Friday, December 28, 2012

A Boy Can Dream

As a busy homeschooling mom to three busy kids, I find that my planner is an essential tool to keeping our household running on schedule. One feature that comes in handy is a little sidebar, where I can write down what we're having for dinner each night. Some weeks I plan all of the meals ahead, and other times I wait to see what I end up getting at the store.

A couple of weeks ago, K-boy must have stumbled across my half written meal plan. He added a few ideas of his own. Can you tell that he likes beef?

Ha! I told him too bad. If he had spelled steak correctly, I might have been inspired to make it.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas Hug

As a mother, the recent reminders of man's inhumanity to man has left me wanting to cling to my children and keep them safe. Knowing that there's no way to keep them stuck to my side forever, I've allowed them to keep doing the activities that they love. I have spent some extra time discussing safety with them.

It was during one such conversation with my 13 year old, that he turned to me and asked, Mom, do you need a hug?

I nodded, with tears in my eyes, grateful to have such a kind and caring son.

He wrapped his arms around me, then leaned down towards my ear and whispered, By the way, this is your Christmas present.

At least it was a good hug.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Pomander Jars

I've been saving these adorable, miniature mason jars for months and debating what to do with them. Inspiration finally struck when I found baby clementines at the grocery store. They're even smaller than normal clementines, and quite a few will easily fit into a pickle jar.

I set the kids to work sticking cloves into the fruit for pomanders, while I scrounged up some ribbon and candles.

The result, a pretty (and lovely smelling) decoration for our mantle.

linking to:

Sunday, December 16, 2012

With a Little Child to Guide Them

Wow. What an emotional weekend this has been! I still feel raw inside, hurting for those in Newtown, Connecticut. I can't get past the thought we're all vulnerable to such random violence. I've had to tell my kids about the tragedy. I didn't want to, but I knew that if they didn't hear it from me, they would hear it anyway. Today at mass in fact, our priest spoke about it, and I was thankful that they weren't learning of it for the first time.

An event this sad makes people count their blessings. I know I'm lucky to have my family, my husband and children with me, healthy and whole. I know that I'm lucky to have to worry about all of the mundane details of my daily life as a mother. The alternative would be unbearable.

M-girl was already scheduled to take part in a Christmas concert and pageant at the church today. The children's choir has been practicing carols for months now. We just found out last weekend that she needed a shepherd costume. My little girl and I hastily made it together out of old curtains. The best part was this shepherd's crook that we made from a curtain rod and a candy cane ornament.

She and the other children got up there today, and sang their hearts out. They're fortunate children. The tragedy didn't happen in our community. Yes, they heard a little about it, as much as we adults felt they could handle. To them though, it happened far away.

Their childish voices rose sweetly in song, and for a little while the spirits of all listening, even the adults, rose as well. They sang of the birth of Jesus and the joy that one little baby brought to the world. They sang of events that took place so long ago that still impact us today. They sang of the hope that a Saviour brought to an imperfect world. They sang hope right back into my heart. I think that's what children are meant to do.

linking to:  Pour Your Heart Out

Friday, December 14, 2012

Feeling Sick

I'm in shock. I went through my day today focusing, as usual, on my kids. We did schoolwork. There was a dentist appointment followed by a shopping trip. We made Chex Mix. I spent hours sewing badges on K-boy's new Civil Air Patrol jacket. He has a training mission all day tomorrow. I had no time to get on the computer or turn on the TV.

All the while I had no idea. I was going about my life while so many other parents got the worst possible news. I feel sick. How can this happen -  something so evil and senseless? My heart aches for those families in Connecticut. I can only imagine their pain. They are in my prayers, and I'm sure in the prayers of every decent person. May God help them find strength.

Friday, December 7, 2012

When Kids Decorate

The holidays are a busy time. My kids realized that I've been overwhelmed lately with things to do, and they decided to help out. My nine year old and six year old took on the task of decorating the house for Christmas.

They paid keen attention to details. Like objects were carefully arranged together.

Note the thoughtful way that they shoved the fall decorations aside to make room for the Christmas village.

And finally, they were careful to hide any clutter behind decorations, where no one will ever notice it.

If I just teach them to do laundry and cook dinner I could soon be living a life of leisure around here!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Christmas Shopping

Each member of my family has their own thoughts on holiday shopping and gifts. We don't always agree.

K-boy: Can you take me to the mall? I want to show you what I want.

D-boy: You should shop on Cyber-Monday!

M-girl: I'll put the expensive things that I want on my Santa list. Then you and Dad don't have to worry about it.

BadDad: Let's only use cash for Christmas shopping this year.

Me: Maybe we should only exchange homemade gifts this year. Wouldn't that be fun?

Sigh! If only I had a bunch of elves to help me.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Black Friday

I think I'm missing the shopping gene. You know the one obviously possessed by the hordes of people that are shown on the news, battling the crowds for a bargain. I've seen the commercials, received the flyers in the mail, and waded through the special offers crowding my inbox. All of them urging me to hit the mall on Black Friday, all of them leave me staying home.

It's not that I have anything against shopping on Black Friday. It's just that I lack the sheer dedication to shopping that's required to get up in the pre-dawn hours and wait in the chilly dark for a store to open. Oh, and I hate crowds, especially pushing, grabbing crowds trying to search for the same things as me. There are the long lines at the register too, I can do just fine without those.

I haven't gotten my holiday shopping done yet. I haven't even started in fact. I'll choose my times to venture out and spend though. With any luck I'll be able to find time to go during off peak hours and have a calmer, or at least less frenzied, shopping experience.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's Thanksgiving, a busy and happy time around here. This year was a little crazy for us, but we managed to pull off our feast with only one burned finger (me) and one set of crutches (BadDad).

My hubby had knee surgery yesterday.Of course that meant no traveling for us this year, and no guests either. For someone like me, who cooks the entire meal from scratch, being tied up at the hospital the day before Thanksgiving wasn't ideal. Thankfully my family stepped in to help and our dinner was saved.

This year K-boy had to help me with getting the turkey in and out of the oven. BadDad usually handles that but there's only so much that a guy on crutches can do.

M-girl made the centerpiece.

D-boy, my little chef, helped me cook. He also set the table. Notice the enormous stack of extra napkins. This kid plans ahead. He even arranged a special chair for BadDad to prop his bad leg on.

I cooked.

And cooked.

After I burned my finger making the gravy, don't ask, my hubby balanced on his crutches and finished carving up the bird. 

In the end, we had a wonderful meal together.

Hmm. It's clean up time. Now where did everyone go?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Quick Hello

Just dropping by to say a quick Hello. So far November has been a busier than usual month at our house, and I haven't carved out as much time for blogging as I'd like to. Much of my time has been spent in the car, driving the kids around...well, that and teaching them.

It's performance time again for their drama group, which makes our schedule crazy. On top of that the quarterly reports were just due to the school district, and the usual activities don't stop simply because we're busy. I'm sorry that I've been falling behind on responding to comments and reading the wonderful posts of my fellow bloggers. I'm looking forward to cooking Thanksgiving dinner next week, it will feel restful by comparison!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Pumpkin Birthday Cake

M-girl, my little pumpkin girl, just turned nine. I can't believe it's been that long since she was born! She actually went 'easy' on me with her birthday cake request this year, and asked for a pumpkin shaped cake.

I followed a suggestion to use two bundt cakes as the pumpkin, with a stem made of cupcakes.

Since I only have one bundt pan, this turned out to be an all day project. If I were to make such a cake again, I would probably use fondant instead of frosting to give better definition to the shape.I finished the frosting part mere minutes before we sang Happy Birthday, but the result was cute and M-girl was happy. Whew! Birthday season is done around here...just in time for the holidays!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Glowing Smiles

We're all breathing a sigh of relief around here, as Sandy did not unleash her full fury on us after all. We had some wind and rain, and there were power outages nearby, but we were extremely lucky and did not suffer even that. My heart goes out to those in areas that were hard hit, I hope things are back to normal soon!

So what's going on at our house now that the storm worry is over? Why we've been carving our jack-o-lanterns of course!

This year was a bit of a first for us. BadDad, our chief pumpkin carver, was stuck at work dealing with storm related issues. Sooo...the kids and I had to step in and do the job ourselves. Once we got over our initial hesitation, we didn't do half bad! From left to right these are the creations of K-boy, M-girl, D-boy... and Johnson the other brother.*

We've just got a little bit of outdoor redecorating to do, with the addition of these fellows and we'll be all set for trick or treaters. Happy Halloween!

*Johnson's pumpkin is really a ceramic one that my own mom made me when I was five. D-boy thought it would be a funny joke to put him on the blog again. Yes, my kids are full of blogging ideas for me.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Ready for the Storm

Hurricane Sandy is supposed to hit our area sometime tonight. We're already getting some heavy winds and light rain. I'm not worried about having to evacuate, like the folks in more coastal areas, but with the towering old trees that we have around here a power outage is a very real possibility.

I'm a person that likes to be prepared ahead of time. My hubby says I go into panic mode. Actually I think I'm pretty calm about it. Mostly. Today, during a full day of teaching my kids, I ran around the house like crazy getting ready for the storm.

I came close to getting caught up on the laundry, because even if the power goes out, we have a busy week ahead of us. I froze extra ice cubes in the hopes that we'll be able to save the perishables that we have in stock.

Then I also did a bit of cooking, trying to think of things that could be eaten cold if necessary. I made four loaves of bread, one pound of brown rice, a dozen and a half hard boiled eggs, a pound of bacon, and two pounds of chicken. Yesterday I made a huge tub of yogurt. Tomorrow I hope to be able to make some applesauce. None of it will go to waste even if we're lucky and have no outages. I'll be able to cobble together hot or cold meals of some sort by mixing in some fruits and veggies we have on hand with all that I cooked. It will actually be a time saver on our busy weeknights.

Just now I finished putting fresh batteries in all of the flashlights and gathering up some candles. I even have a stash of glow sticks ready, they're great for keeping the kids calm and happy during a dark night.

Oh, I undecorated our porch too, storing our Halloween decorations safely in the garage. I'm sure my kids aren't the only ones wondering whether they'll get to trick or treat this year. If Frankenstorm ruins our plans, at least we're fully stocked on candy!

I feel as ready as I can be for the storm, even as I hope that all of my preparations were in vain. I pray that everyone in the storm's path stays safe and well and that this storm turns out to be not so scary after all.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Snippy People

One of the perks of being an at home mom is that I typically get to surround myself with people that I actually want to spend time with. I'm not stuck in a room for hours on end with annoying personalities. Maybe that makes me more sensitive to run ins with people that I'd really rather avoid.

Today I had just such an interaction, with a person who managed to aggravate me during a simple phone call. I was looking over my library account online earlier, which I've learned from experience I need to do to catch any errors on their end. Sure enough, I found that my account still showed that I had a movie out that I know with certainty that I returned yesterday. Overdue movies incur a dollar a day fine, so obviously this needed addressing. Unable to remedy this mistake online, I was left with the choice to call or drive down there.

In the interests of efficiency I called the library's main number and politely explained my problem. The woman who answered gave a long pause and then said, I'll have to transfer you to the circulation desk.

I replied, OK.

Another long pause followed and then a sigh. Clearly I was really putting this woman out by asking her to do her that MY tax dollars help to pay for, I might add.

She came back on the line 5 seconds after she left and said very snippily that they weren't going to pick up because they were busy. As an afterthought she added that I could leave a message on voicemail, her tone suggesting that I shouldn't.

I said that would be fine.

Can I just offer a suggestion to mean people? Don't take jobs that require you to interact with people. Ever.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Preparing for Frankenstorm

My family, like most others on the East coast, is spending some time this weekend preparing for Hurricane Sandy. We're far enough inland fortunately, that we won't be getting the first full blast of Frankenstorm, but we're still expecting severe weather and possible power outages.

This afternoon, while BadDad worked outside securing patio furniture and cleaning gutters, the kids and I ran around town getting in supplies for weathering the storm. Our first stop was the library, which was surprisingly empty. Doesn't anyone else feel the need to make sure there are enough new books in the house to last through a power outage?

Then we headed to Target to stock up on non-perishables and some more Halloween candy. As I was loading my bags into the cart at checkout, my gaze fell on the what the young couple behind us was laying in for the storm. Just one beverage item and lots of it.

I didn't have my camera with me at the store. This is actually a picture of beer that my hubby has had sitting on the garage shelf since last year. My how shopping habits change after having kids!

linking to:

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

It's A Numbers Game

One of the joys of being a parent is watching your children grow, and seeing the ways in which they resemble you or your spouse. My hubby and I know that there's no denying our three kids. They share our looks, talents and interests. They've even inherited our sense of humor.

Occasionally though, a trait will come through the gene pool that's a bit of a surprise.

When K-boy entered his school years it quickly became apparent that math was not his favorite subject. Let's just say I knew exactly who he got that from. I still have the occasional nightmare about learning my multiplication tables.

M-girl never developed the active hatred for mathematics that her older brother did, but she didn't exactly love it either.

So imagine my surprise when D-boy started first grade this year...and discovered how much he enjoys math!

I don't mean that he just prefers math to his other subjects - he does. I mean that he's a child who practically lives and breathes math. We can be in the middle of doing something mundane, like shopping or laundry, and he'll start pondering some math concept out loud.

I credit his love of mathematics to two factors. First, he must just be one of those people who has a brain wired for math. He's always been very meticulous when it comes to building, and figuring out how to do something. Now that he's ready to learn math concepts, it's all coming easily to him.

Second, last year when he was in kindergarten, our family started using the Life of Fred math series. The main character is a little, five year old math professor, who often expresses how much fun math is. I think exposing D-boy to this fun, positive spin on learning math at such a young age really encouraged him to think of math as play.

Play is exactly what he often does with it too. He revels in coming up with the various ways to get to a certain number, and uses what I teach him to make new discoveries on his own. He told me once that he can think of more numbers in his head than he actually knows the names of.

It's definitely going to keep me on my toes to have a math inclined child. The other morning it wasn't even time for our lessons to start, I was still in my pajamas, when he insisted on dragging me up to the classroom to show me what was on his mind. He told me excitedly, Mom I counted to ten hundred before I fell asleep last night! I congratulated him on counting so high and informed him, Usually we call that number one thousand.

He proceeded to grab a piece of scrap paper and write out a series of numbers in the hundreds, asking me to say aloud the name of each number. When he grandly ended at 1,000, he proclaimed victoriously, See, it's ten hundred!

Egads! At this rate he's going to surpass my humble math skills by the time he's through with grade school!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Sweet Victory

This past weekend, K-boy earned another promotion at Civil Air Patrol. This time I was ready, and asked about it right away. He proudly admitted that his upgrade is in the works. Then he asked when I would make his promotion cake.

In my pride over his first promotion, I had agreed to bake him a cake every time he moves up in rank. It seems that my son is well aware...victory is sweet.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Morning Mayhem

Some people might imagine that because I work from home, teaching my children and trying to scratch out another income by writing, that my morning routine is easy. After all I'm not having to dress up in work clothes while simultaneously trying to get my children out the door. I don't have a commute to deal with.

Noo...but my mornings still tend to be chaotic. Because the kids and I are home more often than the average family, our house gets messy faster. Also I make almost all of our meals at home, including homemade bread and yogurt. And with the exception of my youngest, my kids are not morning people.

Mornings around here usually go something like this.

5:30 am - My hubby's alarm goes off for the first time. He hits snooze and snores on.

5:45 am - The alarm goes off again. He fumbles for the snooze button.

6:00 am - The blaring starts again. I sigh loudly, and elbow him in the ribs until he gets up and turns it off.

6:30 am - I'm jolted awake by the sound of my hubby working out on the heavy bag. The bag hangs in the unfinished part of the basement, right under our bedroom.

7:00 am - I remove the pillow from my ears, when I smell coffee brewing. I get up and prepare BadDad's lunch while he showers and gets ready for work.

7:30 am - By now I've probably either started some yogurt in the crock pot or some bread in the bread machine. I go down the hall to give K-boy his first wake up call of the morning. BadDad leaves for work.

7:45 am - I've gulped down coffee, while checking the weather. If  D-boy is awake (he's my early bird) I have a brief cuddle with him while we watch Martha Speaks. I go to give K-boy his second call.

8:00 am - By now I've thrown in the day's first load of laundry, gotten breakfast for myself and at least one child, and possibly started dinner in the crock pot (if it's not a yogurt day). I go to give M-girl her first wake up call and give K-boy his last, GET UP NOW, call.

8:30 am - I've gotten breakfast for all three kids by now. Usually I'll remind them to finish getting ready for class, while I sneak in a few minutes to get myself dressed. Then I head upstairs to set up K-boy's online math lesson for the day.

11:30 am - By late morning we've put in some serious hours in the classroom, and we're all hungry for lunch. I'll get everyone settled with their meal, and rush around dealing with laundry, food prep, clean up, and possibly have time to check my email before it's time to start schoolwork again.

So, that's our typical morning around here. Relaxing? No. It usually brings a glow of accomplishment though. Sometime I'll write about our afternoons....hmm...Midday Marathon? Afternoon Anguish? I need to work on the title first!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Chicken with Cabbage and Rice

Sometimes homeschooling can lead to culinary discoveries as well as intellectual ones. Recently I needed to purchase a head of purple cabbage for a science experiment. The experiment itself required only a few leaves of the cabbage, leaving most of it sitting in the fridge.

I hate to waste food. I pondered for a bit and finally came up with the idea to create a dish using the cabbage along with rice and chicken. My family was initially skeptical when they sat down to dinner, but there was more than one request for seconds that night. I think this one is a keeper!

Chicken with Cabbage and Rice

1 head purple cabbage
4 tbsp butter
4 tbsp canola oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
15 oz can chick peas, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup chicken broth
2 tbsp Dijon mustard

1 lb boneless chicken breasts
juice of 1 lemon

1&1/2 cups long grain brown rice
3 cups chicken broth

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Drizzle chicken with lemon juice and bake in covered dish for 1/2 hour or until cooked through. Allow to cool enough to handle.

Cook rice in chicken broth according to package directions.

In large skillet, melt butter with canola oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cabbage. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cabbage is tender.

Add beans and corn to skillet. Stir in.

When chicken is cool enough, chop into bite sized pieces and add to skillet.

Add rice when done.

Combine remaining 1 cup chicken broth and mustard. Stir into skillet mixture. Keep warm on low heat until ready to serve.

Yields 8-10 main dish servings

Linking to:  Super Link Party

Monday, October 8, 2012

Car Box

My family is now in our fifth year of homeschooling. When we first started, K-boy was in third grade, M-girl was in pre-k, and D-boy was just two years old. Over the years my teaching responsibilities have grown. Now that D-boy is in first grade, I'm teaching three different 'real' grade levels.

I'll admit that it's a bit more challenging for me as far as keeping up with grading, and juggling my teaching time between the three kids. Before we even started the school year I made a really detailed schedule. I began by listing every course that each child is taking, and highlighting the ones that they need one on one time with me for. From there, I figured out how to break up my day to give that time to each child, and to still have the others working constructively while I'm teaching the third.

One thing that struck me was the amount of time that D-boy spends with me, waiting around for his older siblings to finish their activities. We get errands done during this time, and have fun together, but inevitably we end up spending some time just waiting in the car. I decided to put together a car box, full of school supplies, workbooks, and books that we want to read. We leave this in the car, so that it's always available when we need it.

Now D-boy and I put our waiting time to good use. He enjoys the chance to work with different materials than we use in our classroom, and also the novelty of working in the car. I feel more relaxed knowing that there is extra time built into our busy schedule to work on his new skills that he's rapidly acquiring as a first grader. Successfully homeschooling multiple children just takes a little thinking inside the box sometimes.

linking to:  Hip Homeschool Hop, Super Link Party

Monday, October 1, 2012

Pumpkin Cookies

When October rolls around my kids know that it's time to make Pumpkin Cookies. I grew up making these adorable treats with my mother, and now I'm continuing the tradition with my own children. One thing that I do differently than my mom is that I use chocolate chips for the faces while she used raisins. In my opinion raisins don't belong anywhere near cookies. Sorry raisin lovers! Switching to chocolate saves me the trouble of picking those nasty raisins off of my cookies.

I've switched up the ingredients from her original recipe to make them just a tad healthier too. It's what I do.

Pumpkin Cookies

1cup pasteurized egg product
1&1/3 cups canola oil
4 tsp vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups white whole wheat flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 batch of buttercream frosting
chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix eggs, oil and vanilla in large bowl. Add dry ingredients and mix well.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoons onto greased baking sheet.

At the top of each circle of dough, drop a small amount of dough to be the stem.

Bake for about 9 minutes, or until very lightly browned on the bottom.

Allow to cool and then frost with tinted buttercream frosting. Add faces out of chocolate chips (or raisins).

Yields about 4 dozen large cookies

linking to:  Super Link Party, Strut Your Stuff

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Birthday Rapping

K-boy just celebrated his 13th birthday. The items on his birthday wish list were pricier than they used to be, and BadDad and I took our time deciding exactly what to get for him. In fact my hubby ended up finishing the shopping during his lunch break on the big day.

D-boy was worried that we wouldn't get it all done in time. The other night after dinner he whispered to me, Mom we only have a few days until K-boy's birthday. We'd better get busy!

Me: I know, Sweetie. We'll shop on Wednesday. Do you have any ideas?

D-boy: I think he'd like some rap music.

He's right. K-boy is going through a phase of gravitating to music that BadDad and I don't care for so much. The deal is that he can listen to certain artists, but not around his younger siblings.

D-boy: I know what I will do. I'm going to rap for him!

I was touched that he would think of something so personal for his big brother.

Me: That's a great idea, D-boy!

D-boy: I know! I'll just say all of the bad words that I know!

My jaw may have dropped then.

Me: Huh?! No, you don't need bad words. You could just rap, Happy Birthday!

D-boy: Mom, bad words are the whole point of rap!

Me: You're not allowed to say bad words, D-boy. Smart people can always think of better words to use.

D-boy: I need to use bad words for rap, Mom! I'm going to say....

I held my breath and cringed. Could my six year old really know bad words?

D-boy: I'm going to say stupid! And dogbreath!

I struggled not to laugh with relief. Then I told him not to talk that way.

linking to:  Finding the Funny

Friday, September 28, 2012

Pumpkin Pizza

My daughter might just be a pizza making genius. We make homemade pizza around her a lot, at least every week or so. We mix up the toppings and the crust type so it doesn't get old. M-girl, however, took things to a new level last night when she suggested making a pumpkin pizza. Not pumpkin flavored, that just sounds gross. Pumpkin shaped.

We topped our deep dish pizza with pepperoni eyes cut into triangles, pineapple teeth, and a broccoli stem. So simple and yet so adorable. It was almost too cute to eat.

Almost. Pizza might never be the same again.

linking to:  Strut Your Stuff, Super Link Party

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Cheeseburger Cake

As some of you know, I bake whatever kind of cake my children want for their birthdays, and make them whatever dinner they request. They've taken it as an invitation to stretch my creative cooking talents. Somehow, so far I've been able to meet their challenges.

This year K-boy requested a cheeseburger shaped birthday cake for his 13th birthday. This was prefaced by a giant cheeseburger for dinner. Notice a theme here?

I was proud of the way that the cake turned out, but it really wasn't that difficult to make. I just divided my favorite yellow cake recipe between a cake pan and a pie pan - hence the nice, domed bun shape. For the burger, I baked brownies in a cake pan. A batch each of buttercream and chocolate frosting, with the addition of some food coloring and slivered almonds and the cake burger was complete.

K-boy was happy with his big burger birthday, and I'm pleased to report that there is no sign of teen moodiness yet...well other than manufactured moodiness to tease me.

linking to:  Strut Your Stuff, Super Link Party

Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Conversation With My Almost Teen

I went to pick up K-boy from his church youth group the other day. With no kids in the car on the way there, I got to listen to my music for a change. When I met K-boy in the parking lot Modern English's, Melt With You, was still playing.*

This is the dialogue that ensued.

Me: Oh, I remember this song came out when I was a teenager.

K-boy: That was about one hundred years ago, right?

Me (ignoring him): Listen to the words, K-boy! There have always been songs that are great for people your age. Hear that?...'the future's open wide!'

K-boy (deadpan): Not for you, Mom.

Me (devastated): Whaa! Agh, you're right! I was a kid when this song came out, and now I'm going to be the mother of a teenager. My youth is goooone!

K-boy: Oops, you're really just realizing that? Sorry!

Me: Sniff. Well at least you're a wonderful kid.

K-boy: Yeah, till my birthday next week. Then I'll turn moody.

Me: Just because you're turning thirteen doesn't mean you have to turn moody.

K-boy (grinning): Moody!

This is how gray hair is earned.

*My discussion with my son did not involve the full lyrics to the above mentioned song.

linking to:  Finding the Funny

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Sun Room Makeover Times Two

This past summer we finally got around to painting our sun room. It went from being a problem area, with dated stenciling, and a leaky ceiling, to an oasis of calm in our house.

The soothing green that we choose transformed to whole space.We purchased new cushions for the sofa and chairs, to replace those that the dog has chewed. The bold blue stripes play well against the crisp walls. The room looks all dressed up for when company comes.

For everyday use though, we pack away the good cushions, and put the old ones back on. Because...we still have a dog that chews them. And we have kids that decide that the sun room is great place to wage full out Nerf wars. So they build forts....

Oh well, at least it's a nice, quiet retreat...sometimes!

linking to:  Earning My Cape

Monday, September 17, 2012

Organizing Hand Me Downs

For those of us who have more than one child of the same sex, hand me downs are a part of life. Those of you who are lucky enough to have friends or family with children just slightly older and larger than your own also face this. Good quality clothing that lasts for multiple children saves money. The tricky part is coming up with an organized system to save the clothing for the younger child, so that it is easy to find when the time comes.

My two boys are more than six years apart in age, so my storage system has to be well labeled as well.

I only save those items for my younger son that are in almost perfect condition. Anything that is stained, torn, or just too worn does not make the cut. I don't want him to feel embarrassed about wearing his brother's hand me downs. Let's face it though, jeans are jeans, whether they were purchased six years ago or just last week.

We invested in heavy duty, plastic storage bins. I sort the clothes into similar sizes, and put them into the appropriate bins which I've labeled with a permanent marker. They are all stored together in the attic. Every spring and fall, I pull out the bin with clothes that might be a good fit for D-boy.

He thinks it's fun to try on everything in the box. We call it his personal store in the attic. At this time, anything that is not a good fit, or is no longer in fashion, is bagged up to donate. We still end up having to buy him some new clothes each season, but having some already paid for does help the family budget. That's always good, particulary when all of my kids decide to have growth spurts at the same time!

linking to:  Earning My Cape

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Artful Daughter

Before I had children of my own, I never realized how much some talents and tendencies begin to emerge in childhood. Like mothers everywhere, I consider each of my three children to be amazingly gifted in multiple ways. What strikes me most, are not so much the similarities between my kids, but the differences. For in those differences I see glimpses of their true passions, and what they each have a penchant for.

M-girl, my only daughter, has a particular interest in art. It's more than an interest actually. As her younger brother likes to say, "she craves art".

From the time she could first hold a crayon in her chubby, little hand, she has been almost constantly creating something. Oh, she'll take breaks to eat, read and play, but sooner rather than later, she's back at her creating. Often I tuck her into bed at night, only to find her awake much later, drawing in bed.

She uses up copious amounts of art supplies. We go through markers, paints, crayons and paper at an alarming rate. When she's out of all of the usual supplies, she will improvise with just about anything. She's been known to scratch pictures in the dirt with a stick. Twigs and yarn are turned into dolls, boxes into houses and puppet theaters. Recycling awaiting removal from the house is often claimed by her and transformed into something unexpected.

I can boast of a bit of creative talent of my own, along with a certain amount of technical knowledge. I'll guide her as far as I can in her study of art, and then seek outside help when I can no longer teach her. For her it truly is a study. She haunts the library's art section, checking out book after book about drawing and painting. She is simply driven to learn how to improve her techniques so that she can finally portray the images in her mind's eye.

When I look to the future, I don't know what her life has in store. I pray that she'll be happy, and live a fulfilled life. I think for her, happiness is going to include creating art in some way. It surely is fascinating to watch her find her way!

linking to:  Pour Your Heart Out

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Morning Sunshine

My kids aren't like the children on cereal commercials. You know the ones that come to the breakfast table, fully dressed and eager to gobble up whatever is put in front of them. Mine tend to be a bit harder to please in the mornings.

The other day, D-boy was having a particularly hard time finding anything palatable in the house. He quickly rejected toast and yogurt, but I kept trying to tempt him.

Me: Sweetie, do you want that cinnamon toast cereal that you begged me to buy?

D-boy: What else do we have?

Me: How about a nice, juicy clementine?

D-boy: Ugh! Don't we have something else?

Me: I can cut you up some apple slices.

D-boy: Oh, forget it. I'll just eat pain!

Let me slip in a quick disclaimer. I don't give my children pain. He's been using that phrase lately, and I don't know where he got it. I think it relates to his interest in ninja type shows. Now, back to my story.

Me: How about instead of pain, I fix you a special, surprise breakfast?

D-boy (excited): OK!

Me: No peeking, I'll let you know when it's ready.

I proceeded to arrange cereal, apple slices and clementines on a plate for him.

Me: Here you go, honey. It's called Cinnamon Sunshine.

D-boy: Awesome, can I have some more after this!

Yep, the magic is all in the presentation. Maybe that's how those commercial producers manage to get those kids to act excited about breakfast. Or maybe it's because they pay them.

linking to: Finding the Funny

Friday, September 7, 2012

Home Library Makeover

When we moved into our current house, we had a long list of projects to complete. As homeschoolers, we were thrilled to have a room that was ideal for a schoolroom, but it wasn't at the top of our list to renovate. The room is large, quiet, and set off from the rest of the house. We hung up some posters and moved our school supplies in.

When we painted the schoolroom that summer, we didn't bother with the cubby. It's a weird little nook that the previous owners most likely put a bed in. The size and location made it seem perfect to fix as a small home library. At the time though, we weren't quite sure how to decorate it, and the floor needed carpeting. We just piled in the bookshelves and boxes, and ignored the way it looked.

This summer we finally got around to sprucing up the cubby. We weeded out books that didn't need to be on the shelves, and put them in storage boxes instead. A coat of fresh paint, and an inexpensive carpet did wonders. To free up space in the schoolroom, we tucked the futon into the cubby.

Now it's an uncluttered, tranquil reading nook. The books are organized and easy to locate. I'll change them out every so often with the books that are in storage boxes. The kids love it! I even caught my hubby sneaking in a nap there yesterday. If only we had done this sooner!

linking to:  Weekend Bloggy Reading

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Dog Talk

Somehow, likely due to a devious combination of pleas and plotting from the kids, our family has three pets -  two cats and one dog. We're decent pet owners in that we usually remember to feed them on schedule, and take them to the vet every so often. We love and care for them... just not to the same degree that we love and care for the actual human members of our family.

We know a few people that are pet crazy to the extreme. They're the sort that will buy car seats for dogs, take them to dog salons, and when coming to our house will talk to the animals before saying a word to the people that live here. Umm....we're not like that.

This is more our style:

Me: OK, time to go kids. Who's going to put Trinket in jail? I put on my outside shoes and grab my purse, which sends the dog into a frenzy of barking and jumping.

K-boy: All right! Come here Stink Dog! (this is said in a falsetto, baby talk voice) Who's getting locked in the crate? Who's getting locked in the crate?

The dog successfully evades K-boy's first attempt at grabbing her, all the while keeping up her horribly annoying understandably distressed barking.

D-boy: Just shut up, Trinket! Ow, my ears!

Me: Language, D-boy! Trinket quiet down, you're just going in your crate for a few hours while we go out and have fun without you.

M-girl: (in a super high pitched voice) Oh Trinket! Come here girl, come here!

D-boy: Shut up, M-girl! My ears!

Me: No saying that D-boy! M-girl, stop. It is annoying. Stop jumping dog, before someone steps on you!

K-boy: (again in a falsetto) Come on Dinky Dog. We'll be back in a few hours. Unless we never come back, and you're in jail forever. Either way you're going in your crate, so calm down.

By now, we all have our shoes on and the dog is practically having conniptions. I finally reach down, scoop her up and hand her off to K-boy.

Me: (in a sweet baby voice) Come on you evil, monster dog. You know you have to go in jail, because if we leave you out you'll chew all of the cushions. We'd take you if we could but....

K-boy: We don't want to! Ha ha ha! He carries her off to her crate in the basement. He'll give her a treat to occupy her while we're gone.

D-boy: Cats are just smarter than dogs. That's just the way it is.

Looking over at the cats calmly watching us prepare to leave, I can only agree. The dog goes crazy every single time we leave the house.

We walk out to the car, shaking our heads and listening to the dog whine pitifully. Oh well, she'll get over it!

Don't hate us too much if you're the extremely pet crazy type. We really let her out again, I promise. Almost as soon as we get home too!

linking to: 
Finding the Funny

Friday, August 31, 2012

What My Son Taught Me

Today I'm using a writing prompt from Mama Kat's Writing Workshop, #1) Share something your child taught YOU about parenting. Any parent knows that there are a million moments in a childhood when you learn from watching your own children. It's how we tweak our parenting styles to suit our own families. My own most recent experience came just the other day.

K-boy joined the Civil Air Patrol a few months back. It's an Air Force auxiliary with a cadet program for teens. The goals set forth in the manual are worthy and impressive, emphasizing personal pride and responsibility to the community and nation. The cadets wear Air Force uniforms and are drilled in real military procedures. Playtime it is not.

I'm actually the one who discovered the program. BadDad and I had never heard of it before. We decided to leave it in K-boy's hands as to whether he wanted to join. We explained that advancement requires real work and commitment. Cadets must pass rigorous physical and academic tests, and interviews in order to move up in the ranks. We'd be willing to support him (and drive him to meetings) but he would have take the weight of responsibility for preparing for it onto his own shoulders.

As homeschooling parents, we're quite used to having to push our children to complete tasks that they dislike. From math problems to household chores, we're often there with reminders to get the job done. We didn't want to have to push him through this activity.

Twelve year old K-boy made an informed decision to join CAP. My hubby drove him to meetings and took him for haircuts. I hemmed uniform pants, and sewed on badges. I swallowed the lump in my throat that the sight of my tall, adolescent son in a uniform caused, and looked for more ways to help. We both made sure that he had time in his days to study his manuals and quizzed him to test his knowledge. I laundered uniforms, ironed shirts and adjusted pins. We acted like parents.

The other day K-boy hit a glitch. The test that he was taking online froze up and wouldn't let him proceed. My invaluable advice to shut down and then log on again led to a message that he would have to get permission from his captain before attempting the test again. Gulp.

The afternoon before his meeting, I urged him to study some more, in case he had to take the test during the meeting. I wanted to quiz him, but he wouldn't let me. I waited to be pressed into last minute ironing duties, or to be asked to help him with something. The only thing he asked of me was to help him fold up the ironing board again, after he ironed his own shirt.

As he was going out the door in his blues, looking so much like a young adult that my heart squeezed in my chest, I said to him, I just feel like you're forgetting something. You didn't ask me to help you get ready at all.

I hugged him, not ready to let him go yet.

He leaned down and kissed me on the cheek. Mom, I'm fine, he said, I've got everything I need.

Then he strode out to the car, walking tall the way he does in his uniform.

Hours later, BadDad and K-boy returned home. Anxiously, I asked if he'd taken the test. He nodded, as he wolfed down a sandwich, a hint a of smile on his face. My hubby directed my attention to our son's chest. There was a bar, and new pins. K-boy had taken not one, but three tests that evening, gone through an interview, and been promoted. All without us there.

His eyes were shining with pride. He had done this. He earned his promotion. Yes, we supported him in our roles as parents, but in the end he walked into the meeting alone and confidently displayed his knowledge. His officers saw him not as our child, but as a cadet worthy of promotion.

That's the latest lesson I've learned as a mother. Whether I'm ready or not, the time will come to let go. K-boy, and someday his younger siblings, will walk out into the world, and face life on their own. I won't be able to pave the way for them. My son showed me that when that time comes for him, he will take on the demands of the world and do more than just meet them. He will achieve.

linking to: Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop, Pour Your Heart Out, Proud Mommy Moments

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I Love a Rainy Day

The thing with the warmer months is that sometimes there are those stretches of beautiful weather. For days or weeks on end it seems a shame to stay indoors and waste the sunshine. I apply copious amounts of sunscreen to my fair skinned children and our front door might as well be revolving, given the constant appearances of neighborhood kids. I hand out ice pops and bandages, find beach towels and bug spray, and do my best to keep track of what child is where at any given time.It's chaos around here, happy, joyous chaos. Sometimes though, I long for some rain.

I'm not talking about a flood or anything, just a good rainy day - an excuse to stay inside for a change (and for the neighborhood kids to keep to their own homes as well). I crave a good, soaking summer rain, that leaves the world refreshed and new, with a touch of coolness to the air, even if it lasts just a little while.

A rainy day when no errands really need to be run, is a perfect time to stay home and bake cookies, or play a board game. It's a time to cuddle up with my kids on the couch and read until my throat is dry. It's a chance to just talk and really, really listen.

If the lights go out, not for too long just for a bit, we dig out the flashlights and sit in the sunroom, watching the storm crash down gloriously on the skylights. Inside, we feel snug and safe. We laugh that it's like camping inside, and it's delicious because it's so different.

For a while, maybe a day or even two, the rain can make us feel isolated but not lonely. We're like a little island of warmth amidst the chilly drops.

Soon the rain will stop, and then the world will come back in as my children run out to meet it. But for a time I've had them here, just us, content together. And my heart is full of joy.

linking to:  Pour Your Heart Out

Monday, August 27, 2012

That Kind of Day

Today was that kind of day for me. You all know the kind that I'm talking about. I woke up this morning too early, but the sun was shining and I couldn't fall back asleep so I got out of bed.

I packed up my hubby's lunch and waited to say goodbye for the day. On his way out the door, he somehow misunderstood my statement that women tend to be better judges of other women's characters than men. Hello! They are! That exchange left me exasperated and with the start of a headache.

I planned out my day. Lots of housework, including getting the schoolroom reorganized so that we're ready to officially begin the new school year next week, and joy of all joys, cleaning cat boxes. First I decided to start some bread in the bread machine and throw in some laundry.

By the time I was done with those tasks, D-boy was awake. After he gulped down his breakfast he started pleading for me to take him in the pool. The weather forecast had called for rain and cooler temperatures by afternoon. I looked at his hopeful, little face and agreed to a quick swim.

We hurried out to the pool, tiptoeing our way through the still dewy grass. The water was...brisk. I started doing laps to warm myself up. M-girl soon joined us. In between playing with the kids, which mostly entails throwing them into the water, swimming underwater with them, or pushing them around on pool floats, I did lots of laps. This is good. I told myself, I don't know why I don't exercise in the morning more often!

Finally, after a couple of hours in the pool, the kids were ready to go back inside. There I discovered that K-boy, in an effort to be helpful, had unplugged the bread machine when it started beeping. I plugged it back in and went downstairs to check on the laundry. Apparently my almost teenager was feeling super helpful today because he'd also picked one pair of his shorts out of the clean, wet laundry in the washer and thrown it into the dryer. The only problem was that there was already dry laundry in the dryer (which he'd failed to remove first). He put his shorts on tumble. Sigh!

By then it was lunchtime. I asked everyone what they wanted to eat. My trio of TV zombies didn't respond so I fixed myself a plate of leftovers. No sooner had I sat down to enjoy my repast, than they were in the kitchen with their lunch requests. I gulped more coffee as I fixed food, because suddenly I remembered why I don't work out in the morning more often. It leaves me exhausted for the rest of the day!

Then BadDad called from work, laughing about our early morning disagreement, I was so right, and asking if I could look up our health plan benefits online for him. After an hour of tediously reading through the plan, I had no answer for him because it's never given in the information section. Grrr.

About that time, a big, creepy spider was spotted hanging out on my bedroom ceiling. I asked K-boy, who is now taller than me, to get it and be sure it was dead. He squirted it with a water gun of all things! Of course it fell down and escaped. Now it's probably lying in wait for me.

Eventually, I did get some of the housework done (including the dreaded cat boxes). I'm sitting in the schoolroom now, just looking at what I have to do here. I'm also thinking that nobody really knows that I'm up here, and for the first time all day it's quiet. I might just stay here for awhile. Because it's that kind of day.

linking to: Finding the Funny

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Highs and Lows of Camping

Mention camping in conversation and you'll find some strong reactions. People either love it or hate it. I didn't grow up camping, but I happen to love it. Maybe it's the time away with my family, maybe it's getting away from it all, or maybe it's because I'm a true introvert at heart. Whatever it is, to me there's nothing like a camping trip for r&r. Even so, I admit that there can be some drawbacks to long stays in the great outdoors, especially with kids along.

Things I Dislike About Camping:

- Bugs. They're not my favorite, but you deal with them. Lucky for me I have two boy children who don't mind taking on freelance extermination jobs.

- Snakes. I've never actually seen one while camping, or hiking. I've heard of other people who've seen them, and so I'm ever leery of running into one.

- Other wildlife. Honestly, after living in bear territory for seven years, I don't scare easily anymore when it comes to wild critters. Live and let live, and put your food away at night.

- Showers. I don't like campground showers (particularly when they're cold). It's better than not having them though.

- Laundry. That's the worst thing on my list. At the end of every camping trip, I'm left with a massive pile of laundry that takes me a week to get through. Everything that we take camping ends of reeking of campfire smoke.

Things I Like About Camping:

- Fresh Air. We've got a big yard and lots of trees at home, but there's nothing like actually being out in the woods.

- Relaxation. Camp attire is quite casual. No one is worried about impressing others with the latest fashions. People walk around sporting baseball caps, sweatshirts and ponytails. I think it's good for my children to see that it's possible to have tons of fun, and not take hours primping for it.

- Lakes. I wish that I lived near a lake. Camping near one is the next best thing. Just the sight of the water calms me.

- Family time. I love having my kids away from all of the usual distractions like TV, computer, phone, neighbor kids. I get to spend real quality time with them.

- Work. Yes, I like the work that's involved with camping (at least to a certain degree). The kids are learning practical skills from my hubby and I: how to set up and break down a tent, how to safely build a fire, how to find your way in the woods, cook outdoors, etc. Each time they help with a task, I see their confidence grow.

- Stories. Every camping trip, there's at least one night where the kids absolutely insist on stories (the scarier the better). It's developed into a tradition for us, and the most wonderful part is that now the kids each come prepared to tell their own stories too.

- Play. Hiking, swimming, boating, fishing, exploring. With no TV at hand, we have to come up with ways to entertain ourselves. Somehow it's never a problem at all.

- Nature. There's something amazing about watching my kids absorb the beauty of the outdoors. They see everything, from the smallest flower, to the tallest tree. Even birds and insects are more interesting out in the woods.

- Campfires. They might be the cause of a lot of laundry for me, but there's something so primitive and earthy about a campfire.

- Food. Everything tastes better outdoors. Then there's the just for camping treats like, smores, campfire pies, and our new favorite, lemonade in a bag.

-Simplicity. When we're camping, and we're together as a family, it's easy to organize our priorities. We're all safe and well, everything else is just incidental.

- Memories. Even though BadDad and I are exhausted at the end of every camping trip, the kids are sure to ask when we're going again. They talk fondly about parks we haven't visited in years. These are going to be some of the fondest memories of their childhoods. And that, to me, is priceless.