Friday, December 30, 2011

End of the Year

I have been busy lately and uninspired to update this blog. We finally bought another external hard drive so I'm able to add pictures again. Hooray, however, I will not be indulging you with any pictures today.

Here's short, or maybe long, list of updates:

-My kids liked all of their homemade gifts. They thought the elf slippers were fun, but they do not like wearing them.

-I made soap and chap stick for extended family members and I have no idea if it was well received.

-I need to get my homeschooling groove back. We've taken a couple of weeks off to enjoy each other and just play, but now I am left feeling sort of blah about picking up where we left off. We are on track for the year and the kids are showing progress. We'll start up again on Sunday or Monday with the human body, Egypt, and the usual math, language lessons, and phonics. I need to figure out ways to better involve Finn in what we do. He's not into lapbooking or crafting. Maybe I'll try copy work and file folder games with him. His learning style is the complete opposite of Maeve's which makes things just a tad difficult. Oren is a crap shoot and basically likes gluing and dumping everything he touches. His attention span is about two seconds so putting together even simple games or activities is not worth my time.

-Baby #4 is still nameless and I don't see that changing anytime soon. We have one name we are considering, but I don't know. It stresses me out to think about names. I think I'm about 25 weeks. I go in for my glucose test in a couple of weeks and then I start going every two weeks. My birth plan is updated and I need to start preparing myself mentally for labor. I think we're skipping a doula again because my midwife and husband are a good enough team. I am hoping this is another 2-3 hour labor with no complications. It's still surreal that I'm even pregnant again so thinking about childbirth is weird. I have all of her clothes washed and diapers sorted. She even has her own set of cubbies in the laundry room. I also have her car seat picked out.

-I have big garden plans this year. Unfortunately, I won't be much help planting or prepping. We'll see how much gets accomplished. I am certain I'll do a separate garden plans post around the time I order my seeds. I love ordering seeds.

-I joined Pinterest. I find it slightly annoying, although I've found some fun ideas for the kids and around the house. Once I start and complete a couple of the projects, I will share.

That's it!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The New Normal

This is the first year that we are exclusively using our wood burning stove for heat. It is wonderful and I can't say enough good things about it. We have Jotul Castine and it's not only a beautiful stove, but capable of heating all 2,000 square feet of our home.

During past winters, I've kept the heat set on 67 and 58 overnight. The new normal is to keep the living room between 76-80 at all times. The upstairs, which is not anywhere close to the living room where the stove is kept, stays at a constant 62-64. The thing that amuses me the most is that when the temperature in the living room dips below 76, I am cold. I can sit in front of the stove in sweat pants and a sweat shirt and be perfectly comfortable in 80 degrees. To say that we are spoiled by the heat of the wood burning stove is an understatement.

The beauty of heating with wood is that when/if it gets too hot, we can move to a cooler part of the house. I also appreciate not having a cold, drippy nose and I like the humidity that is provided by the cast iron tea kettle on the stove. I am very happy we went with the radiant heat of cast iron because even when there are only a few coals left first thing in the morning, the stove is still warming the house. This was one of the best purchases/investments we've made and I'm looking forward to figuring out how to cook on our wood burning stove.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Inexpensive Christmas Gifts

I struggle every year with gift giving because I want to make something homemade without it seeming cheap. I think I found a good balance this year and apologize in advance if anyone related to me is reading this. You may want to stop reading if you want to be surprised.

I found several recipes for sugar scrubs and was pleasantly surprised by the results after testing the recipes.

1 1/2 C sugar
1/4 C olive oil
several tsp vanilla

The vanilla is a strong enough scent that it didn't have trouble masking the smell of the olive oil. If I need to make anymore, I'll use coconut oil in place of the olive oil. My hands were left super soft and did not feel greasy. I cleaned up the kitchen after using the scrub and even after a few hand washings, my hands were still soft.

2 1/2 C sugar
1 C olive oil
4 Tbsp lemon juice

This one worked just as well on my hands, but the olive oil smell was very hard to mask with lemon juice. If I make this again, 1/2 C of olive oil should be enough.

I put the sugar scrubs in canning jars and will decorate them so they look fancy.

Another thing I am trying this year is making my own soaps. I am picky about soap ingredients and looked everywhere for a reasonably priced sodium laurel sulfate free melt and pour soap. Bramble Berry had what I wanted. I ordered their sampler pack that includes hemp, clear, white, aloe, honey, shea, and goatsmilk. I plan to buy a couple of essential oils to mix in with the soaps. I am super excited and hope that the soap bars are well received.

I also ordered lip balm melt and pour from Bramble Berry. The ingredients are simple and a small amount of base makes several tubes of lip balm.

All grandparents and great grandparents will be receiving 4x6 photo albums of my favorite pictures from this year.

The gifts will go to 11 people and will cost about $50. I enjoy making and giving (and receiving) homemade gifts and the cost fits our budget.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Baby #4

I am almost 20 weeks along, which doesn't seem possible. We had our first, and I hope only, ultrasound on Friday and discovered that baby #4 is a girl. I am elated. Maeve is happy too and is excited to have someone play Littlest Pet Shop with her. The boys are mostly indifferent, although before the appointment Finn said that he wanted a brother. I am hoping that this little girl will be a good personality match for Finn. Maeve and Oren are two peas in a pod and often gang up on my sensitive Finnegan.

The baby looks healthy as far as I could tell and was using her arm as a pillow. She was a little over 12 oz, although I don't put much stock into ultrasound measurements. I am able to feel her movements more frequently now and know that it's only a matter of time before she's up in my rib cage. I feel like my belly is growing at an astounding pace and I am hungry all day. I try to have some control over my portions because I do not want to gain 55 lbs this time around. I'm not sure if it's possible for my body to stay within the 25-35 lb recommended weight gain, but I'm going to try. I've got exercise covered because Oren has started sprinting when we are out in public. Last week at Kohl's I saw a woman try to hide her laugh because I was running through the picture frame section trying to catch Oren. Stinker.

We have mostly picked out a name for the baby. I say mostly because the kids hate the name and insist on calling the baby another name on our list. We'll see. I tend to change my mind several times. We're going to get odd looks and criticism for whatever name we choose so it ultimately doesn't matter.

I need to start sewing diapers and figure out where to put the baby's clothes. We'll be able to use everything from Maeve because the seasons will match. I am very happy about that since it did not work that way with the boys.

I also need to start thinking about childbirth. Childbirth is a beautiful, wonderful, empowering experience, however, I would like to click my heels together and have her magically appear in my arms. I'm undecided as to whether I need a doula. Mathew was excellent the last time and very attentive to my needs. He doesn't say much though and I think I need to hear more encouragement and a calming voice of reason. My inner dialogue during Oren's labor went something like "why is this taking so long and OUUUCHH." Granted, labor and delivery was only three hours, but it was a whole hour longer than Finn's labor and delivery. I think that extra hour was all transition and constant contractions. Fun times. It's funny now that I think about it. My labor with Finnegan was calm and quieter and that matches Finn's personality. Oren's labor was a lot of moving, switching positions, and vocalization, all of which fit his personality. Interesting.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Homeschooling Update

This school year is going well so far.

Maeve has started reading and tells the boys to pick out one book at bedtime for her to read. She lacks confidence with spelling, but when prompted, almost always spells the word correctly. Singapore was not a friendly math for Maeve so we switched to Life of Fred. She is much happier and is now asking to do math. We've done a few grammar lessons out of First Language Lessons for a Well Trained Mind and I think that book will work out well. Our focus in science is animals and we are working through the Usborne book of animals. I don't remember the exact title. We are finished with an intro to American History and are jumping to world history. I am loosely basing our history lessons on Sonlight's Core B curriculum for the rest of the year. Maeve isn't a huge fan of her Explode the Code workbooks, but they have helped with her lower case handwriting and they also force her to read and understand what she reads. I think she finds the workbooks redundant and boring. We're still working through the Progressive Phonics books and Maeve is able to breeze through them.

Finn is still great at math. He's almost finished with Singapore 1A and the math is getting hard for him. He works at his own pace and we rarely read the lesson out of the book before starting the problems. He has finished two Explode the Code workbooks and can recognize many words. Finn still has the option of whether or not he wants to participate in school for the day. Sometimes he'll go grab his math or another activity and sometimes he'll go play the Wii. He's only four so I don't feel the need to push academics.

Oren is Oren. I've started trying to include him more by doing a letter a week. He likes to glue and cut so I start our day with a craft geared towards him. Oren has no interest in letters, but he loves books right now. His favorites are The Little Lamb, Where Does Maisy Live?, The Belly Button Book, Come Along Daisy, The Grumpy Goat, and his newest special book is Velociraptor.

I've incorporated calender time into our school day. We pull up the day's weather and on a marker board the kids write the current temperature and the high for the day. They also write the time (and show it on an analog learning clock), day, month, and date. We say the Pledge of Allegiance too, although that usually gets a lot of moans.

All in all, I am pleased with how things are going.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Random Tidbits

1. Trick or treating is Oren's calling. He loves having people give him candy. My other two kids like candy too, but Oren has no limit. I told him that his fourth sucker was his last so he licked it a few times and handed it over in order to pick out something else from his candy bucket. Smart kid.

2. I am pregnant with my FOURTH child. Four. Children. And although I've been somewhat of a crank lately, I couldn't be happier. Seriously. Bring on the fat baby cheeks and huge thighs.

3. I used a saw today and did not injure myself or threaten any of my kids with it.

4. The kids asked when we are going to church again. This is a major accomplishment and makes me think that I've finally found a place that fits. I still need to check out the Sunday school program, but I think this church will give the kids a good Christian foundation and help give them a sense of community and service. I also like that is very family friendly and I don't get death stares when Oren starts crawling under the pews.

5. The church is not Catholic. As much as I'd love to raise the kids Catholic, all of the Catholic churches I've tried around here have been disappointing. I really wanted to like the church closest to us, but everything was always about money. Few activities were free and community service was about raising money and not necessarily charity work. I am more than willing to give my time to a cause, but I got tired of being asked for money every time I turned around. The death stares during mass were also a turn-off.

6. All of the plumbing in my house is currently working, however, try as I might, I can't figure out why my bedroom smells like pee. Maybe Oren peed in the closet again. Yes, again.

7. I am genuinely excited to start working on Christmas gifts. I braved the craft store with the kids today and might take them to the fabric store tomorrow. I need diaper fabric, fleece, oil cloth, grommets, and chalkboard fabric (no clue if I can find it). The kids will inevitably throw in $30 or so in crap that I don't need. I should just order it online, but I like to "see" fabric with my hands before I buy it.

8. I'm freezing this pregnancy. I was upstairs and had to put on socks and a sweatshirt. My nose was frigid and I was certain that the temperature had dropped to 60 or below. Nope. 67. That's what the heat was set on before we got the wood burning stove. I am spoiled now and like to keep the temperature between 75 and 80. The upstairs is never that warm though which is why I sleep under the heaviest, biggest crocheted blanket in the world.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Christmas

It is easy for me to get carried away at Christmas. As a child, we opened lots of presents and always got one big present to share as a family. "Big" as in one year we got a speed boat for Christmas. My parents spent a small fortune, which I can appreciate a lot more now that I'm a parent.

Spending a lot of money on my kids for Christmas isn't an option and I've been stressed lately trying to figure out ways to increase our budget in order to buy the kids stuff they want. You see, they love to circle everything in the magazines that come in the mail and I want to buy them everything from those magazines.


Reality set in and I started making a list of homemade gifts for the kids. I love making things for the kids and while no one will be receiving a skee ball machine or wooden putting green, they will be getting stuff that was lovingly made by their mama. Here's my list for those who might be interested:

Elf bowling pins
wallet
trinket keeper
slippers
chalkboard place mat
marshmallow gun (I have it marked somewhere, but can't find it right now)
leg warmers
fleece skirts
fabric barn (similar to this only better)
art smock

I am excited to get started and have my list of supplies ready for the fabric and craft stores.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Chili

'Tis the season for chili. I made the best pot of chili ever today and thought I'd share. Unfortunately, I didn't measure anything so it's all approximate. Taste as you go.

Chop the stems/tops off of enough tomatoes to fill a 6 qt sauce pan. Bring to a boil, cook until soft, and use a blender, food processor, or immersion blender to grind up the remaining chunks. Dump into a large crock pot or whatever you like to use for chili.

Add beans. I like black beans. I boil the beans for a bit, rinse, and add as many as I want to eat in the soup. This is usually about 3/4 of a bag. That's probably 2-3 cans.

Chop one onion and toss it in.

Cook ground beef. The beef we use doesn't have a lot of drippings so I don't drain it before adding it. I also think drippings add flavor so I almost always use the grease unless it's some sort of ridiculous amount.

Now for the spices. I like to add paprika, oregano, salt, pepper, garlic and cumin.

I cooked the chili on low in the crock pot for about 7 hours, however, I usually cook it on the stove for 1-2 hours.

Here it is all written out:

1 lb ground beef
6 quarts diced tomatoes or tomato sauce
1 large onion, chopped
salt, to taste (I used around 1 1/2 tsp of salt since everything was fresh)
pepper, to taste (I used 1/2 tsp)
1 heaping tsp cumin
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp garlic
1 Tbsp paprika
a few chopped fresh tomatoes for good measure

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Life

Life with children is not always rainbows and unicorns. I saw a commercial tonight that said "My children were so cute as babies that I wanted to eat them up. Now that they're older, I sometimes wish I would have." Yes.

So what has my last week involved? Lots of whining. Lots of runny noses. Lots of coughing, a few fevers, and very, very little sleep for me.

Oren is a fireball and, while he's better than he was this spring, he is still sneaky and ornery as hell. He has managed to flush an apple, a pair of safety scissors, and a rubber, squirty penguin toy. It goes without saying that our toilet is having problems. Where was I when all of this happened? In the office paying bills for about 10 minutes. I know he acted alone with the apple, but I have a feeling the scissors and penguin toy were suggestions given by siblings. They have all claimed innocence, of course.

Maeve and Oren were the first two to be sick. It was a cold, but Maeve acted as though she was going to die. She wasn't quite sick enough to be quiet, but she did sit in her chair most of the day and whine about  wanting to cut off her nose. I think she sneezed three times, maybe. She was fine after that.

Oren's cold was longer. There was a lot of snot involved and a coughing spell that lasted three days and was the worst at night. He would be awake from 12-2 am and again from 4-5:30 am. We sat in the bathroom many times with the hot shower steam. I still have not recovered from the lack of sleep. I suspect I will not recover until the end of next summer when baby #4 knows that night is for sleeping.

Finn never did get a cold. Instead, he had a fever, a belly ache, and puked water. All over my bed. That was a lovely way to say good morning. He was sick for an evening and part of a morning and never sick enough to not whine. Finnegan is also great at the man moan, which, I am certain, he inherited from his father.

Oren now has a fever. I took his temperature before we left for art class and was hoping the fever would break while he napped in the car. While the boys and I were driving around during Maeve's art class so that Oren could finish his nap, we got in a car accident. Everyone is fine and there was no damage on either car. I am keeping my fingers crossed that the lady is honest and doesn't become some sort of psycho, insurance fraud kind of person. Oren's fever had climbed during his nap so we went to the doctor after art class to rule out an ear infection or strep. He has a red throat, clear ears and had a negative strep test. Sigh.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Goats

Oren has an obsession with goats.

A friend of ours had baby goats and lambs this spring. Or maybe they were all lambs. It doesn't matter. We were at her house and Oren grabbed a bottle for one of the baby animals. A baby animal came running and Oren had an "oh shit" look on his face and immediately tossed the bottle. I believe that incident has scarred him for life.

Oren spotted a donkey or mule statue in our friend's neighbor's yard at our most recent visit. He pointed to the "goat", he talked about the goat biting him and he said that he was scared. I tried to explain that it was fake and unable to move, but I was unsuccessful. He was concerned about the goat the entire time we were there and paid no attention to the real goats that were near him while he was in the chicken coop.

Oren spotted a small screw driver tonight while we were in the office and immediately ran over and grabbed it. Screw drivers are precious objects in our house and to have found one without a sibling around was as close to bliss as Oren could have come in a day. Oren brought the screw driver over to me and asked to sit on my lap. Then we talked about goats for a solid 30 minutes. Our conversation went something like this:

Oren: Away
Me: Is someone going to take away your screw driver?
O: Uh huh. Goat.
M: No, the goat is not at our house.
O: Ap's.
M: Yes, the goat is at Abby's.
O: Bite. Off. (He said this while wildly gesturing and pulling at his finger)
M: No, the goat is not going to bite off your finger.
O: eye?
M: Nope, not your eye either.
O: cheek?
M : Nope, not your cheek.
O: (looking around on his body) Scab?
M: No, the goat does not want your scab.
O: Hold?
M: Do you want to hold the goat?
O: (thoughtfully) No, poop
M: Did the goat poop?
O: Uh huh, bleck

Then the conversation started over. And over. And over.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Appliances

I am not a master repairman, nor am I educated in any way about fixing electrical junk. That being said, here's my advice regarding appliances: opt for the cheapest, simplest machine possible.

Our dishwasher, about six months after the warranty expired, quit working. It shut off mid-cycle. I am very lucky to have a super husband and father-in-law who can fix just about anything. Unfortunately, the mother board went out on our dishwasher and it was going to be more expensive to replace the part than to buy a new machine. My husband bought the cheapest, simplest dishwasher and it works like a charm. There are no digital displays, no special soil sensors and no other fancy gadgets that will soon fall apart. The dishwasher sounds like a tank driving through my kitchen, but it gets the job done and fits in with the noise level in the rest of the house.

We had a similar experience with washing machines. I jumped on the front loader bandwagon and bought one with a sanitary cycle. I thought the sanitary cycle would be awesome for cloth diapers and with as much hype as was surrounding the stupid machines, I was certain I was spending my money wisely. Wrong. Our front loader worked beautifully for three whole years. Then the plastic case cracked inside the machine and we were told that front loaders weren't meant to wash big loads of blankets. Or towels. Or jeans. Or anything, really. We fixed the part and a couple of months later, the washer broke again. My husband fix it, but we continued having issues and finally sold it on Craigslist for $50. Our new machine is simple. No fancy washing cycles. No digital displays. I love it.

I have since heard advice from two repair men and they have said the same thing. The simpler, the better. One repair man even went so far as to say that he believes front loaders are meant to last until the warranty is up and then go to shit. He said that the first time he's in a household fixing the front loader, the owner praises the machine. When he comes back a month later to fix another expensive part, the owner asks if he knows anyone who wants it.

I am not going to mention my other appliances by name for fear of jinxing myself. One appliance is newer, one is eight years old and going strong and two are as old as the hills and work great. Here's to a future of cheap-ass appliances and I hope easy fixes.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Toys and Clutter

Our home is big enough that it should accommodate us and all of our stuff. Lately though, it doesn't. It seems like I am constantly stepping on or over something and I find bits and pieces of toys or games all over the house.

I sorted through the kids' toys a couple of months ago and bagged up two trash bags worth of stuff. A third bag was filled with stuffed animals. I don't keep broken toys, I've avoided garage sales most of the summer in an attempt to not collect more crap and I try to have the kids clean up their toys when they're finished playing.

But there are moments when the kids must entertain themselves because I'm doing dishes or laundry or sweeping or you get the idea. It is during these times that my children make the biggest mess. Our game closet, located in the same room we use for school, is a disaster. The games were dumped, pieces are everywhere and the mess is overwhelming even for me. The kids were also playing dump in the closet which involved gathering game pieces, blocks, trash, etc and dumping it into the very back of the closet.

My first instinct is to do what I do for other huge messes and start throwing things away until someone pitches in and helps. I've asked the kids several times to clean it up and have had no response. The office is so messy at this point that it is unusable for school. It's like this in their bedrooms and in the dining room that also functions as a play room. I know it is part of my job to clean up crap, but I am getting tired of having to pull teeth to get one of the kids put a toy away that they got out. Lots of whining, complaining and time wasting.

I have tried to make the toys very easy to put away. I labeled all of the containers on the bookshelves and have even labeled the baskets. Most everything is kid level. I know that Maeve's room needs more functional storage, but the boys' room should be able to be kept clean.

So how do I enforce and/or encourage them to pick up their junk? How do I prevent them from dumping everything constantly? I keep repeating "this too shall pass", but I would like to help it pass and teach the kids some responsibility. Thoughts?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Lemons. Lots of Lemons.

The kids have been something else lately and there have been several moments where I wasn't sure whether to cry or laugh hysterically.

I took the time this morning to get dressed. I put on one of my favorite shirts and a skirt. As soon as I walked into the kitchen, I was greeted with a handful of flour thrown directly at my chest. Thanks, Oren!

The kids are control freaks when it comes to music in our house. I turn something on and someone comes running to change the song or the volume. Sure enough, when I turned on a song to distract me from the fighting kids, Oren came running and turned it up. I scooped him up and we danced. It was torture for Oren because he was almost within arm's reach of the fish food and I may have been taunting him just a bit.

Maeve has a toad, Toadee, that she holds everyday. Oren also likes the toad and is very gentle with it. Unfortunately, Maeve hates sharing her amphibians so she often times will come up with something "better" for Oren to do. Today she told Oren that I was going to let him play with rice. I obliged. All was well until Maeve and Finn started playing with the rice too and decided to dump all 10 lbs onto the floor, roll in it, throw it and kick it all over the kitchen.

Oren can climb onto the counters now without a stool.

Oren's favorite thing to do, if I haven't already shared this, is to climb onto the kitchen counter, turn on the faucet and turn on the sprayer. Yesterday he decided to do this and spray the stove, diaper bag and all of the electronics in the living room.

Our wood burning stove is a fun climbing toy. I think Oren might think twice when it's 500 degrees in a couple of months. And the nice fan that sits on top of the stove? That is great to grab and use to chase/threaten your sister.

The couch that I just deep cleaned was the perfect place to pick all of the elderberries off their stems.

I bought Maeve new shoes this week. She immediately went outside, went into the chicken coop and stepped in poop. Then she came in and told me that her shoes didn't fit. I tried to fix them and it didn't work so we went to buy new shoes. While we were there, Oren got out of the stroller and sprinted. Then he played in the drinking fountain. Finn entertained himself by jumping on all of the chairs and throwing all of the display shoes onto a high shelf. Oren was banished, once again, to the stroller where he screamed until we got to the van.

Unfortunately, all of our recent shopping trips include Oren sprinting off. A guy at the hardware store told me that I should be in the Olympics. Yes and thanks for noticing.

And bedtimes! Oh how I just love bedtime. The kids were so terrible that I put them to bed at 5:30. Finn and Oren were asleep by 6 so Maeve and I went downstairs for a bit. Finn started screaming because he had to pee and just as he was settling back to sleep, Maeve started yelling and complaining about how she wanted to go back downstairs. Um, I said she could and never asked her to come up with me to check on Finn in the first place. Her yelling woke up both of the boys, who were absolutely refreshed after such a terrific nap. They were up for another three hours.

Tonight's bedtime was better, but it started with Finn screaming for 45 minutes about being videotaped. I got out the video camera after dinner because all of the kids were being funny. Finn was being especially goofy, but smacked the side of Oren's head when he thought Oren was blocking the camera. The camera was turned off and Finn started screaming about needing to be videotaped more. I may have started singing "Tomorrow! Tomorrow! I'll tape you tomorrow! It's only a day away. The tape will come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar that tomoooorrroooow, you'll be taped...." Sometimes I just can't help myself.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

School Stuff

We are on week 6 of school and have been a lot more consistent this year. There have been a few days lately that we've opted to play outside or go to the zoo instead of do school. Not like school takes a great deal of time, but sometimes no one wants to stop what they're doing or take the time to do any formal learning.

Maeve has been very motivated to read! This makes me happy. She has a renewed interest in her Progressive Phonics reading packets and can read a couple sentences in a row with ease. As soon as extra funds are available, I plan to order a book called Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind. It covers grammar and will be another reading opportunity for Maeve.

Math is going better this year too, although it's not Maeve's favorite subject. She can only handle one lesson at a time and barely has enough focus to finish the workbook pages that go with the lessons. She understands the concepts, but is easily frustrated when she doesn't know the answer right away. She's even more frustrated when Finn accidentally blurts out the answer.

Speaking of Finn and math, he is almost finished with Singapore 1A. He blew through his first Explode the Code book and is more than half way through his second book. Finn loves workbooks and is an easy student when he's in the mood to work.

We've been studying the symbols of the United States, have learned the Pledge of Allegiance, made mirrors, have learned about magnets and light and have almost completed a chicken lapbook. I have two chapters left to read in Stuart Little and then the kids will watch the movie. We've also been playing a lot of the game Life and the kids have been doing a great job taking turns and following the rules of the game.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Safeguarding vs. Overprotecting

Last week, a barefoot man was discovered in a tree at a public park. The tree was in a wooded area and the man was staring at the children who were playing in the woods.

Creepy, yes?

Dirty needles and condoms have been found at this park. School teachers have been videotaped having sex at this park and last year a sex offender that had been recently released from prison threatened to hurt a child.

Should I keep taking my children to this park?

I would be naive to think that these kinds of shenanigans don't happen at other public parks, however, why would I go to a park knowing that just last week an adult male who no one knew was watching the kids play from up in a tree. I can think of a million different scenerios for what could happen, although thankfully, nothing did.

Does that fact that nothing happened last week safeguard my children from what could happen this week? No. Is that me living my life in fear? Absolutely not. As a mother I am required to protect my children from danger. If dirty needles and condoms were found in my grocery store, I would raise hell with the manger and then go to a different store. Why? Well, dirty needles and condoms are disgusting, pose a health threat and aren't something I'd want my children to come in contact with while shopping. Why should this be any different with a public park?

If we were at the mall and an adult male was in a tree in the children's play area, yet had no child of his own, would I feel comfortable taking my kids there to play? No. Is that out of fear? No, it's out of common sense.

Do I live my life in fear of what could happen? No, but you can be sure that I take every precaution to safeguard my kids from crime.

There is a difference between safeguarding my children and being overprotective. Oren is a crazy toddler who often times makes poor decisions. While I'm not going to let him fall off of the kitchen counter, I won't rush to keep him from slipping on the bucket of water he just dumped all over the floor. Yes, it is my duty to keep him safe, however, there are good learning moments when mistakes are made and consequences are realized.

Where is the learning moment when your kid steps on a dirty needle at the park? Or when that man jumps out of the tree onto your kid?

Perhaps the man in the tree was just a man in a tree. A man with no day job who likes to climb trees at public parks and watch children he doesn't know play in the woods. That sounds innocent enough right? RIGHT?

No.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Almost Eight Weeks

I am exhausted. I am typically a night owl, but need to be in bed by 9:30 every night or I feel like crap the next day. I am keeping up with house work okay, but the sink is always full by evening, the laundry isn't quite caught up and it takes a couple of days to clean up the junk that accumulates on the floors. It's frustrating.

I have my first midwife appointment in two weeks. I couldn't remember when I was making the appointment if you were supposed to be seen at eight weeks or 12 weeks so I split the difference and made it for 10 weeks. I will feel so much better about everything when I hear the heartbeat. For some reason, it's going to take hearing the heartbeat for it to really sink in that I am pregnant. We had been on the fence about trying for another baby since January and the month we finally decided to give it a go...

I am always amazed at life. I don't use the word "miracle" all that often, but how else do you describe a baby? This creature has only been in existence for seven weeks and already has a beating heart. I think of all of things that can go wrong and then I look at my three perfect children and am in awe. And to be blessed with one more? It takes my breath away.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Menu Monday

Spaghetti and meatballs
Out to eat
Chili and cornbread
Ham and bean soup
Pork roast
BBQ shredded pork sandwiches
Quiche and hashbrowns

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Get into the Groove

This is our third week of school and we are settling into a groove. I helped myself tremendously by outlining all 36 weeks of history and science. All I have to do on Sundays (my planning day) is fill in the blanks with daily activities, experiments, readings, workbook pages, etc. It sounds sort of rigid, but having a plan and being organized keeps me sane and makes me better able to adjust our day according to what the kids are up to. I still follow my kids' cues, but they really enjoy having set, structured things to do.

I am using a binder this year to help me keep everything organized. I love my binder. I may invest in something that is more Trapper Keeper-ish because Oren often throws my binder off of my desk and I'm tired of things spilling out. The binder, in addition to my planning out weekly topics, has helped give me a clear idea of what I want to accomplish this year and how to accomplish it. I am a very tactile person and need to see everything in front of me to make a plan. Last year, I organized almost everything on the computer and it stressed me out because I couldn't see it all at once.

I am also loving all of the Usborne books I ordered. We have several science experiment books that are great. We've been studying magnets and the book has a lot of fun ideas and explains things in a way that makes them easy to understand.

Anyway, I'm tired now and will ramble on another time. I initially wanted to blog because we are studying matter this week and I'm excited for all of the fun stuff the kids get to do.  I will post more on that later when I'm not fighting my eyelids.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Fried Rice

There is a Japanese steakhouse around us that makes the best fried rice. This place is always my last good meal before giving birth. In fact, we were dining there when I was pregnant with Finnegan and I was certain I was in labor. Anyway, my point is that you haven't eaten fried rice until you've tasted this stuff.

I tried to replicate the rice tonight and came very close. So close, that I'm going to share the recipe.

1 1/2 cooked white rice (I refrigerated it before I fried it so it wouldn't stick together as much)
3-4 Tbsp butter
2 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp garlic salt
soy sauce (I didn't measure this, but I probably ended up using about 2 Tbsp)
2 eggs

Heat your electric skillet and melt your butter. Add the rice. Add everything else and stir until the eggs are cooked. When the rice was done, I added slightly caramelized onions and carrots that had been cooked in butter, garlic and ginger.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Sneaky One

We recently picked up 15 roosters to butcher. As we were well into the process, we noticed that we only had 14. We both assumed that we had miscounted.

I had to run an errand later the same day and when I pulled into our driveway, I saw a rooster happily pecking the grass in my front yard. I was able to catch him rather quickly and my goodness did I have a good laugh.

As luck would have it, the renegade rooster is actually a pullet (young hen). She has been named Dandelion and is held at least twice daily by Maeve and/or Oren. Dandelion is very gentle with the kids, however she is quite skittish and is not yet friendly with the other girls. I haven't seen any evidence of pecking so I'm hopeful they will all eventually be buddies.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Menu Monday

Baked spaghetti
Out to eat
Tacos
Stuffed squash (recipe from Smitten Kitchen blog)
Teriyaki chicken
Waffles and eggs
Eggs, toast and bacon

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Doing Without

I met a nice mom at the park today. She said that she's been substitute teaching twice a week for the past few years so that she could stay home with her kids. She went on to say that she has an interview for a full time teaching position and is excited because she's tired of making financial sacrifices in order to stay home. The example of sacrifice she used was that all of their vehicles are paid off, but they want something nicer.

This conversation got me thinking about what we sacrifice so that I can stay home.

Our only vehicle is an 11 year old van. We paid cash in order to avoid monthly payments. All newer vehicles were out of our price range.

Our kids share rooms. We have three bedrooms and will have four kids.

We are treated to dining out once a week and rarely eat out otherwise.

We don't take expensive vacations.

I could keep going, but I think you get the idea. We live frugally and really do our best to live within our means. I do not, however, feel like we are missing something. I am perfectly content with my older van, I like having the kids share rooms and I like knowing that we are eating food that was prepared by my hands.

According to dictionary.com:

sac·ri·fice

  [sak-ruh-fahys]  Show IPA noun, verb, -ficed, -fic·ing.
noun
1.
the offering of animal, plant, or human life or of somematerial possession to a deity, as in propitiation or homage.
2.
the person, animal, or thing so offered.
3.
the surrender or destruction of something prized ordesirable for the sake of something considered as having ahigher or more pressing claim.
4.
the thing so surrendered or devoted.
5.
a loss incurred in selling something below its value.

It seems to me that if you are well fed, can clothe all of your children, have a solid roof over your head and have a vehicle that runs well, you're not really sacrificing much in order to stay home. Are you sacrificing a bigger house? More stuff? And what is more valuable than raising your children?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Garden Update

 Ah, my garden. I love my garden. I love growing things and I love harvesting things.

There has been one huge, hot problem lately that has kept me from doing much in the garden. Heat. It is HOT. I can handle high temperatures, but this is high temperatures with humidity. I'm starting to sweat just thinking about going outside.

These pictures were taken at the beginning of the heat wave when my precious garden was somewhat weeded and under control. All of my bean plants in these pictures had not been eaten by Japanese Beetles. My tomato plants were still in their cages and the weeds were not taller than the kale. Sigh.

My tomatoes are crazy now. Like five feet tall crazy. I have never grown tomato plans this large. They are loving the heat and I'm going to be loving salsa and homemade sauce soon. We have an insane number of plants this year (around 50) and I am hoping we planted enough to satisfy us until this time next summer.

My squash is happy in this heat too. I have a few tiny butternut squashes and can almost taste the squash soup I will be making in a few months. The pumpkin vines are doing well and I'm ready to roast the seeds and puree the pumpkins.

The rest of the garden is not worth mentioning at this point. Except I'm going to mention it anyway. I planted a drying kind of black bean this year and they are producing. I might have enough to make a pot of soup. Maybe. I doubt I will grow them again unless they are so incredibly delicious that I crave them in my dreams.

My green beans are ruined. I went out there today to pick some beans, but the plants aren't producing much anymore probably largely due to the fact that all of the leaves have been eaten by bugs. If I was still motivated, I would pull the beans and plant more peas and carrots. My onion and carrot patch looks terrible and my kale and swiss chard patch is full of tall weeds. I can't even see where I planted six pepper plants.

I'm not complaining too much though because a lot of the garden has been very successful.



Monday, August 1, 2011

New Beginnings

I took the kids school supply shopping on Sunday and they were sooooo excited to get started. So we did. I was originally planning to start school on August 29th. Then I went and got myself pregnant so I bumped up the start date to August 8th, but then we started on the 1st.

We are working on magnets, a chicken lapbook (per Maeve's request), classifying and organizing animals, the flag and the Pledge of Allegiance. I am going to let Maeve take the lead on math and reading since she does better and is more motivated when it's her idea.

Speaking of math, Maeve was very happy to have found a green calculator at Target. She said that now when she does math, she'll just use her calculator. Good idea, but.....no.

I gave Oren his own workspace (again) and he seems to like it. I need to find some neat stuff to put in his area so he'll stop taking everything off of Maeve's desk. Oren's scissor privileges have been temporarily suspended because he cut (another) chunk out of his hair.

Finnegan has me a bit stumped. The kid is a whiz at math. He LOVES math. Everything he does is somehow put into numbers. He's also learning how to spell at an alarming rate. Maeve asked me how to spell "new" and Finn answered her. Correctly. He already completed his Teach Me Kindergarten app on the ipod touch and is working through Teach Me First Grade. I think, at least for this year, I'll let him keep doing what he's doing: math, Explode the Code for writing practice and computer and board games. If he wants or asks for more, I'll provide it.

Here is our clean, organized space (ignore my desk...it will never be cleaned or organized):


Menu Monday

Pasta alfredo
Out to eat
Greaser's Delight
Summer Squash Soup (recipe from Smitten Kitchen blog)
Roast
Chicken and noodles
Beef and potato hash (recipe from Cook's Country magazine)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Menu Monday

Lasagna
Out to eat
Chicken Chimichangas (recipe from Cook's Country magazine)
Beef stew and bread
Chicken and steak kabobs
Brats and burgers
Funny face pancakes

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Chicken Pasta with a Creamy Red Sauce

Sometimes the ideas in my head are delicious.

Chicken:
2 Tbsp butter or oil
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1/2-1 Tbsp dried basil
salt to taste

Cream sauce:
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
1 C milk or heavy cream
1 15 oz can of tomato sauce, diced tomatoes or 2 C prepare spaghetti sauce
1 pkg pasta of your choice

Heat your skillet and melt 2 Tbsp of butter or oil. Add chicken. I used frozen chicken breasts, but you can easily substitute shredded/pulled chicken. Add 1 Tbsp minced garlic and 1/2-1 Tbsp dried basil. Add salt to taste. Cook the chicken until it's done and then take it out of the pan and set it off to the side.

Melt 2 Tbsp butter (or oil, but I prefer butter in this step) and add 2 Tbsp flour. Whisk together and add 1 C  milk or heavy cream. Keep whisking until all of the tasty bits on the bottom of your skillet have lifted. Add 2 C of spaghetti sauce. I always make huge batches of sauce and freeze it. You can use plain sauce, diced tomatoes or whatever floats your boat. Return chicken to the skillet and turn to low.

In a separate pot, bring water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to the package directions. Strain, dump into a medium sized bowl and pour sauce over the pasta. You can top everything with some sort of shredded cheese, but it's delicious with just the sauce too.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Wall Hanging Paper Organizers

I plan to hang these on the wall by my desk with wooden dowels from a broken drying rack.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Menu Monday

Swiss steak
Toast, bacon and scrambled eggs
Chicken parmesan
Tacos with Spanish rice
Oven baked chicken
Beef and noodles

Friday, July 15, 2011

Diaper Drafting

I am very good at starting projects, leaving them and then finishing whenever I am inspired. I work like crazy until my goal is mostly accomplished and then I get bored.

I started drafting diaper patterns before baby #3, who is almost two, was born. I suppose in this case, I got busy instead of bored. Well, I have finally finished my patterns and am excited to see how they look with fabric. Of course I am out of PUL (polyurethane laminate) and suede cloth or microfleece. As soon as I stock up again, I will post pictures. The patterns aren't anything special, but I combined my favorite diapers, changed the rise, added more elastic, moved the snaps and tweaked the shape. I might order some labels just for fun. I honestly have no intention of making and selling diapers right now, but maybe I will when the kids are a bit older.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Herbs




I did not plant nearly enough basil last year so I went a bit crazy this year.

I found a dehydrator at the thrift store for $5 and thought I'd give it a go with the basil. It took most of the day and I was amazed at how little basil was left when it was finished. I will definitely use the dehydrator again, but my favorite way to dry herbs is by hanging.

In the past I've hung the herbs by the kitchen sink, but my husband pointed out that that's not completely sanitary because the garbage disposal spits out junk.

I decided to hang cilantro from nails. I think they look beautiful, but I am not loving having a kitchen that smells like dirty soap. I do like cilantro in salsa, however the smell is worthy of a gas mask and rubber gloves. I gave all three of my kids a bath today in an effort to rid my hands of cilantro stench. Finally, five hours and a million hand washings later, I smell normal.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Menu Monday

Baby back ribs
Funny face pancakes
Lasagna
Enchiladas
Chicken and noodles
Teriyaki chicken

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Planning

I planned our learning week by week last year for homeschooling. I based my plans off of whatever the kids were interested in at the time and, while that system worked okay, it left me feeling unorganized and sort of stressed.

My plan for this year is a bit different. I have started outlining weekly plans for the entire school year. 36 weeks of science is completely outlined and I am up to week 17 of history. I'm not going to outline phonics/reading and math the same way because those subjects are largely based on how much the kids want to do in a day. I will make an overview of things I would like accomplished, but I can operate by the seat of my pants with phonics and math since we are already working out of textbooks (Singapore and Explode the Code). 

I really like the books that Sonlight uses for history and science so I am combining those with a bit of A Beka for history and Lesson Pathways for science. I was originally going to order the instructor guides for Sonlight's history and science, however as I was looking at some of the sample weeks, I realized that I would do a lot of tweaking so I decided to just make my own plans. 

I am excited to see how this year goes and am looking forward to being more organized.

Garden Harvest

The kids have been asking me to pull up a few carrots so I finally did today and was pleasantly surprised. I was also happy to see some green beans and lots of Swiss chard and kale.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Entrance Help

This is the door that is the most used in our house. The coat hooks are at kid level and work, but I have no idea what to do about shoes. We all have 2+ pairs around the house or by the door at any given time. I put the basket there to toss the shoes in, but digging around for shoes is not easy, fast or fun.

I've tried various shoes organizers, but we are not a shoe organizer kind of family. We like to pile. I am okay with piles, but I want organized piles. I think the basket needs to go since it's the wrong size and a bottomless pit of crap. What should I do? I would like this area to look a bit nicer, especially since I just finished labeling and reorganizing all of the bookshelves and toys. Should I have a shoe basket for everyone? Should I put the baskets on the floor? Any organizational products I should try?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Snack Time

I gave the kids a snack and this is how Oren was sitting.