Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What a Wednesday!

Wednesdays are pretty easy days for us.  Tarja got busy right away on  Melody and I went to the store and got stuff that she wanted to use to make brunch for us. I also found a fun Elmo book for writing practice and some Elmo flashcards to use for Ivana. Melody made spinach and mushroom pizza with Alfredo sauce for me and for herself, and a pepperoni pizza for the spinach haters.  How can you not love spinach????  Tarja got to help put the pepperoni on the pizza and then worked out of her new Elmo workbook while the pizza baked.  Abbey worked on her stuff and then Ivana played on (keep in mind that she's 22 months old).  I dropped Melody off at work, came home and made this:
then dropped Tarja, Abbey and Ivana off at a friend's birthday party.
While they were at the birthday party, I gave a private lesson for a new Sparkler member.  As soon as I got everybody home from the party, I received an order for an emergency Minion hat for a Halloween costume.  I got that finished up in less than an hour, cause I'm the Minion Making Mama.
Now, let's see how quickly I can put together a Halloween party on a budget, a Thanksgiving food basket project for my Girl Scout troop, complete a fairly large crochet order that is wanted almost immediately, and get ready for one, possibly two twirling performances within this next week and a half.  RUNNNN!!!!!!

Have a Great Day!
Laurel Santiago

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

I'm Busy and I KNOW It!

So it goes a little something like this:

1.  Get up, get dressed, get some makeup on, get out the door.
2.  Drop Princess Abbey off at the animal shelter.
3.  Run by a friend's house for a minute.
4.  Stop by the church to find out what time they want The Sparklers at the St. John's Festival.  No one was there.
5.  Go to our favorite convenience store got gas and drinks.
6.  Empty any trash that might be in the Tahoe, cause that's my habit that I've established.  We get gas, we empty trash.
7.  Get on the road that leads us to Walmart in the next town.
8.  Stop at the convenience store instead, cause Princess Tarja needs a pit stop and Princess Ivana needs a diaper.
9.  Stop to eat lunch at Long John Silver's, because Princess Ivana is howling at us from her car seat.
10. Hit Walmart to get Princess Melody's shoes that she needs for work.
11. Stop at Sam's Club for gas, because they are below $3.00 a gallon today.  Yay!
12.  Hit a party supply store to get an item that my friend needed.
13.  Get home and pick up Princess Abbey from the animal shelter.
14.  Run through McDonalds to get Princess Abbey some lunch.
15.  Run BACK to McDonalds, because they gave me a Doctor Pepper instead of a Diet Coke.  GRRRR
16.  Run Princess Abbey and Princess Tarja to practice for the local haunted house.
17.  Drop Princess Ivana off at her babysitter's house.
18.  Beat is to the park to teach a one hour twirling lesson.
19.  Pick up Princess Ivana from the babysitter.
20.  Drop Princess Melody off to work.
21.  Pick up Princess Abbey and Princess Tarja from haunted house practice.
22.  Make BBQ sandwiches with ground beef that I needed to hurry up and cook, and leftover hot dog buns from last night's dinner.  I agree, Martha Stewart.  It wasn't that good, but it was fast and everybody got full.  Sticking tongue out at Martha Stewart, even though I love watching her shows.
23.  Had a good heart to heart talk with a friend.
24.  Had my supper....that wasn't all that good, but it was supper.  Thank you, Martha Stewart, for pointing out that bloggers are bad, because we might post recipes that have been untested.  Har Har Har
25.  Did a little facebooking, and realized that I still haven't started a friend's garter that she needs for her wedding that's in three days. 
26.  Going to get off of here now, and start working on that garter.  LOL!

Have a Great Day!
Laurel Santiago

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Little Lazier Today

Sunday in the household of The Four Princesses was a little slower than Saturday.  Not by much, though.  To make use of some of the peppers that I got in Coyanosa yesterday, I made jalapeno popper dip, which is one of my favorite things in the world.  Then, Melody and I went to help get the Girl Scout house ready for tomorrow's Fall Festival.  I don't know that we were THAT much help, but we did as much as we could.  Melody had to get back to the house to get ready for work.  I launched a project for my Girl Scout troop for Thanksgiving.   For supper, I made stuffed poblano peppers, which turned out to be hotter than Hades.  I have never had a really hot poblano before.  Maybe I'm just crazy.  So, all that I have eaten today has been things involving really hot peppers. Let's hope that I am alive to blog about it tomorrow. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Soccer, Pumpkins and Parties

This morning, we got up early to take Tarja to her soccer game.  She loves to play soccer, almost as much as she loves ice cream.  It was cold this morning.  Two other girls and their mothers showed up.  One mother sent me a message to tell me that her daughter wouldn't play today, because it was too cold, and the rest just didn't come.  The three that we had ready to play were in tears when it was determined that we had to forfeit to the other team, because we did not have enough players.

As soon as we left that situation, we went home, changed clothes, gathered up the rest of the family, and headed off to Coyanosa, Texas, which is not very far from where we live.  We went to the Mandujano Brothers pumpkin patch.  They were having a family day, and this was our first time to get to go.  As soon as we got there, we got to take a hayride out to the middle of the pumpkin patch.

There, we were left to scout out our perfect pumpkins.

We picked out one pumpkin for each of us.  The driver of the hayride returned to take us back to the area where we had to pay for our pumpkins.  I paid $25 for the five pumpkins.  We put them away, and then we went through a maze that they had created with bales of hay.  There was also an area where the kids could just jump in the hay, which Tarja was though was amazing.

Indoors, there was a place to buy hot food, packaged food, a few areas with photo props for us photo loving mamas, and a jumper/slide for the kids to play on.  We stayed as long as we could get by with and still get home in time for a dear little friend's birthday party, and for Melody to get ready for work.  On our way out, we stopped at their roadside vegetable stand, and purchases big bags of poblano peppers, jalapeno peppers, onions, a watermelon and a little, white, Cinderella pumpkin.  I think that I spent about $18 on all of that.  Now, the job is to figure out how I want to prepare and preserve these items.

Me, Tarja and Abbey went to the costume Halloween birthday party while Ivana had a nap, and Melody washed her uniform.
  The birthday party was a success.  I even got a crochet order out of the deal.  I dropped Abbey and Tarja off, picked up Melody, dropped her off at work, and went to the store to purchase the materials needed to make the ripple baby afghan that was ordered by one of the party guests. 

For the rest of the evening, I need to make two newsboy caps and start on the ripple afghan.  My house is a disaster, because that's what typically happens on days like today.  I don't know how it happens, since we weren't here all day, but someday it might make sense.

Have a Great Day!
Laurel Santiago

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Sparklers Parade Corps

I promised a blog about The Sparklers, and didn't have a chance to bring it, but this group is something very, very dear to me.  I have had small twirling classes since I was about 16 years old.  Some of these groups went over really well and some of them tanked for a variety of reasons.  It was a trial an error processes that has spanned the course of  approximately 21 years.  WOW!!!  Has it really been that long?  Am I really THAT old????  Let's put it this way:  I have "little twirlers" that are married with children now.  YIKES!  I have taught children of twirlers that I have taught.  DOUBLE YIKES!

At any rate, the specific group that has been known as The Sparklers, started out in a little town called Crane, Texas, as a Girl Scout activity.  We had not created the name at that point, but I knew that all of the girls were interested in baton twirling, cheer leading, dancing, etc, and I felt that it was not very much fun to have Girl Scouts riding on floats in local parades.  The floats were usually bland, at best, and the girls didn't have a chance to really show themselves.  It would be a mess of girls, sitting on a poorly decorated trailer........a big waste of time, in my opinion.  I asked this Girl Scout group of varied ages if they would like to try baton twirling and they unanimously decided to do it.  They used money that they had earned through product sales to purchase their Girl Scout sashes to wear for their first parade, and I taught them a very easy routine to some fun, popular music.  It was a big hit.  After that parade, they decided that they wanted to continue twirling, and so we named ourselves The Sparklers, because it was a patriotic themed group. 

After that first year of The Sparklers being only open to our local Girl Scouts, we began to invite other girls to participate.  The first parade that we did as a community group, we were awarded honorable mention for the July 4th parade and the next year, we were Best Youth Entry.  Things just blossomed from there. 

We moved to another town, called Monahans, Texas, which is about an hour away from Crane.  The first thing that happened to us in Monahans, was that our new house got broken into and every single baton was stolen, including batons that I had used myself as a little girl.  I was devastated.  This may not be something that would affect other people exactly the way that it did me, but my entire life had been wrapped up in twirling since I was a little girl.  The thieves should have taken any number of things, but that. 

About a year later, I was able to buy new batons for all of us, and I got started working with just my own children again.  They invited some friends to start practicing with us.  We did a couple of local parades.  I started getting phone calls from mothers, wanting to know how to sign up, and before I knew it, I had this amazing team of girls, eager to learn, ranging from age 3 to 18.  When I realized how truly large we had grown, was when I tried to get a picture of the group rehearsing, and discovered that I could not fit them all in my camera's view at the same time! 

Since then, girls have come in and out.  Some have left and came back.  I feel the sting of any of them that leave, and rejoice when they return.  Some girls move away, some have health problems, some just decide that twirling isn't for them, and some even go to different teachers.  I do feel the loss and gain of each and every one of them.  God brings us all together for a reason, for however long that may be.  My team usually averages about 25 girls at the time, with most of them active, while others just come when they are able. 

This year, we have performed in three parades, with a fourth on the schedule, the local Freedom Fest for July 4th, Relay for Life, the Big 2 News talent show, and had two half time performances for the West Texas Drillers football team.  We have many, many dates booked between now and December, and invitations are already coming in for the summer. 

We have had a lot of support from places like the local Chamber of Commerce, Pinatas by Missy, Persuasion Car Club, Critter Oasis and St. Johns Catholic Church  Without them, I don't know that we would have grown exactly the way that we have.  In turn, we have helped with fund raising for Critter Oasis, and have participated in school supply drives.  There will be more community service activities as they come available. I am so grateful for all that everyone has done for us. Also, the support from the parents in this group is phenomenal, and I am still in contact with MY twirling teacher from "back in the day."  She still goes down in the books as being one of my all time favorite people.

Here are The Sparklers and the Lady Drillers:

 Here is the last July 4th Parade, with Persuasion Car Club lined up with us: 
 They were all smiles as the parade was about to start rolling:

 This was a private lesson with a fellow homeschooling family:

The photo above was from Christmas 2012.
Below, the girls took a picture with a Hello Kitty twirler pinata that was made by Pinatas by Missy.  

Above, the parents put together this float for the girls for the Christmas 2012 parade.
As you can well imagine, there are many, many more pictures, and will be many more made in the coming months, but I just wanted to share this exciting part of the lives of The Four Princesses.  Hope that you are loving it as much as I am.

Have a Great Day!
Laurel Santiago

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Girl Scouts and Stuff

Yesterday, it rained all day long.  We didn't get to have our twirling lesson.  Tarja was upset about that.  I wasn't thrilled, since we have a parade this coming Friday in the next town.  Today, it has stopped raining, but it's a little bit cold.  I have a private lesson this afternoon with a new student, so I'm excited about that, and am hoping that it doesn't get rained out.  For those of you in the twirling world that wonder why we practice outdoors anyway, I have to add that we have the majority of our performances outdoors, so it stands to reason that we would practice outdoors.  When it gets too cold to do so, we practice at a church that has generously donated the use of their gym.  This allows us to practice year round.  We are the only twirling, dance or cheer team that I know about in our area that doesn't break for Summer.

Melody made my nails look like panda bears today, and then we had to rush off to a Girl Scout service unit meeting.  It was a good meeting.  I think that we got a lot discussed that needed to be discussed.  I love that we are a drama free group.  We all seem to like doing the same things.  I am the nerdy Girl Scout, though.  I have never been into camping.  I prefer doing things like learning home survival skills, crafts, emergency preparedness.  However, I am going to take the camping training next month.  Maybe after that, I will enjoy camping a whole lot more. Here are my panda bear nails.  I haven't had my nails done in a very long time.

Now, something that I worry about is the government shutdown.  It hasn't directly affected my family, but I fear that it will in the near future.  What about you?  Have you lost anything or fear that you will lose anything because of it?  If so, what can somebody do to help?  Please comment and don't hold back.  We, truly want to know.  Also, please don't turn it into a discussion about who should and should not be on government assistance.  That's another blog for another time, guaranteed to ruffle your feathers.  For now, let's focus on our families.  Tell us what is going on in your part of the country.  As for me and the Four Princesses, we had a little executive session last night about cutting out unnecessary spending for awhile.  After all, we are small business owners, who have customers that may be affected by this situation, and that will affect us. 

Have a Great Day!
Laurel Santiago

Monday, October 14, 2013

Columbus Day OFF

The local public school did not give kids the day off from school for Columbus Day.  I gave the Four Princesses the day off.  Well, at least they had a day off from logging into their online courses.  They still watched educational programs, did chores around the house, went to soccer practice and Girl Scouts.  I don't think that there is really a such a  thing as a day off in our house.

I think that the biggest part of my home based business is my crocheted hats and beanies.  People from all over the place will order them from me.  I think that's awesome, and I am very grateful.  A lot of times, the sale of one hat puts gas in my car or food on our table.  The sale of one hat buys at least a week's worth of diapers and wipes.  Wages might be higher, but so are prices for everything, and it isn't as worthwhile to work outside the home as one might think.  I was one that thought....and lost, so I'm back in the WAHM saddle again, full force.  I can DO this.  I know I can.

Here are some of the hats that I have made just within the past few days:

Yesterday, I mentioned trying to use up stuff around the house, or trying to find alternative ways to use up stuff that I found no longer useful.  We made the giant bubble solution, which was great fun.  So much fun, in fact, that we took the bucket of bubble solution to Girl Scouts tonight, to play with while waiting for girls to be picked up at the end of the meeting.

Here is Abbey, helping out at the Critter Oasis Adoption Fair.  She was the doggie.  I was the mommie:
Maybe tomorrow night, I will tell you all about The Sparklers.

Have a Great Day!
Laurel Santiago

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Back in the Blogging Saddle

The last few months have been spent focusing more on earning money for my family, getting out of debt, and holding our own in the homeschool realm.  It's been tough.  Nobody has had a whole lot of fun around here. The house has been a wreck, and I have felt like a horrible mother.  I love the Four Princesses with all of my heart.  I can't think of much, if anything, that I do that is not done with some benefit for them in mind.  That's not a complaint.  It's a fact.

One of the things that I enjoy doing, that has suffered, is my writing and blogging.  I haven't updated my personal journals in at least two months.  I haven't updated The Four Princesses in several months.  In fact, I didn't even want to get out of bed this morning, which is not normal for me.

Abbey came into my room this morning.  I was wide awake.  My eyes were fixed on the ceiling.  I could see that there was dirt on my ceiling and ceiling fan.  I was envisioning how I might possibly get a new floor into our kitchen.  Thinking about moving things like the china cabinet out of there didn't sound like much fun.  Could me, Melody and Abbey handle it?  Should I ask somebody for help?  Abbey sat down next to me and informed me that it was nearly 11a.m.  I thought about it for a minute and said that I was so hungry and uncomfortable, that I didn't feel like I could get up.  See....even a mom can be a drama queen.  She smiled and pointed out that maybe I was so hungry because I had slept through breakfast.  Hmmm......maybe.  Even a diabetic mama ought to be able to miss breakfast once in awhile. She kept looking at me, as though she were a little amused by my childish behavior.  Then, she asked, "Whatever happened to The Four Princesses?"  I said, "Oh, that's just the name of my blog."  She said, "I KNOW.  You need to start doing that again."  "Yeah, I guess I should do that," I said.  By now, I am thinking of all of the things that I should be getting done around the house, that I was not doing while I was laying in my bed, thinking of things that didn't really matter.  For example, we have no drinking water in the house.  Why did I not fill our water jugs last night?  While I got dressed, I thought about a million and one things that I could have been blogging about while I was AWOL, so if I have not bored you to death by now, here is one of the many things that I have cooking up now that I am back to working from home:

Use it UP!

I have been working hard on decluttering my house, and then something dawned on me.  I have mentioned this to other friends in the past, but now I'm going to share it here, because I have extended this idea to the Four Princesses.  When you look at things like your beauty supplies or your kitchen cabinets, do you see a trend?  Do you see where we have shoved things that we have purchased or received to the back of the cabinets or to the bottom of the drawers, forgotten that we had those things and then went out and bought more?  Is this not a problem?????  I perused an entire area of my home that is full of things like moisturizers and lotions.  Is my skin any less dry than it was when I bought those things?  Do I not still love the perfumes?  Why am I not using them?  In the kitchen, there are food items that I stopped using due to dietary reasons or because I just didn't like them.  I used to cook and bake all the time.  Now I don't.  Are there other ways to use those items?  Could I make something with them just for the princesses?  Can I use some things in craft projects?  Should some things just go in the trash?  So, that's the challenge.  This is what I've come up with so far.

Beauty products:  I am making more of a focused effort to keep my skin, especially my face, moisturized.  During a bath time for Tarja and Ivana, I let them play while I decluttered the bathroom.  If we stopped using an item because it was too old or that we were allergic to it or something, it went in the trash.  This made more room for things that need to be used up and made better use of the cute little organizers that I made last year out of baby wipe containers, because now there is no overflow.  It all fits neatly in the shelves.  It almost feels like I have a remodeled bathroom.  I can spray my sheets with body spray when I make the bed.  Slather myself with perfumed lotions all day long, and keep my face soft and wrinkle free with all of those moisturizers that I bought and forgot about.  I have a pretty grand stockpile of body wash and baby wash.  Maybe we should bathe more often. Just kidding!  I also discovered that within this mess, was something like FOUR open tubes of toothpaste.  They are now out in plain sight, so that we can use them up.  I have, actually, done a pretty good job of using make up as we get it.  When looking through my makeup box, I found that empty containers needed to be thrown away and that I really did need to buy some more eye liner and foundation.  Before the night was over, I contacted my new Avon rep and ordered enough from her "on sale" items to last us a few months.  Keep in mind that I only ordered extra of what I knew would be used daily.

Kitchen:  I threw away an entire bag of paper trash that was truly just trash.  This made room for all of the receipts that I've been saving for tax time.  I got the receipts put away in a more reasonable fashion, got old bills thrown away so that I can view only those bills that need to be paid this month, and made great use of the household command central file box that I bought last year and then got lazy about using.  It's back in action again, and I can see what all I need to use up in that area.  In the food department, I have things like corn starch and corn syrup, that I will probably never cook with again, because diabetes changed the face of cooking for me.  That means that we can make BIG BUBBLES to play with outside.  I actually mixed this up this morning, so that we can play with it after Tarja and Ivana wake up from their naps.  Pair that with the bubble wands that had been saved from used up bubble making kits that Tarja had and that some how ended up in the kitchen, in one of my many "catch all" containers.  Also, in an effort to turn this into a tradition, I took note of what I could make for lunch out of items that I already had on hand.  I still had to run out and buy a couple of things, but I made sure to use them up.  I made enchiladas, and only had a few corn tortillas left over from the small package that I bought today.  There were not enough left to make another meal, so I cut them up and fried them into home made corn chips.  That makes an addition to our already great meal and there will be one less item to throw away when it goes bad later. 

The next thing that I need to attack is the book shelf that is making an eyesore out of the living room.  There are quite a few books that I can see sticking out already, that I was planning on reading for myself.  Why have I not read them?  Are they any less interesting to me now, than they were when I set them out so that I would remember to read them?  No!  I still want to and need to read them.  As soon as I'm finished, I need to pass them on to someone else, or put them in storage.  The best idea would be to share the knowledge with someone else.  Board games should probably be relocated, now that the baby has figured out how to open them.  For the games that might not be complete any longer, I might either find a craft project for them or get online and order the missing pieces.  It will be like having all new games.  

Anyway, thank you for being a returning reader or a new reader.  If you think that somebody can be blessed by keeping up with us, please share.  I planning on spicing things up with giveaways and games very soon.

Love Always, 
Laurel and The Four Princesses

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Charlotte Mason Discussion Series: Follow Up Week 1

Last week, the discussion was about the first two items on the "Attainments by age 6."  Princess Tarja memorized "Hey Diddle Diddle", Psalm 96:1 and "Amazing Grace."  I took a short video of her progress so that you can see that it is possible for a child that has not been five years old for very long, to do this kind of work. 

Have a Great Day!
Laurel Santiago

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Charlotte Mason Discussion Series: List of Attainments by Age 6, 1 and 2

I have two princesses that are under the age of 6.  Charlotte Mason does not have a curriculum for preK or Kindergarten.  We do use for Tarja's PreK and Kindergarten work.  She is doing so well, that I can picture us using this program all the way through 8th grade.  However, I do want her to have a well rounded, Charlotte Mason education, so I invite you to share this journey with us, as we go through one goal at a time. 

1. To recite, beautifully, 6 easy poems and hymns. 

We are going to start with some classic poems such as THESE.

And these particular children's HYMNS.

2. To recite, perfectly and beautifully, a PARABLE and a PSALM

This list of attainments that I am working from can be found HERE.  This is where I send all of my friends that are new to or curious about homeschooling.  I hope that you will return to find out about our progress, and to learn about the next goals that we will work toward until Princess Tarja has her 6th birthday next year. 

Have a Great Day!
Laurel Santiago

Thursday, May 2, 2013

2013 Homeschool Year in Review

There has been so much happening in our homeschool, that I hope that I don't leave out anything important here.  I like to do this annual review as much for myself as for my followers.  It feels good to see that what we have accomplished as a family. 

First of all, we participated in our local homeschool group, which has actually been the only active homeschool group that we have encountered.

Tarja finished preK and is almost finished with her Kindergarten portion of, and she just turned five years old this past March.  She has been active in baton twirling, tee ball, Girl Scouts and the Sands Art Association.

Abbey has been volunteering at the local animal shelter.  The ladies that run the shelter are teaching her the art of dog grooming, which has been a long time dream of hers.  By doing this, she earned her community service bar from Girl Scouts.  She bridged to Seniors in Girl Scouts, and has been active in baton twirling, softball, and the Sands Art Association.  She started her own successful business as a "mother's helper".  She is now CPR and First Aid certified and just earned her certificate in Forestry and Wildlife Conservation.

Melody is still plugging away with her online college courses, became a young crew trainer at McDonalds, and recently found a new job in a local veterinary clinic.  She has been my assistant Girl Scout leader, my assistant baton twirling coach, and has been active in the Sands Art Association.  Her 18th birthday is in two more days, and at that point, she will start gearing up to lead her own Girl Scout troop. 

Ivana, our tiniest princess, has recently learned how to walk and is very interested in baton twirling and any sort of technology that she can get her hands on (cell phones, computers, TV's, game systems, etc.)

Have a Great Day!
Laurel Santiago

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Don't Ask Me if I'm BUSY

I haven't been able to update my blog in quite a long time, and you are about to find out why. 

For starters, I would like to share something that I have always found to be humorous.  All of my friends, ESPECIALLY really good, caring, considerate friends, will call and start off the conversation with, "Are you busy?"  Umm....

I'm not quite sure to how answer that question.  I AM busy.  I can't think of any time that I'm NOT busy, but that doesn't mean that I don't want to talk to you!!!!  I would love to talk to a good friend now and then, even if I can only stay on the phone for a short time.  In fact, I have grown to prefer texting, because I can text a friend, no matter how loud or chaotic my household is, because sometimes it's hard to hear or be heard with all of the background noise.  IF you really need me for something, I will try to help.  It doesn't matter how busy I am.  I know that I don't get to just "hang out" much or go places that aren't planned way in advance, but I will try to figure out how to give you a ride somewhere, or run an errand for you or whatever else it is that you need, because I love you. 

Now that we understand each other, I will give a not so brief rundown of what I have NOT been blogging about for the past month or so.

1.  We got to go to the Dinosaur George exhibit that came to town.  I posted a video of that on my YOUTUBE channel.

2.  My baton twirling class, The Sparklers, got to perform at the West Texas Drillers halftime. 

3.  Tarja is playing tee ball.

4.  Abbey is playing softball.

5.  Abbey has been working as a mother's helper.

6.  We had a Girl Scout bridging ceremony, and Abbey bridged to Senior Girl Scouts.

7.  My Girl Scout unit is planning a Mom and Me tea party and a day camp.

8.  I am doing, Avon, ACE, teaching twirling class AND private lessons, and am doing custom crochet orders.

9.  Abbey is volunteering at the local animal shelter.

10.  Melody was on the hunt for a new job, and FOUND one, as you will read in my previous post.

11.  Ivana has been working on her toothy smile, making it quite noisy and stressful around here.

12.  Our dog, Molly, just blessed us with five puppies today.

13.  Abbey and I have been working hard to finish up and/or tie up loose ends with her school work.

14.  Tarja is nearly through with her Kindergarten portion of Time4learning......and her fifth birthday was in March.

15.  Ivana just started walking, and that means that we need to start roller skating or jogging or something to keep up.  At the end of the Dinosaur George video, you can see Ivana walking into her favorite restaurant for lunch.

 16.  Abbey and I decided to go on a diet.  Of course, she doesn't really need to lose any weight, but she's been a good diet buddy.  Both of us are getting some nice results.

17.  There's more.  I know that there is, but I have to get some other things done.

Have a Great Day!
Laurel Santiago

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

After nearly 12 years of homeschooling.......

I don't know how long many of you have been following my blog posts, but I have a whole lot to say tonight.  First of all, thank you, Jesus, for making all of this possible for us.  The journey has not been an easy one, but I wouldn't trade the experience for anything in the world.  I have always felt like that even though my first Princess has received her diploma, she has not truly graduated until she could prove that she could get and keep a good job.  Today, she interviewed and was given what I consider to be a good job, especially for someone who is just a couple of weeks shy of her 18th birthday.

Here is how it all went down.  When we first moved to this town, we literally had a relative in my living room, screaming at me about how my kids have no lives and that he would NEVER do to his kids what I am doing to mine.

Because of all the drama that this relative and others created over our homeschooling, we kept her graduation a secret.  She literally graduated on her 16th birthday.  We had a big Sweet 16 Party for her, and the King decreed that we wouldn't say anything about her graduating high school early, but would celebrate when she graduates college.

Shortly after her birthday, I created her transcript, ordered her diploma and found an online college that offered business administration. 

Just a few days later, she got her first job at a convenience store.  The convenience store job didn't work out, because the store manager very badly took advantage of Melody not having to attend school for 8 hours per day like the other teenagers.  This kept her from being able to do what she needed to do for her college curriculum, so she had to leave that job and look elsewhere.

She was hired to work for McDonalds, which was the only other place that was interested in hiring teenagers.  After a year at McDonalds, she was promoted to crew trainer.  She still works at McDonalds.

 Besides her work at McDonalds, she has been helping in our family business, by teaching my 7 and under group of baton twirlers twice a week.

A long time Girl Scout, she recently took her training to become a Girl Scout leader, and will have her own troop next year.  Be still, my heart!

TODAY, she interviewed for and  is set to start working for a local veterinarian.  She will start right after her 18th birthday.  She is super, super excited, and so am I.  Even though she is still working on her online college courses, I feel like she/we have finally made it to the end of our homeschooling journey.   I don't know what the future holds for her sisters, but Princess Abbey is already training for her career of choice, and we might just send Princess Tarja and Princess Ivana off to become Divas for one of those wrestling organizations that comes on TV. 

Furthermore, now that I know what I didn't know before, we will not hide the fact that the Four Princesses are graduating early ever again.  We and they have worked too long and hard to have to hide our light under a bushel.  If you are considering homeschooling and aren't sure, I hope that you have been inspired in some way by the Four Princesses.

Have a Great Day!
Laurel Santiago

Friday, March 8, 2013

High School Dropout Pep Talks

I have been somewhat absent this past week, because I've been so busy.  However, I have observed lots and lots of food for thought during our adventures.  One of those being about how some families are slaves to their chosen curriculum. We are not, but everybody's family situation in different.

Another being that I do get somewhat somewhat annoyed with folks that didn't take education seriously, spent their young lives acting like the Prodigal Son, and then come along and try to give the Four Princesses a pep talk about how they should stay in school, don't drink, don't do drugs, don't get pregnant, blah, blah, blah.  I really and truly do not think that it is right for someone who is wallowing in self pity for the poor decisions that they made in life, to stand before our family and try to use themselves as an example of how they lived it up throughout high school, their lives fell apart, and the Four Princesses should try very hard not to do the same.  Are you joking????

Here's the people that I would rather have around to give the Four Princesses a pep talk:

1.  People that finished high school.  I don't care how successful you have been afterwards, just let them know that you made it through.
2.  People that went BACK to school after they saw the error of their ways.  This is far better than someone who didn't pay their dues, and still doesn't care about it.
3.  People who may or may not have an education, but who have worked hard and made a decent life for themselves anyway.  Isn't this part of the idea of homeschooling/unschooling? 
4.  People who are self employed and loving it.
5.  People who chose family over career.  What are the rewards and blessings of raising children?
6.  People who sacrificed education and careers to take care of others (not the kind that dropped out for the sake of fun).
7.  People who have cleaned up their lives and now really do have nice families, can earn a living, want to explore and learn, even as adults.
8.  People that love fine arts.
9.  People that like to read.
10.  People that like to help others.
11.  Prayer warriors.
12.  Creative minds that aren't currently scrambled by substance abuse.
13.  People who take charge of their lives rather than letting life happen to them.
14.  People who are proactive in the education of their own children.

On a more positive note, Spring has about sprung in West Texas.  We might have Spring fever and not do as much "school work" as usual today.  There are other things to learn and see and do.  It's humid, like it might rain.  The birds are singing.  Everybody feels lazy. 

Have a Great Day!
Laurel Santiago

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Goals for My Birthday

Last year, I post 36 blessings for my birthday.  This year, I've decided to set goals for myself.  Some goals are pretty cliche', but others are quite different and unusual.  I might not be able to meet these goals in one year, but these are things that have been on my mental wishlist and getting them into print seems to help me reach them faster.

1.  My health.  I need to play dancing games with the girls as often as possible, and do a better job of shunning sugar and unnatural foods.

2.  Financial Peace:  this is a tough one, but a work in progress.

3.  100 baton twirling students.  That's a BIG number, but I'm sticking to it.

4.  An office:  I need a little place that I can call home for my business, where I can do registrations, take orders for uniforms, have some twirling supplies on hand to purchase at registration, and so forth and so on. 

5.  Christmas:  I didn't do such a good job this year of getting everything ready on time.  I was going through some things that made me feel more like Scrooge than Santa, particularly the fact that everyone in my household was sick for about a month.  I will do better next Christmas.

6.  Vegetables:  Princess Melody wants to try raised bed gardening, and I want to help.  I have never had a successful garden, but every Spring, I try again.

7.  Solar Power:  How much of my house could I get on solar energy before the year is out without too much expense?

8.  Slow cooker meals:  On twirling nights, we need them.

9.  Book more shows for my twirling class.

10.  I have plans of starting a scouting program for families, not just for girls or boys.  BIG project that I've been mentally working on for about 5 years.

11.  Keep more journals and memory books to keep track of our history together as a family.

12.  Make the front yard look like a glittering, glowing fairyland.

13.  Make some much needed repairs on the house.

14.  Conquer the clutter in my house.

15.  Work on some creative wealth building.

16.  Play more games.

17.  Read more books.

18.  Learn to draw.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Homeschool Group Activities

We have a growing homeschool group in our town.  I am not sure how many families actually belong to this group at this point, but since the beginning of the year, we have stayed quite active, with quite a lot more things planned in the coming months. 

We have a homeschooling Girl Scout troop.  Here is Princess Tarja and Princess Abbey selling Girl Scout cookies:

We went as a group to the 4H barn tours during the week of the stock show:

Then, we had a Valentine party.  Each family was asked to bring a creative dessert using Girl Scout cookies.

Today, we had our state fair.  The state fair begins with each family choosing a different state for which to do a unit study and create a presentation for the group. We had a party, let the kids present their projects, and then had a little geography bee, which consisted of moms going around writing down questions based on what as on the project boards, then asking and giving the kids points for correct answers.  We had  a lunch made up of state foods.  The Princesses did New Jersey, and brought corn, peaches and mashed potatoes to represent crops grown in New Jersey.  After all of that, we went out and broke a U.S. flag pinata.
Have a Great Day!
Laurel Santiago

Monday, February 18, 2013

This morning, Princess Abbey started her very first job as a mother's helper, and was thrilled.  She got such a tremendous response to her advertisement that she is going to have to keep a calendar and maybe even a ledger to track her income and outgo.  I am very excited that the princesses have the initiative to recognize a need and then do something about it.  Mothers need helpers, and princesses need money for their princess supplies.  It's a win-win situation. While she was out doing that, I got my Avon order ready and turned in.

After that, we had our Girl Scout meeting.  At Girl Scouts, we made memo pads out of recycled Girl Scout cookie boxes.  We actually removed the boring covers from cheap, 35 cent memo pads, used those as templates to cut out new, more colorful covers from the cookie boxes, and put the pads back together. 

From there, we had to make a mad rush to take Princess Melody to work.  Princess Abbey, Princess Tarja and I, decided that popcorn would make a nice snack, and microwave popcorn would not do, so we stopped at the grocery store for that.  As soon as we got home, I got a call that a Girl Scout needed cookies from our troop, so I met her father at the Scout Hut to make that transfer.  THEN, I came home and started to read The Birth of Britain by Winston Churchill to Abbey.  This very dry reading led to all Princesses falling asleep.  I completely forgot that Princess Abbey has a 4H meeting and archery tonight.  Holy Cow!  I am thankful that a sweet Princess from a neighboring kingdom called to remind me.  There is no napping allowed in the palace! 

I did a little dollar store grocery shopping and determined that with a very inexpensive can of cream of mushroom soup, we can have tuna and rice casserole for supper.  After archery, we will finish up any studies that we didn't have time for earlier in the day, and I will work on crocheting some little ruffly socks for Princess Ivana while I work on 

Have a Great Day!
Laurel Santiago

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Where Did My Blog Go????

Where did my blog go????  For the past few weeks, I have been busy from the time that I've gotten out of bed, until the time that I go to bed, which is usually so late that it's early.  I meant to post about our daily homeschooling experiences, but it hasn't worked out that way.  This post is all about catching up with posts that should have been posted a long time ago.

What are the Santiagos doing for school these days?

Princess Abbey and Princess Melody are both volunteering at the animal shelter now.  Abbey is learning dog grooming by helping to bathe and groom the rescue dogs.  Melody is serving as their volunteer secretary. 

We have been selling Girl Scout cookies.  I was goofy enough to consent to being the cookie manager for our town.   Don't get me wrong.  I love Girl Scouts, and I love the Girl Scout cookie sale, but if you ever think that you don't have enough to do in your life, get involved in Girl Scout product sales. 

Princess Melody and I took Girl Scout leader training together.  It was a three hour training session.  Melody plans on becoming a Girl Scout leader after her 18th birthday in May.

Princess Abbey has been taking archery through 4H.

The local 4H had a barn tour for the schools at the start of the annual stock show.  Our homeschool group went, and it was a lot of fun.

We have gotten to know a new homeschooling family in town.  They joined our homeschool Girl Scout troop and our homeschool group. 

The homeschool group had a Valentine party yesterday.  Our new members organized a dessert contest that used Girl Scout cookies as an ingredient.  Each family brought desserts made with cookies.  Princess Abbey made millionaire pies using shortbread cookies as the crust instead of graham crackers.  She won a prize for the best tasting and another one for it being the dessert that most people would like to take home. 

For our twirling class, we are working on what I hope to be a great show.  I have a lot of hopes and dreams for this group, and I'm trying to book lots and lots of performances for ourselves.  While I'm washing dishes, folding laundry, or out running errands, I get all kinds of ideas streaming through my brain like a Roku channel. 

As for lessons, we are about finished reading Mere Christianity by CS Lewis, and will choose another book out of the 8th grade box.  Some of the books in the box for this year are fun and some will be rather dry, but I give Princess Abbey credit for paying attention and making an effort to learn even from the books that aren't as much fun.  Mere Christianity has been one of those books that she hasn't enjoyed as much.  I actually am loving it and feel blessed to have had a chance to read it.  For Bible, we are in the book of Luke.  I found my old Living Bible, which is a great deal easier to read than some other versions.  We have enjoyed Luke from this Bible so much that Abbey suggested that we reread John, so that she can have a better understanding of it.  We are using Youtube and online resources for Spanish.  For Grammar, we have Our Mother Tongue and The Grammar of Poetry.  For math, we are still using, which is the best math program that I have found so far.  Not only does it teach, but it grades and emails progress reports to me.  Since I am not a math person, this has been wonderful.  For science, Princess Abbey is still working on, and almost finished with her Forestry and Wildlife Conservation course.  I am so excited and proud for her. 

Have a Great Day!
Laurel Santiago

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

I'm pretty excited about getting to review  This has been a very new homeschooling year for us, because I have enrolled each one of my children into some sort of online program.  Even Tarja, my four year old, has been taking her preK and Kindergarten lesson on  Well, I discovered in my email, this morning, that I have been invited to review  Spelling practice is a big part of our Charlotte Mason ways of teaching and learning, so it makes sense to try this out for my family.  I'm going to use it for at least three weeks, and will let you know how it works out for us.  Keep in mind that I have a wide range of age levels in my household, so it should be a well rounded experience.


I've been given a Premium Membership to for a candid, personal, online review.
VocabularySpellingCity helps students study word lists using 25 different learning activities such as Unscramble, Hangman, WordFind, and Crossword Puzzle. Parents can create their own spelling lists, find published lists already available on the site, or use any of dozens of free teaching resources on topics such as Multiple Meaning Words and Possessive Nouns . Be sure to come back in three weeks to read about my experience.

I plan on putting some Dave Ramsey and his Financial Peace University tricks into play this year. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

30 for 30 Physical Activity Challenge

If you look on my sidebar, you can see the button that takes you to this 30 minutes for 30 days, physical activity challenge.  Here is the breakdown of what I did for the week:

Monday:  We played Just Dance 4.

Tuesday:  I had to count, sort and move Girl Scout cookie cases for about two hours.  If you don't think that is exercise I urge you to try it.  In the evening, we had twirling lessons for an hour.

Wednesday:  Lots of housekeeping.

Thursday: Twirling lessons for an hour.

Friday:  More moving of Girl Scout cookie boxes, shopping vigorously (I'm a power shopper), and housekeeping, which includes a bathroom duct tape project. 

Have a Great Day!
Laurel Santiago

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

I am an Unsocialized Homeschooler

It's true.  I have come to the conclusion that I am an unsocialized homeschooling mama.  Looking at the red line under the word, "unsocialized," also proves to me that it's not a real word, but, whatever.

I am a complete oddball around other moms and today's interaction with one such mom was like a BIG RED line under me.  I start out with text messages form this mama before I even get out of bed.  There is something that she needs from me in regards to a fundraiser.  She wants her products to sell now, she wants them on her terms, and she wants them WHEN she wants them, because SHE has a job.  With sleepy eyes and probably lots of misspelled words, I tell her that I can't meet her at the time that she is requesting, because I have a twirling class at that hour and then an art association meeting for which I am the new president immediately after that.  She repeats that she NEEDS what it is that she is wanting, and that she will meet me at the time that she is wanting to meet me.  She will have her way, because SHE has a job.  I gently explain to her that I, also, have a job to tend to at the hour that she is requesting, but that I will see if I can find someone else to help up with this.  She gets annoyed with me.  She wants what she wants NOW.  I don't have it and won't have it and WON'T DROP MY TWIRLING LESSON tomorrow night to give it at that specific time, because that is my job that I do that I love very much and there are no amount of cookies or popcorn or any other anything that I am willing to give up other than bad weather or medical emergencies for that ONE FREAKING HOUR!  I mean COME ON!  Let me have my hour of fun, exercise, and the little bit of money that it earns for my family.  Oh!  BUT!  She doesn't mean to be rude.  It's just that SHE works.  Holy crap!   I, Laurel, do not WORK. 

Goal #(I Don't Remember What Number I was On)
To quote Pitbull, "I'm trying to make a million outta 15 cents!"  My goal is to keep trying. 

Have a Great Day!
Laurel Santiago  

Saturday, January 19, 2013

30 Day Challenge

There are lots of fitness challenges going on for the new year, and I have decided to take on one that is put on by a fellow homeschool blogger.  You can see the button to take you to her challenge rules on the right hand side of the page.  As baton twirlers, and avid Just Dance players, we should have no trouble meeting the challenge.

I have not been posting, because I have literally been running from the time that I get up in the morning until the time that I go to bed.  The only thing keeping me from running right this minute is that we are waiting on somebody to come and give us an estimate on a repair that we need for the house.  As soon as that is done, we will be off and running to sell Girl Scout cookies.

Because of our involvement in so many extra curricular activities, we have been having a lot of our "school time" during and after supper.  That's another one of the good benefits of homeschooling.  I don't have a lot of interesting things to talk about this time.  You pretty much know what we have been doing, but I will share some pictures of some of the projects that I have done for this past week.

As you can see, I duct taped the high chair.  I got this high chair at a flea market, and it was not really pretty, but functional.  After my rambunctious one used it for a little while, the cushion started to tear, and the canvas buckle straps were looking quite nasty, no matter how much I scrubbed them.  Now, we have a new decorated cushion, and wipe clean straps. The Princesses said that it looks "ghetto" but they said it in a good way, so the duct tape decor stays.

Above, you can see that I have a fairly impressive collection of baby wipe containers, that I use to house stuff and clutter.  Thanks to colorful duct tape, they are now a matching set of bathroom organizers, which match the hanging shoe organizer that I am using to control beauty supplies.
I also have the very necessary pink and zebra striped wastebasket.

Goal #3
To make repairs and improvements in each room of my house.

Have a Great Day!
Laurel Santiago

Friday, January 4, 2013

"All My Babies' Mamas"

First of all, "All My Babies' Mamas" is an outrage.  Click the link to see what I'm talking about. 

Next, I would like you to visit the blog of another very dear and long time friend of mine.  She is highly creative, a wizard at math, and spends every Christmas visiting a new foreign country with her husband.  Visit her HERE.

It is still snowing here, so we went out as little as we could get by with.  Princess Melody still had to go to work, and  I had to get things like Ivana's soy milk and various other little things from the grocery store.  Yes, I know that frugal mommies try to stay away from the grocery store, but bigger families tend to run out of things faster.  One example is that, (albeit thankfully), we have discovered that Princess Tarja's little tummy is sensitive to cow's milk, and so we started her on almond milk.  Princess Ivana started having tummy trouble every time that we gave her baby formula (just during the past two weeks), so we started her on soy milk.  Both Princesses are doing so well on their new psuedo milk, that I am having to run to the store to get more every other day or so.  I did discover that the expiration dates on both the almond and soy milk are way longer than those on cow's milk, so this means that I can buy more than I usually would at one time. Yay!

I have done a lot of decluttering and organizing the past few days.  I guess that on my list of things to put away should be the Christmas tree.  It's still up in the living room.  I have utilized a whole lot of the ideas that I have found on Pinterest to organize the play area, and the bathroom.  I also started a little daily journal project that I found on Pinterest that I thought was pretty cool.  I love keeping journals. 

For school, as school is not officially in session until Monday for us, we simply read the second chapter of The Prayer of Jabez out loud, Melody took one of her art history tests online, and Tarja spent quite a long time on time4learning, which she calls, "Ed Mouse". After supper, Tarja and I played a couple of rounds of Candyland.  I won the first round and she won the second.  Playing either Candyland or one of her Disney Princess card games has become sort of a night time ritual, much like Ivana and I watching Blue's Clues at the start of every morning.  Melody likes to run errands with me.  Abbey likes to listen to music with me.  It's funny how each Princess has her time with me in her own way, and it's not even planned or scheduled, it just IS.

Goal #2:
The Sparklers Parade Corps is going to keep adding members and keep adding sections and departments until we have at least 100 people involved. 

Have a Great Day!
Laurel Santiago

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Beginning of the New Year

I urge you to check our my friend, Loralei's blog HERE.  She is so much fun in real life, so you can imagine how much fun her blog is to read.  

Anyway, my family and I officially got back into the swing of things today......sort of.  

I started out with the little morning ritual that Princess Ivana and I have for watching Blue's Clues on Netflix for about an hour until the other Princesses wake up.  Sometimes, she and I have to go around and wake everybody up, but not until the second episode of Blue's Clues is over.  

 As soon as I got dressed, I started cleaning the kitchen, but got sidetracked trying to make some phone calls to the Girl Scout council.  I am the cookie dummy.......I mean COOKIE SERVICE UNIT MANAGER for our local unit.  Isn't that funny?  This job of just trying to get logged into the cookie managing system was an off and on job all day.

While the girls ate breakfast, I read from the book, The Prayer of Jabez for the girls' fresh, new Bible study for this term.  It isn't the book that was on the list for this term, but it's a book that I read and liked, so I want to read it out loud to the girls.  

 It started snowing heavily.  This means that our Sparklers twirling and dance practices had to be cancelled and our flag corps sign ups had to be postponed.  Tarja was not happy.  She tried to convince me all day long that we could still have practice, but we have teachers coming from out of town that would not have been safe on the road.  This launched about an hour of texting and facebooking mothers to let them know.  I was doing this at the same time as talking to a lady from the Girl Scout council about our cookie mess.....I mean stuff.  

Somewhere along the lines, I managed to get Tarja on time4learning to do her reading practice.  Abbey volunteered at the local animal shelter and groomed two poodles.  Melody worked on her art history course, then made some beautiful jewelry with the kit that she got for Christmas.  

Dinner almost didn't happen, but I finally managed to create a wonderful, low carb dinner of stuffed chicken breasts, pork chops and broccoli.  It was so amazing that even our parrot danced while she ate her dinner.  That's a nice compliment.

Melody and I watched an Andrea Bocelli concert DVD that she got for Christmas while Abbey watched wrestling. 

So, here is one of my goals for the new year, and I will try to post a new one each day for at least the rest of the month.  

Goal #1
To get through the Girl Scout cookie sale with everything sold, collected, accounted for and turned in on time.  It's harder than you think, but I have done it before and I can do it again.

Have a Great Day!
Laurel Santiago