Inside the Mommyvan

Homeschooling & Life Inside the Mommyvan - an old dog learning new tricks


We all made lots of music on Christmas Eve!

To the women in my life, past and present, who do not have children this Mother’s Day: I honor you today, and thank you for mothering me in your own ways and helping me become the Mama I am today.

You were role models and cheerleaders through my career in a field dominated by men. You showed me what fulfilling independent lives looked like when my own future was unclear. You gave me hope and comfort during my journey to motherhood. You allow me to enjoy your lives vicariously, with tales of travel, adventures, career paths, and other things that I traded in for my life as a full-time mother. You give me perspective and clarity from a point of view that isn’t so intertwined with little developing personalities. You care for, and about, my children with love and kindness.

Whether this is a day of happiness, sadness, or indifference for you, know that this grateful Mom appreciates you today.


Happy Halloween & some great costumes from my bloggy friends!

Alex Nguyen and her sons “the Stein brothers.” (Frankenstein and Einstein).



Teaching Ain’t for Heroes’ Peter Pan and Tinkerbell.

TotallyNursed — the Captain, and his friend, as Superman and Batman.


Pollychromatic’s adorable Wonderwoman and Captain America.


Jill Redding’s Doc McStuffin’s.

Fine and Fair’s Ladybug and Banana (she’s the monkey).


Elizabeth Hawksworth, tin-foil-hatting it.

Putting the twin in Parentwin, tbh. got a great stash!


It was A Day Well Spent, over here.


A Place That Does not Exist produced a raver this Halloween!


The Answer Is Garlic, or is it Yoda?



And Inside the Mommy Van gets outside!



Visiting the pumpkin patch at a local church has been an annual event since the kids were babes. They each pick one pumpkin for a jack-o-lantern and one mini pumpkin for decoration. I try to get a few nice photos while we’re there, since we don’t get much fall color anywhere else here in Florida.





A couple of weeks ago, a friend had an idea: a flashlight Easter egg hunt! She gathered a bunch of families via facebook, scoped out a local park (one open past sunset, with some lighted areas), and set a date. Most of the families, us included, are homeschoolers, so she picked a Thursday night thinking that the park would be less crowded on a “school night” — and indeed, the last of the basketball-tossers were leaving just as we arrived.

Our booty!

To spread the workload, each family brought 24 plastic eggs per child, stuffed with small candies or little toys. The organizer found a batch of golden eggs to hide with the rest, and each family also brought $5-or-less golden egg prizes. These were all laid out on a table, and each kid got to choose a prize as they found a golden egg.

The golden egg prize table

We had the kids wait out of the way (one parent got smart and led them in a game of Red Light – Green Light while they waited) while the parents scattered the eggs. The little kids got a few minutes head start, but since everyone was collecting just as many eggs as they came with, we knew no one would be seriously disappointed. A few people also brought extra golden egg prizes so that the last ones to find theirs would still have a spread to choose from.

Waiting for the hunt to begin

Overall, it was a great success! Simple, low-key, and the kids had a blast hunting with flashlights… and staying up past bedtime in the bargain. For the adults, it was far less chaos and (over)excitement than most of the public events around, and we got a little time to stand around and chat in between helping the younger kids. The kids got a nice assortment of goodies in their eggs, and had a chance to enjoy the event with friends of all ages. The older kids giving the younger ones a hand (or an egg) was especially heartwarming.

J searching for eggs (we put some in the brighter areas for the little kids)

The hunt underway out in the field

Conclusion: A++++ would flashlight hunt again next year! 🙂

Happy New Year!

I woke up this morning to my kids whining, teasing, and fighting with each other. No new year magic fairies stopped by during the night to change any of this, and apparently 5 year olds aren’t big on the whole new year resolution thing.

I’m not either. It’s nice to take a little time to reflect on he past year and think about what the 12 months ahead have in store for us, but I’m not taking it much further than that. Life changes too fast these days for me to set goals for an entire year ahead.

I can set goals for today, though, and maybe even the rest of the week. I can be more patient with my family and others around me. My housekeeping could stand some improvement. More imagination and creativity in my teaching techniques might make our lessons stick better and be more fun too.

That’s enough for now, maybe I’ll make some more resolutions next week.

I love Shutterfly. I’m not just saying that because using the links below might earn me a few bucks, but because I really do love their stuff. I first ordered Christmas cards from them when the twins were babies, and I haven’t looked back. I have a stack of photo books (I once even used the paperback books as favors to commemorate a special event!), and I have bought photo mugs, puzzles, calendars, labels, cute personalized notecards:

3×5 Folded Card
View the entire collection of cards.

… all sorts of goodies. I have (knock wood) never had a problem with their website working the way it should or with the quality of their products, and my orders usually arrive sooner than I expect.

They have some nice deals going for Black Friday and “Cyber Monday” too:

Up to 50% off all photo books, 40% off Stationary Cards, 20% off Greeting Card & Photo Cards from Offer valid 11/20-11/28

30% off 1 or 40% off 2 or more Calendars from! Offer valid 11/20-11/25

Buy 1, Get Unlimited for up to 50% off Calendars from! Offer valid 11/26-11/28

1 FREE card from– use coupon code CARD4U. Offer valid 11/20-11/21

1 FREE calendar from, no minimum purchase requirement – use code CALENDAR2013. Offer valid 11/20-11/23

Choice of 10 FREE 5×7 flat or 5×7 folded cards from Shutterfly! Use code BLACKFRIDAY. Offer valid 11/22-11/25

Cyber MonTueWednesday – take an additional 20% off entire order from – use coupon code EXTRA20. Offer valid 11/26-11/28

We’re still here. Still making progress, though the former routine has changed quite a bit in the past month. My ankle is healing, but walking in the “boot” did my knee no favors so it’s been a painful game of finding balance with a soft ankle brace, a knee brace, and resting whenever possible — easier said than done!

Our Halloween was, thankfully, an easy one. After much discussion, the kids settled on being a bat (J), a witch (K), and a ghost (S). All three costumes were simple to buy or make, and surprisingly in this age of ever more elaborate costumes, they got quite a few compliments! We had a funny encounter at a neighbor’s house, too. They sit out in their driveway each year watching the kids go by, and always have a bunch of creepy-crawly decorations to scare the trick-or-treaters. My kids, who you may recall attend a co-op science class where the teacher brings in all sorts of critters for them to see and touch, wanted to pet the remote-control tarantula, hold the wiggly snake, and were totally unfazed by the rubber bugs dropped on their shoulders!

School work has hit a plateau, bt I think in a good way. We were all getting a little frustrated with the seemingly endless worksheets, so I backed off on those. We’re at a spot with both reading & math where they need to practice what they know for a while before learning more, so I have been coming up with different ways for them to work on memorizing the single-digit addition facts and some other basics like skip counting. I’m also pushing them to each read at least part of a real book (with me, or just out loud where I can hear them) every day. We have switched to audio books for our long (chapter-book) read-alouds, and we primarily use driving time in the car for those.

Well, it’s off to church this morning, more on our new routine later!