Tuesday, February 28, 2017

February Reads for 2017

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Last day of February ... sneaking in here at the last moment to catalog what has been read around these parts this month. My stack is still on the smallish side, but there has been lots of reading-aloud done and I've checked a couple books off my list that I've been wanting to get to so it's a win for me.

As far as read-alouds, we finished three this month, though only two are pictured above. One was the bedtime book for me and the boy - we are working our way through his sister's Roald Dahl collection and it has been such fun to read these again with him. The nice thing about Roald Dahl, besides his fantastic writing, is that his chapters are just the right length for a little boy winding down at night and on a good evening we can get through two during a reading sessions. Fantastic Mr. Fox was the recent read and enjoyed by both of us. We have since moved on to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory which is always an excellent read-aloud. However, as I read, I go back and forth in my head between the Gene Wilder version and the Johnny Depp version of the movie, depending on which part of the book I am in. So confusing! And don't ask me to pick a favorite because I love them both! :)

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As a collective bunch, we read aloud Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. This is the second time that I've read this one aloud - the last time was in 2010, before the boy was born. At that time, I had one 7 year old girl hanging in there with me while I read it (and two tag along little sisters) and it was a new book to both of us. This time, I just didn't love it as much. Peter and Tink really aren't very nice people! I think I prefer the polished up Walt Disney version.

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Working on our review crossword from our apologia science workbook. I do this along with the little girls and it's very interesting to see what I am able to remember from the lesson vs. them!

The last read-aloud (not pictured) that we checked off this month was our science text, Apologia's Land Animals of the 6th Day. We started this "text" in the Fall of 2016 and it has taken us about a year and half (minus summer) to work our way through it. We have learned so many things about mammals and I'm so thankful that I got to read this along with the kids as part of our schooling. And now, I see the fruit as the three younger will spout out random and interesting animal facts that they have retained at different moments, ie., when the boy and I were emptying the dust canister from the vacuum and he comment that there were probably a lot of dust mites in there that we just swept up. Um, yes, there probably were! Ick. :)

That strong willed child, that one that process information differently than I do ... such a radical change of perspective to think those are the very things God will use instead of things I need to fix. Very much looking forward to @sally.clarkson new bo

Personal reads for me were all over the board this month! I finished Sally Clarkson's newest book Different, which was written with her son Nathan. This book probably deserves more discussion than I have room and time for here, but this is different than many of Sally's other books that she has written. This was a book written for the mama who is parenting that child at home that is what she calls an "out of the box kid." They don't fit the mold or expectation of how a child should learn and behave whether it is because of a larger than life personality, a learning struggle, clinical diagnoses of some kind, or a combination of any and/or all of the above. It was an encouraging read for me as we navigate different scenarios with a couple of our own and I need to go back and make note of some of those things that I marked the first time through. Highly recommend this one.

I read Roller Skates by Ruth Sawyer as part of Amy's (@ Hope is the Word) Newbery Challenge. I'm two for two so far for 2017! Roller Skates is a story set in New York in the late 1800s. And, as always when I read books set in a time since past, I am amazed at the freedom given to children in that day and age. (A similar feeling struck me as I read the All of a Kind Family books and The Saturdays, and its sequels by Elizabeth Enright). You can read Amy's review of Roller Skates here - this could be a great read aloud as you study America during this time period, but might need a parental pre-read if you have super sensitive little ones.

Another one that I finished, not pictured in the photo was When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. This was the 2010 Newbery winner - and again, recommended by Amy - and it was good. There was mystery, fantasy, and lots of literary tie-in's to A Wrinkle in Time and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The last book that I read this month was one that I picked up on a whim at the library and read over our winter break. The After-room by Maile Meloy is the third book in the Apothecary series. I had read the first two books quite some time ago. Long enough that I was VERY fuzzy on characters and story line and pretty much everything going into the third book. That probably should have been a clue that I didn't love them enough to spend the time reading the third book, but I did anyway if just to see the series wrap up and move on.

And there's February and it's on to March. I realize that February is the shortest month, but it seemed to FLY by this year. If you read anything amazing and wonderful in the last while, do share. I am realizing that my books seem to be junior and YA lit heavy lately, but that is where I'm finding all sorts of reading gems so I'm unapologetic about it. :)

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Mama's Successful Winter Break Involves a Crockpot

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Our CC group was on break this week, and it worked out perfectly for us. I seem to do better (as do my kids) on a six/seven weeks on, one week off schedule. Sometimes this lines up with our homeschool tutorial, sometimes not. But I was ready for a week to recharge. Usually these weeks involve lots of cleaning out of closets and tasks around the house, but I didn't do as much this week. All of our regular activities were still on the calendar (music lessons, Awana at church, gymnastics, etc.) so our days were still humming. However, unknowingly, I managed to give myself a bit of a break by putting four brand new crockpot recipes on my menu plan. I know! Totally risky. Crockpots are funny things - the right recipe is gold, but there are plenty of bad ones out there.

In the spirit of mom solidarity, I thought I would share the four that I made with our comments. All of these recipes came from Six Sisters Stuff. I've been following them on Instagram for a while now, and when I see them post a recipe I like, I use Instagram's new little save feature (the flag that is underneath a photo on the right). Then when I'm menu planning, I pull up my saves and go through and see if anything new jumps out at me to try.

Slow Cooker Steak Fajitas - this recipe is actually one that the Six Sisters made from the 100 Days of Real Food Cookbook. We had some taco meat left over from the weekend from something at our house, and I found one smallish steak in the freezer. I knew my kids would not be fans of the onions and peppers cooked with the steak, but the grownups were. One smallish steak plus a load of veggies was perfect for me and my husband to have for dinner ... and the kids got taco leftovers. I'll make this again.

Slow Cooker Lasagna - this was another good one. I made this on Valentine's Day. (Nothing says Valentine's like something Italian). It was tasty and just the right size for our crew. FYI - on all these recipes I used my 4 quart crockpot, instead of my bigger 6 quart. If I make a recipe to fill my larger 6 quart size, I generally end up with more leftovers that I want to eat! The 4 quart has been working out perfectly for us, but I know that won't last long. As different children enter different growth spurts we run out of food some nights!

Crockpot Creamy Ranch Pork Chops & Potatoes - this one got RAVE reviews from my kids. I honestly don't know the last time they have gushed about a dinner like this. The six year old boy kept asking for more "chicken" (we corrected him several times that it was pork, but it didn't stick) and said that this meat was "'ah-licious!" multiple times. (I will be so sad when he stops saying delicious that way). My 11 year said that if it wasn't considered rude, she would lick the sauce from this dish off her plate. High praise indeed for this one!

Crockpot Swedish Meatballs - another major hit with my kids (and me!) This is the only recipe I took a picture of and, other than the fact that my meatballs fell apart in the crockpot after cooking all day, it was such a good comfort food dish. I did what Six Sisters suggested, and served it over mashed potatoes and that was pretty fabulous, and I'm not a mashed potatoes person. I think the meatball problem was that they were turkey meatballs made from a Pioneer Woman recipe and in my experience, I have not yet learned the trick to getting my meatballs to stay together well. It didn't affect the taste in the least!

All these recipes are going in my keeper pile and into rotation. I have my favorite recipes and cookbooks that I fall back on time and time again, but it's always nice to find a new recipe / blogger / Instagram account to add into the rotation for some new inspiration!

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Things That Are Saving My Life : February 2017

Our Tennessee winter has been crazy mild this year. We had one brief bit of snow right around Christmas and that is (sadly) all the white stuff that has hit these parts. Lots of 50 degree days (which has been nice) and lots of rain (which has been quite soggy, especially with a puppy that has to go out all. the. time.)

Anne Bogel (of Modern Mrs. Darcy) makes a list in February of things that are "saving her life" right now as she slugs through the second half of winter. While I love cold weather and wish it would get cold enough for me to pull out my big coat, I can relate to the slugging through. By the time you are homeschooling through January, it's not nearly as exciting to crack open the books as it was in September when they were brand new. School supplies have lost their lustre (and usually their lids if we are talking about pens around here) and I'm replacing the first round of dried up dry erase markers. I loved her suggestion of throwing out a few things that bring a smile right now so here are a few of mine, in no particular order:

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1) Making a more concerted effort to read. I have appropriated (with permission) one of my girl's Kindle paperwhites and am toting it around with me so I always have a book at the ready. Never fear, there is a stack of "real" paper books sitting on my desk that I'm planning on giving some attention to.

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2) Reading aloud. Always my favorite part of our homeschool day. Right now, we are reading Peter Pan. I try to remember to write inside the cover when we read books out loud and the last time that we read this was before the boy was born, almost seven years ago when N1 was his age!

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3) Chocolate peanut butter powder. It is not for everyone, but when you need a sweet treat, it sure tastes yummy when you dip banana into it.

She is so much cuter at 6am instead of 3am. #georgiareyshepherd #mamaisnotamused

4) Puppy love. This was my birthday present this year and she is my new baby. Georgia Rey is a little goldendoodle, she's about fourteen weeks now and just as cute as can be. We are deep into puppy nibbling, lots of trips outside, and the occasional barking in the middle of the night, but she is still the most fun.

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5) The Hide Facebook Feed extension on Chrome. I have wanted to take a long, extended break from Facebook for ... forever. However, I have a business page connected to my personal account and deleting my account (and even disabling it) causes wrinkles. The Hide Facebook Feed in Google Chrome fix has been PERFECT. The only reason that I get on FB anymore is to check the occasional group, answer something sent in Messenger, or see what I'm tagged in. Those still reach me through email or I can pull up FB's page and check the left column to see if anything new is posted in the groups I care about. Best use of technology in 2017 by far, in my opinion.

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6) Less screentime for little people in general. Do not hear that I am a "screens are evil person." I love my iPhone, iTunes, Kindles, etc. But, truly, we got in a habit with morning screen time on Christmas break and it was great ... for our break. Not so good for school mornings. With small exceptions for a boy who has the privilege of sitting an hour at sisters' music lessons or gymnastics class, screen time has been greatly reduced during the week. It's been good to see the piles of Transformers on the kitchen table and books laid open where someone sets it down mid-chapter. A certain boy also spent one lunch hour perusing the newest Lego catalog and asking for help in writing things down for his birthday list. (His birthday is in October, but nothing like being prepared). :)

There are always other things that are a must on a list like this - coffee, my morning quiet time before little people awake (now punctuated with a playful pup), a new pack of pens in all the colors, but these are the currents for this year!