Sunday, October 28, 2012

breakfast cream…

It’s past midnight, but the Coughing That Will Not End Until Every Bit of Pollen Is Gone is keeping me awake, so I figured I’d write about breakfast.

I read that book about how French women don’t get fat, and I got at least one thing out of it that has changed my life….. breakfast cream.

This way, I can start out my day virtuous in the food department. If things go downhill from there, so be it, but it helps my motivation to be so pure and clean and healthy around 8:30 a.m.

I know you want to know all about this, so here’s my recipe…

1/2 c. plain low fat Greek yogurt (BJ’s has the best price in town on this)

1 t. flax seed (makes me feel all healthy just to type that)

3 heaping teaspoons quick oats

1-2 t. raw, organic, local honey (or squirt some out of the big plastic container you got from BJ’s)

a few walnuts, almonds, whatever

Mix and eat. It looks gross, so your kids will happily leave you alone and continue munching their cinnamon Life…. =) Feel the healthy just coursing through your veins. You’re welcome.

Friday, October 26, 2012

friday morning….


This is what breakfast time looks like around here most of the time. “Benji Boo Boo” (the nickname that I call him most often) likes to get down from his high chair and pull up on Evan’s. We call him the “baby thief.” Yesterday, he stole a big hunk of pb&j off Evan’s tray and shoved it into his mouth very quickly, perfectly aware that he was going to lose it if he didn’t. And then he got lots of peanut butter in his hair.

Our tiniest can eat his big brothers under the table. He polished off two slices of homemade pizza for dinner the other night without batting an eyelash. And then banged his hands on his tray for more food…

Yes, I do put my 3-year-old in a high chair still. I have three children under the age of 6, and there is only so much getting up and down at meals that I can stand. No judging. =)

It’s a little chilly and gloomy today, and I’d love to make potato soup, but I don’t have any celery. Celery is essential. I briefly considered throwing them all in the car and going out for celery. And then I decided that it so totally wasn’t worth it. We’re having baked chicken and rice pilaf for dinner instead.

School starts in about 10 minutes. I am endlessly grateful for Ben’s morning nap. The boys have gotten really patient about me getting up several times in the middle of reading a book to stop Ben from stabbing himself with a pencil or pulling the computer modem out of the wall.

I am not so patient.

Fall festival at church is this weekend. Costumes are TBD still for Seth and Evan. I want to make Evan be a lion because that’s what we have in his size. David wants to let him be Superman if he wants. They may be showing up in totally homemade and mildly disreputable looking superhero outfits made of their pajamas and random capes and masks. We’ll see.

I borrowed an adorable Winnie the Pooh outfit for Ben. =)

Speaking of Ben, we keep his baby board books on the bottom shelves of a little bookcase in the living room. He crawls in there all the time now and pulls them off, turning the pages, and babbling in a little thoughtful, interested voice to himself.

We talk for Ben in a high pitched voice all the time, and the boys have gotten into it. I asked Evan to apologize to Ben the other day, and he did, and then he said in a little higher pitched voice, “I forgive you.” =)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Rowing Madeline…

DSC_0005 A few weeks ago, we rowed “Madeline” by Bemelmans. I was surprised by how much the boys enjoyed this classic story. The rhyming helped a lot, and they could both recite large chunks of the book by the end of our rowing. I got a couple of other Madeline books from the library, and they enjoyed those as well.

Of course, we read books on France, and Seth decided to attempt making a model of the Eiffel Tower one day. We didn’t have quite the right blocks for it, but I love that he took the initiative =).

I also checked out “Anatole,” a story about a little French mouse who wants to help out in exchange for his morsels of food, so he tastes cheese and gives suggestions to those in charge at a cheese factory. This led Seth to want to try some French cheeses, so we had a little Brie with our lunch. =) I started calling bread, cheese, and fruit “French lunch” (instead of lazy mommy lunch), and it seems to have stuck. =)

DSC_0006 This link has been floating around the internet for French related food creations, but I didn’t have it in me to try and risk falling sugar wafers. So we made cheater pain au chocolat instead. It was easy for Seth to help me with this, and the fruits of our labors were quite delicious. I think we should try this one again with pie filling, etc.

While it was baking, we watched an episode of Madeline on YouTube about the Eiffel Tower…


There is a lot of symmetry in this book, so I had the boys make symmetry paintings. We just dripped paint on half of a piece of folded paper, and then they smashed the other half down on top. Et voila! I also held up small objects in front of a little mirror, and they could see the balanced reflection.


This book gave a great chance to talk about the digestive system. We found a wonderful book in the library about digestion, and I did the first experiment on this link with them. I used vinegar for stomach acid, since I didn’t have any orange juice on hand. We also watched this short video from Children’s Hospital to show what its like to go to the hospital and have surgery… just like Madeline!

We also sang “Frere Jacques” every day of the week. My boys love to sing with me. =)

Oh, and I can’t forget the Impressionist painters. We read a book called “Katie Meets the Impressionists,” and we talked about how France is known for delicious food and the arts…

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

bug day…


I am definitely not up to date on chronicling our homeschool journey here, but I thought I’d show you what we did one day in between rowing Five in A Row books. I decided to take a little break to follow Seth’s interest. He asked me to get him some books about bugs from the library because “bats eat bugs, and I’m a bat.” (We are definitely into some imaginary play around here. =)

“Bugs are Insects” by Anne Rockwell was a great kindergarten friendly book I got from the library, so we read that. Basically, it was all about how to classify insects vs. arachnids vs. true bugs.

Then we did a little hands on science from Janice VanCleave’s “Play and Find Out about Bugs.” I loved this little experiment. I cut pipe cleaners into short pieces, and we used those to give our insects 6 legs and antennae. We also taped some pieces of paper on a few of them to make wings that we could insert into our playdough bugs’ backs.

We rolled playdough into balls and strung them onto a toothpick. The smallest ball was the head, the middle size was the thorax, and the biggest size was the abdomen. The hands on visual really seemed to help get the parts of the bug stuck in their little brains. =)

We did this about a week and a half ago, and I heard the boys chanting “Head! Thorax! Abdomen!” to David just the other night. =)




Tuesday, October 16, 2012

mother’s minutia….


The boys are watching “Kipper the Dog” on Netflix. Even Ben. Yes, I prop him in the little rocking chair that was mine when I was a baby, and I let him watch with Seth and Evan. That little British puppy has changed their vocabulary for the quirkier. =)

I’ve got a chicken pot pie in the oven. I have a desire to make one every few months, and every few months I do, and I regret it. However, this regret seems to be quickly forgotten because I don’t remember why I vowed never to make another the next time the urge strikes.

I stink at pie crust. This time I tried one made with Bisquick. (Don’t ask me why I bought a giant box of Bisquick at BJ’s. I usually avoid baking mixes, but I did, and I need to use it up.) We’ll see how that turns out. I can’t bring myself to put canned cream of chicken soup in there, so I make my own roux on the stove. And I’m cheap, so I passed up the pre-made pie crusts at the grocery store. Yada yada. Anyway, that leaves me stirring and chopping and all in the middle of the afternoon when the boys are awake and fussing. I want to tear my hair out. Must. not. make. chicken. pot. pie. again. until. Ben. is. 5.

I probably shouldn’t be writing. I’m not in the best of moods. I came down with a ridiculous amount of health problems over the weekend. I already had a cough for at least a week, and then I had a bun at an authentic Chinese grocery store, and that likely led to an itchy outbreak of hives, and about the time that the hives started worsening, I got a UTI. Then Ben and Seth both came down with the cough.

I have been waiting for locusts to show up….

Thank God for my mom. She spent Monday with me so I could go to the doctor and fill prescriptions and start feeling better. I’m a little concerned that the UTI isn’t going away any faster than it is. She gave me a prescription for an antibiotic I’ve never had before, hoping to get the cough and the UTI at the same time, but I’m wondering if it’s working. Still having to take pain killer for that one…

Today has been a lot better than yesterday. We had school, I got everybody out the door and to the park for an hour of sandbox play, and I smiled while Ben crawled all over the wet wood chips and ate sand. I stripped him down to his diaper before putting him in the car. I can tell that I have 3 children when I let the baby have free rein like this…. Didn’t happen with Seth or Evan.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

field trip fun…


I’m sitting here with a cup of cocoa, feeling a bit lousy. I’ve had a cough for over a week, and I thought it was my annual fall allergy making its visit. But now Ben is pathetically barking and crying, and I hear from my mom that Seth came down with a cough on their little fishing weekend at the cabin.

They’ll be back soon, and it’ll be time to gird up my loins for a week of sickness and potential quarantine. Sigh. So I thought I’d post a few pictures of a happier day.

I got a great deal on a fall family pass to the Museum of Life and Science in Durham. We took a break between book unit studies to head there with friends one beautiful fall day.

IMG_0741 Seth and Evan loved the pumping stations. There were all kinds of fun levers to experiment with, and if you pumped hard enough, you could get water to come out of lots of random pipes. =)

IMG_0743 Ahhh, the insect house. Seth is staring at these really awesome leaf bugs. They look just like green leaves, and their movements are kind of a sway, like a leaf blowing on a tree. Isn’t God cool? =)


They had several little petri dishes with live bugs in them, and you could slide them under the powerful microscope, and they’d show up on the screen far larger than life….

My goal is to get there again at least once before the end of October.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

it’s wednesday…


“Hey, look, Mom! I can take Ben down the slide!” “Yes, dear. Try to make sure he’s breathing when he reaches the bottom….”

It’s Wednesday. This week it feels like Tuesday because David was off on Monday for a random government holiday. It rained, and it was freezing. He took the big boys to storytime at the library, and I took out all the cold weather clothes for the big seasonal switcheroo.

I discovered that Seth only has one pair of non-sandal shoes that currently fit. I couldn’t find them this morning when it was time to go to the park for mom and tot art lunch. After scouring the entire house for them, I made him wear his dirty flip flops with a long sleeved shirt and jeans. I thought my head was going to explode.

Nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, makes Mommy angrier than lost shoes. Evan loses his all the time. In fact, he lost his flip flops somewhere in the yard last week, and I still haven’t found them.

After Seth found his missing shoes in the back of the van (where he’d taken them off last night on the way back from the indoor playground), I told him that there would no longer be any warnings for shoes placed anywhere other than right by the front door. I find them somewhere other than that? Bam. Immediate nuclear punishment. I’m done with this, people. D-O-N-E.

Why, you may ask, doesn’t Ellen break down and get her poor little urchins more than one pair of shoes? Is it because she’s cheap? Yeesss… but its mostly because she hates shoe shopping for small boys. Especially for small boys with narrow feet and no arches whose shoes must fit custom orthotics to correct said lack of arches. The end.

When I pulled up to the house the other day after a quick weekend naptime shopping trip, the tree in front of the house caught my eye. It is the boys’ favorite climbing tree, and it has lots of nice little forks for them to get their feet stuck in so that they can then scream for someone to help them 542 times an hour. I digress. Well, one of the forks on that day was currently holding a soft yellow and green soccer ball and a large plastic t-rex.

I walked right past those bad boys and into the house. And they are sitting there still in perfect harmony, Rex’s mouth wide open in a vicious, toothy perpetual scream as he is crushed by the Soccer Ball of Doom.

Sort of like me right now as I hear Seth’s bedroom door open upstairs for the 3rd time in what was supposed to be my hour of solitude today…. Peace out.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Crockpot hash brown potato soup…

potatoes-300x236 photo of beautiful potatoes from The Farm in Orleans, MA

So, I’m now a Pinner, and there is this potato soup recipe floating around that calls for a 30 oz. package of shredded hash browns. It also has stuff in it that I’m not interested in using, like cream cheese and canned cream of chicken soup, but it got me thinking… I wondered if I could tweak my favorite time consuming potato soup recipe? Turns out I can. Score! I made this the other night, and it tastes almost exactly like my work intensive version…

Crockpot Hash Brown Potato Soup

1 30 oz. pkg. frozen shredded hash browns

1 onion

1 carrot

1 stalk celery

4 c. chicken stock (I use water and bouillon)

1 T. parsley flakes

pepper to taste

1 T. butter

1/2 t. salt

1 13 oz. can evaporated milk

Finely shred the onion, carrot, and celery in a food processor until nicely pulverized. This is important to the flavor of the soup, so don’t skip this step or I can’t vouch for the results. Throw that into your crockpot with all the other ingredients except the evaporated milk. Cook on low for 4-5 hours. Add the evaporated milk for the last hour of cooking. Serve with your favorite toppings. It’s even better the second day.

This is a thick, creamy soup. If you want it chunkier, try experimenting with cubed hash browns or frozen stew potatoes if you can find them. I may try that later…

My other recipe called for chopping up all the potatoes, parboiling them, pouring out the water, adding in bouillon, etc. It was time intensive enough that I only made it once last winter in my sleep deprived newborn haze. This is more doable. It doesn’t make quite as much soup as my original recipe, but that’s a small price to pay…

Friday, October 05, 2012

General homeschooling….

I’ve been writing here about the 5 in a Row books that we’re using to do unit studies, but I haven’t talked about the other things that we’re doing in homeschool.

Each morning, we start our school time after Ben goes down for his morning nap. I start the day with us singing, “Good morning, God. This is your day. I am your child. Show me your way.” Then we start our Morning Time.

We do devotions together. Right now, we’re reading the Jesus Storybook Bible every day. We’re also memorizing Bible verses. It took about 3 weeks, but they can now both say Ephesians 2:8- “For it is by grace you have been saved, and this is not from yourselves- it is the gift of God. And this is not by works, so that no one can boast.” I was surprised that Evan learned it just as quickly as Seth did, and he’s only 3 1/2. I wasn’t giving him enough credit…

We’ve now moved on to “A soft answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger.” It seems relevant. =)

Then we read a short poem, sing our song for the week (sometimes a hymn, and sometimes related to the book we’re rowing), put a star on the calendar for the day, and color in the space on our weather chart. We also sing the days of the week and months of the year, though not every day.

After that I get into the 5 in a Row book. Seth’s math, reading, and handwriting come after that while Evan plays or does some preschool work. Sometimes we run out of time for that before Ben wakes up, and he does those in the afternoon after his nap. I also might have him do a few extra printables or activities that Evan wouldn’t be interested in in the afternoon as well.

We also don’t do 5 in a Row every day. For instance, I decided that I didn’t want to start our next book right away, and so tomorrow we’re going to have an insect day. I got some books on insects, and we’re going to do an insect identification experiment that I got from the Janice Van Cleeve Experiment Book on Bugs that we have. We’ll resume “rowing” next week. I like having the flexibility to take a day off in between longer unit studies to pursue other interests or take a field trip. Math, reading, and handwriting are every day activities, though.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Rowing “Lentil”…..

I’m definitely going to get behind on telling about our school work, but I did want to catalogue the “rowing” of “Lentil” by Robert McCloskey for those of you who are interested….

First of all, I owe a large debt of gratitude to this blogger for her fantastic page of Lentil ideas. I used a lot of them in our rowing, especially the science experiments on the five senses.

I went to the library and picked up books on taste, smell, and hearing. I also got a few basic books on patriotism and the fifty states. Lentil is from Alto, Ohio, so I gave them a little bit of information on Ohio, and we found it on our U.S. map. This gave us a chance to practice following basic directions on a map and using the compass on the map to find N, S, E, and W. We did a printable from homeschool share on this for the Wonder Book.

DSC_0382 This is our tasting experiment. I put out little dishes of bitter unsweetened chocolate, salt water, sugar water, and lemon juice. Seth and Evan both tasted each one and identified the type of taste.

DSC_0384 We talked about how our sense of smell affects taste. I had them hold their noses and try to differentiate between the peach and the banana yogurt. It was a little harder for them. We discussed how food doesn’t taste as good when you have a cold because of your stuffy nose.

To go along with these activities, I had Seth color this sheet, and then he told me everything he could remember learning about taste. I wrote it down on the same sheet and put it in his Wonder Book. I did the same with this sheet on hearing.

We did the experiments on hearing from the blog I linked, including singing in the bathroom to hear the sound waves bounce off hard surfaces instead of being absorbed. We bounced a ball on the kitchen floor and on a cushion to show how sound waves are absorbed by soft surfaces and bounce off hard surfaces.

Seth really enjoyed squeezing lemons and making lemonade with me. He made sure that his daddy had a glass that night at dinner. =)

We discussed jealousy and finding the joy in our uniqueness, since Old Sneep struggled with jealousy and Lentil couldn’t sing or whistle and had to use a harmonica to make music instead. We also talked about grace. The townspeople gave Old Sneep an ice cream cone and let him share in the celebration, even though he’d tried to ruin it.

We discussed how illustrations tell the story as much as the words do sometimes, and we looked for examples in the book.

We learned “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain When She Comes,” complete with hand motions. =) I even found a video of a guy playing it on the harmonica on YouTube. I also found a couple of videos of brass bands, and I identified the instruments for them while we watched.

DSC_0390 And to end up the week, we whittled with soap. A bar of Ivory and a plastic knife can provide a lot of excitement (and fine motor skills practice…. =) They got soap shavings all over the deck, but it was worth it. And now the whittling that Old Sneep did in the book makes a lot more sense to them.