Friday, December 12, 2014

Teacher Gifts

I put together these little muffin gifts for the kids' tutorial teachers this year. With a variety of fun cupcake liners, some sprinkles, a candy cane and a muffin cookbook, these gifts will keep on giving!
If you'd like to do something like this for gifts, or if you'd just like to print out our fam's favorite go-to muffins, feel free to print out the Muffin Cookbook. I changed the print mode to "4 pages per page" and then cut the pages down and stapled them inside card stock. The labels are actually chalk labels that I thought were pretty--I used a white crayon to write on them so that it wouldn't smudge.
Happy Gift Giving!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

We're Going to Unschool A Bit

I'm looking forward to these next two weeks because we're going to put away explorers and states and even some of our math and make way for other learning.
I'm going to let the two oldest choose 2 subjects (one for each week) to study, analyze, experiment with, read about and investigate. Then on each Friday, we will have presentation. They'll need something done, something written or drawn and something said or sung for each topic.
I'm so looking forward to them picking topics and studying them.
The little kids are going to work together, and they've already picked weather for their first topic--they've already decided we're going to make snowflakes, spray rain and try to make thunder and lightening as well.
Here are my list of suggested topics, though the oldest boy thought of one on his own--the history of sports. The oldest girl also went off on her own to pick two topics about horses: 1. What to buy for a horse and how to take care of a horse. and 2. The anatomy and health of a horse. Pretty cool! Many of these projects come from the list of standards for our state and my kiddos' grades.

Cells--what are they, what do they do and why should we care?

Weather--identify different types, investigate our weather, create a chart

What is light?

What is sound?

What are the basic needs of plants and animals?

What places would we visit on a family trip to the west? What route would we take? Which features are geographical? Which are man-made?

Continents, oceans, examples of major landforms (mountains, deserts, valleys, plains, plateaus, and coasts).

Explain "My Country Tis of Thee" song. 

What is a producer? What is a consumer?

If you had to live for one week on your own with $100, how would you spend it?

What is the Bill of Rights? What is the Constitution? How do you make amendments?

Create a new product and a commercial for that product. What makes people buy a certain product?

What is health for your gender, age and weight? What should children do to be healthy?

Pick a person to study and share.

Pick an occupation to investigate and share.

Pick a painting or painter to study and explain. Paint something inspired by that painting or painter.

Pick a major historical event to study and share: westward expansion, civil war, WWI, WWII, etc.

I'll be posting lots of pics and updates on their projects!

Happy Schooling!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Fun Mom Breakfast

Occasionally you need one of these, "Oh, go ahead and enjoy!" kind of breakfasts.
(excuse my scratched up bowl)

And the secret is, this is a Healthy and Fun breakfast.

Breakfast Banana Splits 
Greek Yogurt
(I mix my Greek yogurt with Yoplait strawberry yogurt at about 3:1 ratio. This makes the yogurt ever so slightly sweet and gives it a pink tinge, both of which make it MUCH more appealing to my kiddos. While the hubby and I were watching carbs, we mixed our Greek yogurt with blended strawberries and a touch of honey. Either way would be great with this breakfast!)
And the best part...

Split your banana, plop some yogurt on top, and then sprinkle a little joy over the whole thing.
You could also add whipped cream, chocolate chips, craisins, cherries...
the skies the limit!

Ode to School This Fall

I love home schooling.
I don't say it enough
because it's tiring and busy
and crazy sometimes,
but I really do love it.
The number 1 reason is 
that home schooling encouragement to 
school through life.
So, though we do school with books and notebooks,
paper and pencil,
we also school here

and here
"Come touch and discover the natural things found around the woods and fields."
I have a friend who is officially "unschooling" this year. To quote an online encyclopedia, "Unschooling students learn through their natural life experiences including playhousehold responsibilities, personal interests and curiosity, internships and work experience, travel, books, elective classes, family, mentors, and social interaction." 
 Her model has definitely encouraged me to not be quite so tied to our table and our schedule as we school this year. And boy has that been fun!
Hay maze? Definitely school!

Look, bees! Remember that they see in ultraviolet light
(like this)
School again.

Trains are school.

And model train museums of our city are school.

And interactive tow trucks--
cool school!

(Old tow trucks are school too.)

Riding a railway car down an historical steep track that is a mile long is school; 

see the pulley system that kept us from crashing?!

Putting on our most colorful clothes and paper Native American head dresses and spinning crazily while yelling and giggling is school.

Large bubbles?
Yep, you guessed it! 
Indian Fry Bread,

Large face sculptures, 

Hedge Apples, 

And imitation fall leaves are ALL school.

Hey, how did that get in there? 
We do a lot more of this than we do of the above, but I just love that home schooling encourages us to turn that History of the World cd on in the van, go to that author's talk on dinosaurs, visit the library often and a million other fun and exciting learning experiences.
So there you have it, 
if you know me, you may hear me complain occasionally,
but I really do love home schooling.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Chocolate Magic Cookies

Double Chocolate Coconut Flour Cookies
(Chocolate Magic)
Original Recipe (and picture above) from Ditch the Wheat

My husband and I did a little low-carb diet for a few weeks in the summer (6, I believe, though my hubby would tell you that those 6 weeks lasted about 20.)
During that time I ordered a large bag of coconut flour thinking that once we did start back on carbs, we would want to choose healthier ones. And we do, mostly. We eat a few pasta dishes here and there and a tortilla or two a week. And (gasp) we even have had chicken and dumplings. But I found a few keeper recipes from the healthy time AND I have all that coconut flour to use. And let me tell you, coconut flour recipes don't take much coconut flour.
Enter the Chocolate Magic.
I was not overly thrilled with the consistency of anything made with coconut flour, but then I stumbled upon the genius behind Ditch the Wheat who discovered that if you FREEZE YOUR COCONUT FLOUR COOKIES, the consistency is soft, chewy and heavenly. Magic.

Here's the recipe with my customary tweaks:

Chocolate Magic Cookies
1 cup coconut oil
1 cup brown sugar/sugar/coconut palm sugar
(I like my chocolate flavor dark, if you don't, add more sugar.)
6 large eggs
3 t. vanilla extract
1/2 cup coconut flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 t. baking soda
1 cup chocolate chips

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Using a mixer, mix together coconut oil and coconut palm sugar. *You can cream it together and it will result in a lighter more cake like texture.
  3. Slowly add one egg at a time to the mixture. 
  4. Add vanilla, coconut flour cocoa powder and mix until incorporated.
  5. Add baking soda and salt and mix until incorporated.
  6. Lastly stir in chocolate chips.
  7. Place dough in refrigerator for about an hour.
  8. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll the dough into small balls and spread evenly on a baking sheet.
  9. Bake for 12 minutes.
  10. Let the cookies cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet before moving them to a wire rack to cool.
  11. ***Here is the trick to keep the cookie crispy because coconut flour based cookies tend to soften to the likeness of a pancake fast. Place the cooled cookies in the freezer. When you are ready to eat them pull one out and enjoy immediately. The frozen cookie will be chewy and wonderful.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Boys' Room: New and Improved

You last saw a tour of our home here and then the updated tour of the girls' room here.
These old pics of the current boys' room show what it looked like when the three bios slept there last year before the adoption.

And then it morphed into the BOYS' ROOM:
loads of legos and books, 

tables for lego play and display, 

and BEDS (and cute little changing area under the beds).
Well, in pursuing our dream of building, we need to sell this house and downsize so we can save for a year or two. And so, all that beautiful bedroom space needs to be visible for those potential buyers! My mom came this week and took down the loft she made three years ago and we took the bunk beds down as well. (sniff)
And the plan for the room is to make a simple lego-infused, industrial looking boy-cave.

something a bit like this, though many of these items (the pipe shelf for one) won't come until we the boys' move into their room in our built home. But some of these items are going to make the room look spiffy for buyers:
(3 beds in the space of one!)
grey rug
(that'll get rid of the geometric shape and letter magnets that are all over the kitchen)
and of course they already have their

I've had a lot of fun thinking about the perfect boys' room and the oldest boy has helped out. His requests?
A rock wall, monkey bars on the ceiling, and a slide. Hmm...
We could probably make that work with the industrial vibe, don't you think?

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Lentil Beef Stew

Life continues to swirl quickly along its merry way around here. We school and we carpool and we soccer and we ride. And then occasionally we stop and eat together and it is wonderful to have a few moments of family.
And now it is turning to fall, and I want to serve up warmer things during those quiet moments of meals. I also have been craving fall squash, so this is the meal that ended up on our table today. My tummy is still warm and full and content from it.

Lentil Beef Stew Over Spaghetti Squash
1 pound stew beef, simmered in 2 cups of beef broth for about 4 hours
1 pound of lentils boiled in 8 cups beef broth until just tender, about 30 minutes
1 Cup chopped carrots, added to the lentils about 15 minutes into the boiling
Various seasonings (garlic, salt, pepper, parsley)
1 Spaghetti squash cut and cooked per this blogger's instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Slice squash widthwise into 1" rings. Run a knife around the interior or the rings to remove the seeds. Place rings on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 40 minutes.
  3. Allow to cool for 15 minutes, then peel the skin away and separate the strands into long "noodles".

For the adults I piled a generous amount of the spaghetti squash in a large bowl and spooned the stew over it. For the kids, who I know are not the hugest fans of spaghetti squash, I used the squash to garnish their small bowls of stew.

Happy Fall!

Thursday, September 25, 2014


With five children home all day every day (yes, we do go out, I'm just exaggerating for effect), we eat A LOT of snacks.  And I do mean A LOT!
The budget has been suffering and I've been having to get a little more creative. Plus that nagging little feeling that I shouldn't be giving them junk food 24-7. So, here's what I've come up with:
It's nothing all that new or impressive, but this is the one thing that works. I can't have bags of pretzels and say, "Have at them!" I can't even trust myself to divvy out snacks in appropriate proportions. I need careful planning. I need foresight. 
{And I can't afford pre-packaged snacks.}
I need baggies.
These 2 inch by 3 inch baggies have revolutionized our snacking.
The portion size is a bit smaller, but there is no wasted space, so the kids feel like they're getting more. (score.) And they work for everything! (again, exaggeration for effect)
This is what's in our snack bin right now--clockwise: almonds, edamame, pumpkin seeds, m & ms, craisins, pretzels.
When I make popcorn bags, I use the sandwich-sized bags.
These snacks are great for the morning schooling break, the after-the-rest-time snack and to grab for snacks on the go. They are a perfect addition to a sandwich or wrap for a lunch to go as well.
And, thankfully, the cost per bag is pennies when you purchase the items in bulk.

small crackers (like goldfish)
dry cereal
beef jerky
animal crackers
any dried fruit
mixed-up snack (mix any of the above to make a trail mix bag)
homemade granola bars
homemade cookies
chocolate chips
rice crispy treats (like these)

And I know you've seen those cute little snack caddies for the fridge on pinterest. Those are great for:
meat sticks
any cut fruit
colored pepper slices
boiled eggs
grape tomatoes

How do you manage the snack attacks in your house?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Pray for Your Husband


We all know we should... We all mean to, but how many of us actually do?
Kaylene over at Faithful Feat took the time to write these prayers for her husband down, and I am so glad she did!
I printed all her prayers out and have them in my prayer journal. I've been praying one a morning for the hubby and they are really great--very scriptural and her insights on what to pray for are quite thought-provoking.
Here are her topics to cover your husband Biblically in prayer:
5. His Faith 
10. His Heart
11. His Hearing 
12. His Eyes
13. His Feet 
17. His Love
18. His Joy
19. His Peace
27. His Honesty 
29. His Trust
39. His Past
Blessings on your prayers for your husbands!

Sunday, September 14, 2014


This week we came to Peace in our study of the fruits of the Spirit.
We have begun to get in a rhythm for our fruits:
Singing the silly and fun song "If You Want to be a Coconut" to learn our fruits of the spirit.
Learning a verse for each one (singing them if possible) Love---1 John 4: 7-8, Joy----Habakkuk 3:18, and Peace---Mathew 5:9.
Talking about how we cannot manufacture these fruits on our own, but they come from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Reaffirming that Spirit-fruit cannot be defeated by circumstances or trials.
Speaking of examples of each and situations in which we might need them in particular.

With peace, I feel the most inadequate as a teacher. I know that they see right through me because when we get off schedule I get anxious and louder and more demanding.
When I have to repeat commands, instead of peacefully offering grace, I get angry right away.
When my needs aren't met immediately, I despair...
and the list could go on and on.

I can only offer them the definitions they came up with themselves---that peace is being close to God, that peace is the opposite of fighting, and that peace is not feeling anxious.

And this--read somewhere--

That in order to deal with conflict we really on have three choices:

1. Overlook the Offense

2. Talk it Out

3. Seek Help

I could tell them that even adults have to follow these rules--this is certainly not a "kids only" kind of problem, and that the hubby and I use these same tools when we have differences.

And I can give them the words from their daddy's favorite hymn:

  1. When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
    When sorrows like sea billows roll;
    Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
    It is well, it is well with my soul.
    • Refrain:
      It is well with my soul,
      It is well, it is well with my soul.
  2. Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
    Let this blest assurance control,
    That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
    And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
  3. My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
    My sin, not in part but the whole,
    Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
    Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
  4. For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
    If Jordan above me shall roll,
    No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
    Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
  5. But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
    The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
    Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
    Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
  6. And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
    The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
    The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
    Even so, it is well with my soul. {copied from here}
  7. We have this gift, freely given, from our Father, and may we use it to our fullest! May we be seen as those who do not know our Father as the peaceful ones. The ones who depend on their Father so heavily that we do not worry in the face of trial or pain. Let us be peaceful people!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Girls' Room

I was just looking back through my posts over the last 6 months and realized that I never posted a picture of the finished girls' room. 
Here's what the room looked like when we thought we were waiting for a baby through domestic adoption:
It was both waiting baby room and guest room and decorated with sailboats. When we found out about our boys, I went into super nesting mode and planned this room to be the girls' room.

(only for the month of August after that it'll be $149.00)

Approximate Total for the Pink and Black and White Room for 1 Girl: 
For my two girls:

The grandmoms joined together to make the dream a reality for Christmas, buying the beds and bedding. The hubby and I made a trip to Ikea for a couple of Expedit shelves for baskets of clothes and a few other little things (the mirror, for one). I LOVE the way the room turned out, and even eight months later, it is serving well!

A few days before Christmas, my mom came into town to exchange gifts. We sent the hubby out with all the kids and did most of the re-do. (All of the furniture from before had been removed and the girls had just been sleeping on blow-up mattresses on the floor, poor things, since we had returned from Uganda a few weeks before!)
My mom and I put up everything and tagged it all so the girls would know who it was from. The part you can't see is the under-the-bed boxes from Ikea that hold all of their toys. This was my mom's idea and it is genius! We did get rid of a lot of things, but their American Girl doll furniture and dolls are all in the closet, and their doll clothes, other dolls, stuffed animals, and food prep toys are all under the beds.
The girls were wowed as they walked through the door. They LOVED it!

The girls' own artwork and a couple of peg boards have since been added to make the room more homey and individualized. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Schooling 2014-2015

We started schooling last week! Week #1 went  well, and the basic plans I came up with in June finally have the details in them.
First of all--our school room had to change a bit to fit in three new students.
One thing that I've wanted for years was a chalk board. We could use one even bigger, but this one does pretty well.
It came from a salvage store nearby and cost an inexpensive $15. Sometimes the oldest uses it to leave little messages for the rest of us. : )
We definitely needed more space at our table, and thankfully, Ikea had the Jokkmokk table and four chairs on sale (for $99.99!) this summer, so I purchased another one of them. 

I ran across the idea of covering school tables with dry erase contact paper, so I purchased some of that from Amazon and covered the two tables with that. I use it all the time and LOVE it.

I bought a some pails from Ikea (I think they were $.75 a piece.) and found an old lazy susan in the garage--this is our centerpiece and craft caddy.

We are using the reading comprehension sheets that I designed for any reading done throughout the year. The two big kids are the only ones using them so far, and they get a prize out of this prize jar if they fill out three sheets a week. They can use any school reading and any outside reading to fill them  out.

We have notebooks! Lots of notebooks! 
Each child has a notebook for
filled with this Fruits of the Spirit curriculum plus some extra coloring pages
Daily Sheets
Just a notebook for the older two and 6yo girl and printed copy work for the other two
This is where we write our "Today is..." sentences. The older two also list everything we're going to do in the day and write a sentence or two using a writing prompt.
We're studying the United States. I used several different sets of states worksheets and coloring pages, systematically printing them off for each kiddo. We're using Kathy Troxel's geography songs for learning the states, and the big kids are also learning capitals and postal abbreviations. Each week we're covering two states--talking about state flags, state birds, etc, exports, when they joined the union and a little bit of history.
I'm roughly following this living history unit from Guest Hollow. I've added lots of activities and coloring pages, but it's nice to have all the reading suggestions. We studied the Seminole Indians last week and this week we're covering the Iroquois. My goal is to make it to George Washington by Christmas. And in the spring I want to visit a friend who lives near D.C. Hooray for homeschooling!
Seminole dancing with handmade head dresses.
We're following the big kids' tutorial with their science, so we're using 
and the notebooks that go with it.

For math we're using Saxon 1 with the two 6yos and Saxon 6/5 for the 8 and 10 yo (soon to be 9 and 11yo!)

I usually do all of the notebook work with everyone, but usually the 3yo leaves the table to go play blocks sometime during history. After the big kids do their math lesson, I send them off with their tutorial homework and their math while I teach the math lesson to the 6yos. The 3yo has been joining us for math. The fact that we use the dry erase table and blocks and stuffed animals and lots of other manipulatives is just too attractive. I love it! 
After math, the 6yos do writing from these fun writing books:
(the boy 6yo is using the one that is just letters right now.)

After writing we eat some lunch and then I do reading with the 6yos individually. It's worked out to make the front porch our reading spot for now. We are using 
The boy 6yo is right at the beginning and loving his "ma, me, mi, mo, mu"s. I've started the reading 6yo with digraphs and it seems to be right where she needed to pick up. The boy is reading the beginning BOB books and the girl is doing some easy reading human body non-fiction reading after she reads a few pages from Phonics Pathways.

That's all there is right now. It's simple, but when you add in soccer for the two 6yos and the older boy, horse back for the oldest, and Wednesday night clubs at church, you get a plenty full and enriching schedule. AND we still have time for afternoon rest.
That makes the teacher happy.