The endocrine system like you haven’t seen it before

The endocrine system like you haven’t seen it before

A few weeks ago, our seventh grader found out that he needed to do a presentation for his science class on one of the systems of the body. The students in the class were divided into pairs and then each group would randomly select a system to present. They had to come up with a creative way to teach that system of the body to the rest of the class.

When my son told me about this, I was nervous for him. Oh how I hoped he would get a good system. Let’s face it, when you are in seventh grade, certain bodily functions are just a little more difficult to talk about than others!

He came home a few days later and told me he had been given his system. The Endocrine System.

OK. How bad could that be?

The students were challenged to do a 3-D visual presentation. In other words, no pasting photos on a posterboard. It needed to be more creative.

I immediately started encouraging my son to use this as an opportunity to have some fun with his project. His passion is making movies, and this would be a perfect opportunity to put his movie-making skills to good use. At first, he was was adamant he would find another way.

But on Friday, he was finally up against a deadline of having his presentation ready by Monday morning. He had been researching the Endocrine System, and we both agreed that creating a visual for how your glands secrete hormones and how those hormones travel through the body and how those hormones affect certain parts of the body really was not going to be the easiest thing in the world to explain. I mean really, how do you make a clay sculpture or some other visual of your glands and hormones?

He had the day off school on Friday, and by Friday afternoon, he was starting to agree that a movie might be the way to go. He has made dozens of movies over the past few years, and he has done several in the past using a green screen to create special effects. We started talking about how he might be able to use a green screen to make it look like he was actually inside the human body.

Fortunately, I have been playing around with a green screen for my job the past couple of weeks for a project I’m working on. The makeshift green fabric we had used in the past to serve as our green screen was difficult to work with. But it just so happened that just a few days earlier, I had figured out that a bright green wall in our church works perfectly as a green screen.


We started talking about different ways he could present something as vague as the endocrine system in terms that would be easily understandable to a bunch of middle school students. He came up with the idea of comparing it to how an air traffic controller communicates with pilots. Full of ideas, but running short on time, we headed over to the church to do some quick filming.

Our son actually enjoys doing presentations. He has a great sense of humor, and he really enjoys public speaking. I asked him to write a script of what he was going to say for the video, but he insisted that he would be fine. He would just wing it.


He brought along some props so he could be two different characters in his movie. He sat down in front of the green screen, and he started talking. The kid cracks me up. I was laughing so hard at certain times that I almost ruined his movie with my background laughter.

Well, we spent the rest of Friday and part of Saturday editing his presentation. I was excited for him, but also a little scared of his teacher’s reaction. He definitely took a light-hearted approach to his presentation, and I hoped she would be OK with that. Since I was the one who kept bugging him to do a movie, I was afraid of how upset he would be with me if she hated it!

I was nervous for him all day, knowing he and his partner might do their presentation today. When he got home, he had some good news. His teacher loved his movie!

Well, normally, believe me, I would not subject you, my loyal and faithful blog readers to a video of my child’s science project. But really, I think you will enjoy this one. Here it is: The Endocrine System (like you probably haven’t seen it before). πŸ™‚

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Sorting through my laundry issues

Sorting through my laundry issues

During the past six years of this blog, I have written many posts about my greatest foe in this house.

No matter how hard I have tried, I’ve never been able to keep up with my enemy’s super stellar powers. She churns out messy piles faster than I can clean them. She is spread all over the house. She waits. She topples. She stinks.

It’s as if she lives and breathes, growing larger and taller each day.

I’m sure you know her: The laundry.

Well, I’ve got big news about the laundry. Despite the risk of being awarded the prize for “Most Mundane Mothering Blog,” it’s time for me to announce a major change in our relationship. I probably shouldn’t even say this out loud.

I kind of.


the laundry.



It’s so weird I can barely believe it myself. And I don’t know how long it will last. So I better blog about it while it’s still a reality.

You might remember that my laundry room and office are in one room in our house. Last spring, when I decided to become an organized person and rid myself of the clutter in my life, I did a major overhaul of that room. I so wish I had taken a before shot. It was so embarrassing at the time that I couldn’t bring myself to shoot a photo.

This at least will show you the walls and all of the cleaning supplies, but this photo was taken AFTER I removed tons of junk and about 23 piles of dirty clothes from the room.


Now my laundry room is a much happier place. Even when it is piled full of laundry, I still love going in that room. In fact, because my office is in the other half of the room, it’s where I spend most of my time.


The mere fact that I like going IN the room has become a huge help in staying on top of the laundry.


I recently made another improvement that is so geeky I can’t even believe I’m going to blog about it. But here I go. With six people in our family, we create a ton of dirty laundry on a weekly basis. I have no choice but to buy detergent and fabric softener in the largest containers possible.

But I find that those uber large laundry containers drip all over the place. I had been pouring the detergent into smaller containers left over from other uses. I finally decided it was time to make my detergent pretty. So I found these two carafes for about $3 each at Target.


I pour my big box of OxyClean in the glass jar that once held candy. The little bowl is for my “laundry money” β€” all of the changes and other treasures that I find in the dryer.

Here’s my detergent before and after:



Ahhh… don’t they look happy?

I’ve also made a couple of other changes that help with the folding and putting away part of laundry. We all know that’s where the REAL fun begins, right?

I love organizing our closets into ROY G BIV order. Shockingly, I’ve managed to keep our clothes this way all year, since I first did it back in January! Now I kind of enjoy opening the closet and seeing all of the clothes hanging in order by color.

I also started watching BONES on Netflix. How does watching a crime show possibly help with the laundry? Well, by doing two loads of laundry per day, I usually have six loads of laundry to fold in just a few days. One episode of BONES is 45 minutes, which is the perfect length of time to work my way through all of that folding. I now look forward to an excuse to lock myself in my room with piles of clean clothes. I sort, fold and hang while BONES is busy cleaning bones and solving crime. It’s a great relationship.

Well, I could probably talk about the laundry all day (as you can tell), but I have a few loads waiting.

While I’m washing and drying, will you reveal your dirty laundry? I would love to know if anyone else struggles with laundry like I do? Do you have any secrets for staying on top of the laundry piles? Don’t be shy. It’s OK to come clean. πŸ™‚



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Best invention ever, part 2

Best invention ever, part 2

Last night, I was searching for something I had written a while ago on my blog, and I stumbled across this blog post from last year. It was fun to look back and remember that huge transition stage we were going through just one year ago after the first week of school.

It seems so funny to me now that on our worst days of home schooling, I would sometimes pull out the most horrible threat to strike fear in my kids. “If you don’t change your attitudes, I will be happy to send you to SCHOOL!” (Cue the gasps and cries of terror.)

Well, here we are a year later, and I could just as easily reverse that threat if our kids were misbehaving at school. Even though we had a positive experience with a lot of aspects of home schooling, I don’t think any of us would choose to go back to doing school at home.

We have been super blessed that all three of them have wonderful teachers, nice friends and some great experiences at school. We felt like experts walking into school for the first time this fall. We had so many funny conversations remembering how nervous we were the year before as the new family at school. This year, we were on the look out for other new families we might be able to help and show the ropes. πŸ™‚

I had moments last year when I thought maybe I had failed them somehow by giving up on home schooling. Was I giving them the best chance at a good education? Would they suffer by losing the efficiency and one-on-one attention they got through home schooling?

What I’ve learned the past year is that home schooling can be an excellent choice for a lot of families. But it’s not for everyone. I loved being with my kids. I did my best to stay organized and find creative ways to teach them. We could not have asked for a better group of friends. But honestly, my heart just wasn’t in it. And if my heart wasn’t in it, it was going to be a challenge for everyone involved.

It was definitely the most difficult thing I ever tried to do. I didn’t even realize how incredibly difficult it was until I wasn’t doing it anymore. When my home schooling friends are having a bad day, I wish I could express to them how amazing they really are. It’s not easy to be mom, wife, homemaker and educator (plus, keep track of all of the other commitments we have)!

I’m so, so, so thankful that our new school is working. Life at school isn’t perfect. But I would have to say that even when they have encountered challenging situations, it has led to good conversations about making smart choices and doing the right thing.

I still have my days when I’m in awe of the magical drop-off line where I just open the door, and there they go! Off to be educated by someone else! The most amazing part is that their teachers truly do love them and want to see them grow. I feel like their teachers are my partners in this journey.

I love picking up my kids from school and hearing all the stories from their day. I love being the mom who can have warm cookies ready when they walk through the door. We’ve even adapted to spending our evenings doing homework. And I completely enjoy the hours during the day when I can focus on my part-time job and other responsibilities without having to worry about whether I’m doing OK as their teacher, too.

I know other moms are going through the journey of trying to figure out the best way to educate their kids, and maybe that’s why I decided to write this blog post. It’s a difficult process. One solution is not right for everyone. Just because public school or private school or home school is working great for another family, it doesn’t mean it’s what you should do. Just because our school situation is working well for us, it doesn’t mean it would be a good fit for everyone. And guess what? It’s even OK to make a change if what you’ve chosen isn’t working. πŸ™‚

We still don’t know what the future will hold. We have one child who is two years away from another transition going to high school. And we have one more who will start kindergarten in a few years. But for us, at this moment, I’m thankful for the amazing invention known as school. πŸ™‚



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Chasing the moon

Chasing the moon

The moon is making me crazy.

You might remember reading back in June, this post about how I became fascinated with the moon. It probably sounded like one of my fads. Just a momentary interest that I would quickly forget. Like leg warmers or acid wash jeans, I would be all over it for a little while, but it would quickly lose its appeal.

Oh, no. I guess you could say, the moon and I are in a bit of a contest.

I just want to take its photo. I want to catch that big, glowing orb right as it’s coming up across the horizon. I want to see it in its largest, fullest glory as it is rising for the night and it looks larger than life at the edge of the sky.

What I’m finding is that it’s not easy. And the more difficult I realize it is to accomplish my goal, the more I want to try. Yes, the moon is making me crazy. And I’m crazy about the moon!

I mean, taking a photo of the sun is so simple in comparison. Every day at nearly the same time, it rises and it sets. It’s always huge and glowing. Depending on the weather and your location, the sunset is gloriously different every day. And that alone, makes it a wonder to capture in a photo.

But the moon? It’s complicated.

First of all, you only get one day of the month when it is truly a full moon. Sure, you have a few days before and after when it looks almost completely round from down here a million miles away. But on that one day when the moon is full, it rises and sets at nearly the same moment that the sun is coming up or going down. This is your best chance to take the best photo because the sun is shining its spotlight directly at the moon straight across the horizon.

Just figuring out when to catch the moon as it comes up takes effort. The time of the moonrise changes by almost an hour from one night to the next. I don’t want just a photo of the moon high up in the sky. I want to catch it right as it’s coming up over the horizon. At that point, it gives the impression it is way larger than usual. And to catch it, you have to be ready. In the perfect location. Tripod set up. Camera ready to shoot.

Finding a great location where I live is nearly impossible. The best spot is somewhere away from the city lights. The terrain needs to be as flat as possible. No trees. No houses. No hills. Not even a cornfield.

Around here, that means driving about 10-20 miles away from the suburbs to a farmer’s field. The problem is that once you find the perfect spot, it’s someone’s private property and there’s no where to park. I went on a moon watch back in July and ended up pulling over onto a little road that went into a bean field. I had been sitting there about five minutes when the farmer came driving down the lane in his pick-up truck from the house across the street. He pulled up beside me and asked what I was doing.

I was preparing myself to see him pull out his shotgun, as I hastily explained, “It’s a full moon tonight… and it’s a super moon… and I just want to take a photo… (and, yes, I’m completely nuts).”

Then, once you’re there on the right day at the perfect location and the perfect time, you still have to think about the clouds and the smog. Even though I was completely prepared, I couldn’t see the moon until it got to this point in the sky. I had my compass to make sure I was staring at the right spot. I was watching the sky. Looking at the time. Checking my compass. Then, it started to appear. Just a faint orange ball at first. After a few minutes, it started to materialize.

I sit there with my camera thinking of our family living on a farm in southern Illinois. I bet all they have to do is step outside on the right day and they can see the moon coming up over the horizon. I get jealous of people living in Wyoming or on a beach who probably get an amazing view without too much effort.

This month, it was far too rainy and overcast to see the moonrise on the day it was full. But the next morning, I realized maybe I could catch it when it was going back down. I drove for a little while and finally found a spot where I could pull over and get a few shots.

Right now, the moon is beating me. It keeps moving through the sky. I keep chasing. One of these days, I will plan a vacation to a perfectly flat destination in the middle of nowhere, and I will get my photo of the moon. Until then, I alwaysΒ  have next month.

Watch out, Moon! I’m watching you!


Any other moon watchers out there? Leave me a comment and let me know!



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Family photo shoot

Family photo shoot

I love getting the family together in the fall and going somewhere beautiful to take our family photos.

The kids? Well, not so much. One of the reason our family photo shoots are typically not super enjoyable is that I insist on trying to take our photos with the timer and the tripod.

I’m sure you know the drill. Get everyone perfectly positioned. Set the timer. Mom runs around from behind the camera, plants a big smile on her face and tries to stop sweating before the timer stops beeping.

This year, it was such a joy that my dear friend, Beth, was willing to snap some photos for us. Beth and I have lots in common, but one of our biggest shared interests is photography. We have both been diving into the world of photography big time during the last year. She is super talented and takes some absolutely amazing photos, which you can check out on her blog.

We were so blessed that she was willing to give up part of her Saturday to go to one of our favorite places, Cantigny gardens, and take these photos. I think we chose THE most popular weekend of the year to take our photos at Cantigny because we practically had to wait in line at each of the preferred photo spots behind families and wedding parties all vying for the perfect backdrop. The tripod/running method would NOT have been popular if I had attempted to do these on my own!

I’ve taken so many photos of other families this past year, that I could barely believe it when I took my camera home and imported all of the photos. There WE were! Beth did such a great job!

We had a few minutes of good light left after the family photos, so I snapped some shots of just the kids. Yay! Fall photos are done, and without nearly as much stress as years past. πŸ™‚


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