Friday, August 31, 2012

Guess What is in the Fridge

I've been a bit under the weather this week so the schedule and plans have been tossed to the wind. Thankfully the older children were not working this week so they've been a pretty big help during the day and last night Alan took all the kids on the karate run so that I could rest for a bit.  Much needed rest.  So we've been eating leftovers to clean out the fridge, waldorf salad because it is a tad addicting and last night Sean was put in charge of making tator tot casserole for dinner. No, I don't delude myself into thinking that is actually a truly healthy meal but it is a meal that is easy for the kids to make without supervision and it gets everyone fed.  Today Bryan decided to make a carrot cake. From scratch.  With cream cheese frosting. From scratch.  Ok, the kitchen is a bit of a mess right now from small people helping and salt that got spilled all over the floor and the kids being in charge of the cooking most of the week and I'm pretty sure one of the smaller children has already dug their fingers into the frosting on the cake that is hidden in the fridge but wow. I feel rather lucky.  A homemade cake just because.  How cool is that?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Can You Relate?

On Saturday Alan and I went to the farmer's market.  I spent some time wandering checking prices, looking for the most affordable options.  At one stand I found some apple seconds and was able to get a decent deal on a nice amount of them. At another stand I talked to the guy about throwing in the "second quality" peaches he had for free with a large bag of first quality peaches.  Found some cantaloupe for $1 each and a decent sized watermelon for $3.  Decided against buying the "corn that's connected" that Gabe loves so much and plan to buy it next weekend instead.  Mentally pat myself on the back for finding some good deals and managing to stretch the grocery budget.

On Sunday afternoon I walk into the kitchen to find one of my children tossing all of the less than perfect looking fruit away because apparently if it has a bruise or mark or something on it, it must have something wrong with it.  Ignore the urge to throttle said child and explain to him that there is nothing wrong with the food and that he is killing our budget by throwing away perfectly good food.   Sigh.

Give child a chance to redeem themselves on Tuesday by assigning them the task of making cookie bars to take to the park on Wednesday.  Forget that said child likes to go from step 1 to step 4 while cooking and then can never figure out why things don't turn out.  Well, hopefully I have managed to salvage the cookie bars and he'll be scrubbing the baking dish out tomorrow because he failed to grease it again.  Apparently it is more fun to watch a movie in the living room than to stay in the kitchen for the 5 minutes required to get the cookie bars into the oven properly.  And to actually read the entire recipe.  Guess we are back to square one.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Meal Plan

Here is the  best guess for a meal plan this week.  Assuming I do not find something else in the fridge that needs to be used up.

M: cereal (B), sandwiches (L), stroganoff meatballs (D)
T: baked oatmeal (B), corn dog muffins (L), vegetable beef soup (D)
W: eggs (B), sandwiches (L), chicken and broccoli (D)
T: yogurt and granola (B), mac and cheese (L), leftovers or soup (D)
F: muffins (B), sandwiches (L), tuna (D)

I have no clue what I'll do with the tuna but I have about 100 cans of it in the pantry so I must start getting creative.  And about 5 cases (20 lbs per case) of various types of pasta.  Snacks for the week will be granola bars, caramel corn/popcorn, cookies, and fruit.

Something New From the Kitchen

We are trying to get back into the swing of making more things from scratch.  It seems we go in fits and spurts about it sometimes.  We are set on making pizza at home (much cheaper, easier, better tasting), jams, salsa, applesauce, soup, that sort of thing.  But when it comes to bread, yogurt, granola, pancake syrups, tortillas we tend to waver back and forth a bit.  We'd fallen off the make it all from scratch truck for a bit but are coming back around due to the rising prices at the grocery store.  I imagine I will still buy tortillas for a while unless I can get one of the kids to take over making them because it is a time consuming process to make enough for our family.  Super easy and inexpensive process and they taste delicious but time consuming.  Bread I can currently buy for between $1 and $1.50 a loaf for 100% whole wheat bread with no corn syrup in it so it's kind of a wash to make sandwich bread at home when the stuff at home would be white bread most of the time.

However we have been trying to have something special for breakfast on Sunday mornings because, well, Sundays are supposed to be special anyway.  We'd fallen into the trap of picking something up at the store or the farmer's market on Saturday or maybe Alan would get up early and run out for donuts before the kids were awake.  I can still see us doing that on occasion but when you are feeding soon to be 12 people, that gets rather pricey.  Last night I pulled up a new recipe to try and Alan got it going while making the dough for pizza.  This morning we still had our special Sunday breakfast but without the price tag.  Super easy homemade cinnamon rolls.  The work was done the night before and they were baked in the morning.  Our bread machine needs a new pan and I can't justify spending the money on a new pan for it when our stand mixer is still working so these were made in the mixer instead.  Granted, I have no clue what we'll do when the mixer finally dies as it keeps threatening to do but we'll deal with that later.  Anyway, give the recipe a try and enjoy something a little different for breakfast with your crew.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Bible Adventures and Activities

There are a ton of children's bibles and books designed to help your young children understand bible stories on their level.  So why exactly makes the book Bible Adventures and Activities stand out from the crowd?

This book has the typical bible stories written in a child friendly manner.  Each story is covered in just enough depth to give the meaning without being overwhelming.  The stories are also accompanied by colorful attractive pictures.  In this way, the book is pretty much the same as most other children's bible story books I have read with my children.

The big difference is that after the bible stories, Bible Adventures and Activities includes puzzles and activities to review the story.  These activities include mazes, matching activities, word searches, and other fun reviews.  These activities are perfect for a 5-8 year-old child and provide a painless, easy way to reinforce the stories.  They also require no parent prep time (a big plus when you want something that you can just grab and go) and all are covered in the answer key in the back.

If you are looking for a fresh way to expose your children to some of your favorite bible stories, this book will easily fit the bill. 

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Bible Adventures & Activities. The Catholic Company is also a great online store for all your Catholic gift needs, such as baby baptism and christening gifts. You can also find a wide selection of Catholic Bible Studies for both parish groups and individuals, as well as a variety of other Catholic Bible study resources.

The Boys

The boys' last day of working at the village was Friday so we finally got a picture of them before they headed off to work.  They both had a great time this year.  Bryan will also be volunteering for the homeschool camps in September but Sean is planning to attend the camps as a student.  I love having such a fun way to start the school year.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Meal Plan

I'm taking a break from planning lunches because flexibility seems to be needed during the day lately.  And I'm leaving off the weekend since usually someone else is in charge of cooking.

M: waffles (B), chicken soup (D)
T: cereal (B), potato kolaches (D)
W: eggs in toast (B), ranch pork chops (D)
T: oatmeal (B), beef burritos (D)
F: cereal (B), fish (D)

A New Phase in Life

We are truly starting to live in a new phase of parenting it seems. You know that phase where your older children start to have a life outside of their home and family? The oldest child had his first job interview today.  He's been volunteering for 2 summers now about 30 or so hours a week but this was for a job with an actual paycheck.  I will admit that I encouraged him to apply mostly for the experience at interviews and such and not so much because I think he necessarily needs a job right away.  He says he thinks it went ok and he volunteers with someone who works at the farm who will recommend him for the job so we shall see what happens.  Besides, the boy needs to beef up his college fund.

This new step reminds me once again of all the horrible things parents like to say about teenagers.  Which always leaves me wondering how much of the strife between teens and parents is actually caused by the parents and their respective attitudes.  I can recall an adult I know constantly saying that once a child turns 13, they aren't human anymore until they turn 21.  I don't think she ever realized how much of an impact that statement had on the children around her until one day on their 13th birthday, a child asked her if that meant that now she didn't like them anymore. Personally, I'm enjoying watching the kids take these steps.  Sometimes they soar right over them, sometimes they fall on their faces a bit but I'm enjoying watching them figure things out.  Personality conflicts keep cropping up and attitudes needing to be corrected  but overall, it's been not as horrid and evil and people always seem to say.  But then again, perhaps my own perspective is a bit different on purpose.  Who knows.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

You Might Have A Large Family If. . .

We've come to another cross road in the large family world.  I have realized that I have to label underwear when it comes into the house to assure that everyone gets a decent amount.  So you just might have a large family when a laundry marker becomes your new best friend.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Meal Plan

I planned out the weekly meals on Saturday and then realized I was going to have to make a few tweaks due to schedule issues.  Oh well. It's always just a hopeful plan, nothing ever that we are absolutely committed to no matter what.  So here it is with a few changes as I type.

M: cereal (B), sandwiches (L), leftovers (D)
T: yogurt and granola (B), sandwiches (L), tacos (D)
W: waffles (B), at the park (L), spaghetti (D)
T: oatmeal (B), mac and cheese (L), cabbage casserole (D)
F: eggs (B), corn dog muffins (L), pork chops (D)
S: french toast (B), leftovers (L), pizza (D)
S: cranberry bread (B), FFY (L) chicken soup (D)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Stepping Stones to College

I think what is often thought of as the most daunting aspect of homeschooling is preparing your child for college.  If you are beginning to struggle with this issue, stay tuned over the next few weeks for a review on the Stepping Stones to College program.  This program is designed to be a guide to help your student prepare in small chunks during high school to make the proper decision on where to attend college.

Of course, I also feel it is important that I give my opinion on the college preparation process. I do not believe it is that parents' job to make the decision on where the child attends college or even if they attend college. I do not believe it is the parents' job to look for scholarships and navigate financial aid for the student.  I do not believe it is the parents' job to supervise the application process.  I firmly believe that if you are old enough to entertain the idea of attending college, you are old enough to do all of that yourself.  I do understand that as a homeschooling parent I am responsible for putting together a transcript and submitting a few forms.  I will be available to answer questions if asked. But I will not dictate the process.  I am not the one spending 4 years in this institution.  I am not the one paying for it.  I am not the one trying to map out what is right for my life.  If a student is not mature enough to handle the college application process on their own, how in the heck can they be mature enough to succeed at college? If they can't file financial aide paperwork, how can they be expected to pay their own bills?  Yes, I do even believe that from the time a person has their first job, they should file their own taxes and NOT have mom or dad do it for them.

So with that in mind, my review will be based on how well the Stepping Stones to College program prepares the student to tackle the college question.  I will not focus on how it prepares or helps parents because in my opinion parents are way too stinking involved in what should be a decision made by the student. I find this especially to be true of homeschooling parents. They seem to have a very hard time cutting the cord, so to speak, and letting go enough to successfully launch their children into adulthood.  I say let them go earlier when you are still available to help pick them up.  Don't wait until after college or graduate school or when they turn 30 to push them out the door to make their own decisions.  A little guided help while expecting independent thinking in high school and early college years is a much better investment in  your child.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Catholics Next Door

I recently had a chance to read the book The Catholics Next Door by Greg and Jennifer Willits.  This book is an often humorous and always honest look into the lives of one fairly normal everyday Catholic family.

The Catholics Next Door is written in what I found to be a conversational style.  Some parts are written by Jennifer and some by Greg.  Each section is labeled to tell you exactly who is speaking to you but I will admit that because they switched back and forth so often, it was a tad distracting.  I love the idea of hearing the perspective of both spouses but do wish that they had chosen to allow each spouse to speak for a longer period of time.  Changing voices every few paragraphs was at times a bit annoying.

I loved seeing the reality of another family struggling to simply do the best they can to live out their faith in a culture that is openly hostile to anyone attempting to do so.  While we may not share all of the same experiences, I found that I could often relate to the issues the family was facing.  The honesty shown as they grew in their faith and were challenged to move beyond what they had found so comfortable for so long was refreshing.  I much prefer hearing from people who admit that living their beliefs is a bigger challenge and struggle than they wanted than always being given a candy coated version of things.  In other words, this couple admits that doing everything they have been called to do as Catholics is not always sunshine and rainbows.  That kind of honesty brings a smile to my face.

This is the perfect book to tuck into your bag to read while waiting for the kids to get out of classes or running errands.  It gives you things to think about but is not so heavy handed that you need a long stretch of time to sit down and read it.  I hope you'll add The Catholics Next Door to your end of summer reading list.  It just might give you a bit of food for thought on how you are choosing to live out your own calling as a Catholic family.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on The Catholics Next Door. The Catholic Company is also a great online store for all your Catholic gift needs, such as baby baptism and christening gifts. You can also find a wide selection of Catholic Bible Studies for both parish groups and individuals, as well as a variety of other Catholic Bible study resources.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Granola Bars

I am a fan of all things chocolate and peanut butter in general so when I was searching for a few new snack recipes to try this week, I decided these granola bars had to be made.  Judging from the chocolate on folks faces downstairs, the kids love them.  Personally, I love the taste but they are a tad crumbly and lacking in oats.  I love that they aren't as sweet as the recipe we normally use for granola bars.  Even so, I think they could do with a few less chocolate chips.  So I'm giving you two versions of the snack. The original one I found and a version with the tweaks I plan to make next time I make it.  Let me know if your family likes them.

1/2 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup honey
1 egg
2 TBS oil
1 tps vanilla
3 1/2 cups oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup chocolate chips

Stir together all of the wet ingredients until smooth.  Add in the dry ingredients.  PRESS into a 9 by 13 pan (this step helps keep them together so press hard) and bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes.

Now the version with the changes.
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup honey
1 egg
2 TBS oil
1 tsp honey
1 egg
4 1/2 cups oats
1 cup flour (or flax meal or something similar)
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Stir and bake as above.

I've also found with granola bars, it helps to prevent the crumbly issue if you get out a piece of wax paper, cover the bars with it as soon as you pull them from the oven, then using oven mits, press down on the bars again.  I didn't do this step today since I was taking Bryan for a costume fitting and had Sean pull them from the oven but even so these were more crumbly than usual.

Home Depot Saturdays

Five of the kids ventured to Home Depot with me on Saturday.  The project this month was making a bulletin board.  It looked like a fairly easy project so I felt safe taking Robert.
Turns out it was a super easy project.  Katie and Liam needed no help at all on their projects.  Abby and Gabe simply needed me to make sure they had pieces lined up properly and used the right nails at the right time.  Robert only needed help getting the nails started.  Amazingly easy.  Then Robert coated his liberally with lilac colored paint.  Took the darn thing at least an hour to dry (after I'd helped him removed the extra paint).  Yes, I came home covered in paint but such is life.

When we got home, the kids hung their boards up right away.  I'm rather pleased with how easy and USEFUL this project was for the kids.  Next month they are supposed to make mini football goals.  I don't think Robert will be going along for that one unless by some miracle Alan is home to help.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Meal Plan

Here's the hopeful plan at the moment:

M: eggs and sausage (B), tuna melts (L), garlic honey chicken (D)
T: baked oatmeal (B), pbj (L), chicken, broccoli and rice (D)
W: yogurt and granola (B), at the park (L), beef burritos (D)
T: eggs and potatoes (B), leftovers (L), spaghetti (D)
F: cereal (B), crockpot mac and cheese (L), BBQ beef sandwiches (D)

I'm not planning for the weekend right now because I am lacking ideas and the meal plan often gets tossed out the window on weekends anyway.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Hair Cuts

I'm sure many of you are already aware, but this is just a reminder that JCPenney is offering free haircuts to students this month.  I believe it is kids in K-6.  I took Katie and Abby in this morning just because they never get to have their hair cut by anyone other than me.  Katie had never had it done by anyone else so she was thrilled.  It was super fast, they were very friendly and even had toys to give to the kids when they were done (those cheap dollar store trinket junk type things).  I may take Liam next week since Ellie pulled the hair cutter off the table while Alan was using it and broke it.  The other boys had all been done recently but Liam is looking a tad shaggy.  Anyway, call this week and make an appointment.