Monday, March 20, 2017

Keepers at Home & Menu Monday: Catching Up

I had this post almost ready to go live last week and then - wham - Migraine.  Ugh.  The symptoms lasted 2 whole days, no joking.  Then, posting "Menu Monday" on a Wednesday just seemed weird! 

I had promised on the Friday before to share my household-in-my-absence plan.  I have to admit, I am relieved that not only is dad doing well as he waits for surgery, but this also allows me more time to prep the family and household.  I'm fully aware prep time is not always a luxury.

How I am preparing

I feel blessed to at least know.  To have time to prepare, make lists and give pep-talks.  Brooke is 14, Ashley is 18 and both have shadowed me many times over the years.  Brenden, 16, will help but he works part-time and hubby will be at work during the days.  Yet, shadowing vs. doing it on your own are two very different things.  So I am gearing up to make it as easy on them as possible:
  • Homeschooling plans are situated and, with the extra wait time, we should actually finish most of our studies for the year early.  What little they will have left can be managed well in my absence.
  • I am updating my grocery list outline to show which items I get at Costco each month so the kids know where to go for those things.  They can watch ads to determine grocery store buys.  I will be sure they know how to do this as well.  There dad will go with them, but the girls will be in charge of the list (hubby's request!).
  • I am updating my chore check-list to show frequency of the various household duties so they can be sure to stay on top of those.
  • Since they are new at managing meals on their own I think I am going to try this great idea I found on Pinterest for a Recipe Bank.  It will boost their confidence in meal planning with something so easy to follow.  I will load it with easy recipes they are familiar with and leave room for them to experiment some as well.
  • I will throw together a basic daily over-view of routines to give them an idea of the order of business I usually operate... but I will encourage them to re-order where it works better for them to do so.

What happens when mom can't even advise?

Thankfully, I will be a phone call away.  However, I have experienced surgeries and situations of my own in the past where I was not able to even advise and the biggest piece of advice I can offer:  LET GO!  As long as they don't burn the house down or hurt each other or themselves, all is OK.  Household running will NOT be done the way you usually do it, and that is OK.  It will be done the way they can do it and that is plenty good enough!  Remember to compliment their efforts regularly when you get a chance. 

Words are worth so much...

Don't forget, when mom can't be in charge: They will be struggling too.  Kids, dad, all of them - they are use to you being the rudder which turns the mighty ship of Home.  Everyone will struggle in their own way in your absence and the best way to help them? Encouragement.  Even if you hear that Billy vacuumed without moving furniture or Sally used your potato masher to stir ground beef... see what they ARE doing and compliment and encourage them in it.  This will give them confidence and peace of mind as they learn to make do without your help for a season.

There may be bickering at times.  Hubby may be irritable.  When you are miles away, you may be the source of unloading all of the at-home troubles through the muffled extension of a telephone.  Close your eyes, say a prayer, and remember: they are struggling and emotions will often feed their sentiments.  Be the calm they need.  Reassure (even when you want to cry or scream!).  Point them heavenward.  No matter how bad it seems through that telephone extension, I promise, it will all settle down and everyone will become stronger through it.

This isn't my first rodeo, but it may be my longest without any of my little family unit around me.  Peace in Jesus will get us all through and even though I am going to miss my kiddos and hubby for the time I am gone, and even though I will be back east under less-then-desirable circumstances... I am looking forward to the opportunity to serve and care for the man that cared for and raised me.

Food from last 2 weeks...

Not garden food!  Remember those pictures a few weeks ago of us having lunch on the deck?  Not the week before last... and now it is raining!  The snow was beautiful though.  Spring will be here soon enough.

Hamburger salad.  I threw avocados on mine because I LOVE avocado!  It is a quick, easy fix: lettuce, hamburger fried and crumbled, tomato, shredded cheese, cucumber and ranch dressing.  Delishish!

 Dressing up a quick meal of Chicken and Cheese Chimichangas from Costco.


Mexi-Chicken Salad (I cooked in a pan instead of a slow-cooker as per link).

A special St. Patrick's Day breakfast!

Menu for this week...

- cereal and blueberries
- eggs
- fresh bread with butter and jam

hubby: sausage and rice
me and kids: leftovers, grilled sandwiches, grilled tuna sandwiches, mac-n-cheese


Thin-cut Steak with Sauteed Garlic and Onion, Beef and Onion Boiled Red Potatoes and Side Salad
Happy 1st Day of Spring!


Roast Sage Chicken Breast, Mashed Potato, Green Beans
Butter a baking pan, throw in boneless skinless chicken breast, put a small pad of butter/margarine on top of each breast, sprinkle with powders: onion, garlic, sage and a dash of celery salt.  Roast in oven on 375 for 45-75 minutes.  You can even add washed whole potatoes to the pan to roast along with the chicken!  Crazy easy.  

Avocado Burgers and Sun Chips
Once burger is cooked, melt some cheddar cheese, add sliced avocado, lettuce, tomato and miracle whip.  It's my husband's new favorite way to have a burger!

Pot Pie


In thought!
It's is grocery shopping day.  I will probably grab something quick.
What are you doing and cooking this week?



Saturday, March 18, 2017

Homeschool Journal: One Foot in Front of the Other

If you saw last week's Homeschool Journal post you know I was living life in limbo for the week.  Word came, surgery is scheduled and I actually won't be leaving town until around April 20th.  Many more tests need to be done between now and then, dad is doing great and has a very positive outlook... which helps me be at ease as I just wait, 1200 miles away.

Knowing he is trooping along, I can relax and actually find some relief in the extended wait.  I am hoping to review lesson plans this weekend and trim, where possible, so we might finish the bulk of our studies before April 20th.  This would allow me to leave the kids with only minor studies to round out their school year.

How do you plug forward when limbo swings around?
#1 - Don't give up! It seems to me that there is always something to slow up or stop the homeschooling process.  It is easy to drop everything and just succumb.  Sometimes you need to and that is OK - BUT - when this becomes a daily or weekly habit it is time to grab a hold and plug in.  Maybe at a slower pace, but still a pace which moves forward.

#2 - Put one foot in front of the other!  This sort of goes hand-in-hand with #1.  Once you resolve to not give up, don't feel like you have to have it ALL figured out.  Simply take one-step-at-a-time. 
     ...Maybe in a difficult time you can't handle your full subject load
     ... maybe you are behind or disoriented with what to do
Pick one thing to start with and step forward in that.  When you are ready, add another, and so on.  No one gets to the top of the stairway in one leap... it is one-step-at-a-time.

I could have been daunted this week by all I wanted to do AND needed to do both academically and in all the other little side ways we house-mamas have to juggle.  But I took it one-step-at-a-time and plugged ahead.  I didn't get to EVERYTHING this week, but I got to things and more is done at the end of the week then was done at the beginning.

Our Homeschool This Week...

In-line with walking out the above steps, this week we cut out a couple of our subjects and focused on some of the basics I was most concerned about.  We did Science, History, and Algebra and, on the days I could, Brooke and I tackled Composition.  It was all good - not our usual load - but we didn't give up!

I didn't take very many pictures this week.  I suffered a pretty bad migraine starting Monday.  I wasn't really feeling well enough to look at screens until Wednesday.  Jumping into our geology unit as previously mentioned, it only took us one week to study the basics in our Earth Science book.  The kids requested an edible science project to review the layers of the earth - proof that it doesn't matter how old you are; edible science is always a good idea!!

We started with drawing up a "recipe" chart showing approximate relative thickness for each layer they would be building

We are using A-Beka Earth Science for 9th grade.  Brenden only got through half of this his Freshman year so he joined up with Brooke for the other half this year (her Freshman year, his Junior this year)
 I left interpretation up to them on exactly how to draw it out.

We taped their "recipe" card to the back of a clear tumbler.  I happened to have glasses the size they wanted to use but you can get clear plastic cups at the store.  The kids wanted to use large and later, I think, wished they had chosen smaller because it made A LOT!

 Earlier in the week we made a list of ingredients to correspond with the different layers and then shot over to the grocery store.  Oreos and pudding were on sale, it was a score!  We made the pudding in the morning and stuck it in the fridge while we did our other school work.  I crushed half of the cookies for the crust and lined up all our ingredients with respective labels to avoid confusion.

Ashley may be graduated now... but that doesn't change the fact edible science is always fun to join in on!!  Brooke was lining the pudding up with the appropriate line on her "recipe" card.

Our unit had covered layers of the earth, continental plates, earthquakes and volcanoes so it is only natural we would add an extra layer on top of the crust to display the pieces of continent.
Bon appetit`!

While enjoying our edible earth we watched a video on volcanoes!

In other news this week.... Brooke painted her face for St. Patrick's Day!  We all enjoy Irish heritage here, some of us (like my husband) more than others but it makes St. Patty's extra special knowing some of our Christian heritage under this roof might be traced back to the man himself.

I forgot to include this picture last week, it is a new favorite:
We had a girls' day out two Saturdays ago, it was discount day at the local art museum and the girls wanted to go.  We love art ♥ and I love the rare treat of time alone with my girls.

What have you been up to this week?


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Homeschool Journal: When Terminal Illness Casts Shadows

It will be 14 years in October since my mother passed away.  The keeper of my memories left behind only me, my step dad and my grandfather.  Grandpa's heartache was so fierce he joined her only 3 years later.  Dad has hung on.  Dad.  He has been my stand-in father since I was 3.  A lifetime. 

Every Sunday evening the family knows mom is off-limits because she is talking to grandpa 1200 miles away.  Every Sunday we gab about life from the week, family, politics, faith and passions that run deep.

Every now and then I miss a Sunday, usually for good and agreed upon reason.  We often make up for it with a phone chat somewhere else in the week.  This week was one of those weeks and as Wednesday approached with a new storm brewing outside, my eyes on my computer screen setting to work on bloggy things, my phone rang.  Dad's picture readily showed and I figured it was time we made up for the missed call.

It wasn't what I expected though.

He didn't waste any time with small talk.  This wasn't his usual.  I could hear a form of nervousness in his voice as the words; blood, hospital, and growth in kidney began to paint a picture I knew did not look good.  The doctors hadn't confirmed it yet but I knew the news which was forthcoming.  He silently did too.

He didn't ask me to temporarily leave my family here and make the trip across the miles, but with NO ONE, not a soul, to look out for him there, wild horses couldn't keep me away.  The screen on my computer switched from blog post to bounce between Orbitz and the medical boards to better understand the little bit of information we had so far.  He didn't fight me when I explained how, as soon as surgery was schedule, I would be getting on the next flight out to be at his side.

This was serious.

He always fought me on such things.  Fiercely independent.  He hates being alone but he hates compromising just as much.  He's a 6'2" viking built version of Chuck Norris.  Nothing keeps my dad down.  Nothing.  This time was different.  Like hearing the foreign sound of his heaving sobs the night my mother died, I knew we were in uncharted waters.  He did too.  He didn't fight for a second but instead, relief almost seemed to wash through his voice as he went on about directions to the hospital, security codes and spare money.   

Homeschool needs, home needs, family needs all suddenly seemed to change shape.  Then came Thursday's call confirming cancer in the initial imaging and blood tests.  I drove hard into the core of needing a plan and needing to be ready.  This coming week a follow-up with the Urologists will, hopefully, give a better glimpse at a departure date while, in the meantime, I live life on-call.

What happens when terminal illness casts a shadow over your homeschool?  

Simply: life becomes a teacher.

Shouldn't life always be the teacher?  Of course.  But most of us supplement life lessons with good curriculum and lesson plans (unless you un-school). 

I feel so blessed to have read a plethora of articles and books over the years which provided perspective into the varied forms of teaching/learning.  Two, out of the masses, have stood out to me most to this day:
1) A mother who was diagnosed with cancer and given barely a year to live.  Homeschooling mattered not, as she collected her kiddos around her each day just to be with them and drink in every moment they could before the Lord took her home.  She was a miracle though.  Healed and thriving.  She looks back on that year as some of her greatest challenges coupled with not-a-single-regret over an entire year off of homeschool.

2) Another family, not by the result of illness, rather, through circumstances of life and the Lord's leading to take a year and learn by interaction.  ONE YEAR out of her children's academic careers was spent in living books, hands-on home projects and interacting with the unexpected circumstances of their lives.  This mom (and her husband in agreement) did not regret a single moment of their off-the-beaten-path year.  As a matter of fact, her article raved about the amazing skills, knowledge and understanding which ignited and grew in her children as a result and fed the fervor of their traditional academic studies once they returned to them.
So, what now?
I wait.  I'm fully aware of the long healing process which often accompanies cancer, and just as often doesn't end with healing on earth.  I can't leave my family for months on end and neither can I leave my dad alone to manage all that lies ahead.  We do realistically know I can easily be gone for a month or more before the opportunity to see my family here again arises.  The potential and process of moving him from the home he has lived in since he was 10 will do nothing to shorten my time away or the stress at missing everyone while caring for my sick dad. My heart aches no matter which way I look.  But there is work to be done.

So I plan.  A sort of floating-on-call-ready-at-any-moment plan.  I'll share about my household-in-my-absence plan on Monday.  As for today....

I am re-evaluating schooling needs. I am grateful my children are high school age so they can self-pace.  If you have smaller kiddos don't feel bad for a second about taking a few unexpected months off, I promise, it won't destroy them!  If you really want something, educational videos and hands-on activities are great teachers in your absence or inability for a season.  LIFE is an amazing teacher when mom can't stand at the head for a time.

My plan:
  • Follow the over-all outline of our science by way of videos on YouTube.  To drive the lessons home, the kids can then draw and jot in their science journals about what they learn
  • History we will switch to mainly living books.  I am thinking of combining history with writing and giving them time period topics to research and put together papers or outlines on (we are studying American History this year)
  • Algebra I am thinking of switching to Khan Academy or CTC Math in my absence.  Both are great programs we have used in the past.  We have made it far enough through their text book I feel absolutely comfortable with this.
  • Spelling and Vocab I am considering having them continue independent.  Ashley will be here and she can issue spelling tests and grade them for me.  (Believe it or not, my kids actually like this!!  Otherwise, I would probably drop this subject off their plans until I return)
This overall plan provides almost complete independent learning.  I will probably put together some log-sheets they can fill out each day for the purpose of record keeping and transcripts.  I will only need to go over their history writing and, of course, I will check in with them about the rest as we go. 

I talked with them about this and they are completely on board.  Having missed a month and a half in the fall for some curve-balls life threw at us then, we really can't afford to miss a bunch more with Brenden graduating next year.  Besides, I believe the school work will be good for them to keep their minds on something other then nothing in my absence.  It will be good for me too, since my involvement will be minimal but I also won't feel stressed about all they are missing on top of everything else.

If terminal illness casts a shadow on your homeschool... the #1 thing to consider isn't what lessons your kids can't afford to miss.... it is what is best for the family as a whole while someone you love battles illness.  Your answer might be to put the books down altogether or it may be a trimmed down version of school. To know for sure, simply seek God, He will show you the best path.  His plans are always better then anything we could try to devise ourselves!  Don't over-think it, just follow.  After all, some of life's best lessons are not found in books.

Our Homeschool This Week...

 Even in the midst of un-settling news, we managed to wrap up our study on the ocean in Earth Science.  I even brought in a clear bowl of water with salts and dirt to throw in as we discussed salinity one day and waves the next!  In light of the news on my dad I do believe we will jump to the geology unit in our book and save chemistry for later.  I don't want to get in the middle of a beefy topic and then have to leave town.

 I pulled down my white twinkle lights and evergreen garland with snowflakes as a nod towards impending spring.  Hanging vines and flowers in their place while the kids did their school work and we all watched this happening outside:
Most our snow had melted a week or more ago but the good Lord decided to send more in the form of a snow storm that lasted around 24 hours in the middle of the week.
It wasn't a bad storm, this picture was taken after the first round hit, but since it started with rain and then progressed to snow... it was sort of messy out on the road-ways.  Brenden is such a great sport keeping the walks maintained.

 You've heard of parakeets?  We have a para-kitty!  He LOVES riding on shoulders and backs.  While Brooke tended her rabbit Friday morning he hung out on her back.  Ashley went to relieve Brooke of her cumbersome buddy and Jay (the kitty) readily jumped onto Ashley and road back to the house.... then hopped down and went right back to Brooke for another ride around!  He is too funny.

This is one of my favorite pictures this week.  I went into the hallway outside Brooke's room and glimpsed her in the mirror as she sat in the rocking chair in her room while doing her Bible Study.  I couldn't help sneaking a shot!

What have you been up to this week?


Monday, March 6, 2017

Keepers at Home & Menu Monday: A Word on Napkins

Welcome to another installment of Keepers and Menus!  Last week I promised to share a piece on napkins in response to a similar article and challenge on Making A House A Home. (Be sure to pop over and tell her "Hi"!)

About 14 years ago I inherited a passel of cloth napkins.  They were amazingly economically helpful and sturdy in the face of a family of six. Then, about eight-or-so years ago, I thought I would push their limits and use them for draining fried food and... well... um... not a good idea!  Matters got worse when I washed them with the regular dish towels and all that grease sort of ruined everything!  Talk about a lesson hard-learned!

This past year my husband commented how he missed our cloth napkins and wished we had more.  He enjoyed their durability and the fact that ONE usually did the trick where a small stack of paper ones left a lot to be desired.  So, for Christmas, my labor of love was to make him a set!  He was ever so grateful.

This weekend I decided to get my sewing to-do bin out and whip out some more.  Partly because the set of six I made hubby for the holidays get used up fast and partly so I could photo-shoot and share the process here.  Good ideas should always be shared!  For me, like menu planning and meal making, I like the shortest, simplest route to a task which can also still yield GREAT results and this napkin-making plan is just-that...

I'm not a fabric guru.  All of my pieces are either garage sale finds or gifts from other's left-overs.  From my collection I picked sturdy fabrics that were also soft and semi-absorbent.  Pre-washing and ironing is ideal.
I used the cardboard piece out of a 12x12 scrapbook paper pad as my template.

I rolling cutter makes quick work but you can use a fabric pencil, trace, and then cut out with regular scissors.

All ready to go!

I sewed about 1 machine foot width from the edge as you can see above.  I used a straight stitch on these because I forgot I had used zig-zag at Christmas!
Notice the edge of the zig-zag napkin is fluffed, this happens in the wash (I was hoping it would... the fluff adds character to the edges).  I did have to trim stray threads off the first few times I washed them.  The more I wash them, though, the less trimming I need to do and they look positively refined!

I love using them at dinner, but I also love using them when I have a peeled orange because the juice doesn't really leak through AND I can still clean my hands with the napkin when I'm done! 

Because we homeschool and I get tiered of trying to stash our pens and misc. needs when we shift between eating and schooling at our table I decided just to combine!  It works for us.

Do you use cloth napkins?  If so, I would love to see pictures and hear how they bless your home!  Be sure to share a link below if you do and I will hop over and visit!

Food from last week...

 This may look weird but it was sooooo good. Chicken Fettuccine over Baked Spaghetti Squash.  (I think I will officially try to grow some in the garden this year!!)  I had some leftover Baby Bellas from a salad supreme hubby and I had over the weekend. I sliced and stir-fried them with fresh garlic and threw them into my home-made fettuccine sauce.  The whole meal took a few more steps and time then I typically take in meal prep but it was worth it and, if I had planned ahead a bit better, I might have had the whole thing done, start to finish, within about an hour.

Do differently?  Prepare the squash ahead of time and let cool completely before doing my mixture.
Do quicker?  Use pre-made fettuccine sauce.

Roast and veggies with a side-salad and feta.  I got a wild hair to record the process I discussed last week...

veggies in bottom of pot

sear on ALL sides

onion soup mix on top, water to about middle of roast

I didn't make gravy this time because hubby and I are watching carbs and the kids usually just use ranch.  It is sooooo easy and delicious.  Be sure to check last week's Keepers and Menus post for the full recipe and directions

Menu for this week...

- cereal and blueberries
- eggs
- fresh bread with butter and jam

hubby: sausage and rice
me and kids: leftovers, grilled sandwiches, grilled tuna sandwiches, mac-n-cheese


Cheeseburger Salad
Salad with ground beef, cheese, green onions and ranch


Chicken Stir Fry
I do this the same way as Pork Stir Fry but without the eggs and I usually trade out the peas and carrots vegies for brocoli, cauliflower and green beans (or some other pre-mix frozen stir fry veggies)

Chicken and Cheese Chimichangas with Salad
Pot Pie

Burgers with Sun Chips


What are you doing and cooking this week?



Friday, March 3, 2017

Homeschool Journal: March 2017

 In my life this month…
March rolled in like a lamb and as long as the lion rolling out has to do with weather, I'm ok with that!  Especially since, in February, my document website (hopefully eventually to be my NEW website) was hacked by Russians!  Seriously!!  Hubby identified the hack and the source and we had to manage the problem so my PDF and e-Book downloads have been disrupted as we work out the kinks.

Also, we bought a car and returned a car within 24 hours.  Excitement and then disappointment thinking I was finally going to be able to safely leave the county.  However, we did get beyond the county line for a morning before we learned the car needed to go back!  Felt blessed God revealed the problems before we were obligated to it. Not sure yet if we are going to try for another but we are prayerfully considering it.

In other events, we look forward to St. Patrick's Day, not just for our Irish heritage, but because we simply like to have fun (Irish jigging is part of the deal) and celebrate the spread of Christianity to the Green Isle.  First day of Spring is exciting too, I love celebrating the changes of seasons.  I always plan a fun dinner.  Oh, and my little ole' birthday rounds out this month.  No special plans but I do look forward to having a dinner of my choice that day! 
  • In our homeschool this month…
We missed 2 weeks in February.  Just as we were geared to push through and make-up for lost time.  Kids were sick though and we had no choice.  We did get started on our Constitution study in February and while I had hoped to finish it before month's end it looks like Mid-March will be our wrap-up on that.  Then we jump into the early years of America, not sure if we will make it to the Civil War before the month's out but I hope to.

The Algebra combo we tried with Brenden and Brooke is going really well.  We will be jumping into a new unit with that before the week is out.  Brenden still needs to finish Consumer Math for the year as well so I will be trying to work that in on top of his regular studies on the days he doesn't work.

In Science we start studying the Oceans this week.  I'm not certain if we will jump into the subsequent Chemistry unit afterwords or push that till the end of the year and do the Geology unit next.  Keep an eye out on Fridays here to see which direction we go!

Brooke was not a big fan of her Abeka 9th Grade Composition at the start of the year but it has actually grown on her.  She is really 'getting it' the farther in we go and it is exciting to see her enjoying the content.  

Brenden has really gotten a-hold of his Writing with Skill curriculum.  It is helping him grow as a writer as well as understanding themes and content in pieces he reads.  I highly recommend it.
  • My favorite thing this month…
Seasons changing!  I love the seasons.  They all have something special and something challenging - just like life!  They are new beginnings four times a year, new hope, ideas, and ways of living (unless you live in a more moderate climate!)  I'm looking forward to bringing out my spring decor with fresh silk flowers, bright colors, and fun springy trinkets!  And bunnies!!!!  Brooke loves bunnies and because of her love and their cuteness... I love them too!
  • What’s working/not working for us…
Working... our curriculum.  I questioned parts of it at the beginning of the year but as we have stuck to it, I love seeing the kids grow and learn and even still get excited about their work... even in the things that have a seemingly monotonous routine, they seem to like the predictability in some things.

Not working... Time off!  The kids actually like their school work (who would have ever thought that day would come!)  They are driven to see their curriculum complete and, apparently, no one is happy with too much time off... even if they were sick for most of it!
  • Homeschool thoughts I have…
Not to contradict what I just got done typing, but I do really need to schedule half-days here and there to get out of the house and breathe in the air... especially now that the weather is on an up-swing.  With our upcoming geology unit we could turn it into a science expedition!  We are going to have to push through our originally planned spring break to make up for what we missed and, while the kids are totally cool with that, I don't want them to burn out and so we need to find ways to balance play into our schedule.
  • A photo, video, link, or quote to share…
It warmed up for a few days in February and we had lunch on the back porch!

  • On my blog in case you missed it…
I re-kindled weekly Homeschool Journal posts!  Each one begins with a small article on homeschool topics (so far I've covered how to deal with the Doldrums and Being Content With Your Curriculum) and then leads into a break-down of our week in homeschooling.  Be sure to check back each Friday/Saturday to see more.  Menu Mondays meshed with Keeper's At Home kicked off as well.  Pop back each Monday for inspiration.

That is our homeschool for this month.  I pray your homeschool springs to life in March!


 as well as this monthly meme: