Monday, January 30, 2012

Cinnamon Streusel Coffeecake

The stomach bug has left our house, thank the Lord. To celebrate, I made the family this recipe from Good Cheap Eats.

David said its the best coffeecake that he’s ever had. ‘Nuf said. It’s pretty awesome. I’m copying the recipe here so that I have it on hand whenever I want to refer to it, but go to the link for a pretty picture. =)

I made it in an 8x8 Pyrex because that’s what I had. I think that a 9x13 dish would make a cake this is flatter than I’d like. I will probably try an 8x11 next time to see what happens, and I suspect that will probably be best.

I made up two more bags of dry ingredients for this, and I also made up sandwich bags with the dry ingredients for the streusel topping. I taped the sandwich bags to the quart bags, and now they’re sitting in my pantry, ready for whenever I need them. That may be soon….my group has brunch for MOPs on Valentine’s Day. =)

Cinnamon Streusel Coffeecake

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup oil

1 egg

½ c. milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt



1/2 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons melted butter


Preheat the oven to 350 °. Grease a 9×13 baking pan, 9-inch springform pan, 8x8 Pyrex, or 8x11 Pyrex. In a large mixing bowl, combine all cake ingredients. Stir until just mixed. Spoon into the prepared pan.

In a small bowl, combine the topping ingredients and sprinkle them over the batter.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The plague…


5th birthday Jello

We have the plague. It’s the stomach flu/diarrhea plague, and it all started last Friday evening. What, you say? That’s been almost a week? Oh, I hadn’t noticed! (insert sarcasm here)

First Seth threw up all evening. It was the worst that he’s ever been sick, and we were worried, but felt confident all would be well before too long. (We were hopelessly naive.) And then I started throwing up at 9:00 that night. It is a miracle that I had enough milk to continue feeding Ben, and that’s only because my darling BFF brought over some fenugreek early enough in the day that I had it in my system before my stomach emptied. (I’d been worried about my supply, but that became the least of my worries, and it seems to be fine now.)

David struggled along all weekend, trying so hard to keep everyone disinfected and taken care of. I was slow to recover, probably because my body was trying to feed Ben and also because this virus is of the Devil. And then he succumbed on Sunday night.

I rallied enough to take care of us on Monday, and David wasn’t down with it so hard that he couldn’t function at all. There was hope that things would improve by Seth’s birthday on Thursday….

Fast forward to Wednesday morning when Seth woke up with diarrhea so bad that I had to strip the bed entirely and give him a bath. There would be so partying for us this week…

Weary to the bone, I wrapped his presents and made him birthday Jello on Wednesday night, hoping for a somewhat pleasant birthday for him. When the baby slept in this morning, I hoped it was the start of good things to come.

There was a reason the baby slept in.

He threw up everything I fed him at 8:00 a.m., and my heart sank. I hadn’t even opened Seth’s door yet to wish him Happy Birthday. When I went in, I told him it was his birthday, and he smiled and said, “Are you joking, Mommy? My birthday is a long time away.” I said, “No. You can go downstairs and find out.” We all trooped downstairs, and he was so excited to see helium balloons tied to his chair.

I managed to make him his big birthday breakfast of white toast with a little butter and blueberries. You would’ve thought it was cinnamon rolls with bacon, he was so excited. He and Evan put on their party hats and grinned through breakfast.

And then Evan had diarrhea. And Ben threw up again. I called for backup. I’m not superwoman.

When I told Seth that Daddy was going to come home and spend his birthday with him, he acted like he’d won the lottery. He screamed and did a happy dance.

And I learned that it doesn’t take much to make your birthday happy when you’re 5 years old… even if your entire family has the plague. Here’s my list of ways to have a Happy Birthday anyway:

1. Yay! Daddy is home! (Who cares that it’s because Evan has diarrhea, and Ben is throwing up?)

2. I get to eat grape Jello! And white bread! (Isn’t the BRAT diet just another form of the toddler carb diet anyway?)

3. Somebody brought me balloons. I love balloons! (Seriously. Thank God for Dollar Tree.)

4. I get to wear my pj’s all day! (All the easier to strip you if necessary, my dear.)

5. If we don’t go anywhere, I just have more time to play with my new toys!

He had a great day. We sang to him, and he blew out his candles. Friends and family called to wish him a Happy Birthday, and he ate up all the attention with a spoon. A dear friend dropped a present on our front porch, and he loved it. (She ran down those steps like her car was on fire, and I don’t blame her a bit. Save yourself!!!! I’m not sure I would’ve come near the house without a hazmat mask on if I were in her shoes.)

Ben threw up all day, every 3 hours. The nurse told me to keep feeding him, even if he threw it all up. I didn’t put him down all day long. He went 5 hours without peeing in his diaper. It was really sad. He only threw up a little after the 5:30 p.m. feeding, and it looks like the 8:00 p.m. feeding is staying put. Poor, poor baby.

And now we’ve all had it. It’s over. I’m going to find out how long it’ll be before we’re not contagious anymore, but I have hope that we’ll be able to leave the house sometime before February.

Seth will get his birthday cake and fun next weekend. Maybe I’ll have recovered enough by then to do something extra special for him. Or maybe not.

This is the sickest we’ve ever been as a family, and I am done in. Please, God, don’t let us get anything like this again for a very, very, very long time.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Standardized tests vs. a Love of reading…

I found this article, and I thought I’d pass it on….

One of the things that I noticed about some of my conventionally schooled peers growing up was that they seemed to think of reading as a dull school assignment. It was hard for them to imagine picking up a book and reading for pleasure. I wonder if this had anything to do with it for them?

(Not that all of my homeschooled friends loved reading as much as I did… just that they didn’t talk about it in the same way as friends who had been assigned book reports on most things that they’d read.)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Beginning a journey…

On Wednesday night, I started teaching Seth to read. Now, of course we’ve done all kinds of things to get him ready for reading, but this was the first time I’d pulled out a curriculum and done a lesson with him.

I was nervous. I’d put everything together in a bag, gotten the filing card box filled, etc., but I was kind of afraid to just dive in with him. I waited until David was home so I would be assured of no interruptions for the first go round.

He LOVED it! He squealed and laughed and danced up and down with delight. It was 15 minutes of fun with my almost 5-year-old. He asked yesterday if we were going to do his reading lesson again, and I put him off until today. We did lesson 2 while the other two boys were napping, and it was another hit out of the park. If the rest of the curriculum is as enjoyable and enriching as these two lessons have been, I can’t imagine a better fit for us.

I’ve learned something about curriculum from this experience. I had bought “Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading” 8 months or so ago. While I’m sure it’s a good curriculum, I figured out slowly that it probably wouldn’t be the best fit for Seth. I’d bought too early. One of my reasons for buying it was that he wasn’t interested in worksheets and writing. Well, now he is. Lesson learned: Buy curriculum as soon as possible to when you’re going to use it.

I decided to go with All About Learning Press’ Pre-Reading Program. He still needs some help on recognizing his lower case letters, and it seemed like this would be a gentle introduction to a reading curriculum. My plan is to do it 3 days a week. We should be finished with it in time to start their regular reading program sometime in the fall.

Finding a curriculum that really works for you and your child is such a confidence building experience. I am a new teacher that needs a lot of help learning how to teach, and this is giving me exactly what I need at this stage of homeschooling. It’s so easy for me to just open and go. There are games and songs and a puppet! There is time built in for him to practice writing letters every day. And it’s short. I’m having to do this while my two babies are down napping, and I’m pretty tired by then and ready for a break.

Life is really challenging right now overall. There are days when I wonder how in the world I’m going to homeschool three boys. But then I remember that figuring this out means more to me than words can express. My mom gave me a priceless gift when she decided to teach me at home. I want to continue this legacy and pass down this gift to my own children… even though I know it will cost me a lot.

I need to remember that I only have to take it one student and one subject at a time, adding things in gradually as I get stronger and more confident and as my children become more ready for it. God will lead me in finding help (like good curriculum), and He’ll be gracious to help children nap while I implement it.

So I’m taking a deep breath. Here we go…

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Children’s books read on Youtube…

It’s been a long month. (One of these days, I’m going to write a blog post to my older baby hungering self, reminding me why I will need a rubber room if I have another baby, but that is a post for another time. =)

Anyway, David was off yesterday, experiencing the insanity that is my everyday experience. I’d taken Seth with me to the Wal of Mart for some much needed one on one time (and milk and bread and dental floss.) He was left with 1) a grumpy baby that wanted to be held, and 2) a perpetually whiny toddler that (lately) is guaranteed to fall on the floor crying when you tell him you can’t read him a book. Out of sheer desperation, David decided to go on YouTube and search for “Curious George Flies A Kite,” (seeing as that was the desired book.)

What happened next has changed my life for the better (much like the invention of paper plates, Lysol wipes, and white noise machines.) Feast your eyes on this, exhausted mothers of insatiable readers everywhere!


I want to find goldfishman82 and give him a big, grateful hug. He reads in an interesting, calm voice, shows all the pages and text, and helps me to feel like they’re getting to enjoy books when I just can’t read one more. I want him to make many, many more of these. He did make a few more… just click on his name for the rest.

Alas, my friend goldfishman82 is a rarity on YouTube for fine reading voice, readable text on the page views, and no animation (basically, a reading that is as close to you reading as possible). I have found another source which is usable… but you have to be ok with a somewhat odd British accent. Try this collection if you can handle that. Since Seth has learned to yell “Help and bother!” and say things like “Mommy, Ben is ever so wiggly,” from our Kipper the Dog viewing, I guess we can handle a little more Anglophilia around here….

Isn’t this fantastic?!!! (Ok, a lot of you won’t be THAT excited about it, but I am, and I’m cool with that. =)

Monday, January 09, 2012

why there aren’t enough children’s books…

This is a fascinating blog post on why there aren’t enough really good children’s books around…

I love to read, and I love to read to my children. There are few things I enjoy more than sitting on the couch with a boy under each arm, snuggled under a blanket, a stack of books lying next to us.

My mom did me a huge favor by saving a lot of books from my childhood. Many of them were Caldecott award winners… some of them are quirky books with great illustrations, vivid imagery, and challenging vocabulary. I love so many of them, and I want my boys to do the same.

But there aren’t as many of these treasures available as I would like, and I think this article may explain why. And sure, my boys like the occasional story based on a tv show…. but that isn’t the only thing I want for them to read.

I want them to travel down the Yangtze River with Ping, go to Portsmouth Market with the Ox Cart Man, fly a kite with (the original) Curious George, trick some bees with A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh, and fight with some toy soliders for the return of Miss Suzy’s house. I want them to go sledding with Frog and Toad and follow Harold into his Purple Crayon world.

We go on adventures on our faded flowered couch…. and they’re the best!

Friday, January 06, 2012


All the boys are still napping, so I’m taking 5 minutes to sing the praises of a wonderful day!

We haven’t had much winter weather in our part of the world, and while I miss it for cozy time around the fireplace in the evening, I must admit that this helps a lot when you have active little boys. We went to the “merry go round” park today… without our jackets. =) The boys dug and built piles in the sandbox, and I stood there and watched them, Ben snuggled up against my chest in the Beco carrier. We all enjoyed the sunshine, and I swayed gently back and forth, kissing Ben’s sleeping, downy head, saying silent prayers of thanksgiving for each of them.

Everything is better when Ben naps. Everything. =)

He went down in his swing, fully awake, not even crying for 5 minutes, and I had a blessed hour and a half with Seth and Evan. Seth had some cutting practice with scissors, he did some glueing on a collage, and Evan got to put some stickers on paper. (I’m thinking of creating a little art tote for Seth with markers, crayons, scissors, glue stick… basic stuff…. but there are some things I don’t want Evan to have access to. Hmmm, what to do? Seasoned moms, give me advice.)

Imaginary play was back today after a few days of absence. David and I have realized that we probably use reading books like popping in a video sometimes. It’s the default thing we do when the boys are fighting or whining. “Come here, and I’ll read you a book.” Or 2. Or 12. =)

But today, Seth pulled out the baby doll, stripped him down, and gave him a bath in the blue changing pad “bathtub.” Dolly got a good scrub and a towel off. Then Evan wanted to try it. It was pretty funny to see him lay down obediently on the changing pad, and Seth scrubbing him all over with an orange washcloth.

Seth is currently building an airplane with newspapers and tape. I think I’m going to give him a roll of aluminum foil for his birthday to help with his endeavor.

Well, I hear crying from my bed. Time to rescue the baby. And get the beef stew going for dinner. Happy weekend eve, y’all!

Monday, January 02, 2012

The siren song of the kindle fire…

Last night, we went to our annual New Year’s Eve gathering with old college friends. One of the friends had gotten a Kindle Fire for Christmas.

Oh. My. Goodness. We’re on the Luddite end of the spectrum for middle class suburbanites. You should see our 11-year-old box tv with the slight high pitched whine whenever you cut it on. =)

So, needless to say, this shiny gadget bowled me over quickly. I played Angry Birds for the first time. (Addictive…. very addictive.) I surfed the web, streamed a movie from Amazon Prime, and read a book. It was like magic under my nimble fingers. I felt myself falling in love….

All the way home, I daydreamed about having this new toy for my very own. I have a birthday coming up, and I had been considering asking for a Kindle, mostly for the love of old books downloadable for free….

A friend had brought her new Nook to the party, too. I looked at it as well, but it barely held my attention for 5 minutes. The only thing it did was show you a book. Boring.

But wait a cotton pickin’ minute…. I thought I wanted a Kindle so I could read books? Right?

I’d been dazzled by a more exciting lover, and I forgot what I really valued in the first place.

We limit our technology in the Suburban Casa by choice. We want less technology around distracting us and our young children. (We’re easily distractable. =) David even deleted simple games off of his work-issued Blackberry when he realized he was playing them at free minutes instead of interacting with us.

We don’t want to introduce our children to the computer until they’re older… say 7 or 8. We’ve decided to limit the amount of media they’re exposed to so that their imaginations and their love of reading quality books will have the best chance to flower at a young age. They will have plenty of time to become fully integrated into the digital/computer age when they’re a little older, and I’m sure they’ll be educating us in all the latest and greatest one day. One of them may even be a computer programmer… who knows? But there is time for that later, and the days of not being dependent on email and the web are short in a modern person’s life. I want them to make the most of those….

So why was I was thinking of clicking “Purchase” for a device that would tempt me to find a video or game for my children to play instead of interacting with them at the dr.’s office (no matter how challenging that might be)? This is a device that would encourage me to spend money on buying apps and videos that we have chosen to limit. We don’t have WiFi or Amazon Prime, so streaming or YouTube viewing isn’t even something we can do for free.

I thought through it, and I realized that I don’t want a Kindle Fire with my conscious mind. I just wanted it with my new-gadget-loving itchy fingers. =) I already spend enough time on the computer reading blogs, updating Facebook, and basically ignoring my small children for minutes here and there. Do I need another distraction? No. The computer in my kitchen is bad enough….

The power of the desire for an impulse purchase is awfully strong sometimes! You find yourself about to get something you don’t even really want/can’t really use because it seems new and fun. Sheesh! =)

So I’ll probably be asking for a Kindle Touch for my birthday. It will enable me to read books… something I rarely feel guilty about. =)