Friday, June 14, 2013

Busy Bags - Post 1

As many of you know, we are expecting baby number 6 in about a month or so!  With this, we will be taking a summer break from schooling, so that I can recoup, spend precious time with the baby, adjusting our family, and preparing for the next stage of our life.  By the end of August, we will have a 10 yo, 7 yo, 6 yo, 4 yo, 2yo, and newborn, whew!  The three oldest will be doing school, while the 4 yo does preschool and I still have to keep the 2 yo occupied and honestly, out of trouble!  He's a mischievous active little fellow!!!  Enter in: busy bags!

Over the last few days I have been researching various Busy Bags.  For those that do not know, busy bags are essentially just that - a bag that contains an activity, craft, or something of the like, that will keep the child entertained and quiet for a period of time.  Over the last year or so I have either made or been given some.  Some have worked fantastic and others, not so much for our crew.  My goal is to post a picture, description of how to make it (and posting links if I can, to where to go to print it), and if it worked for our family.  I'm going to start with ones that we already own, and as I get some made, I'll post those as well.  Ready????  Here we go :)

Animal Match

This one is a winner!  We made two copies of it, laminated both, cut up one, and put magnets on the back of the small pieces.  S (4 yo) plays with it on a cookie sheet and finds the one that matches, and puts it on top.  B (2 yo) is starting to play with it now too.

Heads and Tails

This one honestly does not get pulled out very often.  I think S gets bored with it.  I'm hoping B starts to take an interest in it soon!  The idea is to match the back half with the front half of the animals.

Foam Lacing Shapes

Another winner as far as the kids are concerned, but not as far as Momma is concerned!  My kids LOVE lacing projects!  They feel very accomplished when they finish!  Momma's complaint is tat they tear easily.  Confessions of a Homeschooler has some printouts on her blog that you can laminate and punch holes in, that work much better.  We also own Melissa and Doug's wooden lacing cards.  My opinion is that the laminated cards and the wooden ones are a much better investment, as they do not tear like the this foam ones will.

Pom Pom Sorting

This one is a winner!!!  The ice cube tray has half of it painted with colors and the other half has numbers (1 through 8) painted on the bottom.  The child uses the tweezers to either put the pom poms in the right color, or if you are doing the number side, they put the right amount in the ice cube tray corresponding to the number.  I especially like the usage of the tweezers!  The ones we were given with this activity are larger plastic ones, that teaches coordination, not to mention the "strength" it takes to close the tweezers.

Shape Sticks

This one frustrates my younger children!  Part of the issue is the stickers keep getting rubbed off, so they are not certain which one goes with which.  Another issue is the velcro gets stuck and it semi difficult for them to pull apart.  I like the concept/idea, so I think I may try making a set with colored popsicle sticks and magnets.  I'll let you know if/when I do and how it turns out in their opinion :)

Go Fishing Game

My kiddos have never played with this one!  We were given it along with a dowel rod with a string and magnet hooked to it.  The idea is to "fish and catch" the different letters, numbers, or animals.  My thoughts on it - the paper clips seem to come off pretty easy and the foam shapes are actually stickers, so the backs come off.  I might actually turn it into a sticker bus bag and let them put the foam stickers on a large sheet of foam or a regular piece of paper.

Matching color shades

Definite winner!  Basically you get two of the same color paint strips, cut pieces off of one and glue them to clothespins.  The child then matches the shades of color with the paint strip.  They have a little issue with working the clothespins, but overall, the kids seem to love it!

Animal Sorting

So far we have not put this one in a folder as suggested, but rather have left it as a busy bag.  S absolutely loves this one!  Eventually I may put magnets on the back.

Clothesline Busy Bag

Definite winner, but tedious to make!  Basically out of different colors of felt I cut out pants, shorts, shirts, and dresses.  I tie the clothesline between two chairs and the child clothespins the clothing to the clothesline.  S has also washed the clothing in water to hang them to dry.  She enjoys this one!

Frog Counting

This one, though I think it is cute, doesn't get played with very often :(  I bought the frogs from Walmart and printed the cards out from somewhere - I'll try to find them, and then laminated them.  The child is to put the right number of frogs on the cards.  I think I might try to make it more appealing by cutting out lilly pads from felt or craft foam.

Pasta Sort and String

Surprisingly, this one has never been played with yet, either.  We were given this one with directions to either a) sort the pasta by color or shape or b) to string on the pasta in a pattern.

Matching Colors

This one has A LOT of cards, but is greatly loved!  S enjoys doing this one on a regular basis.

And that is it for now.  I'll try to post more here soon :)  Questions and/or comments are always welcome :)

Gluten Free Baked Ziti - Freezer Meal

Oh my gracious!  Have you ever made up a recipe and thought "oh my glory!  I MUST write this down for future use!!!"  We have been working on Italy for Geography, and therefore I have been making LOTS of Italian inspired foods.  Tonight was baked ziti.... But for whatever reason, I decided to "play" rather than follow a recipe.  I made TWO 13x9 pans - perfect to put one in the freezer for after the baby comes!

1.25 lb ground beef (or turkey)
1 small zucchini, diced
1 large onion, diced
1.5 C diced peppers (we prefer multiple colors, so I used red, orange, and yellow)
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 lb ziti (GF if you need it)
2 32oz jars spaghetti sauce (again GF if needed)
2 C ricotta cheese
4 C mozzarella cheese
3 eggs
1 C parmesan cheese
celtic sea salt
olive oil

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Grease two 13x9x2 pans.
2.  In a skillet brown the meat.  If needed drain, after brown.  Pour into large bowl.
3.  Start large pot of salted water.  Once it starts boiling, add pasta and some olive oil.  Cook about 3/4 of the way (my pasta said 11 minutes, so I cooked it for 7 minutes - this prevents it from getting mushy when you bake it).  Once cooked, drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking process.  Put back in pan.
4.  Meanwhile, put about 1/4 C of olive oil in pan you browned meat in.  Saute vegetables and garlic until tender.
5.    Add veggies and meat to pasta.
6.  Pour in one of the jars of spaghetti sauce and mix everything together.
7.  In bowl (I used the one I had put the meat), mix ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese and eggs.  Add to pasta mixture and mix well.
8.  Divide mixture into the two greased pans.  Pour half of the spaghetti sauce on top of each, spreading over pasta mixture.  Sprinkle half cup of parmesan cheese over each.
9.  Bake one pan in oven for 30-40 minutes.  Then switch oven over to broil for about 5 minutes.  Let stand for 10-15 minutes and then ENJOY!!!!!
10.  For the one for the freezer, cover pan with plastic wrap and then cover with aluminum foil.  Make sure you write what it is with a permanent marker or on a label :)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

"All you do is Stay Home"

Oy!  A well meaning, but obviously in my mind, misguided, relative made the well-known comment to me the other day.  Perhaps it is the crazily high pregnancy hormone levels (only about a month left until we meet our youngest), or maybe it is because many of us "stay at home homeschooling mommas" hear it all the time, but for whatever reason, this time it rubbed me just right that I am writing a blog post regarding it.  I had made the comment that life here is busy... between taking care of our five children, trying to get ready for the newest addition coming quickly, and trying to finish up the school for the year.  We have finished our required 180 days (we've actually gone over), but there are a few subjects I would like to wrap up.  In any case, the comment I received was that they did not understand how I could be tired.  That all I do is stay home with my own children, and it is not like I actually work.  Oh how I wish it was said sarcastically, but this individual truly does not comprehend how much "work" it really is.... though then gain, it really is a blessing... so maybe the saying is right - it is not work, but rather a gift.  Let me show you what a day in the life of my gift is like...

Hubby's alarm goes off around 0445.  We talk for a few between him hitting the snooze button.  He is usually up around 5:15 or 5:30, gets done, and heads to work around 6.  I try to catch a few more minutes of sleep.  By 7:30 all the kiddos are up.  While I get done, they change their clothes and make their beds.  Down for breakfast we go.  As most of you know, we are a gluten free family (I made a FABULOUS GF stromboli last night - I'll have to share the recipe soon).  This means NO pre made food, no cold cereals, etc.  So we discuss breakfast and it usually ends up being some eggs and fruit, or oatmeal (the real kind - not instant).  Let me tell you - these kiddos can eat.  For the 6 of us on a regular morning, we eat 12 eggs!  That is two eggs per person, including my 2 year old!!!  After breakfast, it is time for the kids to wash off the table and get out their school books, while I start a load of laundry, stuff the dishwasher, and get whatever meat we need out for dinner, out of the freezer.

School generally starts around 9.  We have our family devotion and pray.  Then it is time for geography.  We are wrapping up Europe right now, and spend about 45 minutes on geography.  Once geography is done, the older two start their Zoology II curriculum while I do BFIAR with the younger three.  After that, the youngest two are left to busy bags and playing, while the middle child works on his work independently, asking for help as needed.  I start spelling with the oldest, while the second oldest works on math.  Then the two switch.  Once spelling is done, the kids come to me when they need direction or help, but other than that, they are on their own for school for awhile.  At this point I start the housework for the day.  With having two dogs in the house (a dutch shepherd mix and a german shepherd mix), there is ALWAYS a need to sweep... including five minutes after I sweep :)  Plus laundry needs to go on the line (unless I am being lazy and it goes in the dryer), etc.

If it is not too hot outside, from 1130 to 1330 (1:30) we have "recess" where the kids can go play outside before it does get smothering hot.  Otherwise, we keep chugging along.  Lunch usually consists more of a snack... some carrots, fruit, cheese, or something of the like.  At 1330, the youngest two go down for naps.  (Did I mention multiple diaper changes and trips to the bathroom?  Or trying to keep the youngest out of stuff???)  The older three finish whatever schooling needs to be completed and then they are left to their hobbies and crafts.  This is also usually the point I do FIAR with the second oldest, and Prairie Primer and American Girl with my oldest.  All of school is usually done by three, just in time for the youngest two to be up from naps.

At this point, it is time for clothes to come in off the line, get folded and put away.  The children are usually left to playing, and I start looking at what exactly dinner entails.  With being gluten free, not to mention trying to make things homemade, dinner has seemingly taken looooong periods of time to make.  I'm sure being pregnant, aka slow, has nothing to do with it ;)  Recently we have been making pasta due to studying Italy.  Oh how I wish I had a pasta machine!  Rolling out enough pasta to feed 7 hungry people is a lot of work ;)  Anyways, dinner and dessert (if we are having one) are started.  Last night was stromboli and homemade gelato - yup - it was for studying Italy :)  Hubby USUALLY gets home between 5 and 6.  Once he gets home, changes and unwinds a little, we sit down for dinner.  After dinner, we all pitch in to clean up.  Then, if we are having some, we do the same for dessert.  Bath time is next!  Thankfully we have a couple bathrooms, so hubby and I split and conquer :)  The oldest gets in one shower, the two older boys get in another, and the youngest two get bathed.  At that point it is time for family Bible time and prayers and then off to bed for the kiddos.  Hubby and I spend some time together, and then, by 10, I try to be in bed!

Not too crazy of a schedule!  But that is the normal everyday schedule.  That is not the day where we add appointments, canning produce, baking bread, trying to get an extra meal in the freezer, sewing or crafting, etc.  That is not a day where a beloved friend drops by for a long overdue visit, or we decide to go on a field trip.  That doesn't include the numerous "little things" that need to be done - paying bills, making a menu, making a grocery list, etc.  Honestly, though, my relative is right.... it is not like I work... everything I do is a blessing - a gift from God... an opportunity to serve Him in the mission field He has placed me - my home.  So to that individual - thank you!!!!  I sincerely thank you for helping me to realize that I don't "work" but rather I strive to make a difference in the lives of five little ones each and every day.  To educate them in the ways of our Creator, Lord, and Savior.  To teach them how to be content with what we have, even if we don't have the "glitter and sparkles" that most have.  I still argue with the "all you do..." but that is alright :)  As long as it entails everything I do as a stay at home home schooling momma, then yes, all I do is stay home with my children... and be blessed!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Keeping the Sabbath Holy

This is one of those posts where I NEED feedback.  So PLEASE, leave a comment as to your views!  No offense will be taken, and please respect everyone else's opinions :)

Okay - here are my thoughts... the fourth of the Ten Commandments is to "Keep the Sabbath Holy."  In today's "world," what does this mean???  I know some say not to go to your job... unless you have to, considering some jobs (i.e. some military, medical professionals, police, firemen, etc) don't have a choice.  Some just stay away from the "odd jobs" of around the house - no laundry, cutting grass, washing the car, changing the oil, vacuuming, etc.  Yet others say that you are to do nothing.  Where do you sit on the fence?  Where do your convictions lie?  Should women serve their families pre-prepared foods such as cut up fruits and pre-made muffins for breakfast, subs for lunch, and salads for supper?  Or is it okay to cook?

Is it wrong to catch up on school work? To run errands? To work on a hobby? To work on training the dog? To dirty and clean up dishes?  Obviously we no longer fall under the Mosaic Law - we are saved by grace, and following the Ten Commandments do not determine our Salvation.  With that said, however, we are still called to follow His Word out of love, fear, and respect for our Creator, Lord, and Savior, as believers.

What does it mean to you and your family to "keep the Sabbath Holy?"