Friday, October 29, 2010

Menu planning in a {pinch}

We've all been there haven't we? "Honey DON'T spend anything for the next ........!!!" YIKES! You think as you remember you just cooked your last "planned" meal and you've got a whole bunch of hungry mouths to feed! Well before you freak are a few things you can do!

1. Shop your Cabinets.
Since you can't shop at the store, start with what you have. Take a good look at ALL your ingredients and canned items. Pay close attention to produce that might be going bad and try and use that up first. From there you can start building meals and recipes using the most of what you've got. Don't be afraid to substitute items that are similar. Can't make a Beef Stew using cuts of Beef? Use ground beef instead, it will still taste great! Go through your freezer as well, sometimes there are little ingredients hidden in there!

2.Gather your resources.
Use websites like Kraft Foods ! On the right hands side of the website there is a "Use what's on hand" tool. This is amazing! I love this website because it uses a lot of things you've already got in the house! I've built many a great dinner around this website, and honestly they have all been delicious! (no I am not being paid by Kraft Foods!) This recipe for Creamy Italian Chicken Fettuccine is awesome! And really only 1-2 chicken breasts can feed a whole family of 6 when you chop the chicken into little pieces! Sift through your recipe box or binder and check out what is in there. Chances are you'll find things you can cook!

3.Go with Soup!
Soup is a great thing to make when you are low on food! Water makes the meal a lot larger! Often times it can feed you more than once! It's also easy to add or omit ingredients you don't have! Some of my favorites are Chicken noodle (again 1-2 breasts shredded go a long way!) Chicken Tortilla, Lentil Soup, Vegetable Stew (with or without beef). If you only have a little ground beef or a little chicken breast or ham, shredding it will make it go a lot farther and help everyone get a little fuller!

4.Try Homemade.
Homemade bread only takes a few ingredients, so do tortillas! You may find that you have the ingredients to make these items instead of buy them! The French Bread recipe is the best! It's easy if you have a mixer and only requires yeast, sugar, salt, crisco and flour! This makes 2 loaves!! Even Pasta can be made with a few ingredients! If you've never tried it why not! Make it an event! And homemade pasta sauce is very simple! Noni Bianci's Recipe : Either Tomato sauce or paste (thin with water), onion, diced peeled tomato, meat, Garlic, Basil, Rosemary and Oregano. Mix it all up, the secret is letting it simmer for a few hours! You can add just about anything to spaghetti sauce and it will taste delicious!

5.Mix it up!
Who says you can't have breakfast for dinner or hotdogs for breakfast?? Call it backwards day and then eat Ice Cream for lunch! Get creative with what you do have! My husband's family had a tradition on Sundays to have a big lunch, then at night have popcorn and snacks for dinner and watch a movie! You can add snacks, veggies or fruit, gogurt Popsicles, granola get the idea. 

6.Plan for the next time!
If this has never happened to you, consider yourself very blessed. It's happened to us quite a few times. There are a few things I like to do on a just in case basis. When canned or frozen items are on a great sale, I'll get an extra 1 or 2 of them. Tomato soup, cream of mushrooms soup, frozen mixed veggies, dried beans, ya just never know. Take the time to shred that whole chicken breast you cooked for dinner one night. Pick out all the meat, bag it and freeze it. A quart sized bag will make a nice hearty soup for later! Don't throw away that one extra french toast or the extra batter for pancakes. Make them, they freeze wonderfully! And make for a great quick breakfast when you've run low! If you can buy in bulk, having yeast and flour on hand can be a life saver for a lot of things!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

This is how {we} homeschool

I suppose I could start with the "why" we homeschool. There are so many reasons and benefits that are obvious to every other homeschooling family, that the why seems redundant. SO......I won't start there.

When we made the decision to homeschool I instantly started researching curriculum and quickly figured out that homeschooling is not cheap! Yes there are free routes, cheap-er routes, inexpensive with the right coupon code routes. Either way shelling out a load of dough was not unheard of. And that is just for curriculum. To provide a full education with manipulatives and art supplies.....well that could mean you are taking out a small loan! So we started out using free printables I would gather from different sites and blogs. And it worked great, it really did. But then I found a better way, for us, for the time being.

We homeschool Jonah (6) and Ellie (4) through an online academy which is considered a Public Charter school. Interesting isn't it? Have you heard of homeschooling this way before? If not, let me introduce you to a great way to have a little of both worlds, especially if you are nervous about starting out in the homeschooling world at all! So here is how it works:

You enroll your child in the school following all the proper steps, this could mean providing surveys from previous teachers, informing past schools if your child has attended any....or just signing the waver like we did! You go through an online slide show which gives you the rules and expectations of you the parent/teacher. Then comes the fun part!

The school provides you with $1500 per student as well as a list of providers from where to buy your curriculum. The awesome part is you can even choose Christian curriculum providers such as Sonlight, Abeka, AO Publishers and tons more.  What I really love about this is that you can try curriculum risk free! At the end of the school year you are given a list of the non-consumable items that need to be returned. These are things like readers, teachers manuals etc. You keep any workbooks or items that you've used up during the year. At first I was a little disappointed about having to return the curriculum but after realizing I'd run out of storage in about 2 years, I wasn't that upset! Of that $1500, you need to use at least half the money on curriculum of your choice but the other half can be used to pay for non-competitive activities or lessons (such as ballet, gymnastics, karate, piano, ukulele, voice, etc) or field trips, year passes to museums, galleries or other educational locations.

The school also provides you with some places to purchase you consumable (and not to be returned) school supplies as well as Art supplies. This year we purchased items from Lakeshore Learning as well as DickBlick. And get have an unlimited amount of money to spend! That's right Unlimited! Okay I say that but within reason. I'm sure if you tried to foot them with a $5000 bill it wouldn't be approved. But anything you need in the way of markers, crayons, glue paint, stamp pads, dot-dot markers! You don't have to pay for! This has really made homeschooling incredible for us! I'm a hands on teacher and LOVE including art and crafts projects with any subject! These are yours to keep and yours to use!

So by now you are thinking the school has us by their little finger right? They supply all of  this, but it can't really be a real homeschool experience.....what's the catch????

The only thing you are required to do is have your child attend 2 classes a month. The teacher provides you with a schedule of class topics for the whole semester, from those you choose 2 per month. You can choose from a list of times and days OR your child can attend the web class! Through the year the teacher provides classroom opportunities for your child on a variety of subjects from Math to Science to Reading.

There are many reasons why I have really enjoyed this aspect of the online school:
  • It gives my child classroom experience, a teacher who isn't "Mom", to listen to, follow directions from, obey. I think  this accurately models life and gives my kids a chance to practice those character traits they've learned at home!
  • It also gives my child a different learning location. Classrooms are fun places, they are decorated and have different learning stations and Bulletin Boards! (man do I miss Bulletin Boards!)
  • I get to choose the subject, and with that I try to choose something we are currently working on, or something I know Jonah and Ellie would benefit from. Maybe hearing it in a different way, explained in a different way will make something click for them! This means I can also avoid subjects I would prefer to teach my kids myself!
  • The classes are only 2 hours long (the webcam class is 30 minutes), I treat it as a field trip! They do a variety of things in 2 hours including crafts!
  • I love that my two social bugs have a chance to interact and make friends with other students their age. Of course we have friends at Church and at Awana, again, I think giving them bits of time to practice those character traits is important!
  • It gives me a chance to interact with a trained teacher about my child. The teachers are there to offer up support, resources and advice when needed. That is a huge help! I can ask and receive help with certain aspects of their education, I can have them evaluated for progress if I want. And they are on your side, they are there to support you in homeschooling! 
At the end of the year, you return the list of items they ask for, and that's it! You don't have to turn in any work or portfolio, or have your child tested (although you can if you feel it's necessary).

Now I know this doesn't appeal to every homescooling family. For us it's been amazing! It's been a blessing for us in many ways! About 48 of the 50 states now have an online option though it will be very different for each state.

DO you homeschool online? Do you have any questions that I didn't' cover here? Don't hesitate to ask!

Some links for those who are looking

Friday, October 22, 2010

No do evers

It hit me last night....really hard, like a brick to the chest.

I can't do it over, can't take it back, can't start from the beginning again. Each day is NEW. Each day is fleeting and fast and full, and once it's over it's over. And your babies are turning into toddlers, milestones are piling up into walls, independence and maturity and life lessons....all at once.

I sobbed and sobbed as I folded the little clothes that the four of them are constantly growing out of. Never to wear again. I can't take back the rough days, though they were meant for me. I can't hold onto the good days, except through photographs or words, which only go so far to really convey the emotion and senses of that moment. I can't do anything to stop time and is a gift.

Even though it seems like the same things happen each day, the same mess to clean, the same discipline issues....the next day really isn't the same. Its a new day the Lord has made, your children have gotten a little older, a little taller, a little wiser. And soon you'll add all those littles up to one big chunk of time. When we aren't paying attention that time escapes.....and we find ourselves staring into this kids almost as tall (or taller) than we are.

And we can't take it back. We can't redo the wrongs we have done, we can only move on. So cherish CHERISH each day. (talking to myself here) hug and kiss that little toddler running around in her little pink panties and pink camo hat, tickles that little preschooler who is scared of the poisonous dart frogs (but only at night) who dreams of crazy ways  they "just might" make it to hawaii, have special talks late at night with that 1st grader about love and life and God, and snuggle that little babe, so quickly piling up her own milestones.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Crafting Each Moment

Even though life has been nothing short of a tornado lately, it's also been a huge time of stretching and learning about myself. That is not always good, nor comfortable, however necessary. The long and the short of it is that I struggle with JOY. It's probably something I'll always struggle with. Not contentment, because I am content with where we are and what we are doing. But Joy is a different story.

Joy: Intense and especially ecstatic or exultant happiness. To take great pleasure; rejoice.To fill with ecstatic happiness, pleasure, or satisfaction.

Let me be the first to tell you that hasn't described me these last few months. Do you know what the opposite of joy is? Sorrow. SORROW! Okay maybe that doesn't describe me either, I'm somewhere in between that. But neither of those makes for a fun Mom to be around most days.

It's downright ridiculous. The gratitude I should feel in my heart and wear on my countenance should be exuberant  and yet it's not. Maybe we aren't taking Bahama vacations and wearing Prada but we are rich, we are blessed beyond belief! If only I would stop and take a look around! The extent of my complaining lately has been because we have too much stuff! Too much to pack, unpack and move!

I've been pessimistic about nearly everything lately. Why because yes, this life is hard. In fact Ecclesiastes 7:14 says, "When times are good, be happy (rejoice!!); but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other."

Did you catch that? (excuse me while I talk to myself here for a second) Did you catch that? God has orchestrated in your life, incredible times of happiness and ease of life....and other times of exhaustion and stretching, growing, molding. To teach us about ourselves and even more about Him.  To give us an opportunity to cling to Him and feel first hand is Grace and Love and Mercy. Because honestly when life is too easy, it's also too easy to walk away and take credit for the "good" in life. To pat yourself on the back and say, "Look at all I've done and we've accomplished."

The truth is, while life seems controllable, it isn't..... Ecc 8:7 "No man has power over the wind to contain it, so now one has power over the day of his death."  We don't run things around here! And the sooner I truely come to grips with that the easier it gets!

Ecc 11:10 "SO then banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of your body!"

With God's grace you can banish anxiety. Refuse to let that negative voice rule your thoughts and your body.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-17" Be joyful always.Pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

This IS God's will for you. It is. By praying and giving thanks continually in all circumstances, not only are you doing the will of God but you are taking on the yoke of joy. Because Joy does not come about with an easy time in life, it's a state of mind.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Photo Update

I'm still trying to get my photoshop up and running, heck who am I kidding. I'm putting in 19 hour days these days (14 hours of those solo with just me and the kiddos).

In an attempt to stay sane today I took the kids to the field across the street from the house. Liora screamed through MOST of the are two I liked. One of which she was screaming....but you can't see her face in it.....

These precious feet rely on me so much these days. I keep failing them over and over.....but it drives me to be a better Momma to them. They deserve only love.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Hot Dots

Have you ever heard of Hot Dots?? I fell upon them recently while perusing a local educational store and was totally sold! So I've tried making my own little Hot Dot's is a link to something I've made. Let me know if you can download it and try it out!

Letter Mm Pdf

This download is for the letter Mm.....just a trial run! If this download works, I may be adding a whole bunch of free printables!!!!

I'm a little slow on this stuff.....bare with me!


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