Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Both my kids doing handwriting at the same time??! Swwwwweet!

Note: Norah's using Zanier Bloser's 2C and Avril's using the Android app Tracing ABC.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

After Avril's been up a while in the mornings, she will go in and wake her sister up and the two of them with often snuggle and talk for a little bit. Yesterday, I went by to see them facing one another, sitting Indian style, talking about something very serious. When I went to take their picture, they embraced so I missed the shot of them talking, but got this sweet pose instead. Their time to connect like this would be swallowed up if Norah had to go to school every day. I didn't decide to home school because I wanted my kids to be close, but that has been a benefit to this lifestyle that I didn't foresee.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Norah is flying through All About Spelling Level 1 (now that she and I have finally learned the phonograms - Lesson 1.)

She is enjoying the program and for that reason, Norah argues with me that All About Spelling is not really spelling at all because, "I don't like spelling and I like All About Spelling and this is totally different than the spelling I did before."

Yes, Norah.


Below Norah is putting her alphabet tiles in order, something students do at the start of every lesson, getting practice alphabetizing. Well, actually Avril is the one putting the tiles on the magnetic white board as Norah gives them to her in alphabetical order, so they are doing it together.

We are going so fast through the material right now because Norah had a good foundation in traditional phonics. But, as I look over the lessons at the end of this book, I think we will have to slow down the further we get into it. There are currently seven levels to this program in all, so we will just keep plodding through all the books till we're done, someday.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

I made drip beef sandwiches for dinner the other night.

My mom will be proud when she finds out I used the cast iron dutch oven she gave me on my last visit. I love this dutch oven. I just love it.

These were amazing. Make them. Today.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Beef Pot Pie

Note: I used a well seasoned cast iron skillet to brown the beef and make the gravy for this recipe and I believe it made it taste even better. Have I mentioned how I love my skillet?

16 oz frozen mixed vegetables
1 lb ground beef
½ cup chopped onion
4 T butter
3 T flour
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 can beef broth
2 pre-made pie crusts, thawed

Cook vegetables in a saucepan according to the directions on the bag, drain them and set them aside. Brown the beef, drain it on a large plate covered with paper towels and set it aside, too. In the same skillet you browned the beef, melt the butter. Note: Leave some of the grease and beef bits in the bottom of the skillet. This helps flavor the gravy. Sauté the onions in the butter till tender then sprinkle in the flour and mix. Slowly add the broth and spices, still mixing in small cirlces. Once the gravy has thickened a little, add the vegetables and beef and mix everything together. Spray a glass pie pan with non-stick spray and line it with one pie crust. Fill it with the beef mixture then top it with the 2nd crust. The top crust should "attach" to the bottom crust. Just pinch them together as best as you can. Cut a few holes in the top crust. Bake this for 30 min @ 400° or until the crust gets golden brown. Serve this with fresh baked bread. Enjoy!

She was pushing the camera away with a finger, fed up with her Momma-razzi.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The characters in the last book we read aloud, The Cricket in Times Square, all liked liverwurst. They were a mouse, a cat and a cricket, all friends, and they'd share and relish in the scraps of this lunch meat that fell out of people's sandwiches and onto the ground in New York City. Their love of liverwurst made Norah want to try it. She wasn't dissuaded by the fact that the characters who liked it were all animals. So her dad, who likes liverwurst, made himself and the girls sandwiches last Saturday for lunch. (I had few bites of everyone's sandwiches, to get tastes of it, but then I made myself a grilled cheese.) Norah ended up eating two whole liverwurst sandwiches; she liked it so much. She generally has a good appetite anyway, though, and since I wanted to make sure we used up all the liverwurst we bought, I let her have as much as she wanted.

Avril insisted on having her photo taken, too. She ate half a liverwurst sandwich along with her Daddy and her big sister. Here's to how books can inspire us to try new things! 


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Avril chillin.'

Monday, February 20, 2012

I downloaded a few apps to my phone for Avril. This is a video of her playing "Tracing ABC" earlier tonight. Note: You can download this app for free, but they only provide you with the ability to trace letters A-H. I had to pay for the full version of the app that provides the whole alphabet but it was only a few bucks. Kids also get to trace lowercase letters, shapes and numbers.  Avril loves this game. She also likes another totally free app called "Kids Socks." That one lets little ones practice matching.

Roast Beef and Open Faced Roast Beef Sandwiches

I made a pot roast the other night using two packets of beef gravy mix, a small onion, chopped, and a cup of water in the crock pot for eight hours. Simple. I served the roast with green beans and potatoes.

We had tons of meat left over, so I decided to save what was left of the meat and make open faced roast beef sandwiches later in the week. (That's the thing about bigger pieces of meat. They may be more expensive but you get at least two dinners plus several lunches with the leftovers.) So I just took everything that was left in the crock pot and transferred it to a Tupperware and kept it in the fridge for a few days.

On the day I wanted to make the open faced sandwiches, I baked some fresh white bread in the bread machine. Then I used this gravy recipe to make beef gravy in my skillet. When the gravy was thickening, I added all the leftover beef to it, mixed and mixed and heated it all though. Note: I added even more water than the recipes says to thin out the gravy even more to suit my taste.

I sliced the bread and spread the steaming roast beef and gravy mixture over it. I served it with cold applesauce on the side. The picture does not even do justice to the tastiness of the beef and gravy. It looks gloppy in the photo, sadly, but it wasn't gloppy at all. I was really mouthwatering.

If you eat meat, try this. Slow cook a roast and serve it with your favorite sides one night then serve the left overs with gravy over bread or toast another night with another simple side. You'll get (at the very least) two delicious dinners out of one pot roast.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

"Will you be a mother?"

"Will you be a mother?"

I was confused.

"God, of all people... of all questions..."

I had a sense He gently acknowledge my confusion over the question and looked at me in love, but then asked again.

"Will you be a mother?"

I really thought about what He was asking for a moment.

Then I knew what He meant.

He wanted to know if I was really willing to do this thing with my life.

Even though I wanted to be a mom as long as I can remember, even after I had two kids, even as I stood there pregnant with another child, presumably way too late to do anything about being a mother...

But all at once, I was aware that having another child was going to require more from me than ever before,

that there would be little or no time left in my schedule for myself,

that I won't be alone as much,

I cherish my alone time.

that the house won't be as quiet, either.

I love my quiet house.

I will need to pour out my life to the point where I will have to depend on God for mental and emotional stability like never before.

This baby will change me, the way I've seen children change women before me.

God wants me to embrace those changes, not fight against them like they are unnatural and let them make me bitter.

I was aware that I will be totally different after this motherhood thing is over.

I will be humbled.

But I will be wise.

I will grow in virtue.

"Yes. I will be a mother."

Then I stood up, just like the pastor asked us to do if we felt God was asking us to be obedient about something.

It was difficult to stand because I was on the front row and everyone else was sitting and it was difficult to keep standing through the whole song till the end of the church service, but I did it anyway.

The church service ended. We went home. I was greeted by a sink full of dishes as usual. Avril had a dirty diaper, the kind that you can't ignore no matter how much you may want to. A meal had to be prepared and prepared quickly because everyone was already starving from a long morning away from home.

But I already sensed a new strength in me for the mundane tasks I was facing.

I smiled down at Avril as I changed her diaper. I didn't just go through the motions. I took a few extra moments to look her in the eyes and talk to her and rub lotion on her arms and legs and kiss and hug her before I put her down.

I did the dishes next. They didn't feel like such a chore.

I made lunch and set up the table so we could eat together and visit.

And on it has gone, ever since I stood up that morning, I've had more power to be who I already was and to do what I was already doing.

Perhaps the power came when I was willing to humble myself before God and say "Yes" to a question I didn't think I even deserved to be asked.

Or perhaps it comes from knowing that this really is what God has asked me to do with my life.

How or why I receive it, I don't know, but I can tell it comes from God and I am grateful for it.

I need it now and I will need it even more soon.

In some cases, I depend on my blog to tell me what I planned for home school and this is one such case. I had forgotten which books I wanted to read aloud to the kids this year!  I couldn't find the list anywhere!  So when I went to my shelf to find our next read aloud, I didn't know for sure if a book was there for me to read to Norah or for Norah to read to herself later.

But then I did a quick search through my blog archives and found the list below. I posted it back in the summer when I was just making plans for this school year.  I made some changes to the list since I've finished reading some of the books already.  But here's the updated list.

Read Alouds for 2012

I am currently reading:
The Family Under the Bridge
I plan to read or listen to as many of these as possible:
Homer Price
Mrs. Piggle Wiggle
The Box Car Children
The Door in the Wall
The Year of Miss Agnes
The Wheel on the School
Twenty One Balloons
Ginger Pye
The Little Riders
Little House on the Prairie
On the Banks of Plum Creek
By The Shores of Silver Lake

We've already finished reading or listening to:
Sarah Plain and Tall
Mr. Popper's Penguins 
A Cricket in Times Square

Note: I have come to realize that I am not the most disciplined reader and I don't really enjoy reading out loud.  But when a professional tells the story on an audio recording, we all get to just sit and enjoy the book.  So, when I can find an audio recording of any of these books, I plan to buy or borrow and use it instead of reading the book myself, even if I already have a printed copy of the book. Right now, I am having to read "The Family Under the Bridge" myself because I could only find the book on cassette tape and I didn't want to spend money on such outdated technology.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

If Avril is nearby and Norah is writing words, Norah will say the letters in the words as she writes them. Avril repeats the letter to Norah and they both giggle because Avril really doesn't talk much and it's quite cute to hear her try to say all the letters. I have a good feeling Norah is going to be the one to teach her little sister her letters in this way. It's their little game.

Friday, February 17, 2012

This is another science experiment in the digestive system chapter that demonstrates what the acid in soda can do to the enamel on your teeth. This was one of Norah's baby teeth and aside from the fact that it was not in her mouth, it was perfectly healthy looking when we started the experiment. But, after a week in the soda, it looked like this. Yuck!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Here's another science experiment to go along with our study of the digestive system. This time we put a cracker on Norah's tongue to see her salivary glands go to work and see if she could taste the sweet taste of the enzyme called amylase in her saliva breaking down the starches in the cracker into sugars. Norah didn't really taste much sweetness with the cracker, so we plan to try this experiment with bread. Norah will chew on bread and not swallow it and hopefully, see how the bread begins to taste sweet after the saliva starts to work on it.

So... while Avril is not as outgoing as her big sister, she is not shy, not at all.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

With the guidance of The Well Educated Mind, I am starting a course of study through some of the greatest works of literature, beginning with one of the greatest and earliest works of fiction (at least it the earliest on the list the book provides), Don Quixote.

I am fully aware that this whole endeavor may take a while.

Years, maybe.

Or even years and years.

How will I find the time, you ask?

I plan to give up even more Hulu.

This book terrifies me, though. I mean look at it!

I graduated with a degree in English Literature. In college, I read long experts from this book and discussed it in class, intelligently I think, and even wrote about it. But the professor held mine and every other students' hand as we waded through the book together.

But if I remain scared of tackling books like this on my own, my kids will grow up scared of tackling books like this on their own. So I am confronting my fear before my kids start to model it.

Is a person capable of educating herself? Really? Can we really do big things on our own without the guidance of experts?

I believe we can.

And so here I go!

All at once I'll see Avril or Norah, really see them, and I become aware of how blessed I am to be their mom and the realization nearly knocks me over.

Here's another science experiment we're in the process of completing. We're demonstrating how your muscles get stronger as you use them. Norah opens and closes the clothes pin as many times as she can with her right hand for one minute and I record the number. Then she does the same thing with her left hand and I record that number, too. As you can see, after only four tests, her numbers have gone up. We are well past the chapter on the muscular system, but I think we'll keep doing this experiment anyway and see how high Norah's numbers go. Norah seems to enjoy it and it makes for a nice break in our school work. I am sure the same test could be done with something more physical, like hopping or jumping rope or push ups.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Norah has completed her Math U See Alpha book and will now go on to Beta.

Avril insisted on posing with her big sister for the picture with her certificate of completion. Norah called it a "diploma."

These are photos of the last tests Norah took. The first test was to show that she has mastered subtraction. Subtraction was taught in the second half of the book.

The next test was to show that she remembered all her addition from the first half of the book and could do subtraction, too.

Note: I circled all the subtraction problems so Norah could to do all the subtraction problems first and then go back and do the addition problems that weren't circled. She had had very little practice switching back and forth between addition and subtraction on the worksheets and tests before this final test so I thought it was unfair to expect her to be in the habit of checking the symbols before she started every problem.

Norah started this book back in April 2010. Here's a photo of her then. So it took her and I almost two years to get through the Alpha book. Here's hoping we can pick up the pace with the Beta book and finish in better time, but I will not pressure her and I will be gracious with myself since I have a newborn on the way. As it is, Norah enjoys math and she has mastered single digit addition and subtraction, absolutely.

Happy Valentine's Day!

The girls posed with their dad before he left for work this morning holding the cards he gave them and their candy. You should have seen their faces as he took time to read each of them their card.

I try to be a better and better mom every passing day. But, on mornings like this one, it's clear that I've already done one of the best things I'll ever do for my girls and I did that over a decade ago when I married the man that I did.

This was one of our recent science experiments. We're studying the digestive system in Apologia Human Anatomy and Physiology. The clay in this experiment represented poop (Yes. I said "poop.") and the nylon stocking represented our intestines. Norah had to work the clay through the stocking just like our smooth muscles in the intestines have to work poop out of our bodies. Gross? Yes indeed. But, it was also a very effective demonstration of what goes on inside us.

Monday, February 13, 2012

If you hadn't already heard, I'm doing e-mealz this year. It's really working for me. But I also have to work to make it work for me.

Here's what I mean.

I usually have to alter the meals to suit myself and my family better. So I print out their list for dinners each week and follow their suggestions in general, but mark through/ add things to certain days as well.

Notice the photo above. On the first day, I plan to make "sausage lasagna" like they said, but I marked through two items they suggest "Caesar salad" and "garlic toast" and I added "french bread." I won't be making salad since being pregnant, all lettuce now makes me throw up this trimester, and I'd rather make a loaf of french bread in my bread machine than buy pre-made garlic toast with all that butter and salt and preservatives in it.

I realize that another lady probably wouldn't feel compelled to make these marks and notes on the list, but the marks and notes really help me focus on what I will be making right away and keep me from getting confused.

So I have to adjust all the meals this way (unless I happen to like everything they suggest.)

I also go over each item on their shopping list and mark through the ones I won't need, either because I changed the plan and I am not going to be making that item or because I already have it in my pantry.

For example, I won't need bacon since I am making margarita pizza instead of breakfast pizza, so I marked through bacon. I won't need sausage for the lasagna because we already have some because we bought extra sausage for a big dinner we made for friends. I won't need green beans for another meal since we keep several cans in our stock of groceries downstairs so I marked through green beans, too.

Going over the list item by item takes real work every week. I have to go downstairs to the storage room and count how many cans of green beans are still there, etc. but I have a much better idea of what is in my storage and in my cabinets now because I am doing this weekly.

And if you look at the photo above closely, you see that I was able to drastically reduced the amount of items we had to buy this week to make just as many meals. So I am saving us even more money and ensuring we don't buy any more groceries than we really want or need. It is now a very rare thing for us to throw out unused food or uneaten leftovers. It happens some, but no where near as often as it did before we used e-mealz, before I was paying weekly attention to our plans.

To make e-mealz work for me, I also need to make a small list of items that I want in addition to or instead of those on the list. Note that I wanted to use no-bake lasagna noodles instead of the regular kind they suggested. And I have to shop for breakfast, lunches and snacks, too! But you see that the separate list isn't too big and with all the items I took off their shopping list, we have more than enough room in our budget for this stuff. We can often get a good number of lunches and breakfasts for the same price of all their dinners.

One of my main concerns with using e-mealz at the beginning was that I would not like someone else deciding what we ate. But, interestingly, I am finding that that was not the biggest hurdle to get over. I think the most significant problem for me was that I was not already in the habit of working through a meal plan every single week. I did make meal plans and try and keep an eye on what we already in the cabinet and use it up, but it turns out that I did it only once every week and a half or two weeks. Doing meal plans every single week has meant more work more often, but the work more than pays for itself in the savings. We are saving so much money with the help of e-mealz! It was kind of unbelievable until I started doing it and seeing for myself.

Norah's making real progress learning cursive.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Norah's doing more and more "assignments" like this, drawing pictures and/ or doing narrations on what she reads in her free time. In this case, the book Norah read about life in outer space suggested she draw an alien she thinks could exist. This is the very savage alien she came up with and I am equal parts disturbed and impressed by this creation from her imagination.

Friday, February 10, 2012

We're letting Norah collect our empty cans and take them to the store for the spare change. Of course, one of us will go with her to the store and supervise her doing it.

As she adds each can to the bag, she multiplies by fives. "Five twelve times is... sixty cents. I've got sixty cents worth of cans in that bag. Right, Mom?"

She also has to learn the value of the coins the cashier gives her. "This is a nickle, right? It's worth five. But why is it bigger than the dime worth ten? A dime is worth ten right?"

And, as she puts all the money she earned into her piggy bank with all the money already in there, she adds. "I had two dollars and twenty seven cents... plus the three dollars and five cents I just earned. So that's..."

It's been a very easy, very natural way for her to earn some extra money and learn to use math in a way that is meaningful to her without using a workbook.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Norah has read each of her Magic School Bus books about twenty times. I'm not exaggerating. Twenty may even be low-ballin' it. She loves Magic School Bus books.

After she read Color Day Relay the other day for the umpteenth time, I strongly suggested/ made her do a narration on it. When she moaned like a wounded animal over my suggestion/ assignment, I just told her to tell me one thing she remembered or found interesting about the book and draw a picture to illustrate it. She was less unwilling to do this because she got to draw a picture. She also loves to draw. I wrote down what she said and then she copied it under her drawing in her own handwriting.

I am hoping doing narrations like this will get her into the habit/ make her more inclined to record interesting things she comes across in her reading. As she gets older, eventually, she could learn how to teach herself just anything by "collecting" information like this in notebooks or journals.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Finally! I finally finished reading Mr. Popper's Penguins out loud! I am so embarrassed to admit that I started reading it to the girls back in August, but with the pregnancy, I lost all interest in reading aloud for several months. It felt like such a chore. The girls liked the story, but I bet it won't surprise you when I admit I didn't like it that much. That made it even harder to bring myself to read. But, now, we're finally done with it.

Now, we're listening to The Cricket in Times Square before bed every night and it is great. It's a perfect book to follow our recent trips to New York City. The book mentions the subway, Times Square, Chinatown, news stands... all sites Norah became familiar with on our visits to the city. It's a very charming book.

Due to my most recent, most terrible read aloud performance with Popper's Penguins, I think I will stick to audio books for a while. I don't want the girls to continue to miss out on great stories because I am not always inclined to read them out loud.

In this picture, Norah's listening to The Cricket in Times Square before bed.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Monday, February 6, 2012

I found an outdated origami calendar at the thrift store the other day. Some of the origami papers in it had been used, but only a few. Most of the papers were still there and they were in perfect condition so I bought the calendar on impulse. I have always wanted to do origami with Norah, but I have been waiting till I felt she was old enough to follow the directions without any difficulty.

Note: I was in an origami club after school when I was in elementary school. I loved origami. But there was one thing I hated about it, too. I was never able to remember to bring quarters to buy pieces of the beautiful, perfectly square origami paper the teacher sold for the projects. I always had to make pieces of origami paper by folding and cutting (or worse, folding, licking and then tearing) the edge off a regular piece of typing paper. So all my projects were made with plain, white paper, while all the other kids had their choice of smooth, vivid reds for roses, purples for cranes, greens for frogs! Oh the frustration with myself over never remembering to get an extra quarter from my mom! Oh the envy I felt over those kids who always had more than enough quarters! Oh the sound of their fingers sliding over the velvety, thick, authentic origami paper! Therefore, origami always dredges up memories tinged with bitterness. And, therefore, now, when I see any origami paper in any store, I have to fight the overwhelming urge to buy it all!! so I will never have to go without origami paper again!! (Shaking fist at the sky). I guess I should speak to a therapist about this or something...

But, anyway, this is really the first time I've given into that impulse to buy origami paper. The back sides of these papers have instructions for origami projects, but most of them are too complicated for us since we are just beginning (or beginning again, in my case) so we are just using these papers to make simple projects that I can find online.

We found a pattern for a box online and we made several of those. Norah took the little boxes to her room and she is using them to organize her sea shells and jewelry on her dresser. The next day made tulips that we are displaying in our sunniest window. We'll try more designs that we find online in the days to come.

If we ever happen to run out of these papers, I may order some online (or give in to the urge to buy it all!! when I pass some more at the store again), but only if Norah shows a genuine interest in origami by then.