Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Girls Night Out

We attempt to get some more concentrated time with our kiddos.  Please read....try.  Jeremiah will attempt to have one on one time with each child.  I can never really have one on one, since I usually have a baby, or when I don't *everyone* wants to be the ONE child to go with me.  Recently we had a couple of "girls night out" times.  Fun times!

The baby was put to bed (yes, she is a girl, but a wee one that needs sleep more than ice cream), and the rest of us got ready to go out.  Our destination?  The local ice cream 'stand'....Sonic.  Ironically, all winter long we have had above normal temps.  This week?  Freezing cold.  It's freezing cold out and my girls want to go get some ice cream.  Of course.  Makes perfect sense.  It didn't help we had limited time and limited funds, so ice cream it was.

There is always a lot of silliness during this time.  As it should be.  I have plenty of time to have deep conversations with my girls.  This time is for FUN.  Not only did we have fun, but I think some unsuspecting patrons had fun watching us have fun :-)  Actually, I am pretty sure they just thought we were nuts.  In case you do not have a Sonic in your neck of the woods, it is a spin on an old classic.  You pull up into a parking space with it's own order screen.  Place your order and your order is brought out by a 'waiter/ess' on roller skates.  They have a few outside tables that you can eat at instead.  We choose a bit of both worlds.  We ordered our food at the outside table area, had a lot of fun being silly, and when our food came we ran back to the warm truck.

Although I took quite a few pictures. they were mostly of me trying to capture the girls in mid air.  It was night time, and let's just say 99% of my pictures were all blurry.  Oh well.  You will at least get the idea of the craziness.  And, no, I never left the ground :-)  Only my girls did.

On top of  doing lots of jumping off of outside benches, we also had a lot of fun talking about all of the ways to keep safe.  Safe from what?  Vampires of course.  Yes, vampires.  One of the girls' friends has made the connection that in all of the scary movies she has watched that the one thing that no one has ever done (in an attempt to stay safe) was to make dinosaur noises to ward off any evil.  Brilliant!  A round of dino noises ensued.  Especially when we arrived the dark...surrounded by woods (where all bad, scary things live of course).  There was of course the serious talk of what you shouldn't do, you know, like walk outside into the dark, into the woods to see 'what that sound' was.  Or, leaving the lights off when you investigate a strange noise.  Which herb is for killing vampires.  Practical things.

And then there was the singing.  This is the one time I really 'allow' the music to blast.  I can't stand music playing at home.  It's just more *noise* in my day.  It's not that I don't like music, I just can't stand another layer of noise.  But for girls night out, music is a must.  So lots of silly sing alongs, and being dramatic.

Flannery wanted to extend our time by roaming around a store, but we were all cold, and I was not up for walking around a store.  Maybe next time.

 Before we left three of the girls decided they needed a new coat of nail polish before heading out.  They wanted to paint my nails, but I had to drive, and time was a ticking before the baby might wake, so I declined.

 Isabella had been at horses all day, but drove over to meet up with us at our destination.  Everyone was in a chipper mood.

It didn't take long for the silliness to start.  Here we are ordering our food. Ice cream, in freezing weather.  Ok, "freezing" Southern weather. And for my Northern readers it is supposed to be a high of 16* in two more days.  We might freeze to death over here.  Pray for us :-P

 One of one hundred attempts to get a shot of jumping in mid air.  I have lots and lots of failures.  Thankfully for me, all of my failures are just as funny!

 Saoirse?  What in the world are you doing?  That's the great thing about being silly, it really doesn't matter.  I assure you that the other customers (there were 3 other cars) never saw this coming!  Who needs TV when real life is this good?

After this jump Isabella kind of tripped and came flying my way.  She was fine, but it was pretty funny.  And Flannery takes the award of highest jump. That girl can, jump.

There you have it, girls night out.  Now that I am thinking about it my husband might not ever let us leave as a group again :-)  Ha, ha.  No worries, the boys had a boys night out a few days later. Though something tells me it was more refined.  But, there was talk of the things they would do together when they got older.  It had to do with knives, guns and such.  Now that I think about it, I might have to make sure they don't go out as a group :-)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

End Justifies the Means....Food Storage

It's been a long while since I have done something to add to our food storage.  We had a few bad months last year that resulted in using up a lot of our food preps.  This year I plan on adding to it, one way or another.  There are couple of items we have quite a bit of, wheat and beans.  But we are sorely lacking in other supplies, like veggies and fruits.  Trying to put up fruit around here is like one big mystery theatrics.  Who dun it?  Eat the dried fruit that is.  Dried fruit is some sort of childrens' idea of gourmet.  So this time around I put our dehydrator in our bathroom, where no one usually sets foot into.  And I did it!  I have two wee bags of dried fruit.  But it is kind of silly to think that all of this got pulled out....

....for this!  Hey, I have to start somewhere.  So to anyone out there who struggles with not knowing where to start with food storage, or anyone who worries that their one bag or one can of food isn't going to get them anywhere, take heart.  Bit by bit, bag by bag....your food storage *will* grow.  Slowly maybe, but something will be better than nothing!  In our case, job loss and a hard economy, were more practical applications for the need of food storage, then say....zombies!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Valentines Day

I know Valentines Day was a few days ago, but I wanted to put up the pictures here for memory sake.  There was a homeschool party through our homeschool group that we belong to.  This one was for K-5th grade.  I was told that the preschoolers (AKA Aubrey) could take part as well.  My oldest three girls volunteered to be in charge of the active game station.  So everyone took part in some way.  I think this is the first time I had the boys take part in a homeschool activity aimed at their ages.  They  had a blast!!!  Well, except Jedidiah.  He had a lot of fun at first, but was totally bummed when he didn't get "all the candy" he thought he was going to get.  I told him that the candy would be in his valentine box at the end of the party, but he just pouted.  So he sat on a chair for the second hour of the party.  Silly boy.  He didn't want to do any of the activities after he realized he wasn't going to get candy for doing them.  I think we have some issues to work on!!

Anyways, besides mister pouty face, everyone else had fun.

The first station the boys attended was the cupcake decorating table.  Here you can see Aubrey eyeing all of the possible cupcake topping options.

As you can see, there were quite a few options.  The boys had sooo much fun decorating their cupcakes.  All of my boys love to help with cooking.  So this was a big hit.  They have really wanted to help decorate the past couple of birthday cakes, but their sisters kind of took over, much to their dismay.  So they were thrilled to be in complete control over these creations.

Jonah is our biggest chef around the house.  He was quite serious about this cupcake decorating business.

Even when there were mishaps, no worries, as they could be eaten :-)

Jedidiah was trying to get all of the different toppings on his cupcake.  At one point I had to stop him as I was afraid there might not be any left for the other kids!

Aubrey showing off his yummy creation.

Jedidiah's cupcake.

Jonah's creation.

Saoirse was the oldest to be able to take part in the activities.  She pretty much went to each station on her own, being a big girl and all!

Saoirse's cupcake from the back.

There was a craft table to decorate paper hearts.  The boys have a friend, Caleb, that they wanted to make valentines for.

Some of the moms were a wee bit worried about the use of permanent markers at the craft table. They might have to rethink that one next year.  Aubrey spent quite a bit of time decorating his.  I was surprised how long they sat working on their hearts.

Jonah's finished heart.

Merida was thrilled when I let her down to walk in the hallway.

Look at me go!

She is our petite one.  I have noticed that she is on the 'thin' side.  She doesn't have the chubby fat rolls that most of my kids did.  So weighed her the other day and she is only 18.6 pounds.  So far all of my other kiddos (remember, Jed is a totally different story!) were 19 and a half pounds at a year old.  So she's only about one and a half pounds lighter, but I can tell the difference.

Are you still taking pictures of me?  Yes, you cutie pie, you.

Jonah being a good big brother walking along with her.  He really does look out for her.

The valentine boxes set up on the tables.  All the kids got 20 valentines each.  I never got a picture of the boys opening theirs up, but suffice it to say, they had a blast!  They totally loved it.  Even Jed :-)

Flannery and Merida spent some time together at the end.  I have pictures of the older three girls at the game station, but I would have to blur out a bunch of other kids faces, and I'm not up for that right now.  I had at least 4 other moms tell me what a wonderful job they did with the games.  As a matter of fact the lady in charge asked the girls if they could add more open spaces to their station since it was such a popular station!  The girls told me that the moms would come to get their children and the kids would NOT leave.  They didn't want to go to the other stations because they were having so much fun.  Since all of the other stations were sit down activities, the kids were able to get their wiggles out at their station.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

In My Kitchen

Things have been 'percolating' in my kitchen for a while now.  It's pretty much a miracle that my kefir grains are still alive.  I don't think I've ever had a batch last more than a year!  On top of that I have 6 kombucha scobys still going strong!

As we crawl out from under this oppressive work load due to the bugs, I am making it a priority to get on top of the things that I believe will help to turn our health around.  This reminds me of the time I was a vegetarian.  Yes, I was a vegetarian once upon a time!  However, I was an unhealthy one.  At the time I was eating the standard American diet (SAD), and just took meat out of the equation.  That still left the boxed cereals, the boxed/microwavable food, and all of the processed white flour 'stuff' on my plate!  We are much further down the path of eating healthy these days, but there are those food items that really *need* to be in the diet to make a big difference.  For us that means fermented foods.

It is an on again-off again deal at the moment.  Some days we are over our heads in work to do, others not as much.  As such there are days in a row we eat all the ferments we need to and then days in a row that we don't.  But even at this inconsistent rate we are seeing some results.  For example Flannery has had this rash on her face for *months* now.  We have treated it with all sorts of natural stuff (tea tree oil and thieves oil for example), only for it to keep on growing.  It was getting quite large and very red.  After just one week of fermented foods, it has decreased in size by a bit, and is now only a light pink!  I know if we stay at this that it will just be a matter of a couple of weeks before she is rid of it for good.

Also, since starting the ferments all of the kids, except for a small area on Saoirse, have been itch free.  We still have a long ways to go to actually BE healthy, but the fermented foods are a very, very big step.  I decided to take a picture of some of the things 'brewing' in my kitchen at the moment.  Please note, that things change within days around here.  For example you will see a picture of my kombucha doing a second ferment, but it has been days and I *still* have not gotten around to making up new tea for my scobys to make another batch of kombucha.  Today is the day for that.  So don't think that I have my act all together!  There are days I am able to switch my kefir around, with new it's supposed to, and then there are days like the past couple that it remains sitting on my counter (probably hungry).  But I just try to keep doing the next thing!

 Some carrots fermenting, and a new to me recipe for some brussel sprout kimchi.  Flannery put the fresh brussel sprouts in the freezer, where I didn't want them.  I decided to give this recipe a try with the defrosted sprouts.  So far they look good.  I suppose they will be softer due to the defrosting action on the sprouts.  We shall see.

 Two of three 'pots' of chicken broth.  I have been cooking up our meat the day after shopping day.  It takes forever for meat to thaw, and so I try to cook it in the first day or two so that we have the meat available for meals throughout the week.  As a matter of fact I have another bunch of chickens that I need to start cooking today!

 Not the best of pictures.  This is a half gallon jar of yogurt.  It is sitting in a ice bath to cool it quickly so that my hungry critters can gobble it up.  With this batch I made one and a half gallons of yogurt.  A couple of days prior I had made 2 gallons of yogurt.  All the yogurt was eaten up within five days.  Five days!  Three and a half **gallons** of yogurt people!  This is why we have goats!  Ha, ha.

I love the pretty colors of flavored kombucha.  The middle jar has a few strawberries in there for flavoring.  After pouring the kombucha into these quart jars we put either juice (mango and grape are our favorites), or pieces of fruit into them and let them sit out for another one to three days.  After that we scoop out any pieces of fruit and put all of the quart jars into the fridge.

I forgot to take pictures of my kefir.  It looks like a glass of milk :-)  That's all I have at the moment.

Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Differences in Learning

I've written about this along the years.  I always find it an interesting topic though, and so I thought I would write about it again.   We've had a few things happen recently that bring out the obvious differences in learning styles/abilities.  I find it amazing that within our own family the number of differences between my children.

I've written about Saoirse's struggle in the reading department.  She is finally reading simple sentences at a decent rate.  This has been hard won, and late in coming as she is 10 and a half.  But I am not concerned as I know that once it all 'clicks' she will be a book lover like her sisters.  The funny thing is that Flannery, where reading came *very* easily, is not a big reader.  It took Saoirse at least a year to get the hang of blending two letters together.  I have to say, it has been hit and miss with schooling for Jonah (due to a few problems that have come up this school year).  But in spite of that, just the other day I brought out the phonics book, something Jonah hasn't been doing in a few weeks, and the child had no problem blending two letters!  So just a couple of months worth of phonics and he is on track to be at the same reading level of Saoirse by the end of the year!

 This is the lesson that Saoirse is on.  She is just blending four letter words.

This is where Jonah is.  Granted he will be on these types of pages until he has all the sounds of the letters memorized.  The memorization should come easy.  He has mastered the harder  part of blending, which is why I believe he will be at Saoirse's level by the end of the year.

Not only will he be at level with Saoirse, but he will have surpassed Jedidiah.  Jedidiah is very smart.  He is really great at thinking through how things work.  But his strength is not in areas such as reading and following directions.  And by 'following directions' I don't mean that he is being disobedient, but that he really can't follow through with what I tell him to do.  For example the other day the boys were decorating small boxes for a Valentine party they are going to soon.  They were using star beads to glue onto their boxes. About a third of the small bag of beads made their way to the floor (imagine that!!).  When they were finished I explained to the boys that I wanted them to pick up the beads and put them in a cup (that I pointed out).  Jed came out to the dining room to clean and just stood there.  I repeated the directions, to pick the beads up off the floor and put them into the cup (the bag the beads came in was small and the chance was high that the boys would have spilled the beads while trying to get them in the bag, hence the cups).  He stood there for a second, watching his brothers.  I repeated the instruction, holding the cup up that I wanted him to  use.  He bent down, picked up a few beads, and then walked into the kitchen with them!  Um, Jed, come back here, I want you to put them into this cup.  Again, this isn't him being disobedient, he really has a hard time processing multi step directions.  This plays a big role in schooling.  He is very good at math.  But, if he has to do multiple steps I have to break it down so he can follow through.  He understands the concepts, just has difficulty in doing multiple steps at a time.

Then there are other issues like Saoirse trying to work out math problems in her own way.  Although it works for now I am trying to explain to her that once the numbers get bigger that her way will be much harder.  I have to remind her daily to work out her math problems as she was shown in her lesson.

Then there are simple remedies that a friend gave me which have very much helped some of my kids.  My friend has done a lot of research on learning disabilities and has passed along some very helpful ideas.  For example, Flannery is very good at Jed she has the concepts down pat.  But she kept messing up when the numbers got bigger and she would carry on to the wrong place unit, which gave her the wrong answer.  So this little hint has very much saved our sanity:

 This is the normal way that my kids do their math problems.  Each number on their own line.  For Flannery, this was a problem. flipping the page 90 degrees you get this:

Now each number is in its own column.  That made it possible for her to line up the numbers correctly, and carry any numbers into their correct column.

My friend has also taught me a way to help Jedidiah narrate the story we are reading.  We use the Charlotte Mason method of learning, and narration is a big part of that method.  Jonah had no problem being able to tell me about the WHOLE passage we had just read.  Jed on the other hand could only tell me back one sentence!  One sentence.  I had been telling Jed, "Tell me what we just read about."  But my friend told me to say, "Jed, what did you hear me say."  That really did make a difference.  AND the fact that I really had to stop after ONE sentence and have him repeat it.  At first I wasn't sure if it was going to work, since he would try to repeat each word.  It took a week or two for him to get the hang of it.  Then I was able to read 3 sentences and have him tell me what we had just read.  We did not have much time yesterday for our school time, so I read the whole passage and Jed was able to tell me the major points of what we read.  This is a HUGE improvement.

I am sure I have a ton more examples, but for now these will do.   How have you dealt with learning differences?  Any little nuggets of help that you could pass along?  I know for myself, I often can't 'see' the easy, simple things that can be of help.  Like in the math problem above.  All it took to help my daughter to move forward in math was to rotate her paper by 90 degrees!

Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth

Monday, February 09, 2015

A little slice of life

My time is flying by!  We have been busy with all sorts of things.  Thankfully a lot of that is with *normal* everyday things.  And, of course, some of it has not been...but I have been determined to live life as normally as possible.  I still have a post planned on our newest bug situation, but for now I am waiting till we are in the clear.  We are getting there!   So that is the good news.  The bad news is we are still not free and clear.  One day, one day.

In the meantime I thought I would hop on here and share a bit that we've been up to.  As we find ourselves a step closer to getting back to normal the girls and I have been having some discussion on the projects we would like to tackle around the house and outdoors.  I find it very therapeutic to talk about such things!  For example I am very excited to be getting new chickens.  We got rid of our whole flock at the beginning of this bug situation.  I found out that I really miss seeing those silly birds on a daily basis.  They come running when you walk outside.  They 'greet' us when we pull up form being out and about (really to see if we have any crumbs to throw to them).  They just stroll around the property eating all sorts of bugs.  Speaking of which, I realized that we may have a tick problem this year!  Yikes.  When we first moved to this house the kids would get ticks *daily*.  I hated having to do tick check duty all day every day.  Then we got chickens.  Ahhhhh!  No more tick problem.  The ticks make their annual appearance around March 15, give or take 2 days (no, I'm very serious, it's always within a day or two of the 15th).  It takes the chickens about two weeks until we don't see any ticks, but that is a whole lot better than doing tick checks for the WHOLE summer and fall!  Needless to say our new chicks will not be big enough to get the ticks at the first sign of them.  So we will be dealing with them for longer this year.  Oh well.

On to the pictures:

 The official One Year Old Birthday Cake! The girls made two cakes, this one and a round pink one.

 Each of our children has taken part in the tradition of 'picking their fortune'.  NO, we do not believe it to be true in any way shape or form, but it is fun to do, and make up stories about their future life.  Merida chose the cross necklace...which means she is 'supposed' to end up as a nun, or in some ministry.  Moira was our only child to pick up two of the objects at the same time!  Ha, ha.

 We let Merida feed herself her cake.  Lets just say it was bath time after that!

 Who needs  a fork?

 Some needed park time.  I really try to make sure the kids get outside every day.  This winter has been very wet, so we've had a few too many days inside.  And let me tell shows!!!  These little boys need to get OUT and RUN and JUMP and get rid of some of that energy that will inevitably be channeled in the wrong way if they stay inside :-)

Climbing up the spider web.

 The girls spent half their outside park time playing with their Breyer horses.

 At one point they snagged my camera to take pictures of their horses in the setting sun.

 Feeding time.  I take the evening feeding of the animals.  Three of the girls do the morning feeding.  They are responsible for their feed and water, that way, come evening all I have to do is drop their feed.  After taking this picture I realized how much this animal feed is the equivalent to human boxed cereal.  Sad, yes.  How I wish money grew on trees!!

Merida LOVES the swing.  She gets excited when she knows she is going outside.

 Our dwindling hay stack.  One of our big outside tasks coming up is to rake up all the spent hay to put in the compost pile.  We have quite a big clean up day ahead of us.  Lots of 'stuff' makes its way outside....never to make its way back in!

 Aubrey asked me to take his picture.

 This is part of a village that Flannery built.  She had stables off to the other side, that didn't make it in the picture.  It's amazing what they will do, or think of, when they get outside.  One of their favorite things to do is play gypsies.

Years ago I had a photo titled, "Red Boot".  This is, "Blue Brush".   I know, very creative.

We were on our way up the road to get the mail.  Saoirse looked cute with her hood up.

Saoirse also looked cute with sandals and hot pink socks!  That's what I call style!
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