May in Our Home

June 5th, 2012 by Rachel

May went by in a whirlwind. Between commitments, papers to write, a birthday party to plan, and a curious, mobile baby, I did not have much free time.

We enjoyed a break from our homeschooling commitments, and replaced those with playdates with friends at the park. Our CC class has gotten together several times, and I have really enjoyed getting to know the moms better. I wish we had had more time together earlier in the year, but this is great, too.

Speaking of CC (or Classical Conversations), we helped host one of CC’s free, three-day Parent Practicums. For the past two summers, we have traveled to Austin or Waco for these practicums, and while they were great learning experiences, we were all exhausted at the end after staying in a hotel for three nights. Turns out, even with getting to sleep in your own bed, it can still be exhausting! I helped coordinate the nursery (ages birth-four years) during the event. It was a wonderful experience. I spent most of the month of May planning and preparing activities for the classes. The picture above is what my living room looked like many nights. The threes and fours learned the continents and oceans. One of the activities they did was this little felt puzzle:

I feel like it was a success judging by Sugar. She learned the continents and the oceans fairly well, so hopefully the other kids did, too.

After the practicum, we celebrated Sugar’s fourth birthday.

We harvested onions, broccoli, green beans, zucchini, and a few tomatoes from the garden. I spent a few mornings battling a ladybug-like beetle that had killed and covered the broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and brussels sprouts with eggs. It was nasty, but I think I got rid of it by pulling infected plants and leaves, picking off the beetles by hand into a bucket of soapy water (very tedious, but very satisfying), and spraying the rest of the garden with insecticidal soap and neem oil.

Other than that, we spent a lot of time at the park, splashpad and pool. We were doing well about continuing with school for the first few weeks of the month, but since the practicum, we haven’t been as motivated.

Real Life

May 14th, 2012 by Rachel

Just in case you think I seem to have it all together, here is a snippet from my real life today.

For the past two weeks or so, I had noticed that my bottomless pit of a diaper bag was smelling faintly like apples (though in a good way). I had thrown out a baggie with moldy apple slices, but assumed that the smell was just lingering. It didn’t smell bad, so I didn’t really think much of it. Then I stumbled upon this, and it all made sense.

I believe this lovely apple had been at the bottom of my bag for at least a month. Those are pennies buried in the sides. I have cleaned and reorganized my bag, so hopefully there will never be a repeat of this unfortunate incident.

Mother’s Day

May 11th, 2012 by Rachel

Thomas surprised me with a brand new dishwasher for Mother’s Day. Our old one worked, but it was the loudest dishwasher ever. So loud that we couldn’t run it if we were home unless we were asleep, otherwise everyone was having to yell over the noise. Three kids + extra loud noise in the background = Two crazy parents.

The dishwasher also came in a huge box which was turned into a clubhouse for the big kids. They spent two hours decorating it this morning. TWO WHOLE HOURS!!! Yes, I am yelling! I worked out, took a shower, worked on some stuff on the computer, and they were still working. They are back out there right now, hard at work. Get yourselves some big boxes and markers, people!

Two gifts in one!

Now they are wanting to add a roof, but that dishwasher needs to get finished first. Good thing my installation guy isn’t protesting his working conditions.

Our Meal Plan

April 19th, 2012 by Rachel

I have mentioned that we are following a paleo diet these days. If you have no idea what that means, it basically means eating all the meat and veggies we want, with fruit, nuts and seeds, too. No sugar, no grains, no dairy. We have been eating this way strictly for the past six months and I was about 75% the year before that. We do have the occasional taste of dessert and we will eat whatever someone else prepares for us (unless it is dairy, I haven’t been able to handle eating it since going off for so long). You can read more about what paleo means here.

Some of the biggest questions we get is whether or not it is do-able. I think it is! I go by one of Thomas’ favorite sayings, “Prior proper planning prevents poor performance.” Try saying that five times fast. I spend about 30 minutes making our weekly meal plan and grocery list which makes it much easier. The hardest part is changing the kids eating. We are working on limiting their grains to breakfast and a small amount at lunch while trying to increase their protein intake. It has been a slow process, but they eat their dinners really well these days, and dessert has become a rare treat.

This is a glimpse into what we ate last week. Maybe it will help motivate you or give you some yummy new recipes to try. Thomas and I eat leftovers for lunch the next day (kids have fruit and tortilla wraps or soup), and we eat out about once every other week. One of my favorite things about eating this way is how many vegetables I eat. I also have much more energy, clearer skin, and a healthier digestive track, to name a few. Check the links for the recipes and some great paleo recipe blogs to browse.

Monday: Fun-burgers (or grilled beef patties topped with guacamole and bacon) served with steamed baby carrots and brussels sprouts-kale salad. The leftover salad was great as a snack later in the week.

Tuesday: Grilled chicken (that I grilled on Monday with the burgers) on a huge salad of spinach and “spring mix” lettuce with apples, dried cranberries, pecans, red onion and a tiny bit of goat cheese. No dressing. Kids had grilled chicken and leftover veggies.

Wednesday was an “off” day as I was hosting a baby shower and I just snacked on meatballs and bacon candy all night (then had leftover brussels sprout-kale salad later). Thomas and the kids went out.

Thursday: Salmon cakes with homemade chipotle mayo and butternut squash-kale goodness.

Friday: Mango Chicken Salad (used the chipotle mayo here, too). This has become one of Thomas and my favorite meals. The kids had grilled chicken and leftover veggies. Does anyone have kids that eat salad?

Saturday: Sausage-kale-spaghetti squash “pasta”. I love this recipe! I have never bought tarragon to use in this recipe, but it is good without it. I also used kale because, if you cannot tell by our mealplan, I have tons of it growing in the garden.

Sunday: oven roasted chicken breasts, baked sweet potatoes and asparagus (I love this one because it requires almost no hands-on time as everything just needs time in the oven.)

Breakfasts:
I made sausage-sweet potato and kale bake, adapting this great recipe that lasted us two mornings and a few snacks for me.

I also made this southwest scramble. Delicious! Again, I threw in about 4 large kale leaves, chopped up. Why not?

The other mornings were either sausage cooked with diced sweet potatoes served with eggs or bacon and eggs.

Snacks:
My new favorite is slices of ham or turkey rolled up with guacamole on the inside. Amazing!

Carrots and guacamole

Larabars

Fudge balls

Leftover butternut squash-kale goodness

Leftover breakfasts

Apples

Walnuts with a few dark chocolate chips

The Joys of Homeschooling

April 18th, 2012 by Rachel

Getting to look back through your math activity book and see pages like this… we’ve come a long way this year, Bud! (Click on picture to enlarge.)

In case you can’t tell, it says, “POOP” all around the top and bottom. On the right is a scribbled out person with an arrow pointing to it saying, “MOM”. On the left is a person with a talking bubble saying, “HA HA HA”. That other person is Josiah.

Sewing Projects: Dresses for Sugar

April 6th, 2012 by Rachel

I have been avoiding Pinterest lately for several reasons. Some of them include:
1) It makes me hungry for sweets that I don’t crave normally
2) I get too many ideas of things to do and I don’t have much time
3) I get really annoyed with all of those “lose all your tummy fat in 20 days with this easy workout!” pins. Come on, people!

That was a random vent because I didn’t get any of these sewing project ideas from Pinterest, but I did pin them after I found them. First, Sugar really needed some new short-sleeve shirts, but refused to part with her old ones which were stained and becoming mid-drift tops. She pledged her undying love for her shirts with such emotion that I knew I couldn’t simply take them out of her closet and hide them when she wasn’t looking. So I got creative. I bought 1/2 a yard of the “tutti-fruiti” collection fabric at Joann’s for each shirt and sewed a skirt on the bottom with elastic along the waist. Three of the four turned out really great. One was ridiculously short, though I am not sure what happened with that one. They were quick projects, each only taking about 30 minutes to finish. Her she is at the zoo in one:

While at Joann’s I scored a one yard remnant of cupcake print 75% off. I made this little dress for Sugar. She loves it. Shirring is so easy! I want to make her another one, but I don’t want to haul everyone to the fabric store again.

These were all so much fun, and she was so appreciative, that I started thinking about Sugar’s pajama situation. I loathe buying pajamas. They are so cute, but no one ever sees them and they just get covered in breakfast in the morning anyway. I saw this blog post on converting old grown-up shirts into nightgowns, and I tried it on two of my old t-shirts. They came out so cute and fit really well. I shirred the sleeves and neckline to make them more feminine for my girly-girl.

She decided afterward that girls don’t wear blue or red. (Yes, this is what we go through on a daily basis.) I had also made two out of old knit tops of mine that were in my Goodwill pile because they were so short. These are my favorites. Too bad I cleaned out most of my too-short shirts last month for our garage sale!

Sugar had enough modeling for one week, but this one she insists is too pretty for pajamas since I put two ruffles (cupcake print again) along the top.

Bud’s 6th Birthday Party

February 16th, 2012 by Rachel

We celebrated Bud’s birthday last weekend with friends and family. When asked, Bud said he wanted a “spy/detective/soldier/adventurer” party. That left us a lot of room to plan a party. We asked if he wanted a big party with lots of friends, or a smaller party with just a one family and his grandparents. He picked the latter (thankfully!) and we told him he could invite one family from our church. He picked a family with 8 kids (great kids and some really fun boys.)

One of Bud’s favorite books these days are Tintin comic books. My mom got him a dvd of some of the books made into cartoons, which he has really enjoyed watching. So, Thomas and I took Tintin as a rough guide for his party. We made a spy mission for the boys to go through with clues leading to the prize at the end–their spy kits consisting of handcuffs, notebooks, pencils, disguises and candy.

The first clue they got was to a map leading to a rock in the garden that was glued to a lid of a jar. The jar had a key and a clue, leading them to our neighbor’s house where a locked box was waiting on their porch. In the box was a fingerprint and some enlarged prints. They had to match the small one to the larger one. On the back of the match was a picture of Thomas’ dad, who had the next clue.

The next clue was a puzzle they had to put together, leading them to a sign in our neighborhood.

The sign led them back to our house with some paint dribbled in along the trail. On the porch was a laser field they had to navigate through.

Upon entering the house, they had to detonate a ton of bombs (black balloons).

It was a fun party, and we had a great time hanging out with grandparents all day. Happy birthday, Bud!

Butternut Squash and Kale Goodness

January 5th, 2012 by Rachel

It has been ages since I posted a recipe on this blog, but this one is just too good to not share! As you may have gathered, Thomas and I have been following a mostly primal foods diet, while slowly trying to change the kids’ eating, too. For us, this means that we eat as much meat and veggies that we want, some fruit, nuts and seeds. Since Speedy has reflux, I do not eat any dairy as I have read that it can do a lot to help, though the jury is still out on that one. I attribute eating this way to my controlled weight gain during my last pregnancy and the quick return to normal weight shortly after his birth. (At this point after having Sugar I was 20 pounds over, now I am only 4-5 pounds over.)

Anyway, we have been eating so many more veggies since eating this way, and I try to eat about 2 cups of veggies with each meal (though it only happens at breakfast about half the time). I came up with this recipe after combining two different recipes. It is so good that I will eat it with breakfast, lunch or dinner.


Butternut Squash and Kale Goodness

Ingredients:
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed and diced
1 yellow onion, chopped
4-6 pieces of bacon, cut into bits (I use kitchen shears)
1 apple, chopped (I don’t bother peeling it)
6 large leaves of kale, cut into bite-sized pieces

Instructions:
Peel, chop into bite-sized cubes and de-seed your butternut squash. I find this to be the easiest if I microwave it for 2 minutes first. Otherwise, I almost cut my hand off or want to throw the squash out the window because peeling it is so difficult. You can either steam or boil your squash cubes until fork tender, but do not let them get mushy, though I have had that happen and it still tastes great.

While the squash is cooking, start the rest of the dish. In a large skillet, begin cooking your bacon pieces over medium high heat. When your bacon starts rendering some of its fat, add your onion and continue cooking, stirring every minute or so until the onion is very soft. Add in your chopped apple. After a few minutes, add in your cooked squash cubes. Stir everything well, and then stir in your kale. Continue stirring for a few minutes until your kale is softened and wilted. Serve immediately.

December in Our Home

December 31st, 2011 by Rachel

December was a busy month of creating and crafting, enjoying one another and extended family, and celebrating Advent. For some reason (Pinterest), I decided to make many of the gifts I gave for Christmas this year. It was probably a bit much with having a fussy three month old who takes short naps, but it was very satisfying to make so many gifts. The garden took a hit after a big freeze and we lost our green beans just as they were starting to produce. The lettuce, spinach, kale, and broccoli have been very productive, while the cauliflower and brussels sprouts are still going slowly.

(I cannot take credit for the gingerbread house. A friend made those and had invited us to come decorate them, however, Sugar ran a fever the day before so we had to stay home. She let us take them home along with some candy and decorate. The kids had a blast! Thank you again, Friend!) We wrapped up our first half of the year of homeschooling. Bud is halfway through with our first grade math curriculum and reading much faster these days. His favorite book right now is, “Are You My Mother?” which he laughs out loud reading. Sugar is working on learning her letters, and I will post about some of our fun activities soon.

December marked the first ever Bryan-College Station marathon. While neither of us were up to running this year, we wanted to do our part to support it, so we made some signs and loaded the kids up in the freezing morning to go out and cheer on some runners. Our signs said, “Your feet hurt because you’re kicking so much butt” and “Chuck Norris never ran a marathon.” It was fun, but cold, so we only lasted a short while. This is how Speedy and I looked in the baby wearing poncho–floating baby head!

We spent a long weekend celebrating Christmas at my mom’s house with my siblings and their families, along with my grandparents in from Arizona. It was a special treat to get to see them, and I am so glad they got to spend time with my kids. Thomas and I organized some “Minute to Win It” Christmas games that I saw on Pinterest. It was fun and I think I will make us all do it again next year. Here is my baby brother holding my baby:

I sold our elliptical machine this month and used the money I made to buy some other exercise equipment for working out in the garage. Getting back to the gym seems a long way off with night wakings and nursing, so I am starting to do some stuff on my own. My dad welded me my own box for Christmas and gave me a bunch of weight plates to help me get started. It has been fun so far.

Advent was a good season of reflection for me personally as I was confronted with a lot of grief and sorrow around me as two friends lost children this month. At first, I felt terrible going about the fun preparations for Christmas while I knew these dear women were grieving deeply. In reflecting on Jesus coming as a baby, being God With Us, I could taste even greater what that meant through these sad times. It was a sweet time of rejoicing in His coming and though we have grief and suffering now, we have hope because He came and conquered death. I love the words to one of my favorite Andrew Peterson songs, “the man of all sorrows/never forgot/what sorrow is carried/by the hearts that he bought…”

We wrapped up the month with our yearly decluttering and reorganizing of cabinets, closets, and such. It has been a nice, relaxing end to a busy season.

June & July in Our Home

August 2nd, 2011 by Rachel

I never got around to posting a June update, so I will attempt to include it now. June was a fun month of swim lessons for the kids, lots of trips to the pool, splashpad, and library for their summer events. Sugar is quite the little fish in the water, attempting to swim underwater without floaties all the time. Bud is more cautious, but they both have a great time. We went to our city’s summer concert series a few times, and the kids enjoyed running and tumbling in the soft grass more than the music (some nights, who could blame them?) We enjoyed a visit with our friends, the Culpeppers, and getting to meet their little boy.

The kids spent a weekend with my mom and Woody while Thomas and I enjoyed a lot of rest, relaxation and ethnic foods (mmm, Fadis) while staying in a nice hotel in Houston. Later in June we attended a parent practicum for Classical Conversations. It was a great time to play with friends and prepare for the coming year, while being encouraged in homeschooling.

I managed to can 7 quarts of tomatoes for the summer, but that was it. The garden languished under the heat and drought, though we did manage to get several cantaloupes, a few watermelons, many cucumbers and just a few zucchini.

July was a bit slower of a month with many more visits to the pool, fewer trips to the splashpad (I cannot handle the heat anymore), and more trips to the library’s summer programs. I attended three baby showers in July, and one of them was for me. We have been very productive around the house, making preparations for the baby and the coming school year. Thomas pulled everything out of the garden except for the bell peppers. Everything else was dead. This has been the worst summer garden ever, but since it has only rained three times all summer, it isn’t a surprise.

The kids finished up gymnastics for the year (below you will see Sugar’s favorite ensemble to wear these days.) She spends much of her time picking out new outfits that she creatively matches together and pairs with jewelry.