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    Seven Quick Takes on Sugar-Free Chocolate, Carrying the Water {Literally}, Kid Movies, and More!

    June 26, 2015 by Brandy Vencel

    Seven Quick Takes

    :: 1 ::

    Most of you know that I don’t eat added sugar. I started THM in 2014 sometime, and it’s been really good for me to stop the sugar. {Stopping sugar has also been super good for our littlest guy.} I actually didn’t eat much sugar before, but the whole plan has been good for me, and I’m sure the sugar abstinence is one reason why. Now, I do occasionally go out with friends and do a planned cheat, but it isn’t an option on normal days.

    The problem is chocolate. I miss it. I didn’t eat a ton of it, but it was nice to have a nibble now and then, and unfortunately most sugar-free chocolate {actually most chocolate} has junk in it. Recently, however, I discovered Lily’s. Now, it’s super-expensive, so I don’t eat it often at all. I bought some with my birthday money, and today I had four little squares, and it. was. divine. Seriously. I couldn’t tell that it was sugar-free {of course, I’m pretty used to stevia}.

    I only like milk chocolate — I’m not a dark chocolate person — but I put the image of three flavors there just in case you’re different from me. I know a few of you said that you were doing THM, too, so I thought you might want to put this on your birthday/anniversary/Mother’s Day/Christmas wish lists, too. I’m going to buy a bar or two for O-Age-Six for his birthday in August.


    :: 2 ::

    This drought is finishing off our landscaping … what was left of it. Last year, when we built the mother-in-law unit in the back, we had to turn off the sprinklers for a long time, and then a bunch of guys in big trucks drove on the back lawn every day for months. The lack of water killed the front and back yards both (the water had to be off because a crew accidentally cut one of the mains during trenching), and so our grass was history. The thing with bermuda grass is that technically it would revive … given enough water and fertilizer. But due to watering restrictions, that’s not happening.

    I’m trying to maintain enough clover in the back to at least give us a green barrier between dirt and the patio. Clover is better than the alternative, which is nothing. But even that is starting to look too dry, what with triple digit temps every day. So now we have buckets in every sink and shower, and every drop of excess water is caught and carried out to our little strip of green in the back.

    Sort of a pain, but then again I suppose it helps me reach my daily minimum goal of 10,000 steps.


    :: 3 ::

    This week’s links collection:

    • Your Kids Aren’t Bored — They’re Lazy from Smartter Each Day
      • While I am all for children having free time for imaginative play, I still think this is worth considering — it’s good advice. One our normal days at home in the summers, starting out with some structure really helps the whole day go well.
    • The Characteristics of a Sexual Groomer from Recovering Grace
      • Just read this. Please do. It’s good to know these things in order to protect our children, and some of the things on the list aren’t things you’d initially expect.
    • Homeschooling with Toddler Twins by Sarah Mackenzie
      • There was a lot of wisdom here, even for those of us who don’t have twins. I especially think it is worth while to note that sometimes things feel hard because they Are. Hard.

    :: 4 ::

    This month in 2012:

    Brinton Turkle and Masterly Inactivity

    In his timeless picture book Obadiah the Bold, Brinton Turkle gives us the perfect illustration of Charlotte Mason’s concept of masterly inactivity. Click the image to read the post.


    :: 5 ::

    We’re enjoying our summer movie nights with the children so far. The 11-Up Club {population: 1, if you don’t include adults} enjoyed a viewing of Hugo. There isn’t anything wrong with it in the sense of having younger children view it, but we used it for the 11-Up Club because it’s so serious and honestly I think the girls would have incessantly asked questions about what was happening. It’s mature in content, I guess is what I’m saying. Anyhow, it is beautifully and artistically done. Not just for children, especially if you like steampunk.

    Tonight is the 7-Up Club {population: 3}. They are watching A Little Princess. The girls both read the book recently, and E-Age-13 really liked the book back when he was a little boy. However, comma, he and his dad joked about going out to do something else, instead of watching the movie, so I suppose there is a possibility of this turning into something of a Girls’ Night. We’ll see.

    :: 6 ::

    For some summer handicraft fun, I’m using these great worksheets from The Postman’s Knock. It’s called Learn Hand-Lettering for  Latte, and that’s because this nifty little product only costs five bucks. I like to do fancy lettering for headers in my bullet journal, and I’ve considering trying to teach myself new fonts, but spacing is such an issue for me, and it takes me time to figure out the best way to pull it off, especially if the font is complex — I thought that having a teacher would speed up the learning process. So, I invested a few bucks in my hobby, and I can print off some copies for the children if they want to join me, which will be fun.

    :: 7 ::

    Answering your questions:

    • Question: In your MEP ‘review’ you shared that you were using Reception level with you 6 year old son for ‘kindergarten’ and I understand you will begin AOY1 {and MEP Y1} with him in August {freshly turned 7}. Can you please share the other resources you have used with him this kindergarten year? Is he nearly reading? Do you use TRwBB daily or are you both beyond that? What did his overall kindergarten year, term, week, day look like?
      • Answer: Okay … I cannot tell you how many kindergarten questions I’m getting! I have now resolved to try and write a final kindergarten post — what it looked like with my youngest — before I forget all of it. 🙂 So … in that post I’ll share what it looked like and try to give all the details I can. For now, I will say that we did TRwBB three to four times per week. He is currently in the middle of Bob Books Set 3. He is an interesting case — my older daughter was sort of this way as well. What I mean is, he can technically read quite a bit. But he doesn’t use his skills much outside of lesson time. Sometimes I try landscape reading {he should be able to read “Target” or “Starbucks”}, but he doesn’t initiate it. He does, however, like to read through all the Bob Books he has already learned over and over, so I keep them out and accessible in a plastic shoebox.

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  • Reply dawn June 29, 2015 at 5:24 am

    We listened to the audio of HugoCabret and the children (and parents) loved it. Only Jason and I have watched the movie.

    Thanks for the calligraphy link! I’ve been trying to work on mine. I already want to upgrade my pens and such. I’ve been following a bunch of handlettering folk on Instagram and they’re amazing.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 29, 2015 at 10:53 am

      I actually thought I got this idea from YOU, so I guess that’s just because it is similar to the things you’ve been pinning. So fun. 🙂

      • Reply dawn June 29, 2015 at 10:54 am

        Ha! Maybe I should follow the links I pin now and again 😉

        • Reply Brandy Vencel June 29, 2015 at 11:01 am


  • Reply KT June 27, 2015 at 9:50 am

    have you read The Invention of Hugo Cabre (which Hugo the movie is based on)? It is excellent. It is also really misleading when you pick it up off the shelf. It is like 500 pages, but at least 50% of the story is told through pictures. It really is incredible; if you haven’t, you should check it out.

    We pray regularly that the west gets rain; my folks are in Nevada and it is just as scary there. I hope for a calm wildfire season!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 27, 2015 at 11:47 am

      I haven’t read it, no! This was one of the few times where I watched a movie and didn’t realize it was a book first until months after. I’ve meant to check out the book ever since, but keep forgetting. That is interesting that it has lots of pictures — makes me more curious than ever! I’ll have to get my hands on a copy. Thank you for giving me a good review! I think I’ve been a bit gun-shy because I have never actually read a review.

      Yes! I’ve forgotten to pray about fires! Thank you for the reminder. 🙂

      • Reply Amber Vanderpol June 28, 2015 at 12:11 pm

        Living in the mountains surrounded by lots and lots of trees definitely keeps the possibility of fire very strongly in our minds. The creek near our property has already dried up (about a month earlier than last year, and that was about three weeks earlier than the year before) so things are very, very, dry.

        On a totally different subject – I started a very low sugar/no dairy/low gluten diet w/ our 7 year old and we have seen remarkable results in terms of behavior and it has also solved the bedwetting problem too. We’re pretty excited here, although at about 6 weeks into it he’s starting to miss some of the dairy items. I eat almost no added sugar myself (and no gluten either, for that matter) and it has made such a huge difference for me. I waiver between thinking it is really amazing how much of a difference food makes to thinking, “well, of course, why wouldn’t it??”

        • Reply Brandy Vencel June 28, 2015 at 8:54 pm

          Really? The bed wetting, too? That is a new one for me but very exciting! I know what you mean about food — I marvel at how God made our bodies and how the relationship with the environment around them, including the diet, can sometimes seem so precarious.

          • Amber Vanderpol June 29, 2015 at 2:17 pm

            Yes, there’s a school of thought that thinks that chronic bedwetting is due to chronic constipation – and that you can have this without actually exhibiting the acute symptoms of constipation. (There is at least doctor who has even done some ultrasounds and such and feels that he has proof of this) There’s then two ways to go about fixing the problem – one is a prescription dose of laxatives which the child has to be on for a long time, perhaps even years and the other is to try more mild, diet related laxatives and then figuring out if the child has a diet related issue that is causing the chronic constipation. I’m always loathe to throw prescription medications at a problem, especially right off the bat, so we opted for a low dose of the Magnesium Calm drink each morning coupled with first a no dairy diet, and then a no dairy and extremely low gluten diet (i.e. he has WW sourdough once or twice a week – and just 1-2 waffles or pieces of bread at a time – and this was only after being gluten free for a month). We saw improvement with the no dairy, but it wasn’t until stopped the gluten that we saw a huge improvement – and within just 3-4 days.

            Anyway, I suspect this is probably something you’d find interesting and not too much information for you, but if it is TMI I apologize. 🙂

  • Reply Sharron June 26, 2015 at 9:50 am

    I would love, love, love to send you some of our rain!! We are having the opposite problems….septic problems, standing rain in yards and fields. I’ve thought if you and CA often, which I really hadn’t before. I guess our own trials are good at reminding us to pray for others in theirs.

    I’m going to look for that picture book asap!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 26, 2015 at 2:41 pm

      Oh, how I wish you *could* send that my way! In my case, I think the grass really IS greener on your side. 😉

  • Reply Karen @ The Simply Blog June 26, 2015 at 9:06 am

    That post by Sarah Mackenzie that you linked to was a great encouragement. I don’t have twins, but like you said, sometimes it is just.plain.hard. This school year has been hard. And now that we’ve finished up the school year (well, for the most part anyway), I’m just plain spent. I haven’t even done a blog post for a month now! I need a nice long summer break to refresh and rejuvenate before getting back into the swing of school again this Fall.

    I really enjoyed the movie Hugo. My oldest daughter and I both read the book several years ago and were excited when they made it into a movie. I couldn’t put the book down. I’ve not seen the version of A Little Princess that you show in your post. We’ve watching the Shirley Temple one as well as the one that aired on PBS many, many years ago.

    BTW, in case you didn’t see my very late comment on your MEP post, I was wondering if you might be able to tell me how math fact practice is approached beyond Year 1. My youngest has been doing Year 1 this year. She did the Reception year last year. My oldest only did Years 7-9. So I haven’t done any of Years 2-6.

  • Reply Mystie June 26, 2015 at 7:25 am

    Isn’t it funny how that step goal reframes certain parts of our lives? 🙂

    Your grass was bermuda grass on purpose? *blink* It’s a pernicious weed here, but local legend has it that it was planted here on purpose long ago because it’s the only thing that would grow before irrigation. So it’s nearly impossible to have a “real” yard in the oldest parts of town because nothing can kill the stuff. 🙂

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 26, 2015 at 7:53 am

      Well, remember, we had goats for years. So we had a pasture mix planted in the yard, and bermuda was part of it — and the strong survive, right? Ha. Seriously, though, hybrid bermuda is the Thing To Plant in our neck of the woods because it can handle the high heat. It is, however, a water draw, so we need to do something different long term.

      • Reply Mystie June 26, 2015 at 8:05 am

        I just thought it was funny because multiple times a summer, I hear men shaking their heads and commenting, “Did you know it was planted here *on purpose*?” 🙂

        • Reply Brandy Vencel June 26, 2015 at 8:13 am

          You think my town would horrify them?? 😉

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