Friday, August 18, 2017

what we've been eating lately: favorites (old + new)

Now that we've left behind most of our recoveries and celebrations, we've been trying to eat more homemade, fresh food to balance our blood sugar and lower blood pressures. In just two weeks of eating mostly real food and exercising more often, Robert lowered his blood pressure by several points and his resting heart rate has dropped from 60 to 53! It feels so good to get back into a routine of better habits again after lots of fun indulging! (I think life comes in seasons, and they should all be enjoyed! Celebrating with family and friends is a blessing! :)

Right now, as we move into fall, we're focusing on veggies and generally avoiding lots of heavy meat, dairy, and sugary snacks or desserts. We aren't sticklers about it, but eating well and exercising feels wonderful already!

Here are nine foods we've been loving lately:

1. Seasoned veggies in large quantities:

(I added a little garlic salt and a tiny bit of olive oil)...

2. Our longtime favorite, pinto beans:

With nothing added but a good amount of salt and cooked for hours:

3. Zucchini ribbons + tomatoes with (leftover) red potatoes, with garlic, salt, and cashew butter:

A little bit of cashew butter makes for a deliciously creamy sauce:

4. Tater tots + roasted veggies. I put this all on a tray to bake while we went on a family walk and it was awesome (I also had hamburgers baking for the kids at the same time):

5. Rice, corn, and salsa. This easy combo makes for a quick lunch and provides lots of energy (and starch for feeding babies!):

6. Chicken salad with apples and cranberries. This takeout salad had more sugar than I prefer, but it was a semi-healthy option for a quick lunch from Whataburger:

7. Green beans and rice with seasoning. (Rice is the other staple here- we eat it daily!). I was really hungry so I added a can of tuna after I took the pic. (I'm eating more lean meats than he is right now, depending on how hungry I am between nursing and rebuilding muscle).

8. Rotini pasta with white balsamic vinaigrette (from Sam's Club). This was a huge hit with the kids and so cheap and easy! This was a lunchtime alternative to sandwiches and everybody loved it. I had a few bites as I threw it together and it was surprisingly tasty!

9. Salad. This romaine, spinach, bell pepper, tomato, and sunflower seed combo is what I am loving this week:

And with a little of this dressing (also from Sam's)? It's ahhhmazing. It's so good, I almost wish I hadn't bought it! (Though I am glad a kind cousin introduced us! :P ) :)

I have yet to figure out what we'll have for dinner tonight, but I do hope it involves that dressing! haha! 

Happy weekend!!! :D

Thursday, August 17, 2017

science for kids: free Aug. 21 eclipse ebook from Apologia

Did you know an eclipse is supposed to take place next Monday, August 21? (if the Lord allows!)

Lately I'm finding myself a little out of the loop when it comes to current events, so I'm thankful for sweet friends who tell you an eclipse is coming soon and give your entire family special viewing glasses! And for other blog friends who post about free ebooks you can do with your kids! :)

Here's a link to sign up for a free 20-page ebook from Apologia about the coming eclipse!

If the Lord wills, we're planning to go through ours tomorrow and Monday morning before the eclipse crosses here! :)

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Zane turns 4

Our littlest man turned four years old on Sunday! Birthdays are a big deal at our house, and I think Zane really enjoyed every moment of his day. :)

It was a sleepy day- it was so dark outside that we slept in later than we expected, but we still had time for cinnamon rolls and presents before church. :) The kids all made him cards (I LOVE his expression here!):

 This time we went for orange cinnamon rolls (going with the orange theme he requested!):

One of his birthday presents from us was this Robin costume (his favorite character!):

And then after church, we had pizza for lunch and homemade pizza for dinner! :)

I doubled the pizza dough recipe from this book (just flour, water, salt, yeast, olive oil, and a little sugar):

And this was the tasty outcome of all that dough:

I was most excited about the caramelized onion pizza (bottom right) inspired by my friend Sophie who lives in France! I couldn't get her original recipe from my email (it was down), but I did my best to replicate it with what we had and it was an incredible combo!! I used onions, cream cheese chunks, garlic, butter, and olive oil and we fell in love with a brand new style of pizza! (Thank you, Sophie, for opening up a whole new world to us!)

And then for dessert we enjoyed his creative request: strawberry cake with orange (carrot strawberry) icing and strawberries on top:

Oh, that boy- he makes us all smile. We love him so. His tender heart is a precious gift to our family. He is one of a kind!

Monday, August 14, 2017

unbelievably amazing, my sidekick, + helpmating & other goals this week

Our weekend began with an excruciating trip to the grocery store where I spent five whole minutes in the parking lot without ever leaving my car. ;) If you haven't tried it before, let me tell you- Walmart's grocery pickup service is the best thing invented in the last decade! You grocery shop through their website, download their app, and then as you drive into the Walmart parking lot, their employee COMES OUTSIDE WITH YOUR GROCERIES and LOADS them in your car! It is incredible.

(I wish I could use a hundred more exclamation points for how amazing it is, but my ! key is almost worn out already so I'll leave it to your imagination. ;) ).

We picked up for the very first time at the end of June after Kristin reminded me of it in the comments on this post. Now I'm not sure I can ever go back to regular shopping again.

And then, my night became even better- we bought dinner without getting out of the car either!! (What IS this world coming to??)

We worked almost all day Saturday, and then on Sunday we went to church and celebrated Zane's birthday (I hope to post about it tomorrow, Lord-willing). Today we had family over and the party kept going- the kids got to see their aunt, cousins, and Nana! We had the best time visiting while the kids played.

This little lady is starting to love the sling, thankfully- which freed my hands up a bit while we were preparing for the day. I wore this sling with Isabella, and wore this very black sling for months with Ava (8 years ago!). I'm so happy Naomi is getting the hang of it too:

I love babywearing! Give me all the squishy sweet babies!! I love, love this 5-week-old stage:

But the 2-year-old stage is pretty cute too, I'll admit: :D

It's certainly no little task to have small ones, but these babies bring us SO much joy!! What a blessing kids are, at all the stages, big and small.

Here's what I have on my goal list this week:

:: do ::

pray alone
exercise 5x
listen to worship music
blog every day :D
wash sofa cushions
do sewing repairs

:: read :: 
Ruth + Psalms

:: learn :: 
listen to 2-3 teachings/ sermons

:: be ::
a good helpmate.

My husband has been really busy dealing with lots of unexpected work for the last several weeks, so I would like to help him in any way I can to lighten his burdens here. I'm not really sure what that will entail yet as far as to-do list activities, but I'm pretty sure that his wife having a good attitude is always helpful no matter what. ;) We are a team, and I want to be willing to carry extra loads when he has to. :)

Sunday, August 13, 2017

the happiest news ever

This is the best news your ears could ever hear:

"God is not only just and he’s not only wrathful. He’s massively loving, and God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son to hang on a cross and become a curse for us, so that all of the wrath designed for us for eternity would be wrapped up in Jesus. As we fly to Jesus and say, “Take me, please, cover me, shield me, be my refuge,” he will, and never again will there be one moment of wrath on your life. Not one moment."

Saturday, August 12, 2017

our saturday: cleaning + baking

So far we've spent our Saturday cleaning the house and getting ready for Zane's birthday tomorrow. :D 

As a mama, I wasn't quite sure how to handle a Sunday birthday and not working so we can focus on the Lord except to prepare as much as possible today so that we can enjoy tomorrow fully and worshipfully rest while loving on our Zaner. :)

What it seems is that loving the Lord and loving others is what we're called to do, so Robert and I agreed that loving Zaner tomorrow would be doing good. I would like to pray more about it! I've started to love the Sabbath (we observe it as Sunday)- I've been learning more and more that spending all of Sunday focusing on the Lord (and trying not to work for myself or spend it on my pleasure) is so beneficial for my soul for the rest of the week. God's law is so perfect! It makes me excited for tomorrow.

Zane requested pizza and strawberry cake with orange icing and strawberries on top for his dinner tomorrow. I found this cake recipe and so far it tastes great: 

For the icing, I blended carrots up to make the orange color:

I think it looks slightly more orange in real life, but I was pleased with the flavor (I added the strawberry puree):

 The kids helped clean out the snack drawer (and it looks so much better!):

Then we moved all the furniture to the center of the room as usual so everyone could mop:

As of right now, I still have to bake one more cake layer, ice it (it seems to have stuck to the pan, so I'm praying it will come out), clean the bathtubs, finish my workout (it was too hot at 11!), and schedule tomorrow's post. And eat dinner. :D

I like getting lots of work done on days like today, because busy Saturdays make restful Sundays even sweeter! :)

Friday, August 11, 2017

a homemaking secret, fail, & lesson learned: dessert-style

I have a secret (I probably already told you, so I doubt it's much of a secret):

I prefer brownie mixes over homemade.

Yes, the ones with all the strange, unpronounceable ingredients in them. Somehow, Betty Crocker found a way to make brownies even better than they should be. (Though I once read the secret to that crunchy, smooth top is the chocolate chips...).

Because it makes irresistible brownies in five minutes flat, I keep this delicious mix from Sam's Club in my pantry at almost all times:

It's always there for me when I need to whip up a quick dessert, or when I have a craving for a fudgy, perfect chocolate brownie.

So of course, when I needed to make dessert for an event last week, I took out my last two bags and whipped them together with their three additional ingredients in a flash. I tasted the batter (because I can't help myself), and I'm so glad I did. 

Because it tasted like dog food. Or maybe more like a mix of dog food and rotten, moldy hay.

But... I followed the instructions precisely! I even used a measuring cup!

Turns out, that last bit of vegetable oil I found in the pantry was rancid. Like disgustingly, awfully, rotten.

I knew we wouldn't be able to eat them, but I hate wasting food, so I baked them to see if the taste might fade. Near the end of the baking time, my kitchen began to reek with the smell of hot, moldy dog food, so I took them out of the oven early, shaking my head in displeasure at the sight of an entire 9x13 pan of potential goodness being tossed out the window.

Later that night, Robert spotted the cooled brownies on the stove, and insisted that it was probably just my over-active postpartum senses that made me reject our favorite dessert. He asked if he could try one, and I replied with, "I think the oil was rancid. I definitely wouldn't try them, but they probably won't hurt you."

He can't say I didn't warn him. :) We all watched as he took a knife, sliced into the center to check for doneness, then cut into the corner, and quickly raised the brownie to take a bite. The children and I waited with bated breath, intently watching his face for even the slightest hint of change.

Two chews in, his face began to completely contort with disgust.

"Is it okay, honey? What's wrong?" we all laughed and cringed together, as he unhappily swallowed.

"You know what it tastes like?"


"Fish food."

We laughed again, and left the brownies to be dumped in the trash. Only later did we notice the irony of how he had unintentionally cut into the center of the brownies:


Yes, it was a definite F in my book. :) Really though, who in the world can precisely follow the instructions of a four-ingredient mix and still fail?

Me. :D

But there's always something to be learned in failure, right? Take a lesson from my mistake:

When you're cooking, always smell the vegetable oil before you use it. :)

Thursday, August 10, 2017

15 years... and counting

Today we celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary! I can't believe we're old enough to be married for 15 years! :) And every year keeps getting better and better.

Oh, how I love this man. I can't believe he has loved me for 17+ years now. He is so sacrificial and kind. I'm not exaggerating when I say he is the best husband on the planet.

We had the chance to get away for dinner tonight. It was delicious. :)

We took the littlest with us, and she only cried a little. ;)

It was a lovely end to a day of celebrating 15 of the best years of my life. :) 

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

our homeschool curriculum (2017-2018)

This year, rather than do another year of Classical Conversations, we decided to try another new curriculum that allowed us more freedom to work on our own schedule from home. With CC this year, I would have had a newborn, two littles, two in Foundations (one in Essentials), and two going their separate paths in junior high (two different Challenge programs). It would have been a bit too much for this mama. :)

I really wanted us to get back to more of a single stream of learning with a little more quiet individual work to help them focus in between. The kids loved BJU and learned so much from it over the years, but it was very expensive, and required both a ton of books and paper and a lot of shelf space and shuffling. 

Doing Classical Conversations last year gave me more confidence that they could learn a ton just by doing memory work, and their Essentials program is now my favorite writing program ever. The way the curriculum is taught makes writing simple and fun, and we loved our teacher! :) 

With that knowledge and new confidence from CC, this year I decided to combine an individual five-subject program called Switched-On Schoolhouse (SOS) for the older three with lots of Foundations and Bible memory work and then use the Essentials curriculum for writing along with TWSS History-Based Writing Lessons

SOS is completely computer-based, which means all the learning happens entirely on their computers (no books are required). An entire year's worth of curriculum is about $400, and you get to reuse it for subsequent students, which was a huge part of the reason we tried it. (BJU is rental only).

Each child has a schedule on their bulletin board (see our previous setup here), and with the exception of electives in the afternoon, it's the same for all of the older children in school:

I love being back on the same page with the same subjects and time slots! 

Here's our daily schedule:

7:30    breakfast + prep
8:00    Bible devotions
8:30    Bible (SOS)
8:45    Foundations memory work
9:00    Scripture memory work
9:15    Math (SOS)
10:00  Break
10:45  Spelling/Essentials (History-Based Writing)
11:35  History (SOS) + Handwriting
12:00  Lunch
1:00    Science (SOS)
1:35    Electives (SOS + other)
2:00    Schoolroom clean up
2:15    Quiet time
3:00    Chores
3:30    Snack and Free/Play time
5:30    Dinner prep, clean up, and family time

So far, the schedule is working out wonderfully, and the lessons are so fast that the children often complete their work before lunch. Each subject takes about 15-20 minutes, and they really enjoy the lesson as well as the simplicity of not needing a particular printed paper or having to score their work every day.

A month into it, the biggest problem we've had so far is that the learning curve for the SOS program is pretty steep for our crew. SOS only presents each day's reading material with a few interactive elements which doesn't seem to help the children retain the information quite as well. I'm having to teach them how to slow down and take notes on their own so they can remember the important things for the quiz the next day. But I'm still hoping they will get the hang of this new style of reading-based learning, since we've only had a few weeks with it at this point. We'll see. :) I imagine it will be very similar to the online classes they'll be taking in college soon, so I think it might be good experience for them to learn from reading only.

Outside of SOS, we are still learning English, History, Science, Math, Latin, and the timeline of the world as CC/Foundations memory work, as well as Bible devotions (reading through a book of the Bible), two Bible verses a week that they are tested on, vocabulary words, and random cursive handwriting assignments. And the older three kids are really enjoying history through writing our papers every week, so I feel confident that even if they don't end up doing really well with their individual computer work, the year won't be lost. I'm glad we are trying something new and a little more simple this year!

We've tried lots of ways to teach our crew since we started in 2009. Some were great, and some weren't a great fit for us. But no matter which curriculum we choose, I want to remember that my first priority is to teach them about God and His Son, the Word himself, who died and rose again for the glory of God. :) 

Everything else I teach them is secondary, and just knowing that removes that big anxiety of trying to meet the educational standards of the world. Only one thing will matter in the end, and that is the state of their souls before God on the final day. Will they have trusted in God and turned to Him to be saved? Did they hear the truth of the Bible and obey it?

That's really what I want to teach them the most.
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