Foreign Language

I look forward to the day my girls and I travel the world. As lifelong learners, I hope they speak several languages.

I took a Spanish class with my dad once and it was a blast until he quit claiming he was too old.

More than a decade later, I'm back in class. Only this time, I'm the elderly one. My 8 and 11-year-old girls are joining me in this endeavor. 

Next year in middle school, my daughter takes Spanish. And for the first time, Spanish is an option for third graders at my younger daughter's school. Why wait? Thanks to a variety of good online classes, we're learning words and phrases now.

Here are some of the sites we find helpful. What works for you? Are you teaching your children a foreign language?





Community Garden -July Update

That's what my husband said after a recent trip to our garden. If you are new to gardening, perhaps you can relate to my story.

While I may not remember what I planted or where I planted it and while I may have plants sprouting on top of other plants, veggies are growing in our garden!

At times, it's been a comedy of errors. For example, my daughter will never forget the time I dumped the tomato plant upside down and broke every stalk. There was also the time we lost control of the sprinkler and it soaked my daughter from head to toe. Then, despite protests from the girls, I planted everything deep, too deep. For weeks, there was no sign of life. 

I almost gave up but yesterday we biked to the garden and saw this.  

Lesson #1: Laugh. This is about creating memories to last a lifetime.

For some crazy reason, I thought my girls and I would be working in the garden side by side. Ha! Yesterday, my youngest turned an upside-down wheelbarrow into a horse and rocked for 15 minutes. My oldest chose to go barefoot in the mud, squeezing it between her toes.

As I started to sweat in the hot sun, I got a little cranky because I was the only one working hard. Then I remembered to let the girls experience our garden their own way. Yes, I'd like to have some crops and a little help but for me, it's more important to disconnect from the internet, bond as a family and laugh.

Lesson #2:  Start with plants.

My plants grew when everything else failed.

This is like getting a helping hand and you just have to maintain the plant. I can do this. My blooming plants gave me the confidence to keep going. 

Lesson #3:  You can plant new crops in July or August. 

It's late July and I thought the growing season was almost over. Not true. According to the University of Minnesota Extension, you can still plant kale, broccoli, spinach, basil and peas. I'm looking for more plants.

So as you can see, we're making progress in the garden. It's work but it's fun. Highly recommended.

Kenosha County Dairy Breakfast

We live in Wisconsin so we frequently pass farms.   However, it's not often that we stop and walk around the barn. However, this past weekend, a local farmer opened his doors to the public as Kenosha County hosted its annual dairy breakfast.

This is a great way to help children and even adults understand agriculture and where our food comes from. 

As a former journalist, I live by the old adage, "Show me, don't tell me." Here, the girls can see, touch and yes, smell the animals and tools a farmer uses to produce the food we eat.



 It was interesting to learn that most of our local farms are family owned. The average Wisconsin dairy cow generates more than $34,000 a year.

Finally, breakfast was a big hit with my girls. Lauren said the eggs were the best she ever had. If you have a chance to go to the county's annual dairy breakfast, I highly recommend it. It's a fun way to learn about life on a farm.



Creating Summertime Memories

As a kid, I spent some of my best days on the beach near our summer home in Union Pier, Michigan. In the morning, my parents gave us school work. However, by noon, as the temperature climbed and our cousins waited for us to finish, we were free. Free to swim, free to bike, free to buy candy at the country store. It was wonderful.

30 years later, you can't touch Union Pier's  lakefront property without paying exorbitant prices. My family sold our complex when I was in college but I still I want my girls to experience similar carefree days. 

In Kenosha, they can.

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I feel like we have a lakefront resort community in our backyard.

It's the first week of summer vacation. I'm trying to mix fun, sun and school work. Here are a couple of highlights from our day:

1.  Breakfast at the lake:

Common Grounds is my favorite coffee spot and a great way to start the day.

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2. Homeschool:  I really like the Charlotte Mason homeschooling methods. I especially like the way she encourages parents to educate kids outdoors. Our science lessons are in the garden and in the picture below my goal was a stress-free math class on a park bench. Unlike in big cities, it's just us. Absolutely delightful.


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3. Early Release: By noon, school work is finished. Free time!

Our Community Garden - Week One

Have you ever thought about getting a plot in a community garden? We rented one for the 2015 summer season and from time to time, l'll share our experiences.

Initially, I was intimidated because I own no tools and know very little about gardening. I didn't let that didn't stop me.

In fact, the community garden is one of the things I like about our neighborhood. From the moment I first saw it, I envisioned summer days in the garden with the girls and me nature journaling or planting things like lettuce, onions and flowers. 

On Day One, we found gardening is harder than it looks.

Take-aways from the garden:  After winter, the ground is hard. For several hours today, we pulled weeds and tilled soil. With shovels, we broke up the dirt until it was loose and soft. We also scattered a layer of compost that will give the plants valuable nutrients. Now that we prepared the soil, it will be easy to dig a hole and plant By the way, the garden has a community shed with most tools you'd need. Fellow gardeners are friendly and quick to help out.

Take-aways for kids: This supplements the school curriculum nicely. My girls, who are finishing first and fourth grade, studied parts of the plant, the plant life cycle and transpiration this year. This summer, the books will come to life as they see these things occur in our garden. I hope it makes their school lessons more meaningful. 

The girls also discovered worms in a new way.

At first, they were disgusted by the slimy creatures. By the time we left, the girls observed them, touched them and collected them by the handful. 


Take-aways for me: No laptops, iPads or TV. This is quality family time. To my surprise, my husband even joined us and gave us the extra manpower we needed. 

Believe it or not, gardening gives you a workout. Muscles I haven't used ache and it feels good. Tonight, all of us will sleep well.

For information about our community garden, go to Down to Earth Community Gardens by clicking here.

I forgot.

This is not a good morning for my daughter, Lauren.  The shoes scattered across the floor hint at the latest struggle to occur before school. 

Loud sobbing (of course) combined with dramatic, breathless gasps starts after Lauren, a highly organized child, can't find her matching shoe. It goes downhill from here. So much for breakfast.

First, Lauren walks out the house with one sandal and one gym shoe.


She comes back and changes into combat boots and long shorts.

"That actually looks cool," I say.

No response.

Next, in an elaborate attempt to reel the entire house into her chaos (which she does) Lauren walks out in pink house shoes.

That's when my passive "it's your choice" attitude ends. Even her cranky-not-a-morning-person father wakes up to weigh in. 

With no time to spare, the girls and I make it to the car. Lauren is still sobbing but at least she's sobbing in matching cowboy boots. Using my best cheerleading voice, I tell everyone to shake it off. "A bad start in the morning, doesn't mean the rest of the day has to be bad." 

"Yeah, what happened a half-hour ago is in the past," my youngest daughter said proudly.

I look for Lauren's reaction but only see the back of her head because now her body is twisted like a Cirque du Soleil acrobat with her face plastered across the passenger window.

By the time we roll through the school drop off lane, the tears stop. I wish the girls well and head to Starbucks. As I order my triple espresso, I think about how I've driven dozens of forgotten lunches, violins, even shoelaces to school this year.

Back home, it's time to focus on me. I'm ready to apply for several new jobs I saw advertised. Just as I open up some tabs on the laptop, the phone rings. It's the school.

"Hi, Kim. Lauren stopped by the office. She needs her communication folder."

Sure enough, I look around and the folder is right where I put it even though I told Lauren her signed lunch form and money for a class treat is in the pocket ready to go.

My instinct is to get in the car and head to the school - again but I stop myself.

Actions have consequences. Taking a page from Love & Logic Institute's school of thought, I tell my husband that Lauren is going to have to feel the embarrassment that comes when a teacher asks for something and you're unprepared.

I hope she learns an important lesson about organization.

I hope she shakes off negativity.

As I write this, it's only 10 a.m. and believe it or not, I still think it can be a good day.

How about you? What do you do when your child forgets something? What if it's important and you have the time to deliver it - do you?