Teish Knits

Teish Knits -

Sick Day Strategies

Three and a half weeks into January and someone in our house has been sick every day of it. Currently, all six of us coughing due to a particularly tenacious cold virus… Where’s my substitute teacher when I need her?

Since substitute teachers don’t come standard in our “New Homeschooler” orientation kit, we need a few coping strategies to pull out when winter germs invade!

  • Back to Basics

Scale it back to the three R’s for a few days. There’s something about getting through math and language arts that gives you a sense of accomplishment, even if it’s the only thing you did that day. If you regular curriculum is too intensive for a sick day, then pull out some math review worksheets and do some copywork. Grab a picture book and find all of the nouns, verbs, etc. for some easy grammar practice. Review is an important part of the learning process, and it’s easier on a child who’s not feeling great to review what they have learned, rather than trying to pick up something new.

  • Take Advantage of Technology

Netflix is full of some great documentaries. Find one that goes along with whatever history or science you’ve been studying and let the kids curl up with some tea to “watch TV”. Listening to audiobooks lets you fit in literature when everyone loses their voice. (Check out LibriVox for a ton of free classic audiobooks.) Don’t forget those educational apps you have downloaded on your mobile device. Practicing geography or math facts is fun and easy when you get to use Mom’s iPod! Technology can be your friend when everyone has the sniffles.

  • Shortcut Meals

Juggling everything is challenging enough on a normal day. When you throw sick kids (or moms) into the mix it’s that much crazier. Frozen pizzas, toaster waffles, and canned soup are pantry must-haves for those days! Don’t worry if it’s not made from scratch. Don’t worry if it’s not the healthiest option. You’re in survival mode. Trust me, just getting everyone fed is good enough at this point!

  • Nap Breaks

If someone is clearly tired out, then tuck them in with a warm blanket and let them nap. Sleep is sometimes the best medicine. If you’re the one needing the nap, don’t feel guilty if you curl up on the couch and turn on a movie for the kids to watch while you snooze!

  • Everyone Needs a Sick Day Now and Then

When the kids have been up all night throwing up, just take a sick day! If they were going to “regular school”, then they’d be staying home anyway. You can always catch up later.

Colds and stomach bugs are an unavoidable part of raising kids, whether or not you homeschool. Having a game plan for dealing with those days won’t make a substitute teacher magically appear, but it will help you get through the day!

What are your best tips for dealing with homeschool “sick days”?

Book Review: The Martian

9780553418026I’ve always been fascinated by space exploration. Like many kids, I dreamed of being an astronaut when I grew up. It’s no surprise that the cover of Andy Weir’s novel, The Martian, caught my eye!

Mark Watney was part of a crew who landed on Mars. Only a few days later, disaster struck and the crew had to evacuate. None of them knew that Mark was still alive. Stranded alone on an alien planet with a broken communications system, Mark has to figure out what to do next…

Most of the book is in the format of Mark’s log entries. That might sound a bit boring, but Mark’s sense of humor makes it anything but. (I literally laughed aloud several times while reading the book!) Thoughout the story, things go from bad, to worse, to are-you-kidding-me. I would normally dislike this sort of plotline, but the humor and the fact that the science is quite plausible made it an enjoyable read.

It’s quite obvious that Mr. Weir has a passion for the topic of space exploration, and has done his research. Even though the book is rich with science and engineering, it’s never dry. In fact, it’s one of the things about The Martian that so captivated my interest. It seemed more like science-possible than science fiction!

The only thing that I truly disliked about the book was the amount of bad language. I get that profanity is commonplace in our culture, but I truly believe that it’s unnecessary when you have a good story like The Martian. Unfortunately, due to the amount of language in the book, I can’t really recommend it. I’d strongly caution parents about letting their teens read the book for the same reason.

I’d love to see Andy Weir write more books along these lines, but without so much profanity.

Note: I received a free copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Winter Boredom Busters

Winter has set in and everyone is going a little stir-crazy. Up here in New England, we’re usually buried under a ton of snow. But even if your yard is bare, winter still brings colder temperatures that keep everyone inside more than we’d like! What do you do when you’re going a little crazy yourself, and the kids have been cooped up so long that they have positively lost it? You need a way to break up the monotony… fast!

Living Room Camp-Out

It may be freezing outside, but the kids can still go camping! Grab the sleeping bags and flashlights and get ready to set up camp. If you’ve got a small tent that will fit in your living room, so much the better! If not, you can always grab a couple of chairs and a bedsheet and use those blanket fort building skills from your childhood. Naturally, if you are camping, then you have to have s’mores. The microwave or toaster oven works well for making s’mores without the campfire.

Movie Night

It may be an unoriginal idea, but it seems like we always get back into the movie night habit in the winter. Try introducing your kids to some of the old classics that you watched growing up. It was great fun introducing my kids to the original Herbie movies! Whatever you decide to watch, do something fun that’s out of the ordinary. Make popcorn and toss in a handful of M&Ms for a great movie treat. Maybe hand out glowstick bracelets. My kids love piling onto Mom and Dad’s bed and watching a movie on the tiny TV in our room!

Listen to Something New

There are so many great audiobooks and radio dramas to choose from! Adventures in Oddessy is a favorite with my kids, and there are some wonderful audio recordings of Chronicles of Narnia that everyone can enjoy. Of course, you can purchase digital downloads and CDs, or borrow them from the local library. If you are interested in listening to classics, then do be sure to check out librivox.org. They have classic books read by volunteers that are free to listen to and download. (Bonus: Listening to something while doing chores is actually fun!)

Mix-it-Up Meals

Skip the casserole for dinner and make pancakes or omelets instead. Or, really surprise the kids and have make-your-own-sundaes for lunch! (Just once won’t ruin anyone’s diet, honest.) Pull out your cookbooks or browse a few cooking websites for a new recipe to try. If your kids are old enough to do some cooking on their own, let each of them take a turn trying out a new recipe for dinner.

Game Night

Pull out the board games, card games, or even wii bowling! Kids love playing games, and it’s an activity that can be tailored to fit any age group. Did the kids get games for Christmas that are still wrapped in plastic? Time to break them out and enjoy them. And, if a winter storm happens to knock out your power for a few hours, it’s the perfect excuse to play a game that doesn’t require batteries.

Research Your Family

Family genealogy can be a fascinating project. It could be as simple as jotting down some of the stories from your own childhood, or the kids “interviewing” their grandparents about what life was like “in the old days”. If you really want to dig into genealogy, there are some great websites and resources that will help. You may discover some famous, or infamous, relatives that you never knew about! Do be sure to record or write down the stories and other things you learn though. Your children and grandchildren will treasure it!

As a Last Resort…

Dive into your closet (or other hiding place) and unearth that project. You know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s the box that you really hope the kids forget about. You just know that once it’s opened, there’s no going back. There is going to be glitter, glue, playdoh, or some other terrible substance everywhere… Here’s the secret: Tell the kids that they can do the project, but they have to clean everything up when they are done. Yeah, you’ll still be finding glitter in every corner for a few months, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

It may not seem like it now, but spring really is just around the corner. For now, take advantage of being stuck inside and make some great memories with your kids!

Book Review: Where Treetops Glisten

WW2 historical fiction isn’t a genre that I typically read, but Where Treetops Glisten caught my eye anyway. I recognized the three authors who had contributed to the book (Tricia Goyer, Cara Putman, and Sarah Sundin) and I knew that each of them would tell a great story. Besides, there’s nothing like a good Christmas book to read while the snow falls!

Where Treetops Glisten follows three siblings, Abigail, Pete, and Merry. Each of the three novellas follows one of them through one of the Christmases during the war. Abigail is a college student, Pete is a lawyer turned pilot, and Merry is a nurse on the front lines in Europe. I enjoyed each of the stories, but Pete’s story in I’ll Be Home for Christmas was my personal favorite! The romances in each story seemed a tad rushed at times, but that’s to be expected when you are telling a story in the shorter novella format. All three stories have a strong emphasis on faith that I appreciated too.

Though I rarely read fiction set in this time period, I found the peek into America during the Second World War fascinating. I have photos of my grandfather and his brothers in their uniforms from that time period. While reading Where Treetops Glisten, I felt as though the old family photos came to life a little bit.

This is a great book to pick up for a bit of Christmas reading, particularly if you enjoy historical fiction or novella collections. The cookie recipes at the end of the book already have me making plans for an afternoon spent baking Christmas cookies too!

Note: I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are of course my own.

Author Interview: Canaan A. York

I love to interview local authors, particularly ones I’ve had the opportunity to meet in person! Recently I spoke with Canaan York, author of four children’s books, including the soon to be released The Cement Sky.

Teish Knits: Tell us a little about yourself.

Cannan York: I am a 31-year-old native of Medway, ME, who still lives in the same house I grew up in. I love sports and the color orange, reading and writing, owls, chai tea, am an avid dreamer and possibilitarian. I am kind and outgoing, yet balanced and reclusive at times. My family, friends and faith are my world—and shape my happiness and future.

TK: How did you get into writing?

CY: In many ways, I fell into writing. It pursued me when I ran from it. The art of writing was a talent I always had, but ignored the implorations of my educators at every level to pursue some avenue in professional writing as a career. Instead, I dreamt of being everything from an Electrolux salesperson to a sportscaster to an interior designer. As a testament to the hilarity and irony of life, I write children’s books and flex my entrepreneurial muscles in the summer by running a hot dog cart.

My professional foray into writing began in 2009 when a manuscript I submitted “To see how bad it is” was offered a contract! Of course, it underwent editing and revising, but ultimately became my first children’s book The Difference is Jesus. Following that fortuitous release have been Denny Dares to Dream (March 2013), In Heaven (September 2014) and The Cement Sky (January 2015).

TK: What made you decide to write children’s books?

CY: I try to live an inspiring life centered around things that aren’t always practical. I do not have children of my own and, frankly, know little about children in general . . . so in my mind it made sense to write stories for them; to write books I hoped they would love. My philosophy is to write stories that are unique and different, like each child who will read and cherish them; but that are all held together by a thread of inspiration. I believe the essence of writing for children encompasses penning tales that are designed to inspire and awaken the senses of wonderment and creativity that, like children themselves, are undeterred by convention and defy the limits of what seems possible; and are simultaneously unafraid to reveal that life does present difficulty and adversity, but that there is power within us that makes us strong enough to not just overcome, but to thrive.

CementSky_Cover_HighRes1TK: You have a new book debuting in January! Tell us about it!

CY: I do! And this book epitomizes the concept of finding purpose and thriving in the face if disappointment and adversity. It is called The Cement Sky and, amid being by far my most original work to date, it is essentially an exercise in perspective. The title, of course, is a metaphor and the subject matter (both that which is obviously written in text and that which is implied) is both heavy and lighthearted, left of center and yet universal.

To summarize without my rambling, the following is the blurb that appears on the back cover of the book:

In the hilltop town of Elevation, the sky isn’t made of cement. It just feels that way for Aster Starlight. The privileged Prince should be training to ignite the Sun, but the tradition is grounded when he is born wearing cement shoes and unable to fly! This unusual circumstance has offset the order of things in Elevation. Will Aster ever fly? What will happen if he doesn’t? What good is having beautiful wings that cannot be used? When a terrible storm threatens certain disaster, none of these questions even seem to matter.

The Cement Sky is a soaring tale of self-definition and the courage to defy the odds. Resonating with whimsy and inspiration, it favors the belief that everything happens for a reason and, where destiny is concerned, the sky truly is the limit.

TK: What was the writing process like for The Cement Sky?

CY: Loooooong and labor intensive. The concept had been swirling in my head for the better part of four years, but it was all wrong. Instead of putting in the work to balance my objectives with the less-is-more industry approach, I kept writing. The manuscript ballooned to over 4,000 words (picture books need to check in under 1,000 words) and I grew frustrated and bewildered. Although I was overwhelmed with positive thoughts, I still felt overwhelmed.

With gracious feedback and encouragement from personal and professional friends, I spent the majority of last winter reducing and reworking, trimming and tightening until, at long last, the manuscript that remained was drastically shorter, but no less poignant.

TK: What new projects do you have on the horizon?

CY: I have nothing in the production line at the moment, as I am currently focused on the process of querying literary agents for career representation. I am working with a critique group of professional peers to get some of my current manuscripts—including picture books dealing with bedtime, Christmas, and my beloved owls—polished before attending the SCBWI National Summer Conference in Los Angeles in late July. While there, I am also slated to meet with some film executives regarding the potential for an exciting adaptation of Cement Sky! And I plan to spend most of my free time on the promotional trail for my current release.

TK: Do you prefer music playing or quiet while you are writing?

CY: I typically prefer quiet while writing or reading. My brain is enough of a circus, so generally added noise only distracts from my creative process. However, with The Cement Sky, the opposite was true. I was so immersed in the world of Elevation that I came up with a soundtrack of songs with lyrics about the sky or that were just very fitting to the uniqueness and quirks of the tale. I still listen to the playlist on my iPod frequently.

TK: What books top your personal must-read list?

CY: Great question! There are far too many to name here, but I will give you my list of 5 all-time favorite children’s books, and then a list of the most recent novels I have read.

5 Favorite Children’s Books (All-Time & In Order)

  1. The Cloud Spinner by Michael Catchpool
  2. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
  3. Little Elliot, Big City by Mike Curato
  4. The Boy And The Ocean by Max Lucado
  5. The Cement Sky by Canaan A. York (sorry, it’s the truth)

As for novels I have read recently: Conversion by Katherine Howe; Finding Alaska by John Greene; The Bridge by Karen Kingsbury; A Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling; Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn; I am currently immersed in Left Neglected by Lisa Genova (and it is completely fantastic).

TK: What advice would you give to someone aspiring to write children’s books?

CY: Do not disrespect the process. I think a common misconception with people who do not know much about the industry is how difficult it is to get published, and how difficult it is to write viable literature for children. In today’s world of technology and pay-for-publishing services, it is technically NOT difficult for anyone to publish any book . . . but it is incredibly hard and requires longsuffering patience to publish traditional (or even high quality self-published) books for children. But, if you believe in yourself, your talent and your story . . . seeing it through to fruition is also something that is beyond rewarding! I would also tell prospective or aspiring authors to always keep in mind why they set out to write in the first place. If your goal is to become a millionaire or a celebrity, put your pen down now. Writers are not celebrities (even the ones whose books sell in the millions, are made into films or appear on Oprah’s Book Club or the Bestseller List in the New York Times). And, runaway bestsellers can make authors good money . . . but if that is your preemptive goal, you are writing less for passion and more for a financial angle and it will never work. I write with admitted big dreams, but do so with the understanding that if one of my stories can touch a child forever . . . I have been a success and the labor of love has been worth it!

TK: What’s your favorite thing about writing?

CY: My favorite thing about writing is that it is therapeutic for me. It is peaceful and allows me to find balance in my life that is often compromised. And I love that writing allows me to breathe life to the wildest, craziest and most surreal things I can imagine!

TK: Thanks so much for taking the time to chat Canaan!

You can connect with Canaan on his facebook page. And be sure to check out his books on Amazon. They would make great Christmas gifts for any of the kids on your list!

Thoughts for Tuesday, November 18th

Outside my windows… the ground was mostly bare again when we got more snow. It’s definitely here to stay.

Inside my house… I turned the thermostat up because even 70 was feeling a bit chilly. I must be getting old.

Counting 1000 gifts… people to send Christmas cards to.

Prayers of the heart… good decisions. I have one that I’ve been struggling with for the better part of the year, and I’m at the point where I really do have to decide what I’m going to do.

What the (not quite so) little ones are up to… math and Mario Kart!

From my playlist… Saturn by Sleeping at Last. The first half of the song is beautiful instrumental music, and the lyrics of the second half will make you stop and think.

From my reading list… Tears of the Sea from MaryLu Tyndall. I’ve really been enjoying her novels lately!

From my needlework basket… I actually took a 20 minute break to sew today. It was a good distraction and I was able to get back to things with a fresh mind.

In the learning room… the Middle Ages and early missionaries are on the list for history over the next few weeks.

Random ramblings… I’m so tired right now that I can’t think of anything random to ramble about… does that ever happen to you?

Profound ponderings… “One of the happiest moments in life is when you find the courage to let go of what you can’t change.” – Unknown

Caught on film…


Thoughts for Tuesday November 11th

Outside my windows… there’s lingering snow dusting the ground. I suppose I’ll have to get used to that again!

Inside my house… yellow caution tape… It’s the perfect party decoration for a little boy requesting a “construction” birthday.

Counting 1000 gifts… So thankful today for Camo. He arrived seven years ago today!

Prayers of the heart… it’s been such a hard month and a half. Not because of any one big thing, just a lot of little things that keep piling up. I’m praying for strength and rest this week.

What the (not quite so) little ones are up to… since birthdays around here mean LEGOs, the kids will be happily occupied all evening!

From my playlist… Angry Birds from The Greatest Video Game Music album. (It’s the London Philharmonic. You know it’s going to be good.)

From my reading list… When Treetops Glisten. It’s a Christmas themed novella collection. I’ll be posting a review here after I’ve finished the book. Since we have snow, it seemed like a good book to pick up.

From my needlework basket… I need to knit nice, thick wool boot socks for kids. I’m trying to wing it, but sock #1 didn’t exactly turn out.

In the learning room… Munchkin had requested books about airplanes a while back, and I came across an interesting used book with lots of photos that I picked up for her. Yesterday, she surprised us with her knowledge of stealth aircraft!

Random ramblings… So, I got a new cell phone. My old one wasn’t ringing through about half the time when someone tried to call me. As much as I dislike change, this one was necessary. I have a pre-paid phone because I honestly don’t use it enough to justify an actual monthly plan. Transferring the number and minutes from the old phone to the new one was not quite as easy as they make it out to be… After going through the transfer process on their website, three times using the automated system, and twice with real live CS reps, they told me that it could take two business days for it to “finalize”. In the meantime, I had no phone. Ah, technology…

Profound ponderings… “We cannot start over, but we can begin now, and make a new ending.” – Zig Ziglar

Caught on film…


Thoughts for Tuesday, November 4th

Outside my windows… sunshine and snow. We were rather surprised that our first snowstorm of the winter turned out to be a rather nasty blizzard!

Inside my house… are three boxes of books to take to the thrift store. I’m surprised by the number of duplicate books that I still had on my bookshelves from back when I merged Mom’s books with mine.

Counting 1000 gifts… thankful for heat and electricity this morning! We lost electricity for about 18 hours over Sunday and Monday. We have a propane heater that we can use when the power is out, but it doesn’t keep the house quite as toasty as the coal stove does.

Prayers of the heart… so many things heavy on my heart lately that I’m not free to share publically. Praying for myself and for friends.

What the (not quite so) little ones are up to… LEGO club magazines arrived today, so the older kids are engrossed in those! Little Guy has taken to drawing and tracing stencils lately, so he is busy at the table with paper and (washable!) markers.

From my playlist… We Dream of a Kingdom by Greg Long.

From my reading list… I just picked up the kindle edition of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. I’ve heard a few recommendations, and it sounds like a book I’d find helpful.

From my needlework basket… more Christmas knitting going on!

In the learning room… I’m deciding what to do this year that’s Thanksgiving themed. We’ve done the Amanda Bennett unit study in the past, and it’s a great study. I think it’s a little more than I want to tackle this year though. A good read-aloud and gratitude journals might be just about right.

Random ramblings… I ordered a Melissa and Doug “playdoh” set as a Christmas gift for Little Guy. It arrived in the mail today and my IT staff’s comment was, “You’ll regret that. He’ll love it, but you’ll regret it!” He’s right too! I’ll wonder what I was thinking when I’m peeling little bits of dough off every chair in the dining room!

Profound ponderings… “Write hard and clear about what hurts.” – Ernest Hemingway

Caught on film…


Thoughts for Tuesday October 28th

Outside my windows… there has been a lot of rain this week, but we had sunny skies today.

Inside my house… is a working printer on my desk. I didn’t quite realize how much I print until the previous printer bit the dust a month and a half ago. I did quite a bit of research trying to find the best printer in the price range that I had in mind. The new printer arrived last week while my IT staff was off teaching a workshop. I actually managed to get it set up and printing on my own. Will wonders never cease…

Counting 1000 gifts… so, so, so, thankful that my IT staff is home at last! I sure miss my Aaron when he’s gone.

Prayers of the heart… asking for perspective lately. There are so many things in a day that call for my time and attention. I want to make the right things my priority.

What the (not quite so) little ones are up to… Munchkin has discovered the Grandma’s Attic book series, and the boys have been working on a LEGO fort recently. Naturally, the fort includes cannons!

From my playlist… the soundtrack to Space Pirate Captain Harlock. If you know what that is, you are definitely a geek!

From my reading list… A Lady at Willowgrove Hall by Sarah Ladd. I’ll be posting a review here later this week.

From my needlework basket… Christmas vests for the kiddos. I’m making up the pattern as I go along since I couldn’t find a pattern I liked to go with the yarn I wanted to use. There’s a lot of math involved in pattern design.

In the learning room… multiplying fractions for Munchkin. She seems to take to fractions far better than her mother did, which is another thing I’m thankful for today!

Random ramblings… I went upstairs to grab a cable. Got upstairs and couldn’t remember why I was there, so I started back downstairs. Halfway down the stairs, I remembered the cable and had to turn around and go back for it. I really thought I’d be a bit older than 34 by the time stuff like this started happening…

Profound ponderings… “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Caught on film… because I still can’t believe that I get to write for my favorite magazine…


Thoughts for Tuesday, October 21st

Outside my windows… it’s getting quite dark at only 5:30. Summer sunset times have spoiled me.

Inside my house… the coal stove is running again. We had quite the warm spell with summer temperatures for a few days. Now we’ve settled back into chilly autumn nights.

Counting 1000 gifts… I’m feeling better every day, and I’m so thankful for that!

Prayers of the heart… praying for friends who’ve lost a loved one.

What the (not quite so) little ones are up to… Little Guy brought half of the contents of his crib downstairs today. Pretty sure I’ll be the one carrying most of it back upstairs at bedtime!

From my playlist… Do You Hear the People Sing? Though I preferred the film version of Les Miserables over the musical, this song became a favorite of mine.

From my reading list… The Redemption by MaryLu Tyndall. The swashbuckling adventure has captured my imagination, and I’ll definitely want to read through the whole series!

From my needlework basket… The yarn I ordered to use for the kids’ vests will not work with the pattern I’d picked out. I can’t get gauge unless I knit the bulky yarn on size 5 needles. (For non-knitters, that means that the vests would be like a stiff suit of armor!) So, I’m attempting to wing it and come up with my own pattern as I go. This could get interesting…

In the learning room… I am amazed by Mr. Q’s declaration that he loves doing multiplication. He did not get that from his mother!

Random ramblings… Since I’m reading a book about pirates and privateers, I’ve been pondering the idea of “legal” piracy as practiced by the privateers working for various governments throughout history. Though what they did might be technically legal, I have to wonder if it was still simple theft practiced under the color of law. There’s certainly an interesting ethical debate there that I’ll be pondering for a while…

Profound ponderings… “Poetry… should strike the reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost a remembrance.” – John Keats

Caught on film…