Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Keeping busy

40 days.  I thought about Noah when I realized that my husband's latest deployment would last 40 days.  This is the longest trip away from home he has had in the past three years.  Considering it comes just one month after his recent 26 day deployment, I was not (and still am not) looking forward to it. 

During the previous deployment, I discovered that by keeping busy with baseball, family activities, and outings with friends, the weeks seemed to pass by more quickly.  Well, as baseball season comes to an end by the end of this week, I was looking ahead on the calendar over the next month to see what might help keep us busy for the next 40 days.

This is what I found:
  • 6 baseball games
  • 5 doctor/dental appointments
  • 8 Swimming lessons
  • 23 days of school
  • 1 field trip
  • 1 party
In addition to the list above, I decided that this would be a good time to accomplish some big tasks that need to be done, especially before Baby arrives (just 55 days after Daddy returns home).  I made a list for myself and decided that I would take 1-2 days per task, spreading them out over the next 6 weeks.

  • Plan out first 3 weeks of lesson plans and gather necessary supplies - Check

  • Clean out dining room - Check

  • Load up a trip (or 2) for Goodwill - Check
  • Clean out/sort/throw away kids' old shoes - Check
  • Tag and sort this fall's Kids Market stash - In Process
Considering we still have 37 days to go, I might need to add a few things to the list....

    Sunday, June 26, 2011

    Back to School

    I've always been one of those people who loved going back to school.  Yes, I admit, I was a nerd.  It wasn't that I was terribly excited about the school work, itself, but going back to school meant seeing friends more frequently, cooler weather, school activities, and of course, new school supplies.  From the time I was in elementary school, I remember sorting and organizing my new school supplies.  I would arrange everything neatly in either my supply box or backpack about a week before school started, and then the next day, I would take everything out and reevaluate my method and then pack everything back up neatly.  There was just something exciting about a box of fresh, unused crayons, clean notebooks, and newly sharpened pencils.  Of course, by the end of the school year, my fascination with a nice, neatly organized backpack had long faded away, as most things were just shoved in quickly without a second thought. 

    Fast forward to today.....and not much has changed.  Being a homeschool mom means that it's not just my backpack that I get to organize.....it's all the school supplies and curriculum that now receive my attention to detail.  After adding on to the house last year, we now have an "official" schoolroom.  I don't know how long it will stay the schoolroom, but that's the plan for now.  When we were building, we often referred to this room as the "game room" or "bonus room."  Basically, it's an extra room upstairs that I intended to use for the kids in some capacity.  My husband has dreams of one day having a ping-pong table upstairs....maybe after the kids graduate.  :) Until this year, we have always done school at the kitchen table or living room coffee table.  While this method worked fine, it required that the table be cleared off completely each afternoon and most of the time, school books ended up piled on the kitchen counter or the corner of my desk (or both), leaving the kitchen in a constant state of clutter. Moving school upstairs will (hopefully) keep all the school supplies in one central location (away from the kitchen), increase the number of times I climb up and down stairs during the day (therefore decreasing the amount of time it takes to shed the baby weight), and keep us me away from the temptation of getting on the computer during school time for non-school related searches.

    So as we approach another school year, I now have an entire room ready and waiting to be organized and filled with books, supplies, games, tables, chairs.  There is just one slight problem.....the two closets have no shelves.  None.  Just two closets with 8 feet of empty vertical space. 

    Of course, we plan to put shelves in these closets, but our budget (as well as going over-budget on the house last year) and my husband's busy work schedule have prevented it from being accomplished.  So, for the first few months of school, I am being forced to make the most use of available floor space, keeping in mind that I also have a toddler on the loose these days. 

    Sunday afternoon I made it my mission to get ready for the coming school year (coming in just over a week around these parts).  I don't have any before pictures, but I had each kid's curriculum sorted and stacked in a brown box.  I was already imagining the headache of watching the kids digging down in their box for a particular book, throwing every other book on top over the side of the box onto the floor in a big jumbled heap.  Let's just say that I don't think my kids inherited my organizational skills.....

    Anyway, it's not perfect, and I still have to figure out a way to keep the toddler out of the school supplies, but here are some pictures of the new school room, almost ready for school to start in July. 

    Window sills make great book shelves

    I promise.....there is a method to the madness!

    K-4 materials

    1st grade

    3rd grade

    Mom's lesson plans....3rd & 1st grades divided by the blue binder

    I'm guessing it will take about 3.8 seconds on the first day of school to completely destroy this system....

    I didn't forget about the toddler....
    Evidence that the aforementioned toddler destroyed helped my efforts today

    Reading nook with the book basket box

    Inside the shelf-less closet

    Additional school supplies & activities

    By the way, for those of you balking at the idea of starting school in July, one of the (many) great benefits of homeschooling is being able to set your own schedule.  I would much rather get a jumpstart on school while it is blazing hot outside and then have the flexibility to take off two weeks in the fall (for example, to have a baby, maybe?), take more days off in the spring when the weather is becoming nice and warm once again, begging us to get out of the house for some fresh air, or take a family vacation in February during the non-peak season, meaning fewer crowds and lower expenses.  We're also taking it easy the first two weeks, getting adjusted to a new schedule, gradually easing into the more demanding subjects such as math and spelling during the 2nd and 3rd weeks.  The downside to starting school the first week of July?  Back to school sales don't start until mid-July!

    If you haven't noticed, I am pretty excited about starting this school year.  Just like the excitement of new school supplies as a kid, the excitement of searching through new curriculum and ideas as I plan the first few weeks of school leaves me giddy to get started!  We've added a new curriculum this year for Bible, history and science that I am looking forward to as well.  I'm sure I'll be sharing more as we go along this year, so if you're interested, come along for the ride! 

    Baby Boy's newest craving

    I've never had the "typical" pregnancy related cravings (pickles and ice cream, etc).  I've never sent my husband to the store at midnight to get a must-have snack (and for the record, I think he would think I was crazy, and roll over and go back to sleep).  The only true craving I've ever really had was when I was pregnant with Maggie.  Every morning for breakfast I fixed hashbrown potatoes (from scratch).  My in-laws frequently saw me sitting outside on the porch peeling potatoes in the morning as they drove off to work.  Considering that I rarely cook a hot breakfast unless it is the weekend, this was quite impressive.  I actually broke the attachment on my food processor to shred the potatoes near the end of the pregnancy, resulting in buying Ore Ida's shredded hashbrowns for the remainder of the pregnancy.  Although hashbrowns are still one of my favorites, you won't see me cooking them from scratch (the food processor never got fixed) and we probably only have them once or twice a month now. 

    Fast forward to current pregnancy.  We frequently eat salad around here, but it is typically Caesar salad (a favorite among the kids).  However, a few weeks ago, I had a craving for a more traditional "salad bar" type salad.  I made a chef salad for lunch with ingredients I had at home and I was immediately hooked.  I went to the grocery store the next week with salad on my mind.  I loaded up on my favorite toppings and continued to eat salads for lunch frequently.  After a week of washing, chopping and dicing almost everyday, I wised up and decided to do all the prep work in one day, storing veggies and such already washed and chopped.  Now, creating my chef salad is just about as easy as going to a salad bar.

    My salad of choice includes:
    Green leaf (or Romaine) lettuce
    Spinach leaves
    boiled egg
    Ham and Turkey
    Broccoli (not pictured above)
    Thousand Island dressing

    I have discovered that the key to a good salad (in addition to yummy ingredients) is to chop everything into bite-size pieces.  Instead of having to use your fork to cut as you're eating or end up with all carrot in one bite, the salad is much better blended and easier to eat.

    So there you have it, one pregnant lady's guide to a great salad!

    Wednesday, June 15, 2011

    Boys and their Toys

    This, my friends, is what happens when your father in law gives your 7 year old a handsaw to help clear away the "little" trees in the fence line. 

    Eli has been cutting down trees for the past two days just around the corner from the house.  Now, most of the trees that he cuts down have a diameter of 1-2 inches.  He then decided yesterday to start cutting down a "little" tree with a diameter of about 6 inches.  Apparently he decided it was too big of a job for him at the time, so he quit, about halfway through, without letting me know.  Upon our return from VBS on this windy afternoon, the above picture is what I happened upon while trying to get home. 

    We were able to walk around the tree to the house to retrieve the handsaw so that Eli could "finish" his job, clearing a path to the house, about 30 minutes later. 

    Wednesday, June 1, 2011

    Memorial Day

    Let me begin by saying that our Memorial Day weekend was absolutely wonderful!  We began with a busy Saturday at the zoo.  Sunday we went to church and then went with my husband's family to take a tour of a few different cemeteries throughout the area where different family members from many different generations were buried.  It was quite fascinating for me to hear stories about our family that I will hopefully one day be able to remember and pass down to our children.  For example, Ezra's great-great grandfather had 11 children with his first wife, who died young, and then married Ezra's great-great grandmother (who was about 25 years younger than him) and had 11 more children, one of whom was Ezra's great grandmother.  This same great grandmother and one of her sisters married a set of brothers, and the two couples are buried next to each other. 

    By Monday we were ready for a traditional family cookout.  We did the basic hamburgers and hot dogs, but we were blessed to be able to pick our first mess of squash and green tomatoes just in time for our cookout.

    I fried these babies up

    After slicing lengthwise, I drizzled with olive oil, salt & pepper and then grilled them to perfection!  Some of the best squash I've ever eaten.
     I promise that I intended to take pictures of the food, but by the time everything was cooked, the kids were rustled up inside and washed up and we sat down to eat, the last thing on my mind was to pull out the camera.  It was time to EAT!  I remembered the camera when we started on dessert....

    As you can see, fun was had by all.....but we did have one uninvited guest....

    After determining he was a king snake, we decided to let him go about his business of keeping the poisonous snakes away.

    After lunch, Ezra and I took the kids and our 2 nieces down to the pond for a swim.  Trust me, this is a rare occurrence around here (which I have never taken part in), but the kids were so excited.  My official job was to stand on the dock and watch kids bobbing in the water and help them over the rail to the ladder leading into the water....as well as taking pictures.
    My husband demonstrating the proper way to enter the water....

    Like father, like son....almost.

    Demonstrating the proper dive technique

    Attempting the proper dive technique...more like a belly flop

    Treading water with a 3 year old attached to his neck

    Look Mom....no hands!

    After the kids had their fill of pond water (and Ezra was exhausted from treading water for 1 1/2 hours), we headed back to the house and got to work in the garden.  We planted the okra and pumpkin seeds, completing our garden.  Below are a few pictures of the garden thus far....

    Cantaloupe and Watermelon

    Stand of corn

    20 hills of squash x 5 plants per hill = LOTS of squash this summer!

    Tomato plants just starting to put out green tomatoes

    Despite the hard work involved, the garden has become one of my favorite things about living out in the country.  And as the kids are getting older, some of that hard work is being passed off to the younger generation.  :)   I don't think I had ever even eaten squash until I met Ezra (seriously), and now it is one of my favorite vegetables.  Every time I walk through the produce aisle at the grocery store, I am reminded of how blessed we are to be able to grow so many of our own vegetables.

    I hope everyone was able to enjoy the holiday weekend with their family as well as take time to remember our fallen soldiers and the reason why so many of us are able to enjoy a 3-day weekend every May.