Friday, March 30, 2012

Weekly Recap: March 26-March 30

We began our week with a field trip to the zoo.  Some friends that we haven't seen in awhile came within two hours of our house on their spring break.  We arranged a surprise trip to the zoo so that the kids could visit and play together.  Though the day was chilly, we didn't let it chill our spirits.  We had a wonderful day together.

After a fun Monday it was a challenge to get back on track for the week.  We did manage to finish strong though.  M7 started 2B in her math program and completed yet another American Girl book as a read aloud.  S10 is done with his grammar for the year.  H13 is completely caught up on reading, logic and math.  Other than some rocky moments on Thursday, it was a good week.

High: Math, because it's easy.  Also, seeing friends at the zoo on Monday.

High: Finishing grammar!

High:  Algebra.  I like math.  I'm actually enjoying it!  I might actually be using this someday.
Low: Latin.  I don't like it because it's hard to get.

High: Surprising the kids on Monday.
Low: Thursday

Monday, March 26, 2012

Monday Munchies: Southern Living Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake

I received The Southern Living Cookbook as a wedding gift.  For the past 25 years it has been my trusted source for delicious food.  This recipe for Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake is a family favorite.  You'll find us eating it while we watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Rose Bowl Parade.  It's also the breakfast request on most birthdays.

Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake

2 c flour
2 t baking powder
1 1/2 c sugar
1/2 c butter, softened
2 eggs
3/4 c milk
1 t vanilla
6 oz chocolate chips

Combine flour, baking powder, sugar and butter in bowl and beat at slow speed of a mixer until mixture resembles fine crumbs.  Set aside 1 cup of crumb mixture.

Add eggs, milk and vanilla to remaining crumb mixture.  Mix well. 

Pour batter into greased 7x11 pan.  Sprinkle with chocolate chips.  Top with reserved crumb mixture.

Bake in 350* preheated oven for 35-40 minutes.

Cool slightly and serve.
My children actually prefer this one cool so making it the night before suits them fine.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Monday Munchies: Rainbow Cupcakes

This week is not so much a recipe as an idea.  For St. Patrick's Day I made these rainbow cupcakes and they were a huge hit with the family.

Mix up your favorite white cake recipe or box mix. 
Divide the batter into six bowls. 
Put food coloring in each bowl to correspond with the colors of the rainbow.  Red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet.  (Yes, I skipped indigo.)  I used gel food coloring but you could use the liquid colors and just follow the chart on the back of the package for orange and purple.
Layer the colored batter into muffin cups in the order of a rainbow.  I started with red on the bottom but it would be fine to go from violet up to red.
Bake as directed by your recipe.
Allow to cool completely.
Top with a cloud of whipped cream and enjoy.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Weekly Recap: March 12-March 16, 2012

This week we learned more about Lewis and Clark, the Industrial Revolution and Napoleon. 

We prepared and ate some Native American dishes.  The venison and rice was a hit even though we substituted beef.  The sauce was delicious.  The Indian pudding also got a big thumbs up.  The pumpkin and corn soup was much appreciated by the chickens.

We celebrated pi day with an apple pie.  We worked on telephone manners, fractions, algebra, Latin and finished our study of The Psalms.  We spent as much time as possible outside. 

High - Almost done with math workbook.
Low - Grammar

High - Finished Life of Fred Fractions.
Low - I don't really have a low this week.

High - This week and last week have been really good weeks for me.  I got my work done fast and easily.
Low - The rain yesterday.

High - I've ordered many of our books for next year.  It's good to know what we'll be doing.
Low - Struggles with whining and staying on task.  I'm struggling with this and so are the kids.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Consuming Moby Dick

I just finished reading Moby Dick!


At the beginning of the year, I decided to take the 52 books in 52 week challenge from The Well Trained Mind Forum.  After counting the number of books I read last year I realized that I was already there and to participate in a group of voracious readers would give me a never-ending list of interesting books and challenge me to read different things.  I was right!

Moby Dick is a book I never would have selected on my own.  Obviously, I've avoided it for more than forty years.  While reading it I thought I would never get through.  The sense of accomplishment that I feel now is far greater than I expected.  I have consumed the whale!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Weekly Recap: March 5-9, 2012

This week has been pretty typical though the weather has allowed us to spend more time outside.  We love sunshine!  Everyone is moving steadily through their subjects.  If all keeps on track we should finish the academic part of the school year at the end of April.   That will be perfect timing because we have plans for trip to Philadelphia, New York City and Boston in May. 

Here are the highs and lows:

High - Math.  I love math because it's so easy and it's in a workbook and I can't believe I'm almost done with it.  My other high is that I'm almost done with grammar.
Low - I have to do grammar.  I did like writing poems this week.

High - I'm almost done with Life of Fred Fractions.
Low - I have to finish Life of Fred Fractions.

Is in bed today with a headache.  I think she would say that one high is how easy algebra has been for her this week.  Quadratic expressions weren't nearly as nasty as they sounded.
Her headache, today is the second day, would definitely be a low.

High - I love moving forward at a steady pace.  It's been so good to see how everyone is becoming more independent and capable.
Low - We didn't do chemistry again.  I was really wanting to get another unit completed before co-op begins again next week.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Monday Munchies: Baking Bacon

This isn't really a recipe, it's just a great idea.  In the distant past, I fried my bacon in a pan.  Even in my largest frying pan it's impossible to fit enough bacon for six people.  Also, the act of frying is irritating.  I hate being burnt by popping grease and it makes a huge mess.

A number of years ago someone introduced me to the idea of preparing bacon in the oven.  I honestly can't remember who it was so if it was you, please, speak up!  Baking bacon is less messy, requires less hands on time and it less painful. 

Any large baking pan with a lip on it is perfect for cooking bacon.  I use a large bar pan but a jelly roll pan would work fine.  If you are cooking less than a pound of bacon you might even use a 9X13 pan. 

Open the package of bacon and separate each slice laying it on the pan.  You can overlap the slices if you need to but don't stack them. 

Put them in the oven at 400 for about 15-20 minutes depending on how crunchy you like your bacon.

Remove pan from oven.  Drain bacon.  Enjoy!

Weekly Recap: February 27-March 2

This week was filled with appointments.  We visited the dentist, the optometrist, the orthodontist and the bureu of motor vehicles.  In between, we purchased a washer and dryer and it was delivered to the house.  A sick dog and lots of mess rounded out our week.

Here's a quick look at the highs and lows according to the children.

M7  High: No cavaties at the dentist.
Low:  She doesn't have one.

S10 High: Getting my glasses.
Low:  School.

H12 High:  Learning about Haiti.
Low:  Going to the dentist.

Me High: New washer and dryer that fit in the laundry room.
Low: It's a tie between Shane's eye situation and all the dog messes I cleaned up.

Alisle Springs

written   by M

One day I was running errands with mom and she told me that dad's friend was coming over.  I was excited.    When i  got  home   they  were   already  there.  I  went   up  to  the   barn   where   they  were.  I  asked  him  if    he   would   go   on   a   walk   with   me.   He   said,  "Yes."   We   went    somewhere  really   pretty.  I  was  amazed.  We   found  a   hideout  on   our   way.  It  had   really    pretty   white   rocks.  On   our  way  back  he  was  thinking   about   what  we  should  name  it.   He   thought  we  cold    name  it  M  but   i   said, "No."  Then  he  asked  me  what  my  middle  name  was. I told  him  it   was  Alisle.  Thats  how  it  was  Alisle   Springs.                           

Spring Cleaning

This weekend was one of spring cleaning, inside and out.  Rob concentrated on cleaning around the barn with rented bobcat while I took care of the laundry room.

The installation of a new washer and dryer forced me to take a look at the way I was using my laundry room and how I could make it more user friendly.  Over the last year the laundry room has become the catch all room.  I'm the only person who goes in there regularly with a task and it has shelves which make it perfect for leaving something and forgetting it. 

When we moved into this house a little over a year ago we discovered that the space in the laundry room for the washer and dryer wasn't wide enough to hold a standard size side-by-side washer and dryer.  Rather than buying something when our appliances were working fine, we just left the washer pulled out into the room.  This made it inconvenient to move around and gave the room a cramped feeling. 

The other issue in this house is that there are no closets except in the bedrooms.  On our first floor the only closets are in the master bedroom.  With six family members and various guests that means lots of homeless coats during spring, fall and winter.  We decided the best fix would be to put a hanging rod up in the laundry room.  The rod would allow me to hang clothes as they came out of the dryer.  It would also give us a place to hang coats.  It was a great idea but it made the laundry room seem even more cramped and cluttered.

A few weeks ago my washer died.  Since the dryer was also twelve years old we decided to replace them both.  We purchased a stackable front-loading set in blue.  They really are pretty, for appliances.  For me being stackable is a much better feature than the color.  I now have a laundry room I can dance in.  It is huge!  Even the space provided for the washer and dryer is a little over half full. 

I was so thrilled with the potential for the room after getting the washer and dryer situated that I asked my husband to give me a little organizational training.  He's a skilled and trained Six Sigma black belt and I figured that it was good to get some expert help.  He gave me a 5S presentation and off I went.

I began by cleaning everything out of the room except the washer and dryer.  I designated an area to hold the things I wanted to keep in the laundry room after the cleaning was done. I labeled areas on the kitchen counter to help me sort things: kids, dad, misc., mom.  Put a box for things to be given away and a garbage can right outside the door and went to work.  The kids helped me get things out of the room and into the proper locations for sorting.  After we emptied the room we were amazed at all the stuff that we had been piling in there.

With the room empty, I wiped off all the shelves, swept and mopped the floor and washed the base boards.  Then I focused on the things that were to come back in the room and the most efficient arrangement.  As a result of my excellent 5S training I determined that the room was to be used for laundry, cleaning supplies and limited storage for things that are used regularly and need to be accessed easily.  All of the tools were banished.  Light bulbs found a new home under the sink.  The box of glasses that hadn't been unpacked was washed and put in a cabinet.  The craft boxes were sorted through and consolidated.  The four soft side coolers and two small coolers were reduced to two soft coolers and the rest were placed in the give box.  The pile of paper bags was taken to recycling.  After everything was on the shelves I still had room for laundry baskets on two of the shelves.  The amount of clutter we'd accumulated was impressive but the clear shelves were even more impressive.

We decided to rehang the clothes rod but placed in further in the nook where the washer and dryer are situated.  The coats hang on one side and the hanging clothes just taken out of the dryer hang on the other.  Putting the rod higher up and further into that recess allows us to hang things without feeling as if we are walking into a coat closet when we walk into the laundry room.

Rob says that the newly re-purposed laundry room has now become his safe place, a room of order where he can go and breath deeply when the chaos of four children and a farm get to him.  I am thankful that I have a washer and dryer and room to dance.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A Different View

Yesterday my day was filled with opportunities to view the world around me a little differently. 

I began my morning with an optometrist appointment for S10.  Around Christmas time, while we were trying to decide on our benefit options for 2012 we gave the kids a quickie vision screening.  No one had complained of vision issues so we really weren't expecting anything but 20/20 all around.  We were right in 7 out of 8 eyes.  Shane's right eye failed the vision screening miserably. 

Being a mother, I had already thought of worst case scenarios (brain tumors, optic nerve issues, etc.) and planned, at least in theory, for how we'd cope with whatever treatment or surgery was required.  In my mind any difficulty was fixable.  It never really crossed my mind that there would be something wrong with his eye that couldn't be corrected.

The doctor diagnosed Shane with a macular scar that can't be corrected.  He is not seeing much at all through his right eye.  The biggest E on the vision chart was all he could manage.  Those were the same results we got with our quick screening before Christmas.  He does have peripheral vision in  his right eye but all direct vision is blocked by the scar. 

The great news is that his left eye is 20/20.  He'll have to wear eye protection for the rest of his life because his left eye is now twice as important as it was.  Looking at him, no one will know that his right eye isn't working correctly.  He won't have to wear a patch or anything like that.  He's very excited about wearing glasses. 

After leaving the doctor's office I was feeling a little overwhelmed.  All of a sudden, my son was partially blind.  Then I realized that nothing had really changed.  His condition isn't new to him.  This may have been something that he's had since he was six.  His vision was normal for him and we didn't realize that there was a problem because he didn't realize there was a problem.  So really, for four years, we've had a partially blind son.  The only difference that our new knowledge brings is the opportunity to take precautions.  S10 is the same boy.  We are the same parents.  Nothing has been lost.  We just have a different view now.

I also got a different view yesterday evening.  This one was from the passenger side of my van after K15 passed her learner's exam. 

I've driven that van for almost ten years.  I've ridden as a passenger with many different drivers.  I've even ridden as a passenger with K15 on our gravel road.  This time I was the passenger for 16 miles of paved road with many other drivers, lights, signs and rain.  It was a whole new view of the world. 

I think we both did really well on our first drive together.  Neither of us freaked out.  Neither of us cried.  Neither of us stomped off when the ride was over.  I can't say it's always gone so well when I've been the one driving.

The view from the passenger seat is one that will take some time to grow accustom to.  I can see some advantages but I see more challenges.  My biggest challenge yesterday was the absence of a brake pedal on my side of the car.  I'm hoping I learn to cope with the lack of control and trust the judgement of K15 over time.  I hope she continues to listen to and respect my experience as we travel together.  I hope the new view I have as we move into the world of teen drivers just keeps getting better.

Finally, my Bible study last night was from the 10th chapter of Acts were Peter gets a really new view on the world the way God intends it.  I am continually amazed with the faith of Peter and the love and grace he showed as he modeled Christ for those around him. 

I pray that I always take time in difficult circumstances to really consider my view.  What I see at first glance is not always the correct view.  What seems most obvious is not always the most helpful.  I pray that when I'm presented with a new view I'll be like Peter and take the time to ask God what it all means and how I'm to respond.  I pray that, like Peter, my response will be based on the godly view.