Thursday, December 04, 2014

Oven roasted sausage and potatoes...

Ok, so I got this recipe from a friend's link ages ago, and then the link stopped working, so I thought I'd post it here. It's become a staple around our house for my meat and potato lovers.

Oven Roasted Sausage and Potatoes

1/2-1 pkg. smoked sausage, sliced
1 onion, chopped
5 red potatoes, cubed
a drizzle of olive oil
generous sprinkling of salt and pepper
generous dashes of paprika and thyme
shredded cheese

Grease a 9x13 Pyrex dish. Throw in the sausage, onions, and potatoes. Drizzle with oil and add seasonings and then stir to coat. Roast at 400 degrees for 45 minutes- 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes to prevent sticking. Add cheese on top at the end.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The youngest of them...


See this little angel? This little darling? The one with the smile that can turn all women in his life into melted butter in the wink of a eye?

Not so much this week.

It's dawning on me why I take less showers than I did when he was a newborn. He wakes up the second my feet hit the floor, and I can't trust him while I'm in the shower.

Last Sunday, he flushed two toothbrushes down the toilet. (David borrowed a pipe snake and got them out, but we think there's still something down there because it's still not flushing well.)

Yesterday, while I was taking that rare shower so that I wouldn't frighten all the other women at Bible study with my greasy hair, he pulled a stool up to the bathroom counter, climbed up, opened the medicine cabinet, opened a child proof bottle of ibuprofen, and drank everything in it (half a bottle's worth). When I caught him, he was trying to pry open the bottle of allergy medicine to continue his medicinal orgy.

I panicked, but a little research showed me that he would live with nothing more serious than sleepiness and possibly an upset tummy, so I packed us all up and headed to CBS. And then asked for prayer for how to handle his recent obsession with playing in the bathroom.

Last night I took him out for a little one-on-one errand running, and I didn't realize that David had left a hammer in a plastic bag in the backseat of this car. I heard a loud noise and turned around to see him hitting the passenger side window with a hammer. I had to stop the car in the middle of the road and take it away!

Today he pooped in his pants, and as I was stripping him and giving him a bath and dunking his dirty underwear in the toilet that he broke and wondering if I could flush it, I was seething.

But now it's evening, and Daddy's home, and we're watching the second Star Wars movie in front of the tv.  The big boys are asking excited questions and saying, "It's the Millennium Falcon. Do you see it?" He's begging for more pizza and humming the Weird Al "Yoda" song, and I feel a little less like running away from home.

But he just got into the wine glasses in the china cabinet while he was supposed to be in time out, so maybe I take that back… This 3-year-old is gonna be the death of me.

Monday, November 10, 2014

A walk among the trees...


This morning, I put on a vest to ward off the slight chill in the air, laced up my shoes, and walked out the front door of the home where I grew up to wander aimlessly in the fall sunshine with my oldest boy. (This oldest boy is too tall and gangly for me to be comfortable with his tallness and ganglyness, but he still holds my hand, so I will begrudgingly accept this.)

I found myself heading down the driveway toward the road, and it was almost like my feet turned me left when we reached the end. We got to the neighbor's driveway, and I lifted him up so we could read the historic marker there, my family name hammered into the metal in several places. We headed up their driveway, and I took in this perspective that I haven't seen in years. I remembered the little gate that separates our horse pasture from their yard, probably grown rusty with disuse at this point.

He didn't recognize me when he opened the door, this neighbor who watched me grow up. And time had changed him, too. He lives as a 40-something in my memory, though he is now closer to 70. I told my brown haired boy about how they opened the old home place to our family again when I married his father.

As we walked back, he asked me to explain the expression "deep roots." I pointed out one of the many tall, strong, living examples of this that line the driveway...

"When you grow up somewhere your whole life, you are like a tall, mature oak tree. The longer it grows in one place, the deeper and stronger its roots get. I grew up here, and so I know the people and places here well and have a lot of memories here. Daddy grew up in many places and got to know lots of different people and have a lot of different experiences than I did, but there is something special about growing up in one place and having deep roots, too."

We were silent again, our feet crunching in the dead leaves, and I saw those tree roots in my mind's eye, twisted and deep and strong, reaching down far into the rich Carolina clay. I thought about the struggle it took to wrench myself from this place when I got married and became a nomad for several years. There's a reason why it was hard. There's a reason why I wake up from dreams that this place has been sold with tears in my eyes.

My sons are growing up in a city, not a small town. I wonder if they will yearn for their childhood home in the same  way that I do. I'm sure it'll look different, but I don't know how yet. However it looks, I want them to have people and places to return to with joy that speak to them of unconditional love and family and knowing and being known. 

I think this is a beautiful glimpse of eternal home that He sometimes gives us so we will trust that it exists more fully with Him in heaven. When I enter heaven, I suspect that I will look at Him and say, "This feeling is familiar. Thank you for the bit of it that I got on earth to remind me of you who created it."


Monday, November 03, 2014

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Good things...


Good things from this week so far….

- Last minute Chick Fil A lunch after co-op with a sweet friend. She texted that morning that we could get free kid's meals if the boys dressed up, so I threw the costumes in the car as we headed out the door.

- The tree in front of the house in glorious, full blown yellow. Most years it is red, so this was a beautiful surprise.

- Two teenage Ninja turtles and a giraffe for Halloween. Seth and Evan were Raphael and Donatello. (I should get extra homeschool mom points for restraining myself from giving them a lesson about famous artists after informing them of which ones they were.)

- Braised beef and noodles for dinner on a chilly, wet Saturday. And hooray for saving the cut of beef I'd bought that wouldn't have been edible cooked any other way.

- Introducing the boys to "The Princess Bride" and hearing them giggle and get the jokes. That whole movie is completely quotable. The whole thing, I swear. It's inconceivable. (Speaking of swearing, there's a bad word at the end when Inigo Montoya kills Count Dugan, so next time, we'll skip through that.)

- Finding several treasures at our local once a month, dollar book sale.

- Seth asking to read more than just one chapter in his new book on King Arthur. I've been waiting a long time to hear that wonderful question.

- A date night to look forward to tomorrow night. We've discovered that no weekend night is a bad night for a date. :)

- Meeting an older lady in our neighborhood while trick or treating and having her invite Ben inside to show him her giraffe statue. Maybe we can find a way to be a blessing to her soon.

- Finding some plain, long sleeved t-shirts at Old Navy that don't hug the 3-kid permababybump pooch. This is a big deal, since I have gone out shopping for them before and come back with nothing, and I really needed to replace some of my daily basics.



Monday, September 29, 2014

The ups and downs...

This morning I read the legend of Finn MacCoul to my sons, and Seth turned to me and said, "I want to make my own story like the legends and myths you're reading me. Can I?" So I took him to the computer, and I typed up his story. (It showed the little boy that he is, and that he's taking in the structures of the stories we're reading, so it was great all around.) I separated it out into different pages for him to illustrate, and I printed it out.

In the meantime, Evan was whining that I'm not giving him enough attention. He told me that I spend "all the time with Seth and not even 20 seconds with him". Cue new worries about not giving him enough attention. (This adds to my other new worry about whether or not his math curriculum is too advanced for him, blah.)

Ben arrived back from his time with grandparents, and I read to him. He proceeded to pee all over the couch. Evan was now crying because he wanted Seth to draw something for him, and Seth was sternly telling him that he was doing his copy work and couldn't. So Evan wanted attention, but I'm having to clean up the couch and change Ben's clothes and my clothes. Evan was sent to time out, and I was muttering under my breath about having too many children to educate.

Got the morning back on track by sitting with Evan and praising him for his drawing efforts. Tried to remember the blog post I'd read recently about whining being a cry for help and a worry that they can't do what they really want to. Watched him smile big and dig into drawing more things to show me.

My days seem so often to be such a big mix of blessing and cursing. One minute I'm riding high on something great I'm seeing from them, and another minute I feel like I'm an unfit mother. Gah!


Saturday, September 27, 2014

What we do...



“I think that we can’t go around measuring our goodness by what we don’t do, by what we deny ourselves, what we resist, and who we exclude. I think we’ve got to measure goodness by what we embrace, what we create, and who we include.”
– the film Chocolat


I read this quote on "The Art of Simple" blog this week, and for some reason it stuck with me, so I went back and looked again. I think the reason I took notice is because I spend too much time lately thinking about all the things that I don't do.

Our homeschool co-op has just started, and we're doing a study called "The Best Yes" during our R&R hour. This was the first week doing that, and we had to go around the small group circle and talk about how we felt our time was generally scheduled right now. At this point, I feel like we have a pretty good balance with planned activities and calm days at home to school and create and play. We've got Scouts and now tae kwon do on Monday and Tuesday nights, and M-T-W are free of activities during the day other than school and play. Thursday and Friday are out of the house in the mornings for Community Bible Study and homeschool co-op.

I feel like we're in a pretty good place over all right now, but as I was talking in small group, I realized I do live too much with the worry that I'm not doing enough, not balancing enough, not creating the best education for my children, etc.

The freedom to homeschool is a double edged sword. We choose this so that we won't be pushed around by too many external pressures from a traditional school environment. BUT we often trade that external pressure for internal pressure. We have the freedom to create an individualized education for the children in our families, but what do we do with that? Sometimes all the things we could be doing crowd our minds. It's easy to think about those things instead of what we're actually doing and doing well.

I need to be more like that little guy up there. Evan and I had some one on one time this summer while my wonderful in-laws took the other boys. On two of those mornings, we picked out Lego kits to make together. Evan is my Lego obsessed boy, and he is so good at building and creating with all kinds of materials. At this point, he's populating his own Star Wars alternative universe called "Air Wars."

And he's not worried about what he's not doing. He's not focused on all the different galaxies he could be creating if he had the time. Instead, he's sitting the kitchen table with his latest intergalactic vehicle and calmly saying, "I'm a genius." (No worries about low self esteem over here right now. :)

I want to be a little more like him, smiling with satisfaction at what is before me.


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Taking them places….



They look so serene in this picture, don't they? The reason I took this picture was because this isn't usually my view, and I captured it to remember that it is this from time to time. :)

Yesterday, I was at a park playdate for local homeschoolers. Plenty of kids and moms were there, toddlers to middle schoolers, and the moms stood around chatting while the kids played in the trees, on the playground, in the big field across from the playground, etc.

The playdate lasted until 3, and I'm sure that some families probably stayed that long. Me? I was very ready to go at 1:30.

Here's the reason why: I spend my whole time at these kinds of events wondering when I'm going to lose at least one of my children.

I can't trust any of them not to get lost. My oldest has no desire to get lost, but because he has very little  natural sense of direction, and because he isn't that aware of his surroundings, it's very easy for him to get lost even yards from where I am and start crying, get worried, etc.

Ditto for my second born, but he's even less aware than my first, and he's also passive aggressive. If he doesn't want to come with us, he doesn't. He dawdles until he's very far behind. Because he has little awareness of his surroundings, he can also get lost easily even if he doesn't choose to.

My youngest has the most awareness of where he is, but he simply doesn't care at this point if he gets lost. He runs off for fun. He's only 3.

So the other moms stay and chat and have a good time, and I am constantly scanning my surroundings for all three, and usually none of them are together. Yesterday, I felt sorry for myself. A lot.

I was telling David about how I felt last night, and I started ranting about how even one of them not getting lost easily would be huge. There's a trip to an orchard planned for next week with a group I could join up with, and there are moms of many and moms of many littles going. But taking my three to a big place with lots of trees that look alike right now? That sounds like my worst nightmare.

I know it'll get better for me one day, but right now, life with these three children still has specific limitations that it feels like other moms that are in a similar situation don't have. I get angry about that sometimes. I just want it to get easier, dang it!

David agreed with my assessment, and as further proof, he lost Seth this morning when he took all three out biking on a greenway trail. Seth hadn't noticed where they'd stopped for a minute to look at something or something like that, and he got left behind. He asked a jogger for help. In the meantime, David had to ask a family to stay with Evan so he could bike back and look for him. Just hearing about it made my blood pressure go up.

Gah! Anyway, this has been bothering me, so I blogged it out. There. Maybe now I'll feel better. :)




Thursday, September 04, 2014

Tea Time Tuesday/Thursday...


Tea Time doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful, y'all. :) (I stole a line from the Nester, in case you didn't notice.)

I started reading more to the boys during their afternoon snack time over the summer, so when I saw someone talking about have "Tea Time" on a Charlotte Mason Facebook page, it seemed like that would be an easy and fun fit for us. I had a tea party with them two years ago when we "rowed" a book about Russia, and they loved it, so why not try it again?

This afternoon I decided spur of the moment to have special Tea Time. (Dinner tonight isn't going to require a lot of dishes. These sorts of things factor into my energy conservation equation.) I pulled out a bright tablecloth I bought ages ago at a yard sale and threw it on the table. I pulled out the Raspberry Zinger tea in the pantry. (Nice and purple and fun looking for little boys.) I got out the box of sugar cubes we used last year to make a pyramid. Still good! :)

I'd been on the hunt for a cheap teapot or a tea kettle most of the summer. Every tea kettle I saw at the thrift stores I visit was rusted or ugly or too small or something. But last week, I scored a nice Copco stainless steel kettle for $4! (I get far too much pleasure out of waiting it out and of not paying retail, but everyone needs a hobby.)

I pulled up a recipe for Scotch Teas that someone had posted, and I got them in the oven pretty quickly. And then I called the boys down. Evan said, "What's that wonderful smell?" Brown sugar and butter do smell pretty wonderful, don't they?

We got the kettle boiling, and I called them over to look when it started to whistle. They were fascinated. I set out cups and saucers, a little cup of sugar cubes, and tea bags. They loved dunking their own tea. Everyone wanted more cookies (nope, just one), and I let them have two cups of tea apiece. (Next time I need to have a cup of ice cubes out for cooling down the tea after they've made it.)

I pulled out our current read aloud, and they sipped quietly. I told them we'd be having special tea time every week, and I got a huge smile out of Seth for that. Evan just wanted a guarantee that he'd be getting more of those cookies. (I'm freezing the rest for future tea times.) They helped me clear the table, and we were done.

This was such a small thing that cost so little, but I can tell it made them feel cared for. I'm looking forward to many more Tea Times with my handsome young men.


Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Science, take 1...

Still totally in love with "The Kitchen Counter Cooking School"! I may learn how to make chicken that isn't dry finally! But I'm finished with that, and though I'm looking through all the sticky tabbed pages often, I'm moving on to tell you about science for the year.

This year we're following the recommendations from "the Well Trained Mind" to do Earth Science and Astronomy. I bought the Apologia Astronomy book as our spine for Astronomy, but we're starting with Earth Science. So here's how I'm doing that...

The other day, I went through that section in our wonderful local library, and I pulled out books that I thought looked interesting in a variety of subjects. I've got books on volcanos, earthquakes, landslides, climates, floods, caves, rocks, gems, and minerals. I put them in the science book box, and then I got a few earth science related experiment books. After I looked through those, I came up with a clear winner in that category, and I sticky tabbed the experiments I want to use from it.

This book is "How the Earth Works: 60 Fun Activities for Exploring Volcanoes, Fossils, Earthquakes, and More." Tomorrow we're going to cut into a hard boiled egg and use it to talk about the earth's mantle, crust, and core. Then maybe we'll try and eat the egg. ;) I'm going to let them color and put on the wall the photocopy I made from the book of the layers of the earth.

I bought a couple of $2 laminated placemats at the homeschool conference this year, and they're up on our wall now. They are "Rocks and Minerals" and "The Solar System." After I put them up, Seth spent some time studying them. This year, I'm also planning to have them memorize the different kinds of rocks and the planets in order, and those two things made it into our memory binder.

Oh, and the spine I'm using for earth science is the DK Eye Wonder Earth book. Of all the reference books available at our library, it was the best, and the library had many books to cover the different topics presented in it.

When we read a science book, I'm pulling out a sheet of blank paper and a pen, and I'm labeling the top with the title of the book or books, and then I ask them what they learned/what was interesting about the book. I copy down what they say, and sometimes I have them draw a picture on the paper to go with it. Then I hole punch it and put it in that section of our Wonder book. I'll take pictures of our experiments and hopefully figure out how to make collages to print out and put in the book, too.

Yesterday wasn't the greatest first day of school. There was weeping and gnashing of teeth and complaints about having to put up Legos. Today was MUCH better! Ben wanted to participate in a lot and didn't cause trouble. He's going to know the continents at age 3. Seth had a good attitude about the increased table work that he'll be having this year, and I made a point to smile and let words of praise fall easily from my lips. ;)

To top it off, Papa (my daddy) came through on his way back from the beach and took us out to lunch at Chick Fil A, so they each got kids meals AND chocolate milk. I got a clean kitchen before rest time. Score!