Menu Plan

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Almost forgot to post this for the week! This will carry us through to the 31st, when I will shop again (though I may need to run out for bananas and avocados before then). Lots of simple but filling dinners planned, which will make for a lot of yummy leftovers for lunches! Love when that happens!

Breakfast

Eggs x 3

Cereal x 3

Oatmeal (cooked on stove top with toppings added in)

Baked Oatmeal x 2

Energy Balls and yogurt

Granola bars and fruit

Lunch

Leftovers x 5

Ham Sandwiches 2

PB&J x 3

Snacky

Dinner

Family Dinner at Relative’s House

Frozen Pizza

Chicken Rice Casserole, Applesauce, Bread

Broccoli Cheese Soup, Rolls, raw veggies

Turkey Brats, Chips, Salad

Bacon Mac and Cheese, raw veggies, applesauce

Creamy Potato Soup, biscuits, salad

BBQ Meatballs, Brown Rice, Salad

Homemade Pizza (Yum!)

Scrambled Eggs and Toast

Snacks To Make:

Apples and Honey or PB

Frozen Banana Bites (banana chunks dipped in chocolate and then frozen)

Snack Mix (recipe to come soon)

 

Recipe: Baking Powder Biscuits

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We love bread. Can’t say it is the healthiest food to love, but we do. We especially love homemade breads. They are just so dang tasty. I prefer yeast rolls with dinners, but I don’t always have the time to make them for soup nights. As a runner-up, baking powder biscuits are super yummy. And if you make enough, you can enjoy them the next day for breakfast with butter and jam or as biscuits and gravy (my fave!).

I had been using a recipe from an old cookbook for biscuits, which were okay, but they seemed kind of dry, even with increasing the milk to make them drop biscuits. This newer-to-me recipe results in the perfect wet/dry ratio and consistency. I really like this one much better. I tweaked it just slightly to suit us, and I roll and cut out the biscuits instead of doing drop biscuits. That helps to keep their shape better.

Baking Powder Biscuits

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 TBSP baking powder

1 tsp salt

6 tsp cold butter

1.5 cups milk

Combine flour, baking powder and salt together. Cut in butter (in chunks), until the mixture is crumbly. Stir in milk until completely moistened. Dump onto floured surface and press/roll out to about 1/2 inch thickness. Cut whatever diameter you want for biscuits (I just use the ring from my canning supplies…perfectly big biscuit size!). Place on slightly greased cookie sheet and bake at 450 degrees for about 12 minutes (maybe a little more or less, depending on your oven).

I think this recipe makes about 12 or more biscuits (judging by the picture above), but now I can’t remember if I doubled it last time and ended up with 24 or even more than that. Regardless, it makes a lot. 🙂 And these biscuits are a great pair with a bowl of soup!

Enjoy!!

Recipe: Cranberry-Lemon Crumb Muffins

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I discovered a blog with many yummy baking recipes. After trying this recipe of her for Cranberry-Lemon Crumb Muffins, I am determined to go back and try more!

I love cranberries and I love lemon, so to have them together in a muffin was delicious. I did not tweak her recipe at all! These are perfect, to me, as they are. So, if you still have some cranberries in your fridge or freezer from all the holiday parties, this is the best way to use them.

 

Here is her recipe:

Cranberry-Lemon Crumb Muffins

  • 3/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 2 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, warmed to room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.; line a 12- cup muffin pan with paper cups.
  2. In a small bowl, blend together the sugar and the lemon peel. Set aside 1/2 cup.
  3. In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup lemon-sugar and 1/4 cup flour. With a fork, cut in 2 tablespoons of cold butter until the mixture is crumbly.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together 2 cups flour, the remaining 1/2 cup lemon-sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  5. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, butter, egg, and vanilla.
  6. Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour. Stir until just combined. Fold in the cranberries.
  7. Use a cookie scoop or spoon to divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups. Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with the reserved crumb mixture. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the tops spring back when lightly touched.

After you have made these and loved them, check out her blog for more yummy goodness! I don’t know that she is actively blogging anymore, but it is still worth checking out!

Happy Weekend!!

Laundry Help

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A lot of moms see laundry as the never-ending, dreaded task that overwhelms and irritates. I, actually, don’t mind laundry. I love the smells associated with it, the end results, and the fact that laundry helps me know if certain children of mine are remembering to change their underpants regularly. 😉

While laundry is not a dreaded task for me, I totally get how annoying it can be. It is always there; if there are people living in your home, there is always laundry. Even the moment you have emptied the laundry baskets…someone has dirtied something. After struggling for a long time with keeping up with the dirty clothes, I have found some ways to stay ahead of the dirty game:

1.Don’t schedule one day for laundry.

Now, I know a lot of people swear by designating one day to do laundry. I used to do all laundry on Mondays – from the time we got married until about my third child. Every Monday, laundry was done. But, the thing that got me was when someone was sick…on a Monday. It would throw off my entire week. If I was feeling lousy or the kids had a stomach bug, Mondays were ruined. I would not get all the loads done I had planned, and then the whole rest of the week I was playing catch up, while more dirty clothes were piling up! I just couldn’t do it.

So, I started doing a load a day. Mondays are still pretty heavy laundry days, when I do 3-4 loads, but the rest of the week I do about a load a day. Even if it is a small, quick cycle load of towels, I do it. Why? Because if I wait and try to throw 7+ towels in with my Monday loads, I start to feel overwhelmed again. Here’s how a typical week of laundry loads goes…

Monday – 3 to 4 loads of clothing (darks, colors, lights, and undies/socks/undershirts)

Tuesday – kids’ bed sheets, usually two loads because that is five beds of sheets. And sometimes, if I need to wash someone’s comforter, it is another load or two.

Wednesday – my bedding. Sometimes just a load of my sheets and pillowcases, sometimes I do a second load of our machine-washable comforter (our best investment…a king-size comforter that can be washed at home and fits in the washer)

Thursday – usually all towels (bath, hand, kitchen) and washcloths. Sometimes a load of darks, if we have left the house a lot and the kids need jeans.

Friday – catch up on any growing piles – colors, underwear, etc.

Saturday – When I wash the kids’ comforters on the same day, it is usually a Saturday and it is five loads (one for each comforter). BUT, I don’t wash their comforters regularly, so Saturdays are usually just random laundry load days.

Sunday – No wash. At all. Too much going on with church in the morning and evening; I learned to steer clear of doing laundry on Sundays.

2. Follow through on a load or it will take over.

Seriously, how many times do we start a load in the washer and forget it? We have to run out for something or we start some kind of cleaning project and forget all about the clothes in the washer. Then it is 6:00PM, and we remember the load that has been sitting in there for 8 hours. Ugh! That has happened a few more times than I like here. So, once I start a load of laundry, I make a note (sometimes mental, but most times literally a note on a paper where I can see it) to check on it in 35 minutes, the average time for a regular load in our washer. Keeping track of the laundry load helps me remember to get it into the dryer, so I can start the next load or just to keep it from smelling yucky after sitting in a damp, enclosed washer drum all day.

The other part to the follow through is once it is washed and dried, I have to put the clean clothes in a basket and bring the basket to where I am. I can’t just put it back in the basket and leave it on top of the washer or dryer. I have to bring it with me in order to get it folded and put away. That whole “out of sight, out of mind” thing comes into play here. If I see the basket in the living room with me, I am likely to fold it and get it out of there because clutter annoys me…and a basket of unfolded clothes is clutter, to me. I will fold it, divvy up the kids’ clothing and send them away with their items to put in their drawers. Which leads me to my next point….

3. Laundry isn’t just for Mom.

I love serving my family. Honestly. It brings me such joy. BUT, I did not wear the 35 pairs of underwear in the wash…so I will expect the wearers to put their own items away (with the exception of my husband – he works hard away from home every day, so I don’t expect him to come home and do more work that I could have simply done when I put my own clothes away). Sometimes I ask my kids to help me fold the laundry, if I am crunched for time. Usually, though, I just expect them to take their pile of clean clothing and put it (properly) in their drawers and closets. This took a little practice to get going. I had a few kids that would take the whole stack of clothes (shirts, pants, undies, sock, dresses, etc) and just stuff them all into the same drawer. No good! I had to take them up to their rooms and show them how to correctly sort and put away their items…and then made it very clear that I expected this each time and would follow-up randomly to make sure they did it. Sometimes I actually remember to follow-up and make sure, other times I completely forget – but they don’t know that! 🙂

My expectations for my kids and laundry are:

  • they must get all dirty items into the large hamper in their bathroom. I have explained that wearing a t-shirt for 3 hours while just sitting and reading does not create a dirty item. They also understand that jeans may be worn more than one day, unless they went on a hike or were rolling around on the floor in a public place.
  • whomever puts clothing into the hamper and notices it is full is responsible to move the full hamper into my bathroom, so I can see it needs to be sorted and prepared to wash (I have 4 baskets in my bathroom for sorting clothes before I even get to the laundry room. It is super efficient for me.). If it is overflowing and no one brings it to my bathroom, I simply discipline the person with the clothing on top. Simple. 😉
  • they can help fold if they want (sometimes a few do want to), but only if they are going to actually FOLD and not just wad things up and stack them.
  • they must take their clean clothing and put it into the correct places in their rooms or they will be out of clothing to wear very quickly.

4.Not eveything on our bodies is dirty every day.

This might sound gross to some of you. Believe me, we are uber-hygienic and very wary of germs and dirtiness. BUT, we have had to lay some ground rules for what constitutes a dirty clothing item with the kids. If they wear jeans out of the house and go somewhere that they will be on the floor (library, church, etc), that item will go in the hamper at the end of the day. Shirts worn to AWANA go in the hamper because our children have this uncanny way of sweating with the slightest bit of physical activity at church. Pants and shirts worn at home on a boring school day can be worn a second day. If the kids were running around like maniacs in the basement, I will probably tell them to throw their shirt in the hamper. Pajamas get worn two nights before we wash them, unless someone has an accident or spills food on them during breakfast (ahem, Ethan!). Jeans can be worn 3 or 4 days around the house before we need to wash them.

I don’t know how you all feel about the dirtiness of clothes, but I think our clothes are a lot less dirty than we think on regular days at home. It is such a waste of water and energy to wash not-really-dirty clothing. AND it saves on how many items you actually need to have for each of your children (that is a whole other post, though, that I plan to write….decluttering the kids’ drawers). If we can really evaluate the clean versus dirty items at the end of the day, we might save ourselves some irritation by not having as much in the hamper. Socks and underwear are the exception – those get changed at least once a day. We have a few with very stinky feet, so sometimes a change in the middle of the day (when they have been sweating) is necessary. And we also have a few that have an accident – possibly when being tickled by a sibling – and need to change underwear. No names, though. 😉 But, seriously, clothes are usually durable enough and clean enough to go more than a day on the body before needing to be washed.

(Another exception may be the puberty stage. I suspect my boys will need to wash shirts more often when they reach that age; they sweat getting up from the couch now, so I assume the sweat and body odor will be enough to wash their clothes more frequently in the coming years! My girls haven’t been affected by this stage much, but I plan to be careful to avoid any embarrassing B.O. issues.)

There you have it – my super fabulous efficient way to get laundry done and not be overwhelmed by it. I cannot guarantee these things will work for you, but I know they work for us. And if you struggle with laundry (or just simply hate it), try these suggestions and see if maybe they’ll work for your family too!

Do you have a laundry system? Or do you just wing it each week??

What’s your biggest challenge with laundry? Do you have any tips to help other moms stay on top of it?

Chore App and Chart

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Our family is all about everyone helping out around the house. If you live here, you help here. 🙂

Several months back, I was trying to figure out how to get a chore schedule up that wasn’t too permanent (I have wasted too many poster boards!), so we could try out a routine and see if we liked it. Ethan was still three then, and he was fully capable of helping with most of the things the big kids were expected to help with. So, I devised a little plan and chart (the picture above).

(I should mention my husband and I prefer a really clean home. Like, to the point where we will vacuum and clean after guests leave, regardless of how late. My husband has been known to mop the kitchen floor at 11:30 PM after our friends left because he realized at some point during their visit that the floor hadn’t been mopped in a few days. I refuse to complain about his mopping decisions because HE MOPS THE FLOOR AND LIKES IT. That is one less thing on my chore list, so I do not care what time of day he wants to mop!)

I took each of the items that get done fairly regularly and assigned them to someone a couple of times a week. The purple board is just a large magnetic board, and the letter rectangles are just cardstock that I cut out and attached a self-sticking magnet to. Easy peasy!

Since I went to all the trouble to make the chart, I wanted to be sure the kids were paying attention to it and completing their tasks. So, I took the smaller white board so they could mark off when they had completed tasks (and I could follow-up and make sure they actually got done!). The category “Jack” on the chore board is for our dog – I put Ethan in charge of him often to get his food and water filled up. And everyone around here can work our vacuums, so we all get a turn vacuuming different areas of the house.

We are a few months into using this chart and just a few things have changed, like cleaning the bathrooms more often. Iris and Lily now clean them on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. With seven people home 90% of the time, they just get messy quickly! I also changed Jack duty to a bigger variety of kids and moved Ethan into more of the kitchen and table cleaning duties. He is pretty handy with the small vacuum and crumbs in the kitchen!

I still fill in on the days no one is tending to the different areas. Laundry duty on the chore board does not mean they do a load of laundry, just that they are responsible to help me move loads from washer to dryer or fold and put items. Iris and Lily could probably do a couple of loads, but I just prefer to do it myself. I may or may not have lost a few clothing items to my husband’s laundry skills. 😦 I don’t mind laundry at all.

For myself, I used the Motivated Moms app (affiliate link – thanks for using it!) and I LOVE it! I started using it last year, and I find it to be the easiest way to keep track of everything. It has chores already programmed into it, but you can also add or remove tasks to suit you and your day! They have options for a light version of the app, a full version, and now on the website they even have printables! So many options that you are bound to find what works with your schedule. I highly recommend it!

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See how awesome that list is?? I still get to check off boxes, but it is all digital! I am a paper list person naturally, but the Motivated Moms app just really helps…I can take it anywhere I go because it is on my phone! I don’t have to worry about finding my paper list. Chores and tasks are a breeze when the app is keeping track, and I can just focus on my day and the task I am working on!

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What chart or app do you use for chores??

 

Homeschool Checkup: Keeping Them Interested and Learning

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My youngest three, pretending to be sad…..probably about something school related. 😉

We have been plugging away at our school year. Lesson plans finished on time each week with little to no items carried over – just the occasional audio book that no one is in the mood to listen to (sometimes it is the book’s content – mythology/fables – and sometimes it is the heavy accent by some of the readers…turns a 10 minute listening period into 20 minutes because we have to keep rewinding!).  I checked our calendar and compared them with our lessons; I had given us a couple of weeks of flexibility in case of sickness or impromptu stuff, but we haven’t used any of it. So, it looks like our school year will be done May 12! I was so excited to see that date. We will enjoy a nice long Summer break.

One of the things we struggle with constantly is keeping kids’ attention. Whether it is nice weather or public schools’ days off or library activities or just plain old disinterest, we struggle (weekly!) with getting all the school-aged kids to actually pay attention for the full 2 hours of intense school work. I am a little more laid back with the earlier items of our school day – Bible (I let them speak up and ask questions), poetry (giggles usually ensue while we work on memorization….or hand motions for the words), nature study (lots of observations or questions pop up), and a few other casual things. I don’t get on them as much about focus or sitting still or being quiet; we just kind of talk and bounce ideas off each other and work to help the boys with memory work, too.

Once we get into the meatier subjects (math, history, science, Shakespeare), I tend to enforce more quiet and staying in one spot. When I find us all losing focus and interest, these 3 things help us get back on track:

1.Find another way to present the information.

We struggle, but digging into the info a different way helps us focus. In Addy’s history book, just read about how the Romans built a wall for the Britons to separate the lower part of the country from the Scots up north. Honestly, I would rather just show her Braveheart with Mel Gibson to cover that time period ;), but since that probably isn’t appropriate, we settled on finding a map that showed the island divided up and even showing the walls and castles. It was interesting, especially comparing it to a current map of the island. And I can honestly say I learned some things.

Iris and Lily have a more current history, one that I find a little more exciting. They are learning from This Country of Ours about the history of the United States. It includes a lot of detail, things I don’t remember learning in school. And we are finally moving into more about settlements along the Mississippi River, so it is fun to see things moving into our region of the country and noting places in relation to where we live. I probably find it more exciting than they do, but they are retaining names and places better than I thought…so I’ll take it. The one thing that really catches our attention is when there is a description of violence or death; I suppose it is because we are used to history being so dry, but this book definitely doesn’t gloss over things. Indians scalping settlers; the English scamming the Indians; a French guy lying to people in Paris about the awesomeness of Louisiana and into buying a bunch of shares of the Mississippi Company – all these have been pretty interesting and incredibly sad bits of history. We are learning to appreciate it. And finding our location on our big U.S. map and then all the places we’re discussing really helps them get into it. When I can take the information from the book and show the girls where it all occurred on our map, they find it a little more interesting. These things happened not too far from us and have named a lot of places near us, so they find it neat. If I had just read from the book and made nothing applicable to us, they probably would not have cared as much.

2. Get off track….a little.

This week, we were learning about the tower at Babel in our Bible lesson. We discussed all the details we already knew, and then part of the lesson broke off into cavemen. Then we started talking about cave dwellings, and we were able to look up Coober Pedy, Australia (click on it!) and the folks that currently live underground in the cave-like homes. All five kids and I were glued to the screen, reading and looking at the pictures. Then we hopped on YouTube and watched a guy give a tour of an underground cave home. Practically the whole town lives underground!

We would have probably become bored with talking about cavemen and cave homes had we not expanded our search to online, where we found all this cool information! NOW, we will probably remember a ton more from the Bible lesson than I had first thought. It helped us to get a little off track from the information to really dig into an aspect of the lesson we would have typically skipped over.

3. Take a break.

Sometimes, it does not matter how creative I get with presenting the lessons or reading. And sometimes it doesn’t matter what cool videos I found about an obscure bit of info.

Sometimes…we just have to walk away from it for a bit. I know that if I have tried a bunch of things and kids are still not responding (or they are responding with that whine that makes me want to tear out my eardrums), we need to do something else. This could be moving on to another, more exciting, subject, or it could just mean taking a snack or game break.

One of the most wonderful things about homeschooling is that we can utilize our “golden hours” – those couple of hours when we are at our best for working. For us, this is usually mid to late morning; the kids’ bellies are full, everyone is dressed, I have deodorant on….things are good. If we can pound out 2 solid hours of school time, we are set for the day. When someone is off and our golden hours are not working for us that day, we can adjust. Maybe someone is super tired, didn’t sleep well, is hungry, has to poop, lost a sock, whatever the case may be, we can pause, go play a game or have a snack (or use the bathroom) and come back to it later. We don’t have to force a subject; it won’t work anyhow – everyone will just be angry. I am so happy that when our funky moods get in the way, we can take time to adjust our attitudes and come back to our schooling when we are all much happier. And, honestly, sometimes that means doing no more schoolwork for the rest of that day. Every once in a while, usually if a few haven’t slept well, we just cannot get through our work. Those days, we just pack it up for the day and watch movies or play games or the kids all go to the basement to play imaginary things for hours. And I am totally fine with that (especially if they go to the basement and I can read or crochet uninterrupted for a bit!). We just pick it up the next day, even if it means we have to double up to stay on course.

I have never taught in a classroom. I only know this for my own children, but I assume it rings true for most kids…When you force the learning, no learning actually occurs. I can force Addy to read phonics lessons or her little reader books, but if she is not in the mindset to work on reading…she learns absolutely nothing. I can force Iris and Lily to read their George Washington book and write me things about it, but if they are not in the mind-frame to learn, they will retain nothing. Encouraging learning is a much better way to go. Making learning exciting and the information relevant and having a good attitude about it all as the Mom is a great way to engage the kids and keep the focus. But, on the days one or more of my kids are completely distracted by something (emotions, tiredness, hunger, etc), it doesn’t do any of us any good to force them to learn because the exact opposite will happen.

Can you relate to these kinds of days?? Do you have any tips or tricks that help you and your kids get the information when no one is really interested?

 

Recipe: Energy Balls

 

My boys love these snacks any time of the day! First thing in the morning, mid-morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack….all the time. And since they are pretty healthy and easy to make, I don’t mind accommodating their requests for them. These whip up in about 10 minutes and then chill for a bit before storing them together (so they don’t stick), but they can be eaten as soon as they are made into balls.

 

Energy Balls

2 cups quick oats
1 cup chocolate chips (sometimes we do half peanut butter chips)
1 cup peanut butter (or other nut butter)
1/2 cup ground flax
2/3 cup honey (or agave or maple syrup)
2 tsp vanilla

Mix well and roll into balls. Place on cookie sheet in fridge or freezer for a bit to firm them up (not a necessity but helps keep them from sticking to each other) then store in container in fridge.

We most often eat these for breakfast and have yogurt or fruit with it. I tend to grab one or two when we are headed out the door because they are an easy snack for me!