Sunday, August 26, 2012

August 19-25

Remember the spindly little mums I had planted back in June?  Well this one had filled out beautifully . . . and then a certain toad found his way in, followed by a certain Emmett, dead-set on capturing the toad.  And now, well, a good portion of it is missing.  Perhaps I can stick a pumpkin in there and no one will be the wiser?
A momentous occasion . . . date-night!! Well, kind of.  It was the teachers' "kick-off" dinner at a restaurant downtown, so it wasn't like were were truly alone. ;o)  Josh and I haven't been out without kids in a year!  The coolest part about this evening though?  The GIRLS baby-sat!! We figured we were just a few minutes away if they needed us, and they did such an awesome job.  Josh and I were gone 2 hours--in that time they loaded and unloaded the dishwasher, browned hamburger meat and put it into containers to freeze, tidied the living room and their own room, and oversaw their brothers brushing teeth, prayed with them, sang a lullaby and tucked them into bed!  All three boys were sound asleep when Josh and I came home.  The girls were on the couch watching a completely appropriate show when we walked through the door.  We were so impressed!  It was definitely one of those awesome parenting moments when you are kind of like, "Wow, they are becoming responsible human beings!!" ;o)
They still haven't visited our feeder, but I captured this little guy through the glass out our front window.  Super cool!
Ever since watching the Olympics girls' gymnastics Isabella has been honing her routine in the living room.  This picture is definitely a slice of real life . . . Marissa reading on the couch, Isabella turning cartwheels and flips. ;o)
Jackson's much anticipated "Red Lego Cake."  If I'm being honest it looks more like a "Pink Pig's Udder" but he was still delighted with the result.  Really, me and theme cakes?  I like to think of myself as a kind of crafty person, but I've decided I REALLY lack cake decorating skills, and not even Pinterest can help. Perhaps some day I shall take a class . . .
You know, I saw Owen with a screwdriver and assumed he was "pretending" to fix my vacuum.  Little did I know my little guy and his amazing small-motor skills had teamed up to remove a very important screw that held the handle on the vacuum.  The revelation dawned on me once I started vacuuming and the handle fell off.  Little stinker.
My little chef.  He hears the mixer and comes a'running, every single time.  I love this picture of him!


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Happy 7th Jackson!!!



You are my Lego boy.
My "Where's Waldo" boy.
The boy who claims he *HATES* kisses (but really does not).
My boy who delights in gardening.
The number boy.
The boy who warms up to everything slowly.
The boy who sees life a different way.
The boy who asked for hot dogs, french fries, and broccoli with cheese for his birthday meal.
The boy excited to do "seven math" today.
The intense one.
You are always and forever my never-ending puzzle, you stretch me and make me think and teach me to meet you where you're at.  When you are happy and excited about something it fills my heart to exploding.  And when you are not, I find myself back at the drawing board, trying to figure out a "Jackson approach."  You come at things on your own timetable.  And when you figure something out?  It is always the best day ever.
You make my life so much better by being in it.
I'm so thankful for the seven years God has given me to love you and raise you and point you toward Him.  It is a complete joy to see you grow and change, and I pray always that God will do something mighty with your heart and life. 
Happy birthday buddy!!! 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

August 12-18

A boring picture of a hummingbird feeder, however, the reason we hung it?  The day before we saw hummingbirds visiting our zinnias!  We're hoping to lure them closer to the house (so far it hasn't worked).
Another sunflower . . . can't help myself. ;o)
"Magic Night" with Daddy.
Josh amazed and stunned the kids with his magic tricks.  The most heart-breaking thing was watching Jackson try to imitate what Josh did (over and over and over) but nothing would happen.  Poor guy. 
A bird's eye view of four children playing together quite happily.  It doesn't happen often, so I'm always sure to document it when it does . . .
A pretty kitty showed up on our step, we named her "Sky."  We fed her really well, and then later that afternoon learned she belonged to the neighbor at the corner.  The kids were heart-broken.  Sky has been breaking out daily though to come visit us (much to neighbor boy's annoyance), so it's kind of like having a cat.  It'll work for now.
The fork stabbing. 
I was putting away the silverware, and somehow a fork wasn't laying quite right, and somehow my hand was in the way, and when I went to shove the drawer shut, somehow the fork ended up in my finger.  It doesn't look like much, but boy did it bleed! And it hurt . . .  Marissa thought it looked like a snake bite, so that's the story I think I'll go with . . . It sounds much cooler.
The three "middles" (not Marissa or Owen) spent the night in a tent in the yard.  This was Jackson the following evening at 6:45 p.m.--I'm guessing the camping didn't afford him all the sleep he needed.  And boy was it cold the night of the camping!  They lasted until about 5:00 in the morning and then all ventured inside for more warmth.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

A Few Great Recipes to Share

1) Pasta with Snap Peas, Basil, and Spinach
(My kids LOVE this!!! We've made it twice this summer and they ALL gobbled it up both times.)

sea salt/ground pepper
A 16 oz. box of pasta (preferably something spiral-ish) ;o)
3 garlic cloves, peeled/chopped into coarse pieces
8 oz. of snap peas, halved
10 oz. baby spinach
1/2 cup of fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup of heavy cream
1 cup of (real) Parmesan, shredded
In a large pot of boiling water cook pasta and garlic 1 minute less than package instructions.
Add snap peas and cook 30 seconds.  Add spinach and basil, stirl once to wilt.  Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water, then drain.

Add cream to pot and heat over medium-heat until bubbling.  Return the pasta mixture and 1/4 of saved pasta water, stir for two minutes.  Add parmesan.  If necessary add the remaining pasta water to create a light sauce that coats pasta, season with salt/pepper.

2) Summer Fresh Freezer Pickles
7 cups of thinly sliced cucumber with peel
1 large Vidalia onion sliced into thin ringlets
2 TBSP pickling salt
1 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
3 cloves of garlic, crushed (or chopped small)
1 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup distilled water
2 cups white sugar
Slice your cucumbers--preferably with a mandolin, toss them in a large bowl with the onions and garlic.  In another bowl mix the remaining ingredients, stir well, until sugar is completely dissolved. Pour over the cucumber mixture.  Cover and let stand for 1-3 hours, then refrigerate every day, stirring once a day.  Pack into small freezer containers, freeze as desired and thaw before serving.

(This is how I've been dealing with the over abundance of cucumbers--I had another 16 waiting for me after getting back from vacation.  We've tried one of our containers already and Josh and I like them . . . the kids are kind of "eh" about them, but at least the cucumbers aren't going to waste).

3) Cheesy Zucchini Casserole
5 TBSP butter, divided
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 medium sized zucchini, seeded, chopped into small chunks, steamed/drained
1 cup Velveeta, cubed (I tried the "queso blanco" but I think either would be fine)
1/2-1 cup shredded cheddar
1/2-1 cup shredded Pepper Jack
1 roll of Ritz crackers, crushed

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and 11x7 baking dish; set aside.  In a frying pan, melt 2 TBSP of butter, add onion, stirring frequently until tender. Add zucchini. Fold in cheeses.  Spoon zucchini mixture into prepared dish; sprinkle with crackers.  Melt remaining 3 TBSP of butter and drizzle over the crackers.  Bake for 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly.  Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

(I LOVED this!  Josh and Marissa thought it okay, even though they aren't big on zucchini . . . nobody else wanted to try it.  But it was a really yummy way to use up extra zucchini I had on hand.  I enjoyed eating the leftovers for my lunch over the next several days).

*And one more thing to add on zucchini--add almond flavoring to your zucchini bread or muffins--It's really yummy!

Friday, August 17, 2012

The First Week

This week Josh returned to his job, the heat for the most part went away, we opened windows and enjoyed fresh breezes, and ultimately got back to a school routine.  It was a good week.  The first day I was quite delighted with myself . . . I had gotten up, spent time in the Word and in prayer, ran two miles, showered, dressed, and checked email (etc) all before 8:00 a.m (the time we start school).  And then at 8:04 a migraine hits.  I had to think, "Really? On the first day?"  But I popped some pills and plodded on through "aura-filled" eyes, determined to remain cheerful while I worked with one very excited kindergartner.  We made it.  It was a good lesson to me (one that often seems to need repeating) that even though I wasn't feeling my best, and the migraine wasn't part of the "first day" plans, I can always choose my attitude, and really a happy heart does make life more doable.  The week went down peacefully--it was a pleasure to get back to our routine.  Yes, sometimes there are four people needing help at once, but there are no appointments to keep or places to be and I have all the time in the world.  (Yes, my floor could still use a mopping . . . I'm not super-woman).  ;o)  I think this year I truly am seeing how out-numbered I am, how there really is no way to do this with my own strength, and I find myself covering our days in prayer so much more.  Because that's the only explanation I can give to a week that involved a migraine, a trip to the E.R. in Cambridge (that was supposed to result in stitches for Emmett, but did not, so we're holding his chin together with butterfly bandages . . .), and literally stabbing my finger with a fork (bet you didn't know putting silverware away was so hazard-filled!). Life is always happening in the midst of everything else--but we still had a good week.  I can only chalk that up to two things, 1) Praying lots! 2) A cheerful heart!
So, the first week is down in the books . . . and yay it's the weekend! ;o)

Monday, August 13, 2012

School Plans for the '12-'13 Year

It's that time of year where I'm staring down the barrel of another homeschooling year (we're starting today!!). And because new school books make me all starry-eyed I'd thought I'd share what we'll be up to this year.  The planning part is always a lot of fun for me, mainly because I love the research of what is out there, but also because I get to purchase books and await their arrivals in little brown boxes.  It is kind of my own little Christmas morning. ;o)
This year I will have a kindergartener, a first grader, a third grader, and a fifth grader.  I would be lying if I said that there wasn't a bit of trepidation on my part to have my two boys, back-to-back, the older one still just barely sounding words out and absolutely no interest in "doing school" the younger one while excited (at least right now . . .) about the prospect of schoolwork likes to live his days footloose and fancy-free, chasing insects and ground squirrels in the back yard.  I'm so hoping (praying/begging) by the end of the year I'll have two more solid little readers.  But at this point it seems like A LOT.  I can't really fathom four learners.  I envision some crazy first few weeks as we find a new rhythm. 
But onto the books!
For Emmett's kindergarten year we'll be working our way through this:

(a simple phonics program with fun games)
(an add on with all the games printed up on heavy cardstock and ready for use)
(a simple little art book to expand his drawing skills beyond all things vehicular) ;o)

(He'll tag along with the girls' science curriculum, but he won't have a workbook for that, and probably end up doing some things along with Jackson too.)
For Jackson we're going back to My Father's World First Grade.  I already have it, and in my previous experience with it I liked the phonics in it as well as the Bible notebook he will get to work on.  He will also be doing Singapore Math, books 1A/1B and tagging along with the girls's science as well.
For Isabella and Marissa:
Our main history text will continue to be The Mystery of History (volume 3).  I'm really excited to be spending the year learning about the Reformation and Renaissance.  We're really going to be camping out in the 1455-1707 era for the entire school year.  The girls will continue to put together History Notebooks (which for the most part involves summarizing the reading of that day and illustrating it, but also any mapwork or applicable printables I find online).
We're going to do another Apologia science, this year it will be a bit of zoology in--
While the girls will work through the notebook that goes with the text, the boys will make their own science notebook (a binder with plastic slipcovers) for any pictures/etc. that we do.  I'm thinking the birds/insects will be RIGHT up their alley.  And since Josh IS a science teacher they also get the added benefit of going to his classroom here and there for his impromptu sessions on chemical reactions, electrocuting themselves with the Vandegraph machine, as well as vocbulary enrichment. (I'm sure you all have five year olds who tell you, "I'm stealing your thermal energy!!"). ;o)
Did I ever tell you about the time Josh brought home liquid nitrogen??  We froze bananas and tennis balls and then dropped them on the ground and they shattered!  It was pretty cool!
They'll also each be doing Singapore Math and Easy Grammar workbooks at the appropriate grade level for each.
Something new we're trying this year is this writing curriculum--
For Isabella:

For Marissa:
It's something put out by Susan Wise Bauer of "Well-Trained Mind" fame (at least among homeschoolers). ;o)  So, I'm curious to see if we will like it of not.  I like the fact it is all inclusive, as far as the reading selections, worksheets, etc.  And Marissa's is set up for a lot of independent work--added bonus. 
Marissa will keep working through these vocabulary books (she adores them and keeps the old copies to refer to for some big words when she needs them). ;o)  She does this in place of spelling.
And Isabella's spelling book is this--

Just your plain-jane workbook styled spelling, but it worked well for us last year (and didn't burn us out like one we had used before) so we're sticking with it.
And last but not least, they're own personal Bible studies on the book of James--
I'm excited for them to begin these studies (there's a whole bunch of them!) by Kay Arthur--I love her inductive Bible study method for adults and can't wait to get the girls digging into their own Bibles.  Moving away from our Lincoln church left big gaps--they have wonderful kids' programs there--and it is still something that makes me so sad.  I'm hoping this study will help.
That's the run-down of our books!  I'm hoping I still feel as excited about them next week as I do right now. ;o)  I'm also hoping to be better about Friday being some sort of organized nature study, and for that I have this for inspiration--
It has monthly ideas for nature study as well as just some simple ideas of what to put in a nature journal, like a "nature surprise sheet."  That's just a running list of surprises you come across outdoors--things you don't see every day.  So simple, but I never thought of that. Right now I have rosy-hued visions of us traipsing through fields and ditches with our field guides and nature journals in tow, sitting down to draw with colored pencils . . . But a fresh new year always does that to me.  ;o)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

August 5-11

Our "welcome home committee"--after a week away (plus all the other days we've spent away) it was really good to be home.

Working on last year's scrapbook--in the end I decided to get the Project Life core kits (it makes the process so simple and pain-free).  They've been out ALL YEAR and just finally got restocked in Amazon.  I quickly bought two (one for me and one for the girls, who are beginning their own scrapbooks--see, so easy even kids can do it!). ;o)
Sun setting on the pumpkin patch--life is good.
Planning, planning, planning--FOUR CHILDREN to work out daily schedules for (AHHHHH!) and August's menu.  I fear next week might be painful.
Cosmos against the sky.
Friday morning entertainment--crop dusting the bean field.  That plane flew right over our house several times!  The boys were delighted!
Our front "dirt yard" turned into a huge road system by Owen and Emmett.  I'm not sure what I love more, the little boy playing in the dirt or the fact he dressed himself in two of Emmett's mismatched shoes.  On the wrong feet. ;o)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Tour de Missouri~Branson

Where am I? Day four? ;o)
That afternoon we met up with Josh's parents in Springfield, MO and dined at Carlos O'Kelley's and then followed them to Branson, to the Honeysuckle Inn.
(that would be Josh's parents, directly in front of us) ;o)
Friday (Day 5) we made a last minute decision to tour the Titanic Museum.  It was more a "my kind of thing," but the other six happily came along.  I'm not sure it ended up being $67 worth of fun, however I really enjoyed it.  They don't allow pictures inside, hence you'll just have to take my word for it.  The highlight for the kids? Touching an "ice berg," sticking their hands in 28 degree water and seeing how long they could last (FYI--that is really cold water!), and standing on a slanting boat section to see how slippery it would be.  I think to fully appreciate it, you need to be able to read all the fascinating accounts, which isn't going to appeal to the younger set of kids.
We each got a boarding pass of an actual person on the ship. 
 Everyone but Owen survived. :o(
Our Branson schedule was much more relaxed--we were there for a family reunion on Josh's side.
There was a lot of "hanging out." 
On Saturday a friend of Josh's uncle took interested family members out for a boat ride across Table Rock Lake.  I forget that the girls were itty-bitty the last time they were on a boat, so really, it was a new experience for them all.  And it was a hit!  Just goes to show that more often than not "free fun" can be the best kind of fun!
Hanging with Grandpa.
Sitting in the back, under the shade.
Me, looking casual, while fearing my youngest was going to bounce right off the front of the boat, get run over, and subsequently chopped up.  I had a good grip on that strap--a fact Owen let me know {often} he was not happy about.
And Jackson, reveling in the ride.
Marissa kept her perch at the front of the boat for the entire ride, soaking it all up.
Emmett got to help steer for awhile.
A good time was had by all. ;o)
That evening was the official dinner with the whole clan and we were spoiled by turkey, mashed potatoes, homemade noodles, sweet corn . . . Many hands worked hard, and it was sooooo tasty (particularly after a week of many sandwiches). ;o)
Josh's oldest aunt told stories of growing up at the end of the dust bowl, and shared the family history--it was fascinating to hear (and the history lover in me loves to see people preserving family stories).
The next morning we set for home--it was a long day of driving, leaving at 9:00 a.m. and getting home at 7:00 p.m. 
It was a good trip--we packed a lot in--so I'm not going to claim it was relaxing (are trips ever relaxing for the parents??). ;o)  An added perk through the whole week was getting to watch the Olympics.  We have a tv out here, but all we have is Netflix (by choice--we could get a satellite, or put up an antennae, or pay for cable, we just don't).  It doesn't really bother us, but we were sad to miss the Olympics.  We enjoyed cheering on the USA from all of our different hotel rooms each night.  And that wraps up "Vacation 2012."
The End. ;o)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tour de Missouri~St. Louis

We arrived at our hotel, the "Millennium" by early afternoon of the 3rd day.
Josh pricelined our room for $50!
The cool thing about it, on one side of the street was the St. Louis Arch.

And on the other the Cardinals' stadium.
Josh was beyond thrilled to get a room facing the stadium.
This hotel is 27 stories high . . . Josh requested the 27th floor.
The kids were thrilled. Personally, I hoped for no earthquakes or airplane crashes . . .
After unloading our gear we walked over to the Arch.
It was amazing!  Definitely one of the highlights of the whole trip.
We all managed to fit into the little cable car/elevator for the ride to the top.
I was a bit worried about this part.  I really wanted to go to the top, but that whole fear of heights thing.  I'm happy to report it wasn't that bad and I didn't experience any of the swaying that others had warned me of.
We all enjoyed peering out the windows--630 feet up in the air!
The following day we had a whirlwind morning.
The Forest Park area of St. Louis is home to many free things, and so we made quick work of:
The St. Louis Zoo (hence the elephant picture)
The St. Louis Art Museum
The St. Louis Science Center
Before heading out we found our way to the Basilica.

Truly, pictures cannot do it justice.  That is some amazing architecture, inside and out.  If you ever find yourself in St. Louis you MUST check it out.  It is absolutely gorgeous!
We left St. Louis by 2:30 on that 4th day, and hit the road for Branson.  And I must add, that we made it through lunch of that 4th day not eating out at all!!  That's always an expense that adds up so quickly with a large family, but we made the most of hotel breakfasts, sandwiches/lunch picnics, and things we could heat in the microwave for supper.  It worked fabulously! ;o)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Tour de Missouri~Kansas City

We left at 7:00 a.m. on July 30th, picnicked at a rest stop along the way for lunch and managed to make it to our first destination by early afternoon.
We enjoyed checking out this farmstead which is free Monday-Thursday.  If I lived in the KC area I think we would go there often.  It kind of reminds me of a children's zoo, only devoted to all things farm--animals, beautiful gardens (flowers and vegetable), a one-room schoolhouse, and lots of other fun little areas to visit.
Emmett hugged a few goats.
I got all sentimental over a pig's backside. 
Seeing that piggie's little wagging tail made me wax nostalgic about growing up on a pig farm.
They have such happy little tails! ;o)
And maybe the biggest hit--pedal tractors--even my girls enjoyed circling the path on them!
After Deanna Rose we navigated our way to the KC American Girl store because Isabella had some birthday money burning a hole in her pocket.  Following that I made my first visit to Nell Hill's . . . what a beautiful store!!
Day Two found us spending six hours at the "Schlitterbahn."  The kids absolutely loved it.
Josh and I were kind of "eh" about it--it was fun and all, but Josh requires a bit more thrill, and me . . . well, my idea of fun will never include trying to keep track of five children at a big water park.  We got there and immediately lost Emmett for about five minutes . . . 'nough said. ;o)
(the sand castle out front)
One tired little boy who fell asleep in his tube while out in the water!
That evening Josh took the boys to a Royals game, and the girls and I hit up the "Legends" mall which was within walking distance of the hotel.  We found some good deals for both the girls and I.
We had fun exploring "Charming Charlies" for the first time and Isabella came away with a cute little nail manicure set.
I kind of wish I lived near that mall . . .
(Isabella staging pictures with her doll and her new luggage ensemble)
We packed up and left KC by midmorning of the 3rd day.  We wore out the kids so well the day before that they slept most of the way to St. Louis.  It was lovely. ;o)
(next post, the St. Louis pictures . . .)