Sugar’s Birthday

May 29th, 2011 by Rachel

Sugar turned three on Saturday, and we celebrated with a small party with her grandparents. She had so much fun getting ready for her party and on the day of her birthday, it took some time for it to sink in that she was really three now. I gave her a few party options, and she selected a butterfly-themed party.

I made some really cute (if I say so myself) butterfly cupcakes. She had requested cupcakes, and I thought these were just too cute. I combined these tutorials, and they turned out really well. Next time, I will invest in a few icing piping tips–cutting the edge off of sandwich bags was a bit difficult for accuracy.

Bud, Sugar and I made some coffee filter butterflies and hung them all around the kitchen and living room. It was quite festive.

Bud and Daddy surprised her with her own bouquet of birthday flowers.

After singing “Happy Birthday”, she wasted no time digging into the butterflies she had so patiently watched me make.

We had a great time celebrating. Happy Birthday, Sweet Girl!

26 Weeks Pregnant

May 26th, 2011 by Rachel

A lovely picture taken post-workout by Sugar. She held the camera straight!

How far along: 26 weeks
Size of baby: approx. 14 inches head to heel, almost 2 pounds
Total weight gain: 18 pounds
Maternity clothes: yes, only. Some shirts are already getting too short. What’s up with that?
Gender: don’t know and we won’t find out, I’m starting to go with the kids and think it might be a boy.
Movement: lots – so many hard, belly shaking kicks these days. Also some dramatic movements of baby sticking its bottom out really far.
Sleep: really well most nights in spite of frequent bathroom breaks
What I miss: still miss being able to do workouts at the gym as I start growing bigger and bigger
Cravings: none really, just need to eat some protein every two hours
Symptoms: nothing out of the ordinary, achy hips and feet are probably the biggest
Best moment of the week: I sewed some old prefold diapers I was given by a friend into fitteds. I need a baby to try them on, but I think they will work. It’s my first project for the baby! I also purchased a co-sleeper and made a nice, long to-do list. Hopefully I can start crossing some things off it soon.

Meet My New Nemesis

May 26th, 2011 by Rachel

Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to the latest pest to plague our organic gardening efforts: the harliquin bug. (Forgive the picture quality, it was taken by a five year old.)

This little pest loves plants like brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and cabbage. We first noticed them a week and a half ago, but I didn’t think much of them. A few days later, they had multiplied and were covering our brussels sprouts. A day or two later, the brussels sprouts were wilting and the tops were dying. I decided it was time to engage in combat.

My first effort was insecticidal soap spray. This is supposed to be effective against these bugs, but spray as I did, I think only 1/4 of them died within a few days. These little stinkers started to nag at me. I was not about to lose our garden to some bugs! But, I wasn’t going to spray pesticides either, so I was at a loss.

Then I had a dream one night about some friends from high school visiting me and helping me pick off the bugs and put them in soapy water. The next day, I went out and picked at least 150 bugs off the plants. The kids held the soapy water buckets. Two days later, I went out and picked bugs again, this time there were far fewer. The next day, I pulled all the plants that were covered in eggs and threw them out.

I was sad to lose my brussels sprouts just as they were starting to make some beautiful baby sprouts. I managed to salvage two cauliflower plants by pulling off only the leaves with eggs on them. The broccoli was covered, so it was pulled out, too. (Though we weren’t as sad about that since we have been eating more broccoli than Thomas can handle these days.) And it seems to be under control for the time being. The bugs will move on to peppers, beans and tomato plants if there are none of their favorites left around, so I must remain vigilant. And just to show that I did almost have some brussels sprouts:

All this has had me hoping more in Jesus. These little pests are just another result of sin in our world, which reminds me of how much I need God’s grace through Jesus and gets me longing for a day when there is no more sin, death or pain. Nice little reminders from a bug, which makes it worthy of a blog post.

School Year in Review

May 25th, 2011 by Rachel

Since summer time is here, it is time for a “year in review”, homeschool edition. We had our first year in our local Classical Conversations campus, and we loved it! I learned so much about how to better teach our children, and Bud learned so much as well. We will definitely be in CC again next year.

My goal this year was to take it slow since Bud was not technically kindergarten age, but to ease into school and spread things out gradually. We tried to do school 3 days a week, some weeks we made that goal, and some weeks we did more. It was a good way for us to ease into things. Over the course of the year, we went from doing school for 45 minutes each day to now almost two hours many days.

This is what we did, and my opinions on it:
Math - Saxon 1 – I planned to stretch this out over two years, but we will likely finish this before our new baby arrives. Bud loves doing math, and I really appreciate the way Saxon does things. There is so much repetition that he really knows the material well by the time we are done with it. Some people don’t like Saxon for the repetition, which is the very thing that makes me like it so much.

Phonics - The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading – we started the year off with Explode the Code, but I realized that it wasn’t working for us, so I switched to this curriculum. There is a ton of repetition and review with this curriculum, which is needed at this age. Bud is doing well with it, and enjoys the games and optional activities with many lessons. We will be sticking with this since we still have a long way to go.

Handwriting - Handwriting Without Tears – Bud was very interested in writing his letters, and I just let him figure it out on his own for a long time, but then I realized he was doing things the hard way. I got this little workbook and it has helped a ton. He likes working on it a lot.

Science, Geography, Timeline, History, Latin, Grammar, Fine Arts – Classical Conversations – we both had a great time learning these subjects together this year, and I am amazed at how much he (and I) learned–from all of the presidents in order, Ephesians 6, to the three laws of thermodynamics, to how to play music on his tin whistle, to identifying the continents, oceans and scores of countries on the map. While many of these things are not applicable to him yet (like the laws of thermodynamics), they are stored away in his brain on memory pegs for later, just waiting for more information to hang on it.

Greek Yogurt

May 9th, 2011 by Rachel

I have a new-found infatuation with Greek Yogurt. I tried it ages ago, but after reading the benefits (namely, double the protein content), I’ve been enjoying it, except for the price. I figured if I could make regular yogurt so easily, why not try Greek yogurt? Turns out, it is quite simple, too!

Plain yogurt (purchase, or make your own)
cheesecloth (you can pick this up at the grocery store)
Large bowl
Strainer that can hang in large bowl
Room in your refrigerator for said large bowl
Smaller, cereal bowl
In the pictures, I use about 30 ounces of yogurt to make this batch of Greek Yogurt. You will notice that it only yields about half the amount in Greek Yogurt, which is why it is so expensive to purchase.

1. Line your strainer with cheesecloth, making sure you have four layers of cheesecloth lining the strainer. You can use paper towels or coffee filters, but I like the ease of cheesecloth.

2. Place strainer in a larger bowl, and fill strainer with your yogurt. Cover with cheesecloth.

3. Place cereal bowl on top (I think it speeds the process), and put everything in your fridge for 4-6 hours.

4. After 4-6 hours, pull it out and scrape it off the cheesecloth into a fresh, clean bowl. Ta da! Really thick, Greek yogurt.

5. Don’t toss out that whey. You can use it for soaking grains or as a substitute for buttermilk in most recipes. Don’t try to make ricotta cheese with it (like I did), it is not the right type of whey.

Greek yogurt without the whey loses the tartness that plain yogurt has, and also has more concentrated protein. It makes a wonderfully thick smoothie, or a very filling snack. Enjoy!

April in Our Home

May 2nd, 2011 by Rachel

I feel like April is often one of the busiest months of the year, and it was certainly a fun and busy time for us. Our homeschool group wrapped up for the school year, which was bittersweet, but I am enjoying the break. We finished off the year with a live concert from our kids’ favorite musician and some ice cream. I am enjoying leisurely planning and preparing for the fall for both kids, and slowing our pace down a bit. This is Bud with his partner for his egg protector project (the egg broke):

I wrapped up another Bradley series full of great couples (I think one of my favorite things about teaching is meeting all these neat people), and I just started another series. Actually, I have two series going on now, demand was so high that I have two full classes. Since this is my last time to teach this year, it works out well, but we’ll see how teaching twice a week goes for our family. I’m shopping for some new birth and breastfeeding videos, so if anyone has a recommendation, I would love to hear it. I also got to give a lecture on breastfeeding basics for an OB class at the nursing school at A&M. That was quite the experience, I was so nervous, but it was fun.

Our garden is in full-swing. We have been eating broccoli at least twice a week (Thomas is loving this, no, not really), and we have a lot of green tomatoes and a baby cauliflower out there. We will be harvesting carrots, onions and potatoes soon, Lord willing. I think our garden is really aching for some rainwater these days, everything is about sick of all this tap water.

I like this picture which shows the fun that can happen when planting with little ones. You will notice a cucumber plant and a carrot or two growing in the midst of our onions.

April Books

May 2nd, 2011 by Rachel

13. Anne of Windy Poplars – continuing in reading all of the Anne of Green Gables series, I think they get progressively better, or does that just mean I am getting older?

14. True Grit – Our book club read this last month, but I didn’t get to go, so I have no idea why it was picked or what was discussed, though I did enjoy reading it. I have not seen the new version of the movie, but the old movie follows the book very well. Random fact about me: I have yet to see a John Wayne movie that I didn’t enjoy.

15. The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent – my sister-in-law recommended this book, and I could not put it down. This book is a fictional look at the Salem Witch Trials, told from the point of view of Martha Carrier’s daughter.

16. Unplanned by Abby Johnson – this book tells the author’s story of volunteering at the Planned Parenthood here in Bryan as a college student (coincidentally the same year I started volunteering at Hope Pregnancy Center). Years later, she became the executive director there, and, while assisting with an ultrasound-guided abortion, had a complete change of heart, gave her life to God and joined with the Coalition for Life, a pro-life organization here in town. It was fun to read about people I had met before and places I had been. I really enjoyed this book and her honesty, and I highly recommend it.

17. Six Ways to Keep the “Little” in Your Girl by Dannah Gresh – I read about this book on a friend’s blog and heard another lady at church talking about it recently. Since the branding of our children and relentless marketing to them is often on my mind, I thought this would be a good read. I thought it was encouraging and full of practical advice. While it is written to moms of girls ages 8-12, I thought it was helpful to read even now and again later.

18. Anne’s House of Dreams – again, I think this one was my favorite. This one made me cry several times.