Friday, May 31, 2019

little lost cat

Two weeks ago, I snapped my first picture of this girl. I'd previously seen her hanging around our place, which wasn't unusual as I've spotted a number of feral cats in the neighbourhood. (Lately, three different male cats have been making the rounds through our yard every few days.) Typically, though, whenever they hear to door to the house open, they  will take off running and no amount of coaxing or food will get them to come back. But this girl was different. She kept her distance, but didn't run. And once she realized I had food to offer, she popped right back out of the long grass and went straight for the dish. 

Now I know what you're all thinking....if you feed a stray, you'll never get rid of her.  But that was my point. The entire neighbourhood cat population has been decimated over the past few years. The coyotes, fishers, and other wild critters around here have found that outdoor cats make an easy dinner. For this reason, we haven't had barn cats for a few years, after the last one mysteriously vanished. 

Although we have two handsome indoor cats already, a barn just isn't a barn without a barn cat. So I'd been hoping to lure one  over (preferably a tough, street-wise male), and convince him to stay. But no such luck.

Once absorbed in her food, I was actually able to come over and gently pet her. Despite being very obviously hungry, she immediately began purring, stopped eating, and demanded more attention. I was able to pick her up in my arms, which was when I noticed she'd been nursing multiple kittens. Over the next few days, I spotted her a few more times and made a point of feeding her in the barn. I started leaving food out in the barn every day, regardless of whether I saw her. It was always gone the next day, although I wasn't certain she was the one eating it. And there was no sign of any kittens.

Well, on May 21st, she came right up to the house, meowing for food. She immediately followed me to the barn, ran over to her empty dish, and quickly gobbled up all the food I'd brought with me. Then she turned, meowed, and led me right over to the false wall in the hayloft where countless generations of clever Mama cats have hidden babies. After a few more chirps, imagine my surprise when not one or two, but FIVE kittens emerged from their hiding spot in the wall!

Over the past eleven days, feeding and petting these six has become part of our daily routine. The kittens are surprisingly friendly, for not having any human contact in roughly the first  six weeks of life. Obviously, Mama was someone's pet at one time. She is absolutely wild for human contact, and is affectionate with everyone, including our almost three-year-old. The babies are growing well, now that they are eating hard food.

In fact, Mama has to eat her food up on the beam, if she wants more than a few bites for a meal.

They are all SO, SO cute!

Welcome home, Mama!

*P.S. If anyone is seriously looking to adopt a kitten, 
I would be persuaded to let one or two go. 
So far, I've only confirmed two males (one black, one grey), 
and I'm hoping to avoid being overrun with kittens by this time next year.*

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

homeschooling resources

I have always been quite vocal about my support for homeschooling. My horrendous experiences teaching in the public board, plus the fact that private school is just not affordable for many of today's families, have only intensified this support. Since I am a certified primary teacher, with over ten years of classroom experience, it seemed like a no-brainer that I would eventually try my hand at homeschooling.

Our daughter will be almost 3 1/2 by September, and even though we are already busy learning, reading, playing, or crafting, I would love to start a more structured preschool program at home for her. Ever the planner, I've already spent a great deal of time sorting through my old resources that have been in storage since my sabbatical from the classroom. 

If you, or someone you know, are considering homeschooling your little one, here are some of my favourite helpful preschool/kindergarten/primary grade resources:


I attended a conference on Building Blocks back in 2006, which was instrumental in how I went on to build my kindergarten literacy program. One thing from the book that I implemented right away, was the use of Morning Messages. I definitely plan to do this with our daughter.

Someone gifted me this series, and I used it for both my JK and SK students to reinforce letter sounds and print concepts. Somehow in my travels, I lost the "q" book (any blog readers want to sell me a copy??) but I am excited to share the rest of the series with my daughter.

For teaching letter sounds, a lot of teachers are using the Jolly Phonics program. I like the different songs they have for each letter. My daughter loves music, so this will be a great way for her to remember each letter's special sound.

Although I typically don't use worksheets for kindergarten age, (I'm an advocate for the play-based approach to kindergarten), one thing I like about this book is that it has letter sounds cut and paste activities which are great for fine motor skill practice. It also has food creation/snack ideas to go with each letter, which are a great addition for homeschooling families. I also love how it includes mini books for each letter sound, which are fantastic for learning sight words.

If you don't want to purchase any workbooks, but would prefer to go the worksheet route, offers free printable resources for preschool (and beyond), including this cute worksheet, which would be a great supplement for fine motor skill and letter recognition practice. 

In addition, has a ton of levelled reading resources for kindergarten and beyond. You do have to subscribe in order to access all the materials, but they do offer a 2 week free trial. It's a great way to find books that are at the correct reading level, in addition to allowing you to track your child's reading progress.

For older students (grade 1 and beyond), these resources were very valuable to me:

Finally, there are tons and tons of alphabet songs, activities, and craft ideas on Google and Pinterest that you can make use of.



The first book is dated, but it was my first available resource when I began planning my math program for JK. It has many large and small group lesson ideas, as well as ideas for organizing games and hands-on activities. Best of all, there are no worksheets, making it perfect for preschool and JK. I used the second book for extra lesson ideas, games, and learning centers, perfect for JK.

I followed this curriculum series when I taught SK math, and loved the detailed lesson plans as well as all the games and activities. There are some work sheets, but they supplement the games and activities. I look forward to using this again.

Although Jump Math offers kindergarten curriculum, I would prefer to exclusively use my play-based program. I am, however, considering purchasing the grade 1 workbooks, which are reasonably priced at about $12 each. Having worked with current Math Makes Sense curriculum in the past, I much prefer Jump Math.


All of these resources are excellent to get your littles singing, dancing, and moving!


I used all of these websites while I working as a tutor. They all offer great online games, based on age/grade level.

Current homeschooling parents, and primary teachers: What are your favourite resources? Leave a comment below!

*********The opinions expressed in this post are mine alone. 
Each family should choose resources and curriculum that is right for them. 
I have not been compensated in any way for promoting any materials listed in this post. *********

Sunday, December 16, 2018

christmas greetings 2018

Dear Friends, Family and Blog Readers,

Well, it's that time of year again.... As I mentioned in last year's 2017's letter, how quickly the time flies! We've had another very busy year, with our very busy little girl. She enjoys dress-up, tea parties, baking, playing Barbies and reading with Mommy. She shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon, so we can only imagine what 2019 will look like!

Here are some highlights from Olivia's year:
January-Olivia's first cough, cold, and stomach flu bug 

February-Olivia's first visit to the Broekema's without Mommy or Daddy

March-Olivia starts using full sentences (3-4 words)

April-Olivia discovers Mommy's old Barbies and names them all! Mommy designs and builds Olivia a real Barbie house to keep them in.

May-Olivia helps in the garden and picks dandelions for Beppe at a penny a piece.

June-Olivia is potty trained and celebrates her 2nd birthday with a party in the backyard

July-Olivia goes swimming in the pool for the 1st time and goes on the Ferris wheel with Daddy at the Waterfront Festival

August-Olivia graduates to a big-girl bed

September-Olivia finally goes to the church nursery without Mommy

October-Olivia stops her afternoon nap and starts sleeping 11 hrs/night. Princess Olivia goes trick-or-treating for Halloween

November-Olivia starts bi-weekly play dates with new friend Jaylynn

Some family highlights:

Mommy is still at home full-time with Olivia. We enjoy our lunch dates at Grandpa Larry and Grandma's house. 
We also like to visit Beppe next door several times a week. 

We try to get together with the Broekema cousins as much as possible. 

Aunt Bon also comes to see us every few months. Mommy and Olivia try to get together somewhat regularly with a couple close friends who also have young children.

We were extremely blessed to have use of our neighbours' pool all summer long. Olivia took to the water fairly quickly and enjoyed visiting our new friends, "Mr. Ron" and "Ms. Gayle."

In July, we visited the Broekema family while they camped at Wesley Acres. In September, Mommy and Olivia enjoyed several beautiful days at the Dunes Beach, and a day at Outlet Beach with Grandpa Larry and Grandma.

Our new garden setup with four 5'x5' garden boxes was a success. We canned numerous jars of tomatoes, in addition to pickles, chili sauce, salsa, and relish.


Olivia was able to help Mommy pick strawberries and raspberries at the VanGrootheest farm. We made lots of jam, and also froze berries to enjoy in our smoothies this winter. Mommy's home business, The County Cupboard, enjoyed another successful year, selling homemade preserves and Christmas gift baskets. 

Daddy also had a busy year. In addition to working full time, he cut and split 8 cords of wood and helped Mommy in the garden. He also completed a variety of indoor and outdoor home maintenance projects. In September, Daddy started weight training, in addition to his daily walking routine. 

In October, our friends, the Ryttersgaards, visited us from Barbados. We were able to catch up with Jon & Mel, and Olivia was able to have some play time with Max and Wade.

We want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and God's blessings in the New Year.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

home sweet home: the making of our dream house (part 2)

Our daughter has adored playing Barbies ever since she was 18 months old.

I had some old Barbie stuff from my childhood that I was only too happy to bring out for her. I had also picked up a small folding Barbie cottage for a couple bucks, as well as a number of Barbie accessories from various thrift stores over the past few years. And so, every once in a while, we'd pull out the tote and set it up the Barbie stuff for a few days.

However, whenever I'd put everything away, the next day she'd be asking to play Barbies again. It was then I realized she was serious about her Barbies and that we needed something a little more permanent. 

The simplest DIY solution would be to put all our Barbie furniture into a large cube shelf like this. 

9 rooms, ready-made. Easy peasy. Except the cubes are a 1/2" too small and a Barbie can't stand upright inside them. That was not going to work for us. Especially with my daughter's fascination with the Barbie shower. Then I found this used shelf online for $15. After a little paint, and screwing in a scrap piece of melamine to divide the upstairs into two sections, we had the beginning of our house. 

Since that wasn't big enough for all the Barbies and their stuff, I re-arranged the shelves on an old bookshelf/night stand we already had, cut some backing from a sheet of leftover beadboard with a circular saw, and voila! We had 3 more rooms. 

But once the wheels started rolling, there was no stopping us.  I found a second bookshelf/nightstand to add a bit more space. Although my limited skills with power tools were improving, I enlisted the help of Mr. Gryce for installing a roof with his brad nailer. 

We pulled a bunch of things off our old Barbie cottage to use in the new house, including the old kitchen counter.

 Our old furniture and accessories also fit quite nicely, although I added a TV to the living room fire place nook.

However, we were still lacking some necessities like a dining table and chairs, double beds, a washer and dryer, and a bathtub. After searching thrift stores to no avail, and after checking the prices of said items on Amazon (eeks!), I asked Google for ideas on how to make our own. 

I dug out my old glue gun, and raided my rag bag and the scrap wood pile in the garage. From there I was able to piece together some pretty neat things, like this clementine crate-turned-dining table.

Another old clementine crate, paired with my 15-year-old tee shirt from cousin Carmen was re-purposed into a bed.

Some small cardboard boxes with scrapbook paper became the new washer and dryer.

We even made a mop!

And my favourite...a bedside lamp!

And now, without further ado, here's the completed main part of the house (kitchen, bedroom and office/spare room), made from that original book case:

The master bedroom and the attic storage room:

The little girls' room and the teenager room:

The bathroom/laundry room and garage below:

The 2nd bathroom and living room:

The patio and pool area (pool was a recent birthday gift from our daughter's aunt):

And a look at the entire house:

I am not the only one who is pleased by the final result. Our daughter has named all the Barbies and has already spent hours and hours playing with her new house.


FYI: you can read part 1 (all about the making of our dream house) right here.