Sunday, August 31, 2008

Blueberry Muffins a la Alton Brown's recipe

Last night we had a crazy dinner, as the children call it when we have breakfast for dinner.

What was on the menu?

Blueberry muffins!



I have used this recipe before and liked it so much that I kept it for future use. You can find it here.

Our recipe differed only in that I used all-purpose flour, NOT cake flour. And yes, I did weigh the flour - Mr. Brown seems to insist upon such things in his show and the recipes that come from it!

The blueberries were hand picked by yours truly and my 4 helpers, Miss E, Miss A, Mr. E and Mr. A around this past July at a nearby blueberry farm.

The muffins were mmmm mmmm good! If you've been making your blueberry muffins from a boxed mix - shame shame on you! Get some fresh or frozen blueberries at your local grocery store and whip some of these up - you'll be glad you did!


We also picked blackberries that same hot day in July and I thought they might be good in muffins as well so I whipped up a batch with blackberries while I was waiting on the blueberry muffins to bake. The verdict....not so good. The blackberries lost their sweetness and were somewhat tart and unpleasant in the muffins. Oh well, you never know until you try something, right?



So...to sum it up:

blueberry muffins - GOOOOOOD
blackberry muffins - not so good

What's your favorite kind of muffin?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Pizza Woes...then along came Emeril Lagasse and Ina Garten and their pizza dough recipes

Well, since moving to the little town we now inhabit we have missed the convenience of having some of our favorite pizza places nearby, like Papa John's and Cici's. At present, we have 2 options close enough for delivery - Mr. Jim's and Domino's.

Domino's - nooooo likey.

Mr. Jim's - horrible customer service, good pizza. It's a shame. OVER and OVER, we gave them "one more chance" because we like the pizza A LOT, but the last few times we ordered were the final straws. Part of the order was very overcooked. The most recent, it was so hard (breadsticks) that the children couldn't even bite into them. Also, they kept forgetting to send the sauce w/the breadsticks...ummmm, we kind of want the sauce for the breadsticks...it's part of the breadstick experience...

The last time we ordered, I specifically told them that they'd forgotten the sauce last time and would they PLEASE make sure that it was with the order this time. The guy says "no problem."

Order arrives...no sauce at all. I refused to pay the guy and instead told him to wait while I called the store. Talked with some guy, who claims there's no note on the order saying to make sure the sauce is there, but instead that it says "don't send any sauce" - how on earth the guy got that backward after I repeated it twice, I will never know except that it is just a continuance of the incompetence we've experienced since the first few times we ordered. Driver guy talks to the guy at the store and is told to come back for more sauce and takes off...with my check. Guy on phone says he shouldn't have taken the check...agggggh...and CKB takes over on the phone at this point demanding to talk to the manager. Phone guy says no manager there, but will give him a message to call us to "straighten this all out." Uh huh. It's been over a month - have we received a call? What do you think? No.

Phone guy shows up later w/sauce, hmm, the food is all gone by then, but thanks. The food is free for the night. About time they did something right around there, but we would've been happy to just have the sauce WITH the food for once.

Have we ordered from Mr. Jim's again? No. Will we? No. We tried Domino's again in desperation, but that just confirmed what we already knew - Nooooo likey.

So...for some reason I decided to try making our own pizza tonight. I tried two different pizza dough recipes from the foodnetwork site - one from Ina Garten and one from Emeril Lagasse. The verdict is in - Emeril's recipe won. Ina's was ok, but just tasted more like bread...yes, I know, the crust/pizza dough is bread, but well... nevermind...we preferred the Emeril recipe.

I made 4 pizzas, 1 had fresh mozzarella, Prego sauce, and some grated mozzarella on top. YUMMMMMM! That was my favorite and CKB's as well.

The fave:






Then I made 3 more, 1 with NO SAUCE, grated mozzarella and a little bit of grated cheddar. This one was gone fast - somehow the children have become NO SAUCE people...I don't know where they got that from...ahem...(as a child, I didn't like much sauce...might be my fault...maybe...).

The next was NO SAUCE, grated mozzarella, 1/2 pepperoni and 1/2 black olive. This one didn't last long either.

The last was an "experiment" - NO SAUCE and gorgonzola cheese. CKB tried it first and decided that it wasn't a winner - I declined trying it after seeing his reaction and we just finished up the others. I'll stick with having gorgonzola at Johnny Carino's on my pasta!

Here are those 3:




So, we just might make our own pizzas from now on! The recipe for the dough was pretty simple and I somehow managed to get the yeast/warm water part right for a change - that's usually my downfall in any bread making endeavor.

The fact that all the pizza was eaten, except the gorgonzola, says it all :) Yay! We have a solution to our pizza woes! No more Domino's desperation. I asked the children to raise their hands if they liked the pizza tonight (yes, to raise their hands, you have NO IDEA the kind of volume this bunch can put out when they all holler ME!!!! at once!) and, drumroll please, they ALL raised their hands (including CKB) :)

Now, if a Papa John's comes to town...well, I might rethink this making our own business, but for now, I think we have a solution! Hooray!

So, now that you know ours - what's your favorite pizza dough recipe? And/Or, favorite pizza place to order from?

Democratic National Convention - Denver, Obama supports abortion STRONGLY

Well, the Olympics are over, but now it's been the DNC each night lately - ugh! I have NOT been watching that either. Will there ever be anything good on network tv again (has there ever been?)? Probably not! Good thing we have the Food Network to entertain us now and then - although...they did go and ruin the Dinner Impossible show with a new host - oh well.

I found this little, or not so little, news item yesterday and thought it worth mentioning.

Have you heard about this?

A most unpleasant topic, to say the least. The horrific notion that life is a convenience for some - to be ended on a whim, because of a "mistake". Well, some people deem it their right to do just that. What a frightening time we live in where people feel they should make these decisions, to end lives. A child is a child, from the beginning, the moment of conception. I get SO tired of hearing babies referred to as "fetuses" - it is a baby.

Do you want someone in charge of the country who is a faithful supporter of this horrid practice of abortion? If you were thinking of supporting Obama, read through these articles and think again.

For those who weren't - good for you! Read, if you must, to be informed, but try not to dwell on the horror that is abortion.





The article begins:



WND Exclusive PHOTONETDAILY
World's largest sign protests abortion outside DNC
Pro-life president: Group is 'used to cleaning up the mess created by liberals'
Posted: August 26, 2008
9:50 pm Eastern

By Chelsea Schilling
© 2008 WorldNetDaily

Democrats and convention goers had a scenic view from their hotel rooms in Denver today – complete with the world's largest sign to remind them about the devastating effects of abortion.

American Right to Life Action, a pro-life organization, has successfully captured a Guinness world record by displaying a 530-foot tall and 666-foot wide abortion protest sign weighing more than 2,700 pounds, sewn together with four miles of stitching linking 2,400 twin sheets.


American Right to Life Action displays message on mountain outside DNC

The sign features bold vertical letters that read "DNC." Each letter is 160 feet tall – roughly the size of a of a junior high school gym. White letters stretch horizontally, reading "Destroys uNborn Children."


It goes on to say:


Rohrbough said the group wants voters to recognize that Democrats have nominated a candidate who will support the killing of unborn children. "We want the public to realize that anyone who promotes killing the innocent is evil and should not be supported," Rohrbough said. "We're trying to point out that the Democrats have aligned themselves with this vicious practice of killing innocent children. The reality is if the candidate doesn't realize it's wrong to kill another person, then they're not fit to govern. It doesn't matter what issue they're right on if they're wrong on the issue of the sanctity of life."


Have you looked closely at the candidates? I don't see how anyone could support this man who clearly supports so many things that go against Biblical beliefs.

To read the full article, go here.

And a few more interesting tidbits about the Democratic 'hopeful'.

http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=72728


http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=72511




http://wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=73563

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Mall Trip



Well, it's been at LEAST two years since we went to a mall...all of us. This past weekend we visited the mall arriving in the morning and walking the length of the mall to see what all they had to offer storewise. We were happy to see Auntie Anne's pretzels - hadn't seen one of those in quite a few years, as well as the carousel we'd been told existed there, although CKB and I agreed the one down in S. TX was still our favorite. There was a Motherhood Maternity store, but it was just too cramped in there and too hot so I didn't stay in there for more than a few minutes without having to leave. There was a Godiva chocolate store there too, but we didn't stop...this time. All in all, it was a nice mall. They even had a little play area for smaller children, but it was being cleaned when we went by so we didn't stop in for a playtime break. I'd probably want to go first thing in the morning if my intent was for the children to play there - there were A LOT of children waiting to get back in there when it was being cleaned. We took the children to the carousel and CKB insisted on taking the children on by himself so I didn't risk losing my balance or tripping, etc. on the carousel. Considering Mr. A was the only one that needed to be held onto once the carousel got underway, I agreed and sat with the stroller and watched as CKB helped each of the children onto their respective horses and then stood with Mr. A between two moms with their little ones. I couldn't have asked for a better Daddy for my children. It's those moments that you never thought you could love someone even more than you already do, that you find out it is possible. Miss E, Miss A and Mr. E waved every time they came past me, but Mr. A sat straight up in his saddle and looked to be in awe of the whole experience. He'd catch sight of me just as the carousel was turning away it seemed and never had enough time to smile - I think he was holding on for dear life - sweet little guy.

After the exciting ride, we went to Auntie Anne's for pretzels and lemonade. Yum. We found a spot to sit and eat our pretzels and relax for a few moments.

As we were leaving, the crowds had gotten considerably thicker and we were thankful we'd gotten there early and were ready to leave at that point.

I could see visiting there again...sometime...if not before baby is born, maybe in about 2 years ;)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

18 weeks and counting

I haven't updated about our little one in awhile so I thought I would today.

We are "officially" 18 weeks along today. Baby is approximately 5.5" long. I have been feeling flutters for a few weeks now. I have a feeling this is going to be one active baby! Pretty soon he/she will be rolling around and providing a show for the children as they watch mama's tummy move around. I don't mind it too much, except when it starts up right before I'm ready for bed. I don't remember it ever keeping me from sleeping at night though and Lord willing, all the movement this time won't either.

We will have our ultrasound in a few weeks. I'm anxious to SEE my little one again and for CKB to be able to see him/her moving around instead of just the pictures he saw from my first OB visit.

This pregnancy has been a challenge in some ways, but thankfully none of it is health related! It's been hard living in a new area and not having a ready supply of babysitters (not that we had that where we lived before, mind you, but the children were smaller and less numerous and it wasn't such a big deal to take them along for dr. visits then) as well as the fact that I'm SOOOO tired of my maternity clothes - I mean, who wouldn't be after wearing them through 4 prior pregnancies! Some of them were actually worn out - jeans mainly - and looking for new ones has been an interesting adventure. It would seem that "flare" leg jeans are "in style" - joy of joys. I tried on a pair and felt like I had been transported back to the days of the Brady Bunch - I did not keep that pair, the "flare" legs were so wide that I feared for my life if I tried to walk around in them - I was practically tripping over them! The boot cut weren't much better, but at least they were some better so I purchased a pair and went on my merry way. It seems there is a short supply of "straight leg" jeans these days. Wonderful.

If I could just hibernate for 9 mos. it wouldn't matter too much what I wore - oversized tshirts would fit the bill, but alas, we have piano lessons and enrichment classes and services on Sunday to go to....the list never ends of reasons I must leave the house now and then. So, I decided to do some online searching for maternity clothes that didn't make the "model mommies" look ginormous and found some...but they came with hefty price tags and I can't justify that either. So, I will continue on in my current maternity wear with the addition of a few new tops and Lord willing, not have to buy anything larger as January approaches.

As far as my health goes, all is well. I am forever forgetful to take my vitamins, but I try. Baby seems to be doing well as far as anyone can tell at this stage. I look forward to the ultrasound coming up to see how baby looks and his/her development thus far. Lord willing, all is well. I pray each day for the baby to grow healthy and strong. Everyone asks, do you want a boy or girl. I reply, Yes. A healthy baby. :) A boy or girl would be great :)

I added a little "ticker" thingamajig at the top right of the blog in case you want to keep up w/baby's progress.

18 weeks...and counting.

So, where are your favorite places to shop for maternity wear?

Another Piano Interlude or two

Miss E continues to enjoy her piano lessons immensely and is very adament about her practice each day. She is supposed to practice 10-15 mn. a day (5 out of 7 days) right now and most days exceeds that time by at least twice as much.

Here she plays two songs for your listening pleasure:

Old MacDonald Had a Song (although she refuses to say "song" and instead always says "farm") and The Shepherd's Flute which is a nice, peaceful tune.

Hope you enjoy!

Also, you can finally get a glimpse of our digital piano now that the stand and bench arrived and were constructed by CKB last week.

video

We also seem to have another budding pianist on our hands. Miss A has from the beginning wanted to do what Miss E is doing and with very little instruction from me or Miss E has followed along in the beginner piano books with great success. Here she plays "Old MacDonald Had a Song" (she will say "song") :) Something tells me we'll have two taking lessons pretty soon.

video

Monday, August 25, 2008

Label all the school supplies? or not...


Well, it's that time all across the world no doubt - back to school.

For us, that means our homeschool. For others, public or private schools.

This year, we've decided to try out a co-op and will be going to "Enrichment Classes" each Friday for 10 Fridays this fall. They run from about 8:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. or so. Some classes the children are going to be involved in require some supplies, therefore a trip to Wal-mart last Friday was in order to make sure we had everything. Each of the older 3 children got a "supply box" and their supplies that would be separate from the things we use in our own schooling, just to make things easier on us so we're not rummaging for these things every Thursday night to pack them up for Fridays. Some of the items include pencil, scissors, glue, gluestick, crayons, colored pencils...you get the idea...standard "school supplies." So...last year CKB brought home a label maker for me and I thought this would be the perfect time to put it to good use. It's been used here and there over the past year, but overall, we haven't had a huge need for it.

So...Friday afternoon I set out to label their supplies. And, I labeled....everything...almost. When CKB came home and saw what had been done, he admitted to being somewhat surprised that I'd labeled EVERYTHING. My reasoning is that I know how the children operate. I know that everything is NOT going to stay in those boxes. It WILL get scattered on the tables during their classes. Markers DO roll away. Children DO share and/or pick up things that they think look neat, etc. I KNOW everything isn't going to stay neatly in those boxes. It's inevitable. So, I labeled everything. Yes, each pencil, each colored pencil, each marker, each glue bottle, each gluestick, each box on the outside...you get the picture. I did NOT, however, put a label on each and every crayon in the box of 24, but just put a label on the box itself. I KNOW they're never going to put them all back in the box, but crayons are just too small to label every one of them and they break so easily...it just seemed futile and a bit of overkill to do that.

So....who's with me and would've done the same thing? Anyone? Who thinks it was a bit of overkill? What have you done in similar situations? How did it all turn out w/your child's supplies?

This week I'll be "labeling" the children's new backpacks since I have NO DOUBT that one of them WILL leave theirs in a classroom since they're not used to having to keep up w/anything like this. I found a few options for marking the packs that don't involve "markers" but I didn't find what I was hoping to, which was square or round patches with letters on them that I could just sew on w/their initials. Anyone know where to find these? I checked Wal-mart and Jo-Ann Fabrics. I have until the 5th of Sept., but want to get it done sooner rather than later. No sense in waiting 'til the last mn.!

So, if you have a minute, take the little quiz/poll over there ----> (it's at the top)
and let me know how YOU label. Then, if you have one more minute, leave a comment and tell me what you've done, how it worked out, what you would do differently next time, what you never thought you needed to label, but wish you had...that sort of thing. If anyone knows where to get patches w/letters on them, please let me know. I still have a little time to change gears if I decide to.

I thought about having their initials embroidered onto the packs, but I think that would definitely cost more than the packs themselves!

Looking forward to hearing from some of y'all!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Who knew math could make you famous?

I added this thing called feedjit to the site lately because I'm, well, I'm curious who is coming to the blog and from where. We get a few comments now and then from some of the folks who visit, but by and large people come...and go...with nary a comment to let us know who is reading our exciting news. :)

Today, I noticed that someone came to our blog via the Math U See website. What?!?

So, I clicked on the link and was rewarded with a little thrill! The Math U See blog writer, who is one of Math U See author, Steve Demme's sons, Ethan Demme, was blog surfing and came across our post on Mr. E finishing up Primer this week and he posted about it! Wow!

See for yourself :)

http://mathusee.com/blog/?p=160

Pretty cool, eh?

Where do YOU buy your greeting cards? You might want to think again.

Hallmark pushes same-sex marriage

Ask them to stop promoting a lifestyle that is not only unhealthy, but is also illegal in 48 states.

Hallmark Greeting Cards has announced it will begin selling same-sex wedding cards, even though same-sex marriage is legal in only two states. The purpose, they say, is to satisfy consumer demand. It appears that their purpose is also to push same-sex marriage. Last year Hallmark began offering "coming out" cards - as in "coming out of the closet" -- a euphemism for announcing homosexuality.

http://www.afa.net/Petitions/Issuedetail.asp?id=329

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Math U See Primer - all done!



Mr. E joyfully completed the first level in his math program today. He is now officially done with Primer and will start Alpha this coming Monday. Might as well give him a few days off for all the good work he's been doing! It also works out better for us to start new lessons on Monday around here, so that's what we'll be doing. Most weeks when things are going smoothly, ie, the math concepts are clicking and we don't get bogged down, the children will do pages A and D on Monday after we go over the new lesson and they watch the DVD instruction (they really seem to like this and it is extra reinforcement). Tuesday they do pages B and E, Wednesday is pages C and F, Thursday is Test day and Friday we are math-free.

I have no doubts that Mr. E is going to zip through Alpha pretty quickly. He really enjoys math and can do so much in his head already that I'm afraid he might catch up to and potentially pass Miss A. We'll see.

For now, we'll go at his pace and see how it goes!

Congrats Mr. E! You're doing a super job!

And the rain, rain, rain, came down, down, down....

This seems to be our week to finally get some good rains - hooray! It was starting to look like fall, in some ways, with leaves falling off the trees, but it wasn't the right time for that just yet! I noticed the tree in our backyard had some dead leaves on it last week and was thinking about starting to water the yard and tree some, and then the rains began. Yay! This week we have been blessed with MUCH cooler temps and RAIN! Praise God!

Usually when it's been a long time between rains, I like to put in the old Winnie the Pooh movie and take a slow start to our day. Anyone know the one? Where the narrator talks you through the Pooh storybooks and Pooh and Piglet have quite a fright with the rain....

The rain rain rain came down down down
In rushing, rising riv'lets,
'Til the river crept out of it's bed
And crept right into Piglet's!
Poor Piglet, he was frightened,
With quite a rightful fright.
And so, in desperation
A message he did write.
He placed it in a bottle
And it floated out of sight.

Have a great day!

Monday, August 18, 2008

A Piano Interlude by Miss E

My sweet husband is always doing nice things for me. Recently, for my birthday he gave me my own mp3 player. I will admit I didn't know much about what to even do with a mp3 player. I'm "out of it" technologically speaking, I suppose.

Anyway, today I decided to try out the "record" feature during Miss E's piano practicing and here are 2 short pieces played by Miss E from her "Performance Book" called "In the Jungle" and "The Doorbell".

video

Miss E chose to also grace you with song and sung along with her own playing. That's something I never could get the hang of when I was playing violin - I could play or I could talk to someone, but never both at the same time w/o seriously messing up what I was playing!

Sorry there's no video - I don't believe we have the right cable for that right now and besides, then I'd have to check her clothes, hair, etc. before posting ;)

Hope you enjoy her playing! She is having a great time and really enjoying her lessons and practice. Wednesday will be her 3rd lesson! Her teacher is a sweet lady and homeschool mom who has told me after both lessons how bright she thinks Miss E is and how she can't wait to get through all the "beginner" stuff and on into notereading - she's afraid Miss E is going to get bored! :)

Shoes, glorious shoes.....or SHOETOPIA!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Ok, so I didn't get enough sleep last night, give me a break! Besides, coming up with TITLE after TITLE gets a bit cumbersome now and then.

I mentioned we picked up a few other things at Walmart on our tax free weekend shopping excursion - those other things were SHOES for everyone, except CKB and I.

The children all were in need of an upgrade, sizewise, in the tennis shoe department.

Miss A jumped 2 sizes and is now wearing the same size as Miss E - no more hand me downs!

Mr. E jumped one size as did Mr. A.

After outfitting the family in new tennis shoes, we were done and headed on over to Target because, I, ahem, actually had seen some shoes in a previous ad that I wanted to look at in person. Now, normally I don't have much time for shoe shopping so this was a big treat. I also normally don't own more than one pair of black shoes, and maybe one pair of brown so the potential of having more than one was a tad strange - whatever would I do with more than one pair of shoes for church?

CKB and Mr. E headed off to the game/electronics section with Mr. A in tow. The girls and I hit the shoe section. The first pair I tried on were gray and black with a little bow on the toe. Miss A took one look and exclaimed LOUDLY "You're a teacher!" :) I don't know why she decided to say that or what it was about the shoes that said "Teacher's must wear this shoe", but the lady on the aisle with us got a big kick out of it.

After trying on a few pairs, I found some I liked and we headed off to find the guys. They were perusing the toy section while they waited for us to catch up with them.

I am now in possession of 2 pairs of "fancy shoes" that put my standard issue sandals to shame. They have heels - eek - CKB does not like me to wear heels of any size when I'm expecting. Understandably, that's not the time to be falling or twisting an ankle. I promised to be careful if I do, in fact, wear them before baby is born or any time thereafter. For now, I'll just enjoy knowing they're here, waiting.

Laundry woes revisited, Tax Free Weekend in Texas

Well, this past weekend happened to be the "tax free shopping weekend" in Texas and since we needed a few things due to the unfortunate...uh...mishap...with the laundry, we figured we might as well get them tax free instead of waiting around to shop during the week. (Laundry update - didn't try WD40, can't bear the chemical smells right now and it just plain isn't good for the baby! Tried another "remedy" I read about to no avail - accepted defeat and "ol' silver" has won this round - I hope there aren't any more episodes in our future!)

Hence, the dreaded weekend trip to Wal-mart. Woe unto those who attempt this feat.

We headed out and arrived just a bit before lunchtime and headed in, knowing full well that it would probably be a madhouse of tax free shoppers buying everything they could think of while saving TAX. We were amazed and pleasantly surprised that for once, on a weekend no less, it wasn't incredibly crowded. Whew! After a quick run through sockland and other necessary items that had been ruined beyond the point of being able to wear them, we picked up backpacks for the 3 older children to carry their lunches and other items in when we start our Enrichment Classes this fall. They were all VERY excited to have their own "pack packs" (as one still calls them) and backpacks for the rest. :) Mr. A was the one sad soul - he didn't get one. They were all bigger than he was! Maybe next year buddy! Besides, we have a few smaller ones at home that he plays with that would suit him just fine if he really feels left out.



Aside from the fact that we were in the store a lot longer than anticipated by this expecting mama which resulted in a quick purchase of a Snickers and bottled water to bring my blood sugar back up, it was a "not so bad" trip to Wallyworld on the weekend.

After I recovered and started feeling better, we made a trip to Target, but that's another post :)

Happy Shopping!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Olympics...among other things

I know I'm not alone in this.

I don't care anything about watching the Olympics.

Yes, I'm sure that just seems shocking to some of y'all, but it's true.

I've never had much, if any, interest in watching them over the years. That hasn't changed. And, this year they're being held in China. Joy. I get tired of looking at labels and packaging from stores and seeing that everything, indeed, seems to be made in China. Don't we make anything in America any more? Well, the answer is yes, thankfully, there are still some things made in America. Here's one place to see some American made items for yourself:

http://www.madeinusaforever.com/

and an interesting article

http://www.worldnetdaily.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=72170

Back to the Olympics for a moment. You'd have to avoid all news feeds and broadcasts for a few weeks to avoid hearing about them and indeed I have and am disgusted with the behavior of Chinese officials. If you didn't hear about the opening ceremonies flub, read about it here - what a shame that Chinese officials were more concerned about putting forth a "perfect image" instead of honoring the competetion that they ran for a singer at the opening ceremonies.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/othersports/olympics/2545387/Beijing-Olympics-Faking-scandal-over-girl-who-sang-in-opening-ceremony.html

I'll be glad when they're over.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

School's Back in Session


This week marked the beginning of our "school year" as we began easing back into a school routine. We began Monday with math lessons only. Tuesday we added in handwriting. Today we continued with Math and Handwriting and Miss E had her 2nd piano lesson this afternoon. We'll continue adding things in until we're back up to full speed. Shouldn't take too long! The children have been practically begging to get back to doing schoolwork after we ended up taking an unplanned break while grandparents were visiting and then visiting again shortly thereafter.

Here are a few of the things we'll be doing this year -

Handwriting without Tears - the girls continue working on their printing and are also continuing learning cursive, Mr. E works on his printing, upper and lower case each day.



MathUSee - Miss E is in Gamma (multiplication), Miss A is in Alpha, about halfway through, working on getting all of her addition facts memorized before we move on to subtraction. Mr. E has one more lesson to go on Primer and then he will start Alpha (watch out Miss A - he is excited that he might catch up to her!)



Tapestry of Grace Year 1 - we will pick up where we left off after a quick review and continue through history starting at creation with our review and picking up speed through Egypt and beyond.



Easy Grammar Grade 2 - the girls and Mr. E will pick up where we left off in this book after we review all of the grammar rules we have learned so far.



Rosetta Stone Spanish - the girls and Mr. E have begun learning Spanish and will continue with this program



Apologia Botany - the girls and Mr. E will continue our journey through this text as well with a lot of fun experiments and learning along the way.



What will Mr. A be doing during all of this? Learning, of course! He has his own box of crayons - pretty nifty too, they're triangular shaped so as to not roll off the table constantly. Sadly, they're not "unbreakable" though. He seems to like the "snap" he hears when he breaks crayons in half. Must be a boy thing. He will also be learning more about the shapes, colors, letters and numbers that he hasn't already mastered as well as doing crafty things with us along the way and having lots of playtime.

That's just a summary of what we'll be up to - there are always things that get added in just for fun along the way and I'm sure I've forgotten something in my list up there.

Oh yes, and this year we will be trying yet another new thing for us. We've joined a homeschool group that will have enrichment classes on Fridays for 10 Fridays this fall. We will start the first Friday in September. The girls will be in the same classes (level), Mr. E will be in a different level on his own and Mr. A will be in the toddler nursery. I expect to be with Mr. A all day this year. I was so torn about how to split up my day. I wanted to be with each of the children some, but in the end I wasn't ready to leave my "baby" all day. I know he'd probably not even miss me, but still.

So, Churchwood Academy is officially IN SESSION for the 2008-2009 school year!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Crayons and laundry....just when you think you have things under control....


About 3 or 4 years ago, the day my brother and sister-in-law-to-be were arriving to spend Christmas with us, what should happen? I opened the clothes dryer and found that everything was dotted blue. As I pulled each item of clothing out, my disbelieving eyes focused on the blue spots - they were on EVERYTHING. I had been washing all of our clothes together - the children's and CKB and my clothing. No more, I said!

Fast forward a few years...once more all the clothes are being washed together - with 6 people, I barely have enough time sometimes just to sort all the different colors and types, much less separate out our clothes from the children's clothes. I thought I'd checked all the pockets, really, I had, but the sight I saw when I opened the dryer last night was not what I was hoping for. Instead of the slight elation I was feeling at managing to get 2 loads done after dinner and getting somewhat caught up FINALLY after two busy weekends and a busy week in between, I found them again...SPOTS. And this time, it was worse. Last time it was a blue crayon with dark clothes mostly and somehow, mercifully, it wasn't on CKB's work clothes that'd been in there.
This time, it's a much sadder tale I have to tell. Sigh.

I opened the door and first pulled out a "Da" - the "baby" word around here for a cloth diaper. It had some sort of oily..greasy looking spots on it. Hmm, I thought, is the dryer broken and spewing grease on all the clothes somehow???? Yikes! I pulled out another item of clothing....spots everywhere, the horror continued with each...individual...item I pulled out and then, I found it. A crayon wrapper. Or, part of one. NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I wanted to scream, but the children were already in bed. I wanted to cry, but what good would that do. I wanted to turn back the clock and FIND the crayon as I was putting the wash in, but that wasn't possible. I sat on the laundry room floor slowly pulling out each item and teetered between happiness when it was "just a pair of underwear" and sadness when I found the two dresses I'd made for the girls a few months ago...ruined. Any dress would've caused me to be upset, but the ones I made with my own hands....sigh. It didn't get much better as I found two pairs of Mr. A's church pants, the girls' bloomers I'd made and an assortment of other things.

I piled them all into a laundry basket to think about what to try, what to do to maybe salvage something that was in there. Thankfully only one of CKB's work shirts was in the load and only has one spot on the back - I'm hopeful it'll come out. It's the other things that have spots EVERYWHERE that are probably pretty hopeless.

Yes, I've been to the Crayola site - remember, a few years ago?
Yes, I've read about trying WD40 - you don't know HOW many spots are on these clothes - but I'll probably try it on a few things and see what happens...or CKB will...I'm not supposed to use cleaners and so forth right now with heavy fumes. Sigh.

Amazingly, the dryer is still blue on the inside, not silver. Oh yes, silver. That was the culprit this time - I found the remains of the wrapper toward the end of the load of laundry as I pulled it all out one piece at a time. Good ol' silver.

Can I believe this has happened AGAIN? Yes. I can believe it, I just don't know how it happened this time. I thought I'd been so careful. Guess not. Should I ban all crayons from the house forever? Probably. Will I? No, I couldn't. The children derive so much joy from coloring and drawing that I couldn't take that away from them. And, if it wasn't a crayon, it'd be an oil pastel or a chunk of watercolor paint or a gluestick or, or, or.... Besides, I tell myself in a cheery little voice, maybe they'll think their duds look pretty cool. Maybe we'll buy some rit dye and just go for a retro, far out sort of look

Maybe.

Or, maybe I'll try the WD40 on the "important" stuff like the dresses and church pants and hope for the best while I search for that dress pattern, cut some new material and try to whip up 2 new dresses before I can't crawl around on the ground cutting it any more due to my ever-increasing girth!

Well, that's my saga. I didn't lose any sleep over it, thankfully since I need all the sleep I can get right now, but I was pretty upset about it last night and felt defeated by the laundry once again. I contemplated for a moment using a laundry service from now on, but I don't suppose I thought about it too seriously :)

Take care...and LOOK IN ALL THE POCKETS TWICE!

Compact fluorescent light bulbs - do you use them? Why risk it?!

1 broken bulb pushes contamination to 300 times EPA limits
Poisonous vapor so bad, researchers recommend families no longer use CFLs


Posted: August 11, 2008
9:55 pm Eastern

© 2008 WorldNetDaily

Compact fluorescent light bulbs have long been known to contain poisonous liquid mercury, but a study released earlier this year shows the level of mercury vapor released from broken bulbs skyrockets past accepted safety levels.

Following a story reported by WND last year about a Maine woman quoted $2,000 for cleaning up a broken fluorescent bulb (or CFL) in her home, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection studied the dangers of broken CFLs and the adequacy of recommended cleanup procedures.

The results were stunning: breaking a single compact fluorescent bulb on the floor can spike mercury vapor levels in a room – particularly at a child's height – to over 300 times the EPA's standard accepted safety level.

Furthermore, for days after a CFL has been broken, vacuuming or simply crawling across a carpeted floor where the bulb was broken can cause mercury vapor levels to shoot back upwards of 100 times what's considered safe.

Following the study, the Maine DEP made eight new recommendations for usage and cleanup of CFLs, including the recommendation to not even use the bulbs in carpeted rooms where children, infants, or pregnant women live. The likelihood of breakage, near impossibility of cleanup and risk of prolonged exposure, the study concluded, are just too great.

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences website acknowledges that Brown University published a similar study last month confirming the Maine results: breaking a fluorescent bulb sends mercury vapor levels to unsafe levels for the elderly, pregnant and young – and those levels remain elevated for days.

The NIEHS website states, "Today’s CFLs underscore mercury's volatile vapor form, which is still a significant health concern – ventilation reduces but does not eliminate this toxicant. Mercury vapor inhalation can cause significant neural damage in developing fetuses and children."

(Story continues at this link - be informed - go read it!)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Gone to be with the Lord

Many of you have heard me mention my dear friend Diana who was like a mom to me when we lived down in S. TX. You also have probably heard me mention her daughter, Julie, and her struggle with ALS, a form of Lou Gehrig's disease in recent years. Diana has been caring for her daughter for much of the past year (or more). This past Saturday morning I received a call from Diana to tell me that Julie is no longer suffering in this world and has gone to be with God. Julie passed on during the night Friday. Please pray for Diana and her family. Please also remember Julie's family - she leaves behind a 14 year old son and a 16 year old daughter, along with her husband. I met Julie a couple of times at Diana's home before her illness and she was a vibrant and very sweet woman.

Her obituary is in the paper today and funeral arrangements are for tomorrow.

http://obits.caller.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=viewobit&ID=64924

Friday, August 8, 2008

Easy Shephard's Pie Recipe

It's always nice to have some quick, easy recipes up your sleeve that will produce a hot meal on short notice. This is a new one for us and almost everyone around here will eat it :) Imagine!

If you have some similarly simple and fast recipes, please share! We'll be getting busier around here pretty soon with school starting and a few extracurricular activities this year and the easier dinner can be, the better!

Enjoy!



Easy Shephard's Pie

1 (40 oz.) can DINTY MOORE Beef Stew
1 (24 oz.) package refrigerated mashed potatoes (any flavor) or you can make instant mashed potatoes for 6 people
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place beef stew in an 11x7-inch baking dish. Spoon mashed potatoes over stew. Place baking dish on a cookie sheet. Bake, uncovered, for 30-35 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Top pie with cheese during the last 5 minutes of baking. Serves 8.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Piano Lessons


Well, we have embarked on a new frontier - the first "extracurricular" activity for one of the chidren.

Yesterday afternoon, Miss E began piano lessons. She will be taking lessons every week for 30 mn. from a sweet homeschool mom that doesn't live too far away from us.

She declared Miss E "very bright" yesterday during her lesson. I knew this, of course, and sat quietly watching and listening thanks to the quiet that surrounded us since the other children were with a friend during lesson time.

Miss E is practicing 3 "songs" this week before her first lesson on a "paper piano" that her teacher provided. Why a paper piano, you ask? Because we don't own a piano! It'd be nice to have one, but they take up a good deal of space and moving them, well, not something we want to do right now (or when we do move, which could be w/in the year, who knows). So, we're looking at getting a keyboard, but haven't decided on one as of yet. Her teacher assures us it won't be a problem if we don't have one right away since what she's starting out with is pretty simple.

So, maybe someone reading this can clue us in on the importance of a keyboard with weighted keys or not. That seems to be the sticking point we haven't decided on. For a beginner, would this matter so much? If not, for how long would it not be an issue before it might be more important to have the "weighted" feel of a grand piano behind each keystroke? (is it called a keystroke? anyway...).



It was important to me to be able to sit and listen in on the first lesson at the very least because of my lack of piano knowledge/training. My background is in violin and in order to be able to supervise and assist Miss E in her practice, I wanted to learn as much as I could on that first lesson. On subsequent lessons, the rest of the crew will be with me and I'll be focused on keeping Mr. A quiet, as well as Miss A and Mr. E, but mainly Mr. A :)

So, we embark on a new journey and soon, we hope, the sound of music will fill our home.

On a funny note - last night at bedtime Miss A said she didn't think she wanted to learn piano like Miss E, after all, but instead she'd like to take kazoo lessons. I tried to hide my smile and asked "Kazoo?" and she replied, "Yes, like what Grandpa has." "Honey, Grandpa has a harmonica, is that what you mean?" Miss A - "Yes, oh yes, that's right." ;)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Chivalry isn't dead, not completely


Considering at one point in time that it was no shock to a lady when a gentleman opened a door for her or performed some sort of kindness to help her (carrying her packages for her, etc.), I am surprised when in this day a kindness of this type is shown.

Yesterday, as we were returning from a trip to the store, we slowed down and stopped to watch as some field corn was being harvested. I pulled off to the side of the road and put on the hazards just in case someone else came along and we watched for a few minutes before a pickup rolled past us. A few moments later I noticed it was backing up toward us and the passenger window was being rolled down. I cautiously rolled mine down part of the way almost expecting the driver to issue some diatribe about why I shouldn't be blocking part of the road and instead was pleasantly surprised when the man driving asked if we were okay and said he just wanted to check and make sure we were alright after seeing us pulled off to the side. Wow. I assured him we were fine, that the children just wanted to watch the machinery for a few moments - we're such city folks aren't we? He smiled and headed on his way. When I told CKB about the happenings of our day later, he was glad to know that someone checked on us too.

Another recent instance - last week at Lowe's, I had just finished loading everyone into the van and was about to decide what to do with the "car cart" that was sitting there when a man came along on his way into the store and asked if I was all set w/the cart - I said yes and he grabbed hold of the front and pulled it on with him into the store. I thanked him, naturally, and wondered if he was just some guy going in or an employee. It didn't matter, he was a compassionate person who saw a need and took care of it. Thanks Mr. Lowe's guy!

A few months ago I went to refill our 5 gallon water bottles and when I returned to the van to put them in the back, a man walked past to his truck parked nearby. A moment later he asked if I needed some help getting them into the car. I thanked him, but declined, I have to get some exercise somehow! Of course, now, I leave the refilling to CKB - he went to refill them last night and upon his return, out of curiosity and to confirm what he already felt pretty sure about, he weighed one of the bottles - 5 gallons of water weighs roughly 40 lbs.! So, a gallon of milk is approximately 8 lbs. and that's the heaviest thing you're supposed to lift when pregnant. Ha ha, well, I guess I try except when I need to pick up Mr. A.

Ok, I digressed a bit. I'd like to hear your stories/examples of chivalry in your day to day life. Has anything been done to help you lately that really stood out in your mind?

I pray as we raise our boys, that they will be true gentlemen and open doors for ladies, help others when they can and surprise someone along the way with the fact that chivalry is not dead after all.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Weekend in Corsicana and back again

This past weekend we attended the Primitive Association in Corsicana. We were able to be there for morning and afternoon services Friday, all day Saturday and Sunday morning. We enjoyed being there so much. It was hot outside, but we were comfortable inside and thankful for all that Providence church did to ensure everyone was comfortable during the meeting.

We decided to drive back and forth instead of staying at a hotel in Corsicana. After CKB decided he'd like to stay Saturday night, I wished we were staying close, but it was too late at that point. As such, we drove home after evening services and headed inside. All of the children had been asleep on the drive home. I carried Mr. A inside and set him down with instructions to go to his room. A moment or two later, as I came around the corner in the hall toward his room, I found him lying stretched out on the floor a few feet from his bedroom door. He almost made it, poor thing.



Sunday morning we headed down to Corsicana again for the last service of the meeting. It's always hard to leave after a good meeting and this one was no different. I think we were one of the last few to leave after letting the children run around a little bit outside. That night, after returning home, resting a little bit and having dinner, CKB asked the children to tell him some of what they remembered from the weekend. Some remembered hymns that were sung. Some commented on how they weren't able to call out their favorite song, but that someone else led it, so they got to sing it after all. Some remembered messages they heard. What a blessing to hear what they remembered most. One of the hymns mentioned was "Nothing But the Blood of Jesus" and Mr. A promptly began singing it. A few minutes later he was still singing and asking us over and over to sing with him. We stopped what we'd been doing (starting to clear the table from dinner and begin bedtime preparations with the children), made a copy of the hymn for everyone and sat down to sing with Mr. A - he was VERY insistent. It was a good time for us together - a time that would've been so easy to put aside for "another time" or "later" or "tomorrow" and the moment would've been lost. CKB and I were so glad we took the time. After singing it through about 5 times - no kidding - CKB went through each line/verse discussing what it meant with the children. And yes, then we sang it again :)

Later, after I walked back through the house when the children were all in bed, I saw this and smiled. A reminder of our wonderful family time that night. It's always good to "take the time".



What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Oh, precious is the flow. That makes me white as snow.
No other fount I know. Nothing but the blood of Jesus.