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Life of Fred Beginning Readers Review

Life of Fred beginning readers set 1 - simple, fun, and engaging readers for children

A four year old named Fred has been a long-time friend in our house. Fred typically visits when it’s math time, but the last few weeks he has also been a part of our reading time with our youngest.

Time and again I’ve mentioned that our boys are very cautious readers. That’s the nice way of saying our girls started reading just.like.that and our boys, using the same techniques and such, get frustrated, think they can’t read, fuss, cry, or all of the above when it comes to reading time. It’s been trying to say the least.

Don’t get me wrong, they both made progress and our reading program really is fabulous and works, but last year it was a million loud cheers when Zachary finally decided to sit down and really read a book all by himself. And he hasn’t stopped since. Some kids just aren’t wired the same. (There’s a shocking newsflash, eh?)

Kaleb is pushing along the same path as his brother. Despite encouragement and the fact that he can read, there are days when it is a struggle. A huge struggle. We sit down and cuddle up, work on a lesson, and again starts the cycle. We’ll stop when needed and continue with encouragement, but it’s just hard.

The Life of Fred math books are a huge hit in our house and something we have enjoyed for years. When Educents asked if I would be willing to take a look at the Life of Fred Eden beginning readers…well, it wasn’t a very difficult choice. I’ll admit that even I was a bit curious about what exactly was inside the pages of these books. (Incidentally, they have some great deals on Life of Fred products right now!)

Here’s a peek at one of our favorites that I shared on Facebook (you can also watch it via YouTube).


We have been LOVING the Life of Fred Beginning Readers we received from Educents earlier this month. Here is a quick peek inside and a little more on what we are loving. Stay tuned for a blog post today with more (and a giveaway!)! (Sponsor)

Posted by Homeschool Creations on Monday, 28 September 2015


More About the Life of Fred Beginning Readers

life of fred eden readers-26

The Life of Fred beginning readers set 1 contains the following six books: Blue, Bus, Lake, Potato Dreams, Ducks, and Rain. Each of the books is focused on a specific color (you’ll notice the cover titles are all done in the color they feature), so children learn eighteen color words when working through the books in the three different sets. (See sample pages here.)

The books all follow Fred, a four year old genius boy who has a doll named Kingie. Together they go on adventures. In this series, you follow Fred and Kingie as they take the bus to Fall River Lake, learn about different colors (blue, orange, red, brown, pink, and gray), meet ducks, talk about emotions, learn how to cook potatoes, and so much more random silliness.

Each hardcover book features a combination of real pictures and images along with drawings of Fred and Kingie, other creatures, and cartoons. They are completely non-sensical stories that children l.o.v.e. to no end. In short, the stories are simple and engaging. Silly, yes, but in such an amazingly fun way.

Targeted toward children ages 4 and up.


Our Thoughts on the Life of Fred Beginning Readers

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We have the first six readers (Eden set 1), but Kaleb has been toting around his reader pile for the last two weeks. Every day he pulls out two or three of them and we read and re-read the stories together. And it isn’t just Kaleb who has been engaged with the books! As we have curled up and the laughter begins bubbling from him, the other three kids are soon crowding around to see what is happening with Fred and Kingie. (Yes, they all love Fred – even the high schooler.)

Where this boy normally reads with ZERO voice inflection (i.e. questions don’t sound like questions and he has completely flat tone overall), he is giggling, reading with different voices, speech rate patterns, and truly engaging with the stories. It has been so amazing and fun to watch the process.

life of fred eden readers

These silly, non-sensical stories are bringing this little boy to life. Yes, he still gets a little frustrated here and there reading, but he tries so hard. We had intended to videotape him reading a story, but he was extremely nervous and after five tries – well, we decided that we’d just tell you that he thinks Fred is very funny. Very funny. Kingie even more so (especially when you see what Kingie packs to take to the lake). We’ve had more conversations about how Kingie could have even fit a pool table into his bag, never mind lifted it.

We laugh at the drawings (Fred does have a square head after all). We laugh especially hard at Kingie’s paintings – because they are always amazing and completely ridiculous. Did I mention these books are funny?

life of fred eden readers-99

Text on each page is fairly minimal in the six books we have, and the books aren’t overwhelming, wonderful for hesitant readers. Keep in mind this is not a full reading program (no teacher’s guide or specific introduction of blends/words in any order), but readers for children to practice the skills they have already learned and help them further enjoy the reading process. They may likely pick up several new words and some added confidence in the as they go through the stories too.

While initially I wasn’t sure what to think of the books, I did know how much our kids have loved Life of Fred for math, and these readers are no different. They are books I know we will go back to over and over again. Yes, they are beginning readers, but so often that confidence boost and added humor are needed to bring life to our reading!

Save an extra 10% TODAY ONLY!!

Currently Educents is offering discounted bundles for purchase. You can purchase the Life of Fred readers directly from their site AND save an extra 10% off with the coupon code HSC10. It’s a special code JUST for my readers, so be sure to use it!!

The LIFE OF FRED SALE ENDS October 18th, so don’t miss it!

Be sure to browse the rest of their affordable deals as well!

A Bonus Giveaway!!


Educents has also offered one of my readers the Life of Fred Beginning Readers Set 1! To enter the giveaway, follow the directions in the Rafflecopter widget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

LIfe of Fred beginning readers - simple, fun, and engaging for children

Story Detective Printable – Identifying Parts of a Story

Story Detective printables for learning the parts of a story


This year we are using WriteShop Primary C as a part of Kaleb’s 3rd grade curriculum. Right now we are learning about the parts of a story: the who, what, where, when, why, and story details.

Because I didn’t want to take 20 minutes to cut out and create the suggested magnifying glasses (heaven forbid I should pull out the construction paper and scissors – every one of them would be a different shape and that would bother me), I spent an hour creating the Story Detective printables instead. (In my defense, there are more than magnifying glasses in the pack.)

Story Detective Printables

Story detective worksheets at a glance

Inside the Story Detective printable set you will find:

  • Story Part magnifying glasses: who, what, where, when, why/how, and story details
  • Story detective worksheet: use this to go along with stories your child creates or reads
  • Take-along cards: quick notecards to hang up or use as a reference
  • Story sheets: write and illustrate your own story

Download button

Draw and Journal Pages

Draw and Journal Pages

If you like the story sheets that are in the pack you can find additional Draw and Journal pages here.

Essay Outline For Older Children

Hamburger essay outline for literature

If you have older children that are at the essay stage of writing, download a free copy of the Hamburger Essay Outline to help organize the writing process.

2nd Grade Year in Review – Homeschool Curriculum Choices

2nd Grade Homeschool Year in Review

While getting all of our curriculum lined up for the year can be overwhelming, sometimes putting it all into practice can be equally as daunting. Choices that may have seemed great at the beginning of the year might not pan out by the end of the year. It’s fun to see all the different options that we share when we start, but I also love hearing how programs worked out for families during the course of the year – and hope you do as well. (p.s. my friend Carisa has also been sharing her year end thoughts as well).

You can see all of the homeschool curriculum choices for the past year here, but below you’ll get a good look at what we used for Kaleb’s second grade year and what we will be (or won’t be) using again next year – and why. This year Kaleb was still doing the bulk of his subjects with me, although we were working on him being a little more independent in some subject areas. Each year we typically add a subject for our kids to work on independently and ‘phase out’ a little bit of me helping. Quite honestly, it’s a little harder on me, because I realize that he is my youngest and there is just something about knowing he is our last one that gets me a bit emotional.


The plan: All About Spelling Level 2 (3 if he was ready) and All About Homophones


We typically worked on one lesson a week (although not always). Our focus was on Level 2 this year and we didn’t worry about moving on to Level 3 this year. Working on All About Homophones was more of an occasional lesson (maybe five throughout the year based on what we were learning about). Kaleb isn’t super fond of writing, so sentences weren’t his favorite thing at the end of the lesson. There are still a few ‘review’ concepts we need to focus on for next year, but by the end of the year Kaleb was getting more into a groove with spelling and I love how well All About Spelling ties in with All About Reading. The similar formats simplify the teaching and they streamline well together. This will definitely be a program we use again next year. (For those of you who know me well, you know that it is our favorite homeschool spelling program, hands down!).

And the dog – yep. Ever since we brought her home, that is where she likes to rest during school time, especially spelling!


The plan: Picture Smart Bible – wrapping up our Old Testament Studies and 90 Devotions for Kids – morning devotions.

We did work through most of Picture Smart Bible and at the end of the year switched over to Grapevine to work on a short lesson. Kaleb liked the simpler pages for younger kids that Picture Smart Bible offers, but he really enjoys drawing, so Grapevine was the best fit for him this year. The 90 Devotions for Kids is a perfect fit for our mornings and we ended up purchasing the next devotion book because we loved it so much!

In November and December we took a break from Picture Smart Bible to focus on Unwrapping the Greatest Gift and work on another family devotional from Focus on the Family. We loved the Advent study from Ann Voskamp – those coloring pages just seal the deal!


The plan: Mystery of History 4 combined with Story of the World 4; Liberty Kids dvd series


Although the lessons were longer in MOH 4, the kids loved this year because we were able to add in so many REAL videos from recent events and see pictures of things as they happened. Kaleb really enjoys the coloring pages that go along with Mystery of History and is a stickler for getting those finished each day. He meticulously saves each and every one of them! We did fill in here and there with Story of the World, but primarily focused on Mystery of History.

While he doesn’t always grasp as much as the older kids do in our daily readings, he is getting quite a bit out of the lessons, which is always fun to hear what he remembers. Things were fairly low-key for him this year and I didn’t have him take any quizzes – just coloring pages and timelines overall. Kaleb also loves to embellish and add in his own drawings (art is another one of his favorite things), so there was a lot for him to work on this year and add in to our lessons.

We didn’t use the Liberty Kids dvds as much as I had anticipated, mainly because we moved into modern history rather quickly and our time with the early colonial days ended (sniff). That may be a period of history that I am rather fond of.


The plan: Teaching Textbooks 3Life of Fred Dogs and Edgewood; Spielgaben; Calendar Notebook Binder Printables


Teaching Textbooks 3 – the plan was for Kaleb to do this independently on the computer, but the stinker said that he learned better if I did the lesson with him 1:1 (He just missed spending the time with me, and who am I to say no?) We just did the lessons as they were written in the book (the same as they are on the CD-rom, and his math skills are off the charts. He loves numbers – so fun to see his little brain at work. On to TT4 next year!

spielgaben math 3rd grade

Spielgaben – while we didn’t use these daily, we typically used Spielgaben at least once a week to go along with our math learning and to supplement in some way what we were learning – or look at it from a different angle.

Life of Fred Dogs – this is always a fun filler for us. Kaleb just giggles when we pull out the book and we actually worked on Dogs and also worked on Edgewood as well. There aren’t a huge number of lessons in each book, so we typically did one lesson every week or every other week.

Calendar Notebook: Kaleb was able to work on this independently each day and still loves it, so we will likely continue next year with it as well, because he loves the repetition.


The plan: Nancy Larson Science 2 with LEGO Education programs ~ WeDo and Simple Machines

simple machines nancy larson

Our boys (2nd and 4th grade) both worked on Nancy Larson Science 2 together this year and loved it. We added in some fun simple machine projects using our Simple Machines from LEGO and also our K’Nex Simple Machines set (the boys LOVED these!!). The pace for the year was 2 to 3 lessons a week, depending on how they wanted to work on the lessons. If we were in a groove, we kept going with lessons!


Because Kaleb isn’t a huge fan of writing (a lot of complaining when he has to fill in blanks, etc…), there were times when I just let him get creative with his answers (so instead of writing out the color name, he drew a colored line).


This was a new program for us this year and while it was a good go-between as we transitioned from First Language Lessons, the approach overall didn’t work as well for either Kaleb or myself (both teaching style and learning). Kaleb wasn’t a huge fan of the stories that went along with the program (me either), and in comparison to some of the other programs we’ve used, it just wasn’t a favorite of mine. Next year we’ll be moving on to another program, but we did finish out the year with it.


All About Reading Level 2 and misc. readers based on reading level

All about Reading 2

Reading is still a slow-going process with Kaleb, but little by little there are things clicking in his brain and he is doing SO much better overall. Zachary was slower in reading (and let me tell you, I am quick to beat myself up over what I am doing wrong, especially when I start comparing his reading with another child’s – either one of my own or a friend’s). This has been an area for me that has caused much angst the past two years, but we are just working slowly and steadily, making sure he has a solid foundation in all he is doing. He IS making improvement and beginning to enjoy it, which is so much of the process. Next year we will move on to All About Reading 3.



Kaleb is always quick to pull out his handwriting first thing (note the pajamas above) and get his handwriting done right off the bat. In addition to working through A Reason for Handwriting Level B, he also wanted to work on some cursive learning as well, so I found a few random workbook pages on our shelves from years gone by that he could add in. It makes me laugh that he hates to write (a four word sentence), but he is meticulous on his handwriting sheet!
Next year he will be moving on to cursive and I am working on a program for him (although we love A Reason for Handwriting), but it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a bit and am finally getting around to!


homeschool January 2015-34

Hands down, art is Kaleb’s favorite subject. This was one area that he was able to do (mostly) independently this year. When he was ready to do a lesson (usually once a week unless he asked to do more), I would pull out the supplies for him and he would pop in the dvd from Home Art Studio and work through the lesson on his own. He amassed quite the display wall throughout the year! Definitely planning to use it again next year with him, but the 3rd grade program.

Additional Learning

Spielgaben learning

One of the things that I really wanted to do this year for Kaleb was intentionally add in learning time with Spielgaben (a few of the other kids want in on the fun too). To give you an idea of how we tied it in, one week he worked on creating the Eiffel Tower (we were talking about France during one of our history lessons). We used the manuals from Spielgaben that come along for this project, but he also spent time creating a few other fun things as well. This learning was in addition to using the manipulatives with math.


PE, Art, and other electives
We participated in two different co-ops this year, and overall they were a lot of fun for Kaleb. Although our kids are active with swim team and life in general, PE at co-op is always fun, art is an added bonus for Kaleb, and one of our co-op rotates through various electives (Kaleb really loved the sewing on burlap this year). Our second co-op had the kids learning Spanish together, doing some fun science projects, and also getting active and learning some different games that are a little harder to learn with only one or two kids.
I’ll be sharing our year end review of 4th, 6th, and 8th grade soon, so be sure to check back!

New to Homeschooling?

If you are new to homeschooling and aren’t sure where to begin in choosing homeschool curriculum, please don’t let this post overwhelm you! Here are a few posts that you might find helpful as you discover what is best for your family. Be sure to check out the entire Homeschool Basics series for answers to more frequently asked homeschool questions.

Homeschool Teaching Styles and Philosphies.png Identifying Children's Learning Styles copy How to Choose Homeschool Curriculum


Additional Resources: Unfamiliar with some of the curriculum choices above? Follow the links below to learn more about the companies and resources:

Curriculum Choices from Years Past…

If you’d like to see what curriculum we’ve used in years past, click on one of the posts below. Grade levels taught each year are listed with the posts.

What We’ve Been Up to in Our Homeschool Time – a Sum-up of the Last Five or So Weeks

The last time I shared about our homeschool goings-on was quite a bit ago. March to be precise. It was just before life got crazy with travel and doctor’s visits. And then it started to feel like I was so behind and there was so much to share – which is true on both accounts.

But, it is always so much fun to see what others have been up to, so this is the abbreviated version of what we’ve been learning about in the last six or seven weeks. There are a few subjects that we still have to wrap-up for the year, and we likely won’t finish on schedule, and that’s ok. Really ok. (I need to keep reminding myself of that).


We did finish up Nancy Larson Science 2 with the boys and they both had so much fun with dissecting owl pellets. The last unit is all about birds, so it was a fun way to round out the unit. I ended up buying a more owl pellets online because they wanted to do more! Kaleb was a bit grossed out at first, but he was the one that ended up pulling apart the most!


For the last eight weeks of school the kids asked if we could work on a Grapevine Bible study together. While we’ve enjoyed Picture Smart Bible, they told me they prefer Grapevine – so we made a quick and easy switch. They all love drawing their figures and illustrating their stories, so we are working on the book of Ruth together.


For me that meant some new teacher supplies – a lovely rainbow collection of dry erase markers. Can someone please explain how all the colors you need seem to dry out the fastest? I’m rather happy with the new collection. (grins)


We had been using graph paper for Kaleb’s math, but truthfully – for a 2nd grader, it was a bit much (and more expensive). A reader suggested turning a sheet of lined paper sideways and lining up columns for him to work on his math problems that way. SO much easier for him!

Laurianna has been working hard on several projects for her physical science credit. Her most recent one was building a solar-powered fan. She was really frustrated because it didn’t work for quite some time, and we couldn’t figure out why, and then one day it suddenly started working. Yay!!


This entire high school thing is really sinking in now that we are wrapping up our first year – yikes! When helping out at a homeschool convention, I picked up a microscope for next year’s biology lab. Like a real heavy-duty for REAL microscope. I know it’s not a huge thing, but it somehow just makes it even more real.


While this picture is a little cheesy, my thought is if you take pictures using your mom’s phone, it becomes her property to do whatsoever she desires with it. A few weeks ago I took our high school lit co-op class to see Much Ado About Nothing at a nearby Shakespeare center. SO MUCH FUN. Not only with the kids, but just in remembering part of what I loved about being an English major. Our class had been studying The Tempest, so it wasn’t the same play – but still worth every minute there. The theatre was packed and our small group of six had nearly front row seats – and two on the stage so the kids had to participate a few times. We are definitely doing it again next year!


With the weather turning beautiful, we’ve been spending time outside on the front porch or our back deck. The birds have been out in full swing and it has been so much fun to look for the different species. We’ve been using our Bird Nature Study Printables to count how many have been at the feeder and using our iBird Pro app to imitate their calls. McKenna and Zachary spent about 45 minutes outside one morning and managed to have a piliated woodpecker get close to the house. It really has been a blast!


One of the things I’ve had the hardest time keeping up with this year is the grading of papers. The typical day to day isn’t too bad, but having papers from lit class in co-op is a little more challenging. It’s one thing to grade your own child’s paper, but quite another sometimes to grade papers for other kids. Over the last year it has been so encouraging to see how each of the kids has grown in their writing abilities – and it can sometimes be hard to give constructive criticism. As hard as it is to give it, the kids have been so gracious in how they receive it too, working even harder. Love that.


Since the boys have finished their day-to-day science lessons, they are all about finding nature around the house and enjoying that. They unearthed a red salamander one morning and have been checking often to see if it is still hanging around in the same spot.


We are *almost* at the end of our history lessons with Mystery of History 4. We had to put a hold on them when life got crazy, but all of the kids have been engrossed in the modern history we are learning (Kennedy, Nixon/Watergate, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks to name a few). There are only six more lessons to wrap it up and we will get around to it – eventually!


There have been a LOT of audio books lately. A lot. As we travel back and forth to appointments, there is usually one on in the car. One series that we have really been enjoying lately is from Lemony Snickets – A Series of Unfortunate Events. It’s one we had put off for a bit (I wouldn’t recommend it for kids under 8 years old), but the humor in it has the kids and I cracking up all the time. I’ll be sharing more about the books soon, but we are almost finished listening to the fourth book right now and have the fifth and sixth waiting!

hydroponics system

Another project Laurianna and I will be sharing with you soon is her hydroponics system. In North Star Geography she has been learning about farming and one of their assignments was to build a hydroponics system and see how their plant grew. She did a bit of research and found something she thought would work and has been having a lot of fun working on it the past two or so weeks.


As for day to day life, we’ve made it through the hardest part with my parent’s surgery and things should be slowing down here. This week is TESTING – yippy, Skippy. One of the kids has whizzed through her testing already, so the focus this week (after dealing with two follow up doctor visits for a concussion and my mom’s surgery) is getting it all DONE and in the mail. My stress relief has been walking and exercising lately – and making my health a priority. We live on an amazingly beautiful road that just needs to be admired. One of my goals this year is to run a 5K (and to make sure I do it, I volunteered to teach a co-op class!!). I’m either crazy or – well, let’s not go there, shall we?

That’s the overall sum-up. I know when it gets close to the end of the year we are all just ready to be finished and over with it all, and trust me, I am as well! With all the chaos the last bit, my plans have gone out the window and we’ve had to move to a day-to-day, sometimes hour-by-hour plan and that has been really hard for me. If you’ve been around here long enough, you know that I’m a girl who likes to have a plan in place. In all of that though I have to say – God has been amazingly good. We have been surrounded by friends and family that have been walking beside us and helping out in tangible and non-tangible ways. So thankful for all of them and their support!

What have YOU been up to these last few weeks during your homeschool time?

A Little More Than Halfway Done – 19 Week Homeschool Update

Somehow getting over the halfway mark seems to make a mental difference – do you know what I mean? We ended in December on week 17, and I have to tell you it may have made me a little wiggy. Somehow Christmas seems like it should be the mid-point, but really – that extra long break for us at Christmas was fabulous, so I’ll just let it go (and now I’m humming that song, thank you very much).

Getting back into the swing of things was admittedly a little rougher (because really, truly – I rather enjoyed having a whole bunch of lazy days, but routine is nice too). Having done absolutely nothing over Christmas break turned out to be a very good thing for all of us. But everyone managed to pull back together with a day or two and we’re all good now and it’s back to the typical attitudes (Truth = my kids aren’t always keen on all we do! Shocker, I’m sure).

History Time Together

homeschool history time together

In our history time, we’ve been learning about a wide span of things in the mid 1800’s thanks to Mystery of History 4: the French rule of Mexico, emperor Meiji of Japan, the Dominion of Canada, Abraham Lincoln, and the Civil War. While we’ve literally been hopping all over the place, it’s been fun to see how things tie in together historically too. I tell you – there is so much that I either don’t remember or never learned. Homeschooling is truly such a great learning time for me as well (either that, or I appreciate some things much more now that I’m older – let’s just go with that).

We typically use the coloring sheets that go along with Mystery of History, the kids often start stick-figuring what we are talking about (there may be many Civil War battle scenes lately) or take notes on what we’re learning. Stick figures are always popular.

The Fun of Science (9th Grade)

Exploration Education physical science

Laurianna is continuing Exploration Education physical science with our small co-op (there are only 4 kids), and they are having a lot of fun with the hands-on projects to go along with the weekly lessons. Over the period of a few weeks they work on different labs/projects (so far they have framed and wired a miniature house, made a glider, a steamboat, a racecar), and they are currently building a working scale.

During the week she study the lessons and work on experiments independently, and once a week the group works on additional experiments and reviews the learning material together. Our co-op time is usually about an hour and a half or so – just enough to squeeze in a little more.

Reading Time

true adventure of homer p. figg

We haven’t been dedicated in sitting down to read, but we’re currently in the middle of The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg. The story takes place during the Civil War (and I think it’s hilarious). While it’s below the reading level of the older two, it still has been fun to listen to together.

read aloud time

Sitting still during reading time can be a bit tough, so the kids will color, draw, or build when I am reading. The boys have spent quite a bit of time building with their new Simple and Compound Machines K’Nex set they received for Christmas. 

On the reading front, Zachary recently discovered the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books and has been reading and re-reading them. I cannot tell you how much this makes my heart happy. He has gone from ZERO interest in reading to scouring the library shelves for something new to read in just a few short months.

Art Time (9th Grade and 2nd Grade)

homeschool January 2015-34

Kaleb is rather happy to be working on art projects again (we love Home Art Studio). Just before we started back with school, I rearranged the wall above his desk and took some of his artwork from the fall down. He loves to display it when he’s done and usually works on at least one project a week, so it can get a little crazy above his desk. With the above project he worked on color mixing and using oil pastels as well as drawing his own fish.

homeschool January 2015-36

Last semester Laurianna’s art time at co-op was spent working on a marionette. She sketched out her project, cut dowel rods, and molded and painted the body parts for her puppet. Her marionette was based on the story of Esther and she chose the king. Her teacher helped with sewing the clothing after the fabric was chosen, and she is SO excited about her creation.

The Puppy

homeschool January 2015-19

The biggest change in our house has come in the form of a little puppy, Addie. We’ve been talking about getting a dog for well over a year and finally brought home a little one. Needless to say, the kids are thrilled and (mostly) pitching in to help with all the fun stuff that goes along with having a puppy.

homeschooling with the puppy

Addie has been joining us in the schoolroom during the day, and most often we’ll find her trying to chew on our chair bottoms or curled up in our bean bag chair (much like I would like to do). Of course the kids say that she ‘helps them study’ – ha! Not so sure I believe that, but it has been rather fun.


Well, that’s a quick look at the last two weeks for us – what have you been up to with your kids?


Mary_CollageFriday weekly wrap up

Linking up this week with Collage Friday and Weekly Wrap-up!