Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Too Busy

You would think that with as busy as we are, there might be post after post of all the things we've been doing. We have reached maximum capacity overload though and first to go was time to write.

Otherwise known as officially too busy.

Here's some cute pictures to go with an apology and a promise of an update.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Someone asked me to post this week's meal plan

Refer to this post for more detail.

Here, by request, is our menu plan for this week.

Sunday: Roast chicken, from our farm. 6lb bird. I used an upright cast iron roaster (it has a stand in the middle to mount the bird on) and surrounded the bird with mushrooms, carrots, onions, and potatoes, seasoned with Swamp Fire, and stuffed with butter (instead of olive oil).

This chicken will be used for dinner tonight, leftovers shredded (2.5.lbs), and the carcass made into broth. 4 meals. This chicken was $24, but that equates into $6 per meal in meat. About $1.25 per person for meat.

Side dish with the chicken tonight is jasmine rice with the veggies mixed in and a cream sauce. The result is like the rice in "chicken and rice" casserole. Heavily buttered.  Some of the vegetables could be set aside to make a soup, but I am not doing that.

Monday: Lamb chops (6$). Sweet potatoes on the side. Leftover rice is there is any, peas if there isn't.

Tuesday: I take salad (with chicken $1.25 see above) for lunch or dinner, kids eat pizza with dad. I work a 12 hour day.

Wednesday: Steak (3$ that's right, from our farm too) broiled. Roasted turnips. Asperagus.

Thursday: Ham ($3.50) and beans with corn bread. I use black eyed peas, carrots, onions, and braising greens. Lily will make the cornbread from a mix into muffins. Uses 1 quart of chicken stock.

Friday: Curried chicken (using the leftovers) over jasmine rice. Variety of vegetables cooked in. Veggie egg rolls on the side.

Saturday: Beer batter fish (5$ on sale from Hy-vee) and chips. Salad on the side.

I will also make a batch of chili (beef $3) at some point for the freezer.

Cheese noodles
Ponyo Miso (with chicken, broth, veggies, and rice noodles).
Peanut butter and jelly sandwhiches
Grilled cheese and tomato soup

Farm eggs and sausage x2
Fruit and cheese plate, maybe with venison summer sausage
Muffins (that Lily makes)

Snacks: yogurt, fruit, venison sausage, chips and salsa, popcorn.

We will also make rolls and pizza dough for next week. Some chicken gets carried over by freezing it.

$45 in meat for the week. $20 in veggies. 20$ in dairy. $20 in bread and noodles and rice.
Time? 15 minutes prep for each meal. 20 minutes if the kids help.
105$ total but most of it is paid in bulk once a year. So really, just $50 at the grocer for food.

All real, most local, most from our farm.
No desserts. We only do desserts on holidays or special treats. I know, I'm a mean mean mommy.

That's the plan. I don't beat myself up if we veer off it or sub in other stuff. 

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Rider in the Wind

Lily loves horses. She loves horses almost as much as the colour purple. I love how she comes out of lessons sore and utterly happy. I love how she asks to share the last part of her hour giving her sister and brother a turn. She is a wonderful big sister to them, always. Little gestures of generosity remind me of this. She is usually tired and sore, but when Holly is done with her turn they commiserate.  Isaac is in awe of the horse too. He gets quiet and watchful and then touches the horse with what looks like reverence.

Jessica really understands my kids too. She works Lily hard, but also respects her as a person. It took a long time to find a teacher that was just right, that met this relationship criteria.

I love Thursday mornings.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Ballet Dancers

Last year Holly hated art class. She hated it so much she would try and make herself throw up in the car to avoid going in to class. So I stopped asking her to go in. She relaxed a lot when I finally told her art class was done. I finally got out of her why she hated it! It was because the teacher asked her to use colours other than yellow. I should have known as much. That girl LOVES yellow. 

Lily wanted to do art. Lily loves art. The reality though is that I can't drive them to both. We can't afford it. So I asked Lily if she would try ballet. She likes it enough. I did tell her that next year she could go back to art. Maybe we can arrange that as soon as January. We'll see. Lily also takes riding.

Still, Holly practices 3 hours a day. She lives in her tutus and dance dresses, sleeps in them too. She is all things ballet. She bounces out of the car for classes. I have never seen her so excited over something, except maybe the colour yellow. ;) I love seeing her so engaged!

Monday, 27 August 2012

Fixer Holly

Since moving to the farm, Chad has mostly done the small mechanic jobs on our cars. This delights Holly to no end, because she is "Fixer Holly" the princess of fixing cars, houses, trains, toys, and broken hearts. Of course she has to help and of course she insists on doing so in her Tinkerbell ballet dress.

So cute. Holly is really growing up. We started her ballet classes this week and she was a hoot. She's really, really loving it. Every day this week she dressed in a tutu and even put one over her jammies every night at bedtime. She's pretty into it.

I'll see if I can get a picture this week of her in her actual real ballet clothes.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Preface/Background to Our Chinese Unit Study, Unschool Style, plus an introduction to newbies to "strewing".....

We homeschool. We unschool as a philosophical approach. For those who are unfamiliar with that term, it is like Montessori without the large class management of other people's children aspect.

Our classroom is our home, our farm, our community- you get the idea. Our home is filled with books, seriously thousands of books. No less than three bookcases hold "kid" books, the rest are all over- history, science, literature, classics, antiques, newest editions, science fiction. We love books.

In our dining room, at kid level, I have art supplies. I do keep the higher quality paints and inks up high but only so Zap doesn't eat them and Holly doesn't take up Interior decorating- again. They can have them down when they ask, just not when I am in the shower or on the phone. You know? This.

I have a whole huge bookcase with kid history, math, and reading books. Whole curricula..

"Hold up, lady, you just said you unschool!" Yes I did. That doesn't mean we don't learn things or enjoy using books. We all do. Especially me.

That's where something called strewing comes into play. Strewing is where we make available items of interest and leave them in accessible places to be found and explored at will.

So I thought about how we will handle school this year, since I am going back to work away from home a couple days a week and fall is pretty busy with deliveries and craziness of farm stuff. My kids have been begging to learn more about China, love Chinese food, music, and art. We've also fielded some questions from them about why we don't buy Made in China products (we actually do though), especially packaged food and art supplies (which end up as food unintentionally toddler style). A really negative bias has crept up in our whole culture regarding products from China, mostly from teh massive lead poisoning issues that have happened. Plus we like to buy local, as local as possible in all things. But that doesn't mean we have to bash a whole culture, you know?

And I realized too that I know very little about China. I mean, I have seen Mulan a million times with the kids, and I know I like crab Rangoon, and I can point to China on the map....and that's about it really.

So what better way to organize our lives and learning than to have mama learn some more about China? And that's how we'll do this, I will learn and do projects and if they are interested then they can too. I plan on creating a syllabus, with books and supplies provided for each mini lesson, here on the blog, in case anyone wants to replicate what we are doing. Label will be China, Dragons, and Yummies.

A brief summary of items we will cover in the groupings:

Art: watercolor, calligraphy, kite making, origami, paper making
Culture: Tea ceremonies, religion, etiquette, medicine, agriculture, puppetry
History: Time lines
Geography and cooking are paired. We'll study regional cuisines and cook them every week, in reference to regions and types of ingredients. Food can really be a good way to teach other aspects of culture. Plus, YUMMY. Oh, and animals. Geography=animals to my kids. Maybe a zoo trip.
Science: inventions, building, medicine, agriculture, earthquakes
Math: fractions in cooking, calculating for science, abacus, money measuring, weighing
Reading: stories and books from China, about China, writing to a pen pal, writing messages in cards, creating fortune cookie messages, calligraphy
Dragons. My kids like dragons a lot.
Chinese New Year and holidays.
We plan on attending the Asian Festival here this year too.

Things I have purchased so far:
  • A calligraphy set, a real one with ink and stone and hair brushes and bone chine dishes. Not expensive and yes, made in China.
  • Toy dragons. Yes I did.
  • Paper dragons to hang from the ceiling.
  • Real stainless steel chopsticks and bone china spoons
  • Cast iron tea service
  • Tea
  • Books on calligraphy, craft and building projects, books on Chinese history for kids, Chinese mask book
  • Pandora, Traditional Chinese station
  • Netflix, Wild China and Studio Gibli movies. Dress up clothes with Chinese theme.

We'll start this October 1st ish. Expect lots of cute pictures of kids doing stuff and cooking. These items are on the shelves and ready to explore. We already listen to the music every day. At the end of the week, we'll have lunch at the local Chinese buffet (yay rural Iowa!). We'll cook from the recipe books twice a week, maybe more at lunch time.

Each time we do an activity, I will post book and supply list with links to isbns, mostly because that is where I shopped for the stuff.  I'll also post a reflection on what worked, ect.

I'd love additional ideas to work in too.....and that's about all of it. The ideas of it all will unfold as we live it. The girls want to trade out our dining room table for a lower standing coffee table so we have to sit on pillows to eat meals. Is that even how people eat in China? Where did they get that idea?

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Mystery Find- What is This?

Lily and her friend dug this up today. It was about a foot from our foundation. Weighs about 10 lbs, not kidding, maybe 20. It is seriously heavy.

Lily says of course it is a dragon egg. What else could it be?

I told Chad I was pretty sure it is a cannon ball. He gave me the face like, "Yeah, ok crazy lady, a cannon ball? Buried in our yard? Riiiiiiight....."

Then I showed it to him.

That's what he thinks it is too.

What else could it possibly be?

Friday, 3 August 2012

Learning to French Braid


 I am learning to braid the girls' hair. It is finally long enough and one of them is patient enough to sit still long enough for me to fumble through it.

Snapshots of little bits of our day. We did a reading lesson, constructed words and sentences with letter tiles. molded modeling clay into pizza, read books, turned shipping boxes into to race cars, into drive in movie box/cars, into cozy reading boxes, pretended to be a girl pretending to be a vampire, played more dress up, cooked a new Chinese rice dish and baked chicken, registered for gymnastics (jumping class), dealt with a bath time crisis/fall injury/bloody nose, test drove a new to us car, kept the downstairs picked up and clean, and did laundry.

Oh and video chatted with newly moved to CA friends.

Today (despite the bloody nose crisis) was good and full.

*These pictures were taken with my new iPhone that can do video chat, take credit cards, and enable me to be on facebook more than I need to be all the freaking time. There is no focus or zoom. I think I like my SLR camera better, but the phone is super convenient.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Zippy Zippy Zap

I peeked out the window at the kids playing and saw this. It was so cute. I thought he couldn't reach the "go" pedal. He can't while seated, but he sat down like this.....

Hold ON!!! His sisters were worried and surrounded him to show him the ropes. So cute.

We visited with his endocrine team today. They are fascinated with our lifestyle, especially the nutrition aspect.

His number were good, even in April, so we'll retest and compare.

We discussed retesting the FISH test to verify 22q with a new sample. We decided not to do that in January when Isaac was mostly deaf because the insurance only covers hearing aids for genetic deafness and without the dx of 22q we'd have to pay 9K$ out of pocket. Yikes. Well, now he's not even a little bit deaf so the talk of retesting is now on the table again.

Endocrinology could not order it though, they said ask at our fall well baby check. Will do.

We can still do more at home to make our nutrition even better. Talk of cast iron tea kettles for the woodstove came up with a friend and they are not expensive! In December we'll retest Vit D and decide if we should use fermented cod liver oil and what dosage, but right now his levels are probably sun shiney wonderful and last winter (March) they only got as low as 18.

Good news, good news. We still have to go in for blood draws next week, on a Tuesday or Wednesday morning but Isaac is tough as nails and the lady who does the draw is really good at her job. That's why we insist on doing them at our local hospital, because of her. When you are in the midst of the chaos of special needs and medical care....finding those few people that are really there for you or your kid, that take time and extra attention, that is pretty special. Hang on to them. Let them know how very much appreciated they are.

Lucas County Fair 2012 & My Little Sprouts

Monday, 30 July 2012

I was recently given an old hat my grandfather wore when fishing. It's not the one I remember him wearing, but I'm glad to have it. I also have his pocket knife, and a bible. The pocket knife especially is important to me, as it's one he probably took while we went fishing.

I remember him teaching me (very patiently) to tie a fishing knot, how to cast, how to tell one fish from another, and how to clean the fish. I don't remember a lot of what he actually taught me, but I remember him patiently teaching me. Taking the time to help dissect the fish, explain why the fish's heart was still beating after we were done, and walking along the shore as I tried in vane to catch a fish with my hands when they weren't biting.

I also remember him teaching me about electricity - about positive and return wires, and how ground worked, and about radio waves. Again - a lot of it was lost on someone as young as I was, but I remember how cool it was to be learning, and I remember him teaching me. I saw the greenboard and soldering iron he used to build his radio boards, and sat through the explanation on how transistors worked, why they were different than tubes, and how the color coding worked. He had a 40 foot radio tower in the back yard and he talked to people all over the world - it was facebook back when you had to be hardcore to use it.

I also remember him patiently explaining all of his medals to me time and again, every time I asked. I don't remember what they were, but I remember him telling me. I also remember the shrapnel he had pinned to the same board that had almost killed him, from a blast that killed some of his friends and bunkmates. He was a war hero, but he kept that, carefully mounted and framed, buried in the bottom right hand drawer of an old desk in his radio room.

The first thing in my life I remember taking apart and fixing for a reason other than curiosity was a doorknob. My Grandmother asked me to look at it because my Grandfather had been working on it all day and it was still broke. I took it apart and fixed it - my Grandfather was stunned, and seemed very proud of me. I was too young to know what alzheimer's disease was, but it was stealing him from me before I knew how much he meant to me.

I will number the hat, the knife, and the bible among my small treasures more important to me than just things. And they will be passed to my children with all the knowledge I can provide about the Great Grandfather who taught me to fish, patiently answered questions, and read to me whenever I asked.

I miss my Grandfather. I wish I'd realized who he was when I had the chance.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

This week is going to be crazy fun. Apple harvest for livestock food, painting, peach canning, and farm tours.

This week I will finish hanging artwork in the master bedroom, finish the wall paint, maybe start the detail work.

I will start the custom bedframes for the girls. One sunshine and one moonglow. Those two really are night and day. Fitting for their room, I think.

I will start the mural in their room too. Not on the wall, but in draft. So far the draft has a HUGE willow or hawthorn tree with one side night sky and one side sunrise. Plants and animals galore. It is a huge wall. The night side will have a moon, stars, fireflies, bats, owls, moon flowers, and roses....the day side will have a sun, birds, butterflies, wild flowers.......Not super detailed, but mural style. It should be cool. Geez I hope so.

Then on the opposite wall they will have dressers and their play kitchen.

Isaac's room will be next. It already has it's base colour. I'm not sure what he likes yet. We may just go with fish and maps but I might do something else.....maybe a rocket ship and planets?

The hall still needs to be finished too.

I wish it was not so freakishly hot.

Sweet Little Chickies

These are poulet rouge meat chickens. We hope to have 80 chickens for sale in late October! This breed is also called "naked neck" or "turkey chickens" because they have featherless necks. I think they are both adorable and delicious. The meat from poulet rouge chickens is deeply flavoured and perfect for roasts and broths.