Monday, December 26, 2011

Next Year Will Be Different

Christmas day has come and gone--yet still let's keep the spirit living on.

From Thanksgiving weekend until now, my life has been a whirlwind of holiday activities and the business of regular life. I finally feel I can breathe--at least for a day or two before I have to dive into the second half of the school year.

We had a good Christmas, but not a wonderful Christmas. The kids are happy. The husband and I are happy, but I am left with a feeling of unease. Things will have to change next year.

Next year, we will focus more on the reason for the season and the beauty that comes from such reflection. Top on my list is to take my children to a live performance of Handel's Messiah. This year I only heard a small snippet of The Hallelujah Chorus in the lobby of a hotel. I do not think that is sufficient, and besides my children do not even know what Handel's Messiah is.

Next year, we will open our immediate family gifts with just our immediate family. I love to take our time opening gifts, savoring each one whether it belongs to you or not. We open one gift at a time and enjoy each other's receipt of the gifts. Alas, our family is growing and there is too much noise and confusion. We love to open gifts with everyone else, but we don't have to share in ALL of the opening. We will exchange gifts with our loved ones and open those gifts together. The gifts that my dear husband and I exchange and those that we give to our children will simply be enjoyed with the ones with whom we share daily life.

Next year, I will start planning in advance--12 months in advance to be exact. That is exactly what I am doing with this post. I do not want December 1, 2012, to creep up on me without a solid plan in place. Lists need to be written and edited throughout the year. December is an extremely busy month. The first weekend of December this year, I was in charge of our children's Christmas program at church and while it is so enjoyable to see the children up on the stage putting their spin on the program that has been laid out for them, the planning and execution are stressful. Even though it is in the Lord's service, it is still stressful. The second weekend of the month, we had two parties to attend. They were very enjoyable and we had a blast, but it was still activities outside our own family's celebration and they were the source of more hurrying around. The third weekend of the month, the children had sports competitions and DS#1 got the opportunity to attend his first ever lock-in. We were shuttling kids back and forth--very early in the morning, I might add. Making sure tummies were filled and all necessary items were in the possession of whomever might need to possess them. In the middle of that, I took a beginning photography class (the location of the aforementioned hearing of The Hallelujah Chorus)--it was wonderful and I am so glad I took it, but again, hurrying around.

Then, low and behold, Christmas week was upon us. Our tree was not up. I was in a state of confusion as to exactly where we were in the month. Now THE DAY is over and something just doesn't feel right. I felt like I was swimming through mud trying to bask in the joy of the season--the reason we celebrate. We attended a Christmas Eve service at a church other than our own for the simple reason of my wanting to just enjoy the service without thinking about work. It was a change--it was very different from what we were used to, but I think I captured a little of the blessing of Christmas; still I want more.

Next year, things will be different.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Homeschooling--Finding Curriculum that Works for You

We are in our 9th year of homeschooling. We (and by “we” I mean “I”) have floundered from year to year. We started homeschooling because we simply did not trust anyone else with our children. We do not agree with/like a lot of the things public school teaches and we did not want to submit our children to the public school's version of these things. Our thinking then morphed into “We can provide a better education for our children at home.” I still agree with that. At home we can tailor their curriculum to fit their learning styles and interests.

We started out using Abeka. I had a 3 year old and a nursing 1 year old in addition to my kindergartener and I needed easy. I thought easy was something that told me what to do and say and when I should do and say it. I was a dyed-in-the-wool Abeka homeschooler. But God had different ideas. I was introduced to Cathy Duffy's 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum. God tilted our homeschooling world and set it to spinning. We ditched the “drill and kill” Abeka math. Don't get me wrong, Abeka is a great curriculum and children gain a wonderful education with it. However, for us, it just wasn't working. I didn't see the point in frustrating my children with 20 long division problems at one sitting. I discovered Math-U-See. Thank God for Mr. Demme, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart. Please, please, PLEASE come out with Science-U-See, History-U-See, Grammar-U-See, etc. Math-U-See is short, simple and to-the-point. I have learned so much, like, WHY we do what we do in mathematical operations. I have had several “Ah ha moments” with this curriculum.

Then we turned to our grammar program. We had a few false starts. Learning Language Arts Through Literature sounded wonderful, but after a while it just got too boring and tedious. Then I discovered Easy Grammar. O.K., so maybe there is a Grammar-U-See, it is called Easy Grammar. And, boy, is it easy! I actually enjoy looking for parts of speech in sentences. We did deviate for the daughter this year and went back to Abeka grammar, but I wish we hadn't. There have been several occasions when I have said to her, “Get rid of the prepositional phrase, the answer will jump out at you.” I mean, giddy excitement on my part to discover that simpler really is better. Grammar should be grammar, not art class. (Unless you are the artsy sort, then, by all means, turn grammar into art.) I can't stand trying to draw all those lines to put parts of speech into their correct place. I am referring to diagramming—I can't abide it. We will do a little bit of it at some point because I want my children to at least know what people are talking about, but for now, I am all about getting rid of those prepositional phrases and going on a noun, verb, adverb (you get the picture) hunt.

I did find Science-U-See. It is called, get involved in a science co-op. Thank you, Lord, for the wonderful lady who is teaching the daughter and several other children using Apologia science. I have some science stories that I will share soon. Science and I don't get along so well.

History-U-See? Well, probably that would be Sonlight. But I have a slight problem. I fall asleep during read alouds. Not polite when someone else is doing the reading. Downright troubling when it is I who am doing the reading. I love the concept of Sonlight, I simply struggle executing it. Hey, I'm a busy mom. I stop moving and start listening to a voice droning on and on, and my body thinks it is nap time. Bad, bad mommy-teacher.

My conclusion: find a curriculum that works for you. Better yet, find a curriculum that you can work with. You and your children will be happier. They will learn. Life is our classroom.

Monday, October 31, 2011

True Confessions

Somehow I tell a better story than I write. Maybe I am out of practice. Maybe it is the fact that when I verbally tell a story, I have a live audience. But I want to be able to transfer that skill to paper (or computer screen as the case may be). I thought I would give it a shot here. Try to write out the story of my day as I would verbally tell it. Maybe it will stretch me a little and get me back into the practice of writing.

My morning started like most mornings. Up by 6:00--check e-mail, fold a little laundry. Presumably I would get to exercising by 7:30. Nope. I do not like to exercise. I do not like it here or there, I do not like it anywhere. Even though I make myself actually do it 4 to 5 times each week, I do not usually enjoy it. I may enjoy parts of it, but never the full session. It is just one of those things that has to be done.

So I did not get around to exercising until 9:30--procrastination, baby! DD and DS#1 were awake by this time. They got their breakfast and got to work on the assigned school work. DS#2, still in bed. Not a bad thing for the rest of us. The house was quiet. We were all doing our thing. All of that changed at 9:45. DS#2 woke up. Within 5 minutes he was asking me for the keys to our vehicle. Why? Evidently he had left some of those teeny, tiny DS games in the truck. You know the ones. The things that are approximately 1" by 1.5" and cost upwards of $35.00+. Who came up with that design?!!! Someone who does not have children, that's who! Silly little things. Back to the dilemma at hand. I informed DS#2 that we had taken the vehicle to be washed and vacuumed the day before and that any of those little, teeny, tiny games that had been there before probably were not there now. So off he went to look. He didn't come back in the house and he didn't come back in the house. DD and DS#1 went out to look with him. They returned with empty hands. By this time I am lying on the floor trying to do my prescribed exercises and remain very calm at the same time. I did not succeed. I marched into DS#2's room with trash bags in hand and started filling them with everything I could. Visions of zero Christmas presents flashed through my head. And I mean zilch. Lucky for the son, I calmed down and I found the games during my pitching spree.

The good side to this story is that DS#2's room has needed serious cleaning for quite a bit of time. That was taken care of. Probably he will get Christmas presents. Although, his DS is now residing in my room and may be there for quite some time to come.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

News "Headlines" That Actually Made Me Smile

I typically tend to avoid the news--in print, on the radio, on television, on the internet. But occasionally I do scan the headlines and I found two clips that made me smile and brought tears to my eyes. I am SO tired of all the bad "news" out there. We have enough bad that happens I long for reports of the good and happy. These two clips fit the bill:

Elmo's Voice and Girl Calls 911

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Books I Enjoy - I'm WAAAAY Behind

I did not set out to be behind. I really did want to keep up on this quest, but life got in the way. And, really, for me, life was the point of doing the 31 Dayers project. My life, more specifically. So, I am going to throw in a random post about a book I enjoy.

Here's the thing with this particular book--I haven't actually finished it yet. I have a strange relationship with this book, and I will explain.

Last month, I had the opportunity to go to a Women of Faith event. It was my first trip to Women of Faith, and although I enjoyed it, it was a little out of my comfort zone. You see, I grew up in a church that did not really embrace such gatherings. The ins and outs of that life experience are topics for other posts. However, I did glean some wonderful bits and pieces from the event.

One of the speakers was Andy Andrews. Now I have to admit that his presence caused a little bit of distress for me. You see, one of the main reasons I decided to go to WoF was because Tim Hawkins was supposed to be there. So, on Friday morning, the hostess of the event got up on stage and launched into an introduction. What I caught was, "We do not allow many men to come to Women of Faith . . . this man is really funny and entertaining." To be perfectly honest, I missed a lot of what she was saying because I was sure it was Mr. Hawkins. Imagine my immense disappointment when it was NOT Mr. Hawkins. So I had a little bit of a let down to surmount. To the stage came Mr. Andrews. I had no prior knowledge of this particular person, I only knew he WASN'T Tim Hawkins. I tried to settle in and listen to him, truly I did. But he was all. over. the. place. In his speaking and physically. He moved around the stage constantly. He was up and down the stairs meandering around the audience who were seated on the floor. He would start up the stairs, then turn around and run back down the stairs. And his speech--he seemed to jump from one topic to the next, and he just wasn't double yourself over and laugh funny like the aforementioned Mr. Hawkins. To compound the problem, my friend, who was sitting next to me, really wasn't enjoying Mr. Andrews and that constantly reminded me that I wasn't enjoying Mr. Andrews.

I decided that during his talk would be a good time to take a bathroom break--before the crowds of ladies converged on the concourse. Mr. Andrews completed his session and there was a break. When we all returned to our seats, there was a question and answer session with Mr. Andrews and Patsy Clairmont (LOVE her!). Bless his heart, but he was still all over the place--verbally only this time as he was seated. He would start a line of thought then jump to something else, then jump again. My friend was still not happy and I was just confused. Then it dawned on me. He behaved in a manner consistent with ADD. Ahhhh! THAT I could work with. My little boy behaves in a manner consistent with ADD. And my friend has had that experience with her son. Once I pointed out this fact, we both were able to settle down. Mr. Andrews was making points that connected, it was just necessary to flush out the connection. He is such a passionate person and just has so much information he is excited to share.

What, you might ask, does this have to do with a book. I will tell you. Imagine my surprise when I found that the only book I really wanted to read from one of the WoF speakers was written by a speaker at the conference whom I did not really enjoy listening to. Yup, I am currently reading one of Mr. Andrew's books. And in hindsight, I realize that I did enjoy what he was saying, I just had to change my frame of mind. The book is The Traveler's Gift: Seven Decisions that Determine Personal Success.

I am not really going to talk a lot about the book, because I think it is something each reader should experience without any prior knowledge--that is what made it interesting to me.

As far as Mr. Andrews goes, he has my respect and admiration. He really is quite the storyteller and does have wonderful, wonderful points to make. Sometimes it is good for us to have to dig through and find that nugget of information that we really need in our lives, he gave me that opportunity.

By the way, I have reserved 3 more of his books, and I am going to have to order The Butterfly Effect. Unfortunately my library does not own a copy.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Books I Enjoy - Days 6-10 Junie B. Jones series

O.K., so no more catch up. I am using the Junie B. Jones books to get caught up to the current day because the series has 27+ books. I am not going to misuse that number, but I really hate being behind and since I am a perfectionist frustrated perfectionist this is bothering the stew out of me. From here on out, I intend to post daily as planned.

Down to business . . .

I know that Junie B. has created a lot of controversy. She is mouthy, uses bad grammar and tends towards having a bad attitude. Not qualities we wish to see in our children. However, the entertainment factor is almost off my chart. My kids and I listened to Junie B. in the car. (A practice I HIGHLY recommend. Not necessarily with Junie B., but you can get some great, and some just-for-fun, literature in this way. And it keeps the drive-time bickering to a minimum.) We laughed so hard and have picked up many "Junieisims". My personal favorite is "I am a hoot I tell you!" I would like to put that saying on a shirt, but I am afraid too many people just wouldn't get it.

Ms. Parks did a marvelous job writing this series from the perspective of a child. If you can get past the bad grammar and the mouthiness, it really is worth using this book to look at the world through a child's eyes. We as adults tend to just drag our children along with us on the crazy roller coaster ride we call life. They really are good sports about it, but bless their hearts, it must be so confusing.

I will submit that these books were probably a lot more enjoyable because we listened to the audio versions. I would not have had the patience to just sit down and read them for myself. The audio version was read by Lana Quintal and she did a wonderful job creating the character of Junie.

My personal opinion about the grammar issues--if you are teaching your children proper grammar, they will be able to spot the incorrect grammar used by Junie. It is part and parcel of the character. The children know when she is misbehaving. It is my belief that they are not going to learn bad habits from Junie any more than they are going to learn to fly from Harry or command water at will from Percy.

Hmmm, I think it may be time to invite Junie in from her shelf at the library again--speedy quick, and I mean it!!!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Books I Enjoy - Day 5 Plain Wisdom

I have always held an interest in the Amish. I can't explain why. I have no desire to live without electricity or under the legalistic guidelines by which they order their lives, yet, they still interest me. I have learned a lot in recent years about the Amish by reading novels written about them, but something was missing.

I figured out what was missing when I read Plain Wisdom. What was missing was the story from the side of someone who has actually lived the life--and was happy to do so. Not from someone who was raised in this lifestyle then made the decision to live in the "English" world. Not from the mind of an English author writing a fictitious story based in that community. Miriam Flaud provided this voice. Along with Cindy Woodsmall, she has written calm, peaceful wisdom and laughter and gentle correction that is delivered to the reader in the form of a book. Amish mothers are much like English mothers. Common ground has been found and a friendship formed between the two authors. The bridge between the simple life and the life that most Americans live is not that long. Sprinkled among the tidbits of truth are wonderful recipes--none of which I have had the opportunity to try, but I know a good recipe when I hear one and I would love to dive into a few of those tummy pleasers.

The book is not written totally from Miriam's viewpoint. Cindy includes lessons she has learned during her life. It is clear she and Miriam are friends and the difference in lifestyle is not a deterrent to that friendship.

If you are looking for a calming book that will speak to your soul, I would recommend Plain Wisdom. While you probably won't want to give up your computer, Ipod or cell phone, I think you will appreciate the simplicity of life and the peacefulness it brings.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

30 Gifts to 30 Strangers in Sydney

I think this is so cool!!!

I do not agree with the idea that man's first responsibility is to be happy, but I love this idea of giving out gifts to total strangers. What a great birthday for that guy.

Veggie Pasta Sauce

Have I mentioned how much I love throwing ingredients together to create something delicious? Yeah, probably I have.

Here is another creation:

Veggie Pasta Sauce

2 cans (15 oz) tomato sauce
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 red bell pepper, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 white onion, peeled
1 tablespoon olive oil
dried oregano to taste
water as needed

Throw everything into the Vitamix and blend away. Add water until desired consistency is reached. I let mine blend for several minutes to heat it up. Toss with pasta of choice (three cheese tortellini, in our case).

The kid's tummies are full and momma is happy because of the hidden WHOLE veggies.

Books I Enjoy - Days 3&4 - Marta's Legacy

Today I play catch-up.

In my ever-to-be-humble opinion, Francine Rivers is a master storyteller. Her Mother's Dream captivated me and left me wanting more. This story follows Marta from her teenage years in Switzerland where her father was harsh and unloving toward her. She left her family to do the job her father thought best for her and started on a journey that shaped her life.

She eventually marries and comes to America. She has 3 children, including a daughter she loves so much but is so worried about that she doesn't effectively convey the love that Hildie needs to thrive. The cycle that was started with Marta and her father now finds its way to Hildie. Hilde believes her mother does not love her because of how she is held at such an emotional arm's length away from her mother.

Hilde grows up, marries, and has a family of her own, and the cycle starts to repeat itself with her daughter Carolyn. In Her Daughter's Dream Carolyn's grandmother, Marta, comes back into the picture and wants desperately to undo all the wrong she did for so many years with Hildie, but it just causes more resentment to build and drives more of a wedge between Hildie and Carolyn.

Carolyn grows up feeling just as lost and lonely and unloved as did her own mother. When she has a daughter, May Flower Dawn, once again the cycle of hurt and misunderstandings is begun.

It is not until May Flower Dawn becomes a mother that the horrible cycle starts to be broken and decades of hurt begin to heal.

These books kept me up past my bedtime for several nights. I learned so much from them. I feel blessed to be given the chance to read fiction and learn so much. Mrs. Rivers is a Christian author and weaves Biblical truths throughout her stories. These books encouraged me to speak out in my own family--to do so with love, but to let my loved ones know my thoughts and feelings so they do not get stuffed way down inside and cause me to imagine problems where there are none. It is so important to keep lines of communication open--especially within families. There are so many hurt, broken families that could have been spared so much pain if they had just communicated.

I highly recommend these books as they will be entertaining, but at the same time encourage you to form stronger bonds within your own family.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Books I Enjoy - Day 2 "Farmer Boy"

Yes, I know, this is a children's book; however, I think this is one of the books that has had the most impact on me. (Not including the Bible, but I hardly think the Bible can be categorized here.)

If you homeschool, you have probably heard of "living books". Living books are wonderful. They engage the reader in a story yet impart so much knowledge. Farmer Boy did that for me. There have been countless times I have remembered some tidbit from the book and have used that information in my daily life. Even now, as an adult. The Wilder family worked hard, yet enjoyed life.

If you know anything about Laura Ingalls Wilder, you know that Farmer Boy is just one book in her Little House on the Prairie series. All of those books are living books and they all have had a huge impact on me. I grew up without television, so the television show Little House on the Prairie was not a big part of my life; I got my information from the books. While I read and re-read and re-re-read all of those books, Farmer Boy remains my favorite. When I introduced my children to the series, this was the book we started with.

If you have read this book before, read it again. If you have never read it, please do so. Please, please introduce it to your children. Work was hard, but times were simpler, and we can all use a little simplicity in our lives, can't we?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

When life gives you bland bread make . . . fritatta

Did you know that yeast breads need salt? It's true. Salt in your yeast breads help keep the yeast from going crazy. See, yeast thinks itself to be big and bad and wants to make your bread rise and rise and rise. However, the flour can only take so much of yeast's big bad self. Salt to the rescue. Salt keeps the yeast from just going nuts by making him slow down and give a nice steady rise to the bread. What happens when salt gets left out of the party? Mr. Yeast goes nuts! He makes the bread rise like crazy then Mr. Flour says, "Enough is enough!" and pulls him back. The result is a terrible, terrible looking loaf of bread.

So, guess who forgot the salt in the yeast bread today? Yup. That would be me. I made wonderful dough and rolled it out. I sprinkled one loaf with cinnamon sugar and the other with mozzarella and garlic powder. All of our mouths were watering. But something was terribly wrong. When I went to put the loaves in the oven to bake they looked really weird--like they didn't rise all that well. Once they were out of the oven and I sliced into them, I quickly discovered the reason--NO SALT!!!

O.K., so it wasn't the bread's fault. It deserved to be eaten. So what's a airhead baker to do? Change dinner plans.

On the menu was a fritatta. The base was supposed to be diced potatoes, but I am nothing if not versatile. I changed out the potatoes with bread cubes.

Grilled Zucchini and Ham Fritatta

Layer in a 9"x13" pan:
*Bread cubes--Enough to cover the bottom of the pan. This took just about my whole homemade loaf.
*Grilled zucchini--I diced up 5 zucchini, drizzled them with olive oil and salt and threw them in my grill pan on the grill. Can I just say, "YUM, YUM, YUM!!!!"
*Diced ham--Amount to your liking
*1 dozen eggs--I made these like our family makes scrambled eggs. We use water, garlic powder, salt and pepper. This time I threw in dried basil because that is my herb of choice and dried oregano because that is my budding chef boy's herb of choice.

Pour eggs over bread, zucchini and ham. Pop into a 350º oven for 35 minutes or until eggs are set.

Books I Enjoy - Day 1

The first book I want to talk about is The Help. I first learned about this book when watching a movie. The previews included the trailer to the movie based on this book. My ears perked up when the announcer said that the movie was based on a book. I came directly home and reserved the audio book at my local library.

You have to know that a book is good when you are inventing housework to do at midnight just so you have an excuse to keep listening. That is exactly what I did.

The whole slavery issue has always hit a sour cord with me. Not that it doesn't with most people, but I am just in such awe (in a bad way) that people actually thought it was o.k. to "own" people. The setting for this book happens many, many years after slavery was abolished, but the attitudes people had towards African Americans is just unbelievable.

The characters in this book who portrayed maids had such wonderful, sweet, strong spirits. They accepted their "station" in life, but had to do so against such strong feelings of wrongdoing. And they were totally justified in feeling that way. These ladies loved and cared for the families they worked for, then they went home and loved and cared for their own families. All they while, they lived in a community where the majority felt they were little more than lower than dirt.

The white character who wrote their story was so brave in that she wasn't afraid to voice the words that many were feeling but dared not speak aloud. She wasn't the one suffering and I don't consider her to be the heroine of the book, but she was the gateway for those women who suffered so much.

This book is guaranteed to make you laugh. It is highly capable of bringing you to tears. And definitely will make you look at the world through different eyes.

Be kind -
Consider your fellow man.

Be smart -
Stand up for what you believe in.

Be important -
God made you that way--you are the only you there is. He does have a purpose for you.

31 Dayers

Day 18 (yes, I am behind) The Traveler's Gift
Days 6 through 10 Junie B. Jones series
Day 5 - Plain Wisdom
Days 3 & 4 - Marta's Legacy
Day 2 - Farmer Boy
Day 1 - The Help

I am so excited! When I saw the 31 Dayer challenge, I really wanted to participate, but couldn't think of what to blog about. Last night as I was drifting off to sleep, I thought of blogging about books that I have really enjoyed. I am a couple of days behind, but I think that is o.k. Maybe I will play catch up.

As much as I want to get started now, I have to wait because my duties as homeschooling momma have to take precedence. So, I will concentrate on those books for a little while, then come back to this.

I can't wait!!!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Tortellini Primavera

A Desire to be Heard

Do you use your blog to store stuff you want to remember? I do, and this is one of those posts.

I love it when lunch comes together with bits and pieces.

Bits & Pieces Tortellini Primavera

Trader Joe's dried 3 cheese tortellini (I used the amount for four servings)
Sliced carrots
Chopped zucchini
Leftover broccoli
Or whatever vegetables you have on hand
Leftover cooked chicken breast
Alfredo sauce (I used a mix from Azure Standard and had to substitute olive oil for the butter)

Cook tortellini in boiling salted water for 6 minutes. Add uncooked vegetables (carrots and zucchini in our case) and cook until pasta and vegetables are tender. Drain. If using a mix to make Alfredo, make that in the same pan you cooked your tortellini in. Add in your pasta, vegetables and chicken. Cook through.

Enjoy happy, warm, full tummies!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

To Thine Own Self Be True*

So here's the deal--I love to cook. Being creative brings me joy. I am very interested in homeschooling. However, I did not start this blog for those reasons. They are a part of my life so they will creep into my blog. But I started this blog because I wanted to give myself a voice. And usually my voice is probably rambling on about stuff that is small potatoes, but they are my potatoes. So I want to use this blog mainly to voice my thoughts and opinions. Up front I want to say that I am well aware that they are just that--opinions--and that they may differ from what other people think and/or feel. I am o.k. with that and I hope you will be o.k. with that, too. I am absolutely not right all the time. I am probably not right most of the time. But I feel strongly that I have a right to my opinion just as does everyone else.

Here's the thing: I get pretty passionate talking about stuff. When I see something that needs to be discussed, I want to discuss it. That does not mean I have a desire to cause trouble, it just means that I believe that if no one speaks up for what they believe, things will never change. Look at our country. What if the founding fathers had just idly sat by because they did not want to be trouble makers. However, when only one person starts to speak up, even though they may share the same thoughts and feelings as other people, they are labeled as a trouble maker.

I don't want to be labeled as a trouble maker, so the safe place to be vocal is here, on my little home on the web. I would like to incite change, but not to my detriment. Am I a coward? Maybe. But although the cost would not be near as great as the price paid by our founding fathers, I do not know that I am willing to pay the piper. Not on my own.

So I need to keep my thoughts and feelings general, but I do need to voice them. I am literally going crazy by not speaking what I feel.

So buckle up and hang on. It may be a bumpy ride.

*No, this is not a Biblical saying. And, yes, I believe we are to be true to God and God alone. However, I also believe that God created us to be individuals. We need to guide our individuality by Bible truths, but He did not create us to shove deep down inside us the individual He created us to be. Truth can be spoken without gossip. Speaking up can cause a person to walk a fine line, and everything that is spoken should be tempered with what is true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, and virtuous (See Philippians chapter 4). But we do need to stand up for what we believe.

My Little Boy Loves Me!

I was away from my family this past weekend. A couple of days before I left, Bubbie Boy told me that he was going to make me a cake for when I got home. I told him I would like a chocolate cake with chocolate peanut butter icing.

On the way home, I called my husband to let him know that I was about 1/2 hour away from home. He told me that Bubbie Boy had a surprise for me. And, boy, did he! He made a chocolate cake FROM SCRATCH!!! And it had chocolate peanut butter icing.

A couple of days later, I asked him where the recipe for the frosting was so I could put it in his recipe book. (He is taking a cooking class and does actually have a recipe book.) He told me that he didn't use a recipe, he just melted chocolate chips and mixed in peanut butter. Smart boy!

The cake was awesome. I am loved!!!

Friday, September 9, 2011

A&P Class - Day 1

Assigned reading: Pages 19-27. Stop at "Mighty Mitochondria"

Each class meeting is 1 hour long. I debated as to whether I should extend that time to 1-1/2 hours; however, now that we are into the semester, I am very glad that I kept it to 1 hour.

*I have a plastic dish pan that I am using to cart all my materials to and from class each week. This is working very well. I keep it in my dining room and add items as I go through the lesson in preparation. This way I can also take a quick look and make sure everything I need is there and ready to go. I suggest weekly items of paper towels and hand sanitizer.

Since this was our first class meeting, we had a little bit of a get-to-know-you time. I asked the students to tell everyone his or her name and link it to something that begins with the same letter sound. For example: "My name is Mary and I like milkshakes." I think the children thought it was a little silly and embarrassing, but it went a long way in helping me remember their names which was really the purpose of the exercise anyway. I am always so worried that I will forget kid's names. I know how important it is to remember people's names and I try really hard, but I am not that successful at it.

The next thing we did was go over the assigned reading material. I am not asking that the students learn vocabulary word for word, I want them to be able to explain what something means, not spit back a bunch of words that they have no idea the meaning of.

During this class we did the following activities:

1) Mummified Apple
Materials needed: 2 apples, vegetable peeler, two bowls with lids (A size to hold the apples with some room. I used 4-cup size Gladware containers.), baking soda, salt, measuring cups

The directions for completing this activity are found on page 21 of the text.

This activity need to sit for at least a week. We opened the containers during class the following week. At that time, I realized that I should have asked the students what they thought would happen to the apples. It was a little late to ask them once they saw the results.

We expanded on the activity by cutting the "mummified" apple in half, returning 1 half to the baking soda/salt mixture and placing the other apple in a container of water to further compare. We did this, then examined them during the third week of class. It was interesting to see what happened. I don't want to tell you because I had a picture in my mind of what was going to happen and it was fun to see if I was right or not.

2) Water Magnification
Materials needed: plastic wrap, medicine droppers or pipettes, water (I brought a pitcher from home to carry the water to the classroom and little disposable drinking cups to pour the water into for the children to use.)

The directions for completing this activity are found on page 26 of the text.

This is pretty straight-forward. The lesson I learned from leading this activity was: make copies of the word the children are supposed to be magnifying. My book bears the marks of not doing so and the pages are wrinkled and warped from getting wet.

I would suggest that a little research be done regarding water droplets and their shape and size and how that affects the magnification.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

New Page on my Blog

I'm branching out and expanding my blog. I've started a page on a homeschool co-op class I am teaching on anatomy and physiology. Follow our progress week by week and maybe get some ideas for a class of your own.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Kind. Smart. Important

Have you read the book The Help by Kathryn Stockett? Have you seen the movie? If you can answer "Yes" to either of those questions, you know what the following is based on:

So how did this come about?

Well, Bubbie Boy is trying really hard with his school. He wants a good report card. The other day he missed 1 question in math and had a meltdown. He made a sign for his bedroom door that said, "I'm stupid."

Well, I can't have that, so I decided to make a sign of my own.

I got onto Adobe Photoshop and set up the words how I wanted them. With my apologies to Ms. Stockett, I did change the grammar. However, I hope she will excuse me as I do not want to promote improper grammar whilst I am trying to drill into my little boy's head how smart he is. Behind each of the words Kind, Smart, and Important, I put a very light-colored "You are."

I then took a very inexpensive 12x12 artists canvas and set about painting it. I used a wonderful shade of blue in an acrylic gloss and gave the canvas several coats. Then I used a white acrylic gloss that I had watered down and gave the paint some visual texture.

I then cut down my piece of paper I had printed the quote on and got out the mod podge.

I am so pleased with the results. Bubbie Boy likes it, too.

By the way. If you have yet to read the book and/or see the movie, I highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend both. I hope to get my thoughts on both into a blog very soon.

Linked to Weekend Wrapup at Tatertots & Jello

Friday, July 15, 2011

Orange Infused Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

On a regular basis I hear from Bubbie Boy, "We need to go shopping. We don't have any food in this house." Of course, we do have food, just not the snacky-type stuff he desires. So in an attempt to help remedy that situation, I made the following muffins in mini muffin tins.

Orange Infused Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins (or Bread)

5 very ripe bananas
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
zest from 1 large orange
juice from 1 large orange
3 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup brown sugar
3 cups white wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325º. In a large bowl puree bananas until pretty much liquefied. I used my immersion blender to do this. Add the yogurt, orange zest, orange juice, eggs, oil and vanilla. Blend well. Add the brown sugar and blend well some more. In a large separate bowl, combine flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Add the banana mixture to the flour mixture and mix with a light hand. Fold in desired amount of mini chocolate chips.

Grease your muffin tins and scoop in your batter. It took my mini muffins 16 minutes to cook. I put the rest of the batter into loaf pans and they took about 55 minutes to bake.

Linked to Weekend Wrapup.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Staycation Chocolate Chip Cookies

This week, our family is on staycation. We really aren't doing much--that is the 'cation part of it. At any rate. DH decided to make omelets for what ended up being pretty much lunch this morning. About an hour after eating those wonderful things, we were all in the mood for something sweet. So Snickerdoodle and I whipped up some chocolate chip cookies bits of heavenly delight!

Staycation Chocolate Chip Cookies
Snickerdoodle and Momma

2 sticks unsalted butter--use the real stuff, please
1-1/4 cups turbinado sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons REAL vanilla
2-1/4 cups white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Melt butter in microwave. In mixing bowl, combine melted butter and turbinado sugar. Turn on mixer and let it mix away. (The sugar and butter will not cream and the sugar will not melt. This is a good thing.) Add egg, egg yolk, milk and vanilla. Turn on mixer again, and allow to mix while doing the next step. (If you do not have a stand mixer, just mix really well with your hand mixer.)

Combine flour, salt and baking soda. Add flour mixture to butter mixture and mix only until combined. Add chocolate chips with a light hand.

Drop, preferably with a LARGE cookie scoop, onto parchment-lined baking sheets.

These baked to perfection in 17 minutes in our oven. Adjust time to your oven's temperament.

*Enjoy warm right out of the oven with hot coffee or cold milk.

*These can also, most definitely, be enjoyed while not on a staycation. Matter-of-fact, you may need them more during your regularly scheduled life.

Linked to Tatertots & Jello Weekend Wrapup!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Parenting is Like a Bowl of Cherries

If you have been a parent for any length of time you have become aware that there are just some things that you:
A) have not been told about the journey,
B) you really do not know how you will handle certain situations (even though you were 100% positive that you would know exactly what to do), and
C) you need help.

I will attempt to explain--

No one tells you that there might come a time when you will be awaken in the middle of the night by the sounds of a child who is having a major explosion from his/her nether regions and did not quite make it to the proper seat in the house. Such an occurrence might result in you dragging out your mop bucket and a gallon or more of bleach and cleaning the bathroom from top to bottom.

On a more serious note--

No one tells you that boys get rather, ah, hormonal, pretty much in the same fashion as girls. But here's the thing: moms are not boys!!! Moms know what to do with the girls. Been there. Done that. "Sure, honey, you take some Tylenol, eat a piece of chocolate and go take a nap. You want the heating pad?" With boys??? I can answer technical questions, but do I really have the right to? Since I homeschool, I am with my boys much more than their dad. No fault on his part, he is doing what he is supposed to do--go to work to support his family. But "guy" questions do not come up between the hours of 6 PM and 7 AM only. They can come up at any and all times. Also, no one talks about boys being "hormonal". Any mom who has sat by when their pre-teen or teen son has resorted to tears for a minor thing knows what I am talking about.

Can you guess that I am in the middle of boy hormones? Can I say, "Yikes!!!" So I am in need of some guidance. I found a source of guidance in a place I wasn't looking--here. I do not remember what took me to this blog: probably something to do with homeschooling or natural eating. At any rate, am so thankful that she is posting these wonderful gems. I have not yet decided if I will purchase Brooke Meglothlin's book, but I am enjoying going through these verses. I am looking forward to sharing them with all my children, male and female alike. Here's the thing, parenting is not always a bowl of cherries. Well, maybe it is a bowl of cherries. God did know what he was doing when He made cherries. Tiny bites of pure happiness wrapped around a rock-hard pit. Have you ever eaten a cherry and bit the pit? It absolutely hurts. So, yes, I will say that parenting is like a bowl of cherries, pits and all. It is dealing with those pits that is so difficult. Getting to the heart of behavior is what is necessary, but I do not always know how to hit behavior at the core. I tend to take care of symptoms; something I despise in the medical community. The trick is to figure out WHY the child is behaving in a particular manner and to guide him or her to the correct heart position. Hmmm, not so easy. For me, I am at a total loss. I want to say, "It's wrong. Just don't do it." But that method doesn't work so well. It is necessary to make a child, or ourselves truth be told, seek out the reason why behavior is inappropriate. That is what fosters the desire to change the behavior. Discipline and correction for a symptom does not heal the problem. This requires work on my part. I have to research and pray and do some deep thinking in order to discover what is right and why. In the process, I learn a thing or two and most likely have to correct a hundred things or two hundred in my own life. But in the long run, it is worth it.

So, I will continue to eat my bowl of cherries and do my best to deal with the pits.

Friday, June 17, 2011


Well, our VBS is behind us. We have worked hard for the last two months. (Well, it has been two months for me. For the wonderful ladies I worked with, it has been longer.) The week went well. The children learned and had fun. Four children made decisions for Christ. This experience was fun, hard work and a learning opportunity for me. Also, I got to know some people better and THAT is a blessing.

Now it is time to begin planning for our upcoming school year. Hopefully I will have a framework in the next two weeks, and we can begin work. I have a lot of ideas swirling around in my head for things we should do and things I would like to do.

For now, I am looking forward to hitting my pillow and having panda-free dreams.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Beautiful Song

At the graduation ceremony for our homeschool group this year, this song was played while the parents were seated. It brings me to tears, but it is such a blessing.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Tatertots & Jello Hosted Give-A-Way

Jen over at Tatertots and Jello is hosting a Word Whipped Give-Away.

My personal favorite is the Custom Family Rules signs.

Check it out and sign up!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happiness is . . .

hearing your children say how happy they are to have clean rooms. Especially when they are the ones who did the cleaning. We had our carpets cleaned today. In preparation, I had the children pull everything moveable out of their rooms and dust. We cleaned baseboards. After the carpets were cleaned, (CLEAN CARPETS, YEAH, BABY!) they put everything back into its place. We are happy, clean campers here.

*P.S. Bubbie Boy wants to make sure that everyone knows that he moved his dresser out of his room all on his own. And he is 8.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A List of Blessings

Several weeks ago I received a weekly sales email from CBD in which was advertised a book called One Thousand Gifts. I looked at it and even visited the author's website. For some reason, I decided that it is not a book that I wish to read. This morning, I received my daily email from Heart of the Matter Online and it contained a giveaway for this book. I read through the post, entered the giveaway and decided to join the blessings link-up. You see, the reflection on what I am thankful for calmed my spirit and made me even feel like my body temperature dropped a couple of degrees. In no particular order . . .

  1. A little boy who LOVES, LOVES, LOVES me
  2. A beautiful daughter growing into a lovely young lady
  3. A son growing strong and tall much sooner than I thought possible
  4. A husband who provides and protects
  5. Juicy, ripe, sweet strawberries
  7. Music
  8. Encouragement from others
  9. Croaking frogs
  10. Singing birds
  11. The sound of water
Hmmm, I could get carried away and that would be a good thing. Maybe I will come back and add later. Probably I should.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Bathmats & Veggie Treasure Box

Please do not measure the accomplishments in my daily life by my blog posts. I have been keeping myself occupied during the last two weeks, I just haven't said much about what has been going on. But now . . . I have a couple of bloggy minutes.

So, I have this weird thing about bathmats. I do not like the cute rug type mats that have that strange rubber stuff on the back. When you wash those, you have to lay them out to dry. Then, if you are me, you forget about the mats and they end up decorating your back yard and disintegrating into nothing in the hot sun. In the mean time, you end up using bath towels to stand on when you are dripping wet.

Now, I do like the bath mats they have in hotels. Low pile, thick towel-like mats. Alas, those are too pricey for frugal little me.

What's a girl to do? I really do not like using out bath towels as mats on the floor. They are, after all, going to be used once again on our freshly showered bodies. Yes, they will be washed, but it is the idea of it all.

I thought I had come up with a solution. I was at Target and found these wonderfully colorful 100% cotton rugs that I thought would fit the bill. I brought them home and discovered they were very slippery on our tile. No problem. I am resourceful. I simply cut a piece of drawer liner to put under them. Problem solved. However . . . new problem—they were approved for spot clean only. Who, in their right mind will just spot clean a bath mat.

So, back to the drawing board. And am I ever so happy now! I bought an inexpensive towel from Wal-Mart, cut off the decorative edges, then cut two 18” wide pieces. The ends are already finished. On the cut ends, I added colorful bias tape. These work great! They add a splash of color. And the cost? Wait for it . . . $2.50 to $3.50 each. I have already sewn four, pinned bias tape on two more and will probably make at least two more. (We have three bathtubs/showers, and doing laundry . . . well that should be a post in and of itself.)

O.K., so one problem solved. Moving on to the next thing. Remember my Vitamix? I still love it, but I didn't love having to wash veggies every time I wanted to blend something. So I scrubbed and peeled, allowed the freshly-washed veggies to drain dry, then loaded the whole kit and caboodle into a large plastic container with a lid. Boy this little guy makes me so happy every time I pull him out of the fridge. I can whip up a soup or a salad in no time. Then I just pop the lid back on and put the whole thing away. Hey, I just realized that I am also saving myself the aggravation of digging through the fridge for all the bags of produce, then stuffing them all back in each and every time I need veg. Yea, me!!!

Monday, March 21, 2011

New Toy

"I got a new toy-oy! I got a new toy-oy!" (Imagine sing-songy voice.)

Last Monday, the boys and I went on an innocent little trip to Costco. Innocent--yeah, right!

Guess who was there? The Vita-Mix Lady, that's who. The Vita-Mix Lady and her Vita-Mix machine and her baskets full and ice chest full of goodies. We got to sample juice blended COMPLETELY smooth from whole fruits, ICE CREAM made in this miracle machine, tortilla soup to die for and whole fruit smoothies*. "Hmmm," said I, "I want one of these. However, I do not have the necessary dinero." So sad.

That was Monday. On Thursday, St. Patrick's Day, I made mint chocolate chip milkshakes. And guess what? My blender didn't like mixing that guy up, that's what! What visions started drifting through my head? Oh, yeah, Vita-Mix, baby. So on Friday, I concocted a plan. After punching a few numbers in on my phone--"Hi, Babe! Can I borrow some money?" That wonderful man of mine? He said, "Yes."

"Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to Costco we go!" (Imagine sing-songy voice again.) And the nice Vita-Mix Lady? She mixed up more wonderful goodies for us as I picked up Mr. Vita-Mix box and put him in my cart.

That night, I made that wonderful man of mine chocolate hazelnut banana ice cream. I used chocolate hazelnut milk, frozen bananas and ice. That was it. He was amazed. But, My Lovin' Man being who he is, he had to give me a hard time yesterday. "You know, every time you turn that machine on, the lights flicker." (Imagine deep manly voice.) So I whisked him off to Costco, because yesterday (Sunday) was the last day that Vita-Mix Lady would be at Costco. She made us more tortilla soup, more ice cream and a GREEN smoothie. He was convinced.

Today, I made the kids a green smoothie. The ingredients?
  • white grape juice
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1/2 apple (don't remove the core)
  • thin slice of lime (with the peel)
  • 1/2 cup pineapple chunks
  • couple spoonfuls of the pineapple juice the pineapple was packed in
  • 2 handfuls spinach
  • about 1 cup ice
And, Mikey, THEY LIKED IT! You CANNOT taste the spinach! Honest to Betsy.

Another great thing about this machine? It is just about self cleaning. You put some warm water in it with a drop of dish soap, turn it on, and presto-cleano!

We're having some delicious fun over here! Yeah, I will be broke for the next few months (I did mean borrow when I asked DH if I could "borrow" some money), but it's worth it. We are loving us some yummy treats. Hey, I didn't even add peas to the kids mac & cheese at lunch today--they drank spinach and fruit!

*Video demos are available at

Monday, March 14, 2011

Homemade Yogurt Tutorial

O.K., I haven't done a tutorial before, so bear with me.

I blogged about homemade yogurt here, and decided I would post about how I make yogurt. There are instructions all over the web, but I have my own little way of doing it. Here we go!!!

You will need:
  • 1/2 gallon of milk--I use 2% simply because I need a little fat to help me feel full for longer. You can use whatever percent you choose. Just know that the further away you get from whole milk, your yogurt will not be as firm.
  • Powdered milk--I use non-instant that I get from Azure Standard. I used 1/4 cup the first time I added this and 1/2 cup the second time. I didn't see any difference in texture between the two. An added benefit of incorporating the powdered milk is that it adds protein to your yogurt.
  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt with live and active cultures. I prefer to use Mountain High, Cascade, Brown Cow or Trader Joe's.
  • Whisk or fork and a spoon
  • Measuring cup
  • Thermometer--a candy thermometer will work well. I have a digital meat thermometer that I attach to the side of my pan with a clothespin. I like that because it beeps when it reaches the right temperature--allows me to do a little less babysitting.
  • Jars with lids or a glass or ceramic bowl with a lid. I used a casserole dish for a couple of years. Now I use quart sized Mason jars with plastic lids. They take up less space in the fridge. (My picture has metal lids because all my plastic lids are currently in use.)
  • Playmate cooler with hot water (about 118º to 120º) OR large heavy bath towel
Pour your milk into a large pan. Slowly whisk in the powdered milk with your whisk or fork. Set your burner to medium heat. Put your thermometer into the milk. Allow the milk to come up to 180º. When it does, remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool down to 118º. I found that placing the pan on a wire cake rack allows the milk to cool faster than leaving it on a solid surface.

If you are using a cooler to incubate your yogurt, go ahead and get this ready. You will want enough water in the cooler to come up to at least the mid-line level of your jars. Make sure that water is not over 120º. For several years, I simply used a heavy bath towel folded in half to incubate my yogurt. I just made sure I placed the jars in a relatively warm place. This using the cooler and hot water is new to me, but it feels like I am doing more to make the yogurt. I always worried that the temp was not good enough just leaving it covered on the counter.

While the milk is cooling, place your yogurt into a bowl. When the milk reaches 118º, spoon some of the warm milk into the yogurt and whisk it up. This is similar to tempering eggs. Pour your yogurt into your pan of milk and mix well. I really like using a whisk as this will break up any "lumps" of yogurt. Pour your mixture into the jars or bowl. Wipe the lip clean with a damp paper towel and put the lids in place.

Put the jars into the cooler or in a warm spot in your kitchen. Close the lid to the cooler or cover with the towel. You want to leave this undisturbed for 6 to 8 hours.

When the time is up, carefully look to see if the yogurt has solidified. If there is a yellowish liquid on top, don't worry. It is just the whey. You will see more of it as you begin to use the yogurt. You can dump it out or stir it back into the yogurt. If you decide to dump it out, I recommend saving it in another jar in your fridge. The whey can be used in any recipe that uses buttermilk. Let me tell you, it makes wonderful pancakes! You can also line a strainer with cheesecloth, dump your yogurt in, put the strainer over a bowl and place it in the fridge. This will give you a thick Greek yogurt-like consistency. You can also use this in the place of cream cheese.

Oops, I digressed. Once your yogurt has cultured, place it in the fridge to cool completely. You do not want to dig in until it cools off--it will be a runny mess if you do, and really, who likes warm yogurt.

There you go. Save some for your next batch. After a while, it may lose it's potency and you will need to buy more plain yogurt to use as a starter.

Happy yogurt making and eating!