Friday, December 28, 2007

A Green (urp) Christmas

Merry Christmas, a little late. Why a little late? Well, we've been getting past a very virulent stomach virus. It all began with little 4 getting a rotovirus immunization, one featuring live cultures. Deuce then contracted the virus 2 days later (we suspect poor handwashing hygiene after changing her diaper.) The rest, you might say, is history. The virus ran through (no pun intended) Jack, the King, and me. We thought that Ace and 3 might escape, but at the last minute, Ace came down with the virus as well.

To make the matter worse, despite the fact that the kids all seemed fine, we managed to infect my mom and dad and sister, and brother-in-law with the virus as well. Talk about the gift that keeps on giving!! My mom, as a person with a compromised immune system ended up in the ER. Dad and the King went along with her, while I focussed on cleaning up and laundry.

Bleaacchhh. (or perhaps bleach?)

Other than that setback, Christmas was calm, quiet and peaceful. The kids got many of the things they asked for, and were bored only moments later.

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

New Year's Homeschool Resolutions

I know it is a few weeks until New Years, and we haven't even gotten to Christmas yet, but my mind keeps straying to resolutions, especially as we are so absorbed in creating our Christmas presents, crafts and cards and such, and not completing our schoolwork. Oh, some gets done. Math yesterday, assigned reading today - who knows maybe spelling tomorrow?

But the heavy schedule of Assigned Reading, Spelling, Grammar, Math, Civics, History, Science, Music, and Art has completely fallen by the wayside while we sew, embroider, knit, bake, cut and glue, color and paint, bead and wrap and create. On the one hand we haven't really met our goals for the year, on the other hand, we're having a lot more fun. Yet, every time I look at our school books I begin to feel the creeping feeling of guilt. We should be doing more school, less goofing off.

Tonight I was surfing around the internet, and I found this about guilt on lifehack:

Give up on feeling guilty. Guilt changes nothing. It may make you feel you’re accepting responsibility, but it can’t produce anything new in your life. If you feel guilty about something you’ve done, either do something to put it right or accept you screwed up and try not to do so again. Then let it go. If you’re feeling guilty about what someone else did, see a psychiatrist. That’s insane.
If I feel guilty about not doing school with the kids I guess I need to a) get over it, and b) hit the books. So, this is my plan. I am going to get the kids to hit the books, but in moderation, with lots of time for crafting, sewing, cooking, painting, knitting, etc., etc. All the fun stuff we are involved in now. Now to figure out how to do that. I'll be thinking about this. I guess a lot will come from the kids attitudes and cooperation. If it takes forever to get through an exercise, is it better to keep the nose to the grindstone and plow our way through it? Is it better for me to use the fun stuff as a carrot? Is it better to take a break and do the fun crafty stuff, but knowing that we probably won't be getting back to it once we do take a break? Questions to ponder...

Lucky for me I've got some pretty resilient kids who deal with my whims very well.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Wordless Wednesday

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Making Cookies with My Boy!!

So for the cookies - we made Black Forest Cocoa Crinkles today, which are sort of like the normal cocoa crinkles, except they have chocolate chips and dried tart cherries in them. Jack helped me out. He really enjoyed the mixing, and the rolling the dough in the powdered sugar. Midway through making them, he told me, "I like cooking. There's good stuff that I don't even know what it is." I think this reference was to the powdered sugar. I found a little lump and put it on his tongue.

Anyway, here is a picture of the little chef rolling the dough in the powdered sugar.

The most important part - the testing!!

I've been putting the recipes to the cookies on my cooking blog: ChefShari

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


We've been cloth diaper users for a long time. As a result, some of our diapers had been sent to the rag bag. They had seen better days. I tried, as an experiment, to make some contour diapers using two of the more raggedly diapers, and some flannel from the fabric stash. I don't think I did too badly:

The pattern I used is from Mama Bird's Free Diaper Pattern. It was pretty easy to put together. What do you think?

The Great Cookie Marathon

The 2008 Cookie Marathon has begun. This year I am making 11 different types of cookies. Here they are in no particular order:

1. Skillet Cookies - My favorite
2. Christmas M&M Cookies - The King's favorite
3. Almond Crackles
4. Black Forest Crinkle Cookies - Ace likes these.
5. Cherry Belles - An oldie but a goodie
6. Peppermint Swirls - Deuce's favorite
7. Cranberry Walnut Swirls
8. White Chocolate Dream Cookies - white chocolate and orange. Heavenly!!
9. Hawaiian Snowball Cookies
10. Pecan Sandies - Another favorite of the King.
11. Chocolate Caramel Cracker Bars - Three of Heart's favorite.

If I remember, I'll try to post the recipes to these delicious cookies.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Food Porn

Ree, the Pioneer Woman, is an amazing food pornographer. Every day I find myself drooling over her delicious looking, so-good-you-can-smell-them-through-the-computer cooking tutorials. This, my friends, is some serious food porn. I don't know how you could possibly eat anything she has on her website without it going directly to your hips, but experts say that you should fantasize daily, so I find myself, looking at her pictures in the dead of night, when no one is looking, and fantasizing.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Handmade Holidays - Update

Well, I've finished a couple of gifts. Not telling right now what or for whom, but I've done some nice work, if I do say so myself. So nyah nyah nyah. Yep, that's me. Mature.

Shoe shopping

Ahh... I love shoe shopping. Really, really love it. Your feet don't gain weight. You never have a "bad foot day" the way you do with hair sometimes. Feet are forgiving. You need to treat them right, and they will always be understanding.

But today, I took Ace and Deuce shoe shopping. They've been wearing their crocs constantly, even to places where I wouldn't think they'd be very normal - Church, nice restaurants, etc. So I got on their case, why the crocs all the time? Well, apparently neither one has any shoes that fit. (You're kidding, right? I just got them shoes.) But then I started to think, maybe they don't. So after determining that they do have tennis shoes, and crocs, and that's about it, I took them for new shoes.

First stop, DSW - Shoe mecca! Earlier this summer, she "graduated" from girls shoes to women's shoes. A few months ago Ace began altar serving at church and had no dress shoes (part of the uniform,) so I bought her some nice flats, size 6. She said they were too small about a month after we brought them home. Naturally I didn't believe her. So there we were. I told her to sit, and I began pulling shoes off the sale racks for her to try on. Guess what? Size 6 was too small. So was size 7. So was a 7 1/2. She is squarely in a size 8. EGADS!! I guess there really weren't any shoes in the house her size. So I got her 4 pair, a dressy, a flat, a play shoe, and a fun shoe. All the essentials.

Oh, and I got a pair for myself too.

Now for Deuce. She is a size 3. We went to three other different stores before we found any that were any good for her. What is it with the shoe companies? Girls need something more than dressy shoes with glitter and heels or sneakers. What about in-between, normal shoes? We found the holy grail over at J.C. Penneys. Not my favorite store, but you take what you can get, right?
The Holy Grail of Girls Shoes.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Handmade Holidays

As you can see by the little button on the left, I am going to attempt to give handmade gifts this Christmas.

Here is a site that has lots of great ideas - in case you are short of good ideas as to what a person can make for a handmade holiday. I'll be posting more, but I don't want any of my friends (and you, mom) to know what I am giving them for Christmas.

Fun, fun, fun!!

Some things I will not miss

Jack of Hearts has been having a really rough day, and it's only 11:30 in the morning. Now he naps.

But BEFORE the naps, man! Was he rough!

First off, we need to have a tantrum over the pancakes he had for breakfast. He was sooo hungry, he could not wait another minute. The way he was acting, I think the only way he would have been satisfied was if I gave him batter and a spoon. Naturally, the tantrum continued when I asked his sisters to set the table, and because he wanted to put the butter on the table, but was too busy screaming to tell anyone, he ran over to the table, grabbed the butter and threw it across the room. Nice.

A couple of tantrums later - he still hasn't actually eaten anything - I put him back in his bed, telling him that he can come out when he is ready to be pleasant. About 15 minutes later he comes back into the kitchen, as sweet as can be, and begins to eat his pancake. Then another one, then mid-pancake, begins another tantrum about how he doesn't want pancakes, but instead wants a banana.

Okay, I tell him - and give him the half banana that I have sitting by my plate. Yes, he wants it. That is just what he wants, for about 30 seconds, when I am dodging a flying banana, listening to shrieks again. Back to bed he goes.

It goes like this until my mil comes to pick the kids and take them to Atrium. I tell her that JOH is not going to day. Meanwhile, he is whining about crayons, and whining about paper, and whining about his clothes, and whining about God-knows-what. The moment the girls leave, the crying begins AGAIN, and AGAIN the boy finds himself back in bed. It is 8:30 am by this time.

After a bit, he comes out, and is nice for a little while. We read some stories, the furnace guy comes to clean the furnace, and I get some of the books I pulled off the bookcases downstairs. By 10:00, however, the spell is off, and he is back to whining and crying, and driving me nuts. I put him back in bed, and this time he falls asleep. WHEW!


Here is is, getting some nap-time, another crabby day.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Getting Things in Order

My friend came over to help me organize tonight. We went through a bottle of Merlot trying to get my bookcases in order. I must say, with her help, I did manage to get two crates of books off the book cases, and down into storage until we actually need them upstairs. I found some items to give away, and I found the lost yellow cuisanart rod that was missing for about a year. I also found two socks tucked behind some books. They didn't match each other.

I also moved the items that we use EVERY DAY to the middle of the cases, where I can easily access them, rather than waayyy on the end, behind the baby swing (my friend is pretty smart!!)

I've also got all the nature study things altogether in a bin for when we want to do that. (yay!)

Of course there are still some things that don't belong on the school bookshelves, like cookbooks, cross-stitch books, and things like that, and I still haven't had the courage to go through the kids' coloring books, but I think that the way things look now, the shelves will be a lot more usable, and using them will be a lot more pleasant. Next task is to tackle my desk. (ick.)

Friday, November 9, 2007

Booby-Trapping myself

Maybe I should have my plastic cupboard as my organizational challenge. I think I've saved every cottage cheese container and yogurt container our family has emptied since 1999. On top of that, we keep the plastic pitchers, water bottles (and for some reason) the colander in the same cupboard, so every time I need something, I get a plasticalanche.

Or maybe I should organize my "bags" cupboard. This is the sinkhole wherein the garbage can liners, plastic grocery bags, other plastic shopping bags, paper plates, cups and napkins, and (once again inexplicably) the bubbles and flashlights (?) are kept. If I want anything, I end up shoving everything back in as hard as I can, so it can spring out at me again the next time I open the cupboard. Nothing like getting hit in the face with a flashlight to get you thinking about organization is there?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen U.F.O.'s (Unfinished Projects)

1. The sweater I'm making for Ace. I'm working on learning stranding, and I've about finished the back of it. It is out of Knitter's magazine, Fall 2006 issue.

2. The washcloth I started yesterday.

3. The scrapbook of pictures and stuff from our honeymoon to Cozumel.

4. The wedding sampler I started cross-stitching for my sister (she got married 10 years ago!!)

5. Pajamas for TOH. They're cut out, but at this rate, they'll fit the baby.

6. The cross stitch of the lady looking over her writing book. Mirabilia designs, in case you were curious.

7. A Barbie evening gown with pretty beading on it. I began it for a present for Ace. Now I figure it'll never get done.

8. Ace's mittens.

9. This knitted Clapotis.

10. A parts-of-speech capture game.

11. The pink and black Sha-sha Dream bag. (all it needs is a button and buttonhole - Seriously!!!)

12. The quilt I started for my step-niece-in-law.

13. This bumblebee baby picture.

This was faaarrrr too easy. I guess I'd better get to finishing up some things, eh?

Monday, November 5, 2007

Encouraging Motivation and Enthusiasm

While we are not unschoolers by any stretch of the imagination, we are also not structured schoolers either. I like to think that we are eclectic homeschoolers with a bit of structure, led by the student's interests, with me making sure that the bases get covered 3-R's-wise. Sometimes it does seem like we flag on interest and enthusiasm. Tammy at Just Enough, and Nothing More, shares ways to keep her kids motivated and interested in what they are learning.

Here are a few more that work for us here. When interest flags, shake it up a little. Make up a game to drill the skill, let the computer be the teacher, let one child teach another for a little different approach.

Also, we are a big fan of checklists. A checklist shows the kids what is expected of them, and when they are done. It is very gratifying to look at a list with nothing left on it, knowing you have the rest of the day to play, read, or whatever.

Also, make sure you are cutting out the busywork. How much of the schoolwork is really necessary, and how much is just work for work's sake?

What do you do to encourage enthusiasm?

Saturday, November 3, 2007

30-Day Org. Challenge part I


1. What do I want the purpose of my room or area to be?
This is supposed to be our school room, where my kids will be able to do their schoolwork, without taking it all over the house.

2. What do I need in or near the room to serve that purpose?
The schoolbooks and materials we are currently using, plus any teachers guides or sourcebooks that I need to spice it up from time to time.

3. What can I remove from the room?
Everything we are not currently using, books that belong in bookcases in other rooms, toys, clutter that seems to find its way on, in or under my desk, bookcases, school table, or kids' desk.

4. What problems do I see with the room?
Theres not much light, and there is limited space for four kids plus everything we need for school, plus baby swing. There is currently the only window big enough to sustain houseplants for the winter, so I know that they will also be moving in here soon as well.

5. What organizational tools might solve those problems?
Getting the unused stuff out of here first will help. Perhaps I can give each child their own shelf, where their books can be kept, then they can replace them to their places after using?

Also it will help for me to clean out this desk and get the items that have been jammed in the drawers out of here - to the garbage - most of this stuff has been in place for 5+ years, I use only a very small part of it.

6. What habits need to change to solve the organizational problems?
Putting things back after we use them, and not using the school table as a dumping ground will be a good first step.

7. What kind of a budget do I have to create the organized room of my dreams?

8. What kind of a timeline is necessary to organize the room?
I hope to get this done in a couple of weeks.

9. What is my plan of action?
First, do the desk, then attack the shelves.

Read the complete article with descriptions of each of the questions here.

Finally ask yourself:

10. Who can I ask to help me with this?
Kids can help with some.

Why Not School?

Linda over at The Joyful Journey has some great insights about why she would never put her kids into public school. To add my own couple of cents to her statements:

1. Schools are institutions designed to educate the masses. They are not designed to meet either the emotional or academic needs of the individual. As such, they will most effectively reach "the average" student, often missing the needs of the lowest and highest performing children. The problem is that there is no such thing as an "average" student. Every person comes with their own strengths and weaknesses. No student is taught in such a way to play to their strengths or to strengthen their weaknesses. No wonder public school fails so many students all at once, rather than giving an actual education to them.

Schools are places where curriculum rich in revisionist history, environmental indoctrination and liberalism is often taught by teachers who share a similar agenda. Current teaching methods may stress "self-esteem" more than academic excellence. In much of today's curriculum, activities which require critical thinking are largely non-existent. It isn't just the "liberals" who are guilty of this. The problem is when other points of view are ignored or discounted as being wrong, or plainly ridiculous. Then when a new teacher/administrator moves in, the point of view switches, sometimes to something opposite from the last class. As a result kids are left with nothing solid to base their opinions on, nothing concrete to hold on to.

What do you think?

Thursday, November 1, 2007

30-Day Org. Challenge

I've decided to give the 30 day Organizational Challenge a try. Our school room is horribly disorganized. What's worse, is that with it so cluttered, the kids don't want to do their school work there, so they take it to all the other rooms, making them cluttered with school stuff as well. That sort of defeats the purpose of having a designated school space.

Here are the before pictures. The only thing giving me the courage to post them is the knowledge that next to nobody (except you, Mom) reads this blog. Brace yourself.

How do you like the jumbled bookcases?

This is my desk. Those drawers are as bad as the surface.

Here is the kids' desk and computer. It has enough junk underneath. Ironically, there are some boxes there from the last time I attempted to organize. Never used.

Well, wish me some luck.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Extreme Make-Over: Bunk Bed Edition

So, let's say that you are a three-year-old boy. Let's say that you need a change in your bedroom. Maybe you're not content with having a plain pine bunk-bed. What do you think the answer is? How can you transform your bed on a budget?

The aha! moment hits - why not use crayon? It's cheap, comes in many colors, and covers well.

Here is the result of your hard work. Actually it is the result of JOH's hard work.

On a somewhat related note. Does any one know how to get crayon off of pine?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Whaddya mean - NO HYPERSPACE??

The Mars-500 unit is experimenting with volunteers to study how the human body will respond to the stresses of long term isolation. The volunteers will be isolated in a spaceship sized unit for 500 days so that scientists can get a realistic look of how things would go on a manned trip to the planet Mars.

I was explaining all this to my daughters as we read the news together this morning. My oldest asked me, "Why does it need to take that long? Can't they just go into hyper-space?" It looks like someone has been watching a leeeetle bit too much Star Wars.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Alpaca Show

I took Deuce, Three, Jack and Four of Hearts to the Alpaca show today. I don't think that before today they even knew what an alpaca was. Now they are clamoring to have one. I don't think I knew that they came in so many varieties. They seem like very friendly animals, although one breeder said that it was because they were bored.

The favorite were the black alpacas. We purchased some black alpaca wool to make Deuce a sweater, when I finish the one I am working on now. It is unbelievably soft. Kind of like cashmere crossed with angora. I can't wait to knit with it.

For now, here are some pictures from the show.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Simple Pleasures: Stick People

Simple Pleasures: Stick People: "Here is our stick family, courtesy of"

Our Stick Figure Family

We like stick figures!!

Here is the 7 of Hearts family, courtesy of (ht Simple Pleasures)

A Little Healthy Competition

Deuce is a math girl. She is not, however, a pencil to paper, do the problem girl. As a result, when given a set of problems, she isn't likely to do a nice job writing the answers in a way that anyone can read them. When given a word problem, she isn't likely to write out the problem, solve the problem and answer the question. We struggle daily with this.

Well, she has friend that is about 6 months younger, and up to now, Deuce has been a little bit ahead. Well, her friend, who also uses Singapore Math - the same as us, has begun the same book that Deuce is using. I mentioned that fact to her today. Interestingly, she took a sudden interest in doing her math.

I have a feeling that this will work for us!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

8 Reasons I Love Homeschooling

To be honest, I've always homeschooled, even though I was in school. Now it is my children's' turn, although they don't have the detriment of institutionalization to hold them back.

My 8 reasons:

1. Socialization - Everyone's heard it, here's my spin on the "S-question." My kids know how to get along with each other, and how to behave in public. Whenever I take them anywhere - the doctor's office, the post office, the grocery store - I always get complimented on the good behavior of my children. Even when I feel like I am stretched to the limit with their shenanigans, to the outside, they are behaving so well that perfect strangers have to comment on their excellent behavior. The ps kids we observe aren't usually so well behaved, and I think that having the children together, in close contact with each other, means they either are going to have to get along one way or another.

2. Music - With budget cuts and so on, we have the opportunity here to cultivate my children's musical talent. I have 2 kids who play instruments, and the 3rd has already expressed an interest in piano, so soon we may have 3 actively pursuing music, we never would have time if the kids were spending all that time in school. Also, I can get primo teachers - that teach at the local cultural center - at a good price, because I can come to their houses for lessons at weird times, since the kids are free at 12:30 or whatever.

3. Drama - Every year we manage to have the children (even the little ones) in two plays. We are able to do this because we aren't cutting into school time with the rehearsals. In our homeschooled world, the rehearsals are the lesson.

4. Vacation Any Time We Want To: Florida in February, with no lines at Space Mountain - nuff said.

5. Educator Discounts - If school is life, and life is school, then purchases are for school, and let's face it, every little bit helps.

6. A perfectly clean house - just kidding.

6. (For real this time) Personal Development for myself - I think that I've become more well rounded as a person, since teaching my kids. I've been able to teach myself a lot of things because my kids have wanted to know, so we've learned together. My knowledge of history has really improved, I've taken up knitting, I've learned how to make bread from scratch, I have learned a lot about the local fauna, and just about everything I can find out about the animals we see at the zoo. I've read some classic books that have always been on my "to read" list, and I've finally figured out how Algebra really works, not just doing the formula. I think that this has fired up my husband as well, not to mention setting a decent example for the kids.

7. I get to sleep in. I am not a big sleeper, but with the baby, I don't like getting up to get the kids off to meet the bus before the sun comes up. We have time to have a really nice breakfast together (the whole family), and then do some chores, before we do some leisurely lessons.

8. All the really nice people I've met through homeschooling.

So what are your reasons?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

First Post

Okay, this is the first post on this blog. I am feeling a little ambitious, but with any luck I'll meet just a fraction of my ambition with this blog. Mostly, I hope to keep the too far family updated with the current episodes of the pack.