Friday, April 30, 2010

A Few Updates

I am always tweaking, altering and changing things around our house. It is done in an attempt to make life either  healthier, simpler, easier (smoother running), or more conducive to an environment of learning. I read all sorts of books, articles and blogs about ways to improve my parenting, housekeeping, diet, homeschooling and all the other things that, as a Mom, I am responsible. It is my job, so I need to do it well. 

Recently I read a TJEd article called Headgates. (You can get the free 30 pg. article from ) Several of the blogs in my reader and yahoo groups I belong to have been talking about it. The article has really made me think and as a result has caused me to make some changes. I have already shared a few of the alterations I have been making which were sparked by this article, but each day that passes I can see the wisdom in what was shared. I admit the author sounded very extreme in her approach the first time I read it, and I doubt I will implement anything close to that in our home but I am enjoying the direction I am moving. And who knows.... maybe I will get to that point some day. For now I am just interested in removing some of our distractions and a lot of our junk.

Ian's sketchbook

One of the changes I already spoke about and that is working really well is the sketch books rather than loose paper. The Headgates article speaks about using supplies or tools rather than wasting resources.  I didn't want to take all paper away from my kids. They love to draw and I like that they doodle and sketch. I just didn't like the waste and the mess it was making in my house. It ended up being a great change. We aren't throwing out nearly as many little sketches or cut up papers.  Sophie has almost filled her sketch book with drawings and they aren't just doodles. She is coloring them in and really thinking about them. It is exactly what I was hoping would happen. 

Sophie's Sketchbook 
Sophie even has written a few little reports in her sketchbook. 
I didn't ask her to write these she just decided to put them in.

Ian and Henry haven't done nearly as many but they seem to like having a sketch book where they can look back at their drawings.

Henry's sketchbook

The morning family chores is also going well. I usually try to make the chore pretty short since Henry really fights having to do this. He has pulled out every excuse as to why he shouldn't have to do any work, including "I am too little to do this",  "Papa doesn't have to fold his clothes" or "I am boy, this is girl work". I don't know where that last one came from. We certainly don't label anything boy work or girl work.  I have had my husband work with him with the clothes folding and now he doesn't seem to fight it quite as much. It has also helped keep his "accidents" under more control because he realized his pile of clothes was so much bigger because he was going through more clothes.  But we have been doing lots of other things besides laundry and folding clothes. My kids have cleaned each of the bathrooms, wiped down all kitchen counters and cabinets, cleaned out the refrigerator,  organized the game closet (and even sorted through all the games and took some to Goodwill!), changed sheets on the beds, gave each kids room a good cleaning and emptied the dishwasher several mornings. This may not sound like that big a deal but as far as my kids and work go this has been quite a change. They often don't want to stop at just one job they want to clean more rather than move onto doing "school work". 

I think one of the best things we have been doing the last few weeks is just clearing out a lot of stuff. We have taken three large bags of books to the library for their book sale. Many of them still had the price sticker still on them from when I purchased them from the used book shelf. Oh well... I guess I have donated a lot of my spare change to the library. I am just happy to be rid of a lot of fluff books that we really don't read or need. I have also taken two good size loads of stuff to Goodwill. Toys, games, clothes and such that has just been floating around or that I thought we didn't need anymore. It is so nice to look in the closets and see them less full and more organized. The kids haven't fought me at all about the toys either. We even were able to get rid of a few of the stuffed animals. I am sure the purging will continue but it needs to be done slowly or else the kids will really notice and feel like they are being punished. I don't want them to think that. I want them to understand why the changes are made and the things go away. 

So our house is getting a good clean out and we are spending our time doing good things!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Love of Cats

Sophie has never been that interested in dolls. She has been given dolls throughout the years and they mostly sit on the shelf. She has even requested certain dolls at times. She really wanted an Alice in Wonderland doll a number of years ago and last year she finally got an American Girl doll. The Alice doll came with a little Cheshire cat and I have to say I think the Cheshire cat gets more play time than Alice ever did. When her American Girl comes out to play she is usually riding a horse or taking care of her pet animals. I know she has a little dog and cat that are designated has her specific pets.  Sophie has always preferred to play with animals. Her favorite animal is of course the cat. 

The last few weeks we have been cleaning, weeding out, and getting rid of a number of our toys. As I go through trying to put toys in the give away pile she quickly grabs away the ones she thinks she can't live without. She loves her stuffed animals and unfortunately we have quite a few of them. We didn't count them but Soph has a bunch of stuffed cats of a variety of colors and sizes. They do get a lot of playtime so I couldn't really tell her to throw them away. They are what she plays with. She builds homes for them out of legos and saves boxes from our visits to Costco to make new shelters for them. When she draws her characters are always cats dressed up in clothes. I would almost say the girl is obsessed. 
She checks out books from the library about cats each week. She always seems to find new ones. As a result of all this reading she knows so much about cats and their characteristics, behaviors and even many of the different breeds. She can tell you what breed a cat is if she sees one in the neighborhood.  She is even trying to decide which kind of cat would be best when she gets to have her own. It changes from day to day. I wish we could fill her dream of a cat of her own but at the moment that just isn't something we can do.

When we get to go to Grandma's house, Sophie is always looking for Minton. She usually hides when the kids come over but this time she hung out and let the kids pet her. Even Molly got a few good strokes in before Minton ran away. Sophie was in heaven getting to hold a furry, purry cat.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The New Camera

I finally picked up a new camera. 
I gave up on hoping the old one would finally show up somewhere. 
So we bought yet another new camera. 
The old one was just one year old. Our pocketbook wasn't ready to spend the money on 
another one so soon. 
 I spent the weekend taking lots of pictures of my kids. 
Heading up to Grandma's house was a perfect opportunity to catch lots of smiles. 
The kids really enjoyed the Spring Festival that Grandma's small town put together. 
There was a bounce house, crafts, and lots of music.
And there was hoola hoops. Sophie really enjoyed doing these.

This little guy won the prize for most trips to the public restroom. Not to embarrass him, but really it was a bit excessive!

The kids took turns trying out some of the juggler's moves. They spun balls and plates.

And then needed some ice cream.
So Grandma and Grandpa took us to a great place to get some old fashioned ice cream in a waffle cone. Yumm!

I think everyone was happy with that choice!
The boys then helped Grandpa with some chores. That lawn mower needed some extra hands to push it around the lawn.

Sophie loved that the vinca was in bloom and spent a lot of time out in the pasture tasting the necter of flower after flower.

My kids always love going up to Grandma's house. And there are many tears when we have to head back home to the big city.

As for the camera..... I am going to have to get used to it. The colors don't seem quite as bright. All these shots are straight out of the camera. I will need to play with them a little, I think.  But I am just happy to have a way to capture some of these memories.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I finally gave it a try.

A friend recently recommended  The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book as a great whole grain bread baking book. I put the book on hold at the library and then when it finally came in I brought it home and it sat on the shelf for 3 weeks. It is due on Thursday and I thought I had better give it a least a look and maybe one recipe a try. I have been meaning to try to make my own pita bread so I found a recipe for pocket bread in this cookbook.
It was a nice rainy day so it was perfect for baking. First I had to grind my wheat into flour. I love having an electric wheat grinder. 6 cups of flour is ground so quickly. It used to take me a really long time to hand grind it. Plus the flour is ground so much finer.

The recipe for pita bread was so simple, flour, water, yeast and salt. I added a little bit of honey to the yeast water because I just felt like I needed to, but the recipe said it wasn't necessary. And then just let it raise and then raise again. Evidently the secret to pita is the quick baking of them.  I loved that the book explained the whole process and what was going on with the bread that made it puff up.

It was a little time consuming to roll out each of the pitas but the baking goes so quickly that before I knew it I had rolled and baked 20 rounds. When they had cooled and I cut them in half I was so impressed with my first attempt at this bread.  There were a few of them that didn't puff up. I must have been a little too rough on the dough when rolling them out. These made great pita chips. They tasted great with the hummus I made a few days ago. Hummus is another food I have been meaning to make but just never seemed to get around to. I just don't have sesame seeds on hand very often.

I am going to have to try to renew the book at the library. I need to give a few more recipes a try. I saw english muffins in there and a few others I wouldn't mind giving a try.  Thanks Jen for recommending this cookbook!

I need to make more pita. My kids seem to really love it. It may just be the novelty of it but it went really fast!

Sorry... none of these pictures are mine. My pita didn't look quite so nice as the ones in the picture, but my husband said many of his co-workers said they were great when he shared a few of them at lunch today.
I still haven't found my camera and am starting to think I need to just buy another one. I don't have the best record with cameras. I tend to loose them or drop them and damage them quite often. Does anyone have a good cheep camera they could recommend?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Perfect Saturday

My kids always look forward to Saturday. Usually it is because they finally get to play computer games. Today, however, the game playing was over and done with early, so they still had most of the day left in which to play. We didn't have any shopping or errands to run. The day was beautiful so we decided to go for a bike ride. The whole family went, including Molly, who rode in the bike trailer. So this wasn't just a trip to the cul-de-sac to ride around. We decided we would ride our bikes over to the park. This ride would take us through our neighborhood, over a big busy road via the overpass, and then along a paved path through the park before we would reach the playground.
It is a good long ride for little Henry who has only been on two wheels for a little over a month. He kept up pretty well and there wasn't any complaints about the length of the ride. Ok... that isn't totally true. Molly did a little bit of crying along the way. She didn't enjoy the bumps too much. This was the first time I have tried to ride with her in the trailer. I know Ian and Henry hated riding in it and we ended up not using it much when they were little. I hope Molly continues to be alright with her accommodations because I am sure there will be many more rides in the future. 

When we got home from our ride we were all hot and sweaty so we either all needed to bathe or else all go for a swim. We opted for the swim. My kids couldn't be happier to head back out to the car to run over to the YMCA for a little time in the pool. The boys are currently taking swim lessons twice a week and they need lots of practice. So the last few Saturdays we have taken some time to play in the water with them. 
Today, they showed us some the things they are learning and they seem to be doing well. Sophie is a good swimmer and I didn't sign her up for lessons this time around. But she informed me that she wants to do more lessons. I think she just doesn't like sitting around watching the boys swim, while she sits and reads a book or listens to her mp3 player. She never likes to be left out of anything.

While on the drive home from the pool we decided to finally have toad in the hole for dinner. Any time I ask the kids what they would like to eat, Ian answers "Toad in the hole". Quick and easy was what we needed so it was the perfect thing to eat tonight accompanied by a green smoothie (gotta get a little spinach in them!)

My kids are headed to bed happy that they had such a fun day.  Only Molly had any complaints. 
She missed a nap and only got a little doze here and there where she could so she was rather cranky tonight and went to bed early. I may "be in for it" throughout the night.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I am not the Maid

I have been reading the book The Help. It is very interesting. But as I read about all the different chores these maids do and how little their employers do during the day it has had me thinking about how little my kids do all day while I slave away at the chores.  I have decided to change this. I don't want my kids to think that they don't have to help out around the house and I want to make sure they know how to do all the different jobs that are required to keep a house clean and running smoothly.  My kids are all pretty young still and I have used that as an excuse for their lack of work. But I trying to change things a bit and teach them a few new skills. I started doing something new this week and hopefully it will become a habit.

I have been starting our day with a family chore. After breakfast but before we start our usual school day we work. This is a chore on top of their usual "pick up their rooms" and "make their beds" morning chores.  I guess I just don't want to be working and doing one chore after another while my children just play and make more messes.

We sorted dirty clothes and folded laundry one day. We cleaned a bathroom the next. Today we vacuumed all the rugs in the house. Tomorrow I think we will empty out the fridge and wipe down all the shelves. There are so many chores around the house that only take 15-20 min and go pretty quickly when there are 4 of us tackling them. I usually put them off until I get a change to do them (which often means it never happens or finally gets done when I can't stand it anymore).   I want my children to one day take over the maintenance of the house so I can "retire" from being the maid. 

It hasn't all been fun and games. Henry really hates folding his own clothes. And we have had many tantrums about it.  He is only 4, but he can do it. He made the comment that he didn't know that boys folded laundry. He thought only girls did laundry. Sophie and I have often done the sorting and folding of laundry. Now I am having the kids each fold their own clothes so the boys know how to do it also. 

Hopefully, this new "family work" job each morning will help us keep up with some of the chores. But most importantly my kids will learn how to work. Living in the city, in a house that isn't our own, with a gardener that comes every week, doesn't lend itself to a lot of outside chores so we have to take what work we do have and go with it. 

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Flow of Paper

We have a problem. My kids seem to think paper grows on trees. They go through pages and pages of paper everyday. They are always drawing, coloring, and cutting out things. We almost constantly have little bits of papers all over the floor. This isn't a great condition to be in since our little crawler seems to love to eat paper. I am also really tired of throwing that much paper away at the end of each day. Sure it goes into the recycle bin but it still feels like such a waste to go through that much paper. So, I have decided to make a change.
It may not save me any money. In fact I know it will end up more expensive in the short run. I am going to start enforcing a no printer paper rule. There isn't going to be any more trips into my room to raid the printer of it's paper.

What I am giving them is one sketch book a piece. They only have that sketchbook for all their doodles and drawings for a whole month. That seemed very generous on my part. When I was younger I used to have sketchbooks that lasted me a year or more.

My desire is that by having a tighter limit on paper consumption in our home, there will be more careful drawing. I want them to really work on a picture until it is done and not just jump to the next paper and the next drawing. I am also hoping there will be less cutting out of pictures and therefore less little bits of stuff all over the house.

I just instituted this new rule and handed out sketchbooks tonight. They immediately went to work. This first book may be used up quickly. They each already went through a few pages of their new books. They really loved that they can take their drawing to the couch or the chair rather than always sitting at the table.

There is a part of me that hates to put a limit on their creativity. I love that my boys spend a lot of time drawing. They are always showing me their latest rendering of Indiana Jones and telling me all about his latest adventure. This is new. It wasn't that long ago I couldn't get Ian to color anything. Sophie's creations are usually 3D and require tape or staples. But all these papers end up cluttering up my house and eventually get filed away in the recycling bin.

Am I guilty of placing a clean home over creativity? I hope not. I anticipate that by making this small change there will be more purpose and planning involved in their work.  These first few weeks are going to be hard on them. Once their books fill up and there isn't any more paper they will either go back and rework their old drawings, find little places in their books where they can doodle or they will find something else to do.

Does anyone know of a place to buy cheep sketch books? I have often used Michaels coupons to buy them 50% off. But even at at price they will still be more expensive then a ream of white printer paper.

It is an experiment. We will see how it goes.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Poppies, Poppies

Yesterday in our History reading we learned about China and the opium trade. It was a great chance to talk about drugs and what they can do to our bodies, different kinds of drugs and such. But the best part of discussing opium is that after we had talked about it we decided to bake a poppy seed cake. I had to prove that poppies aren't all bad.

I wish mine had turned out looking this good. we tried it in a bunt pan but it kinda stuck and only partly came out.  I pieced it together and we ate it anyway. It was tasty even if it wasn't pretty.

Monday, April 5, 2010

My First Swagbucks Buy

A few months ago I read on Money Saving Mom about Swagbucks. It is a search engine that pays you to search. I am usually skeptical about such things and looked at it but didn't join. Then I read about it somewhere else and then it seemed to be mentioned on a number of different blogs that I read. I went and checked it out one more time and finally signed up. I can't say the search engine is better than google but I do enjoy racking up swagbucks. I don't earn them as quickly as some may, but I usually earn enough to "purchase" a  $5 Amazon gift card each month.  I recently used my Free Amazon gift cards to buy my kids some new jump ropes.

They aren't of super high quality, but they are just like the ones I remember playing with at recess at elementary school. It brings back memories to hear those plastic beads click, click, click against the pavement.

I love to see my kids get better and better at jumping but also they are getting really good at turning the rope for each other. They prefer to jump using the long rope. The individual ropes are bit too long for the boys to use but they are trying.

Tonight we jumped rope for our FHE activity. The whole family took turns jumping and turning the rope for the others. Even Papa got in there and jumped. I think we need to do this a lot more. It is great exercise. It certainly gets your heart beating!

And I love that I didn't pay a dime for our new jump ropes. I need to go and do some more searches so I can get a bunch more swagbucks. I have quite a list of items on my Amazon wish list!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Playing at the Park

Even though it was a cold windy day and threatened to rain we went to the park for our normal Wednesday park day. The kids needed to be outside for a bit and we were scheduled to go to one of their favorite parks.
So they got in some tree climbing.  

I have been having trouble lately getting Sophie to not make a funny face into the camera when I try to snap a picture of her. I have to catch her not looking or some brief moment before she has had time to put on the funny face.
Or else my photos of her end up with something like this face. 
Then they of course is Molly who can't seem to take anything but cute pictures. She knows what to do when the camera comes out.

 She was just thrilled that I let her get down on the bark and play. I had to watch her like a hawk to make sure she didn't put any in her mouth but she still had a great time crawling around. 

I couldn't help but laugh at the game my boys were playing on the slide. They kept going down like this.
Henry explained that they were doing the luge. Ian went down a few times on his stomach and he called that sckeleton. And then a few times he tride to go down in this crouched down position and he explained that that was ski jumping. He of course ended the trip down the slide with a big jump off the bottom. 
They also went down altogether with a few friends and called that bobsled. I thought it was rather clever that they came up with this sort of Olympic play. It went on for quite awhile. They would go down and then climb right back up.
After a few trips down they were  full of electricity.
It was fun trip to the park. I just wish I had my better camera. Somehow I have misplaced it. I hate it when I do that. I had to resort to using my old 10 year old digital camera which is rather clunky and has about half the settings. I sure hope my camera turns up soon. But I am glad I at least got to photographically document this fun day out with my kids anyway.