For Alyssa

This post is for Alyssa, our precious little niece and cousin who passed away last year on May 25, 2017 from Rett Syndrome.  We love her and miss her dearly.

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow

We wanted to do something special to honor Alyssa's memory today.  The name Alyssa is derived from the tender little flowers called Alyssum.  In the world of flowers, Alyssum means, "worth beyond beauty".  We decided to plant some Alyssum so we think of her everytime we look at them.

I have planted Alyssum a long time ago and I only knew of it as a little white flower.  I went to Calloways to find some and they only had purple.  I had never heard of purple Alyssum.  It was pretty but I wanted white so I went to another nursery.

There I found only yellow Alyssum.  At first I was upset because I had expected to get white.  However, as I looked at the little yellow flowers they reminded me of SpongeBob which was a show Alyssa used to like to watch.  I felt a lot better about getting the SpongeBob Alyssum now.  However, when I got home Stuart pointed out that the purple Alyssum would have been nice too because purple is the color that represents Rett Syndrome.

Today is the one year anniversary of Alyssa slipping back to Heaven so we planted the little Alyssum flowers on the front corner of our house.  They are small plants now but they will spread about 6-8 inches and together they will fill the little flower bed once they are grown.

I also wrote a little poem for Alyssa.

Your warm, sweet smile and sparkling bright eyes
Beamed like rays of sunshine in our lives.
You were a cherished angel on loan to us from Heaven.
It's been a year since you left but our pain hasn't lessened.
Your precious life here was too brief
And our shattered hearts still cry in disbelief
That the angels called you back to Heaven,
A beloved child of not even eleven.
God now holds you in His loving hand.
His perfect timing we will never understand.
Though you are gone we still feel your love
As you shine down on us from the brilliant stars above.

We love you, Alyssa!  We will continue to pray for a cure for Rett Syndrome so that no more families have to say goodbye to their sweet little girls.

Twenty-two Years

Twenty-two years ago I married the love of my life and my best friend.  After all of this time, he still makes my heart flutter and I love him more than ever.

Stuart and I met through mutual friends while we were at LSU in 1991.

Five years later we were getting married.  

Our photographer took me out to some beautiful spots around the old barracks to take some pictures. 

My handsome groom.  

Our wedding was at Ashley Manor in Baton Rouge.  It was an especially nice because Stuart's father sang during the ceremony.

Our wedding party consisted of both of our brothers who happen to both be named Steve, John, my dear friends Kristina and Denise, and Donna, my sister-in-law.

The guys singing Garth Brook's "Friends in Low Places".

It has been an amazing 22 years together.  We have had some moments of mayhem and insanity but the joy and happiness that we have experienced together are beyond measure.  I'm so blessed to spend my life with this wonderful man!

2018 Sandy Lake Homeschool Day

Today we spent a fun day with friends at the Sandy Lake Amusement Park Homeschool Day.  It cost only $10 to get in and that includes unlimited park rides, paddle boats, and pony rides.  It is a great deal!

Sandy Lake is a nostalgic type of amusement park.  It has been around since 1971 and it reminds me of the old Fun Fair Park in Baton Rouge that my parents took me to.

They even have the spyder!  I used to love this ride.

And the Paratrooper or "umbrellas" as I called it was another favorite of mine at Fun Fair Park.  It is so neat that my kids get to ride these same rides many (many) years later.

Of course, since it is Homeschool Day all of our homeschool friends were there too.  The middle school boys and girls were all hanging out together.  Yes, apparently the boys now realize that they can hang out with girls and not get cooties.

The younger girls all stuck together and rode the rides together.  It was the first time I let Rachel go around the park without me.  But she always had a buddy and she has been coming here for years so she knows her way around the park better than most of the other kids.

I couldn't help but pull up some old pictures of Rachel's first visit to Sandy Lake Amusement Park.  That was 7 years ago.  I love this one taken on the same carousel ride.  She is so little and so happy.

We all came back together for a picnic lunch under the shade trees.  I love these kids and their families!  We are all good friends just rolling through this crazy life together.

Home School Navigator {Review}

Language Arts is an important part of our homeschool.   There is nothing more important than being able to use language to take in information about the world around us and then communicate our own ideas to others effectively. Although I wasn't actively looking for a new language arts program to use I am always interested in learning about new programs and resources to see if they might help in our school.  The Home School Review Crew offered us an opportunity to try Home School Navigator for the purpose of a review so Rachel and I have been working through it together.  She received a one year subscription to Home School Navigator Reading and Language Arts curriculum which includes access to their Interactive Notebooks.

Home School Navigator
Home School Navigator is a online comprehensive language arts program for building strong readers and writers.  It is written for homeschool families and it can be used with multiple students.  There are 6 levels named for different colors.  Each level consists of 36 weeks of material to cover one year of instruction.
At first I wasn't sure which level to choose for Rachel.  She is finishing third grade and she is a good reader.  I looked over the Home School Navigator Scope and Sequence for the various levels and decided that Level Blue would be a good fit for her.  However, the subscription provides access for her to use the entire 6 years of coursework so it would be no problem if we started using the Blue level and then decided that it wasn't the best fit for her.  Since we have access to the entire program, we could just move her up a level or down a level to best fit her needs.

Home School Navigator curriculum teaches Literature/Comprehension, Reading Skills Strategy, Writing Skills, Grammar, Phonics, Poetry, and Vocabulary.  The first thing I fell in love with in this program is the organization.  Every day is planned out for you.  Your child may not cover each subject every day but if you follow the lesson plans then all of the subjects will be covered over the week.  
Home School Navigator

I like to print out the lesson plans.  I just have to have printed versions so I can make notes and make check marks when a lesson is complete.  However, the online version presents the same lesson plans for each day and at the end of the week you just click the box to mark it complete.  This way it will keep track of your progress online.

The curriculum is very rich and covers a lot of material.  However, you can choose which subjects and/or activities you want your child to complete.  It is completely flexible and I love that because you can really customize it to meet your particular child's needs.

There are a lot of books to read throughout the program.  To save money, you might be able to find a lot of them at your local library but the creators of Home School Navigator have also made video read alouds so your child can just listen and watch as the story is being read to them.  We already had the book Rapunzel so Rachel wanted to read along with the video.

The weekly vocabulary lists are short so it doesn't get overwhelming.  There are games to make learning fun.  On this week, Rachel learned words with the prefix "pre" and then had to sort and match the definitions with the vocabulary words.

Rachel's favorite part of the program is the literature that she is reading. Her current Independent Reading selection is "The Invention of Hugo Cabret". 

I just love this book and it was fun watching Rachel discover how fun it is to read a story that is mostly just pictures.

The Interactive Notebooks that are included with the curriculum make for a fun way to review what has been read, study the traits of the characters, analyze the story, look up vocabulary words, and more.  It is recommended that you get a binder or even a composition notebook for your child to use for this notebook.  We already had several blank composition notebooks on hand so Rachel chose one of those.  Then she wanted to make a nice cover for it so this is what hers looks like.

The Interactive Notebook pages are printable pages that correspond with chapters in the assigned reading.  There are little flaps to be cut out and glued into the pages of the notebook.

Some are vocabulary words where Rachel had to look up the definition in the dictionary then write it on the booklet.

Somehow just adding flaps and little booklets makes the work more fun.  She never would have enjoyed this so much if I just handed her a regular worksheet to complete.

The Home School Navigator Reading and Language Arts Curriculum is available as an annual online subscription for just $97/year.  If you aren't ready to dive into the full program yet, you might want to start with just trying a few of the interactive notebooks which can be purchased separately for $8.00 each.  

If you would like to see what some other homeschool families had to say about Home School Navigator, just click on the banner below.

Home School Navigator Reading and Language Arts Curriculum {Home School Navigator Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

May 2018 Homeschool Days in DFW

I love living in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  I don't think there is a more homeschool-friendly place in the world.  One of the wonderful things about it is that the local businesses recognize how large the homeschool community is here and they offer special homeschool days just for us!  There are usually special educational talks and usually discounted tickets because we go during their slow times when most kids are in school.

Here are a few of the upcoming homeschool days in the DFW area:

Monday, May 21, 2018

Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT)

Come and GROW with us in our outdoor classrooms at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden and BRIT! Homeschool Day is a custom experience designed to assist exploration for homeschool students and energize their quest to discover more! Learners from K—2nd and 3rd–5th will have meaningful experiences in the Backyard Vegetable Garden. Students 6th–10th will explore energy in nature at the Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT).
Time: 10:00—Noon
Cost: $4 per person
K-5th will meet at the Backyard Vegetable Garden at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden (3220 Botanic Garden Boulevard Fort Worth, TX)
6th-10th will meet at BRIT (1700 University Drive Fort Worth, TX)
Children will be divided by grade levels: K-2nd, 3rd-5th, and 6th-10th. We encourage you to stay with your younger child if you have children in different grade levels.
Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Hawaiian Falls, Mansfield location
NOTE: This event has been cancelled due to low registration numbers.  However, Melissa at Hawaiian Falls said that we can still use the discount code to get tickets and they can be used on any date over the summer.
  • Follow this link:
  • Ticket Price $18 each- Enter this code at checkout (TXHOMESCHOOL18)
  • Cooler Passes are also discounted to $10 with this code
  • 2 years old and under are FREE

  1. Go to
  2. Click the Buy Products button 
  3. Click the Daily Tickets button
  4. Click Big Kahuna to add to your cart (Quantity is chosen by how many times the button is clicked)
  5. Click Categories link at the top of the page
  6. Click Coolers button to add to cart
  7. Click Orange Checkout button on the right
  8. Enter the discount code (TXHOMESCHOOL18100) and select apply to receive your discount
  9. Click Orange Checkout button again to finish the Transaction

Time: 10:00 - 1:00
Cost: $18 each, ages 2 and under are FREE.  Cooler passes are discounted to $10
Location:  490 Heritage Pkwy S., Mansfield, TX 76063
Thursday, May 24, 2018
Hawaiian Falls, Garland location
Time: 10:00 - 2:00
Cost: $16.99 per person without meal; $20 per person to include admission, hot dog, chips, and a drink.
Location:  4550 North Garland Avenue, Garland, TX 75040

Tickets will be sold at the gate the day of the event!
Sandy Lake Amusement Park
We invite you to bring your family, enjoy the attractions and see for yourself,all at a huge discount. This exclusive home school offer allows your family to enjoy the park at a fraction of regular prices. DON’T MISS IT! 
You must bring a PRINTED COPY of their homeschool flyer:
No pets please, except service animals.
Plan a picnic! You may bring home cooked food, bring a grill for a cookout or purchase food at the park refreshment stands.  However, no outside commercially prepared food is allowed (this means no food from outside restaurants is allowed).
For questions e-mail: frank@sandylake.comVisit our website at
Activities Schedule: 
Unlimited miniature golf - 10:00 - 2:00
Unlimited amusement rides, live pony rides, and paddle boats - 11:00 - 2:00
Free hula hoop contest - age 5 and under 11:30, age 9-11 12:30, age 6-8 12:00 noon, age 12 and older 1:00
Door prizes will be given away and there will be homeschool vendor booths set up until 2:00
Falcon Flyers Jump Rope Performance: 2:00
Time: 10:00 - 4:00
Cost: With printed copy of THIS FLYER, prices are $10 per person, children 2 and under are FREE.  Without flyer, prices are $15.  Swimming is an add on for $5.  CASH ONLY. An ATM is on site.
Location: 1800 Sandy Lake Road, Carrollton, TX

Thursday, May 31, 2018
Fort Worth Zoo
All home-schooled children and their families are invited to a fun-filled educational day in the wilds of the Zoo.  Learn amazing facts from our zookeepers at more than 20 Wild Encounters and enjoy asking Zoo staff your best animal questions around the Zoo's world-class exhibits!
Education Program: Chew on This - Animal Show at the Outdoor Learning Theater
Could you please help us set the dinner table? Animal silverware looks different than ours. Join us at the Outdoor Learning Theater as we explore the adaptations different creatures use to gobble up their food. Don’t miss out on this educational program that is exclusive for our Home School Day participants. The show will be great for all ages, so bring the entire family! 
  • Come meet us at the Outdoor Learning Theater at either of the following show times: 11 a.m., noon and 1 p.m. Adults must also purchase a ticket to this program. Tickets are $3 per person, ages 3 and up.
  • Outside organizations such as Barnes and Nobles, Texas Wildlife Association and American Heritage Girls have booths set up in Texas Wild!.
  • Wild Encounter keeper chats around the zoo.
  • Texas Nature Traders program in Texas Wild!. Bring a nature item to trade from your backyard.
Time: 10:00 - 5:00
Toddlers, 2 and younger - free
Children, age 3-12 - $4.50
Adults, age 13+ - $6.00
Education Program tickets - $3.00
Parking - $5.00
Fort Worth Zoo
1989 Colonial Parkway
Fort Worth, TX 76110
phone: 817-759-7200
Please note:
  • Zoo members do not need to register for the event unless purchasing education program tickets.
  • Education program tickets can be purchased at the Train Depot in Texas Wild! Every person attending attending the show must purchase a ticket.
  • Tickets purchased at the gate the day of the event will be $7 for adults and $5.50 for children 3 to 12 years.
  • Add-on purchases (water bottles, backpacks) can be picked up at the registration tent the morning of the event. Please bring proof of purchase.
  • Online registration closes 10 hours before the event (12 a.m.).
  • Tickets are nonrefundable, non-exchangeable and no rain checks will be issued. 
Don't forget to visit the Texas Wild! section of our zoo! Local organizations will be placed in booths to talk to you about other home school opportunities. Texas Nature Traders will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Choose Nature

Rachel had a friend over to play for a while.  I thought they would probably play outside some, play with dolls, make a mess with craft materials.  I had been feeling a little down so I was looking forward to just enjoying some time to myself while they played.  I made plans to sort through that ever-growing pile of random papers and books that have been neglected in the corner of the school room.  It would be to finally have some time to just get that pile cleared out and I thought that might help to lift my spirits.

After about 10 minutes I was getting settled into my project when the girls came bounding up to me begging for me to walk with them down the street to the playground.  I groaned quietly in my head.  I didn't really want to leave the house.  I didn't feel like being social with other moms at the park.  I was so looking forward to just getting some things done around here.  Walking the whole two blocks to the playground in the heat of the day just sounded like too much for me at that moment.  But these girls had such sweet pleading eyes and I felt guilty for not being more excited about my mantra that kids should spend more time playing and exploring outside.  Of course, I eventually gave in.  I knew they would have more fun at the playground than at the house plus they would get some exercise climbing around the play equipment.  Besides we could all benefit from some fresh air and sunshine.

So I filled a backpack with bottles of water and snacks and we headed to the playground.  I found a bench in the shade and settled down to watch the girls play and just let my mind rest, hoping that maybe just sitting and relaxing outside might cheer me up.  But alas, that wasn't meant to be either.  We didn't stay long at the playground.  Almost immediately upon arriving, Rachel told her friend about the dry creek bed in the woods next to the playground and sure enough they chose to go exploring in nature instead of playing at the playground.  Again, I really didn't want to go.  I had resigned that I would just sit on the bench and not have to do anything.

But I do love the woods and exploring a creek... In the end, the call of nature was too strong and I chose to follow its call.  I'm so glad I did.

The girls quickly got to the bridge and went down to the creek bed to explore.

Before they got too involved in exploring I stopped them to have my usual safety in nature talk.  Part of this includes reviewing how to recognize poison ivy.  The most common identifier is leaves of three.  Often the outer two leaves look like they are mittens with a thumb sticking out.  There is often red on the stem.  Poison ivy can be found as a vine, on the ground, or as a bush so you have just keep your eye out for it where ever you go.  It is abundant in the parks in our area.

I showed them Virginia Creeper and explained that many people mistake it for poison ivy but it has five leaves and it is perfectly safe to touch.

They soon found some little bugs swimming around in the creek.

We found these furry little balls hanging from a tree.  I'm not positive but I think these could be young osage oranges.  I will have to go back and look for thorns on the branches to be sure of that though.

We watched some bees scurrying around on a rock.  I wonder if someone had spilled a soft drink there and the bees were enjoying a new kind of "nectar".

Here is a picture of part of the creek bed.  Rocks, shade, beautiful trees, and birds singing overhead.  I was feeling happy just being out here.  Nature has a way of doing that and there are scientific studies to prove it.  Just being in nature can reduce stress and improve mood for many people.  It is certainly a "happy place" for me.

We found several little damselflies.  I think this one might be a familiar bluet damselfly.  It's hard to say for sure without being able to inspect his markings and wings more closely. He didn't seem interested in that and he quickly flew away when I tried to get closer.

The girls were constantly finding a new area of the creek to check out.  They found frogs here.

I found some insect galls on this cedar elm tree.  Cedar elm is interesting.  The top of the leaves are rough like a fine sandpaper and the undersides of the leaves are smooth.

This tree caught our attention. It has these bright seed pods hanging down close to the branches.  I sent a picture of it to a nature group that I'm in and learned that the tree is a green ash.  The girls looked closely at the seed pods and realized that their concave shape would help it float better in the wind which would help spread the seeds farther.

Those sneaky girls were trying to hurry up and hide from me under the bridge.  We were all giggling and being silly.

By the time I crossed the bridge they were already on the other side, feet submerged in the creek and big grins on their faces.  I was so happy that they were having fun.  And to be honest, I was having a lot of fun too!

A little more inspection of the water.

They found a damselfly larva swimming around in there!

Then they found this other one who is a little younger.  It was swimming around too but the girls put it on a leaf just to contain it while they kept searching for more.

I noticed this piece of possible fossil sticking out from a chipped piece of a rock.  Oh if only I had brought my rock hammer with us....

I found this black flying insect munching away on a cedar elm leaf.  I haven't figured out what kind of bug he is but he seems to have a long stinger on him.

The girls found this interesting thing which looks like seeds.  It looks spiky but it was actually very soft and pliable, not spiky at all.  I don't have a clue as to what type of plant it came from.  

My favorite part of the day was when Rachel cried out, "Lobster!  We found a lobster!"  I smiled and without even seeing it I told her it probably more likely a crawfish.  Yep, they found two crawfish.  They thought they wanted to try to catch them but I had to remind them that crawfish had pinchers and we probably didn't want to try to catch them with our bare hands.  They were ok with that and decided to just watch them walk around under water for a while.

We were only out in the woods for an hour or two but we had a great time!  The girls got exercise, built some confidence through exploring, and learned some new things about trees, plants, and critters.  When we got home, I was surprised to realize just how much that fog had lifted from me and I felt happy again, almost excited about what we had found.  Being out in nature is an amazing experience.  No matter what I might be worrying about or feeling down about, being out among the trees always helps me see things in a better light.  I'm so glad we didn't just stay at the house or play at the playground.  I'm so glad we chose nature to explore nature instead.  

Imagine if we all just stepped away from our cell phones and video games and spent even just an hour out in nature once a week.  Do you think we as a society might be a little less stressed, a little more focused, and a lot more happy?

This post is a part of the Homeschool Review Crew's Homeschool Link Up. Want to learn more?  Click on the image below:

Homeschool Review Crew Weekly Link Up