Friday, October 21, 2011

stream of consciousness

I had a little bit of a blogging run and then I crashed. I was thinking about this last night along with a huge assortment of other things that were cluttering my mind.
Things like Jonathan has done essentially no school work this week because he got his wisdom teeth out on Tuesday. He is healing really well except for waking up in pain each morning because he's slept well all night and the evening's medication has long since worn off. No school all week for a 3rd grader? OK! (Jake actually has done school this week though) No school all week for a 10th grader? Not so OK. Especially since next week is as full of a week as one can imagine including 2 Dr appointments, a craft day, a book club, a youth group trip, and a trip to the Florida Theatre Convention. Two of these things don't involve Jonathan at all (the craft day and book club, if you were wondering), but still it's a lot for any family. This doesn't include theatre and more and more theatre, and soccer, and choir, and whatever else I'm forgetting right now. Ugh! It's exhausting! Starting tomorrow we also have a week filled with things we will miss because we still haven't perfected the art of being in two places at one time. There's a carwash for the theatre (to raise funds for said convention), but we are walking in a walk-a-thon that is raising money for the local St Vincent de Paul food pantry that feeds 700 hundred families a month in our area alone (and fed 900 families last month!!) Then the rest of the week will continue with having to miss one or more scheduled activity in lieu of another and that kind of thing totally stresses me out. I'm the kind of person that generally feels the need to say yes to anything that I don't absolutely have to say no to. Like if someone says can you come let my cat out at 3am and I know I have nothing else going on, then I feel like I have to say yes. I hate having to take my kids away from one activity (where I'm worried people will be annoyed because we left early) to get them to another activity (where I'm worried people will be annoyed because we're showing up late). The positive side of needing to be at two places at once though is that we really can't, so to that end there is less on the proverbial schedule then there otherwise would be. I like to look for the silver lining! We finished three books today! All three kids and I finished listening to Sign of the Beaver (I liked it even more than I expected), then Madi and I finished the third (of ten or eleven) of her core history books, and Indian Captive. We've gotten into this good routine of taking turns reading her history aloud while the other of us folds laundry or cleans the kitchen. Madi started out doing her history on her own, but I'm too big of an American History fan to not be a part of it, so this is working. Jonathan likes to sit in too. It's slightly harder to do Spanish or Biology while listening to History though so it sometimes poses a problem. Jake's History has been lining up with Madi's quite nicely, but it's looking like hers is going to start cruising ahead, she's past the Constitution now and he's still lingering in Colonial Days. His book has a section each week about an area of the country which tends to slow things down a little. Today's was about Chesapeake Bay which is really cool because we went on (in) the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel this summer on our way to Delaware. I really like how his curriculum brings in science and geography (and Bible and literature and more), it's a hit! Speaking of Jake, remember his song from Honk!? "I'm just different, I'm just different from the rest..." Well he really truly is. Today alone he was creating his Veggie Tales Silly Song Countdown posters completely color-coded and everything and not five minutes later he was playing Who Wants to be a Millionaire by himself (they dug out the old board game the other day) and he could genuinely answer a lot of the questions! Usually by the time a person knows an excessive amount of trivia, they have outgrown Veggie Tales have they not? He's also brought back some other old favorites this week and is in the middle of another Berenstain Bears kick. Jake turned nine on Wednesday and I didn't even post about it. All Jonathan got was his card on here too. What can I say, I'm in a little bit of a slump. Some years there are huge birthday blog posts, others not so much. There's always plenty of cake though, so don't worry about that!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Yummola Granola Bars

Go here to find a link to some really good homemade granola bars. There are all kinds of ideas there.

Here is the original recipe that the link links to.

1 2/3 cups quick rolled oats (if gluten-free, be sure to use gluten-free oats)
1/2 to 3/4 cup granulated sugar (use more for a sweetness akin to most purchased bars; use less for a mildly sweet bar)
1/3 cup oat flour (or 1/3 cup oats, processed till finely ground in a food processor or blender)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 to 3 cups dried fruits and nuts (total of 10 to 15 ounces)*
1/3 cup peanut butter or another nut butter (I used almond butter) (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional, namely because I was not convinced that the flavor came through)
6 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 cup honey, maple syrup or corn syrup
2 tablespoons light corn syrup (see Note above)
1 tablespoon water

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8″ x 8″ x 2″ pan in one direction with parchment paper, allowing it to go up the opposing sides. Lightly grease the parchment paper and the exposed pan, or coat with a non-stick spray.

Stir together all the dry ingredients, including the fruit and nuts. In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla, melted butter or oil, liquid sweeteners and water. Toss the wet ingredients with the dry (and peanut butter, if you’re using it) until the mixture is evenly crumbly. Spread in the prepared pan, pressing them in firmly to ensure they are molded to the shape of the pan. (A piece of plastic wrap can help with this, as you press down on the back of it.)

Bake the bars for 30 to 40 minutes, until they’re brown around the edges — don’t be afraid to get a little color on the tops too. They’ll still seem soft and almost underbaked when you press into the center of the pan but do not worry, they’ll set completely once completely cool.

I've only made these once so far and now I'm going to tell you how I tweaked the recipe to my own liking and pantry. Let me just say these were the yummiest granola bars ever!

I used...
1 2/3 cups of oats
1/2 cup sucanat
1/3 cup freshly ground wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon (maybe 1/2)
about a cup of chocolate chips
1/3 cup dark chocolate almond butter
6 Tbls melted butter
1/4 cup honey
1 Tbls water

I also didn't have parchment paper. I sprayed the pan and they came out fine.

This recipe is not for precise people, you have to be willing to experiment and toss in things (like chocolate chips and more chocolate chips) as you see fit.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

More schooly thoughts

For the last few years I've been a little envious of people with younger kids. "Don't do school," I'll think, "Go to the park, bake brownies, play a game!" Last week I had a brainstorm...I can still do those things too. Yes Jonathan has a heavy high school workload (and an even busier extra-curricular/social/theatre calendar) and Madi is right behind him, but you know what? They're here now. Well technically they aren't here NOW, in a twist of fate Madi is at the theatre watching Dracula and Jonathan is not. Jonathan is at a high school youth group life rally. Mike and Jake are at the mall, and I am enjoying some quiet on a rainy Saturday evening. The best part is everyone is getting a ride home and I don't have to go out to get anyone! (Thank you ladies who have my big kids and coincidentally are two of my handful of readers!) But I digress. Friday we went to a play in the big city. Then we met Mike for a yummy pizza lunch. Then we went to the big city library. It was like the old days. Jonathan did (at least part of) an Algebra 2 test in the car, but otherwise no SCHOOL got done. We all enjoyed listening to Sign of the Beaver on CD and got through more than half of it in just that one day. Yes, Jonathan will have some stuff to catch up on. Madi too. I'm really going to make a point of continuing to do those things like lunch out and the big city library. And park days, and games, and the beach, etc etc... I still can! You know that poem about leaving the dust and cobwebs because "I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep?" The same is true for homeschoolers. We homeschool in part so we can do these things, so ya know what? We're going to keep doing them! Yes I'll still yell, "get back to work" nine out of ten times, but that tenth time, you can be sure we'll drop everything and do something fun! That's what homeschooling and parenting in general, is supposed to be about!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

School talk and growing up

At least twice a week I cry about how quickly my kids are growing up. I think I cried twice yesterday alone. I mean my first baby is 16! SIXTEEN!! Sixteen years ago today, he had seizures and a stroke. That's when we really became parents. The first three days were just practice, that day was the real thing. Before that day my standard goal in life was to make a difference in the lives of children in the world. That day I realized it was in raising my own child (and subsequent children) that I was going to channel my difference making. We've definitely done things differently along the way, although at some point a lot of the "different" became normal. Many mothers in our country have to first let go at 6 weeks when they go back to work and the baby goes to day care. Many more have to let go at 5 for kindergarten. Here I am hanging on for dear life to my 16 year old. I'm so not ready to let go. And yet, I've been letting go gradually for the last 16 years. No matter how this sounds I'm really not codependent. I'm not a helicopter parent either. As I type this my 8 year old is out playing in the street with some kids I don't even know, I hold my breath when I hear a car coming, but I let him go. I give my kids a pretty good about of space and opportunity to make their own decisions. They're doing pretty well. If we don't trust our kids, how will they ever become trustworthy? (that's from Footloose and my kids are allowed to watch that). Without responsibility how will they ever become responsible? (I made that one up myself). Even though we homeschool, the kids (especially the bigger two) are responsible for their own work. If Jonathan weren't responsible, the theatre would be dark much of the time. If Madi weren't responsible, a lot of local parents would be missing out on a lot of date nights. She babysat, spur of the moment, last Friday until midnight for a young family who had never had a babysitter before. When I say young family, I mean the parents were much closer to Madi's age than they were to my about growing old!! Last night we had a father of four here who was STARTING high school the year Jonathan was born!! Seriously!! When did I get so old?! Where is the time going? Which brings me right back to crying about how fast time is flying. How fast the kids are growing! I'm really making a point to appreciate every little thing because little things become big things way too quickly!

I got off on a tangent, I was actually going to talk about schooly stuff here. I'm not sure if it has to do with being in my forties, or if it's because I've actually been homeschooling for over 10 years, but I'm much more vocal about my opinions than I used to be. Hang around me for a while and you're bound to hear it. When we started homeschooling all we were doing was continuing early childhood at home. Well, more like at the park, at the library, and on business trips with Daddy. I knew even then that education didn't need to look like school at home. (Guess what even in high school it doesn't look like school) We took on the labels of unschoolers or child led learners or delayed academics people. Those labels conjure up different things in people's minds. Often people think it means not doing enough. Once, long ago, a friend "defended" what I did to another friend by saying "Julie does a lot more with her kids then she lets on". Basically in these people's minds unschooling meant doing nothing. She was right in the sense that we've never done nothing! Someday I hope to do nothing at least for a little while, but I've never come close to that. I just wasn't doing what some people would call school. Maybe we're still not. Even yesterday I used my standard, "We're always doing school or we never do school" it just depends on how you look at it. Are we always learning? Absolutely! Anyway, this is my round about way about getting to my latest opinion. You wouldn't believe the number of times people talk to me about grade levels of things. For some reason people think if something is written at a fourth grade level, it can't be educational to anyone older than fourth grade. This way of thinking is crazy to me! I encounter it all the time though. Why people think something has to be full of challenging words to be noteworthy I'll never understand. I had a big rant yesterday about a popular history series that I love being educational to even the smartest people even though it is written at an easy reading level. Guess what else... your kid can still learn things even if they listen to a book on CD, they don't have to physically READ it for it to sink in. I was getting so worked up about this that I even started saying things I hate to hear like "I graduated cum laude from a prestigious university and I still learn a lot from reading these books" (and even JUST listening to them on CD). UGH! The moral here is don't get me started on this! The thing is no one really knows what goes on in other people's homes and homeschools. I'll fill you in on something though, around here we talk all! the! time!! So we might read the simplest thing, but we might have a college worthy discussion about it. We might have even done that back in the day when people called us unschoolers and thought we weren't doing enough.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Facebook status style

This is the card I gave Jonathan on Sunday.

18 years ago today Mike and I got engaged. I had pink eye.

I closed the kitchen window last night and am happy to report we don't have dead blind mosquitoes all over the stove...I guess we figured out how they're getting in.

If you don't know what blind mosquitoes are, you don't live in the same town I live in.

Madi had soccer practice last night and Jake and I played on the strangest playground ever. It is actually really cool, and very futuristic. Everything is sort of tilted so it spins on its own. I felt like I was on another planet or something.

Come see my kids in Cinderella next weekend! Their parts are Friday the 14th at 7 and Sunday the 16th at 2.

Come get your car washed this Saturday at Sonic between 9 and 12 to support my kids in all their theatre endeavors!!

Jonathan's last behind the wheel driving class is this Saturday (he won't be at the car wash). Yes five weeks have gone by LIKETHAT! Actually sixteen years have!

I've got a lot of blog posts in my head, but for now that's where they'll stay.