I love family. I love learning. I love food. This is simply a collection of thoughts, memories, and recipes that are a piece of me!

Monday, June 30, 2014

And Then There Were Two.

Our school year has officially kicked off!

After weeks of prep work and cleaning...oh the cleaning...we were finally ready to get started.  But there are a lot of changes for us this year.

First of all, we are so excited that my mom has retired from her years and years of public school teaching to help us out!  She taught kindergarten, first, second, middle school, and high school throughout her career, so she's going to be a very valuable asset for us.  I am beyond thankful for her help because we also added another little cutie to the mix this year.

Ladies and gentlemen, Izzy is a kindergartener!

I cannot believe it.  It simply doesn't seem possible.  I remember starting school with Isaiah feeling like Izzy was this tiny little thing that would be a tiny little thing forever.  Turns out, nope.  Kids grow.  Even when you aren't excited about it.  Even when you really don't want them to.

We started our year off, as we always do, with a fun little breakfast.  This year, I went with store bought muffins and strawberries.  For the last two years, I've had Isaiah hold a sign or stand in front of a sign that said what grade he was in that year, but I decided to do something different this time.  I found candles that corresponded to their grade levels, and I stuck those in the muffins.  I lit them and let the kids make a little wish for their year.  They got really into it, and it will be a fun reminder of what grades they're going into when I look back on these pictures without the stress of making a pretty little sign.

We have switched up so much of what we are doing this year with curriculum changes, and I'm pretty excited about it.  We will have far less worksheets, way more reading from books that bring subjects to life (no textbooks), and we have added hymn study (where we learn and talk about hymns) and our art will be going through the life of Jesus through art projects (I'm pretty excited to share more about that later!).  I can't wait to get into everything with these guys this year, and I hope to post tons of ideas of things that we are doing!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Family Journaling.

You guys, we are starting back to school tomorrow, and I could not be more excited!

I know what you're probably thinking: But...it's June...

You're right, but we have been out since March, and we are all itching to get back into our routine. Plus, we are going to be taking a couple of weeks off in July or August when my mom has back surgery, so it seemed like a good idea to get a head start now so that we don't get behind later.

Anyway, I just wanted to share this idea that we will be incorporating this year.  I love it so much, and the great thing is that you can do this no matter if you homeschool or not.  This is just a wonderful way just for any kid to practice writing, and there are some pretty great benefits for you, too.

I found this on a blog a while back, and I cannot for the life of me find it again or else I'd share the link...

I am a firm believer that I have a much better shot at having a great, open relationship with my kids as teenagers and adults if I have a great, open relationship with them as kids.  I like to make it a habit of listening to what they have to say no matter how mundane because if they think I will listen now, odds are, they will keep talking when they're 16. The frustrating part for me, however, is I rarely get alone time with any one of my kids, so I never really get to share secrets with them or have conversations with them without another kid interrupting.

So this year, we have adopted the idea of family journaling.  Here's how it works: Every evening after the kids go to bed, I will write something to each kid in their own specific journal (Right now, Isaiah is the only one who can read and write, but I will do this for each child eventually.), and then in the morning, that kid will read what I wrote and respond.  It's that simple.  The rule at our house will be that you're only allowed to read or write in your own journals, so it will be a great place for me to share secrets or tell jokes with only one of my kids.

We've actually already been doing this for a couple of weeks, and so far, we really love it.  It only takes a few minutes each day, and it makes my baby boy feel so special and loved.

And it makes me feel pretty good, too.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

I Scream For Ice Cream.

There are two things I grew up loving about summer: swimming and that once or twice a year we got to have homemade ice cream.  My grandma or mom used to ask my grandpa what kind of ice cream he wanted them to make, and he always had the same answer. "Anything as long as it's banana."

So of course, we usually had banana, but I didn't mind because I loved it, too.

Now that I'm all grown up, there are two things I love about summer: swimming and making homemade ice cream.  This summer, I've made far more ice cream that I have in the past, but I think it's because it's so simple.  Plus, it's great because we can make pretty much anything we can think up.  This base is a simple vanilla, but I added Oreos to make cookies and cream or bananas to make banana.  (I'm toying with making peanut butter banana or replacing some of the sugar with brown sugar and adding peach...) The recipe I use as a base has been in my family longer than I have.  My mom actually put it in a recipe box she made in her high school home economics class.  It only has 6 ingredients, so it's a great go-to recipe for us.

I use a counter top electric ice cream maker from Hamilton Beach.  I got it for around $30, and it's totally worth the investment.  (You can get it here!)  It has a canister that is removable that you will freeze for 24 hours or so before you actually start the ice cream, but we leave ours in our freezer so it's always ready to go.  This recipe will fit that ice cream maker (1.5 quarts), but you can easily adapt it for a gallon ice cream maker that uses ice and rock salt.

What you'll need:
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups of sugar
1 1/2 tbsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups heavy cream

What you'll do:
Start with the eggs in a bowl of an electric mixer.  With the whisk attachment, beat the eggs until they are frothy.  This will take a minute or two.

Next, with the mixer running, slowly pour in your sugar.  Let the mixer do its thing for about 5 minutes, and what results is a smooth, thick, creamy pale yellow beautiful thing.

Once you've hit this stage, add in the rest of the ingredients and mix.  In these pictures, I'm just making plain vanilla ice cream, but if I wanted to make something else, I'd add in the extra stuff now.

Refrigerate for a few hours so your mixture is nicely chilled before it goes into the ice cream maker.

During this time, the flavors of anything you add will infuse into the ice cream.

After the base has chilled, put together your ice cream maker and pour in your deliciousness.

See how it's not full?  It needs milk.  I have no idea how much milk I add.  Maybe a cup...?

Turn that sucker on and let it do its thing.

After the machine turns off, it's finished churning, and it needs to be frozen for a few hours to set.

I did learn that when I'm churning the ice cream, the big pieces of extra things, like Oreos, that I added got really broken up, so after I've finished I like to add more just so there's more texture to the final product.

So that's it.  And then you can enjoy the best ice cream ever.

My Job.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about my job as a mom lately, and I've spent most of that time going over again and again why it is we have chosen to homeschool.  I will say that whether you homeschool or not, if you are a parent who loves the Lord, you probably understand the plights of the Christian parent I have been feeling.  There's a never-ending worry constantly running through my mind.  It's a laundry list of things that could go wrong.

I have literally lost sleep thinking about the "what ifs" in my future.  

What if my daughter were promiscuous?

What if my son falls into drugs or alcohol?

What if my kid falls so deeply into sin that I have to dismiss them from my life?

What if my child....is never saved?

I'm not going to lie and say that our choosing to homeschool didn't have anything to do with any of these fears.  It definitely did.  Call it "sheltering" if you'd like, but I was in my mid-twenties before I knew of much of the world's evils, and I'm okay with that.  If I can keep my children from the sex-crazed world until they are older and able to face it with maturity and wisdom, well, then, I'm going to do that.  So I opted to homeschool them because I felt like in doing so, I could dictate their lives.  I must protect them, after all.

But then I had a thought:  What if I'm more afraid that their sin would reflect poorly on me instead of fearing that they wouldn't glorify and know God?  

Before I had kids of my own, I was one of those people who would roll their eyes at the parents of screaming kids wondering what those parents did wrong.  Now, of course, I realize that sometimes what those parents did was say no to a cookie or not let that kid climb out of a moving grocery cart.  Kids cry. Those parents probably didn't punch them in the face to cause that fit.  When I think about it on a logical level, it makes perfect sense that my children are their own person.  They have their own thoughts and ideas and emotions, and I'm not coaxing it out of them. It's natural to their natural being just as much as my thoughts don't come from my mom- they come from my own mind.  But in practice, that's not always so easy to remember.  It feels as though everything they are and do should be a reflection of me, both good and bad.

After all, they are my children.

But they aren't just my children.  They are God's children.  So I began to pray and beg God to help me understand my role.  Not wanting my children to sin isn't a bad thing, but if my motivation was my own pride- the fact that I didn't want people to roll their eyes at my child's fits- then that's not okay.  If it is not to control their entire lives, what exactly is my job?

God answered this question, as He generally does, by pointing me to His word.  Deuteronomy 6:5-9 say this:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

So that's it. That's my job.  I love God with all my heart and all my soul and all my might.  And I teach that to my kids, all day every day and in everything we do.  That is why, for my family (maybe not your's), homeschooling is the best option because I know my children need that far more than they need anything another education could offer. 

They are going to sin and they are going to do things that go against both me and God.  It's in their sinful nature.  My job will be to lead by example and to simply show them in a scriptural way why sin is not ever what is best for them.

The best news in the world as a mom is this:  If my children are to be saved, it's not because of the things I've said or done.  It will be because of God's grace.  Literally nothing I do will change that.  That is such a relief...but I will continue to beg God to save their lost and broken hearts- not because I think it will look good for me as their parent but because them knowing and glorifying God will always be what is best for them.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9

No one may boast.  Not even their momma.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Car Friendly Eats.

I sat down thinking I was going to write a little blog about what sort of snacks work well on road trips, specifically with kids, but then I remembered how we live 40 minutes from a major city and that equals lots of car time even when we aren't technically road-tripping...and these ideas would work for a quick lunch in the minivan, too.

So here's a little blog post about car friendly eats.

One of the things we do to attempt to save a little time and money when we travel is to bring all of our snacks and at least our lunches along for the ride.  This helps to avoid extra long lunch stops, but it also helps ensure we eat less McDonald's. We packed everything up in the back of our van, including an ice chest full of frozen capri suns to serve as our no-mess ice, and it was easily accessible every time we stopped.

I didn't get to snap a picture of all the things we took on our trip a couple of weeks ago, but here's a little list:

Animal crackers
Ritz and peanut butter
Fruit juice gummies
cheese crackers
graham crackers
homemade beef jerky
A roasted turkey breast that was cut up (It seems weird, but it stayed cold in our cooler, and it wasn't messy at all)
And fruit.  Oh all the fruit.  And honestly, it was what nearly everyone ate the entire time.  We had bananas, strawberries, blueberries, grapes, blackberries, and mandarin oranges. I actually put each orange into its own sandwich bag so the kids would have a place to put the peeling.  Plus bonus!  It makes the car smell clean and citrusy!

And these.

"What are these?" you ask?  Well, they are the reason my kids think I'm the best mom ever.

I call them peanut butter and syrup roll ups because I'm super creative like that.  These are quick, simple, delicious, and need no refrigeration, so they made a perfect travel food.  Truthfully, I made these for the kids, but the adults ate way more of them.

What you'll need:
Bread (I used just basic white bread, but you can one-up me and go all wheat.)
Half a cup of peanut butter
Syrup to your own taste...or honey works well, too

What you'll do:

First, mix up your peanut butter and syrup.  I used a few tablespoons because I like it sweet.

Then, be awesome and cut the crust off the bread.

Even as an adult, I don't like the crust.

Next, using a rolling pin, flatten out the pieces of bread until they are as thin as about a flour tortilla.

Once all your bread it flat, spread a thin layer of your peanut butter mixture on top, taking care to leave one edge clean.  When you roll them up, that clean edge will be the outside, and everything will get squished out.  If you don't leave it clean, it'll be a big mess.

Roll them suckers up and munch away.