Category Archives: Crafty stuff

Reformation Day! (Free Printable Coloring Book: Ages 2-5)

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Reformation Day! (Free Printable Coloring Book: Ages 2-5)

As Halloween sneaks up on us, my blogosphere and facebook are erupting with different takes on how families are choosing to meet this Holiday. Some are abstaining entirely. Some are “taking it back” and some are saying: “It is just harmless fun, we just skip the scary costumes.”
Here is a peek into our home; we don’t really celebrate Halloween, we are in a culture saturated by it, and so our children are exposed to it, but not intentionally. My personal take on Halloween is that it is a holiday that glorifies death, sin, and gore, and no matter of cute costumes can take that away. I’m not a fan of it, and our children do not trick or treat.
When it comes down to it, my 7 year old stated our thinking well:
“for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7, ESV)
I LOVE that her response to things that scared her, and gave her pause was to quote scripture. I know that we will be looking into the context of that verse, because as great as that little soundbyte is, the verses surrounding it are rich with wisdom and truth as well.
We choose to respond to our culture’s celebration of death and sin with love and self control. I don’t think it is about one or more things we do to abstain from Halloween, so much as it is how we react to it internally. Do we respond with the power of truth, with Christ’s love, and do we use self control?  Halloween is a time where we have an ability to share the gospel more often, and to be a witness with each person who asks the children:
“What will you wear for trick or treat?”
The way we often are able to do that is usually more than a bit amusing as well. I have to admit that watching my children learn to speak of their faith is a sweet experience that has all the more ability to catch folks off guard by the earnestness and sincerity of how they speak.
Take the dentist’s office on Monday:
Hygienist: So, what are you wearing for your costume for Halloween?
Emma: Oh I don’t wear a costume for Halloween. I get to be a Princess every DAY!
Hygienist: (confused) Oh, you don’t celebrate Halloween? I’m sorry…
Emma: No, we don’t celebrate Halloween, we celebrate REFORMATION DAY! And we have a FEAST! And we talk about Marfin Lufer. *giggles*

This usually leads into a discussion from all of the children on who “Marfin Lufer” is and why the Reformation was important, with the adult looking on curiously. If the opportunity arises, it can become a really interesting way to spread the gospel. If the person is a christian, it can become a thought provoking discussion. This is one of those cases where we are “ready with an answer” and we let the Holy Spirit do the rest.

So, however you choose to celebrate this controversial holiday, this post will serve to introduce you (or your littles, more accurately!) to another Holiday, one that is entirely overshadowed by Halloween.

Reformation Day!
A bunch of ladies on facebook were having a discussion one day, and we all lamented the lack of material for littles (2-5 years old) to educate them on Reformation Day. So, being the DIY homeschooler that I am, I got to work making material!
But, being the impetuous impulsive seat of the pants woman that I am, I gave myself only a few days to do it, in between diaper changes, nursing sessions, meal prep and clean up, and a really awful cut from the food processor. (it fought back, and I lost.) Making this group of coloring pages and the corresponding read aloud text for Mamas was a fun experience for me.  I didn’t get to make as many pages as I would have liked. Nor did I have the option to make it quite in the form I’d hoped. I am hoping it can still be useful!
Without further ado:
The FREE Printable History of Martin Luther and Reformation Day Coloring Pages for 2-5 year olds!
(Don’t mind the unwieldy title…)
MARFINLUFERClick to Download and Print (in chronological order):
Martin Luther Learns Page 1
Martin Luther And His Horse Page 2
Martin Luther Becomes a Monk Page 3
Martin studies the Bible Page 4  
God’s Plan Page 5
Man counting money Page 6
Nailing ThesesPage 7
To the Glory of God The End Page 8

Feel free to let me know if this content was useful for you!

Happy Reformation Day!

Cooking adventures- The Baby Edition!

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Cooking adventures- The Baby Edition!

With my little one at 7 months, and finally interested in food and eating, also, enjoying a bit of time in the height chair from time to time, I decided to get adventurous. This is the first baby I’ve seriously made my own baby food for, other than a try here and there. It is much easier than I thought, not to mention a sight healthier! We did delay introducing him to solids, since he was doing just fine, and quite interested in breast feeding alone up to 6 months. It is only in the past week or so that he’s begun reaching for our food.

So I tried a new recipe today: Teething biscuits!  It is easy, cheap, and without all of the preservatives in the ones you buy at the store.

I got the original recipe here: As you can see, I have modified it a bit to suit the ingredients in my kitchen.

Teething Biscuit Recipes – Eggless Baby Cereal Cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup flour
1 cup dry infant rice cereal/multi grain cereal
3 tablespoons cooking oil (I used olive oil)
Pureed fruit
ice water

Directions:
Preheat oven 425F
Mix flour and cereal.
Gradually stir in oil. Mix ice water and pureed fruit together, making roughly 1 cup of mixture. (1 part fruit 3 parts water.)
Then mix in ice water/pureed fruit mixture, a little at a time (start with 1/4 cup) until dough begins to form a ball and pull away from the bowl. You may need extra ice water on hand in case more than 1 cup is needed to get the right consistency.
Put dough into cookie press, and squeeze shapes onto cookie sheet.
Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet 8-10 min. or until lightly brown. Cool completely.
(alternate: Roll out onto floured surface, cutting into desired shapes. Bake 10-12 minutes for thicker shapes.)

Store in an airtight container.

Enjoy!

Is Canning Cost Effective?

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2 years ago I was terrified to do canning. I thought it would be expensive, difficult, and that it would not be something I could do with 3 children under the age of 5 in tow. I managed.  But was it expensive? Is it cost effective? The answer is: no. Not conventionally, but my husband has a knack of making ANYTHING cost effective! Here are some of the ways we’ve made canning cost effective in our home:

  1. Never Buy Full Price.  First rule of all penny pinchers! We found a variety of ways to do this:
    Buy in bulk. Grocery stores are not the place to buy your produce, if you want to be cost effective. We buy ours at the produce auction, in bulk. (Last haul was $35 for 200lbs of produce, mostly peaches, nectarines, with some tomatoes, and green beans thrown in.)
    Work hard. Growing your own produce is another way to cut costs. Also, swap with friends, family, or neighbors. I cannot begin to count how many times we got free plants, or swapped produce with someone who had a prolific tomato plant. My husband has an arrangement with his Brother. Allen’s brother and his wife have 2 apple trees. They don’t want to harvest the whole lot every year. So Allen picks the apples, his brother’s wife picks out the ones she wants, and Allen brings the rest home. Didn’t cost a cent, but it did cost some work. The apples pictured are only SOME of what he brought home. I’d already made roughly 12 pints of apple butter and apple sauce.
    Shop around. Don’t just go to Wal Mart to get your canning supplies. Allen found out the Dollar General near our home was cheaper. This way we saved on gas AND canning supplies. Double win! Remember that your jars and rings are reusable. The first year might seem like quite an expense, but every year after, all you really need to buy are the lids, and those run $2-$3 for 12.
    Buy used. Allen found me two water bath canners for a song at an auction. Yes, they were used, but who cares? Its only water. Be careful though about buying used jars. Check for nicks, scratches, and imperfections in the glass, it could end up costing you in produce later, if the jar bursts in the canning bath.
  2. Skip the gadgets, doo dads, and tools. All you really need are the jars, the water bath canner,
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    Apple Peeler, Corer, Slicer

    rack, a jar lifter, a knife/peeler and a few bowls and pots for cooking. In my experience the gadgets don’t ever work as well as you think they do, or process as fast as you think they will. They’re fun the first couple of gos, or can be good when your hands need a little bit of a break, but nothing can replace a knowledgeable person on the business end of a knife. It is faster for me to core, peel, and slice apples myself than to use this gadget. (pictured)

  3. Be humble. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people up their calculation of the “cost” of canning by factoring in time spent. How much is your time worth? My time is worth whatever I want it to be worth, and it is worth it to me to have low sugar preservative free foods for my children to eat.
  4. Consider your habits. Do you only eat canned veggies? Or canned tomatoes? Those are cheap at the store, and so it might not be a better option to can them yourself, if that is all your family eats. But there is the other group of items to consider, do you eat a lot of pie filling? Canned fruit? Pickled items? Jams and Jellies? It may be more worth your while to can if your pantry is usually full of these more expensive items.
  5. Limit your expensive ingredients. It does not cost much to buy the produce, if you are careful about where, when, and how you buy/get it. But you can spend a lot on things like pectin or sugar. Try to make sugar free applesauce with apples, Don’t do a ton of Apple Butter or Pie Filling, if the cost will be prohibitive. Also, buy bottled lemon juice. It goes farther than the lemons themselves, and makes for a more stable acidity content. You know what you’re getting, and it costs less.
  6. Do big batches. It takes a LOT of energy to heat up the water bath canner. Try to manage your canning so that electric and energy is not wasted.

I’ll be honest, canning isn’t all roses and Unicorns. Some downsides of canning:

  1. You’ll have no life. It really takes up a lot of time and energy to can. I spend most of that time on the couch, peeling apples, peaches, or whatever else. Helps me not to be bored, plus it is nice time with my kids, watching their favorite Disney movies together.
  2. Your house will be a wreck. Canning is messy. It makes a lot of dishes, and you have no time to do much more than take a few minutes to swish some clorox in the toilet, tidy the house a bit, and hope nobody comes over to see you, in your sweatpants, hair slapped back in a hair tie, and covered in apple sauce.
  3. You don’t come out unscathed. Nicks, burns, and blisters, Oh My! If you are like me, you’ll sustain an injury, or eight.
  4. Your muscles will be angry… Believe it or not, canning requires massive amounts of fine motor skills, and large motor skills. You’ll have achy muscles from head to toe, despite the fact that most of your canning hours will have been spent on your bum, peeling stuff.
  5. Your house will be a myriad of smells. From fabulous (Apple Pie Filling!) To dreadful (Apple pie filling mixed with pickled jalepenos? Ew.)

Canning is mostly a lot of hard work. So the question is, is it worth the work involved? If not, then it will never be any kind of effective, cost or otherwise. It takes a lot of time and effort to peel, cook, clean dishes, etc. If you are up for all the elbow grease required, then happy canning!

Why “Oh, Let Them Play, They’re Only Children!” Shortchanges Our Kids: Part 1

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Heavy statement, I know. But when we say “Oh, just let them play, they’re only children!” we do our children a disservice.
Disclaimer: I am FAR from perfect on this issue myself. This is just as much a Series aimed at me, as it is to anyone. This does not mean I’m opposed to play either, just that I’m opposed to play without a purpose, or play without discernment.

So why do I think this? Let’s unpack this statement.

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The girls playing “Hair Salon”

Firstly, as an Early Childhood major, I’ve read a LOT of expert opinions on play. “Play is the child’s work” is the prevailing opinion in the early childhood world. I’ve studied all sorts of things, mostly stating that play is something we ought not to limit, guide, or contain. But that we should feed children’s ability to play by listening, repeating back, and providing materials, encouragement, or opportunity.
This is built upon the idea of a “blank slate.” That every child is born perfect, and only sullied by their environment. This presupposition leads us to let the child direct the play, and follow along, allowing their pure spirit to teach themselves. We are only there to facilitate experimentation. Any kind of negative response is only limiting them, and any wrongdoing on their part is because we are deficient as teachers, parents, adults. I used to believe this wholeheartedly, and constantly found myself puzzled because I was doing everything right, so WHY did the children in my care persist in doing wrong? I felt like such a failure, and I ran out of tools quickly. I just couldn’t keep a perfect enough environment to produce a perfect child. It took a long time for me to say: “This isn’t right.”

Why? I knew scripture says this:
Psalm 51:5 ESV “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”
Romans 3:23 ESV “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”
Romans 5:12 ESV “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—”

We are born with a sin nature. Children are born with sin in their hearts. As Proverbs says: “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child.” We need to avoid this child led form of play because it is giving free reign to the natural sin in their hearts, without turning them from it.

Adam and Eve aren't the only folks who enjoy a good fruit!

Adam and Eve aren’t the only folks who enjoy a good fruit!

This is why I think that allowing them to play without a purpose, without guidance, and without goals isn’t the best we can give them. We teach them to make their own rules, morals, goals, and outcomes. Under it all, we’re telling them that to trust, obey, submit, and to learn from others mistakes is wrong, that experience is king and the source of true wisdom, and to disregard rules is right and good. The underlying truth we communicate frequently is that nobody really loves you enough to want what is best for you. Selfishness is the only way to survive, and thrive. We teach them to “follow your heart” “Do what is best for YOU” and to “get rid of anything or anyone that doesn’t serve YOU.”
I think that after 2 generations of this approach to child rearing we are seeing a society that is making its own laws, its own morals, and disregarding authority, except the individual authority of man. And I don’t think it is too much of a leap to say that a lot of our gleeful declarations of “Don’t be afraid to break ALL the rules!” in nursery school are now finding purchase in the hearts of young people, who “call evil, good, and good, evil.”
“But studies show…!”
“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human traditi
cutefilleron, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” Colossians 2:8
As Christians, our authority isn’t the philosophy of fallible men, but God’s wisdom. Proverbs says the beginning of wisdom is the Fear of the Lord. Paul says that “ALL scripture is profitable for reproof and instruction in righteousness.” We know where to go if we need to know what to teach our children, and how to raise them.
I always have to bite my tongue when someone says: “Too bad they don’t come with an instruction manual!” Oh but they do! In God’s Word! Who better to look to on how to raise, train, and teach them, then their creator?

(Want to know where I’m going with this? Check out Part 2)

How to: Plan An Inexpensive Vacation and Day Trip

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My husband isn’t big onimages vacation. So not big that he has racked up days and days and days and DAYS of vacation and sick time. It is amazing how much time he has. But, being the man he is, and the man I love,we end up doing a lot of “staycations” with a day trip or two thrown in. We try to keep them as expense free as possible, but every now and then we splurge on a really awesome opportunity for learning, like a day in Philly, or, eventually, a day trip to NYC.  Our day trip this year is *fanfare please* 4th of July in Gettysburg! This will be our *entire* summer vacation budget all for this one day trip, because it is so special!
When I was a teenager, I used to think I lived in the most boring state ever.  (Why couldn’t we live in say… South Dakota? Where Laura Ingalls lived? HER life was exciting!) As a homeschooling Mom, I am glad we live in a history rich state that has MANY ways and places that my children can touch history for relatively little expense. Gettysburg is one of them. I am thrilled to pieces to go see the biggest re-enactment yet for the 150th anniversary of this turning point battle.

But, we have a budget. And a tight one at that. For the entire day, for our family of 6, we have to spend less than $150. Now I know that sounds like a lot on first blush, but we’ve reduced the costs by:

  1. Avoiding an overnight stay (Could easily cost us over $100-200 per night during this high traffic week.)
  2. Making our own food. (Could cost us more than $15-$30 per family meal eaten at a restaurant, or on the grounds. That is a total of $60-$90 or more for food in one day alone. Not counting drinks or snacks.)
  3. Driving our own van (we considered going with Vision Forum, but it would cost $65 per adult, including Gettysburg tickets, but we would still have to meet the bus in Harrisburg, which would cost us roughly $40 in fuel round trip. The total for that is roughly $190.)

This is a day trip that will *be* the highlight of a “staycation.” When you consider the costs of a vacation for a family of 6 for a whole week, or even a not so DIY version of just this day trip, this is a steal! We also “reduce” costs by NOT using our family budget to pay for this. How do we do that? I have a few jobs on the side (Lilla Rose, House Cleaning, and Rental Property Management.) While we plan for a trip like this, we stow away a little bit of money with each earning, and save it up until we meet our budget goals. Not all of it though, some of it gets saved or used for other needs, and 10% must go to tithe.

Here is a break down of how we will meet our budget:

Fuel: The trip to and from Gettysburg is roughly 232 miles. Our minivan gets a respectable 18-20 highway. So we’re looking at roughly $45-$50 in fuel.
Tickets: Tickets to Gettysburg re-enactments cost $35 per person, per day. Children 6 and under are free. So tickets will cost $70.

Food: This leaves us with $30 for food  and drinks for 6 for an entire day. Breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack/dessert.
How can we get that much food for that little money? Impossible on the grounds, but they do allow you to keep things in your car. Food, drinks, etc. So we’re planning on packing!

Drinks: We are packing a cooler full of home made gatorade. For 5 gallons, that is roughly $3. ($1.50 for the sugar, and a little over a $1.00 for flavor packets. The rest pays for the salt and filtered water.) Also packing full water bottles.
Total: $3.00
Snacks: I am baking a boatload of things. Baking bread costs me roughly $2.0o a batch. This yields 3 large loaves.  I will be using $3.00 worth of flour and sugar, free frozen organic apples, and $1.00 worth of blueberries to bake muffins, scones, and possibly an apple crisp type deal. Add in $2.00 for butter, eggs, and milk.
Total: $6.00
Main meals: I will probably bring along a jar of jelly, and a jar of Peanut Butter. That will be roughly $3. Combined with one loaf of the bread, that’ll be lunch.  Supper might be a loaf of the bread with $5 in lunchmeat and cheese. Breakfast will be a portion of the snacks.
Total: $8.00
Incidentals: Fresh organic veggies to munch on, green beans, peas, cherry tomatoes, all free and fresh from our backyard garden! Same goes for some strawberries. Apples, and some other munchies, like bananas and other fruits to munch on, will probably come to $3.
Total: $3.00faq3

Unless we feel the need to do anything else for food, which I can always bake or harvest more, it will cost us a total of $20.00 for food. That leaves us with $10.00 in our pocket in case of minor emergencies, or for price fluctuation. Not bad for a daytrip for a family of 6. It would cost us so much more to go on vacation for a week. This is the perfect “staycation” finale!

Happy 4th of July!

10 Secrets of Being a Homeschooling SAHM

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It is easy to become discouraged by outside influences, as someone who has chosen to stay home, and raise my children. Like when I bump into people from high school who say things like “And what do you… ahem… DO?” Then being faced with an incredulous look when you cheerfully reply with: “I’m a Stay At Home Mom. I homeschool my 4 kids.”
The funny thing is, that given the same question even a year ago,and the response answer then:
“I teach Kindergarten at a local Christian school. They even allow me to bring all of my children along!”
Their response was somehow more positive: “Oh! That’s so great! I always knew you’d be a teacher!” As if teaching Kindergarten was any different than teaching my own children. (Hint: It isn’t, really, just one is more challenging, and fulfilling. Guess which one.)
Yes, I am a Stay At Home Mom, with all of the privileges and challenges that engenders, but I am also a teacher, and, as the cliche goes, a personal assistant, nurse, vet, head gardener, home manager, financial adviser, personal chauffeur, chef,art teacher, maid, stylist, manicurist, janitor, home handy-woman, guidance counselor, music teacher, nutritionist etc.  What I do IS my occupation. I AM a Stay At Home Mom. And I get promoted every time one of my children moves up a grade, achieves something new, or when I have a new baby. Each promotion is precious and unique, and with it brings a bevy of new responsibilities and tasks. I am paid in far more than kisses and hugs. I am paid in unique blessings that come every day in the form of surprises and newly met expectations. Each day has its own secrets, but some carry over from day to day, month to month, and hopefully, I will find, from year to year. Here are the ten I could whittle myself down to:

  1. Money isn’t everything. Yes, people have often said “It is impossible to have a one income home these days! Families simply MUST have both parents working!” No, no they don’t. And before someone speaks of my privilege and luxury, I have news for you, our family of 6 all live on my husband’s low paying day labor job at a local warehouse that carries an hourly wage.  He isn’t a manager, or even a supervisor. Yes, we have enough to eat, a home to live in, and a car to drive, one for me and one for him.  The key to this delicate financial balancing act? Nothing more than a can do attitude and a bit of elbow grease, oh yeah, and we’re kind of allergic to debt. We don’t do student loans, car payments, cell phones, or cable. We aren’t bored either. We save on food by gardening in the summer, freezing for the winter, and a LOT of from scratch home cookin’. Keeps us busy AND well fed! We also maintain a second home which we rent out for a little income. This was the product of yet MORE hard work, and it is my job to do the “property” management on this little gem.
  2. Being a Stay At Home Mom IS a full time job, a career path. Just like any other career, I am “promoted” (My latest promotion, Isaiah, was 3 months ago, and he is just learning to sit up!) And just like any other career, I am constantly honing my skills. It takes a lot of ingenuity and hard work to manage laundry for 6 people, in 3 bedrooms, with no closets. It also takes some more ingenuity to work within our limited budget, yet maintain a comfortable standard of living, and furthermore, to contribute what we should to others in need. What requires the most learning and skill development though, is school. I am constantly brushing up on my history, math, teaching phonics, etc. My oldest is going into second grade this year, and it challenges me daily to keep up with her reading progress. No, I am not required by law to take Act 38 credits, but I am required by me, to constantly learn more to better serve my students.
  3. I am paid. As per the Proverbs 31 model, I am a woman of many pursuits. Yes my children pay me in kisses, hugs, compliments, and unique drawings, and my husband pays me in praise and encouragement. Yet, I am also paid a monetary sum. I have my fingers and toes in a variety of money earning ventures. All that I can do while caring for my children, and putting the priority of my “day job” first. My home is my most important job, and part of maintaining that is earning a little here and there to pay for our trips to the museum, our forays into semi gourmet cooking experiments, and other fun activities and surprise needs.
  4. I am fulfilled. This is my dream job, and the only assault on my contentment and fulfillment are people who assume I should be doing something more, and tell me so with all of the smug condescension of royalty. Please, educate yourselves. I am doing what any teacher does in their classroom, what any daycare worker does in theirs. Add to that an intensity that comes with proximity to your students, and then I do what other professions cover as well. This IS my job. I am happy doing it, and I can’t imagine anything else. There was a point in my life where I pursued this exact same career path outside my home (worked in daycare, then a school.) but I found that no matter how hard I worked, how passionate I was, I just couldn’t compete with parents for the impact they had on their child’s life. So I realized my true calling was to become a “career” Mom.
  5. I have impact outside of my home. I know, the majority of my work is physically inside my home. The most inane argument against becoming a Stay At Home Mom I’ve ever heard is “But you won’t impact SOCIETY.” Really? Yes I will. I’m raising children to become a powerful force for good IN our society. I’m teaching them concepts that include civic duties, how worldviews affect our actions, how to care for the poor, the importance of volunteerism, loving others as yourself, and the beauty in our revolutionary founding Father’s ideas for government and society. I’m teaching them to help others, teach others, guide them, and educate them. I’m teaching them how to properly care for and manage resources, and how to avoid the rampant consumerism that impacts later generations. I’m teaching them to live in such a way that considers their neighbor, and treats others as they would wish to be treated, to honor God, and to love their neighbor.
  6. My kids aren’t weird misfits. At least, not any more than yours are. All children are awkward at this age, socially or not. Why? They are all still learning. Also, my kids, by having a strong home and family life, avoid the culture of bullying, exclusion, and peer pressure that other children encounter in a peer charged school environment. Our culture may accept, tolerate, or even glorify these habits in teenagers, thinking it makes them stronger, but since when have you heard the bullied child say: “I’m glad those kids in my school tormented me daily, it made me that much stronger.” Rarely does this kind of social dysfunction end well. My kids interact with people in a variety of age ranges, they know how to introduce themselves, converse intelligently, learn from someone older than them, and how to put the ipad away and focus on the people in the room. That doesn’t make them perfect, or even experts at socializing. It just means they now value the same things I do, and are socialized by a broader spectrum. Socialization isn’t by definition a peer led process, it is simply a process where a person learns their cultural expectations. Well, my kids know them just as well as other kids do, just my expectations differ a little.
  7. Being a Stay At Home Mom takes guts. Be prepared to receive a variety of challenges and statements regarding your choice to be a Stay At Home Mom. Anything from you are ruining your kids lives by confining them to home, to ruining yours. It takes guts to stand up to the social bullies at the grocery store.
  8. Being a Stay At Home Mom has supporters. From the lady at the post office, to the kind woman we met in the library, be prepared to have people encourage you too. Take those nuggets of gold, and tuck them away, you’ll need them later, like when Junior makes a mess with the baby powder and vaseline in the bathroom. It is then you’ll be saying “Thank God for Mrs. Weiss. She said I’m doing a good job. A good job, yes a good job…”
  9. Being Creative is your secret weapon. One time I saw a really cool recipe for making your own soda. Knowing I wanted a healthy option for my children, but unwilling, and unable, to shell out the big bucks for a storebought version. I went ahead and made the recipe. 10 days of fermenting later, we tried it… 
  10. A sense of humor is invaluable. And that home made soda was terrible. We were able to laugh over this misstep and swear off of it forevermore. Not every day is easy, not every day is hard, but every single day has SOMETHING we can laugh at, enjoy, and be thankful for.

How to: Survive a Dreary Day!

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Yesterday was Emma’s Birthday Party. Our gorgeous blue eyed whirlwind had a fabulous time celebrating with family and friends:

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   Emma, at 4 years old, possibly an older three?

 

 

 

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Emma’s 5th birthday party!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This morning, as we woke up in a post birthday party haze, everyone was excited about the presents Emma received yesterday, and they wasted no time going downstairs in a flurry of excitement. But… there was one problem! Upon looking over one of Emma’s new gifts, and ripping open the packaging, the girls noted something was missing…

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“MOM!!! We need a kitchen!”

And thusly, today’s dreary day activity was born by the seat of my pants. We found some materials around the house, a little paint, some brushes, and some boxes:

 

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And of course, we got out Mommy’s sparkly letter tool box…

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So we began to paint…

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But we did take a break!

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And then got back to business… painting, and drawing out our plans on the cardboard!

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Whoops! Somebody got ahold of the camera!

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And once it was all finished: Refrigerator, Microwave, Stove, Oven, Sink, They played with it!

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Yup, and we got ahold of the camera again! But at least she “Loves You!”

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The fruits of our labor!

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And that, is how you survive a dreary day!

Curriculum hunting

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Emma (4) and Sarah (6) at the kids Creation Seminar run by Answers in Genesis.

Homeschooling appeals to me for many reasons, but one of my favorite things about homeschooling is that it is FLEXIBLE! I love that one day we can do back to back doctor appointments, and another we can stay home and learn there. My children’s learning doesn’t suffer from this, in fact, it often benefits! They have the benefits of multiple social situations and master teachers. (Who better to teach my children about the structure of the eye than our Optometrist?) But they also have the benefit of relaxed days, and a comfortable classroom. I want my children to think that although we must be diligent in completing our tasks, we can be creative in completing them too! Who says I have to wash the dishes grimfaced and snarling? I can sing and dance instead! Who says we have to do school uncomfortable and forced? We can have fun and explore instead!
One of the first places to start in this, something I am still tweaking as we go, is the area of curriculum! Some parents thrive on routine and predictability, and if that is the case, I would recommend a boxed curriculum with a teacher’s manual and lesson plans. I am the opposite. A seat of the pants kinda gal. I cobble together curriculum until I get everything just right. I am not a fan of across the board choices. So I find what curriculum I like in one subject, and supplement it with something fun. I prefer basic and thorough curriculum that uses a mastery concept. This way I can apply it in real time using real life situations and experiences to reinforce what they are already learning in their books. I’d rather be done with book work by lunch, and then spending the rest of the day learning incognito, than spending all day with our noses in books, tears pouring out in frustration!

So if you don’t want to go the boxed curriculum way, and you’re a seat of the pants kinda Mom or Dad, how can you cobble together a curriculum? Simply stated, do your research. Find out how your child learns, take your schedule into consideration. Do you need a mobile curriculum? Do you have a LOT of outside opportunities set up for your kids that can supplement something basic and simple? Or do you need a curriculum that covers everything in one book? After you’ve determined what kind you need, go for it! Ebay has a lot of books for good prices if you can snag them. We gambled on McGuffy’s Readers and bought a WHOLE set on there for a steal of $30ish dollars! But, now we have chosen that as our reading curriculum for several years now. At least for 6 years, maybe longer! Understand that if you choose this route, you may or may not have access to teacher’s manuals, you may have to plan lessons to fill in areas you feel are scanty, or in areas that your child needs extra instruction and reinforcement. Also know that you may have to tweak things year by year until you find things you like. We may have McGuffy’s for reading, but we will be adding Easy Grams, and perhaps English From The Roots Up. As the children grow older, so will our curriculum. We will add and adjust with them. It can grow in books, or experiences, or in any way that it works! That is the beauty of customizing!
Here is how our curriculum looked this year, and may look next year, with a few adjustments:

For reading, we use McGuffy’s Readers for formal instruction and supplement it with books or phonics programs (Dr. Suess, Little Bear, Peter Rabbit, Starfall website for phonics support.)

The girls making dough ornaments.

For Math, we are currently using an online website called IXL, but I am not satisfied, so next year we may just do Horizons. After 3rd grade, we are considering The Life of Fred. For now we’ve been supplementing IXL by applying the concepts we’ve learned online with in home situations. Measuring fractions for cooking, using an abacus to add, subtract, or make calculations for home needs, like how many grapes each child should get, etc. Also, paying for and calculating the price of objects when shopping.`

We are really liking “History for Little Pilgrims” for our history this year. We supplement this with social studies situations,

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Tea Party!

such as watching Rand Paul Filibuster in real time, or taking part in a community service project etc. We also do a geography element to this, learning about our state, our country, and using real life experiences to educate the children about other cultures and languages. This multi-cultural experience is organic and natural.

For science we are members of the Da Vinci Science Center, we can go there any time for hands on fun, we also use the book “The World God Made” by E.J. Shewan. We also supplement by going to any seminar we can find that includes our children’s grade levels.

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Emma, climbing a tree.

Another way to apply science year round is our plethora of pets to care for (rabbits, cat, and fish) and our organic vegetable garden, and mini fruit orchard in our backyard.

For health and wellness, we use doctor’s well checks as unit studies. We pick body parts and study how they function and what they do. We’ve enjoyed opportunities to do so in depth with Da Vinci Center’s Bodies Revealed exhibit. One of the girls also received a really cool body toy that one can remove the internal organs and replace them. It came with a booklet that describes the functions of each organ. Of course, a lot of outside play is involved, and this year, since I was pregnant, we did a constant study on how Mommy’s body works to bring life into the world. We studied how the baby grew each month, watched videos of what was happening in the womb, and learned all about the miracle of birth. (Age appropriately of course!) This will have a more formal curriculum as they grow, but now while they are young, visiting our doctor, and talking about how our bodies work, spending time daily to discuss nutrition and healthy practices, in hygiene (brushing teeth) or in diet, or in activities, we make this a part of everyday life.

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Emma (4) at the Lyons Fiddle Festival listening to some prime fiddlers!

For music and art we do a variety of projects, crafts, (all by the seat of our pants!) Lots of play doh play, We have a series of CD’s on the classical masters, each has examples of their most famous music, and a narrated biography fit in throughout the CD. We also do field trips like the Lyons Fiddle Festival, and Band or Orchestra concerts. None of this is from a formal curriculum, it is just LIFE! I love that.

We do not use a formal Bible program. This is something we do on our own too. Sola Scriptura is a great way to go! We take times to memorize scripture together for AWANA, and every day we review the Proverb of the day. (We use this website, and often listen to the devotional of the day, but I don’t like how they cherry pick scripture for the devotional, so we don’t use that every day.) The goal is that within a year of doing this, each child will know the Proverbs well, or perhaps even by heart. This is an excellent character building program, as throughout the day we apply the Proverb we read! Next year we may do something else, like a daily reading of the gospels, or a jaunt through Genesis. The point is to have them reading scripture. We are strongly considering a program of reading the Bible in a year, to expose them to the whole work of God. I have yet to find a program that suits my idea of doing so chronologically, but that is not overwhelming for little ones to sit through. (All of ours are 6, 4, 2, 1 month, presently)

It is very easy to cobble together your own curriculum if you choose. It can be cheaper, and more eclectic! This way you can customize it to meet your child’s needs, and to educate children of multiple ages at once. We LOVE field trips, because each child, no matter their age, takes away an age appropriate experience. Same thing with Bible programs, or Home Economics.

The best part is when the whole family participates side by side,the older ones helping the younger, and the younger’s questions challenging the older. Homeschooling just naturally provides a multi faceted approach to learning.

This time of year is perfect for considering curriculum options. Better to prayerfully consider now, than to have to change mid year, or have to buy things last minute during the summer. Once we buy programs we like, we will probably use them for child after child, handing them down as each child reaches the next level. Buying new books for our oldest at this juncture is also handy, in case she finishes her current book, and still needs to continue on.

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Our Kempton train ride field trip! Looking out the window of the caboose!

Happy Curriculum hunting!

Holiday Goodies!

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Holiday Goodies!

We’ve been working overtime to get ready for both Christmas and Thanksgiving. The baking scene is unreal! This morning, the girls requested a morning in tutus, so they can dance and dance, and take a break from baking, after school is done, of course.

Being a seat of the pants kinda gal, I’ve decided to go the food basket route for gifts. And… plans have changed. Still doing a food basket, but the food changed to meet the supplies in the pantry. I’ve been thinking about documenting these, but I just hadn’t had the time to do so, until this morning. To add incentive Life In A Shoe has a linky post! So here I go! These are some of the foods we are baking/making for the Holiday, or for the gift baskets:

  • Apple Butter/ Applesauce: We made and canned A LOT of that this year. Seeing how many cans we have, and how fantastic this homemade batch tasted, we’ve decided to add that into our baskets.
    The recipe is easy. For Applesauce:
    Core, cut, and peel the apples. (no need to dice, slices are fine.)
    Put them in large pot, with a little water in the bottom.
    Set to simmer for a few hours (slow cook.) keep on a low temperature.
    Once it begins to bubble, turn down the temperature even lower, and stir regularly to avoid burning. (Once every 15 minutes is fine.)
    1-3 hours later: Voila! Applesauce!
    The size of your pot will change the cooking time, as will your individual taste. The more smooth you like your applesauce, the longer you cook it. I like it chunky, and I’m impatient, this great combo makes me cook it for less time!
    If you want to make it into Apple Butter:
    Add sugar (to taste, a few cups per pot usually does it)
    spices (to taste: cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice.)
    Cook it down for a few more hours in a crock pot to make apple butter, it will be a smoother consistency.
    Use an immersion blender to finish it out if you want it really velvety. Personally, I like that *rustic taste.*
    If you are one of those folks who needs a recipe: Check this one out. It is a FABULOUS step by step. Not to mention, she even goes through how to can it. You don’t have to, if you don’t like, as it will be good in the fridge for two weeks, without the canning process. If you like the pantry ready way, though, feel free to can!
  • Pumpkin Bread! I have a lot of pumpkins that we used to decorate our porch. Three in fact, three massive Jack O Lantern Pumpkins. To add to that fun, my sister has 2 of the same size, same kind that she is giving me to cook down. Jack O Lantern Pumpkins tend to be a bit stringy, and difficult to make smooth. They also just don’t have the rich flavor of a sugar pumpkin. This makes them almost always useless for pies. But… They are FANTASTIC for breads! I use this recipe I found on Allrecipes for my pumpkin bread. It is moist, light, and delicious. Not at all heavy or overly spicy. I also try to use fresh ginger, it is a bright note in the bread that makes it cheerful and warm, as opposed to mellow and heavy.
  • Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies: These are quick and easy, and I usually use canned pumpkin, as I make these for a snack when I’m in a pinch. I also skip the chocolate chips. You can use raisins instead if you like, but I personally prefer a clean pumpkin taste with no distractions! I like my classics! I also round it out with a few more spices to taste, a bit of nutmeg, a pinch of allspice, just to make it more like a pumpkin pie in a cookie! It is fantastic, quick, and SO moist!

And since I’m self conscious, and didn’t only want to put food in the baskets, we also added a few other goodies, and made a science project out of it. In addition, we saved some wicks, and some wax to do a little history lesson on traditional candle making:

Sand Candles: (makes roughly 20-30 candles, depending on size.) (If you want a photo tutorial, stop by here.)

Buy:

a 4 lb block of plain wax

20-30 tea light wicks with metal disks on the bottom

a bag of sand

a container of glitter (we used gold.)

a baggie of seashells

optional:

A dye block and scent bottle (I used an old candle with scent and a color I liked instead.)

A container to press into the mold (I used an old baby bottle. You can use a candle cup, a candle mold, a handprint (from your child) a footprint (ditto) anything you can imagine!

Here is how you do it: If you don’t have a double boiler, you can make one! I used a metal mixing bowl set on top of a boiling pot of water. The bowl had to extend into the water, but not touch the bottom. Also, it must ‘seal’ at the lip of the pot. The bowl must trap the steam into the pot.
Cut off a bunch of wax, and place it in the double boiler. While it is melting, put the sand in cardboard boxes. A few inches deep is good. I used an old baby bottle for a mold, but you can use anything. Sprinkle a LOT of glitter over the sand in the box, then press your mold into the sand, creating your candle shape. Gently press seashells into the sides of your “mold” making sure that some bits protrude into the mold, to be sure they are in the wax! Place the wicks in the center of the mold, pressing the small metal disks into the bottom of the sand. When the wax is melted, shave off some of your “dye block” (be it an old candle, with no soot or debris on it!) until you get the color you like. If you want to test it, splat a small dot of wax on a piece of paper. It should harden in a moment and give you a true indicator of color.  Once you’ve achieved the desired color, remove the top of the ‘double boiler’, (wear gloves! It is HOT!) and pour the wax into your “molds” in the sand. Wait until they are full hardened to remove them, dust off excess sand, and then make a *new* mold where the old one was!

This was a fantastic science activity that we were able to journal, repeat a few times, and the metal bowl cleaned out admirably with dish soap and hot water! It was also surprisingly child friendly with a few precautions and clear boundaries. Even Ava (our toddler) helped to ‘decorate’ the molds! The girls were VERY impressed with the finished product, and frankly, so am I! It was also quite inexpensive since I was able to go to the craft store, coupon in hand, and buy all my supplies for half off. All told, you have a priceless hand made gift for less than you would buy a generic candle at the dollar store. If you are looking for economical and precious gifts, this is a good one!

We will probably find/do more crafts, foods etc this season, but hopefully this little list gets you thinking about what you can make this season for family and friends!

Christmas is coming!?!

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The topic with other Moms that has been canvassed often during playdates and time at the park these past few weeks is Christmas. How we will budget gifts into our already stretched finances? How will we manage the sheer number of gifts for our growing families? What will we buy for those we love? And lastly, how will we instill in our children a love of Christmas, and all it stands for, instead of a love for material items and indulgence in selfish wants? I recently read an excellent Gift Guide blog post on Raising Olives that inspired me! So here I am to write my own post about the impending hurry and bustle of Christmas!

How will we budget gifts?
We are planning on home made gift baskets this year. It is so easy for me to fall into the trap of out gifting the rest of the family, but frankly we can’t afford to, and it is a hollow victory if you do. Expensive doesn’t = good gift. For extended family members etc, we are planning on home made items to cut down cost. Here are some ideas for things you can make yourself for a fraction of the cost of bought items, and then use in a gift basket:

Apple Spice Oatmeal Bread

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Dried Fruit

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Homemade Soaps and Scrubs

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Candles: Can be bought inexpensively, if you look in the right places

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The Baskets, Ribbons, etc to decorate the gift packages can be bought very cheaply at a secondhand store.

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We have a lot of children, and they have a LOT of toys, how do we handle the sheer amount of gifts they bring home?
Firstly, we start by limiting the number of gifts we buy our children. 1 gift per child is plenty, and they enjoy the gift, but still appreciate it, as it doesn’t get lost in a pile of materialism. We also are looking into a great idea that I found on one of my favorite blogs: Large Families on Purpose in her Christmas Uncluttered post: One big gift for the family, such as a zoo membership. I think for us a block set, a family board game or something school related, like a DVD science set would be great, but each family is different!

Secondly, we have many extended family events that we attend and that means more gifts for our children. In some cases, where possible, and when the relationship allows, we have asked family members to try and limit the number of frivolous gifts (such as toys) and to focus on things the girls need, such as clothing, shoes, outerwear, and school items (such as sewing kits, science kits, books, DVDs etc.) We have asked them to limit it to at least 1 toy or piece of jewelry. We ascribe to the view that Christmas is about Jesus, and we often try very hard to limit the number of gifts we *must* buy, as well as the number of gifts we receive. It sounds harsh, and unfeeling, but frankly, in this materialistic society, even if you tell your children what Christmas is truly about, it is easy for a young one to be lost in the flurry of gifts.  We feel to raise them in a tradition that appreciates the few material things we have, rather than being buried in a pile of meaningless stuff, is consistent with Christ’s words in the Bible regarding wealth and material possessions. In the end, they are only things, and we can’t take those to heaven with us!

Thirdly, we try to clean out the toy room, their bedroom, etc prior to Christmas to make room for their new things. Also, *blush* I’m letting out a big secret, if we have multiples of the same toys given to them, we keep them on hand for later, not to be opened immediately. If the child does not want the duplicate, and no return is possible, we put it in our ’emergency gift stash’ to be kept for an event later in which we are either tight on money or time to buy a gift. I know this is a ‘taboo’ idea, and probably very offensive, but with a tight budget, and an overabundance of material items we don’t need, why not? If they don’t get used, or the children prefer, the gift stash gets donated to something like toys for tots or a local children’s home.

What will we buy for our children?

Technically this is answered above, but I’ll reiterate simply: 1 gift per child, and 1 large family gift. We tend to focus on things the girls like AND need. One year it was new dress shoes. Another year it was clothing, another year we gave them DVDs of an educational nature. We try to avoid toys, because they have/receive plenty of those from family members. But we do take pains to buy something that is pleasing to them, as well as useful. We want them to be grateful for what they do have.

Last year we got the children a few DVDs each, and then I made them rag dolls (like in their favorite Little House Book) and Allen built them all a log cabin for the dolls. In the piles and piles of newer better toys, the cabin was lost, and became a very interesting looking toy box. The dolls are still cherished though, when they aren’t being tossed in the bottom of the pile. This has pretty much solidified the belief that it isn’t about competing and “who can get the girls the best gift.” but about what they need, and teaching them that the material doesn’t matter in the light of eternity, which brings us to…

Lastly, how will we instill in our children a love of Christmas, and all it stands for, instead of a love for material items and indulgence in selfish wants?

We try to do this, although it is very hard. We are grateful for all the gifts the girls receive, but the sheer volume of them is overwhelming, and makes it difficult to instill this lesson. Within our home we choose to not focus on the gifts. The girls are encouraged to answer with a request if someone asks them what they would like, but we do discuss this before hand in terms of “what do you need?” vs. “What do you want?” The girls are encouraged to focus on needs, not wants, when making requests to interested parties.

During the Christmas season we spend a lot of time doing things like making food, baking cookies, and we try to participate in a few charitable acts for others. We talk about Saint Nicholas, and how he honored Jesus Birthday by helping those in need. Santa Claus does not come to our house, but Daddy does his job instead, as we remember Saint Nicholas’ wish to honor Jesus birthday with gifts to those who need them. We tie this into our needs vs. wants discussions. We also encourage the children to watch movies and listen to music that honor Jesus’ birthday, as opposed to the romance, magic, and materialism of a commercial Christmas. We do generic winter decorations, and nativity decorations. Other than that, we try to avoid Santa.

Christmas Eve, we attend church, this is a big deal for our family, and we use it as a springboard for Christ as the center of Christmas. Christmas morning we read Luke 2 and act it out with the nativity set, which the children are forbidden to touch any other time! This makes it extra special. Gifts cannot be opened until breakfast is done, we’ve read Luke 2, and cleaned up after Breakfast. Once all of those Christmas morning activities are completed, we open gifts. And that starts a day of running from place to place to open more gifts. Something which we struggle with how to handle, as it only reinforces the idea of Christmas as a material holiday. This is the one thing in which we feel we cannot ‘counteract’ or change. I’d love to spend a quiet Christmas at home, and open gifts with family later, but everyone wants to open gifts with the girls “On Christmas Day” and I haven’t the heart to say no to that. So in this matter, I will gladly take reader advice!

And that is how we handle Christmas. How do you handle Christmas?