Friday, May 31, 2013

Homeschool Mothers Journal - Week 52

In my life this week.....

My fibro is kicking my butt this week.  I don't think the weather changes we had this week helped at all.  I am basically living day to day, hour by hour right now, hoping to make to things that I have scheduled.  Every few months, my fibro issues start exhibiting symptoms of lupus.  I was told by a doctor that I would eventually end up with that diagnosis....don't know how that works though.  I missed an important planning meeting on Tuesday for a friend's fundraiser.  And today I could barely walk most of the afternoon.  I managed to get some work done.....What little bit I could, I even managed to get the laundry almost done.

In our homeschool this week...

It's the end of our "school year".  The new year starts June 3rd.  I gave the kids their "grade cards" yesterday and it was the first time they actually looked at what I wrote about their work.  Lydia is excited that she'll be considered a 2nd grader.  Joey will be in 7th grade, Brayden 6th grade, and Caty will be in K1.  Our school district has two kindergarten levels.  If I was putting her in school, I would be requested she go into K1 instead of K2.   Her speech is getting better, but not well enough yet.

The sad thing is that there are not drastic changes being made in school work.  I do have some changes.  I'll blog about curriculum adjustments that have been made this weekend.  Watch for our '2013-2014 School year Choices' post.

This week Lydia worked on reading graphs and practiced more money in math.  Joey is also working on counting and adding money in math.  Brayden is still working on his new Math Mammoth program.    Lydia and Joey both started programs with Moving Beyond the Page (watch for the upcoming review).   Brayden is working on a new program for him, using it for Science right now.  He is liking the program a lot.  Lydia finished her first spelling test this week....and only missed one!!!  She was very proud of her sticker :).

She managed to get a couple state fair projects almost completed.  We really need to work hard on them next week.  I have them planned, she just needs to do the work.

Projects I am working on.....

Cleaning out my art supply closet.....I also want to find the top of the desk that I use.  Basically the entire are that is my office/storage closet needs to have some work done.  Since it is supposed to be nasty and rainy all weekend, guess it will be a good time to work on it.

We need to gut Joe's office area.  All I can say is YUCK!!!

I am supposed to be training for a 5K run in August. Haven't ran this week because of the way I have been feeling.

The kids favorite this week......

I am thinking getting to watch the new pool get installed today.  They actually had all their schoolwork done by 11 am and sat on the back deck to watch the installers.

I'm cooking....

Lots of chicken on the grill.  I worked on a mayo-less coleslaw, still a work in progress.  I made potato dumpling soup, and Brayden LOVED it!!!  I was going to bake a caramel apple cake today, but it didn't happen.  On Monday I baked an allergen friendly pineapple upside down cake.  Joe loves grilled peaches and ice cream, so we made that a couple times this week while grilling.  Yesterday I made Joey homemade onion rings, which he has been asking for.  (That took it out of me...but he loved them).  I may be using the crock pot this weekend to give myself at least a one meal break a

I'm reading.....

I pick this back up....It's great, I just get interrupted so much I give up trying to finish most books.
I would like to finish it before I start the American Girl Study guides for this fall.  Those books have started arriving.

Our week in pictures.....

It was so nice on Saturday and Sunday....we had lots of cookouts on our bigger fire pit.

Hot dogs and hamburgers
Chicken and corn
Joe moved Brayden's trike system onto a bigger bike for him.
Oh yeah....grilled peaches for Joe.
You'll see the Kitten in a lot of pictures this week.  Lydia wanted to hold her all the time while doing her schoolwork.  Nermal fell asleep while Lydia was reading the other day.
One day I told her to practice her spelling words....yeah this is what I found.
Lydia learned about Giotto and Van Eyck this week in art.
Her drawing assignment for Giotto was to draw something she liked or saw everyday.  He was "discovered" while drawing sheep (he was a shepherd).  So she chose this Hello Kitty head that sits on the game shelf by her desk.
She also learned about Van Eyck (We are using the Usborne Book of Famous Artists this summer).
I let her use oil paints for this project.  She worked on the back deck while watching the pool installers.
Her assignment was to draw a picture from her Bible Story book.  Since Van Eyck was known for his religious art.

Caty did really well in her work this week.  This was some of her following direction sheets. (She loves to work on the back we school outside right now :) ... )
 Brayden started using Simple Homeschool this week.  He told me that he really likes it.
I caught him watching Sesame Street in the living room the other day.  He was playing along with the "game show" and laughing.
Notice the kitten again!!  She was working on her money skills.
Caty started Explore the Code online this week.
While Lydia was painting, Caty wanted to also.  So I set her little easel up also.
I love these flowers in our backyard.
We watched the installers put in the new pool that Grandpa ordered.
 And then shortly after the installers left, we had a surprise thunderstorm.  The girls were so excited to play in the rain.
 They were upset when I spotted the lightening and they had to come inside, so they stood at the awning.

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Thursday, May 30, 2013

How we travel with Daddy......

We love traveling around with Daddy.  It's a great break from our life at home.  Trouble is that even when we are traveling, we cannot take a real break from school.  The boys do not transition from lengthy time off back into doing their work very well.  So no matter what, depending on the length of the trip, I always have some sort of Educational activities planned or packed.

First I pack a bag full of word search, drawing books, coloring/activity books, puzzles, and library books for them to do in the hotel.  I also take advantage of having an account and our local library's book on CD lending collection.  We listen to the book on CDs in the van while we are traveling.  In fact, shortly after we leave for each trip now Joey asks when we will be starting the audio book.

I used to overpack their educational activities, and if we are on a 3 week trip....I do have an overpacking issue.  I am always afraid they will want something I didn't pack.  I used to pack two suitcases.  Now I am working on this issue....I had a suggestion from a blogging friend that they only pack a backpack for each child.  So that is my goal from here on out.  I figure one small backpack with their books and favorite pencil/pens.  And then a small backpack for their word search, card games, drawing and activity books should do the trick.  I let them have time off this last trip to Philly, and the small activity bag really helped.

For about 3 weeks (as long as I am given that much time) before we leave I start searching Tourism sites for heavily advertised tourist spots including museums, historical sites, and national parks.  I will start a Pinterest board just for that specific trip.  I mention different locations to the kids to get their reactions.  I then take the list and start reading recommendations on Trip Advisor.  I read about how the employees are, if it's worth the money, and what people have experienced there.
I will actually print out a list then and about 1 week before we leave, I start checking the 10 day weather forecast for the area where we are going.  This helps me to gauge what season or type of clothes to pack, but it also helps me to plan out our activities.  On the list that I printed out I will actually mark a suggested schedule, keeping in mind possible rain days or even days with high wind (which is a major issue for Brayden).

This list obviously changes maybe when we get there depending on how tired we are or weather changes.  I always have definite places that we need to visit.  Then I have a back-up list planned, just in case a site is closed or anything else comes up.  This list usually contains places we would like to go if we were there, but wouldn't totally miss not going to.  If we get to visit that area again, we can then use the secondary sites as our "Primary" visiting sites.

I really try to hit historical places as our main places, such as The Liberty Bell, Independence Hall.  Or when we were in St. Louis, we all wanted to see and go up into the Gateway Arch.  I also think about once in a lifetime opportunities, like riding a ferris wheel on an ocean pier (something Joe and I had never done...).   Since we have been to Philly twice now, we actually worked our way through our primary and secondary choices now.  But we still have a list that we would like to visit someday, and some favorites that we would like to see again even.

I always check for coupons online....before we leave I print off any coupons for discounts for admissions.  The hotels many times have coupons that we use.  Those small discounts add up to anywhere between $5 - $10.00 in admissions.  Another way of saving money we have found is purchasing family memberships.  We have memberships to our local zoo, science museum and art museum.  We have used those in many places to get in free or 1/2 priced admissions to other museums/zoos.  In some cases, it is cheaper to buy a family membership at a location than to buy admissions for everyone in our family.  We have done this before and used the membership a couple times in the same week we were visiting.

Tips to remember:
1.  Even though I plan out details, I still work hard on flexibility.  I remind myself....overtired kids make the experience miserable for everyone!!
2.  Mix the fun in with the "museums".
3.  School field trips generally take place in the morning, so for less crowds shoot for popular museums before 10 am (if they are open) or after 1 pm.  
4.  Remember that school field trips take place on Wednesday and Fridays...for some reason.
5.  Always look for coupons for your admissions, whether online or at your hotel.
6.  Pack snacks and juice boxes, and always have extra clothes packed.  If you are driving around and plan on visiting two spots, you never know what can happen.  I always have a change of clothes for each child and snacks/lunches and juice/water for every kid.  Hungry children make life miserable too:)
7.  I know the saying is: "If moms not happy, then no one is...."  but truly the saying should be "If the kids are not happy....then NO ONE is....."!!  Remember to mix the fun in with the education.  If we go someplace historical, I pack our lunches and get them an ice cream treat on our way back to the hotel.  Or even buy ice cream from the snack bars of where we are visiting.  The kids LOVE that!!!

Hope these tips and Ideas help I am off to start planning our next trip to St. Louis!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Simplified Dinners that are Gluten-free and Dairy-free Review

What's for dinner tonight?  Not that again!!!  That's the conversation around our house several times a week.  I love to cook, and try to plan our meals.  But it's seriously difficult at times with food sensory issues, food obsessions and allergies.  Trying to make one meal for everyone is really difficult. Simplified Pantry has come to my rescue.

It is such a pain/time waster to have to continually re-write recipes because of all my food allergies.  It really like gambling whether or not a recipe is going to turn out if I have to make drastic changes to it.  So I was excited to try Simplified Dinners-Gluten Free Dairy Free cookbook by Mystie Winckler.  I really needed a cookbook that allowed me to provide simple home cooked meals without a lot of extra work.

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Eating allergen friendly is very expensive at times.  So many specialized ingredients, the feeling is overwhelming.  When trying to switch around my cooking style, I remember standing in the grocery store starring at the choices, reading ingredients, and adding up the cost of the items I thought I would need in the cart.  It was mind-boggling.

Another aspect of allergen-friendly cooking is the necessity to do so much from scratch.  Gone are the days of 'pop it in the microwave and 5 minutes later dinner is done'.  With our busy schedule I have really come to dread cooking more and more.  The pure physical exhaustion of keeping up with the family has left me mentally drained to decide what to cook and forget to start dinner.

I was desperately in need of simple recipes without too much fuss and fancy ingredients (that in my area also requires a special trip to a different grocery store).  Simplified Dinners-Gluten Free Dairy Free cookbook has given me a chance to get back to more simple dinners that are super yummy!!!

The idea behind this cookbook is to have simple, healthy and delicious meals that don't break the bank.  Simplified Dinners-Gluten-free Dairy-free definitely has met the criteria there.

Not all the recipes we tried were 100% hits with the family.  The kids didn't like the coconut milk chocolate pudding, but I thought it was good.

A HUGE hit with my husband was the Brunswick Stew Recipe:

It was sooooo easy!!

Cook the chicken......
Dice up the veggies....
 And add them to the soup pot and allow to simmer....
Joe has actually requested this meal again.....and there were no leftovers!!!  Whole meal was on the table in roughly 45 minutes because I used bone-in chicken instead of boneless.  But still there was only about 10 minutes prep work involved.  So SUPER easy!!!

There is a wide array of recipes included in this cookbook that range from breakfast, soups, sandwiches/salads, main courses, side dishes, desserts, and mexican specialty meals ( can still eat Mexican food even if you do not eat dairy or gluten).

Still not sure if this might be a good cookbook for your family, you can download a sample.  You can purchase this wonderful e-book for only $12.99.  It not only includes many recipes, but a whole section on how to plan budget friendly meals.

Our family has enjoyed this addition to our kitchen, and I will continue to try the meals and use their meal planning guide.  It really has been nice, even with so many websites out there, to have so many recipes right at my fingertips.  No extra research required.  I could really plan the entire week out of this cookbook and not use any other resources....actually I could plan several weeks out!!!

You can also get the regular (non-allergen) version of Simplified Dinners if you do not have any food concerns.  It is also available for download for only $12.99.

Several members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew had the opportunity to try not only Simplified Dinners Gluten-free Dairy-Free, but also Simplified Dinners and Paperless Home Organization.  See how these products helped them in their homes by visiting the Schoolhouse Review Crew Blog.


Allergen friendly Pineapple Upside Down Cake

I am allergic to almost everything.....and it has made eating very interesting.  I am allergic to wheat, dairy, eggs, soy, peanuts, almonds, onions, garlic, and MSG.  I feel like I am forgetting something though....oh yeah....corn.  So I was pretty excited about this experiment that turned out completely yummy!!!

Allergen friendly Pineapple Upside Down Cake

2 1/2 cups Jasmine rice flour (I grind my own, you can substitute other rice flours though)
1 cup potato starch
1 cup organic cane sugar plus 1 cup for the pineapple
7 TBS baking powder (and's that much)
2 TBS Organic Apple cider vinegar
1 tsp sea salt
1 can 100% juice pineapple rings (save juice for the cake)
1/2 cup melted coconut oil - extra 1/2 cup melted for the pineapple
1/2 cup all natural applesauce
about 3/4 cup water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Mix all the dry ingredients well.  Add applesauce, coconut oil, reserved pineapple juice and apple cider vinegar.  Mix well.  If batter still seems thick, slowly add 1/4 cup water at a time.  Mixture will be thinner, just like a box cake mix.  I then line a 16 x 9 glass baking dish with baking paper (the kind that is foil on one side and a parchment paper on the other).  I then lay out my can of pineapple rings and sprinkle on the cane sugar and drizzle on the coconut oil.  Slowly add the cake batter to the top of the rings.  Bake for about 30 minutes or until the cake top is golden brown.

After about 5 minutes, carefully flip the cake onto a large dish and remove the parchment paper.  You'll have the above tasty treat!!!   I did sprinkle on some extra cane sugar crystals....the larger kind. They melted down into the "caramel" sauce.  Made it a bit sweeter.  If you don't want it sweeter, then don't add the extra.

***My hubby commented, finally a cake that tastes like a cake!  So this recipe is hubby approved***

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Visiting the 9/11 Memorial National Park

On our way home from Philadelphia this year, we decided to visit the Flight 93 Memorial.  

On Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, the U.S. came under attack when four commercial airliners were hijacked and used to strike targets on the ground. Nearly 3,000 people tragically lost their lives. Because of the actions of the 40 passengers and crew aboard one of the planes, Flight 93, the attack on the U.S. Capitol was thwarted.

This was act was very hard for Joey to understand.  We spent a lot of time trying to prep him and help him to learn the facts.  It was a very eye opening memorial.

Quick and determined actions...
The flight data recorder that was recovered from the crash site revealed that the terrorists had reprogrammed the aircraft's autopilot system for a new destination - Washington, D.C. Recovered evidence and responses to interrogations revealed that the terrorists' intended target was most likely the United States Capitol Building, where the nation's legislators were in session. Flight 93 crashed only 20 minutes flying-time from Washington, D.C.
Because of the quick and determined actions of the passengers and crew, Flight 93 was the only one of the four hijacked aircraft that failed to reach the terrorists' intended target that day. The passengers and crew showed unity, courage, and defiance in the face of adversity.
There is the memorial center where you can leave messages.

 The rock in the field represents where the nose of the plane landed.

You can take a virtual tour of this memorial by visiting the National Parks page.  You can also listen to the same audio tour that we did while visiting.  It's a free app that can be used with any National Park.

This was a very interesting park to visit.  It was eye-opening as you listened and thought about what must have been racing through the passengers minds as it was happening.  Was this a hard decision for them?  What decision would we have made if we would have been put in that situation?