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 JOB...one 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: http://mylifeandkids.com

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