Thursday, May 31, 2012
We started off our first year of homeschooling as a kindergartener. I took photos of her on her first day of kindergarten, because that's what grade she was supposed to be in.
However, I had purchased first grade curriculum since it seemed a more appropriate subject level for her. The girl flew through the curriculum with ease. Therefore, we are considering this past year her first grade year after all.
Her favorite subject was arithmetic for sure. She learned about money and measurements; she memorized addition and subtraction families up to 13. She learned how to carry when adding large numbers, but most importantly, she learned how to apply all her new math skills to real-life situations.
Her least favorite subject was handwriting. (I love handwriting, but I am pretty sure I am in a very small minority there!) I had decided to teach her cursive mainly and work on her manuscript on the side. In retrospect, I think I might have skipped the whole cursive thing. It was taxing, trying, and agonizing to say the least. But hey! The girl can write in cursive now. Her manuscript letters do need some work; so I know what we will be focusing on this summer.
The best part of the year for me was watching my little reader blossom! She started off the year faltering through her favorites like Amelia Bedelia and the Berenstain Bears; now she eagerly devours anything readable in her sight. Yesterday she read several pages to me from her new book about the human body, pronouncing words like immune, system, and disease with no trouble. I know that learning her special sounds in phonics helped a great deal; but I would be remiss if I didn't mention video games as an important tool also. If the Drama Queen had a productive (and non-whiny) day of school, oftentimes the Nerd would reward her by playing some Legend of Zelda with her in the evenings. For any of you that may have played this game "back in the day," you will know that it involves a lot of reading the screen to find out what you have to do next. At first, the Nerd mostly read the directives out loud as they played; now she reads them and excitedly tries to solve whatever problem Link is facing. She adores the Legend of Zelda (hence the shirt in the picture!) and has branched out to other games as well. Our local library allows us to borrow select titles for the Wii - I think she has benefited most educationally from the Build a Bear game and the Jump Start game.
For our first year, I mostly stuck to the curriculum (A Beka Book) that we had purchased. Now that I have had a little experience with this, I plan on branching out, putting together a curriculum that works best for my three oldest and trying to be a little more creative with my resources.
I plan on having the kids do some review in math, reading, and writing over the summer, but for now we are on "vacation." Of course, the Drama Queen is busy right now rounding numbers to the nearest ten on her Jump Start game...
(Just realized that it might look like this post was sponsored by the game companies I linked to. No such luck - I just put the links up in case anyone reading this post wanted to find the games we use.)
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
How to Make Happy Toast:
1. Melt some butter in a skillet over medium high heat (or on a griddle).
2. Cut a shape out of the center of your bread slice with a small cookie cutter or drink glass.
3. Place the bread slice on the melted butter in the skillet.
4. Traditionally, Egg-In-A-Hole is made by cracking an egg directly into the hole in the bread. My Beast likes scrambled eggs better; so I whisk up the egg first and then pour it into the hole.
5. Hold bread in place with a spatula while egg cooks. (You don't want the egg to run out all over the skillet!)
6. When egg is mostly cooked, flip bread over to finish cooking the egg.
7. Serve it up to your kiddo and look for a delighted smile at the fun shape in his toast. This will confirm that you have just made. . .
HAPPY TOAST! Here's to a wonderful Tuesday to all you readers out there!
Friday, May 25, 2012
Anyway. So the bottom line is that I haven't done a whole lot of reading or googling or much of anything this week, really. It's a shame because I just can't sleep with my man gone and I could have been really productive with that kind of time. Oh well, laundry and dishes are done at least. All kids are accounted for and have been bathed on a somewhat regular basis. Little Sprout is practically sitting up on her own now and scooting around the room in a most disconcerting fashion. It's been the perfect combination of busyness and lazyness. Still, here are a few things worth mentioning:
Here are some of my ideas. Anyone want to shout out their favorite?? The Beast graduates from blended-preschool in a little over a week; therefore I need to get busy!
(photo from MommyZing.com)2. I did try making my own animal crackers this week. I followed this recipe, and surprisingly, they taste quite a bit like the store-bought ones. Only mine are a little softer, a little tastier, and they do not look like animals. I got a little carried away when adding the buttermilk and so was forced to double the recipe. We have made stars and letters of the alphabet (mostly D's and 8's, don't ask); and there are still two large rounds of the dough waiting in the freezer. I definitely recommend MommyZing's recipe.
3. Would it surprise you to know that homemaking does not come naturally to me? (hahaha) Despite that, I have embraced it as my calling in life. A good portion of my blog reading is perusing other homemaking blogs in an effort to figure out their secrets and make it more enjoyable. Passionate and Creative Homemaking put up an thought-provoking read on "Do You Ever Feel Guilty For Staying Home?" Been there, done that - enough times that I ought to have a souvenir collection or something!
4. A couple of weeks ago, the Nerd and I (and little tag-along Sprout) as well as the awesome in-laws went to a Tim Hawkins concert. (or act? or show? not sure what you call it when the guy does Christian comedy and sings hilarious parody songs too). Super funny. Super made-my-day. I especially like the pretty pink tractor song. Enjoy.
Thursday, May 24, 2012
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
For the dough, you need:
1 cup lukewarm water
1 TBS active dry yeast
1 TBS oil
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 to 2 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
For the alfredo sauce, you need:
4 TBS butter
4 TBS unbleached all-purpose flour
dash of salt
dash of black pepper
2 cups milk
1/3 to 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
For the toppings, you need:
1 can pineapple chunks, drained (save juice for cooking the chicken)
1 lb cooked boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into small cubes and cooked in the pineapple juice until no longer pink
2 - 3 cups of shredded cheese (I used colby jack, but mozzarella would work well too)
Okay, let's make a pizza! (well, two actually...)
Make your pizza dough first by adding the yeast to the lukewarm water and letting it sit for a couple of minutes. Then add in the oil, salt, and 1 1/4 cups flour and mix well. Keep adding the rest of the flour until you have a soft dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead for six minutes until dough is smooth/elastic. Put your dough into a large greased bowl, turn the dough over to grease the dough, and cover bowl with towel. Put the bowl in a warm place for the dough to rise until doubled (about 80 to 90 minutes). (I turn my oven on its lowest setting for 10 seconds and then turn it off. The inside of the oven is then the perfect temperature for allowing the dough to rise.) Next, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and divide into two equal pieces. Roll each piece into a smooth, even rectangle onto a cookie sheet.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. While the oven is heating, make your alfredo sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. When completely melted, add the flour, salt, and pepper, and whisk until completely combined. Pour in the milk and whisk constantly until the mixture starts to thicken. Add the Parmesan cheese to your taste and stir to combine. If sauce is too thick, add a little more milk. Remove sauce from heat and immediately spread it over your pizza crusts.
Sprinkle the shredded cheese over the alfredo sauce and then add the chunks of pineapple and chicken pieces evenly over the pizzas. Bake in the oven at 425 degrees for 15 - 18 minutes, when the crust edge is lightly browned and cheese is melted. (The center of the pizza may seem a little soft and underdone, but it is just the alfredo sauce).
Wait a few minutes, then slice up into squares and enjoy!
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
(disclaimer: some potty words are used in the following post as well as the word stupid, which is just a bad as a potty word in our house. you have been warned.)Boys. Before I ever had the privilege of being a momma to my children and in particular my two boys, I was a junior-high teacher. I remember insects being put in the microwave, daring stunts performed without a thought or care to the danger of it all, and senseless destruction of books, papers, and pretty much anything those junior high boys could get their hands on. I remember asking "Why?", "Why on earth?" and any other version of "Why?" you can think of. Staring at their blank faces, I realized that they themselves had no idea why they were doing what they were doing, other than to drive their parents and myself to an early grave. I formulated a theory that when puberty hit, so did stupidity. It couldn't be helped. Junior high girls were emotional and irrational; junior high boys were stupid.
I thought that period of my life was over. At least, until my boys hit that age, anyway. But certain little "why?"s have been creeping their way into my daily dialogue lately:
"But why did you poop all over the laundry room floor? The bathroom is right down the hall!!! You had to have deliberately gone into the laundry room instead! Why???????????????"
"Please tell me why you thought it was a good idea to rip every page out of your favorite book. Are you seriously going to stand there and cry when I tell you that I can't read it to you tonight? Why??????"
"What is that in your hand? How did you get that water bottle when you are supposed to buckled in your booster seat? And what is that pale yellow liquid in the bottle? Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh never mind......why??????????"
"I thought I just tightened up the waistband on those shorts. Why do you keep tugging them up like that? OH! I see you forgot to put on underwear today....oh, you didn't want to wear underwear today? Why??????????"
"And what is that at the bottom of your shorts? Who did that? Where did you get a hold of a pair of scissors? And why on earth would you cut up the hem of a perfectly good pair of shorts? Why?????"
(said outside the men's bathroom at church) "Hey buddy, are you done yet? Hurry up, Momma's waiting and we need to get back to the service." (I grab a passing man and ask him to go in and check on my son. Yes, he is still alive. No, he has no clothes on.) "Come on, hurry and put your pants back on and come out, please." (child comes out. naked. ) "Ooooookay then, let's hurry and get dressed. Why did you take off all your clothes?" (and why are so many people already out of the service and walking by while I dress my kid?????) "Why??????"
I am quite sure that they don't know why. It could be a part of some big conspiracy theory, which I would not put past the Spud. But obviously focusing on the "why?"s of it all doesn't help the situation.
So I have come up with a long-term solution. I am going to keep track of every single "why?" moment I have with these precious young men. Someday, they are going to come to me with reasons why I should trust them to have a cell phone, go somewhere with their friends, or (gasp!!) drive. It is then I will pull out my long list of "why?"s to demonstrate why not.
After all, those junior high boys that fried a grasshopper in the microwave are now grown men, some married and even with children. I'll consider this post a sort of public service announcement to girls everywhere. Boys are stupid. It's us that helps even it out, balance out the stupidity if you will.
P.S. I adore my silly boys. I don't understand their shenanigans half the time, but boy do those guys have a firm grasp on my heart!
Monday, May 21, 2012
Although the weather here in western Oregon simply can't make up its mind, I am going ahead and clearing out the winter clothes and figuring out summer wear for the kiddos. The Drama Queen wants shorts because "my other pants make me all hot and sweaty and dis-gust-ing." Last year, she had the cutest knee-length shorts in a variety of colors and styles; but apparently this year, shorts styles have gone the abundantly-short-and-skanky route. No daughter of mine is going to wear shorts that could double as underwear! Noticing that several pairs of jeans were going into the "getting-too-short" pile, I decided to make those into shorts for my girl.
Here's how. First, have your girly put the jeans on and mark on each leg about where you want the shorts to fall. I used a Sharpie 'cuz I'm classy like that. Cut off the jean legs at the mark. (Save the jean legs for a future project. Let them sit around in a messy pile for a while. Realize that you are never going to get to the yet-undetermined project. Throw them away!)
Easy. Cute. Very washable. These particular shorts are her new faves and have gone through the wash several times already without falling apart.
Oh, and not skanky at all...
Friday, May 18, 2012
1. First up, I downloaded yet another free book to my Kindle with plans to read it in, oh say the next five years. I realized that I have over 300 books now on there! While skimming through the titles, I found Raising Kids With Love and Limits by Julie Barnhill. A certain little someone has been making me question every "method" and "tactic" I have in my parenting arsenal lately; so I dug into this book. So far, it has been - funny, heartwarming, useful, blunt, and convicting. The honesty is refreshing. I love this quote: "So how to explain feeling (dare I admit, even looking) like a complete moron while standing in the middle of Target and trying to coerce a kid smaller than the circumference of our right thigh to listen and obey when we say no?" For mommas of young ones who are constantly overthinking their parenting skills, I highly recommend this book. And I've not even finished it yet!
2. Next, along the same lines as it seems my brain (and heart!) have been consumed with mommyhood lately, I happened across this thought-provoking post by Rachel at Finding Joy. "Where Did the Delight Go?" is a challenge to mothers everywhere to get back to enjoying their children instead of just viewing them as more work. I don't think any of us consciously would label our children as work, but it is incredibly easy to get caught up in all the doing that children cause - laundry, messes, discipline, teaching, feeding, etc. It becomes humdrum and ordinary and sometimes can make us resentful of the ones we were once so excited to mother and nuture. But, Rachel says it a whole lot better than I do; so go check out her post. I promise it's worth the read.
3. It has been over a month since our family embarked on the Feingold Elimination Diet. Since then, I have been researching and studying food dyes, artificial flavors, and the preservatives that mess with my autistic child's brain and cause him to have such terrible meltdowns and space-outs. The more information I uncover, the more I am appalled and ashamed that I allowed all of my children to ingest these terrible things for so long. I am thankful in a way that my son's issues forced us to consider this radical change to our diet, because quite honestly I don't think I would have done the research otherwise. Even if the elimination of petroleum food dyes and artificial flavors had not made a significant difference in the Beast's behavior, we cannot turn back now. I cannot give these poisons to my kids, knowing what I know now. Blogger Rebecca at Die, Food Dye devotes her energy to informing the public about these dangerous chemicals in hopes of making a change in America. Read her recent post on who's doing it right and who's not in the food and medical industry. I guarantee it will stop and make you think.
4. As always, I like to end on a light-hearted, not-so-much-deep-thinking note. This post had me laughing hysterically yesterday. The author's story and pictures resonated with me, as I have experienced something very similar with my boys. I will warn you that there are potty words and anatomy words involved; so if that kind of thing makes you uncomfortable or nervous, skip this one. Otherwise, read on, and may I recommend not reading it at work or lunch or anyplace you may be liable to distract everyone with your loud giggling.
Carry on, everyone! Have a great weekend!
Thursday, May 17, 2012
So in case you haven't noticed, I have four kids ages six and under. This means that their little tummies are often empty, and the little beggars will come around looking for snacks. Pre-Feingold, I would give them cheese and crackers, carrot sticks, tortilla chips, granola bars, goldfish, popcorn, etc. While some of those are still good options for the offspring, manufactured snacks such as goldfish, graham crackers, and chips are out unless I want to shell out a lot of money for the organic, no-additive variety. The frugal me says that's not okay, especially when my kids chow through a little box of crackers in one day. Just sayin'. So I have been on the hunt for recipes to make my own crackers (thank you Pinterest!) with these three goals in mind: 1) it has to have healthy ingredients 2) it has to be simple and not-too-time-consuming and 3) it has to be tasty enough that the kids will eat it willingly - otherwise, it's so not worth it! And in my search, I found this recipe for cheese crackers. Five ingredients. Prep sounded simple. Baking sounded easy. Pictures looked awesome. And so I tried them. Here's how my version went down:
The next step was to put the dough on a sheet of wax paper and roll it out as thin as you can. Realizing that I only had parchment paper in my pantry, I decided it would work just as well and commenced with the rolling. This takes some muscle work, ladies! The paper kept shifting on the table, and my only solution was to get one knee up on the table to hold down the paper while I rolled that dough. And no, I did not get you all a picture of that athletic feat! Eventually, I got a nice, even, thin slab of dough to cut out my stars. Our Ordinary Life creatively made her own cutters out of a soda can. I happened to have a little star cutter that worked just fine. I cut and cut and cut and cut and put all those cheesy stars on my cookie sheet, close together because they wouldn't spread at all. And then I baked 'em for fifteen minutes at 350 degrees.
Results? Crunchy, buttery, cheesy, tasty crackers that were more than just a little addictive! I rerolled the remaining dough a few more times to cut out the rest of the stars and baked them too. What crackers actually made it past the hungry crew lying in wait in the living room were stored in an airtight container for future snacking. And despite all my struggles with evil kitchen appliances and slippery dough, I felt it was very worth it.
I did some math for you all to figure out the cost of making a batch of these yummy crackers. I used average costs for butter, cheese, and flour, with the final total being about $1.50 for 12 ounces of delicious cheesiness. That's a lot cheaper than Annie's Homegrown Cheddar Bunnies!
I made these crackers a second time this past week, using the mixer straight away instead of messing with the other appliances. My dough was not as pliable that time around and was much harder to roll thin. I think I'm going to have to spring for a full-size food processor. Me thinks there will be many more recipes in my future using this machine...
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
So, what has the little lady been doing in her fifth month of life? Well, she started eating "solids", much earlier than any of my other three did. So far she has had the prerequisite rice cereal of course, carrots, bananas, pears, green beans, and peas. She has also dabbled in whatever we are eating - pancakes, sandwiches, and mashed potatoes have been gnawed to mush by her toothless little mouth. The kid loves to eat!
Physically, the girl is way ahead of schedule and scaring me just a little with her attempts to be mobile. She can already get up on her hands and knees, rocking back and forth until she lurches forward. I see crawling in the not-too-distant future. It's crazy - she can't even sit up unassisted yet and still is practically mobile! I love her little fat rolls - Little Sprout now weighs a solid 14.2 pounds. Give her a couple more pounds and she will have doubled her birth weight.
Also, this past month we switched Little Sprout from 'sposies to cloth diapers. She now sports a brightly-colored gDiaper wherever she goes, and I must say she looks awfully cute in them. (She's got the red one on in the pictures). We changed over to cloth for a variety of reasons, but mostly I am trying to save us some money. The gDiapers make the transition much easier than I thought, and since I do laundry every day anyway, washing diapers is not a big deal.
Oh, and (knock on wood!) Little Sprout is finally starting to sleep for longer stretches of time at night. In fact, the last three nights, she hasn't awakened until 4:00 am to feed - a feat that this very tired momma is so thankful for. Let's hope it continues!
Happy Five Months, baby girl!
Tuesday, May 08, 2012
We have been Feingoldin' it now for a full month now, and I have been experimenting a lot in the kitchen to make yummy, kid-friendly, Feingold-approved meals. I made one fantastic dish - coconut mango chicken with rice - that was a dismal failure for the rest of the family. (I loved it and ate it for days!) Maybe I'll share the recipe for that in another post, but for today, I present to you - Cheesy Breaded Chicken Strips and Italian Fries.
The Italian fries are super easy. Wash seven or eight medium-sized potatoes and cut up into fries. Put them all into a big bowl and toss with a little olive oil, basil, and oregano.
Spread them out on a baking sheet and set aside. They will go into the oven a bit later, and when they do, you will experience this sizzling yumminess:
For the chicken strips, take two pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breast and cut into long strips. Make a dipping solution of one part sour cream and one part ranch dressing. Make a breading solution of one cup soft bread crumbs (I just took the last couple of slices from the bread I had made that day and tossed them into the food processor), one half cup finely shredded mozzarella cheese, one half cup finely shredded parmesan cheese, oregano, salt, and pepper to taste.
Dip each strip into the ranch dressing mix and then into the breadcrumb mix, thoroughly coating on all sides. Place each covered strip on a greased cookie sheet as shown.
These are so juicy and tasty - I promise you won't even need ketchup or other dipping sauce for the chicken or the fries. Which is a good thing, considering there are no tomatoes allowed on phase one of the Feingold Diet...
Saturday, May 05, 2012
Part of my disbelief that it is already May stems from the fact that there is no spring-like weather to be found around here. I'm sitting here typing this in my flannel pj's while sipping hot tea. Well, that and I feel pretty sick, so maybe I'm not such an accurate barometer.
What does May bring for us this year? Well, hopefully some flowers eventually, but I see an IEP meeting, a Mother's Day without Grandma Millie this year, some much-needed family time, some major decisions to be made, and the finish of our first year of homeschooling.
Happy Cinco de Mayo...
Thursday, May 03, 2012
Now that we are trying to be as fragrance-free as possible for the Beast's sake, the potpourri has disappeared, and a boring old vase has taken its place. (I'm working on that!) I miss seeing the variety of things in the bowl or absentmindedly rearranging them in various patterns. However, I can certainly bring a little variety to the old blog! I have been voraciously finding and reading all sorts of things on sites and blogs and plan on using "Potpourri of the Week" to share my favorites in the hopes that you will find them interesting and helpful as well.
First, I have been thinking about making my own yogurt for a while now. My kids love it and go through a quart of plain yogurt very quickly. The Frugal Girl has an excellent tutorial with lots of pictures and easy-to-follow instructions. I did it yesterday and now have a gallon of yummy homemade yogurt divided into cute little canning jars in my fridge. It saves me a lot of money and makes me feel good that there are no extra preservatives going into my yogurt.
Speaking of yogurt, another favorite blogger of mine, Kitchen Stewardship, posted this interesting read on the benefits of eating yogurt a few years ago. It confirms why I'm willing to make a GALLON of yogurt for my family.
We have our IEP meeting with the Beast's teacher and other specialists next week. I will be letting them know that we have decided to homeschool him this coming school year. I am anticipating protests and general negativity, especially along the lines of "but how on earth will he learn socialization skills?" I have been doing a lot of research - we didn't just make this decision on a whim, after all! This article in Everyday Education hit home with me and shows exactly how my child will be "socialized." :) I should probably just print it out and hand it to them.
In addition to drastically changing our diet and lifestyle this past month, we have also been working hard as a family to pay down debt, Dave Ramsey style. Eating healthier, non-packaged meals is not as cheap as buying a bunch on manufactured foods with sales and coupons for sure. I was inspired by this post on doing a grocery spending audit in Good Cheap Eats and am doing everything I can this month to lower the grocery/household/toiletries budget while still eating good, healthy food. (Yet another reason to make my own yogurt!) Our budget for all household items, including food, diapers, toiletries, stamps, and anything for the house, is $400. It's pretty tight, but I am determined to make it work. Hopefully near the end of this month I will be able to write my own post about how we are achieving that goal.
And on a much more fun note (all those previous links are a lot to read and digest!), enjoy this humorous take on birth order and how it's all your mother's fault from Five in Tow. She's a fellow Northwest blogger and a very talented writer, in my opinion.
And that's my gatherings for this week! Hope you find something useful or enjoyable in the mix!
Wednesday, May 02, 2012
Here's one of our latest favorite indoor activities. Take a plate and put a couple of drops of dish soap in the center. Run tap water over the soap to fill the plate and create a few tiny bubbles. Give you kid a drinking straw and show them how to blow bubbles into the water. With a little practice, they can blow giant bubbles.
My kids will do this for over an hour. No joke. Why do I buy them toys??!!
(linking up with Iphone Photo Phun today)...
Tuesday, May 01, 2012
I freaked out. I said a lot of angry words, demanded to know where the instrument of destruction was, was annoyed that yet another thing had disrupted my day. I looked at the magnitude of the mess, thought of the fact that we rent, not own this place, and panicked. When the Beast confessed that he had been the one wielding the marker, I lit into him, reminding him that this was not our house and that we take care of things in the house and that this was going to take forever to clean up. He found the marker for me, and to my great relief, I saw that it was a dry-erase marker and not a
Sharpie, as I had originally thought. I muttered loudly to myself that "this was the last straw" and "you better feel grateful that I'm still letting you go to Grandma's today."
Later on, I got out a bucket of soapy water and a sponge and started scrubbing. It quickly became apparent that although the marker was not permanent, it was going to take a lot of time and elbow grease to clean it up. I spent a good two hours on it, making little headway down the wall. I worked on it the next day and tried to have the kids help me. Now, two weeks later, there are still marks on the wall. Although they are faded, they are certainly still visible, reminders of what transpired that day, reminders that a mom lost control and said angry and hurtful things.
It's been two weeks, but those words have not been erased or forgotten. Yes, they have faded somewhat in the midst of the "I love you"s and the bedtime stories and the hugs and the kisses. Still, the thoughtless words and negative reactions have left an indelible print in my child. The faded marks on the wall stand as a solemn reminder of how much influence my words have on my children.
I still haven't figured out how to get it all off the wall. Even my "magic eraser" has failed me this time. Most likely we will have to paint over it. In like fashion, I have had to "paint over" my lack of kindness and self-control with the Beast by asking his forgiveness and asking God to forgive me as well. Colossians 4:6 tells me to "Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man."
I am not a perfect mom and never will be. But I can tell you this - those marked-up walls have served as an admonition to me to watch my words and my attitude as I work with my children every day.