Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Kiki's Cocoa

This evening I got a chance to go on a walk with TJ & Kiki to the Rose is one of our favorite places to go. Sadly, when we arrived today we found that the roses have all been pruned and tied in preparation for winter. Kiki and I talked at length about our sorrow over summer ending. We decided, however, that there is nothing to be done and we'd best focus on the GOOD things about winter, instead of making ourselves sad. #1 on Kiki's list? HOT COCOA!
We're all out at our house, so we made a trip to the grocery store immediately and gathered up the supplies to make our own. Kiki hadn't done this with me before and it was a fun, easy project to do, if she's goign to be the one drinking it, it gives her ownership. Here's our (super simple) recipe:

24 oz. box of dry/powdered milk (we used a 25.6 oz. box)
1 c. non diary creamer
2 c. powdered sugar
16 oz. instant chocolate drink mix

In a LARGE bowl (in our case, an icecream bucket) mix all the items together.

Getting a little help from TJ!

She was pretty sure it was going to overflow!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Applesauce Season

In W-town we are blessed with one apple tree...normally that wouldn't work in terms of pollination, but, thankfully, the neighbors also have an apple tree so we're good to go.

The interesting thing is that our tree has a cycle of producing every-other-year. Last year we had about 4 apples on the entire tree. This year the tree was so laden with apples that the branches were laying on the ground...a very good problem to have. Many people stopped and asked if we were going to do anything with the apples...I think the for-sale sign made people think we weren't planning to use them; but, trust us, we were! (Of course, we told the people who asked that they were welcome to help themselves...there was PLENTY to go around!) Even with sharing, we still picked around 5 buckets full, plus the hundreds that the kids ate straight from the tree!

The first year we had apples I made apple pies like a crazy-person; even prepping apples and freezing them to make apple pies in the winter! That was a fine way to use them, but, unfortunately, only The Spouse likes apple pie! This year I decided to make something that more of my crew likes...Apple Sauce! I did some researching around on the Internet and also tried to remember what I'd seen my Mom do....she used to make no-sugar-added-applesauce for my kids when they were babies...always helping me save money. Love her!

The link I most often referred to can be found here. It's from Pick Your Own.Org and it has a lot of great info, as well as awesome answers to a lot of FAQ (many of the same questions I had!)
I did NOT have many of the supplies they suggested, however, so I thought it might be helpful to share how I made applesauce using just what I had on hand...I'm willing to bet there are lots of people like me out there. :)

So, here you go:

Apples...I just used the ones off of the tree; which are quite tart.
2 large pots (1 for cooking apples. 1 for holding processed apples)
1 super-large pot (for boiling water and putting the jars into to seal them)
Sugar to taste (because of the tartness I used around 1.5 cups per pot...The Spouse kept tasting until we found the right amount)
Cinnamon to taste
Cutting Board
Slotted spoon
Jars with lids
Wire cooling racks
Oven Mitt

Sterilize your can do that in the dishwasher if you have a 'sterilize' setting or you can clean them and then boil them in a pot of water. Keep them in the dishwasher or in the pot until you actually use them to minimize exposure/germs.

Wash your apples

Cut your apples up; you do NOT want the stem or the seeds. They can be sent to compost.  I left the skins on.

Put the apples into a pot with a little bit of water in the bottom. Cover the pot and turn the burner on "high". Let the apples cook until they are soft and took about 8 minutes. Watch to make sure you have enough water to cook the apples. While I was waiting I cut the next group of apples for the next batch.

Use your slotted spoon to scoop the cooked apples into your want to leave as much of the water behind as you can. I kept using the same water for each batch; it got appley goo in it and I felt like I wasn't wasting that way!

Blend your apples to your desired consistency...because the peelings are still in there, you might want to blend longer than normal.

Pour your blended apple into the 2nd large pot.
I did not have enough at that point to fill my pot, so I did another batch.

Add the sugar and cinnamon to the mixture, making sure to stir it completely. This is where you need some extra clean spoons so you can taste test your mixture. I liked it plain, so I canned some jars that way. The Spouse liked it plenty sweet, so we did some that way too.

Using your ladle, put the applesauce into your jars.
Leave about a 1/4" of space.

Put the lid and ring on your jars.

Put the closed jars in your Super Large Pot of boiling water. For pint jars you want to let them boil for 15 minutes; quarts for 20.

Use your tongs and oven mitt to take them out. I found that if I lifted them out with the tongs and set them on the cutting board that was right next to the pot, I didn't have to worry so much about the hold the tongs had. Once they were out, I used my oven mitt to pick up the jars and place them on the wire cooling racks.

Let the jars cool. In the cooling process, they will seal themselves; you'll be able to hear them "pop" when they do and you'll see that the center of the jar is pulled down. I finished this project right before bed and got several starts while I was falling asleep as the jars "popped"!

Unscrew the outer ring of the jar to let the water that is trapped dry. If you don't do this it will rust, which would be a bummer. I let mine dry and then put them back on; I've read that you could leave them off, but I figured why have to remember where I stuck the rings?! I'll just keep everything together until I use the applesauce and THEN put the jars and rings back into the box they came in.

NOTE: In reading I found out that the inner part that goes on top of the jar is NOT reusable. Once it has done a seal it should be discarded; you can purchase JUST that part for future canning.

Happy Applesauce Season!

My little helper who woke up in the middle of the night to cook with me. :)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Vinyl Cutting Simple and Easy

Have you seen all the neat projects you can do with a Silhouette or the Cameo? Yup, me too. Do you have a Silhouette or Cameo? Me neither. (If you do...lucky you!)  ;)  I decided to figure out how to make neat things without one...and without the fancy supplies. Tonight's project was a little gift for a friend who is very passionate about a certain vote happening in Minnesota.

Here's the steps:
1. Find a logo or design you want to create.
2. I put mine into a word document and printed as a "mirror".

3. You hear a lot about "vinyl"...essentially? It's CONTACT paper. For reals. You can get it at the Dollar Tree...and in a lot of really neat prints...I chose to use a "stainless steel" I'd picked up awhile ago.

4. Cut your vinyl to the right size and feed it into your printer.
5. Print the image

6. Using an Exacto Knife, cut out your design. Depending on the size of your design, your steadiness of hand, and your desires you can decide if you're cutting out each letter to peel and stick on the item or if you're cutting away the letters from the overall design.

 7. Clean the item you plan to adhere your vinyl to. In my case, I cleaned the glass with rubbing alcohol to give the image the best possible chance of sticking. A more common location to stick your vinyl might be pieces of wood, or even right to a wall.
8. Adhere your item.
   *Obviously your item is not water-proof and the vinyl should only be wiped gently if cleaning is needed. This jar is from the Dollar Tree.

OPTIONAL step 9:
I *finally* used my 40% off coupon for some etching cream at Michael's....I LOVE IT!! I still have 1/2 a bottle and have done a TON of projects...showing that despite the high cost, you do get a lot of miles out of it.

To finish the project I washed the design one last time with rubbing alcohol, then gooped on the etching cream. I left it to set for around 10 minutes; I like to let the cream get to a nearly dry state before I rinse it off with warm water.

10. Once rinsed off I took the vinyl off.

Ready for sending. :)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

TJ Is On His Way

For posterity's sake I need to make it known:
TJ jumped with both feet today. (Read why it matters here.)
Totally got air.
He is full-on ready to be trained; no holding back now.
To be honest...we've been working on it all week and he's doing really well.
The best was when he was playing with Leve and sudden ran screaming from the room, "AHAHAHAHAH!!!" to the bathroom where he proceeded to take care of business. LOL!

I am proud of him. In theory I'm excited about having NO ONE in diapers for the first time in NINE years, but I'm also sad that he's THERE.

 Along with the jumping has come WORDS...lots and LOTS of WORDS....and a desire to sleep in his big-boy bed (aka Quinn's bed). I've got a little MAN on my hands and since he is our 'baby', I get a little weepy when no one is looking. Alas, I shall try to buck-up and remember that God's timing is perfect; including how long He allows little ones to be little.
My on-his-way-to-being-a-big-boy-as-quickly-as-he-can in a hammock while camping last week.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Potty Training

I'm going tell you something that might come off as a little harsh, but it's absolutely true.
In terms of developmental milestones, my kids aren't breaking any records.
Now, before you TOTALLY take away my status as Mother of the Year, hear me out.

Finn walked at 16 mo.
He potty trained initially at 18 mo...and then decided it wasn't worth the hassle, gave it up, and was finally fully potty trained at 3.5 years.

Kiki walked at 15 mo.
She was fully potty trained at 3.

Leve walked at 17 mo.
She was fully potty trained at 3.5.

TJ walked at 21 mo.
At 2.5, he's not potty trained.

I admit to having a pretty "go with the flow" attitude toward parenting. My philosophy is that they're only little for such a short while, why rush the process? It's worked alright for me. Don't get me wrong, I've TRIED to get the kids to walk. We've stood with them between us. We've held their fingers. We've encouraged. Nothing. I've spent time trying to toilet train each of them when I felt they were showing interest. Nothing. I refuse to bash myself over the head with it and have just let it happen. Not so surprisingly, they all figured it out and with minimal muss and fuss.

After getting his hair cut very short and being told what a big boy he looked like, Finn asked me for a pair of underwear one day and "training" was over. Kiki wanted a particular doll. "Get potty trained and I'll buy it for you", I said. Done. 2 days later she had it locked in and was playing with the doll. Leve decided that she couldn't possibly go to the Fair with diapers on and trained herself with a little help from Daddy and her siblings.

I've been introducing the potty and encouraging TJ for the last month or so. He seems to "get" what it's all about, but hasn't done much about it. Until last week.

I was laying him down for a nap and he said, "I pooped."
"No you didn't, I just changed you."
"I poop my butt."
"Do you need to go potty?"
I take him and set him down. He says, "I get a treat?"
"Of course. If you go potty you get a treat."
"Shut the door."

Now, I'm not sure what was funnier...that he negotiated the treat BEFORE going to the bathroom, or the fact that he demanded privacy, but I giggled pretty hard outside the bathroom regardless. And he did a nice number in the potty, so it was a good thing.  He got lots of praise from me, but the biggest high fives came from his siblings. Why?


I started it with Leve. At the time Kiki was 6 and Finn was 8...old enough to be potty-experts. I decided instead of making potty training a Mom/Kid thing we were going to make it a family thing. With the lure of a treat, I suddenly have 3 people asking if Leve needed to go to the bathroom instead of just me doing it. PERFECT!

I'm doing the same with TJ...and it's going well. Leve is especially helpful, even asking and helping him at church! (Note to self; Bring treats WITH for jobs well done outside the house. Leve was NOT impressed that there was no treat until we got home. Oops.)

He is not breaking any records, but we're definitely on the right path. We seem to have #2 taken care of, so it's just to make sure #1 always happens. 

I have noticed that he cannot jump with both feet yet, and, according to a Mom of 7 that I used to give piano lessons to, that is a key developmental milestone for being prepared to do #1 on the potty...something about brain/body connections...hey, she's trained 7 kids, I figured I'd trust her! ;) So, we'll give it time.

In the mean time I get to see this cute mug more and more. :)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Dana Carvey Makes Bedtimes Better

Have you ever watched The Master of Disguise? It is one of the movies that our family really gets a kick out of. Last fall the kids got into quoting part of the movie where Dana Carvey dresses up as an older woman.  Check it out here:
Now, I'll agree that some of the language was appalling, but hearing my 3 year old say, "We’ll never make bay-bees.” or  “I’m Gammy, Gammy Num, Num” or "I'm not going anywhere with YOU, Melon Head" struck me as pretty hilarious....for the first 50 times. After that, it started to wear on my nerves. But, as they say, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

One night I wanted the kids to get to bed quickly and without a fuss. I didn't want a million trips out of their rooms after they were there. SO, I informed them about the "Gammy Num Nums" Award. They were intrigued....the rules were simple. The award goes to the person who:
1. Gets ready for bed without having to be told to hurry up or stay on task.
2. Is ready and in bed first.
3. Does NOT come out of their bed for any reason.

This person will then receive a card that says,
Gammy-Num-Nums Award
10 Minutes

The winner can then use that 10 minute award to stay up an extra 10 minutes any time they'd like, except on no Num-Nums Nights (night when we're all up late anyhow OR a night when they have something happening early the next morning.)

I don't offer the Gammy Num Num each night, but a couple times a week I'll announce that it's time to get ready for bed and a Gammy Num Num will be awarded.  My kids ALL hustle. Which brings up the question...can there be more than one awarded? Yes. I will award one to anyone who didn't dawdle, went right to sleep, and did not come out. We've had instances where they've gotten the award, but then come out...and they've had to forfeit their award. (If they got ready for bed the right away they shouldn't need potty, water, hugs, kisses, etc., right?!)

So, that's how Dana Carvey has made bedtimes better around our house.  :)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Follow Your Path

We started our school-year off with a camping trip. One of the perks of homeschooling, right?! We wanted to go to a State Park and found that if we waited until Labor Day to actually START camping we could get a stellar spot. It was a great way to start the year. :)

We had a perfect campsite, perfect weather, and a really great time with our kids. This morning, after breakfast, we had everybody put on a bathing suit and headed out to swim/hike. We saw some amazing scenery and Leve reminded me of an important truth. Kids do that, don't they?!

We went to a very secluded area of beach and decided to swim. The beach was filled with tiny little rocks, you know the kind...the ones that get in your shoes and drive you crazy. When it was time to go, we had everyone go over to a large rock away from the small pebbles to clean off their feet and put their shoes on. Once they were on the large rock they could easily walk to the path out of the beach and avoid filling their shoes with rocks again. Kiki and Finn did this perfectly. Leve seemed to be doing great too. I turned to put on the backpack I was hauling and heard Leve call, "Help!" with a sound of panic. I turn to find her clinging to the rockwall...she was stuck and too scared to go forward, back, up, or down! I went over, climbed up a few feet, picked her up, and helped get her down to the trail. Once she was safe I said, "Why didn't you take the path? WHY would you think you should climb the rock out of here?!"

She pointed ahead of her and said, "That's what Kiki DID!"

Ahh....the good 'ol doin' what your sister does rational. She could just have well have said, "Someone I love, trust, and look up to was doing it that way, so I thought I'd do it that way too." Never mind that she's 3 years younger, 2 feet shorter, and not nearly as agile on her feet. When I was looking at it from the outsiders perspective I thought how silly and foolish it was. That is, for a split second, until I realized the truth in the statement. The reason it hit me folks, is because I am SO guilty of doing just that...and have to struggle at times to stay true to what I know is right for me.

In fact, I've been doing a lot of that lately. You see, for Minnesotans it's the first day of school.

I grew up going to public school. I trained to be a school teacher. I'm used to getting up the day after Labor Day and going off to school. I have been called to a different path with my children. In my heart of hearts I KNOW that path is the right path for us. I KNOW without a doubt that we're doing the right thing for our kids and for our family.

But, I admit that there are days, like today, that I want to do what other people are doing. I have twinges of envy when I think about the Moms who are getting a tiny break while their kids are off at school. I get a little nostalgic for my own school days and wonder how my children will look back on their childhood and if they'll feel they "missed out" somehow. A tiny bit of me wishes that sometimes someone ELSE was having to deal with curriculum decisions for them and bearing the weight of this tremendous responsiblity.

In short, I could TOTALLY identify with Leve's desire to do what Kiki was doing. And I was jolted back to the reality that doing what others are doing if it's not right for you will get you stranded on a rock wall calling for help...or some sort of equivalent!

Each of us needs to do what is right for us and for our families. We need to live an examined life. How can we truly be doing God's will in our lives if we don't? We're not all called to do the same thing and we do ourselves, our families, and our world a dis-service if we try to do things like our neighbor. It was awesome to be reminded of that today and encouraged to stay the course.

Blessings to each of you as you follow your paths.


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Kids Say the Darnedest Things

* During reading I ask the kids to give me examples of new words in a sentence. The word was "over"...expecting Kiki to say something about something going 'over' something else she elicited a giggle when instead she held her hand to mouth and said, "Crsh. Over. Crsh." in true trucker fashion.

* The Spouse and I decided to fix our bed.
 It wasn't going well so I said, "This stinks!"
In the background I hear Leve sheepishly say, "Sorry. I farted."

* One day we were driving and, in true, Minnesota fashion, the weather was sunny, but raining. I made a comment and Finn said, "Well, MOM. What did you expect?! When you sing the Johnny Appleseed you thank God for giving the sun AND the rain."

The list goes on and on of hilariousness...what funny things have YOU heard lately?!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

It's Not a Question!!!

If you live with kids you’re used to lots and lots and LOTS of questions. “Why, Mommy, WHY?” If you’re like me, you feel like you spend most of your time answer questions OR saying, “I think you already know the answer to THAT, don’t you?!” It’s no wonder, then, that as parents, that we sometimes get caught in the “Question Trap”.

If you’re not sure what I’m talking about. I’ll give you a few examples:

“How about we have some supper?”

“Can you go and find your blankie?”

“Should we go and brush your teeth?”

“Let’s go to the car, okay?”

If you’re like me, those questions really AREN’T questions….they are things you are expecting your child to do NOW. But we’ve asked a question…and our children don’t always answer the way we’d like them to. Shortly,  we get frustrated, our children get frustrated, things escalate and pretty soon we’re dishing out time outs, raising our voices, and wishing Grandma would call to take them off our hands. Crazily enough…IT’S OUR FAULT!!!

I caught myself doing it just the other day. I was in a hurry and trying to be patient with getting out the door. I said to Leve, “Would you please go and put your swim suit on so we can go?”

“No. I’m playing.”

“Leve! Do it now.”

I was already on the edge. We were late. I was irritated. AND I MADE IT WORSE by asking her a question! She’s 4…the world is pretty literal for her...of course she’d rather finish playing!

Today, I had a chance at a re-do. We were on our way out the door for a 2.5 hour car ride. “Leve. Please go to the bathroom now so you don’t have an accident in the car.”

“Okay, Mommy. “ She dropped what she was doing and took care of business.

Sure, there are certainly times when kids won’t be compliant; that’s a whole ‘nother parenting issue. AND as they grow older they come to understand that those 'questions' aren't questions, but until our children are there developmentally we need to remember...IT'S NOT A QUESTION!!!
Happy Saturday, Enjoy your Labor Day Weekend.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Too Long a Stranger

Hello, dear friends. It has been a long, long time. I always hate it when bloggers make excuses as to why they have been MIA...honestly, we all "get" happens and when it does something has to give...and if blogging isn't your bread and butter, it is the first thing to go. But, to be honest...I haven't been any more busy than I usually am, well, at least not TOO much more than normal. I have been sad. Not the kind of sad that anyone really notices or the kind of sad that holds up my day. Just the kind of sad that I feel in my bones and keeps me from wanting to write very much. I used this blog during my Grandpa's illness and to pay tribute to his passing. I shared in one of the last posts that I we had sung, "It is Well With My Soul" and wanted to believe that. I prayed that someday I would....I think I have been waiting until it was to start writing again....and a few days ago I realized a startling truth, IT MIGHT NEVER BE WELL FOR MY SOUL. Today I went to the Doctor to have an ankle that i turned over the weekend looked....they went through the usual questions of my phone number, address, insurance, and then she said, "Walter is listed as your Emergency Contact." That one sentence knocked the wind right out of me. I barely whispered, "He's deceased." and gave her my parent's number. I limped to the waiting room with tears in my eyes. It seems too crazy that he's gone. Too crazy that he can't be my emergency contact. It is most definitely not well with my soul. BUT, I know he'd be shaking his head and wagging his long pointer finger at me for making such a 'big deal' out of his I've decided to chin up, get back on the horse, and start writing again. He'd be saying, "That's ENOUGH now." So, here I go. Thanks for being here and reading.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Syttende Mai 2012

Lest you worry I forgot about my holiday, never fear! The Spouse was in charge of the card again this year...he claimed he was looking for trolls, found Squinkies instead, and took it as a sign. I reminded myself, "You get what you get...." The sentiment is still the same!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Celebration of Life

Friends and Family,

Thank you for your prayers, love, and encouragement these last few weeks. It has been bittersweet in so many ways.

As my Grandma put it, "If a funeral can be beautiful, this one certainly was." The church was filled with dear people we love and who love us. The scent of lilies filled the air. My Dad played Grandpa's favorite piano pieces. My Aunt sang the Lord's Prayer with her strong soprano voice. The Lord was near.

Sure, we cried. Some of us sobbed. At the end of the service we sang "It is Well With My Soul" If you're not familiar, take a look at the lyrics. I have never been part of a more convicted choir; it felt as though our voices would shake the entire foundation of that little church; we belted the words. Even as I knew that his passing wasn't well with my soul, I belted it anyhow; the words made me brave. They encouraged me to believe that someday, hopefully not too far in the future, it really WILL be well with my soul.

My Mom and I got to do our own sort of therapy; we decorated the church for Grandpa. We dug around the farm and used whatever we could find. My Grandpa adored music, so we made a CD of he and Grandma's favorite songs to share with our dear ones. We went through photos. It was a good way to start to grieve.

As people entered the church they were met with photos of Grandpa's adult well some of the farming machinery that he once owned; miniature, of course!

"Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me O God, until I have shared your might with the next generation."
Psalm 71:18

The CDs...we used kraft paper and sewed sleeves for the CDs.

The crops in the jars and the wheat stalks were all from his farm.

The pilings that we made into candle holders were from near our farm.

My Mom and Grandma had oil lamps that we used throughout the space.

I reused escort card holders from a previous wedding to hold a Bible verse that
each person was encouraged to take home and learn as a way to remember Grandpa.

Old windows from a building held aerial photos of the farm through the years.
I cannot even begin to imagine the number of hours my Grandpa spent working
on that farm throughout his 90 years.

I found re-production lanterns that we lit.

This was one of the treasures that was found; Grandpa and Grandma the year before they were married.

A dear family friend put together a photo tribute to Grandpa.

A collection of old photos.

Using a piece of wood found on the property I made a piece of art with the words to one
of Grandpa's favorite hymns, it is also one of the first hymns my Dad taught me as a little girl.
#111 in the Brown Hymnal.

Here is Leve in her Great-Aunt's dress at the Family Service.
She insisted that she go with me to visit him the evening before he passed. We stayed quite late that night.
She just wasn't "done" seeing him. When we left she gave him a kiss and told him she loved him.
We all do.