Monthly Archives: June 2014

FREE Summer Reading Programs – 2014

Summer break is in full swing! Today I’m linking up with Women Helping Women over at Teaching What is Good and I thought I’d help all you mamas (and daddies) out by giving you a list of FREE summer reading programs that I am aware of. For the most part, my 3 children don’t need a whole lot of motivation to read, but it never hurts. To help us with reading ideas, we are going through the Indie Bestsellers List posted on the Austin Public Library’s website.

*At the time of this posting, all reading programs are free. The information posted here is information that has been provided at this point and it is subject to change. Those changes may not be updated on this post. Please review the details provided by the companies themselves to verify that the information is still true and valid.*


So here’s my list of reading programs that are free. If you know of any others, please let me know in the comments so that others can check them out.


Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge: Reading Under the Stars

Read & log your minutes: Read as many books as you can and log your minutes in your dashboard.

Take weekly challenges:Reach weekly minute milestones and answer challenge questions to earn virtual rewards.

Enter Sweeps:Enter for a chance to win awesome books every time you reach a weekly reading milestone.


H-E-Buddy Rockin’ Summer Reading Club

Challenge: Read 10 books

Prize: An H-E-Buddy Rockin’ Summer Reading Club T-shirt

*This will cost you a stamp since you have to mail in the form.


Barnes & Noble Summer Reading: Imagination’s Destination

Challenge: Read 8 books

Prize: a free book


Pizza Hut: Spark Your Greatness Summer Reading Challenge

Challenge: Read 5 books

Prize: a chance to win the grand prize


Half Price Books: Feed Your Brain Summer Reading Program

Challenge: Read 15 minutes each day for a month

Prize: $5 HPB Bookworm Bucks and a chance to win a $20 HPB Gift Card


Pottery Barn Kids: Summer Reading Challenge

Challenge: Read andy 8 titles from the recommended list by July 31

Prize: a free book while supplies last


Your Local Library

I’ve never lived in a town or city where the local library didn’t have a summer reading program for kids. Here in Austin, there’s even an Adult Summer Reading Program! How cool is that? And their theme? Destination Outer Space. Super cool for a SciFi gal like me!


So there is the list of summer reading programs that you can sign your kids (or yourself!) up for. Again, if you know of more, please let me know in the comments so that others can participate as well.


Have a fantastic time reading with your kiddos this summer!

End of School Year Business Part 2

Phew! So, are you ready to find out what else my family and I have been up to this past month? Well, here it is! [If you havent read part 2 from yesterday, check it out here!]


On Memorial Day, the LBJ Library and Museum was free to the public. So, the hubs, kids, and I headed out to check it out. I didn’t really take many pictures because I was too busy reading and explaining to my younger 2 children about all that “old” stuff (from the 60s!) that they had no clue about. I know I wasn’t alive back then either, but it is crazy to me how much of that stuff was still around when I was a kid (in the 80s and 90s) but is almost unrecognizable to my children today. They were very excited to learn that my grandma still has a rotary telephone that works. They plan on calling their daddy on his cell phone next time we go up for a visit. We really have made some incredible advances in technology in recent years.

Here are a couple pictures that I did take though:






The other thing that kept me busy for a few days was our Beagle, Katie. About 6 weeks ago she had a random seizure that freaked me out and I took her to the vet immediately (thankfully it happened at noon). I didn’t really think to take a video at the time that it happened, so I just had to try to explain what I saw to the vet. She agreed that it sounded like a seizure and they did a few tests. All tests came back normal and I was instructed to get it on video if it happened again. Well, it did happen again, 34 days later. I was able to get it on video this time. It happened at 9:30 pm and Katie was back to normal very shortly after it was over, so I took her to the vet the next day. They watched the video and reviewed her test results from the previous visit and diagnosed her with Epileptic Seizures. No medication is required at this time because the seizures are mild and more than a month apart. If that changes, medication will probably be necessary to prevent them from occurring. Other than the seizures though, Katie is a healthy, happy dog. She loves our family and is adequately spoiled.




I also just completed a 6 week Early Childhood Education class with my little guy, N. The class was 2 1/2 hours on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. It focused on teaching parents how to help their preschool aged children be successful in school. Here is the breakdown of all 12 classes:

Class 1

Introduction. What should I do before my child starts kindergarten? Ready for School Checklist

project: dream catchers


Class 2

Social and Emotional Preparation

project: feeling faces


Class 3

Phonological Awareness

projects: rhyming memory game and hearts


Classes 4 & 5

Letter Knowledge

projects: ABC visual, ABC visual (mixed up), name book, vowels book, name tree, ABC Bingo


Class 6

Narrative Skills

projects: 3 little piggies, sequences, story book dice


Classes 7 & 8

Math Skills – Numbers, Colors, and Shapes, Math in Our World

projects: math visual, counters, number book, shapes activity, bean numbers, number Bingo


Class 9

Pre-Kindergarten Science – Physical Science, Life Science, Earth & Space Science, Physical Safety & Health

projects: color wheel, popping pepper, weather chart, sink or float


Class 10

Vocabulary Skills

project: new words dictionary


Class 11

Print Motivation and Fine Motor Skills, Developing Writing Skills

projects: play-doh exercises, lace-up apple


Class 12


projects:graduation picture frames and graduation caps


At the end of the class we had a little party/graduation to show off all the projects that we had completed over the 6 weeks. Each of the participating parents had to get up and talk about 2 projects, the child’s favorite and the parent’s favorite. It was a fun class to take and I really enjoyed making and playing with the projects with not only N, but his older siblings as well.

Here are some pictures of my spread of projects. It really was a lot of work over that 6 week period.





My next post will be about awards ceremonies, my boys’ graduations as well as school year before and after pics.

End of the School Year Business Part 1

I wrote in my post the other day that I would share about how I have been so busy lately. Turns out that when you have kids in school, May can be as busy as November and December. Add the end of year school business to everyday life, and wow, it is a busy life for me!

So, what have I been up to?

For starters, I’ve been teaching my youngest child to read. I am using the same book I used with his older brother and sister, Tech Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons by Siegfried Engelmann. I am so excited to be able to say that I have successfully taught all three of my children to read. My older children will sit and read for hours. My youngest doesn’t quite have the enthusiasm for reading as his older siblings (he’s like his daddy that way), but he is still very proud of his accomplishments.

Here he is reading a book for fun. I can’t even describe in the right words how happy this sight makes me!



I also spent a day recently with my daughter doing a couple of activities that we both enjoy: running and shopping!

We started our day out going for a run with not one, but both of our dogs. We have a 62 pound Plott Hound named Roux-B (pronounced Ruby) and an 18 pound Beagle named Katie. Now I can’t hold both leashes at the same time while running (it is a skill I have yet to master), but O wanted to bring both dogs along. She was confident that she could run and hold Katie’s leash. So, I entrusted her with our smaller dog and off we went on our run. The first route we took was 1.83 miles. After that, we dropped the little dog off and took a water and potty break before heading out for our second run of the day. That route was 1.22 miles. O did an excellent job running! At one point when she had Katie’s leash, she tripped and fell, bumping her knee and chin on the cement. I asked if she wanted me to take the leash and head back home, but she just smiled and said, “No. I’m okay. Let’s keep going.” She is such an inspiration to keep going no matter what happens. Not just in fitness, but in all areas of life.




Then, we went shopping. O had some money that she had saved from her birthday that she wanted to spend on new summer clothes for vacation. So, off we went to Old Navy and The Children’s Place to check out the sales. She ended up getting a total of 4 pair of shorts, 4 shirts, 2 dresses, and 1 pair of sandals.

After shopping, we went to Starbucks of some Frappuccinos (decaf for her). It was a fantastic day spent with my little girl who is growing into a fine little lady.



Next up on our schedule was the school talent show. A, my oldest, did a comedy routine with his friend. The boys made the routine up themselves and it included green whipped cream “pies”.  Here is the only picture I took as I spent the whole time trying to figure out all the 5th grade boy humor that all the other children thoroughly understood and enjoyed.




My daughter also participated in the Talent show. She did a hula-hoop routine that was a big hit. She stood on 1 leg and jumped during parts of it. The song she used was ‘Let it Go’ from the movie ‘Frozen’.

Here she is during her routine:




That is only part of what we’ve been up to lately. I don’t want this post to be too long, so I will be making this a 2 (maybe 3) parter. Stay tuned for more updates from the Payne family including a trip to an Austin museum, my classes I’ve been taking with N, our Beagle’s medical problems, and last but certainly not least: graduations.

Beauty Tuesday – Multi-Purpose Facial Serum

Wow! It’s been a whole month since I’ve posted a blog. I guess you could say I’ve been a bit busy. I’ll post on that another day.

Despite being so busy though, I wanted to make sure to post for Beauty Tuesday. Today I am sharing my recipe for my awesome facial serum. But first, I want to share a little story about how my husband discovered the awesomeness of this stuff.

My dear husband whom I love very much isn’t so into all the homemade, DIY, homemaking stuff (now if it has to do with a motorcycle, that’s a different story). The first night I made this serum he asked, “Is it really worth the time and effort to make all this stuff yourself?” My answer was, of course, YES! Fast forward a month or so…

He comes out of the bathroom after showering and says to me “I’ve been using that stuff in the brown bottle with the Hello Kitty Duct Tape* on my face and it works really well for my dry skin. What is it?”

*Yes, I used Hello Kitty Duct Tape on this bottle. Don’t judge. You’d do it too, if you had found it on clearance.

My reply, “That’d be the stuff you teased me about making a few weeks ago. I guess it really is worth it, huh?”

And to this day I may or may not tease him for belittling the wonders of homemade beauty products.


Anyway, the point of this story is to share that I made one of the biggest doubters I know into a believer without even trying. It really is that amazing. Oh, and it’s not just amazing for my husband’s dry skin. It works wonders for my crazy combination skin. (I have patches of skin that are dry and oily at the same time. How does that happen?!?!)


So, here’s the recipe that I know you are dying to know by now:


Multi-Purpose Facial Serum


1/8 Cup Aloe Vera Gel

1 tsp Vegetable Glycerin

1/4 tsp Jojoba Oil

1/4 tsp Sweet Almond Oil

5 drops Melaleuca Essential Oil (tea tree)

5 drops Lavender Essential Oil

5 drops Frankincense Essential Oil



Mix all ingredients into a dark (blue or brown) glass bottle. Shake well before each use. Apply desired amount to face and neck, avoiding mouth and eyes.


See my DIY Facial Toner post for other essential oil options.

Today I’m linking up with my dear friend Kate’s blog, Teaching What is Good, for her Women Helping Women link-up. Head over and check it out!

Let me know in the comments if you use this recipe and how you like it.