First Day of School!

Yesterday we went back to school for the 2017-18 school year. As is typical as we get back into the groove, the day was long, but good, too.

Cameron has seminary at 7:15 this year. That is so much better than 6! The boys and I got ready for the day and I made breakfast (cinnamon rolls) while he was there. When he got home, we ate breakfast while watching CNN10.

First Day of School!

Then we moved into the dining room for grammar and spelling. We are using IEW Fix-It Grammar (The Nose Tree).

First Day of School!

In addition to going over the sentences and copying them, the boys are also circling the letter chunks (like they did in Spelling You See the last couple years) and diagramming parts of the sentences.

First Day of School!

Then we did geography. We are studying Turkey (using Layers of Learning) for the next two weeks. We did map work.

First Day of School!

We learned about camel wrestling and made little paper camels.

First Day of School!

The boys did their on their own work including Spanish (for Cameron and Adrian) and Latin (for Fritz), math and reading.

First Day of School!

This year all three boys are assigned to learn about whatever they want however they want. Adrian has chosen to do science experiments and record what he learns. He played with the super absorbent polymer that is in baby diapers. He was fascinated by it.

First Day of School!

Adrian finished school about 2 and the other two around 3:15. Considering we went to taekwondo and so were gone for a bit over an hour in the morning and then had to make lunch and eat it before getting back to school, I figure that’s not bad for the first day of school.

For snack, we had some hazelnuts. Adrian was not impressed.

First Day of School!

For dinner, we had ajvar, a dip made with eggplant and red bell peppers, kebabs and rice, and kuru incir tatlisi (poached stuffed figs).

First Day of School!

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NOT Back to School Day 2017

Somehow we’ve already reached the end of the summer and it’s time to go back to school. But, as is our tradition, today while kids all around us went to their first day of school, we played.

We started off with crepes, Nutella, and turkey bacon for breakfast.
NOT Back to School Day 2017

The went to Main Event and played some games. Space Invaders has gotten quite the modern update!
NOT Back to School Day 2017

We played some air hockey and skee ball. Those games can be pretty intense in our family.
NOT Back to School Day 2017

Giant Connect 4 turned out to be way more fun than you might think. And also pretty intense.
NOT Back to School Day 2017

Cameron picked up a pool cue and started doing the jahng bong form right in the middle of Main Event. (Note: Cameron hates this picture because his stance is awful because he was just playing around.)
NOT Back to School Day 2017

Fritz and Adrian attempted the gravity ropes. Several months ago, my brother came to visit and we went to Main Event. Adrian tried the gravity ropes, but he got too scared and came back down. This time he was determined to make it across. Fritz got too scared this time, but Adrian made it!
NOT Back to School Day 2017


(Video of Adrian being brave.)

We played a game of laser tag before we picked our prizes and headed out.
NOT Back to School Day 2017

We had pizza at Luciano’s for dinner. They have some of the most amazing pizza and their gluten free crusts are really good.
NOT Back to School Day 2017

We ended the day with shaved ice from Bahama Bucks. Fritz said he must be making a whole lot of dopamine because he was feeling so happy.
NOT Back to School Day 2017


Check out previous years’ Not Back to School Days: 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2016. (I missed blogging about Not Back to School Day in 2011 and they went to public school in 2013.)

How We Use OneNote, Part 1: My Brain

I used a paper Bullet Journal, affectionately known as My Brain, for well over a year, but, then, a few months ago, I decided to go digital. I switched to OneNote (which I have on my laptop, phone, and iPad). In addition to everything I had in my paper Bullet Journal, I also use OneNote for school planning (which I’ll explain in part 2).

How We Use OneNote, Part 1: My Brain

I use it the most to tell me what to do each day. Our planned meals and snacks, schedule, and my to do list are all on one page so I can see what I need to do when. I have the My Brain notebook shared with Jamie so he can see what we are doing and what’s on our schedule and add to it as needed.

How We Use OneNote, Part 1: My Brain

My to do list is color coded so if I have a few minutes I can just look at the colored section with tasks that are most convenient at that time. Red is in the physical world, blue is on my phone, green is on my computer, iPad, or phone, and purple is on my iPad. If I don’t get something done, I just move it to the next day (like on today’s list, I moved fold clothes and put away clothes from yesterday).

How We Use OneNote, Part 1: My Brain

I have three notebooks that make up my digital Bullet Journal: My Brain, Recipes, and Journal. In My Brain, the My Day tab has several pages under it. Several of them are my calendar. They allow me to easily add things to my Today and Tomorrow pages. The Every Day, specific day of the week, and First of the Month pages are my to do lists for those days. I just copy and paste to add them to my Tomorrow page (which gets copy and pasted to today each morning). The RS Lesson Schedule page helps me keep track of what to read (in the Gordon B. Hinckley manual and Conference talks) each week to prepare for Relief Society.

How We Use OneNote, Part 1: My Brain

I keep track of what I’m reading and what I’ve read in my Reading tab. The 2016 Books and 2017 Books pages are just running lists split by month of what books I read on what date and what rating I gave them (out of 5 stars). The Reading Challenges page is where I plan the books I’m reading each month this year to spell out the birthstones, what our book club books are, bedtime stories for the boys, school books, 52 Books Bingo, etc. My favorite page is Sentences That Made Me Laugh. That page has a bunch of quotes from books I’ve read that I found funny.

How We Use OneNote, Part 1: My Brain

The rest of the tabs in My Brain are Health which has pages for keeping track of Ani’s symptoms, what we are still owed from overpaying for some procedures she’s had, and the kids’ vaccine records. Blog Ideas is just one page of ideas for blog posts. Scouts which has pages for Fritz and Adrian with a list of things they need to complete for rank advancement. Sports has pages for our taekwondo schedule, a record of dates for earning belts and mid-terming, and Fritz’s times at swim meets. Church has pages for planning family home evening, my notes for General Conference (one page per Conference), my Personal Progress answers split by value, and a poem Ani wrote when she was around 12. Finances has pages with spreadsheets for our checking account, the kids’ money, our budget, and a list of 2017 pay days.

How We Use OneNote, Part 1: My Brain

I really love my Recipes notebook. Most of the time we use it just like a cookbook, reading the recipes off the iPad as we cook. The notebook is extremely useful every Wednesday. That’s the day I make our menus for the week. I go through the sections of recipes and pick the breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners that sound good to me at the time. As I write down what we’ll be eating, I make our grocery list and note how the chicken will need to be cut. The grocery list is the used to order groceries from HEB (which Jamie picks up on his way home from work). I cut chicken once a week, on Wednesday night, so the gross bits can go out in the trash on Thursday morning (living in Texas, we definitely don’t want chicken sitting around very long).

How We Use OneNote, Part 1: My Brain

My Journal notebook is mostly exactly what it sounds like. I copied my journals from 1999 on and divided them into years. Under the year sections, the journal entries are divided into months. I copy and paste all my Facebook posts including pictures into my journal. The AB Letters tab is where I wrote my letter to my aunt each week (it also gets sent to my mother-in-law). I keep her up to day on what’s going on in our lives. I’ve been keeping those letters since December. The Fun Stuff tab had a page for funny things people in the family have said. It’s probably no surprise to anyone that Adrian’s is the longest. I also have Adrian’s birth story, a page of things that happen that I am grateful for, and a page of things that blew my mind (like the fact Queen Victoria had a granddaughter who was still alive when I was born). The Christmas Letters tab has a copy of all of our annual Christmas letters (and one Valentine’s Day letter that year I was super late…) since 2007.

How We Use OneNote, Part 1: My Brain

So that’s how I use OneNote to be my brain. It totally keeps me organized. In a couple days I’ll post part 2 on how I use OneNote in our homeschool.

Magical Magic Birthday

Today Fritz turned 11 on the 11th making it his magic birthday. We always try to make the magic birthday extra special for our kids and it looks like we totally succeeded with this one. Fritz said no day can be perfect, but today was almost perfect.

Magical Magic Birthday

The 11th birthday is extra magical because, as JK Rowling taught us, that’s when kids learn they are a witch or wizard. Ever since Fritz read the Harry Potter series, he’s been hoping the magic world is real. For a while, there was an owl hanging around our house and he was pretty sure it was scouting out where we live for his upcoming birthday. Just like we did with Cameron almost 5 years ago, Fritz’s owl and letter were waiting for him when he woke up this morning.

Magical Magic Birthday

He was so excited about his owl and letter. I was a little concerned beforehand that he might think it was real just because he wants magic to exist so badly. I needn’t have worried. He loves his owl. I hope when he’s about to turn 16, he’s still got it in a place of honor in his room just like his big brother and his owl.

Magical Magic Birthday

Fritz got his big present a few weeks ago when he went to Houston for the Markiplier tour. Today we gave him his other present, a Harry Potter Pop Figure. He got a Dobby last year so his collection is growing.

Magical Magic Birthday

We played a bit of Pokemon Go. Jamie, Fritz, and I joined together in a raid battle and all defeated, and then caught, a Muk (none of had one before today). We defeated a gym and hit a bunch of PokeStops, too.

Magical Magic Birthday

We spent the day at The DoSeum. I was a little hesitant to go there, but Ani was bringing the girls she’s been nannying there today and convinced us to join them. I wasn’t sure there would be enough stuff to entertain kids as old as Fritz and Adrian. As it turned out, there was plenty for them to do. We visited every exhibit, but, honestly, we could’ve spent the entire time doing just one or two. The boys loved it and want to go back. In fact, we’re considering an annual pass because they loved it so much.

Magical Magic Birthday

The first thing we did when we walked in was customize some fish using our phones and then added them to the virtual fish tank on the wall. Then we played in the wind tunnel and with some pulleys.

Magical Magic Birthday

We spent a couple hours in the spy room. There were lots of activities to do. The first thing they had to do was complete specific activities in order to get an access code. Once they got the access code, they could make their spy badge and then do more activities in order to become a master spy. One section was set up like a room in a house with clues hidden all over the place. It was a lot like an escape room. Adrian thinks we ought to build a room like that in our house. He spent a really long time working on the clues in there.

Magical Magic Birthday

The other exhibits inside included light, sound, color, and building activities. The kids really enjoyed playing with the green screen. Adrian was wearing a green shirt which made the green screen a little more fun. Fritz played with a green sheet to make himself disappear like he was under an invisibility cloak.

Magical Magic Birthday

We went outside on one side and played in some water activities and climbed on a huge climbing set. It was hot today (in the very high 90s), but the humidity was low (less than 30%) so it wasn’t so bad out, especially in the shade.

Magical Magic Birthday

Outside on the other side, we discovered a bamboo forest, and eco-pond, a treehouse with a fairy village underneath, and a fun little river to play in. The pond had quite a few red eared sliders in it so now we know just how big Ani’s hatchling, Venus, will get when she’s full grown (huge!).

Magical Magic Birthday

After we left The DoSeum, we went to Big’z Burger Joint for dinner. They have some of the best burgers and we can get amazing gluten free buns there. Fritz was pretty much in heaven eating his burger.

Magical Magic Birthday

We went to PetSmart partly because the boys love to watch the fish and partly because we needed to get a basking platform to go in Venus’s tank. We also got some ghost shrimp to help clean the tank/be food for the turtle (we also have minnows in there both to be fun to watch and also to be turtle food).

Magical Magic Birthday

When we got home, we watched Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I’d been meaning to buy it since it came out on video (we saw it in the movie theater), but hadn’t gotten around to it. My procrastination came in handy because the digital version (we only buy movies/TV shows in digital) was on a great sale today for Prime Day.

Magical Magic Birthday

So that was Fritz’s truly magical magic birthday. Adrian said Fritz’s birthday was way better than his own last month and I told him it’s because this was Fritz’s extra special 11 on the 11th birthday. So now Adrian is expecting a truly epic 19th birthday. Guess we better start planning!

I Made a Thing

We have a new instructor at taekwondo. It’s been a little traumatic losing the only instructor we’ve ever had because he’s just amazing and seen four of us to first degree black belt and one to second degree black belt. He was instrumental in changing our lives. He moved to a school 5 miles away so we could have followed him there, but we decided to give the new guy a chance and I’m glad we did.

Our new instructor is amazing with Adrian. The kid is rather difficult and we know this. But, somehow, things that used to turn into a battle of wills just don’t anymore. We’ve discovered that things Adrian has been taught, he has not learned. I don’t know if it’s from not paying attention or just not wanting to be there so ignoring the instructions. Whatever it is, he has actually been telling our new instructor he doesn’t know how to do things and asking for help. Our instructor then shows him and Adrian can do them. He also ignores certain behavior from Adrian that our previous instructor would engage in a battle of wills over. The interesting thing about that is Adrian will see that our new instructor is obviously and purposefully ignoring whatever Adrian is doing and the kid stops and does what he is supposed to do.

Anyway, our new instructor is very talented and seems to really enjoy working with kids. But he’s so awkward when he’s not doing taekwondo. It’s funny because he’ll retreat to the corner in between classes like he’s trying to hide, but then when class starts or you talk to him about taekwondo he’s animated and not awkward at all. That reminded me of James Roday who played Shawn on Psych. He was so gregarious as Shawn, but any time they had a panel or interview or whatever he was pretty quiet and if they were sitting on a couch, he would always pick up a pillow and hug and rub it through the interview. So I jokingly said I needed to make our instructor a pillow. My friend kind of egged me on a little bit and that led to me making a thing. We’ll give it to him tonight at beginner belt graduation (Adrian’s finally, after 3 1/2 years, made it to the high ranks!).

Ani had physical therapy yesterday morning so on the way home we went to Michaels and got fabric, a pillow form, and a pineapple applique.

I printed two copies of the Victory logo and cut it up to use as a pattern.

Then I started sewing. My mom does applique stuff all the time. I think I have once before ever. I was pretty happy with how the Victory logo came out.

I made an envelope pillow case to fit the pillow form. I googled for instructions because I literally had no idea how to do it.

I sewed the Victory logo onto the center of the front of the pillowcase.

I sewed the pineapple applique onto the back of the pillowcase as a nod to Psych and the whole reason I even thought of making him a pillow. I stuffed in the pillow form and it was almost perfect.

I added a few more stitches to fix the corners better and I am very happy with it. I just may have to make one for us to keep!

A Day of Ramadan

A local mosque invited non-Muslims to fast any day of Ramadan and join them that night to eat with them. For each person doing this, they would donate $100 to the Center for Refugee Services.

We fasted on Friday and headed to the mosque Friday night. They answered all of our questions, let us observe their prayers twice, took us on a tour of the mosque, and fed us a delicious dinner.

It was a great experience and hopefully will make things more clear in the boys’ minds when we study Islam and the Arabian peninsula the fifth week of school next year.

Getting to know others who are “different” is what will change the future. So often those who look different on the surface are really more like us than we ever imagined.