activity to our selection. This is a color sorting activity that also works on fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination:

You need the following:
  • colored toothpicks (if you can't find the colored kind, food coloring works great!)
  • a toothpick dispenser (the roller kind like the pic shows is nice for motor skills)
  • a salt/pepper shaker for each color toothpick (you may need to drill the holes slightly larger--or to make it more challenging, only drill some of the holes large enough, and leave the others too small for the toothpicks)

My kids love this, and will spend a half hour or more easy sorting toothpicks.


Adoption Update #3

I received an unexpected phone call from our adoption agency today. They wanted to know the status of our homestudy (almost completed). Our coordinator then explained that they have a "situation" (the term often used for birthmoms looking to place their child) and they were in desperate need of some profiles to show her. She asked me to rush her a copy of our profile so they can show her as soon as possible. Fortunately, our profile is completed, but we were waiting to finish the homestudy to mail it (as previously instructed). However, apparently because 1, they know us and we are basically just "updating" our study, and 2, they are desperate, they have decided to start showing our profile on an as-needed basis. Since it takes about 2 weeks for the professional print job I had planned, I have spent the majority of my afternoon printing and creating a profile book at home so I can mail it off tonight.

I really don't know anything about the situation, but it was an interesting call nonetheless. It will be interesting to see what happens.


Too Early for Christmas?

I'm weak!.....I lost it!....My last nerve was shot!....I couldn't take ANYMORE!....

So I gave in to the temptation. But I am not the only guilty party here. In fact, my dear husband was actually the one who suggested we do it......

After a month of almost ceaseless banging on anything and everything, and several broken or cracked rubbermaid-type storage containers, we absolutely could not take JR's drumming any longer. We had his big Christmas gift wrapped and just sitting under the tree, with every intention of giving it to him for Christmas. But we finally just couldn't wait any longer.

Aaaahhhhh! Relief at last! Peace once again. Oh, how I love volume control!


Reflections of the Day

I have had a busy day....many enjoyable moments like 2 of my children helping set up the Christmas tree, watching my husband work diligently on a gift for ...... (sorry, too many folks read this blog ;) ), eating some delicious leftovers from yesterday, and we enjoyed a lovely time of family worship together.

I have also had some disheartening moments. We spent quite a bit of time this morning talking with some Jehovah's witnesses. We don't usually have discussions with such door-to-door folks, but this is the gentleman's second attempt with us, and for some reason, we agreed to pull out our Bibles and compare notes. We had some interesting discussion, a great time researching the Bible, and although the gentleman left without converting us, I can only hope that God can use something from our morning to plant a seed of truth in his heart.

This evening we decided to take a VERY rare opportunity and have a "family movie." So rare, in fact, I don't think we have done such since last Christmas, when we watched "The Nutcracker Ballet" at Grandma's house. Anyway, we rented a Christmas movie advertised as PG and family comedy. I cannot believe what is now considered PG! I was actually in shock. Why is it so necessary to put swear words and sex content into everything today?! I guess the only movie I will be watching in the near future is Fireproof--a Christian film, and one I have been wanting to see for some time.

Then I decided to get on the computer and read the news. First, I read some of the headlines about the carnage occuring in India, followed by the saddening stories of people who died right here in America from the Black Friday crowds trampling and shooting each other. I would ask "what has our world come to," but I already know it is prophecy being fulfilled. Then, to top it all off, I noticed an update had been made to an article from earlier this week. Mind you, the earlier article had revealed the fact that a sample of American-made baby formula had tested positive for melamine--a chemical toxin used to make plastic, or as in the cases in China, used as a filler for food items. This chemical has been responsible for countless pet deaths from contaminated pet food, as well as a number of infant deaths from contaminated formula in that country. So, in this article (I wish I had a copy, sorry), a note was posted, basically saying (in paraphrase), "don't worry, it was an isolated case, and the FDA has already proven melamine is safe up to 250 parts per billion, which this sample was well-below." Well, tonight's article was completely different. As it turns out, while not all samples tested positive, it was not an isolated case. In fact, 2 popular brands tested positive multiple times--including the one that we use! Interestingly, this article said that "recent tests" had shown that the melamine level was now determined to be safe up to 1000 parts per billion. While it is certainly a concern, we realize we cannot worry about it. Even if we switched formula, something else could easily be contaminating a new brand. It is just further evidence that, unless you grow your own food, you just truly don't know what is being added into what you eat. It is also further support of the fact that it really is no wonder we have so many unexplainable illnesses in the world today.

Really, all we can do is Thank God for all that we have, do our best to care for our bodies with the resources he has given us, and then have faith that He will take care of us in every other way.


I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We certainly did, although it wasn't what we had originally planned. Nonetheless, we shared great food and fellowship with new friends. Our children enjoyed playing with the other children (well, actually, just playing with their toys, I suspect), and we all left with happy memories.


Follow up on "Plastic...a fact of life? "

I posted a while back on my attempt to somewhat eliminate plastics from our lifestyle. I have since realized the enormity of such a thing. In our modern, western way of life, I am about to conclude it is literally impossible to eliminate plastics. I knew big things like our vehicle, carseats, and such included them, but I have also discovered that almost every food item I buy is wrapped in some way in plastic. Even the organic beef I recently bought, which I assumed would be wrapped in butcher paper, I also found was partially wrapped in a layer of plastic. I have had to replace several of my kitchen cookware items recently. So you have any idea how hard it is to find kitchen gadgets that are plastic-free?! With Chrismas just around the corner, I have been doing some shopping for gifts. Thanks to the melamine and lead-paint scares in China-made products, I have been steering away from plastic toys and looking for silver, natural wood, and other natural toys. I have discovered that ENTIRE warehouse stores contain ONLY China-made toys.

So, in the interest of brevity, here is my current status on plastics: In our current circumstances, I cannot eliminate plastics to the point that I had originally desired. So, I am instead focusing on eliminating where I can. I am trying to avoid any plastic cookware, bakeware, storage containers, or serving dishes. I am also trying to eliminate, or at least reduce, any plastic toys that could potentially come in contact with my children's mouths.

It was a very interesting attempt though. With all the information being discovered in regards to the toxic chemical components of plastic, it has been very educational learning just how often we come in contact with these toxins. Kinda scary, really!


Adoption Update #2

We had our first homestudy visit by the social worker today. Anyone who has been through one of these can understand the "slight" stress that is involved in having someone come in to inspect your house--possibly looking in drawers and cabinets, behind doors, and in closets (all with the intent of ensuring child-safety, of course). So I spent the last few days frantically cleaning, forbidding the kids to make a mess, and, I must confess, being generally stressed and unpleasant to be around. Wouldn't you know the guy never left my dining table! After all that! Turns out this first visit was designed as an introductory visit to discuss the homestudy process, discuss our future plans a bit, and generally a "get-to-know-you" session. The second (and final) visit will involve him meeting and talking with the kids, watching how we interact, and the home inspection. Our first homestudy only involved one visit total, and we did everything at that visit. It was funny though, as I had compiled a big stack of paperwork, based on our last homestudy requirements. When he pulled out his checklist and started discussing what we needed, I just handed him the required paper. After a couple of times, he just quit discussing the checklist, took my whole stack, went through it, filed what he needed, and we started again, discussing just the 3 remaining items we needed (not required by our last homestudy). He said he had never before encountered folks who were that prepared. We got a kick out of it, and explained that we like to get our part done with! So now we eagerly wait to find out when our next appointment is. Hopefully I can keep on top of the house between now and then. In the mean time, apparently there has been no sign of certain paperwork being sent to him from other places (out of our hands). If you would say a little prayer that God would allow that paperwork to come back quickly and smoothly so we can conclude this stage, we would really appreciate it. While I know God is already in charge, it is far too easy to worry about the human error involved in this type of paperwork. I look forward to getting through the homestudy so we can just rest, knowing that we have done our part, and we are simply waiting for God to match us with our baby.


Recent Happenings

I just thought I would summarize some of the happenings here recently:

We started the month off with a huge airshow. We learned that A has no idea how to fall asleep in the stroller (he hates being on his back), so I wound up carrying him half the morning on my back, where he loves to sleep. The kids had a great time--JR in particular. He got to see stunt planes, choppers, the Thunderbirds, skydivers, and more.

A is now taking his baths with JR and M. M is convinced it is her job to watch out for him, entertain him, wash his hair, dump water all over him, and actually bathe him. I can't seem to convince her otherwise, but fortunately A is a great sport.

JR has developed a fascination with the drums. He stopped going to his kid's Sunday School class so he could attend "big church." Considering he spends most of the hour watching the drummer, though, I have a feeling it isn't the sermon he comes to hear. He has been LOUDLY pounding anything I will let him. I have, for the most part, kept his noise confined to the play room so we can all escape as necessary. When he combines his drumming with his singing, oh, such joy (and NOISE) fills the house! Just for kicks, this past Sunday, I took him over to actually meet the drummer at the church. JR, of course, played shy, but the drummer picked him up onto the platform, let him sit on the stool, and then actually helped him play a tune. JR couldn't hide the thrill he got from that! So now, he wants to be a pilot, a "train-driver", a teacher, AND a drummer! Notice how he sat his little stuffed dog in the chair to watch him.

Then comes little A. He is sitting up totally by himself now, and just today I noticed he FINALLY has his first tooth popping through. He has been showing signs of teething for months now--I'm talking bumps on his gums, copious drool, fussyness, not sleeping well, discomfort with sucking on his bottle, ridges along the gum line, chewing on everything, pale/white pressure areas around his gums, and even a distinct point of a tooth we could feel that has refused to pop through for over 6 weeks. Finally today, I can actually see a tooth poking through. And it is NOT the point we have felt for months. That one is yet to come. Oh, and after the refusal to sleep at the air show, I decided it was high time he learn to sleep on his back. From the beginning he refused to sleep well on his back, so after weeks of sleepless nights, I finally gave in and allowed him to be a tummy sleeper. To this day, he sleeps great on his tummy, but has trouble on his back--this means in his carseat, in a stroller, anywhere he can't lay on his tummy. So, one night when he was pretty tired, I laid him on his back in his crib, tucked him good, and turned on his mobile. I let him cry, going in and soothing a couple of times, but, after a surprisingly short cry session, he actually fell asleep. Later that night I went in and flipped him on his tummy so we could all sleep well through the night. The next day, I picked one of his naps and did the same thing. He cried just for a few minutes, and dozed off. Ever since, he goes to bed on his back at night, and usually once during the day, and he rarely even fusses now. He plays for a few minutes and falls asleep. I still have to work up the courage to let him go all night on his back, but he is defintely getting better. Today, on a lengthy trip, he fell asleep twice in his carseat without crying. That was amazing, so it must be working somehow!

We have also spent the last couple weeks getting ready for our homestudy. S got his medical eval done, we have been checking in with our references, and applying for and collecting background checks and driver histories from 3 states. The last few days in particular, I have been gathering and sorting the paperwork we have and making copies. We drove to a nearby state this morning to actually collect some additional paperwork in person, as that state is known for its incompetence with handling such paperwork. So, we are almost there. I have to pick up the kids' medical forms tomorrow, then we have our first visit by the social worker on Saturday, then hopefully my last bit of paperwork will arrive in the mail soon, and finally, I have to get my medical eval completed. We can see the finish line.


Learning fun

JR was having some trouble figuring out word families and putting numbers together. I decided to actually get a little creative and found a way to break the system down into something he could more easily visualize. It has worked like a charm!

First, I typed each letter of the alphabet, in large print, onto cardstock. Then I cut the letters out in such a way that we could "play" them to make words and such. I was then able to show him how to combine 2 letters to make a word family ( -ad) then just change out the first letter of the word to form different words (had, lad, mad, etc). He caught on pretty quickly, and was soon able to spell out his own words.

In math, he was doing 1-10 easily, but had trouble with his teens. We had practiced 20-29, but he couldn't seem to get the fact that you just say the name of both numbers (twenty, one, etc.) I had also introduced the "tens" (30, 40, 50)all the way to 100, but he was also having trouble with that. So I typed up his numbers. In large print, I typed numbers 0-9 in one column, then 1-9 in another column. I cut the 0-9 out to make a single long strip of digits. The 1-9 column, I cut into individual pieces. Then, I showed him how to read down the strip, counting 0-9. Then he was to pick up the "1", lay it beside the "0" on the strip to form "10", and slide it down the strip as he counted 10-19. The process repeated with "2" sliding down for the twenties, "3" for the thirties, etc. He got it in just two tries! It was amazing! In just one day, he literally went from struggling to count above 10 to counting 0-99 with no more than an occasional correction or reminder. Today, I actually had him count 1-99 without his column, and he did it by memory!

Somehow, this system just seems to have made the light-bulb come on his head, and he totally gets it! I noticed his reading lesson went smoother today, and his counting is all but perfect. I will have to remember this method for my younger kids!