Kitchen Challenge Day 2: Use the can or box of food in your pantry that is oldest, but not expired

Like I said yesterday, I’m trying to “think outside the box” as we cook (almost) every meal at our house for the next couple of weeks. Check out Day 1’s post and what I made.

Today’s kitchen challenge:

Use the can or box of food in your pantry that’s oldest but not expired

Let me clarify that we eat expired food at our house from time to time so what I choose might be expired. I like to live on the edge. Actually, I just hate wasting good food. So, let’s use it. Get creative if you can. Or just cook whatever is easiest!

Also, I’m gonna laugh if my oldest can in the pantry is a can of Spaghettios. I might hide these for myself to avoid the kids all arguing who gets more than a couple bites each.

Happy pantry ravaging!


Winner, Winner, Chicken (Sausage) Dinner

Tonight I did Kitchen Challenge, Day 1:  Use a spice you’ve never used.  My spice choice was marjoram.  I’ll admit that I had no idea what it tasted like.  I actually had to look it up and found out that it is very similar to oregano.  Here’s a great website to learn more about it.

I googled a recipe, looking for one that’s easy.  Enter Martha Stuart and her Marjoram-Roasted Potatoes.  Like many recipes I “try,” I adjust them to what I think sounds good (and what I have in the house).  #usewhatyougot In this case, I wanted a full, easy meal and felt like chicken sausage and green beans would be a good combo with the marjoram potatoes. Therefore, they all got tossed into a one-pan (or two in my case) dinner.  Here’s the recipe, which I’m going to name Marjoram-Roasted Sausage, Potato, and Green Bean Bake.


  • 3lbs potatoes (I used red potatoes since that’s what I had)- cubed but not pealed
  • 2 lbs chicken apple sausage (I think subbing any sausage you want will probably work just fine- although chicken sausage might be easier to get right now given the current run on staple meats- it’s the ONLY product I had delivered from Kroger out of the 20 item order I received on Sunday)
  • large bag of frozen green beans (I buy the steamer packs from Sams and heated these for 2 minutes before tossing them with everything)
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp marjoram (you can also substitute oregano but chances are that’s something you have used before and wouldn’t help you much with Day 1 challenge)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • pepper to taste


  • Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees and line two pans with foil (because that’s easier than cleaning them in case your food sticks)
  • Cut up the potatoes into cubes (if you haven’t already)
  • Cut up the sausage into thin slices (this helps them get more crispy while baking, which my family loves)
  • Heat frozen green beans for a few minutes to make them easier to toss with other ingredients.  You could use fresh if you have them as well, probably even canned.
  • Toss the potatoes, green beans, and sausage with the olive oil, marjoram, salt, and pepper so they’re all coated in greasy goodness.  I divided this into two separate pans to allow everything to get a little more crispy.
  • I cooked these for about 30 minutes and then tossed them and cooked for another 10 minutes.  As I’ve said, I like everything to get a little crispy and browned.  If you don’t want it like that, watch it bake it for less time.

Needless to say, dinner was a hit.  Every one of my children said, “Momma, this is soooo good.”  And, although we’d had a lesson on kindness tonight, I don’t think that’s the only reason they said it because Daddy liked it too.

Kitchen Challenge Day 1 was a success.  Here’s to a successful Day 2 tomorrow.

Days 6 & 7: COVID-19 Whatever You Call This Time at Home with Kids

I’ve been calling what we were/are doing with our kids homeschool. I get it that it’s not homeschool because what homeschool parents do is way cooler than anything I’m coming up with and includes field trips (although digital field trips now abound). So, whatever it is we’re doing, we’re all doing the best we can and we should all pat ourselves on the back and give ourselves (and others) more grace.

If I can say anything, my advice is to try to find fun and laughter in anything and everything. Examples:

  • Your kid feeds the fish a whole jar of fish food and tries to paint it yellow- there’s some humor there (or was until said fish died).
  • Your toddler asks you if you get to stay home tomorrow. Why, yes, we sure do!
  • You get on a meeting with someone and notice (too late) that you’ve got a big booger hanging out, your hair is a wreck and you forgot makeup because you’re working from home.
  • You laugh when you realize that you have no idea how to do math problems the way your third grader does them.
  • You save works from drowning with your kids
  • You laugh and smile when they dig a ditch in your backyard (and are now covered in mud).

I wish I wrote down all of the hilarious things that happen here since we’re all together. I bet you feel the same way.

Here’s a few highlights from our first few days this week, although you can see the full checklist of this week’s activities here:

Day 5:

  • We started the day out with eating the (almost finished) rock candy.
  • Will worked on a slide presentation for the Sons of Liberty and has impressed me with his awesome tech skills
  • Anna has been doing math but we’re struggling and hoping to figure out how to do remote tutoring since me helping isn’t doing the trick.
  • Clara and Kate have been reading a “Play Time” reader and pretty much have it memorized.
  • Yesterday we did rhyming worksheet too with the littles, using the new Paw Patrol pencils from MaMa.
  • We all learned about space from Scholastic Learn at Home– Pre-K Day 4. It’s a great resource for all grades.
  • Played outside a lot but not enough because everyone still seemed to be wound up last night at bedtime.
  • Anna got to have a zoom chat with both her class and also with her Girl Scout troop last night, which was super fun.
  • We played one of our favorite family games- Trash Panda.
  • The girls got to listen to several books Mammy recorded and even FaceTime with MaMa, while she read to them.

Day 6:

  • Today was a super fun day.
  • Will got a special sign dropped off from his awesome teacher.

  • Since the weather was absolutely gorgeous, we worked on schoolwork outside. I loved getting to do this in elementary school.
  • Everyone got their morning assignments done super quickly so they could go play.
  • Will finished up his presentation today and had a zoom call with his class today
  • All of the kids made their own personal pizzas for lunch
  • For dessert we had Oreos and learned about the phases of the moon using this experiment as a reference and this worksheet to place the Oreos. I’m not sure how much they actually learned but we sure enjoyed the Oreos!
  • We watched Magic School Bus- Gets Lost in Space and the bigs did this worksheet that went with it.
  • Anna also wrote an amazing essay on the solar system, which made us super proud!
  • Garen created an awesome obstacle course in the yard for the kids.
  • We went for a nice long walk/bike ride around the block after dinner.

I think Garen and I are doing a decent job with this. We’re for sure not a replacement for our kids’ teachers though. I won’t lie, it’s been hard.

Both of our companies supply commercial construction contractors so our businesses are (thankfully) considered “essential” and are still both fully functional. I have both guilt about not doing the “full time mom” thing right now but also about taking calls with yelling children in the background or sending someone to voicemail if I’m in the middle of a word problem we’re struggling to finish.

With that said, we are very grateful for our jobs, that our companies both are contributing to the economy, and the ability to work from home when so many can’t. I guess it’s worth the grey hairs that are appearing faster every day!

Happy Day 6 y’all!

Kitchen Challenge- Day 1: Use a spice you’ve never used

If you’re like a good percentage of Americans right now, you may be at home. And you’re likely cooking more than you have in a long time. For me, with four kids and a hubby that loves to eat, we’ve tried our best to keep meals interesting. The food shortage- I hesitate to call it this because I really don’t think there is actually a food shortage so much as a re-allocation to where it’s going now- has caused some of us to get creative and use what we’ve got. Lemons to lemonades (although I don’t have those at my house right now either).

I thought it might be fun to do a kitchen challenge each day for the next couple of weeks. Today’s challenge is:

Use a spice that you’ve never used before.

You know you probably bought a spice (or it came in a spice rack) that you meant to use before but never really did. I know I have a few that I’m not even sure what they taste like. Now that we’ve got great resources like Google and Pinterest this should be easy to find. I’d love to see what you come up with- even if it’s just adding it to a recipe you already use! I’ll post what I made tomorrow.

May you all stay safe, healthy, and sane today- and remain thankful for all of those that are working to keep us safe and to keep the economy going through this!

COVID-19 Homeschool Curriculum/Checklist for Pre-K, 3rd, and 5th Grade- Week 2

My goodness, how fast things are changing in our world.  Minute by minute you hear more updates.  However, what hasn’t really changed that much is what we’re doing here at our house.  We’ve still been reading, playing games, jumping on the trampoline, and cooking some amazing meals.

I honestly meant to get this done earlier today but got bogged down with other stuff.  I’m a squirrel chaser by nature.  However, it’s better late than never and I’m feeling a lot better about having the kids’ academic stuff for the whole week rather than doing it every night the night before, which is what I did last week.  You can check out what we did on my previous posts:

If you’re reading this and thinking I’m crazy and my kids should just be having fun and playing, etc. because that’s what yours are doing, more power to you.  However, I’ve got four and we’ve both got to keep working while we’re at home during the day so this is what it takes to keep them occupied just short of setting them in front of the TV all day.  If this is what you’re doing, no judgement.  My kids just get SUPER grouchy when they have too much screen time so we limit it.  If that works for you, again, do what works for you.  We all have to survive while we get through this.  

If you’re like me and you like to plan activities, then maybe this will help.  (Also check out the actual schedule, now that we revised it for Week 2 to accommodate for the different needs of the littles vs. bigs).

Here’s what I’ve got planned, with the understanding that it’s more than we will likely get to but, like I’ve said before, I’d rather over-plan and have more stuff to do than to under-plan and have craziness going on all day while we have conference calls scheduled.  This time, I put them into excel documents, which you can download and edit (because your kids probably aren’t named Will, Anna, Clara, and Kate and you may not way to make playdough or may not have Oreos to do the Moon Phases project.)

  • COVID19 Homeschool Pre-K Schedule- Week 2
    • A lot of this schedule came from our school
    • I’m super excited to get to watch Magic School Bus and eat Oreos with them as we learn about the moon phases.
    • What’s not on here is
      • Garen’s mom sent us some paper dolls from Alaska.  We’re also going to learn about the Eskimos while we play with them.  It was super sweet of her.
      • Physical activity- LOTS of playing outside any time I can push them outside.
      • Cooking- I’m going to let each kid help with dinner
      • Grape building- they love building things with grapes and toothpicks- it gets them to eat a healthy snack as well.  Bigs and littles alike try to out-design the other.
  • COVID19 Homeschool 3rd Grade Schedule- Week 2
    • Anna’s big focus continues to be on math and word problems
      • My mom created some awesome word problems just for her.  You could download them and change them to whatever your family members names are.
      • Prodigy continues to be a good way for her to show her progress to her teacher.
      • We’re hoping to find a way to continue tutoring remotely sometime this week.  We think Zoom may be the answer.
    • I’m going to do the planets/space with Anna and Will because Clara and Kate’s curriculum from school called for that and I think a lot of the activities they will enjoy, even if some may be a little “below their level”
    • We also are going to start trying to reach a chapter book together- Garen’s mom sent her one about a cat that looks cute.


  • COVID19 Homeschool 5th Grade Schedule- Week 2
    • Will’s teachers are super high tech and have been good about giving him assignments through Google Classroom.  We’ll continue to work on those as they are assigned so some of this schedule may change.
    • He’s also had the opportunity to Zoom with his class and will do so again (as long as we don’t forget about it like we did last week!)
    • His big focus on Monday and Tuesday will be a project that goes along with his class reading Johnny Tremain.  He will pick a member of the Sons of Liberty and then do a google slides presentation telling about the member.
    • Like Anna, I’m also going to include him in the space learning because I think he’ll enjoy it.
    • He’ll finish up his Learning the States Worksheet and do a presentation before moving to the next state that he picks.  In case I didn’t mention it before, he chose Idaho for his first one.
    • Believe it or not, he really gets into the projects, like making something out of a box, so I think he’s going to enjoy the make your own robot or space station out of recycled materials project.
  • What’s not on these schedules that we will probably also do:
    • Garen’s mom sent us some paper dolls from Alaska.  We’re also going to learn about the Eskimos while we play with them.  It was super sweet of her.
    • Physical activity- LOTS of playing outside any time I can push them outside.  I think we will do some soccer drills since soccer has come to a screeching halt with everything else.
    • Cooking- I’m going to let each kid help with dinner.  This has been fun (and very messy so far)
    • Grape building- they love building things with grapes and toothpicks- it gets them to eat a healthy snack as well.  Bigs and littles alike try to out-design the other.
    • There will be games.  We’ve been playing a game almost every day since we’ve been home, which is super fun.
    • I’m sure there will be more random activities along the way as well.

Anywho…. I better get off to bed.  It’ll be a long, but fun week ahead of us I think.  I hope yours is fun as well!  Stay safe and healthy inside your homes (if you can), my friends.

Texas Travel: Day 2- McDonald Observatory, Marfa, and the Holland Hotel

Day 2 of our West Texas Roadtrip began a little later than the Day 1– both because we were worn out after the long drive and then very full day of hiking and also because we needed to wait until the auto-parts store opened to get a reader on Garen’s truck since the check engine light came on (it mysteriously went off later and was never an issue).  We elected to make this our “slow day” for the trip and called an audible to make a trip to McDonald Observatory, followed by a fast visit to Marfa.

McDonald Observatory

McDonald Observatory, located close to Fort Davis, is a great place to go learn more about our universe.  It’s actually part of the University of Texas system, which I found interesting.

  • We went on one of the daytime tours that they had available
    • It’s 2 hours and you learn a lot about stars, including our sun, and then actually get to go into one of the big telescopes to see how it works.  Pretty cool for nerds like us.
    • With small children, we likely won’t do the 2 hour tour during the day because it might be a little hard for fidgety preschoolers but if you’ve got older kids they might enjoy it.
  • Be aware that they are currently shut down due to COVID-19 until at least April 19th according to their website (as of the day I’m writing this).  They had already cancelled their Star Parties for the night we went.
  • When we (hopefully) get to go back to Big Bend with the kids this summer, we’d like to plan far enough ahead to take them to a Star Party but also go during the day to check out the self-guided tour.
  • The views are great from the mountains that these are on.
  • We were shocked by how many telescopes there are.  Pretty amazing to have these right here in our state.


After McDonald Observatory, we headed over to Marfa.

  • We were going to go check out the Chinati Foundation for the famous exhibit that’s out there but they closed at 4:00 and eating was more important to us so we headed out in search of food.
  • We got there at a weird time to get lunch- like 3:00 in the afternoon.
    • There’s not much available after lunch hours (which ended at about 2:00 for a lot of places).
    • We enjoyed fried artichoke bites and shrimp nachos, both of which we highly recommend.  We washed them down with some tasty cocktails.
  • After that we walked around looking at shops but were surprised by how many were closed.  In retrospect, I’m not sure how much of that already had to do with COVID-19 or just that shop owners don’t open until crowds come in for dinner reservations.
  • We did manage to find Garen a stylish new Steson hat at one of the stores that were open.  It was called Communitie and it had a fantastic selection of hats and beautiful stones.  The staff in there were super friendly and helpful.  They’re currently closed now too.
  • Overall, I have to say that Marfa was a bit of a let-down for me.  I’m not sure exactly what I expected but I guess I often overestimate things like this. Of course, maybe if we’d gone on the weekend it would’ve been different- I have read this.  I would still go if I’d not been before but I can’t imagine spending more than one day there.

Scrabble and Plaine Coffee

  • After our excursions to McDonald Observatory and Marfa, we made our way back to Alpine.  We were still pretty full from the late lunch/snack/drinks at Jett’s Diner, so we elected to go for coffee.
  • We would’ve shopped around in Alpine but EVERYTHING seems to close at 5:00 or 6:00 there.  If you want to do any shopping there, do it early.
  • Cedar Coffee Supply, which we visited on Day 1, was already closed for the day, but Plaine Coffee was open until 8:00 so we grabbed some very tasty iced coffees there and played a game of Scrabble, which was something we rarely do but pretty entertaining.  Of course, Garen sported his new hat, which I happen to think looks fantastic on him.
    • We went back for coffee there another day after this and they’d changed their policy to be only pick-ups, no staying in the shop due to COVID-19 already.  I’ll admit that at this point I felt like that might have been overboard.  Man, I had a lot to learn about all of this still.

Holland Hotel- Century Bar and Grill

  • After we finished up our Scrabble game, we attempted to go eat pizza at Guzzi Up but they were closed (we did end up eating there on Friday night though and it was fantastic).
  • We instead went over to the Holland Hotel, where they have the Century Bar and Grill.  It was PACKED and they had a band playing so it took us about 30 minutes to get a table.  I would recommend making  reservation if you’re planning on going there during dinner hours.
  • The wait was totally worth it.  I had some sort of magical bacon-wrapped Dr. Pepper pork tenderloin pieces and probably the best brussels sprouts I’ve ever had.  When I say magical, I mean magical.  If I’m remembering correctly, Garen had the chicken fried steak, which was also delicious.  Can you tell from our trip description that we love food at this point???

We slept well after that back at the Big Bend Biker Hotel and woke up ready to get going early for Day 3 and sunrise at the Hot Springs at Big Bend.


COVID-19 Homeschool Schedule Revised for Week 2- Split for Littles and Bigs

Raise your hand if this new need for homeschooling has been as much of a lesson for you as it has been your kids!  I can’t see you but, if your hand isn’t raised and you’ve been homeschooling this week, you’re probably lying (unless you were already doing it and then you may be laughing at the rest of us).

I started out last week with what I knew was going to be my first shot at a homeschool schedule.  Feel free to check out our original COVID-19 Home School Schedule.  It worked pretty well, but we’ve made revisions along the way to make it work more for our family’s needs.  Here’s what we’ve got now. Feel free to download the excel version of our Weekday Schedule during COVID-19 Pandemic 2020_Revision 1.

A few of the main changes that we made after a week of working from home and having four kids to educate, entertain, and keep from killing each other included:

  • Not everyone is always going to be able to do the same thing at the same time.
    • I can’t read to littles and help Anna with a math word problem at the same time.
    • Flexibility and plenty of options for what to do when is key for us.
  • The littles still thrive on a more formal schedule.  Clara especially.  She’s the kid that wants to know what is next and Kate helps keep me in line.
  • The schedule must be flexible.  The things planned must be flexible.  Who knows when one of them is going to decide to have a meltdown that takes away 15 minutes in the middle of the art project???
  • Nap time is necessary- not just for the littles but also for us adults to have some time that we aren’t constantly bombarded with “I need to go potty,” “Mommmmmmmmy,” or “She took my barbie!”  While they nap, I basically give the bigs free time, as long as it won’t disturb the littles.
  • We altered the way we work.
    • Initially, we were going to do an hour and a half each for work and then switch with kid duty.  We quickly realized that wouldn’t work.
    • We changed to half day shifts.  We still have to check emails, answer phone calls, and get on conference calls during our time with the kids but at least we have a good 3-4 hours where we can focus just on projects that we need to.
    • Almost every early morning or evening we still have some work that doesn’t fit into those 3-4 hours and we get that done after the craziness subsides.
    • The good thing is that most people are going through the same thing and understand when there’s a preschool screaming that someone took the pink marker.
  • Embrace technology.
    • I fought doing too much of this because I hate the idea of the kids having to be on the computer or iPad all day. But guess what?  They like it and it gives me a much needed breather throughout the day.  That still isn’t our primary means of learning but it sure is a nice resource.
    • Here’s some of the best things we’ve done on electronics for education so far:
      • Scholastic Learn at Home
      • Zoom with our classes
      • Use You Tube for reading books that are on your kids’ reading list but you might not have
      • The internet is full of tutorials for art projects and science experiments.  The challenge there is whether you have everything it asks for.
      • Videos from our Mammy and their teachers of reading books
      • Imagine Math
      • Prodigy- the bigs LOVE this one
      • FaceTime with their friends to keep in touch
      • Use Google Classroom for assignments and to write letters/emails to friend and also make presentations.
    • One of our biggest challenges is sharing the electronics- our kids don’t all have their own laptops and/or tablets or phones so we’ve been sharing.  It hasn’t been too hard but we may end up pulling out old laptops that we’ve been too lazy to ever recycle.
    • I’d love to hear what your favorite things you’ve done with technology are!
  • We have started saving cardboard boxes- they make great art project starters and kids can find a million ways to be creative with them.  If nothing else, read one of my favorite children’s books, Not a Box.  Cereal boxes are super great to use too and easier to cut.
  • Cooking and eating every meal at home is taking a lot of food
    • I’m feeling pretty good about the fact that the kids are about to run out of junk food snacks.
    • The good thing about all this home cooking is that I’m able to include them in the meals as part of their learning.
    • It also provides some element of entertainment.
    • We always keep staples at our house- that’s just the way I operate with a family of six to feed.  However, getting things like milk and eggs that we go through a LOT of has been a challenge.  I’m really hoping eventually things will level out.
  • The kids are spending a LOT of time outside and we are so very glad that we have the big back yard now.  It’s rained a lot but, even on rain days, we’ve just put their rain boots on and gone out in it.  This has been one of the best things about having to stay home.  Now if we can keep one of them from breaking a bone on a bike or trampoline, we will be good to go!

It hasn’t been ALL sunshine and rainbows…. There’s definitely been lots of that but it’s also been combined with a few good ol’ preschool meltdowns and even a moment I had to lock myself in my bathroom for a few minutes to get away from everyone.  Overall, it’s been a good week though.

Today has been a good time for us all to take a deep breath and enjoy some downtime.  I hope its been the same for you!  Tomorrow I’ll be working on planning out the following week so stay tuned.


Day 4: COVID-19 Uncertainty & Rock Candy

I’m so uncertain on so many things at this point:

  • What’s going to happen with this virus?
  • How long are we going to be stuck here?
  • When they do release us to get out is it really ok to get out?
  • If I order two gallons of milk at a time, am I really a bad person? (Just kidding- I know I’m not because my kids almost drink 1 gallon a day by the time we’ve had cereal and milk at meals).
  • Am I doing the right thing by making them do some school stuff while they’re out?
  • Am I playing with them enough and enjoying the memories?
  • Do I need to be considering conserving food in case things do actually shut down and we can’t leave or will we be able to leave for food?
  • Are my construction jobs that are going to get shut down?
  • How am I going to keep up working from home and homeschooling for this long?
  • Am I taking advantage of the slow sales cycle to do enough marketing, writing, business planning, etc.?

My mind races with all of this.  In the midst of that, I’m probably over-compensating by planning for my children.  Scheduling/planning always makes me feel better, whether it’s a false sense of certainty or not.  Whatever it is, it seems to be working out ok.

With that said, here’s what we did today:

  • All
    • Made rock candy jars- they each got to help with one part of the process.
    • We had more trampoline/outside time today than we have had.  They needed to burn lots of energy and we were happy to let them.
  • Littles- Pre-K
    • Scholastic Learn at Home- Day 2:  Living things- plants (watch a movie and read a book).  Check out his free resource from Scholastic.  They enjoyed this, which we did during breakfast.  We’re all about killing two birds with one stone around here.
    • Read Horton Hear’s a Who- what is your favorite part of the story?  What are some rhyming words?
      • This lead to reading The Lorax.
      • When asked what is your favorite part of the story, Kate said the green hair trees.  Yes, Kate, that’s my favorite part too.
    • Dr. Seuss rhyming worksheet from Children’s University- this went well the second time around

Dr. Seuss worksheet

    • Practice sight words- they hate this.  I’m going to be looking at doing flashcards for next time if I can.
    • Kate made Aunt Haley a card today.
  • Anna- 3rd
    • Word problems worksheet- from  We will have to finish this tomorrow.  This was the hardest part of our day.  We have been doing tutoring at school for this but now that she’s having to work with us on it, I’m afraid I’m not all that great at helping in the ways she needs.
    • Imagine Math- her teacher is able to track her progress on here.
    • Prodigy Math- she love this since its more of a game than Imagine Math.
    • Write a letter/make a card for her BFF.  They exchanged letters today, which was super sweet.
    • Anna read two “Llama, Llama” books to her sisters without even being asked.  Oh, my heart, that girl is sweet!

sisters reading together nicely

    • Scholastic Learn at Home- Day 4
      • She learned about people eating bugs and worms from this.  It had an article, followed by a video that she really enjoyed.
    • Did math while cooking dinner together
  • Will- 5th
    • I’ve had this on the list for three days now and STILL haven’t done it:  Type up a letter to his teacher describing his favorite things about her class and anything he’d like to do more of in her class. After he completes the letter, re-read it looking for edits that can be made.  Then we will go over it and we can print and mail it to her (if she wants to give us her address or we can just email it).  I got this from Arlington ISD’s new At Home Learning HUB that has some good resources for different grade levels.
    • Read a few chapters of his chapter book
    • Watch/read along Johnny Tremain with his teacher’s video.  She amazes me with her awesome creativity!  Check out her video she made: 
    • Place Value Work- from his teacher on Google Classroom
    • Start working on the Learn about States worksheet I made up.  My mom taught elementary history and has a love for learning about states, so I can’t take credit for the idea.  Thanks Mom.
      • Here’s the Learning the States Worksheet I made.  Feel free to download and share with anyone who might like to do it with their kiddos.  I attached in Word format so you could edit to meet your needs.
      • He got all of this done except the part about planning the trip.

Here’s what we’re doing tomorrow. 

I actually feel like we should just do a half day tomorrow so if they’re doing well on everything, we will stop after lunch to give everyone a “long weekend.”  Does this feel like the longest weekend ever though already???  Like it’s so long you feel obligated to work….

  • Littles- Pre-K
  • Anna- 3rd
    • Finish word problem worksheet from today.
    • Make an electronic card for a friend and send it.
    • Imagine Math
    • Find a chapter book to start reading together.
  • Will- 5th
    • Spell a word he’s feeling using objects around the house and post it in his class’s SeeSaw
    • Rounding decimals slides on Google Classroom
    • Do a science activity in nearpod
    • Read a few chapters of his chapter book
    • Watch/read along Johnny Tremain with his teacher’s video.
    • Finish his states activity and present it to us- I’m going to let him use Google slides since he really likes doing projects like that typically.
  • All

Texas Travel: Big Bend Day 1

I interrupt your regularly scheduled Graves Academy COVID-19 Home School Schedule to bring you something a little more positive.

This past week, during our regularly scheduled Spring Break (and before everything blew up with COVID-19 affecting almost every part of our world), Garen and I took a trip to Big Bend.  It was actually my Christmas gift.  He gave me a great new camera backpack that had a map of Texas and a great book about Big Bend in it.  He also gave me books about Mesa Verde and Carsbad Caverns/Guadalupe Mountains but we elected to take this trip to Big Bend as our Texas Road-trip get away.  The timing worked out great since the bigs were with their Joe Daddy and the littles spent Spring Break with Mammy and their cousin, Harper, in Hamilton.  We felt almost guilty doing a kid-free Spring Break….. but obviously not guilty enough to hold us back.

We took upwards of 1,300 photos between the two of us, so although this looks like a lot for Day 1, it’s just a fraction of it.  We left on Monday and made it all the way to Alpine, where we stayed the night in preparation for Day 1.  Monday also happened to be my birthday and I was lucky enough to get to eat at the original Reata, which happened to be right next to our hotel in Alpine.  The one in Fort Worth is where Garen and I spend many of our birthdays and every anniversary.

Big Bend Road-trip Day 1 schedule:

  • We woke up early in Alpine and went to get coffee at Cedar Coffee Supply
    • They don’t open until 7 and isn’t the best option if you’re wanting to leave early for Big Bend but it worked for us this first day of the trip since that’s about as early as we felt like getting moving after the long drive in.
    • They serve very small servings but the coffee is fantastic- just know you’re not going to be able to get Venti size without ordering x2, which I did my second and third rounds.
    • My new favorite coffee is from there- latte with almond milk and honey lavendar.  Weird but fantastic.
  • We drove from Alpine to Big Bend and got there around 8:15ish.
    • People were really just starting to show up at this point and we didn’t have trouble getting into the park.
    • We bought a National Parks pass, which gets us in for an entire year- we see it as either an incentive to go to more National parks or as a donation to the park system if we don’t, which is a win either way.
    • We saw this guy after we got into the park.  We were surprised that we really didn’t see as much wildlife as we expected but the beauty of the park outweighed not seeing wildlife by far!  I call him the Lone Coyote (you know, instead of Lone Wolf- ok, I’ll stop the cheese!)

    • This was our view on the way in as well.  So beautiful (and maybe a little unsettling) the way the clouds came in over the mountains.

    • We tried to hike the Lost Pines trail but were unable to find parking so we went for our backup hike- the Window Trail, which was not really a backup so much as the next hike on our list. 
    • It’s a pretty good hike but totally worth it.  5.6 miles total in and out.  

    • It starts and finishes back at the Chisos Basin Trailhead.
    • There were also a lot of people parked here by the time we got there- it’s one of the biggest campsites in the park and where the lodge is.
    • Don’t let the fear of too many people deter you.  The view and hike is worth it.
    • There’s a lot of sun on the first part of the trip, so make sure you slather up with some good SPF or wear long sleeves and maybe plan on re-applying half-way through (we did at the window, which was the turnaround).

    • Look how happy this guy is to be out in the wilderness!

    • Beware of the stairs.  There’s a few sets of stairs (thanks to the good ol’ CCC, I think) to help make the last stretch to the Window a little less guesswork through the rocks/canyon.

    • As I said, the views on this trail are fantastic.  We just loved the agave plants too.  These are called the Harvard Agave (I think- please horticulture friends correct me if I’m wrong).  Lots of cool ones on this trail.  The sad thing is that they’re all dying.  They die after they bloom.  I guess beauty really is pain.

    • As I said, the hike wasn’t the easiest- moderate I think is what they label it on the NPS website for Big Bend mountain hikes.  I would agree.  Totally worth it.  I mean we look happy, right? Thanks to the awesome couple who took our photo for us.

  • Our next hike was over on the Grapevine Hills Trail to see the Balanced Rock.
    • This is considered a desert hike- see more desert hikes from Big Bend NPS page.
    • It is a good 7+ mile drive on a VERY bumpy dirt road to get back there, so don’t be surprised by that.  We were in Garen’s truck and it was no issue.  There were also people in mini-vans and sedans so I guess it was ok.  I think we’d be fine in the Expedition if we go back but we’d need to slow it down a lot.
    • I definitely recommend a big hat and some sun-proof clothing or lots of SPF.  Make it a morning hike if it’s hot.  It was still pleasant when we went in the early afternoon because of a nice breeze but it could’ve easily been sweltering during Spring Break.

    • Even though it’s a desert hike, there’s some climb to it.
    • And some great views.

    • We took our time on this one, knowing we were going to stay in the park until around sunset to make sure we caught that.  This was a good one for us to check out the desert plant life (and bees and flies).
    • This is one that we think we can do with the kid fairly easily being only 2.2 miles round-trip since there’s plenty of things to check out as we go.  As I said, it would definitely be a morning hike for us should we do it that way.

    • No, this isn’t the balanced rock, but the pose seemed appropriate.  Some kids gave me the idea.  There were quite a few families on this trail, making us miss ours but also knowing they’ll love it when we come back with them along.

    • Throughout the park, they actually had pretty great signage.  I loved the rusted signs.  This one was a warning almost- steep climb ahead.  There were a few moms that decided they weren’t going to do it.  I personally didn’t think it was that bad but I can see how someone with some knee problems would have a hard time with the hike to the top.
  • From there we headed over to the Santa Elena Canyon Overlook.
    • It took a good 30-45 minutes to get there from Grapevine Hills.  This park is HUGE and you’re not going to be going 70 on all of the roads like you do on the highways so be prepared for that.
    • We hiked Santa Elena Canyon Trail, which is only 1.7 miles in and back
    • You start out at the basin of the river though and down there you’ll find that there are a lot of people- even people swimming in the Rio Grande.  Looked a little dirtier here that I would’ve liked to swim in but whatever floats your boat I guess.

  • Although it’s not a long hike, there’s a pretty big climb up as your going through the canyon, with a nice set of stone stairs.  After hiking the other two hikes on the same day, our legs were talking to us by the time we came down (and they weren’t using very kid-appropriate language either).
  • But the views were all worth it.  It wasn’t the sunset with colors that we were hoping for but the light did come in very pretty still.
  • Big Bend NPS considers this one of their River Hikes and there are a few others we did that you can find on their list that are worth your time.

  • The rest of our day was uncharted territory- we headed to Terlingua, where we *thought* we had a room but didn’t.  It was my fault- not the hotel’s.  Although, we had a VERY tasty hamburger there and a much-needed beer before we headed back to Alpine for the night.
  • Lemons to lemonade- the hotel we were supposed to stay in had a water-heater you had to turn on and wait 30 minutes for and also had terrible beds (as we found out from some friends we made while on the trails a few days later).  We enjoyed our stay at The Biker Hotel/Old Gringo in Alpine, TX and it worked out great for the remainder of the trip (since we decided only 2 weeks before we went that we were going)!

Stay tuned for more from our Texas Road-trip to Big Bend!  May you all be safe and healthy.


Day 3: Learning as We Go

Well, we made it another day.  Three.  Three days.  Today was probably the hardest but also the best.  The kids have started to bicker between each other.  Sisterly/brotherly love I guess.  But also, I think we’re starting to get in more of a groove.  Garen and I split our days- him taking the morning shift to work and me in the afternoon.  Of course, I still took calls and checked emails throughout the morning but still was on “home-school” duty.  It seemed that way anyway.

Here’s what we did:

  • Littles- Pre-K
    • Dr. Seuss rhyming worksheet from Children’s University
    • Read One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish while having our morning snack of goldfish
    • Practice sight words
    • Practice writing 1-20 with a print-out.
    • Practice writing first and last names
    • What I didn’t get done and would’ve:
      • Read Horton Hear’s a Who
      • ABC Mouse- got a free log-in from CU- we’ll see if we have time and feel up to it
  • Anna- 3rd
  • Will- 5th
    • Read a few chapters of his chapter book
    • He had about an hour long conversation with his teacher and classmates on Zoom, which was totally cool and I think he enjoyed.



    • Write a thank you letter to Mammy.
    • Imagine Math (since I couldn’t get into google classroom until today)
      • Check out this Parents’ Guide to Google Classroom in case you need to know how to do this.  I’m sure some of you are more technologically inclined than me but I have been a little slow getting this all figured out.

2020 Parents' Guide to Google Classroom

  • Physical Activity
    •  The trampoline provided about 90% of our outside activity today.  If they’re happy and playing outside, then I’m not going to worry about anything organized.  As Garen told our Pre-School Teacher today- I’m not sure why we didn’t think of buying this giant cage before now but it sure is handy now.

Trampoline AKA Giant Cage COVID-19

    • Anna did want to go on a walk today and so tomorrow we really need to make sure that happens.
  • Craftiness/Creativity/Arts  
    • Everyone did unicorn drawing.  Here’s the You Tube link: I’m not going to lie- the only kid that could do this was Anna. 
    • Made jello
    • Made a fort to go along with the “Where the Wild Things Are Theme”

Unicorn Drawing Lesson- COVID-19

  • Work Strategies for Adults
    • Like I said above, breaking the day into two different shifts was the best thing we’ve done for productivity.  We still both need to answer our phones all day
    • long but having focused time that we actually lock ouselves into the office made a huge difference.
    • Let me tell you what happens when you don’t mute your phone and you walk past a hall bathroom that may or may not have a four-year-old in it.  Kate yells, “Mommy, I had to poop.  Can you wipe my booty?”- while I’m on the phone with a customer.  SMH.  Lesson learned.  
    • The thing I’m seeing is that construction hasn’t slowed down- knock on wood.  (Garen and I both are suppliers to sub-contractors, so obviously we’re hoping things don’t slow down too much.)  I’m not sure what happens when they close those jobs since most of those folks are hourly.  Hopefully we can contain the spread but still manage to keep everyone safe and healthy.  Time will tell.  But the contractors I’ve talked to are all talking to their folks about staying safe with distancing as much as possible and good hand-hygiene.
    • On a lighter side, one of my team members tagged me in this, which made me giggle and think, “Darn, Cheryl, can’t you do the dang laundry!”Couples WFH Meme

I’m worn out from trying to plan but here’s what we’re going to do tomorrow, based on the next 20 minutes of planning as I write:

  • Littles- Pre-K
    • Read Horton Hear’s a Who- what is your favorite part of the story?  What are some rhyming words?
    • Dr. Seuss rhyming worksheet from Children’s University- since we didn’t cut those out and have them do it full-fledged
    • Practice sight words
    • Call out numbers and have them find these in books or magazines.  If that doesn’t work, maybe make flashcards.
    • Scholastic Learn at Home- Day 2:  Living things- plants (watch a movie and read a book).  Check out his free resource from Scholastic.  It’s one we will probably use.
    • Practice writing first and last names
    • How to call 911 and what to do in an emergency.
  • Anna- 3rd
  • Will- 5th
    • Read a few chapters of his chapter book
    • Watch/read along Johnny Tremain with his teacher’s video
    • Place Value Work- from his teacher on Google Classroom
    • Spell a word he’s feeling using objects around the house and post it in his class’s SeeSaw
    • Do a science activity in nearpod
    • Start working on the Learn about States worksheet I made up.  My mom taught elementary history and has a love for learning about states, so I can’t take credit for the idea.  Thanks Mom- no matter how old you are, you can still learn from your momma!  Here’s the Learning the States Worksheet I made.  Feel free to download and share with anyone who might like to do it with their kiddos.  I attached in Word format so you could edit to meet your needs.
    • Type up a letter to his teacher describing his favorite things about her class and anything he’d like to do more of in her class. After he completes the letter, re-read it looking for edits that can be made.  Then we will go over it and we can print and mail it to her (if she wants to give us her address or we can just email it).  I got this from Arlington ISD’s new At Home Learning HUB that has some good resources for different grade levels.

As with every day, I over-plan.  I do realize that we’re never going to get it all done but having more to do and some flexibility helps me out.  That’s just me.  Of course, we do wing it some too.  For example, reading “Where the Wild Things Are” was not on the schedule, nor was building a “Wild Things Fort” but when Anna and the girls came up with the idea, I was all for it.

Like Garen says, “Plan Rigidly, Execute Flexibly.”  Cheers to us surviving Day 3 and happy Day 4 to us tomorrow.