Saturday, May 28, 2016

May Can't Be Over Already

It's hard to believe that May is coming to an end.  My last blog post was May 12 and here it is already May 28.  So many of life's event trigger an idea for a blog post; however, there simply is not enough time for picture editing and writing.  Memorial Day weekend is starting out wet - the perfect time to edit pictures and share a tiny bit of our May with you.

Sam and Joe are part of our local school district's virtual program.  They were given the opportunity to participate in a science fair.  Joseph (and Peter) put together an Animal Tracks display.

I wish I could say I remembered to take pictures at the actual science fair, but I can't say that.  It was a busy time, lots of stuff to remember to take that day and to top it off we had to be to school extra early for "Pastries with Pals".  I forgot the camera!  For an average American that would be no biggie because they'd just take pictures with their smartphone.  I'm not an average American; therefore, I do not have a smartphone.

Between school and violin rehearsals Emily made iced coffee; we all enjoyed it one hot afternoon on the patio.

Joseph's favorite time of year is here - baseball season.  He's anxiously awaiting Rafters Baseball.  In the meantime he watches 
and then reenacts the movies outside.

There you have it - a tiny bit of our May.  Stay tuned for more to unfold as time permits.

  Happy Memorial Day weekend my friends.
Any plans?

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Meal Prep Monday

I love menu planning; it's the easy part of providing food for a family of nine.  You know what's the hardest part?  Actually making the food!!!  Between homeschool lessons and laundry and car shopping and exercising and and and and.....finding time to actually prepare the food can feel like quite the magic trick.

This was my kitchen counter on Meal Prep Monday

I've learned a few tricks along the way and they're not magic at all.  They require organization and determination.

1.  Plan menu
2.  Grocery shop
3.  Meal prep

The meal prep is the part that's so easy to forget about.  The groceries come in, they get put away, life keeps going and all of a sudden it's 4:30 and hungry children are starting to appear in the kitchen asking impossible questions like:

What's for dinner?

What's for dinner?  Do you want to know what's on the menu plan for tonight or what's actually going to be served?  Because they are two different things.  The first is a well balanced meal with offerings everyone will approve of.  The latter is a mix-n-match of leftovers, canned food, and most likely applesauce and pickles.  No one will be truly satisfied and everyone will be milling around the kitchen in an hour or two looking for something to hit the spot.

There are two things that can be done to alleviate this problem.

1.)  Make a list of meal prep tasks for the week.  I like to do meal prep on Sunday afternoon or early Monday morning.  This is my list for this week:

shred cheese
make big salad
thaw sausage links
thaw hoagie rolls
thaw hamburger - 2
boil eggs and peel
make syrup
boil potatoes
make potato salad
thaw chicken legs
thaw steak
thaw venison roast
thaw applesauce

It looks like a long list, but as you can see half of it entails thawing frozen items.  The key to having meals ready to go is having the meat thawed.  Right?  Once everything was crossed off, I knew my week was going to run much smoother.

2.)  Make mini lists for each morning.  Since Monday was the day for all the main prep, I only need to spend a short time in the kitchen each morning for additional prep.

make BBQ in crockpot
thaw buns

prep potato soup in crockpot
set out frozen bread dough to rise

slice steak
fry hamburger
assemble and cook roast in crockpot (to be used Fri)

make egg salad (eggs were boiled on Mon)
slice 2 whole onions
slice cooked roast, warm in crockpot all day

Menu planning is only half of the food on the table equation.  The other half, meal prep, is equally important.  Having a plan and sticking to it makes for a happier momma and happier (fed & full) family.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

How to Take a Nature Hike

Charlotte Mason, an early 1900's educator, approached nature study as though it was crucial to a well-rounded education.  Although I do not fully follow the Charlotte Mason style, I do believe nature study has its place in home education.  Most kids enjoy the freedom that comes with unhurried time spent outdoors.  Likewise, I think most homeschool parents also find they enjoy time spent in nature.  However, convincing oneself to take a nature hike with young (or old) children is similar to convincing oneself to go for a run.

I should really go for a run.
No, I really need to do laundry.
Oh, I should go for a run; I'd feel better.
Sheets need changing, I should really do that.

Finally you talk yourself into the run and afterwards you're all like:

I feel so good.
My body feels alive.
I probably should've run longer, I still have energy.
I definitely need to do that again soon.

I go through the same style of internal banter about nature hikes.

I should really take the kids outside for a nature hike.
But, we have a couple of reading lessons to make up today.
It's the first sunny day all week; a little sun would be good for us.
What's for lunch?  I need a plan.

Finally I talk myself into the hike and life's stresses are lifted, our moods lightened, we have something new and exciting to talk about at lunch.

Last week I took Joseph, Peter, and Maria out for a nature hike.  It's no easy task getting them ready to go outside.  Joe needs socks and has somehow forgotten how to get them on his own, Peter can't find his favorite shoes, Maria just wet her underwear.  Once all the situations are solved, I pretty much have lost interest, but go with the plan because, well, it was the plan and I like to follow the plan.

I love nature hikes and nature club and being outside and gardening and bird watching and wild flower identification and still, nature hikes with youngsters can be a chore.  I started to think - What about all those folks who don't enjoy nature?  Who don't think they know enough to guide a nature hike?  What tips can I share to help them take their first nature hike with their children?

The rest of this post is going to be a photo journal of our most recent nature hike.  And I'm going to share my best tips and questions to ask while nature hiking.

1.  Find something interesting.

Once outside I directed the kids down to the water.  There's a variety of tree species and some scrubby oaks.  Peter found this gall on an oak sapling.  We broke it open to reveal a firm, crispy, fluffy material.  It's not important to know all the scientific names.  Observation is what matters.  What do you see?  How does it feel?  What does it smell like?

We also spied this butterfly.  Again, observation is key.  How does it flutter?  What does it land on?  Does it rest with its wings outstretched or folded up?  Notice the coloration.

2.  Let the children have some freedom as to what to look at next.

I would've never stopped by the raggy, needs to be tilled garden, but Peter and Maria took notice of the crispy, leftover from last year, Brussels sprout plants, and away they ran to pull

and kick at them.

3.  Find water if possible.

Water is always amazing.  Whether you're watching the ripples from rock throwing or peering into the water looking for underwater plants or simply wondering why it looks blue until you scoop some into a jar (then it's greenish brown).  Kids love water.  Never walk by without stopping and gazing for a while.  Does a bigger rock create a bigger, longer lasting ripple?  

4.  Always except flowers, even if the dirt covered roots are attached.

These wildflowers were picked with love for me.  

We looked at each petal up close.  How many petals?  Are they clustered?  What color?  What's in the middle of the flower?  Smell them.  What about the leaves?  Are they elongated?  Spiky?  Hairy?  Remember the goal of nature hiking with children is to help them appreciate God's creation, to allow them to make observations about their world.

Peter found the hole from our maple sap tap; then he stuck the flower in it.

5.  Explore trees and bark.

Find a tree to climb.  Touch the bark.  Is it warmer on the south side?  Compare the bark of one tree to another.  Notice the similarities and differences.

We found pieces of a broken branch from a birch tree.  They tried to piece it back together.

I also found bits of bark and had them find the matching tree.  Peter matched this bark to a birch tree.

Joseph found a piece of poplar bark and matched it to a nearby tree.

6.  Discover shadows.

I love how Maria is looking up at me.  Shadows are always exciting.  Line up; can you stand in such a way that everyone is the same height.  Can you make your hand long and skinny, short and stubby?  Hold up leaves and notice their shadow shape.  Look at your shadow at the beginning of your hike and then at the same place at the end of the hike.  How has the shadow changed shape?

7.  Utilize your sense of smell.

I pointed out wintergreen and had each of the kids pick a leaf.  I told them to bend it and then smell it.  Their faces are priceless.  

This is the face of a very happy nature hiker.  Who doesn't like to see their child smiling?

Joe didn't want to give up his piece of bark.  He carried it around all day and then it mysteriously ended up outside around 8:30 pm.

That's it.  Walk.  Observe.  Touch.  Smell.  You've got yourself a nature hike.  Guess what?  Rain or shine, kids don't mind.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Clay Pigeon Shoot....(or how to have fun on a Saturday)

Our year revolves around holidays, birthdays, and HUNTING SEASONS.

April and May are dedicated to hunting turkeys.  This year six relatives made camp in Warren's workshop.  Lots of stories, food, beer, jokes, but sadly no turkeys this time around.  Even so we all had great time.  A favorite part of the weekend was the clay pigeon shoot.

The Godfather/Goddaughter duo

The joy of rural life....riding on the tailgate to a clay pigeon shoot.

What exactly are you protecting, Maria?

As the adults set up, the sand mountain calls to the kids.

I always find something on the ground to photograph.  This time it's a cluster of johnny jump-ups (I think).

Warren mans the thrower with Peter's help.



A little competition

Cousin Rob

Taylor needs more shells.

The guys hide Sam's shells.

Uncle Dan

(even I had a chance to shoot, but no pictures)

Never too young to practice your form....butt firmly pressed into the shoulder, firm grip on the forearm, and finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.  Joseph's got it figured out.  And yes, the gun is unloaded.

Good, clean, family fun!