Monday, November 27, 2006

Menu Plan Monday

Wow, last week sure did go by fast! Besides having a wonderful Thanksgiving, tt was so nice to have a long weekend with my dh - it has been a long time since he's had so many days off in a row *and* got paid! :-) So, this week is a rather slow week, as we make our final preparations for Advent.

Monday: Cube Steaks, yellow rice, spinach

Tuesday: Spicy Rapid-Roast Chicken, Italian Cheese Bread, broccoli, salad

Wednesday: Pork Loin Roast, baked sweet potatoes, mixed greens

Thursday: Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup (with leftover chicken and stock made from Tuesday's chicken), cracker bread, salad

Friday: Salmon Patties, homemade mac and cheese(never did get around to making it the last couple of times I had it on the menu!), brussel sprouts, salad

Saturday: Hamburgers, French Fries, vegies and dip

Sunday: Chicken Cordon Bleu, (plain chicken breasts for the kids), parsley potatoes, broccoli, salad

Make sure you head on over to Organizing Junkie to see what other yummy ideas are out there!

Cute, adorable boys!

Oh, my boys just looked so cute dressed up for church this morning, I just had to take a picture - aren't they handsome?

After dinner tonight, we talked about our new "Family Rules". This weekend dh and I read a totally awesome book called "Lifelines, the Religious Upbringing of Your Children", by James Stenson. In this book, the author talks about having definite family rules, so we wrote ours out this weekend, and discussed them at dinner tonight. One of the things we talked about was how we needed to make the most of our very short time together as a family. And dear S3 said to me, "But mom, when I grow up, I'll come visit you every day after work!"

Awww...I know he won't, but isn't it sweet that he wants to at age 6?

We are SO not crafty!

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving, we really did. The appetizer luncheon was fabulous, especially the pimento cheese and pickle tray. The turkey and stuffing were great! My apple pie was perfect!

The table looked quite nice, if I do say so myself!

We had a few misses - the pumpkin pie wasn't what I was hoping for, and my beloved corn casserole was, well, ruined, because I put in the cream of mushroom soup intended for the green bean casserole, rather than the cream of chicken soup - it was just not the same!! All in all, though, we had a wonderful day.

But I had a realization. As a family, we are SO not crafty. I had great ideas, I really did. I saw - and I can't remember where, now - this cute idea of making a turkey with leaves and pinecones. Well, the older three pretty much threw up their hands, N4 was the only one who saw it through, and this was the result:

Now, N4? He's a cutie, isn't he? But the turkey? Kinda pathetic, don't you think? Oh, and later? S3 really, really wanted to make "thankful books". I really had my heart set on the Thankful Tree concept found here, but S3 insisted on thankful books, and who was I to say no? Here is how they turned out:

I guess you can see where the artistic talents of the family come from! We had fun, but...

What do we do?? We're artistically inept, we really are. Can you homeschool successfully without being crafty? Stay tuned to Aquinas Academy Adventures to find out!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Getting Ready for Turkey Day...

Thanksgiving is just about my very favorite holiday! I love that we, as a nation, set aside one day of the year to be with family and friends and just be thankful for our good fortune. I love that Thanksgiving is the one holiday that (so far) our materialistic culture hasn't been able to corrupt - there is no frenzy of greed, no pressure to buy anything (at least until the day after!) It's about taking the time to create a wonderful feast for your family and friends, and I think that is just fabulous.

So, I am busy getting ready for our Thanksgiving. I wish that we had some family or friends coming over to share our feast with us. We thought up until a couple weeks ago that dh's mom would be joining us, but unfortunately she is fighting cancer and is too ill to travel. So, this year it will just be us. I do love creating a special day for my family! Yesterday and today we're doing some heavy housecleaning, and today I'll start my cooking, too. Here is our menu for Thanksgiving, 2006.

Breakfast: Sandy's Sour Cream Coffee Cake (a delicious family recipe!)

Lunch: Appetizers! Crab dip, assorted cheeses and crackers, a relish tray with pickles and olives, and chex mix.

Dinner: Roast turkey and gravy, sausage stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn casserole, green bean casserole, cranberry relish

Desert: Apple Pie and Pumpkin Pie

Last night I made a special breakfast treat for dh to take to work with him to tell his co-workers "Happy Thanksgiving", and for us to enjoy this morning, too. The Pumpkin Butterscotch Muffins over at Tammy's Recipes are absolutely delicious. So easy, they come out looking pretty, and it only takes 15-20 minutes to get them into the oven, so it's a perfect "extra" in the busy days leading up to Thanksgiving. The only issue I had with the recipe was that it made *far* more batter than 18 muffin's worth. I made 18 muffins *and* a 9 inch round cake pan. *Not* that I'm complaining, lol! :-)

While I'm busy cleaning and cooking, I'm going to be thinking of ways I can include the boys in our preparations. Obviously, they're (grudgingly) helping with the clean-up, but I want more than that. As a family, we are woefully craft-phobic. Oh, don't get me wrong, I love to knit and stitch. I mean the school-type crafty things. I see pictures of my virtual homeschooling friends doing lovely notebook pages, lap books, etc, and I just shake my head. Even if I managed to pull something together like that, my boys would look at me like I grew a third eye if I asked them to do that sort of thing. That said, they do love the scissors and glue stuff, and I believe we need to do more of that sort of thing as I think it would help with their fine-motor control issues. So, I am looking around for fun Thanksgiving crafts! I just love these leaf turkeys, and if only I had some googly-eyes laying around I would do this as I think the boys would love it. I might try to get something similiar going with just some construction paper cut-outs. I also really like the thankfullness tree, and we're definitely going to work on it today and tomorrow - what a lovely idea!!

Now, I need to go and actually get to work. I will post pictures of the boys and our crafts soon!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Menu Plan Monday

It's Thanksgiving Week! I love Thanksgiving, it's definitely one of my favorite holidays. We're having a very low-key day this year. Originally, dh's mom was going to come down to visit this week, but she is ill and it ended up she wasn't able to make the trip. So, it looks like it's just going to be us this year! I'm still working on my Thanksgiving menu - I'll post it when I have it all finalized. The rest of the week looks like this:

Monday - Pork Roast, Baked potatoes, Broccoli and carrots

Tuesday - Beef Enchiladas, salad, chips and salsa

Wednesday - Pizza

Thursday - Thanksgiving! Details soon...

Friday - Tuna noodle casserole, salad

Saturday - leftover turkey pot pie, salad

Sunday - BBQ beef sandwhiches, coleslaw, chips

Head on over to Organizing Junkie to see what others have planned for this week!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Way too funny!!!

OK, I just have to share - in the midst of my busy preparations for our homeschooling family Thanksgiving potluck this afternoon - I've been giggling all morning over this!

So, we're leaving mass this morning, and S3, my 6 year old, says
something - "Mom! What about the cr(..mumble, mumble...)pot?" Dh
looks at me - "What did he say? Did he just say, "what about the
crackpot??" S3 says, "No, what about the crockpot?" I ask him to
repeat himself again, thinking I *must* have misheard him - what
crockpot?? No, he insists, over and over, "What about the crockpot?
When are we going to the crockpot?" Then the light dawns - he means
our *potluck*!!

On the way home, we stopped to get some brown and serve rolls to take
with us. We sometimes get Sunbeam bread, and A2, my 7 year old,
often remarks that it's his favorite bread because there's a picture
of a girl praying on the bag. Well, the brown and serve rolls we
picked up happened to be the Sunbeam brand. And A2 says, "Oh, good,
it's praying bread!"

So, looks like we're taking praying bread to the crockpot this afternoon!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Odds and Ends...

Good morning! Thought I'd update on a few odds and ends that we've been doing (or not doing, lol!) over the last couple of weeks.

We had a fun nature study moment this weekend. We found a beautiful praying mantis on our heat pump!

N4 was the only one brave enough to pose with the mantis...

Here's one more view - such a beautiful creature!

We've had a couple of very "relaxed homeschooler" kind of weeks lately. A2 has been working with the Rainbow Rock CD-Rom math game from Singapore Math. I asked J1 to work on some Tangram Puzzles. He struggles a bit with spatial relations, and I thought some games with tangrams and pattern blocks might help stretch his brain a bit. J1 agreed that he could feel his brain growing. N4 had to join in, of course...

I'm still feeling scattered - there's so much to do! In fact, I'd better go get doing right now! J1 needs some papers corrected, S3 is begging for schoolwork, A2 is in a "sponge" stage where he wants to soak everything up and I'd better take advantage of it. Plus, I'm behind on laundry (again!), there's meals to cook, the bathrooms need cleaning...

Life is good! :-)

Monday, November 13, 2006

Menu Plan Monday

Wow, am I late this week! Time really got away from me today - but I am so glad to have this incentive for getting my menus organized, it is so very helpful to have those meals planned out! Head on over to Organizing Junky to see what others have on tap for this week!

Monday: Pasta and meat sauce, garlic toast, salad

Tuesday: Chicken Gravy and Rice, broccoli - I'm making extra of this and taking it to a new mommy friend. I'll also take along some Triple Chocolate Bread as a special congratulations! YUM!!

Wednesday: Easy Chuck Roast, Mashed Potatoes, Brussel Sprouts

Thursday: Hamburger Rice Soup, Cracker Bread, salad

Friday: Fish Tacos, chips, salsa and queso

Saturday: Hamburgers, homemade mac and cheese, vegies and dip - I'm still looking for a homemade mac and cheese recipe the kids will eat! I'll let you know how this one works out!

Sunday: It's our annual Homeschool Thanksgiving Potluck - our entire homeschool co-op gets together and we have a huge potluck. Tons of food, tons of kids, it's just great fun. I'll be making my mom's sausage stuffing, and an apple pie. Can't wait! :-)

Have a fun week, everyone! Thanks again to Organizing Junky for hosting Menu Plan Monday!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A little more on my school binders...

Awhile back I described how we organize our schoolwork using binders (see here and here). I based this system on something I read a little over a year ago called "The Avilian Home Learning Organization System", but I couldn't find a current link. But this morning, someone over at the 4Real Learning Boards pointed me to a working link, and I'm so happy to be able to share it with you!

The Avilian Home Learning Organization System

The link is a bit unreliable, so if you come across a screen that says "This link is unavailable", please do try again a little later, because it really is a live link! I'm so glad I've finally found this and can give all the credit for my school binders to this family's system!

Monday, November 06, 2006

A beautiful A-ha moment...

This morning I had one of those completely amazing, joyous a-ha moments. The kind of morning that makes all the frustartions, all the hard work, all the worry of homeschooling - it's all worth it!!

I've been really struggling with our handwriting instruction, especially for A2. I'll admit I've had a feeling of panic this year as I contemplate my 7 year old son who can't read or write - or so I thought!

So this morning, I was thinking about the handwriting issue. A few weeks ago I ditched the handwriting program we started out using this year as too advanced for my fine-motor-control-challenged boys. But, I haven't been able to find my teacher's manual for Handwriting Without Tears, and I desperately need a review, so, what with our birthday extravaganza and my lack of preparation, I haven't really done *anything* for a few weeks. But I've been thinking a lot about Montessori methods, especially after reading Kim's blog (check out her sidebar links!!). I've been checking out some of the Montesorri websites (like Montessori Materials and this one) and got it in my head to make sandpaper letters. Only I would use glue and glitter, since we have no sandpaper on hand. I printed out all the templates, only to discover I could not find the glitter I *know* I still have packed away somewhere!

Incidently, while I was searching for the glitter, I managed to unpack our Cuisanaire Rods, our pattern blocks, and our bear counters. S3 and N4 spent most of the morning playing with the bear counters, sorting, counting, and making patterns. I took a picture of them playing with the bear counters with incredibly cheesey grins!

So I stood in the middle of my kitchen, wondering what to do. I was just determined to do something different today, and I remembered reading (somewhere!) that tracing letters in a tray of cornmeal or rice can help kinestectic learners. Well, the last time I went to the store I got some fairly expensive organic cornmeal, so I decided to use the grits instead. I poured about a cup of grits onto an old cookie sheet, and put it on the dining room table. S3 and N4 were busy playing with the bear counters, and I called A2 to the table. I showed him how to make an "E", and he was intrigued. We used the Handwriting Without Tears mini-chalkboard and did our "E" there, too. Finally, we did an E in the HWT kindegarten book. A2 did *really* well. But I could tell he was distracted. He was so excited about the tray of grits! He begged to do more letters. Every letter, in fact. And every number. And most of the little letters. And a few words (his name, and oh, a few monster names like "zilla" and "gamerra" - my Godzilla loving child!). And it was just so completely and utterly awesome to see his excitement. I managed to catch it on film, I think!

The look on his face - isn't it beautiful? I wish you all could have been there - just to see all this excitement bubbling out of him as he was finally freed to write the way he obviously has been wanting to. It was just so awesome, I'm in tears just thinking about it!

Incidently, it was fascinating to watch my other children with the cornmeal/grits tray. A2 just soaked it up like a sponge, it obviously freed something inside him and was a HUGE help to his learning. Then, N4 insisted on going next. Those of you who know N4 know he is just a wee bit, well, obsessive-compulsive. He HATES his hands being sticky. He can't stand tags on clothing. He is distraught if he gets a cut or a bruise. So, he drew his first letter in the grits tray. About halfway through, he picked up his hand, stared at his fingertip covered with little bitty grits, shook them off, looked disgusted, and went back to his letter. Repeat this process for every single letter of the alphabet. Then, he was done, and went off to wash his hands. It was obvious from watching him that the grits tray did *nothing* for his comprehension of writing and instead completely distracted him. Isn't that just so interesting, to see how different two brothers can be??

And about that reading issue with A2. A little while after our success with the grits tray, I called him in to do some math. Now, A2 loves math. He talks about how math is his favorite all the time. Well, today there happened to be word problems. I decided to let A2 read the problems - just to see what he would do. I was just completely stunned when he read about 90% of the problems to me with no hesitations, virtually no stumbles at all. Things like, "I have 6 bottles of milk. I give away 4 bottles of milk. How many do I have left?" He just read it, the only prompting he needed from me was with the word "away". Of course, later I took out our Explode the Code phonics sheets, and he struggled mightily (yeah, right!) with telling me which picture began with an "a" sound. And his easy reader book "Pig Sits" - he could only read about half of it. I was talking to dh about it during our date night tonight, and he pointed out that when you're reading a math story problem, you actually use a different part of your brain then when you're just reading. So that could explain why A2 breezed through reading his story problems but struggled with the easy reader.

No matter what, I'm taking it as a very positive day, one that showed me my child will really read and write someday - someday soon! :-)

Gotten a bit off-track...

Sigh. With all the birthdays and everything the last few weeks, we've really gotten off-track from our schoolwork. We've gotten away from our bedtime routine, so the kids have been staying up later and later, which means they sleep in later and later. I often think of this as a good thing (remember me mentioning how I am NOT a morning person?), but it's really just an awful habit to get into. We've also fallen into a horrible, horrible trap of watching *too much TV*!!! Oh, I just hate that. See, if it was up to me, we wouldn't have a TV in the house at all. But my dh, he loves the visual media - TV, movies, he truly loves them. So, we have a TV in our house. Two, actually. (but thankfull we still have more TVs than people in our house!!) And a couple months ago, for the first time in many, many years, we have cable again. And we've sort of gorged ourselves for awhile! A lot of it is good (the history channel, food channel, animal planet, DIY network, that sort of thing), but the kids are starting to really pick up the attitude of some of these kids's shows. Not good. So, today is the day mom puts her foot down. No TV except for Between the Lions (which I count as part of our school day), and an hour of their 2 favorite shows right before dinner. Well, except for that half an hour or so after my poor also not morning people kids get up (I say after my 4 year old staggers out of his room and says with eyes not quite open, "can I watch a movie?")

Hmm - the kids are gonna fuss today, that's for sure! Bring 'em on! :-)

I'm also thinking of how I can change the way I do things a bit with my younger set. I like our plan, it works for us in many ways, I think it just needs some tweaking. Not quite so much sit-down work, I think. I want to incorporation more hands-on learning with them. I've been very intrigued with some things I've been learning about Montessori, and need to do some more research so I can decide if I want to incorporate more of that method in our homeschool.

So much to think about, so much to do! I'll let you know how things go!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Menu Plan Monday

It's that time again! Head on over to Organizing Junkie and get some great meal ideas!

Here at the AAA House, we've had so many birthdays the last couple of weeks that I've had quite a break from the day-to-day cooking. So this week I'm energized to do some special things!

Monday: Tonight is a date night! Every few weeks dh and I have a special date-night in. The kids get to have a picnic in the living room with fun kid food and a movie while dh and I have a really nice dinner off in our room with totally "adult" foods - and some nice private time together. Our date nights are definitely sanity savers - and eating in without paying a babysitter really saves our budget! Anyway, our meal tonight: kids - hamburgers and french fries. Mom and dad: steak, shrimp, salad and garlic bread. I'll fry up the steaks on the stove (can't wait till we get a grill!), I think I'll make the shrimp into a simple shrimp cocktail, we'll have a salad with feta cheese, Italian dressing, tomatoes, cucumbers, and scallions. I think I'll make a nice homemade french loaf, then steal a trick from my father. When he came to visit, he made us a completely yummy garlic break. He combined butter with cloves of garlic, parsley, and a bit of parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper. He simmered this mixture for about 15 minutes, then let it sit in the pan for a few hours. Then he strained it, and took the remaining butter (infused with a lovely garlic flavor) and brushed it onto bread, then wrapped the bread in tinfoil and put it in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes. I'll call this "TJD Garlic Bread", in honor of my father. Yum!! Oh - and did I mention dh and I get to share a bottle of wine with dinner? :-) What a great way to start the week!

Tuesday: Pork Roast with vegetables, rolls, and mixed greens

Wednesday: Cube Steaks (I coat them in a flour/season salt/pepper mixture and fry in a bit of olive oil and butter), yellow rice, and broccoli & cauliflower

Thursday: Oven Fried Cornflake Chicken drumsticks, mashed potatoes and simple gravy (melt 2 T butter, stir in 2 T flour, whisk in 2 C chicken broth, add a bit of poultry seasoning, salt and pepper, cook on medium until thickened), green beans

Friday: Pizza night! I'll make a big salad, and then I'll make 5 individual pizza doughs for each family member (except A2, who hates pizza - he'll get leftover chicken and some bread and butter), we'll make them how we like. This is such a fun family dinner!

Saturday: Hamburger gravy and egg noodles, peas and carrots

Sunday: Chicken Sandwhich Casserole, salad

What a fun cooking week! Make sure you stop by Organizing Junkie and see what everyone else is up to this week - you'll get lots of great ideas! :-)