Sunday, April 20, 2014

Have I mentioned how much I utilize this site?  I haven't sprung for the 'royale' membership yet, but am often tempted to.  We are in the process of repainting our upstairs hallway (by we, I mean my husband and by in the process of I mean I've asked him to do it for the first time).  I thought it would be cute to have a wall hanging outside each of the kiddos rooms.  I had the kids list some words they would use to describe their sibling and we added some of our own adjectives.  So many ways to print and frame these creations but my current go-to is to upload them to an online photo site (Costco, Wal-mart, Shutterfly) and print them as mounted wall hangings.  They tend to be cheaper than canvas and lay flush against the wall.  Fun to create!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

How is she 5?!

So very thankful to be celebrating this little lady's fifth birthday!  What a joy she is - with a heart to love people and serve.  She is eager, thoughtful, compassionate, energetic and affectionate.  She desires to know more and more about God and seeks to share what she learns with all.  Watching her grow is an absolute privilege and honor.  They are not all good days, but they are all days we have been allowed to spend together and for them - each and every one - we rejoice in God's design for our family and how L is knit perfectly in among us.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Irony is.....

Irony is living a stone's throw away from a school and sending your children somewhere else!

It has been so wonderful to see tremendous academic strides made by both kiddos this year.  It has also been wonderful as parents to embrace the unique ways our children learn, to release comparison and begin to focus on individual needs and strengths.

Growing up, I had an excellent public education.  What schooling G and L would have wasn't really a discussion, we just assumed they would follow the same route as their parents.  It was eye-opening and disheartening to learn more and more about the state of public education.  While there are still tremendous teachers and educators working towards the growth and well-being of the whole child, there are increasingly frustrating challenges being forced on them.  In G's district, 14 teachers chose to leave the district last year - non retirement age teachers.

I realized I had to mourn public education.  That sounds dramatic, but it is true.  In my mind it was one thing, in actuality it was something altogether different.  I needed to release the idea I had in mind for the kids and open up to the possibility that there was something different for them than what I had experienced.  This took me time.  It also took a lot of research and involvement with our district and administration.

G continues to thrive in an immersion program.  This program is fantastic and he is growing leaps and bounds daily.  Sadly, his district plans to discontinue it so his sister won't have the same opportunity.  The nature of this immersion program within the public school district is that it exists in a sort of bubble.  The classes of immersion on the whole score exceptionally well on all standardized testing.  Because they do so well and rank so high, classroom teachers are given a lot of freedom in what/how they teach.  (I can't find a gracious way to say they don't have to teach as much to the tests as their traditional classroom teacher counterparts.)  Our hope is for him to complete his immersion program in public school in fourth grade.  Then we will evaluate a next step for him.

Our district voted for mandatory full-day kindergarten beginning fall 2014.  L would be in school from 8:45-3:40 every day, using a curriculum designed for half day K.  There is no research that indicates there is any advantage to the child in this setting - unless the child has an IEP and would be receiving specific support during the extended time.  She would have LA blocks of 90 minutes, 2 of them a day.  She would have half a year of music class once a week and half a year of art class once a week.  She would get 30 minutes of physical education once a week.  She would get one recess a day for 20 minutes after a 15 minute lunch.  She is five.  This is not ideal for her (research would indicate it's not an ideal schedule for any child that age).  So we are incredibly excited to begin a new educational experience with L.  An approach that educates the whole child, not a number taking a test.  (Speaking of, did you know that with Common Core your child's standardized test scores will be public access for colleges or future employers to review?)  While it took me some time to get here, I could not be more excited for the University Model School we will be joining fall 2014.  More on the program another time.

Public education is not horrible.  It can work for some children.  Each child is unique and has unique needs.  If their school is able to meet their needs - WONDERFUL!  I do encourage parents to be involved in their child's public education.  I believe every parent should be at school board meetings (these are the people who approve administrative decisions for your child - like cutting art/music/phys ed time), every parent should have a relationship with their child's teacher (your child's teacher spends more time with your child during the week than you do - that is not a judgement, it is a reality), every parent should read PTO minutes (lots of good info in there), every parent should share their praises and concerns over what is happening in their child's education with the administration and the board - emails, phone calls physical presence all great ways to do so.  After two years of attending meetings, I am still shocked that in a district our size there are maybe 5 parents who come out regularly.  We take assume that those in leadership have our child's best interest in mind.  Sadly, that is not always the case.  And as I always say, you can't complain about what is happening in your district if you are not lending your voice and sharing your thoughts on the matters that concern you.

Again, these our thoughts that reflect our family and our children.  A neat thing about parenting is when you have those kiddos, you get to make the decisions you want for them, and you don't have to compare those decisions to anyone else's.


Saturday, February 1, 2014


I've jumped on the chia seed band wagon.  I love these things!  Eat them on my oats in the morning, throw them into all my baked goods, mix them into parfaits.  But the kids most favorite way to have these little crunchy wonders is in the form of pudding.  This is the recipe I use.  I don't often think to make it at night to have for breakfast, so we eat it for an afternoon snack or with dinner.  It needs about six hours to set properly.

You can switch up the yogurt and fruit to your taste.  G's go-to combo is key lime greek yogurt with soaked raspberries on top.  L prefers strawberry greek yogurt with soaked strawberries on top.  I like vanilla greek yogurt with just almonds on top.  T eats whatever I put in front of him.

Getting used to the texture was tricky, but now this pudding is a family favorite!

A little does go a long way, especially for the kiddos.  They can polish off a dish about this size and be content.  Too much more and they won't finish it.

Soaking the fruit in maple syrup gives the pudding just the right amount of sweetness.

I promise it tastes so much better than it looks right here!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Food Inc, Food Matters, Milk?, King Corn, Hungry for Change

I decided to go one month without going to any major grocery stores (Giant, Weis, Wal-mart) to see how challenging it would be.  Our Amazon Prime membership gives me access to - what some might say is too many - documentaries about food and food production in the USA.  I was sufficiently disgusted and game for a go at the aforementioned challenge.

I cleaned out my pantry, freezers and fridge of all things I knew I wouldn't be able to stomach any longer (like Perdue chicken breasts and Velveta cheese).  I donated all to a wonderful family from church who do not share my newfound dietary convictions.

I made sure we'd have plenty of certain items I use often but don't keep on hand in bulk - sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, whole wheat flour, organic cane sugar, maple syrup, vanilla extract plus any personal care items.

I allowed myself one Costco trip to stay stocked up on pantry and fridge staples such as avocado/coconut oils, chia seeds, farro, quinoa, organic frozen fruits, organic cheeses, crunchy snack products such as quinoa chips or organic corn tortilla chips and probiotic drinks for the kiddos.

I stalked friends who have been doing this healthier eating plan far longer than I for recipes, ideas and encouragements.

I got my kids on board because they are great encouragers and they love to point out when I make a mistake (like give in to a Hershey bar just because it's there).

I made plans to get all my meats, yogurts, raw honey and produce from locally sourced farms and markets.

I was skeptical as I LOVE food, particularly junk food/sweets and I have no will power.... but it's been AMAZING!  I have saved money.  I have lost weight.  I have helped to lower my hubby's blood pressure.  I have seen my kids appreciate and enjoy new foods.  I have joined a CSA.  I have gotten connected with others in my community seeking the same food choices.  I have learned to release control of our diets when we are outside the home (kids can eat however they want or are served when out and about).  I have learned to appreciate the specificity God used in designing plant and animal life.  I have learned a tremendous amount about our bodies and how they process what is put into them.

I've gotten so many recipes I've loved and will use again and again - too many to share right now.  So I asked each member of the family to share what has been their number one favorite new recipe.  Hope you'll give them a try!

Gabe - loved this juice we made.  I didn't keep any bottled juices on hand so we only drank fresh juices.  Lily loved this one.  I used raw honey as the sweetener, but really it would have been sweet enough without.

This was my favorite go-to breakfast.  Works really well with coconut milk, too.

The whole family loved these muffins as a breakfast or lunch item:

1 cup smooth almond butter
2/3 cup pumpkin puree
2 eggs
1 egg white
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (raisins are good, too!)

preheat oven to 350.  line standard muffin pan with paper liners.  combine pumpkin and almond butter until smooth.  stir in eggs and syrup.  mix in cinnamon, baking soda and salt.  stir in chocolate chips.  bake 15-20 minutes or until the center is firm.  allow to cool 10-15 minutes in the pan then transfer to wire rack.  cool completely.  store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Here was a delicious dinner or lunch.  Tim and Lily were huge fans.  I used shallots instead of onions and since I didn't have chicken stock on hand used water.  Still very flavorful.

I would say the only downside is the need to plan much more in advance.  I work two evenings a week so meals would need to be prepped and made in the early afternoon.  Convenience foods were not available to us during this month.  At first that felt frustrating, but the foods we were enjoying as a result of that increased planning more than compensated.  Now advance meal planning is a part of the routine.

All in all, an absolutely awesome month with long-term changes now in place for our family!

*Though if I'm completely honest I do still kinda miss going to Taco Bell.  ;-)

Friday, January 3, 2014

Snow Day!

A windy, cold and snow-covered day here meant no school.  With lots of baking, hot chocolate, Monopoly playing (G's current favorite version is Empire) and reading we enjoyed the gift that was an unexpected day together.

Bundled up - temps felt below 0' with the wind chill, too cold for this mama who watched from the warmth of the playroom w/ fire.

Capped the day with a VHS (!) presentation of Peter Pan on a blanket/pillow fort.  These kids are so spoiled - that screen has got to be at least 14 inches wide.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Blessings to you this holiday season and always!

We enjoyed a wonderful season of time with friends and family.  While the kiddos received gifts from loved ones it was AWESOME to see their growth in the area of gratitude.  We'd noticed that this season was bringing a certain level of expectation with them.  Bigger, more, grander, more, when, more, etc....

We started a variety of activities to express gratitude and thankfulness for daily blessings.  It was such a cool thing to experience this with them.  For our eyes to also be more focused on all we have been given.

Christmas morning came, and with wrapped gifts sitting unnoticed under the tree, we enjoyed a relaxing breakfast together.  We spent time with grandparents.  We read, we played.  And no one mentioned wanting to open gifts.  There was a content-ness that came from being thankful for one another and for the gift of family and time.

There is nothing wrong with presents and early morning rushing to see under the tree....  but for us, this year was a great pause and opportunity to refocus.  To grow in thankfulness, to release previously created expectations, to honor traditions of time and service.  To be in awe of the gift of life provided through the birth of the Christ child - who we celebrate this season, and all year.