Spelling for Dummies

I will always be the first one to admit that I am a terrible speller. If you ever beta read a book for me you will notice all kinds of mixed up homonyms and typos that spell check wasn’t savvy enough to red line. I used to blame it on the fact that I’m “super creative!!” and I can’t write fast enough to satisfy my creativity if I’m slowing down to look up every other word that may or may not be spelled the way I pull it out of my brain at lightening speed.

It’s a poor man that only knows one way to spell a word.

– Dad

Then I realized I was being ridiculous. There were lots of words (like ridiculous) that I was misspelling the same way over and over again. So I sat myself down and gave myself a talking to.

Self, I said, get it together! You’re a grown woman. You should be able to spell the words you are using. I started to slow down and force myself to think about every word that tripped me up. I even started to GOOGLE THEM! (gasps from the crowd) That takes a lot of time out of the hectic creative brain’s schedule. But the results were positive – not perfect, but positive.

Looks like I’m not the only educator with spelling issues.

Then my kids came along and, except for one, they were worse little spellers than I was. I knew we should probably have spelling time in home school, it’s a big part of the weekly grind in public school, but even the public school grind didn’t make my kids any better spellers and I just couldn’t fit it in. Plus, when I tried to fit it in, no matter how fun or creative I made it, no matter how many times they wrote those words, used them in art projects and creative stories or spelled them out with noodles, they weren’t learning them.

So, I gave up.

I figured they would figure it out when they were adults, just like I did. Or they would use spell check and Google like I do. That’s what the whole world does, right?

OH! CONTRAIRE! (sp?? I know that’s french. I don’t think I should have to know foreign languages as well as my own. I guess I could Google it.. hmmm)

A good friend of mine introduced me to a spelling program called Phonetic Zoo. It sounded way too lame for my oldest, but honestly, I was getting very worried about his lack of consideration for vowels – as in he never really used them. So, I decided to give it a try.

The first thing I did was watch the video. Which I’ve posted here for your viewing pleasure:

It made so much sense to me I almost made a cake.

The whole idea is that when you LOOK at a word on paper then copy it to paper a million times, you are taking all the letters in at the same time and spitting them out at the same time, a lot of times in the wrong order. But if you SAY the word out loud and then spell it OUT LOUD it gets recorded on your brain in order.

And we all know I could use more order in my life!

We are six weeks into the course, it doesn’t take up much time and I’ve seen VAST improvement in my kid’s spelling abilities and retention. Plus I’ve learned a few things my self.

Final evaluation: Two Thumbs UP UP for phonetic zoo – no matter how dumb the name sounds 😉

Here’s a link in case you want to check it out for yourself. You can also find it used on various websites such as eBay or home school recycling sites.

Happy Spellin’!


Doodle Door Update

Some of you may recall a post I put up a few months ago about my sad, sad office door. We lovingly dubbed it the Doodle Door and I gave the kids, and anyone who happened to stop by, a sharpie and free rein.

The results have been amazing. It’s true what someone said, “You’ll let people draw all over this and then you’ll NEVER strip and repaint it. It will be too precious.”

That’s a very good word for it, precious. *gollum*gollum*

No more writing about it. Here are the pictures so you can enjoy it yourself.

***NOTE: All wild scribbling by Little George.










Super Happy Fun School is actively working on spelling.




Puke Waxes Poetic

It has been a crappy, crappy month. Which sucks (yes, I’m using all the mommy swears today) because it’s our big birthday month. Several of us have birthdays in February, plus we have Valentine’s day and all those other fun, lesser holidays. Anyway, we usually party our brains out, but instead we’ve been puking our guts out for two weeks straight plus fevers and sinus infections. It’s like I’m living in a dystopian novel or something. Anyway, it’s reminded me of this poem I wrote a few years ago. My, how nothing changes… I love my job, no matter how gross. Mike Rowe has nothing on me.


A Mother’s Valentine

I do not love you with candy hearts 
Or waxy chocolates from the dollar store.
I do not love you with flowers that wilt
Or toys that break by lunchtime. 
I do not love you with frothy cards 
Full of glitter and inane declarations written by some other hand.
Rather, I love you with bacon sizzling in the dark morning hours before the birds.
I love you with a soft blanket tucked around your shoulders after you drift away. 
I love you with bags full of library books and bags under my eyes,
With lectures on strangers and street ball,
With broccoli and cabbage and peaches and spinach
and dirt under my nails from our three season organic garden. 

I love you with long walks in the park and stories about childhood without video games. 
I love you with homemade cookies. 
I love you with piano lessons. 
I love you with a foggy, sleep deprived brain. 
I love you with red leaky eyes and a heavy heart when you are hurting. 
I love you with exclamations and swelling emails to your grandparents when you are triumphant. 
And oh! 
So very, very, very many photographs. 
I love you with blossoming fears and fully rooted dreams. 
I love you with food on my floor and barf on my shirt. 
I love you with marker decorating the new couch. 
I love you with Tide, Clorox, baking soda and vinegar. 
I love you with toothpaste and tear-free shampoo. 
I love you with gluten free vanilla special ordered from Madagascar. 
I love you with the latest Pixar movie and popcorn and a blanket on the floor. Likewise, 
I love you with time out and grounding until you turn 21. 
I love you with the keys to the car, 
my best lipstick,
the necklace your daddy gave me, 
and my credit card. 
I love you with pride and humility and every night I love you on my knees,
pouring out my soul to Our Father who made us, 
grateful to be your mother, 
pleading for your safety,
longing for your comprehension,
but knowing it will only come 
when you are a parent too.

My Precious – The Doodle Door

I found a door in my shed. I did a bit of research and realized it belonged in the passage between my kitchen and dining room/office. Replacing it suddenly seemed like an amazing idea. I’d have a tiny layer of privacy.

So I bought new hardware, hauled it out, scrubbed it and hung it.

Then I stood back, and sighed.

It looked horrible.

As usual, I’d been in a big hurry, was distracted by kids, burning dinner and yah… You get it.

The paint was chipping off in big patches, in the bright kitchen lights you could clearly see the black stains mildew had left, and there were bubbles in the creases where the paint was getting ready to pop off.

But I liked my door. And I was too busy to take it down and strip it, then refinish it and rehang it. So I stared at it and started to hate it.

Then one day I decided to stop hating. I took out a sharpie and wrote right across the gross paint at eye level:

“This door is shabby chic. Don’t judge.”

Of course I screwed up the word shabby so it looked like my first grader wrote it, and that made me think… Hey, why not?

And that is how the Doodle Door was born.

You should have seen how thrilled my kids were when I explained the idea to them. They could write, in permanent marker no less, on the doodle door anytime they wanted.

Now when I’m stressed or deep in thought I grab the sharpie and start to doodle. I plan on covering every inch of that door – I get stressed a lot.

Now when I look at it I don’t hate it. I love it and I feel inspired. Such a simple thing, a black sharpie, and what a profound difference it has made for our home.

I believe every little corner of your home should bring you happiness and peace. We’re getting there.



Christmas Overload

I usually have Christmas in full swing at my house by the first of December but this year we didn’t haul the red and green boxes out of the attic until well past thanksgiving. Once I finally climbed up there and started funneling them down to my husband, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of them.

These are BIG totes, not your average size closet box – and we had six of them! That doesn’t include the giant tree in a bag, huge wardrobe box of wreaths for the outside of the house or yard blow ups. My husband asked if I wanted him to drag them all inside and I had a mini panic attack. I’m trying to get rid of the huge amount of stuff in my house. These holiday crap cartons would set me back six months!!

So we left them in the garage right next to a donation bin and three large garbage cans. This year instead of over decking my halls, I’m trimming the fat. Already got rid of two boxes full and still purging. And you know what? My house still looks festive. I would love to have two boxes and a smaller tree. So that’s what we’re aiming for. Anyone need a 7 foot fake beauty in a bag that’s more cumbersome than a dead body to hide in the off season?

Happy holidays!!

Home School Night Terrors

Uuuuugh!!!! School starts at our house on Monday. I’m ready, but I’m SOOO not ready!

I’ve homeschooled before, but never like this. I’ve never had three kids that needed so much focus on curriculum. And don’t forget baby guy running around.

Oh ya, and we got a dog.

Because my life was too boring. (Insert crazy face here.)

When the kids were little, school was easy. It was even fun. We read books, went to the museum, counted m&ms and ate them for math. Life was great back then.

Flash forward four years.

My kids have actual academic needs. I have to evaluate what levels each one is on for each subject, plan the books and assignments and get a week ahead of them for lessons – times three.

But it’s all good, because I know that my kids thrive on the one-on-one attention. I know that my kids progress at lightening speed in a quiet environment with frequent breaks. And actually, I just know my kids. They are going to drive me absolutely crazy this year.

I wouldn’t miss it for the world 🙂

Kids Are People Too

I’ve given up.

I threw in the towel, tossed the cheese, kicked the hole in the bucket. Whatever.

I realized this week that I’ve been trying to live the magical life of my dreams, with gardens and books deals and happy children happily eating the food I happily prepare for them in a spotless kitchen. It’s like swimming up river during flood season. It’s not worth it and it rarely happens.

This week I realized that I’ve been trying to stuff the five people I live with (because kids are people too) into my idea of happy. It’s kind of a round place that I fit into nicely, but they are sort of a bunch of other shapes and with all of us in here it’s relatively crowded and, well, not fun.

I am still the mom, I’m still in charge of making sure everyone has something to eat and clothes that fit, but I’m also in charge of getting to know those people at my table. I decided this week that I want to know what makes them happy and give them that, one at a time, every day.

It’s a big job, but I’m excited to do it. I love these people. They are my whole world. When they are happy, ultimately I’m happy too.

This doesn’t mean everything is sunshine and roses from here on out. I still need me time to write and run or go out with my friends. And I’m sure they will still be ornery even when I do my best to listen and make life good for them. But it all comes down to priorities and even though I’ve always said that my family comes first, I think I’m finally seeing how to make that happen.