Summer Slump

Summer just started about 4 days ago, and I have already fallen off track with my cleaning routine. I just shared on My Own Ripple Effect about keeping your home guest ready and I am not even following my own advice about it!

I just overwhelmed myself with a few activities – not bad activities, just not activities I needed to give attention to right now – and now I am scrambling to find my routine again! Thankfully we are not doing any formal schooling right now, or I would really be losing it. I am just going to start over, adding back into our day the things I should be doing and focusing on, and say “Not right now” to the things that maybe I would love to be doing but just know that this isn’t the season for them. We have been learning (and talking about at each meeting) this very thing in our Titus 2 group at church. We talk about the seasons we go through as wives and mothers and how our needs and abilities change with each one. And it is so interesting to see how I mismanage this season ALL. THE. TIME. :) I keep saying “I just need to step aside and lay down my desires and let God lead.” Aaaaand then I pick it all back up and get in front of God again. Grrrr! When will I learn?!

Today went rather well, though. After several days of screaming and crying (and the kids were pretty bad off as well), I decided to FINALLY do what I keep saying I need to do, and I let God lead….for the most part. Still tried to hold on to a few things today, and almost immediately watched our happiness wash away. Also, I decided last night there is entirely too much TV watching happening here. I was using it as a rainy day option, but then it became an everyday option. And we were/are all addicted, so when I would try to turn it off, the kids were crying for more. So, I would give in to have some quiet. Bad idea.

Last night, I decided I would give them a few things they had to get done before the TV could go on. The few things for today were:

Read Proverbs 25 (since it’s the 25th)

Make your bed

Get Dressed

Brush hair.

I figured just a few to start this transition was a good idea. Boy am I glad I did not give more than those four! I am certain they would have tried to attack me!! Poor Lily was awake last and was NOT a happy camper when she could not eat until she finished those four items. The other kids were done with them and had eaten and were off playing. But she just wanted to come right down to eat. I stayed firm and sent her back up with the instructions, and I ended up reading Proverbs 25 while she followed along…so she didn’t feel so left out.

Next week, my husband has a few days off, and I would like to use some of that time to really nail down a new routine/schedule to be able to start some schoolwork up again in a few weeks. Whether or not that will happen is unknown. I know we plan to go to the zoo one of his days off and do some running around on another day. Praying that I can get some alone time worked in there to sit down and organize my ideas and plans and schedule!

And before I forget, I was featured again this week on My Own Ripple Effect!! I am really enjoying contributing! HERE is the article that was posted over there this week! It is about cooking from scratch. Mmmmm, makes me hungry thinking about it. :)

Do any of you struggle with Summer slumps? Or do you have any tips for staying on track with schedules through the Summer??

 

Hey, Check This Out!

TOTALLY forgot to post this yesterday. I was a contributor at M.O.R.E. (My Own Ripple Effect) yesterday!! Here is the link to my article. :) It was a lot of fun to be able to contribute, and I really love what M.O.R.E. is about!

You should check out the site and sign up to receive the posts. The gal that heads it up is pretty cool, and she really puts a lot of heart into what she puts on the blog!

So, ya, now I am totally famous. :)

Easy Summer Snacks for Little Ones

So, I try my hardest to have my kids snack on healthy foods in the Summer. No, I don’t always succeed. BUT, I don’t think letting them have a sugary, unhealthy item every once in a while is awful. :) We just do not make a habit of it. My kids get a “crap snack” about once a week (or even less often). I will admit, though, that lately I have fallen to just grabbing whatever I can find to feed them on the rough days. We have had some unexpectedly busy days, several in a row in fact, that really caught me off guard. I just grabbed cheese crackers or pretzels or whatever to feed my energetic and growing kiddos. And they didn’t die….so I guess a crap snack isn’t too bad when you’ve got nothing else! Ha!

Here are some of the easy snacks I either buy or bake to keep my growing kids from crying because they are starving in between meals…. (oh, and I have read the article about kids not needing snacks and just to feed three healthy meals and yada, yada, yada….BUT, I completely disagree. When it is 80 degrees and all the kids are running around outside for hours and hours, there is NO WAY they can make it between meals. I don’t buy it that kids stay full between meals. Especially if they are eating a lot of fruits and veggies….that does not keep them full! So, just wanted to throw that out there in case anyone was going to comment about kids not needing food between meals. I will just agree to disagree.)

Fruit!

For littler ones, I will slice the more difficult ones – apples, pears, nectarines, plums, and oranges. My older kids don’t mind getting a whole fruit to eat because they like to toss the pit/core/peel into the compost bin. :) A new favorite for some of my kids is star fruit. It is sweet and juicy! I don’t know why we waited so long to try it. And my girls like that the slices are star-shaped!

A handful of grapes, blueberries or strawberries (with the reminder “don’t eat the green!”) are a quick, easy snack too! Bananas are super easy as well.

Veggies

Ok, so not all of my kids would be happy to get raw veggies as a snack. BUT, for the kids who wouldn’t complain, I will cut up carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, or cucumbers. We make our own ranch(go HERE for my favorite ranch), so I don’t mind a huge pile of that on their plate with the veggies! We have also done an easy black bean dip (like a humus but without tahini).

Muffins

Except for today (oh, what a morning!), I usually make almost double the amount of muffins we’ll need for breakfast. This allows me to offer muffins as a snack later in the day. I don’t have to make anything at snack time, I just open the container, they all take one and I shoo them out the door! I don’t care if they get crumbs all over the yard – the dog really appreciates it!

Cookies

I only offer these for snack if they are homemade. And we usually only have homemade in the house. With having to watch for red #40 (which can be found in some chocolate items, I have found), it is much easier to just make our own cookies. Plus, seven people eating cookies means we need a ton of them! So, doubling recipes and keeping them on hand or in the freezer is perfect for us.

Homemade Trail Mix

I have two versions – one with nuts for older kids and one without nuts for my littlest guy (and my big girl that doesn’t like any nuts except the pricey cashews!). For the little kid mix, I toss some type of chex cereal (usually Aldi brand, unless there is a good deal elsewhere), raisins, dried cranberries, chocolate chips, PB chips, Cheerios (or something comparable), and maybe some homemade granola all in a big storage bowl or bag.

The mix for the older kids varies. It can have any or all of these: dried cranberries, raisins, cashews, peanuts, walnuts, almonds, homemade granola, chocolate chips, PB chips, and anything else I find interesting to toss in. :)

So these are just some of the easy snacks we keep on hand. If I have a crazy week, I just make sure to have a box of Aldi’s cheese crackers on hand. :)

Menu Plan – June 1 – 14

What a month May was! So many activities came up, last-minute, that I felt like my head was spinning most days. I planned for meals, but several times those plans were messed up due to unforeseen things. But we made it through! And Summer is pretty much here!

Here is my menu plan for the first two weeks of June. So far, we have only changed one dinner meal….because Chik-Fil-A offered a free dinner this past Thursday, and we just couldn’t resist a free meal! :) Ok, we paid for fries and drinks, but we still paid only $10 to fully feed all seven of us!

Breakfast

Eggs x 3

Cereal x 4

Waffles x 3

Toast and Fruit x 2

Bagels and/or English Muffins x 1

Coffee Cake x 1

Lunch

Leftovers x 6

PB&J x 4

Snack Lunch (pb crackers, fruit, cheese, yogurt) x 4

Dinner

Baked Ziti (meatless), green beans, corn

Homemade Hawaiian Pizza

Fettuccine with peas and ham, carrots

Pasta with broccoli and chicken, Veggies and ranch

Sloppy Chicken Joes over Rice, Salad

Honey Lime Chicken, Potatoes, Carrots

Mexican Style Rice and Cheese (meatless), beans, carrots and cucumbers

Broccoli-Topped Potatoes (meatless), veggies and ranch

Dominican Rice and Beans (meatless), salad

Bean and beef tacos, Corn

Bacon Risotto, bread, Salad

Pizza x 2

Beef and Rice Casserole, salad

I think menu plans will help us get through a busy Summer. My plan, right now, is to keep up the two-week plan since things seem to change often around here…that way I don’t feel overwhelmed with rearranging a whole month’s worth of menu plans!

Is anyone else menu planning for the Summer?? :)

 

Menu Plan – Two Weeks

Things have been very busy here lately. I did not plan out a month’s worth of meals (even though I probably should have) because things keep changing daily. We did a lot of yard work and gardening this weekend, and we have several evenings of activities over the next two weeks for church, family, and work. So, I planned out two weeks of meals for now. I hope to plan out all June’s meals before next Friday, when I do my big grocery trip again. Life is so much easier when I do a whole month. Even if I am not actually buying all the foods at one time, I find it easier to just plan out the meals and purchase it during my two big grocery trips during the month.

Breakfast

English Muffins x 3, fruit

Waffles x 3, fruit

Cereal (yes! I bought some!) x 3, fruit

Eggs x 3, fruit

Coffee cake x 2, fruit

Lunch

Leftovers x 6

PB & J x 4

Quesadillas x 2

Buttered Noodles x 1

Out of town

Dinner

Lasagna Rollups

Sloppy Joes

Chicken Manicotti

Mac and Cheese

Smoky Chicken Cassoulet Over Rice

Shredded Pork Tacos

Cuban Black Beans and Rice

Mexican Style Rice and Cheese

Southwest Stuffed Peppers

Risotto

Pasta Bake

Chicken Noodle Casserole

Pizza x 2

A few snacks I would like to make (and hope I have time to be in the kitchen for) are:

No Bake Cookies

S’Mores Bars (totally unhealthy but they looked SO good)

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Homemade Trail Mix (kid-friendly…for those kids who don’t like nuts or are too small for nuts)

Happy Eating! :)

Reading, Reading and More Reading!

IMG_2844

(Lily and her stack of library selections. She LOVES to read!)

I posted before about how we have changed how we “do school.” We moved to a more relaxed approach, a lot like the Charlotte Mason method. More nature-focused in our area of science (LOTS of hikes and nature walks in the past few weeks…love it!), more relaxed with worksheets (almost none now), and more group reading.

I am enjoying it so much . There is still the need to plan things out, even more than before because things are based around literature and nature quite a bit more…so I can’t just wing it with a book off the shelf. I have to find the classic literature at the library. I do a lot of researching at home on the computer to see if our library carries certain books (and at which location – our library has two locations, one is a few minutes away and the other is several minutes more away) and then plan a trip to get them, usually with all the children….which isn’t that exciting, when I really want to take my time in the adult section and the kids are speaking rather loudly about boogers or having to go potty. :) BUT, I like that they go into the adult section with me and see that there are books for them there, and they don’t have to be confined to the “little kid” section of books. I am pretty impressed with our library, as I have only come across one or two books they did not have (and probably because they were more curriculum-type books).

We finished reading Five Little Peppers and How They Grew last week, finally. I took several days off from it, as we were hiking quite a bit and being away from the house for half a day made me behind on housework. But, we have finished it now and are excited to find our next group read. Lily finished Trumpet of the Swan, and Iris finished Swiss Family Robinson. They both enjoyed their books, so I want to make sure I keep choosing interesting and exciting stories for them to read. I think for our next group read I will choose Mr. Popper’s Penguins. We started it once, a couple of years ago, but never finished.

Right now, Iris and Lily are both reading Mary Pope Osborne’s Tales from the Odyssey Book One: The One-Eyed Giant. Mary Pope Osborne is the author of the Magic Tree House series, that my girls love, so I hope they enjoy her easier-to-read version of Odyssey. I have come to the understanding that if children read simpler versions of the more difficult classics, they will be more likely to attempt reading the originals when they are older. I never read Homer’s Odyssey (well, not the whole thing. I started it in high school but then quit because it was over my head.), but I do wish I had read more meaty books and stories when I was younger. I was/am a good reader, but I wish I had more literature knowledge. I plan to read the Tales from the Odyssey books with the girls (not aloud, just read the books on my own as they are reading them), so we can discuss them together.

Iris, Lily and I also just finished A Midsummer Night’s Dream (from the Tales from Shakespeare books). I actually really enjoy Shakespeare, and I did read a lot of his works when I was younger. I am happy to have found this Tales from Shakespeare series because the stories are true to the originals, but they are written in modern-day English for children. The characters are all the same and the plot is the same. I read it aloud to Iris and Lily, and we all really got into it. I would read an Act, then they would ask me to keep going. We finished it in three days, even though I had planned to stretch it out over a week or two. Haha! It really caught their attention, and they loved the fairy magic and the silliness of the spell/curse. Lily has asked that we read Macbeth next, and Iris would like Romeo and Juliet. I think our library has both in that series, so we will probably read them both. :)

I really love that my girls like to read…a lot. Lily will check out 3 novels at a time and read them in a week or two. She reads fast and really gets into her stories. I can call her name a dozen times, and she is so engrossed in the book she doesn’t hear me…at all. Every time I turn around she is reading. And I love it!

Iris has really blossomed into a great reader. She still rushed through her writing and spelling….misspelling common words, but she reads perfectly and well beyond her grade level. My focus on her now is the writing and spelling portion. She doesn’t want to slow down and take her time spelling things or writing neatly. She would rather rush through it to go play or read.

Addy has recently shown a huge interest in reading, too. I am hoping it is because we are reading more as a group, but regardless of why I am happy to see her learning. She read a few beginner reader books to me this morning, and we discussed some phonics rules (not in great detail, more like “see when the ‘o’ is followed by a consonant and then an ‘e’? it makes the ‘o’ say its name and we don’t hear the ‘e’.” we’ll get to the meat of the rules down the road; I just want her to recognize the long vowels when they appear a certain way in words.)

I just finished reading The Well-Trained Mind….again. I think I have read it 3 or 4 times since we started homeschooling. The first time or two I read it was when we first started homeschooling, and I just brushed off the ideas presented in it. It is all about the Classical Education method. While I love the ideas, I never really applied any of them because I thought you HAD to be a part of a classical education co-op in order to really do it. I love the Classical Conversations curriculum that I have looked over, but we have never been able to afford up front all the costs for sending our girls (and then soon, our boys would be old enough for it, too). So, I would read the book and just put the ideas on the back burner.

When I finally decided to go the Charlotte Mason route, I decided to read The Well-Trained Mind again. No, they are not the same education method. They are, in fact, pretty different. BUT, I love the steps and ideas from both methods. While I love getting back to classic literature for learning a lot of the reading, writing and spelling…I also love the repetition of the Classical method. Every four years you revisit the same things, just more in-depth as you move from early elementary into the middle grades and then even more in-depth the final time you visit the ideas and information in high school. The one thing they do have very much in common is the classical literature idea. They believe in reading (and having children read) classical literature, rather than a lot of the literature that is out there today. Yes, my girls still love to read the Dork Diaries series (not my favorite, but they whiz through them), but I love that they are also reading the classics. There is so much more to the classic literature – the way they are written, the words they use, and the morals of the stories. The “easier” versions we read of Shakespeare and Homer still have ‘big’ words and still have the same plot. They still also teach the same moral, often a more mature moral than what books and movies of today teach our kids. And I love that the kids are being introduced to difficult words and tough-to-pronounce names. :)

Time to wrap this up and go do our group reading time! Next time, I will post about how we are doing our spelling and grammar and writing. I am not 100% following the Charlotte Mason approach in those areas. I follow more of the Classical approach. But, it is still more relaxed than it used to be. We just have a ton more notebooks to keep track of our progress and assignments.

Do any of you follow the Charlotte Mason or Classical Education approaches/methods?? Are you loving the reading as much as we are?? Any suggestions for an AWESOME group reading selection (we have quite a range in ages, with my boys being only 2 and 3 years old….so the Five Little Peppers was a good pick for us. would love to have another book like that to captivate all the kids!)?

 

 

Recipe: Quick Potatoes Au Gratin

We LOVE Potatoes Au Gratin. The combo of creamy potatoes and cheese makes it one of our favorite meals.

I do not love how long it can take to make, though. It is one of those meals you have to set aside time for, plan ahead for all the peeling and slicing and the HOUR or more of bake time!

I wanted to share these fast(er) version of the yummy dish because it allows me to whip it up (sort of) last-minute and enjoy it whenever we have a hankering for it. :)

Quick(er) Potatoes Au Gratin

Olive oil or butter, small amount like maybe a tbsp

4 TBSP butter

1/4 cup flour

2-3 cups milk (we use 3 cups, usually, as we like our potatoes very saucy/creamy)

6 medium/large baking potatoes

2 cups cheese (we love a combo of sharp cheddar and gouda)

Onion Powder

Garlic Powder

Sea salt

Pepper

1. Peel and slice (thinly) the potatoes.In a large skillet, heat olive oil (or butter). Add potato slices to skillet and let cook for several minutes, stirring to rotate slices on top to bottom and warm/cook evenly. Add, to taste, the onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Cook for 7-10 minutes, while performing step #2.

2. While you are cooking the potatoes, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and stir to combine. Let cook a minute more, then SLOWLY whisk in milk. I like to pour a little in, stir it to combine and let it thicken before adding more. After all milk is added in, cook until starts to bubble and thickens. Do not boil it.

3. Transfer potatoes to a large baking dish (we use a 3 qt, 9×13 dish). Pour milk mixture over, making sure all potatoes are covered, or mostly covered. Sprinkle cheese over and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and maybe slightly browned and potatoes are very soft. You can broil for a few minutes at the end, if your dish is broiler safe and you would like a little more crispy topping.

So, this recipe took me less than an hour on a Sunday afternoon, when I had to feed the kids before AWANA. I could have cut down on more time and sliced the potatoes ahead of time, storing in cold water in the fridge. They would’ve been ready to just toss in the skillet. Cooking them on the stove top before the oven cuts down the oven time. They soften up before baking and that whole hour or more of baking isn’t needed….which I LOVE! :)

We ate this with raw veggies and applesauce.

Deeeeelish!