Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Overheard at the Aquinas lunch table...

S3 (in a slightly scary, monster-style voice): "No one touch that last slice of watermelon or I will tear you limb to limb!"

J1 (in a rather condescending, superior, tone): "It's limb FROM limb, not limb TO limb!"

S3 grins in a rather maniacal way...

And mom is left wondering - does it really matter if it's 'from' or 'to' when you're this bloodthirsty - or watermelon thirsty, as the case may be?!

Monday, June 25, 2007

A picture and a plea

First of all, here's a "before church" picture of the boys from yesterday for you to enjoy:

Now for our plea to those of you who know us in "real life". Many of you who know A2 know that he has a special toy that he calls "XLR". This toy is a rubber lizard and a rubber snake. A2 uses it to re-enact the monster movies that are in his head (think Godzilla type monster movies). "XLR" has a lizard body and snake-like "tentacles". A2 goes no where without XLR, and spends, quite literally, hours, off by himself, creating scenes from the movies that he has inside his head. Unfortunately, XLR is falling apart. We're on our 3rd pair of tentacles, and snakes are pretty easy to find. However, the lizard body is on its last legs - almost literally. And just any old rubber lizard isn't going to do for A2. He needs one very, very similar, if not exactly like, his current one. I took some pictures of "XLR" so that you could get a sense of what to look for. Basically, a light blue rubber lizzard (it was originally filled with a bean-bag type material, though all the little balls fell out long ago) that is about 8" long or so. Here are two pictures. The second picture I put a spoon alongside "XLR" so that you could get a sense of scale...

So, to all our friends and family - please oh please! Be on the lookout for a light blue rubber lizard. As you can see from the pictures, XLR is disintigrating before our eyes, and a certain little boy is very distressed. We will reimburse you for your cost (should be minimal) and shipping, if need be. A2 and I will be very greatful if you're able to find the right lizard for XLR. And someday, when A2 makes his XLR movies, I'm certain he'll give you an on-screen credit.

"This film is dedicated to our dear friend who got me a replacement XLR lizard when I was 7 years old...."

Menu Plan Monday

We're still in major frugal, "clean out the pantry" mode here at Aquinas Academy. Thankfully, after buying a side of beef, and carefully shoping the sales, our meals are definitely not wanting for anything! Here's the plan:

Monday: Grilled Chicken (bone-in breasts, on sale last week - can't have beef *every* night, after all!), mashed potatoes and a simple gravy, green beans

Tuesday: Grilled Steaks, grilled bread (a great recipe, only I substituted 2 teaspoons of minced garlic for the fennel - YUM!), salad

: Chicken Enchiladas (we decided last week we like red sauce better with our beef enchiladas, so this week, since I had a TON of white sauce left over from the beef enchiladas last week, we're going to try enchiladas using that white sauce, flour tortillas, and leftover chicken from Monday), corn, chips and salsa

Thursday: French Dip Sandwhiches, French Rolls, French fries, vegies & dip (we didn't get to this meal from last week)

Friday: Shrimp stir-fry (we have shrimp in our freezer all ready, so this is actually a frugal meal!), rice, and if I'm feeling ambitious, perhaps egg rolls, too

Saturday: Slow Cooker Round steak, homemade bread, salad

Sunday: BBQ Chicken (still on sale this week!), coleslaw, garlic bread (with the homemade bread from yesterday), corn on the cob, watermelon

Make sure to check out Organizing Junkie - there are usually over 100 Menu Plan Monday posts, so there are LOTS of ideas! Have a great week!!

Some thoughts on homeschooling

As I've grown into this "homeschooling mom" role, I've definitely gone through stages.

Way back when my oldest was a baby, when I was immersed in "attachment parenting" and saw how beautifully, naturally, my toddler learned things, I thought that I would probably be an "unschooler". When J1 was about 4, and showing signs of being extremely bright, I read "The Well Trained Mind", which I enjoyed and led me to do more research. I encounted the Bluedorn's website (they still have a great article called "10 things to do before your child turns 10") but they didn't exactly fit with the Catholicism I'd just re-discovered at that time, and I read Laura Berquist (who is Catholic), overall becoming quite seduced by the "Classical" method of homeschooling.

But J1 was very good (ie, stubborn!) at showing me that I couldn't force him into any kind of nice, arranged, pre-planned role. He was, and is, very much his own person, with tremendous strengths, some weaknesses, and a whole lot of individuality. He has forced me to think and act in ways I never imagined I could! Isn't being a mom wonderful?!

I've been contemplating my upcoming 5th official year of homeschooling, I'm pondering the experiences I've had this year with my completely different, visual-spatial learner 2nd child, A2, and I'm considering the fact that next year I will be "legal" with THREE BOYS!!! And I am starting - finally - to become comfortable with where I'm "at" as a homeschooling mom. I have 4 very bright kids, and not a single one of them fit in a standard "mold" of age or grade. We don't fit into a curriculum type, in fact, with my smart, individualistic children, I can't fit into one single label. I'm sort of an unschoolish, classically flavored, with Charlotte Mason aspects, type of homeschooler. And low and behold - there's a lot of people out there like me, who can't seem to fit in any one particular approach. We take bits and pieces of several learning philosophies, we adapt it all to our family and our individual children's needs. We design our own curriculum, such as it is, and learning is an all-the-time adventure.

As John Paul II said, "Families - be who you are!" I am only now beginning to appreciate what a profound statement that is.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Menu Plan Monday

A temporary (hopefully!) financial crunch has me on a frugal kick. One of the things that is absolutely invaluable right now is having a well-stocked pantry. The half side of beef in the freezer, plus my full pantry shelves all mean that my grocery budget is easily kept to a minimum for the next few weeks. One thing I've learned in all our years of turbulation, is to stay well-stocked when times are good. When crisis comes, whether it be financial, or perhaps a natural disaster, etc, you can rely on your pantry, which is a great help and comfort! Without further ado, here is our plan this week:

Monday: Chicken Drumsticks (we'll try these on the grill), Baked Beans, coleslaw, corn bread

Tuesday: Enchiladas, "Army Man Rice", Corn

Wednesday: Pasta and sauce, salad

Thursday: BBQ Beef Sandwiches (made a double batch of this last time and froze some, I'll be using the leftovers for this meal), Onion rolls, Chips, Corn on the Cobb, vegies&dip

Friday: Tuna Noodle Casserole, Salad

Saturday: French Dip Sandwiches with French Rolls, French Fries, and vegies&dip

Sunday: Grilled Steaks, cheesy grits, salad, bread and butter

If you want more dinner ideas, be sure to check out Organizing Junkie. Have a great week!

Friday, June 15, 2007

This is absolutely amazing....

Please do take a few moments and look at this clip. I can't stop watching this, and crying my eyes out! And anyone who knows me knows I'm no fan of American Idol or anything of that nature. But this clip is just absolutely amazing. My dh and I have been just crying over it all evening. Watch it, and watch it again, and again!


H/T: House Wren Studios

May you all have a wonderful weekend!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Menu Plan Monday

Hope you all are had a good weekend! Here's the menu at Aquinas Academy this week....

Monday: Crockpot pot roast (didn't fix it last week) mashed potatoes, green beans

Tuesday: Lentil Chili, garnishes (cheese, sour cream, avocado, salsa) corn chips, salad

Wednesday: Steak Salad, homemade bread

Thursday: Liver and Onions, hot buttered egg noodles, vegie

Friday: Fish Tacos, salad, chips and salsa

Saturday: Hamburgers, chips, vegies and dip

Sunday: Father's Day - dh has requested to cook, so I'm not sure what he has in mind. I'll probably make a yummy desert - maybe blueberry pie?

Head on over to Organizing Junkie if you're looking for more ideas! Hope you all have a great week!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Congratulations to my hubby!

After way too many years to count, much struggle and effort, he is finally "educated" (tongue firmly in cheek!) As of this Monday, he officially has a degree in systematic theology from the University of St. Thomas. Congratulations, honey!

Kid Pictures

The kids are pretty cute, but excuse the messy house pictures!

A2, with no front teeth!

S3 and N4 and the yummy strawberry pie I made last weekend!

Oldest and youngest relaxing....

and the middle two relaxing together with the dog!

I've taken so many puppy pictures lately I actually don' t have as many kid pictures as I usually do! I will work on that and post more soon!

Pet pictures

Cuz I've got the cutest animals!

I love this picture - and the puppy sure does love the boys!

The two dogs love each other, too, I think!

There seems to be some tolerance between Suki and the dogs - but notice our other cat, Rosie, is no where to be seen in these pictures!

Can you see the puppy? Black blanket + Black lab = almost invisible!

Suki, the best cat ever - usually he's far too dignified to look this silly!

Oh, if only *I* wasn't in this picture - a terrible picture of me, but such a cute picture of the pups I have to put it up!

Isn't she just so cute???

More pictures of the kids really soon!!

Finishing up our school year

Because we school almost year round, we are still in the midst of active school work here at Aquinas Academy Adventures. We'll be done with this "year" before the July 4th holiday, take a month or two off then start back in August/September sometime for next "year". Just thought I'd share what we're doing here in the last month or so of our school.

Let's start with A2. What a conundrum that boy is for me! He'll be 8 the end of July, and would *technically*, age-wise, be starting 3rd grade next fall. When I think about that it almost sends me into a panic cuz he's not even *close* to doing "3rd grade" work. He's more about in the middle of first grade work in most areas, quite honestly. He's doing pretty well in handwriting, and he loves religion. He learns quite a bit of history and science just through soaking up all our conversations, games, and real-life experiences. Math is mostly ok - he understands addition and subtraction, but he only likes to count things out, he refuses to memorize his math facts for the most part. He doesn't seem to get the "patterns" of math, either (as in - if you know 5+2 is 7, then you can guess that 5+3 is 8, cuz 3 is one greater than 2, and the answer 8 is one greater than 7, kwim?) I am planning on switching him over to Math-U-See next year. I have heard great things about it from everyone I know who uses it, and I think that it's really going to work well with my oh-so-visual child. Speaking of my visual child - I found these pages over at Apple Stars. They make me feel SO MUCH BETTER! Because, they describe my dear A2 perfectly. And it makes me want to just relax about his continued struggles with reading. He is making progress, and I truly believe if I just give him more time, teach to his way of thinking with the help of pages like this - my mommy instincts tell me it's going to work out just fine. We'll just keep plugging away, and I will continue to work on learning how best to teach him.

J1 is flying. He's done with all his history and science work for this year. He has just a few handwriting pages, he's continuing with his catechism study, and he's almost done with his US geography project. Other than that we've slowed down or stopped just about everything else but math. He's determined to finish Saxon 7/6 before our year ends. He began this year in Saxon 5/4. He finished that by mid-year and was bored out of his mind. So, we skipped a year and started Saxon 7/6 in February, I believe it was. He's going to finish it by the end of the month, and the faster we move through it, the better he does! I will detail my plans for next year here soon, but suffice it to say, we're planning some major acceleration for J1, completely at his request!

Next year I'll be "legal" with S3, too, and that is going to be interesting. He's reading quite well - he's almost completely taught himself. He can read a book like "Fire Cat" and read about 85% of the words and have almost perfect comprehension. Or at least he could. It was SO interesting to read that book with him. The first "chapter" he "read" it and understood the whole thing. But - he didn't accurately read each word. He skipped words here and there, used the pictures heavily to assist his comprehension, and sometimes substituted words for others. What fascinated me most was when the book would read, "She went to the house," and S3 would read, "Her went to the house." Now, my youngest 3 kids have *horrid* syntax. They regularly mix up their pronouns, use improper forms of past tense ("goed" instead of went, for example), that sort of thing. Dh and I have talked about how they almost have their own language sometimes. A3 is growing out of it to a large extent, and I expect the younger ones will, also, and we've been trying to be more diligent about correcting them. Anyway, I am fascinated by the fact that S3 *saw* the word "She", and he correctly substituted the word "Her". "She" and "Her" look nothing alike, how did he *know* to read "Her", the word that S3 uses for "She"? It's just utterly fascinating to me! Anyway, the more I read the book with him, and the more I made gentle corrections, the less and less he *could* read, and the less he was interested. It's like I completely got in his way by trying to make him properly read every single word. What does reading really mean, anyway? Is it comprehension? Reading every single last word? I know *I* don't read every single last word. What about every single letter? (Check out this page to see how you can read words if just the first and last letter are correct!) It's all just really interesting. At any rate, I think with a little bit of phonics instruction S3 is going to be off and running very quickly. He's a math whiz, too, I expect he'll be accelerating the way J1 is before too long. He's interested in everything - he just doesn't want to sit down at it for too long! He would definitely be my "project" kid. None of my other guys care one whit for projects, art, that sort of thing, but S3 will definitely do that.

It's been an interesting year, and next year promises to be even more interesting! I'll detail our plans for next year soon!

Menu Plan Monday

Or Tuesday, as the case may be - better late than never! We just got a 1/2 cow, so our meals are beef-heavy right now. Yum!

Monday: Hamburgers, french fries, coleslaw

Tuesday: Cube steak, mashed potatoes, mixed vegies

Wednesday: Slow-cooker pot roast, rice, grilled vegies

Thursday: Enchilada casserole, salad, chips and salsa

Friday: Fisherman's Quick Fish (we might try this on the grill), biscuits and butter, sliced tomatoes, corn on the cobb

****Incidently - if you're looking for an easy, no-fail, yummy biscuit recipe, this is definitely the one. YUM!

Saturday: Grilled Steaks, baked potato, salad

Sunday: We'll be going out to dinner after the Corpus Christi celebration at our church. It should be so much fun - we're the only church in Georgia making a Corpus Christi procession. I am so happy to be a part of it!!

That's all for this week. If you're looking for some other ideas, check out Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday!