Friday, January 27, 2012

Wrap Up-Friday ~ Lions, Dragons, and Book Sales, Oh, My!

1) We started the week off celebrating the Chinese New Year.  The kids loved it.
2) Our library is getting rid of all of their cassette books on tape.  I picked up a few classics for a dollar a piece.  Most of them were already on our reading list for the next year.
3) We enjoyed a field trip to a historic site in our area this week.  It was the birth home of one of the governors of our state during the Civil War.  We had several friends join us and learned a great deal about what life was like in the 1830's - 1850's.

As soon as we got home, Little Red Ridinghood wanted to make her very own rag doll like the ones she had seen at the historical site.  She made a mommy and baby. 
Her sister soon made a doll, as well.

We had a wonderful time at the library progam this week.  The kids learned how to hula hoop with a professional hula hooper.
We also did the FIAR book, Andy and The Lion, this week.  I did not take a single picture of our activities.  We learned about Venn diagrams, talked about how important a first sentence is in a book, did hidden animal art, acted out the book and discussed the reason we do not go to circuses due to animal cruelty.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Chinese New Year!

My children started talking about the upcoming Chinese New Year a few weeks ago.  They could not wait!  A big part of their excitement was about food.  They wanted lots of Chinese food.  We could not possibly have all the food that they wanted with our special diet.  However, I started researching and looking in the stores.  We learned that you are supposed to eat 8 different foods for your New Year's meal.  We also learned that each Zodiac sign is supposed to have a particular good luck food.  The kids were excited to make this fun meal.

Here is what we ate ~ Bean soup (good luck to the rat), Asian noodles (good luck to the sheep), Sugared ginger (good luck to the horse and the pig), Oranges (good luck to the dragon), veggie stir fry, fortune cookies, fruit kabob and steak kabob.  I did allow wheat for this evening meal. The Asian noodles are plain with butter.  I gave Tom Sawyer lots of vitamin C and double the digestive enzymes before dinner.  I then gave him activated charcoal two hours after dinner.  So far, so good.  He is curled up in a chair reading a book right now. 

The kids had so much fun learning how to eat with chop sticks.  Everyone tried a bite of the sugared ginger.  It was very spicy.  Timothy and Daddy are the only ones who ate more than one piece.

After dinner the kids put on a dragon dance that they created earlier in the day.  They used their  homemade dragon masks.  It was a fun evening for all.  Earlier in the day, we read some picture books about the Chinese New Year and wrote about how each of our Zodiac signs were like us.  (I pointed out how general each Zodiac sign is so that almost anyone can find a similarity of him or herself in any sign.  I told them that it is just fun, but that we are all unique and not detemined by our sign.)


Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Frugal, Fun Gift for a Teenage Boy

In the past year, my oldest has been invited to more birthday parties than the total combined in the rest of his life.  I am so happy for him!  However, we are pinching every penny in our family, so it is important to get creative with all of those gifts.  I came up with a creative idea that was a real hit this weekend.  Tim gave his friend Diet Coke and Mentos for a fun explosive science experiment. 

I bought two big bottles of Diet Coke and one package of Mentos.  I taped them together and added the directions, which included one of the videos from You Tube on exploding the bottles.   I recycled the bow off of our homemade wreath so it would be "wrapped".  The young man was very excited -- his eyes got huge and really lit up when he saw the gift.  As Tim was getting out of the car, holding the bottles, other party goers gathered around with excitement.  They even set them off at the party.  The birthday teen said he'd always wanted to do that explosive experiment but hadn't gotten to.  The total cost of this was $5, and it was a big hit!!


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Pretty, Funny, Happy, Real ~ Field Trips!

We are trying to do a field trip every two weeks for the rest of the school year.  So far, we are having lots of fun and learning lots of great things, too.

One of the prettiest field trips we've taken in the last month was to an historic home in our area.  The rooms were decorated for Christmas 1870's style.  The tour was great and fit in perfectly with our history studies (since I am covering all of the 1800s this year in history with the kids).

Happy ~
Timothy and I had the opportunity to attend a Bar Mitzvah this past weekend.  I have wanted to attend a Bar or Bat Mitzvah since I was a young teenager.  When I was being raised in the Quaker faith, we attended different faiths as part of our Religious Education classes.  We were told that we were attending a Bat Mitzvah and studied all about the Jewish faith.  Then something fell through, and we did not get to go.
The ceremony for my son's friend was so beautiful.  He had put in a tremendous amount of work for this coming-of-age ceremony.  Of course, we could not understand a great deal of the service, because it was in Hebrew, but the emotions were very clear.  We attended all three events, including the Friday night service, the Saturday Bar Mitzvah and the Saturday night party after the Sabbath had ended.  His parents made so many special, meaningful additions throughout the event.  The yarmulke (cap) in the above picture was given to my son to wear during the service.  I received one as well.  They will be great additions to our Religious and Cultural studies.

Funny ~
We enjoyed exploring our science museum's new location.  It has moved to an indoor mall that has been dying.  I hope it will help revitalize the area.  I thought this picture was funny from our time there.
We attended the Martin Luther King, Jr. march in our area on Monday.  It was bone cold (at least for us Southerners).  The kids complained way too much about the cold for my liking.  However, they did understand that we were marching for peace and equality for the human race.  I am glad they had this opportunity.  My Mom raised me to participate in many demonstrations every  year in the Washington, D.C. area as a child (and, yes, even if it was in snow or bitter cold).  Our favorite way to celebrate Mother's Day was to attend a demonstration for peace or social justice. This was my little kids first time being part of a demonstration.  There were an estimated 2,000 marchers.  Not bad for a small city like ours.

Don't they look thrilled to be walking for freedom, LOL!
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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Friday Review ~ Winslow Homer and Ice Cream

We had a great week.  Our theme this week was art and our artist was Winslow Homer.  We are doing great with our new schedule.  I can see already that having more organized days will bring more calmness to our home.

1)  We love our new Ice Cream maker.  Everyone is watching our latest favorite ~ raspberry coconut milk ice cream. 
2) We spent some great time hanging around our local science museum.
3) We LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the Life of Fred  books.  My kids talk about them and work out the problems in their free time.
4)  We really enjoyed doing an Artist Study on Winslow Homer.  The kids all did watercolor landscapes. 
5) Little Red Ridinghood and Tom Sawyer are having so much fun with the piano.  They are currently learning child friendly versions of " Joy to the World" and "Ode to Joy".
6)  We did for Winslow Homer picture studies this week.  The kids liked "Snap the Whip" and "A Fog Warning" best.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Day in the Life ~ January Edition

It is a new year and there are some new things going on around our home.  For one, we are on a schedule now.  I have tried schedules in the past with poor results.  I always wanted a schedule, but we don't have a single day that is the same as another.  I think I thought of schedules as a rigid thing that must be followed perfectly.  Recently, I heard another mother say that a schedule helps her know where she is supposed to be after a disruption.  I liked that idea, but I still had to get around every day being different due to so many medical and therapy appointments, plus various dance classes.  I finally wrote up a schedule for each day of the work week.  We are on our second week with this schedule, and I only see a little bit of tweaking to do.  We are getting to some priorities that were being neglected before, and there is a lot less arguing at transitions.

We also made a few more changes.  I dropped speech therapy for Goldilocks.  I was seeing very few results and it was taking time away from other important things.  I will re-evaluate the need for speech this summer.  Also, Tim (our 21 year old special needs son) decided to rejoin us for part of the school day.  He will be working on writing skills with me.  He wants to do some form of college in the fall, and poor writing skills is holding him back.  Lastly, our journey with Tom Sawyer's allergies last March have led us to the realization that our Goldilocks has some pretty serious health issues as well.  It looks like she has a genetic condition that we did not previously know about.  Now, Tom Sawyer must be tested as well, since they are full blood siblings.  We will know exactly what the condition is on the 18th when the most recent blood work comes back.  The doctor told us to brace for another lifestyle change and some hoops to jump through in the coming months while we get our kids to their optimum health.  Wow, that is a lot to say. 
We have homeschooled for 13 years.  Our kids are 21, 11, 9 and 8. Now on with a day in the life.

6:30 am ~  Woke up and found a little person sleeping next to me.  I cuddled for awhile with her.
7:00 am ~ I made breakfast for everyone and made dh's lunch.  The news was on in the background.  Tom Sawyer (9) woke up and joined us.
7:30 am ~ Everyone else woke up and arrived for breakfast.  The TV was turned off.  Dh left for work and I had my 30 minutes of blogging time.
8:00 am ~ The kids had 30 minutes of free time.  I got dressed and showered and Tim walked the dog.  ( A neat thing about turning off the TV when my husband leaves is the creativity that I see in the children first thing in the morning.  They are no longer staring at the TV and then whining when I say it is time to do something else.)

Lego Play

8:30 am ~ Chore time...The kids helped me unload the dishwasher, mop the floor of two rooms, and changed the sheets on most of the beds.
9:00 am ~ We all had 7 minutes of Wii Fit time each (except Tim who was doing chores).  The kids love to use the Wii Fit +.  The rule is they have to drink a full glass of water before having their turn.  This is my clever way of getting more water into them!

9:30 am ~ We had reading time.  In theory, we are all supposed to get to read, but I am still helping a weak reader or two most of the time.  I hope in the next few weeks I will get more personal reading time.

This American Girl Doll book is really too hard for Goldilocks, but it is so nice to see her trying to read at all.

10:00 am ~ The kids watched a 30 minute documentary on Winslow Homer (art) while I got Timothy started on his writing project.  We then had seat work time and the kids did Jump or Mammoth math (math) and Explode the Code (language arts).  Then the kids finished their thank you notes from Christmas (language arts).  Next, we read a chapter from the elementary grades level series of Life of Fred (math).  We then did a picture study of "Snap the Whip" by Winslow Homer and started a coloring page of "Snap the Whip" (art).  We finished up our seat time with a Focus on the Family story about a foster child who saves a family member in his new home.  This story was a wonderful segue into reviewing emergency numbers, our address and how to calm down and think in a crisis.  It also allowed for any feelings around two of our kids being foster children before we adopted them.  I like to give them opportunities to express themselves and sometimes a good story is an appropriate trigger (social skills, health).

12:00 pm ~ I made lunch while Tim helped the kids with a puzzle.  Tom Sawyer also soaked his feet for 15 minutes in Epsom salts to help detox him (occupational therapy).

12:30 pm ~ Lunch time
1:00 pm ~ Everyone had free time.  The girls played My Little Ponies and watched some My Little Pony clips on YouTube.  Tom Sawyer played on the Wii and played with Legos while I made phone calls. 

2:30 pm ~ The kids took care of their pets and had some play time with one of the dogs.
3:00 pm ~ We had Tea Time and read the book, Mimi, A Norman Rockwell Character Story  (literature).
3:30 pm ~ Tom Sawyer had play time with Tim.  They have an arranged playtime each day.  This has helped both of them with their relationship.

They played on the Wii today.

4:00 pm ~ We did chore time and got ready to leave for Goldilock's dancing lesson.
6:00 pm ~ We are home.  Timothy made twice baked potatoes with broccoli and cheese. 
6:30 pm ~ We played a loud family game of Monopoly.

7:30 pm ~ Everyone got ready for bed.  The kids either had story or watched a DVD of an episode from the old TV series, "The Walton's".

The end of another productive day.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real ~ Embracing My Kitchen

For almost 11 years, I have struggled with my kitchen.  It has had very few upgrades since 1931 (except appliances).  There is a serious flow problem and a lack of counter space and space in general.  It is oddly shaped, with strange angles and lots of doors. The cabinets go to the ceiling (which is great), but my kids and husband can not reach anything without a ladder (I'm tall and so is Tim).  My kitchen has a tiny nook which I would love to know how the original owners used.  I think it was supposed to be a breakfast nook, but it must have been a tiny eating area.  It has been many things for us over the years.  Most memorable was when it was a giant playpen for my three little ones under three.  I blocked it off with baby gates and put lots of toys in it.  That really worked well for a time.  Most recently, I have turned it into a closet area (since we have no coat closet in the house).

Now it is 2012.  My husband and I want to get out of debt this year and make some real headway on creating a savings.  That means I need to squeeze every dollar until it squeals.  So how to make the kitchen work better?  I spend hours in the kitchen these days preparing everything from scratch for my son's organic, grain-free diet.  I also have a burgeoning supply of appliances to make all of these things from scratch.  My Mother had the idea of moving from the basement a dresser she had given us and turning it into an "appliance garage" in the nook.  Its nine drawers would also provide more storage, too.  I jumped at the idea.

The little drawer has been carried off by a child.  I will explain why at the end of the post.

This improved my space so well that I had room for my tea pot collection to be displayed without other things all over the shelves above the stove.

Also, in the vein of using what you have ... I wanted my Brillo pads and dishwasher detergent to look better on the counter.  I used my crystal and it looks so much better.

Then I moved on to reorganizing the dishes.  We have a cabinet that the cranky door refuses to work properly on.  My husband took it off and I moved the dishes down low so that the kids would stop breaking them when they are trying to reach up high to get them.  I am happy that this one change has decreased the breakage of dishes by about half in the last few weeks!

Our jackets and shoes are right across from the appliance garage. This system has worked well for us for a year or so.

Remember that missing drawer?  Most people keep toys in their kitchen drawers, right?  The Playmobil fits perfectly in this drawer and a child can carry it off to play on the floor.

I really need to re-paint parts of this room.  Some of the surfaces are such a pain to keep clean.  I hate tile!  Thankfully, last year I got a new kitchen counter.  I know the wall is gross in the next picture.  I am going to start working on that soon.  We had a left over drawer system from our bathroom project.  I do not have a counter for it yet, so we just use the top drawer as a bread drawer.

It fits perfectly next to the fridge.  The fridge is tucked into
another strange space that used to be a fireplace.

This is a working kitchen, folks.  My patient husband was waiting at 6:45 am this morning for me to finish taking pictures, so he could plug in the portable dishwasher (which slides across the room) and make his coffee.

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Monday, January 2, 2012

A Long Awaited Wish Fulfilled

In the final hours of 2011 we were blessed with the opportunity to fulfill a wish my husband has had for many years.  He very much wanted another visit with his Godmother.  However, she lives far away from us.  A few weeks ago, we received a Christmas letter from her stating that she would be visiting her son in our state over Christmas.  We were delighted and began Googling the son's possible address and phone number.  We found him and were able to set up a visit for New Year's Eve. 

We had a lovely visit.  The girls were ecstatic to find out that we were visiting a horse farm.  They loved meeting the three horses.

Whoops! The horse had just about kissed Little Red Ridinghood.
But as I clicked the shutter, he popped out of the picture.

I am so glad we were able to make this trip and fulfill my husband's wish.  I can't think of a nicer way to finish up 2011. 

I have been thinking a lot about my theme word for 2012.  My word last year was calm. We made great progress with that word.  Our household is definitely more calm.  The majority of words that came to mind for this year were utilitarian words ~ organize, priority, relationships, regulation, and margin.  However, we decided to go with enjoyment.  This does not mean that we are going to look for even more fun.  I love fun and fill my children's days with as much fun as I can.  Instead, I picked the word enjoyment, because I want the kids and I to remember to enjoy every moment we possibly can.  I want them to learn to enjoy the little and mundane things in life.  Life is filled with "boring" or routine things.  We need to learn to enjoy the everyday things in life, to enjoy the present moment.  What would your theme word be?