Friday, June 19, 2015


I last posted about the fun box we received from Family Trails, a project meant to encourage family exploration and learning, sponsored by Toyota and the National Center for Families Learning, but I never posted about our first Family Trails trip. We chose a short day trip to Mountain View, AR, "The Folk Music Capital of The World." It was a refreshing day, and you can read more about it on the Family Trails site. You'll also find inspiring posts from other Family Trails families. Hope you enjoy and are pushed to get out and spend time together doing something new and different. Below are a few shots from our slow-paced visit to Mountain View. See more at  

Hop over to Family Trails to read about what we gained from our day together in Mountain View.  And have a great weekend! Stay tuned for our second Family Trails trip in the next couple weeks.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


*This post was sponsored by the National Center for Families Learning. I receive financial compensation from NCFL for my participation as a Family Trails blogger. Opinions and experiences expressed on this post are my own.

On March 23rd, we received this in the mail, a wooden box with the words #familytrails burned into the top and a padlock with a little note attached...

It said, "Adventure awaits you! Keep an eye on your inbox to receive your unlock code on 3/27/15." 

I can't tell you the fun incited by this mystery box. None of us had any clue what was inside, and the anticipation got everyone's imagination rolling! 

The days slowly passed and, as promised, I received an email with the code to unlock our wooden box surprise. 

Inside we found lots of travel goodies: a map that said, "The Carpenter Family Adventure", a travel journal, a backpack.

Pushpins for the map...

A pedometer, which Enid of course immediately put on and began counting her skips and hops... 

A fun game specifically for road trips...

And other cool stuff, stuff about which my kids were over the moon. And if that were all that had been in the box, it would have been well enough, but along with all of the goodies was an invitation...

An invitation for me to be a Family Trails blogger. Family Trails is a really cool project sponsored by Toyota and the National Center for Families Learning. Its goal is to encourage family learning through adventure and exploration. 

What this means is, the Carpenters will be taking some adventures in the next few months! And I'll be sharing them with you over at the Toyota Family Trails website which goes live at the end of this week. So I hope you'll stay tuned and follow along. We'll be in great company as well. The other bloggers involved are travel and exploration superstars (unlike myself) and will surely offer some great tips for getting out and about with your kids this summer. The Carpenters are excited and looking forward to spending time together and exploring and learning in the process. A huge thanks to Toyota and the NCFL for this fun opportunity! 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


Anyone heard of Captain Toto? If you don't know him, you should. He travels the world and then reports back to your kids by mail with fun and educational and incredibly cute stickers and a letter about his travels. 

 First of all, kids LOVE to get mail.

Second of all, parents love for education to be fun and it to keep kids' interest. 

Third of all, if you're going to create an educational product, it might as well look crazy good, as these stickers definitely do. As you know, I am a sucker for great illustrations, and these do not disappoint. 

So if you're in the market for points 1, 2, and 3, look into a Captain Toto subscription for your kids. Or it would be a fantastic gift for grandkids! My kids are fans. In fact, after reading the letter and playing with the stickers, Silas said, "I hope Captain Toto writes to us again!" That's the kind of reaction you want after a learning experience. Am I right?!

And as a bonus, the illustrations inspired my kids to get creative and draw. Major bonus, as far as I'm concerned. 

Thank you, Captain Toto, for being so cool and for including my kids! I wish you safe travels and success in your ventures!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


I was talking with a friend the other day, a mother to five boys, FIVE, and we were discussing keeping up with fashion trends, and she said to me, "That was so one kid ago." As much as I hate to admit it, she was right. I care so much less about fashion than I did one kid ago. In fact, a lot was different one kid ago.

No matter how many people tell you another child won't alter your life all that much, it does and will, and they are lying to you. With each new addition you bring into the world, your life, as you knew it before that child, changes. You give up a little more in order to GET a LOT more. That's the cost. It's just part of it. And whether you're having your first or your second or your tenth, you WILL at some point find yourself thinking, "That was so one kid ago."

In my case, going from three kids to four changed life exponentially. For instance...

Getting invited to friend's homes for dinner. So one kid ago. Eating out without spending a small fortune and/or remembering and fully digesting what you ate. Going to the movies for under $100 a show. Making due with one hotel room for overnight stays. Being 10 pounds lighter. All so one kid ago. 

Setting up the toys on the kids' shelves in their room like they are decoration rather than throwing them anywhere they are out of the way, that sometimes being giant trash bags that then sit in the garage until you forget about them.

Knowing the years your kids were born. Knowing their current ages. Knowing their names.

Wanting to buy your kids toys. Looking forward to Christmas. Elaborate birthday parties. So one kid ago.

Regular hair appointments. Regular blogging. Regular baths. Regular anything, other than laundry. Matching socks. Knowing current events. Being cool. Having plants that live. Trying to be perfect. 

Being on time. Fine. I've never been on time. But having any hope of being closer to on time. One kid ago. 

Daily dressing myself in cute-ish clothes. My kids having pajamas that match or pajamas at all for that matter. All the organic everything and no processed foods. A loaf of bread going further than one meal. Leftovers. Feeling that leaving all your kids with someone isn't burdensome. ONE KID AGO! 

There are some perks of which you let go in order to be what you need to be for one more person. But can you imagine this picture without that little ball of spunk on the end? Our number 4? One kid ago was different. Less expensive. Less inconvenient. Less chaotic. But one kid ago was incomplete, less colorful, less interesting, and undeniably less happy. I'll trade you all the movie theater popcorn and matching pajamas in the world for this little human who turns three this week. Three years of four kids on Friday. We will celebrate with store-bought cupcakes, because baking was so one kid ago. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


I break my blogging hiatus for only the best of the best. And this, my friends, is just that. I don't know when I've enjoyed a book so much. If I'm honest, I don't know when I've enjoyed a book. I'm not an avid reader. I like pictures. That's why this book, Julia Rothman's Nature Anatomy is great for me. It's sneaky, because while I'm looking at all the pretty illustrations,  I can't help but devour the oodles of information about nature that is included alongside the beautiful eye candy. It's one of those books that makes you want to read and know stuff. 

As is the plight of all crazy homeschoolers out there, I'm always looking to find great informational books that make you want to jump in and learn. Well, look no further, fellow crazies.

I asked Enid to sit down with this book so I could snap some photos of her looking at it. She of course was all huffs and puffs over having to do something SO demanding, but I loved watching her bad attitude melt away once she opened the cover and started getting lost in the pages of this wonderland of a book. I mean, look at these faces! Totally sincere.

And in came her brothers... Not many books are so captivating as to draw in an 8 year old and 3 year old alike!  

My kids have asked me countless times about the sun and moon and Earth and why there are seasons, etc. Typically, I respond with, "We need to look that up," because I can never remember this kind of information! And it honestly is just really hard for me to comprehend. I need someone to draw me a picture! That's precisely what Julia Rothman has done for her readers in this book. And it's simplified so even dummies like myself can understand it and relay it to my kids. It's not super duper in-depth, but it's basic. It's the stuff you remember after studying in-depth about subjects like this.

I highly recommend getting this book. Be it for your mom, your kids, or yourself, it's a purchase you will not regret. And if you homeschool, it's a no-brainer. 

Find her book here, and check out her other publication, Farm Anatomy while you're at it. It's on my book order short list!