Sunday, December 7, 2014

Week in Review: Math & Reading, Bad Burn, He's Rolling!

A few weeks ago, I decided to focus more on reading and math for Bridget. She's been very good with math from the very beginning, but the lessons are finally starting to get harder. We're also working more with the math manipulatives. We're using the Math-U-See Primer level curriculum. So far, we both really like it. It was a toss up between Math-U-See and Saxon Math, but I think we'll be sticking with Math-U-See.
Bridget has been building big numbers with the manipulatives. She gets a bit frustrated sometimes (especially with the hundreds), but I am happy about it. A little frustration is a good thing. It tells me she's learning something new, getting out of her comfort zone, and really needing to use her thinking skills. She's doing very well! She has also started building addition problems, and I can't wait to do mroe of that with her this coming week. Below are a few pictures from the math work she's been doing.
When I notice Bridget's numbers getting a bit sloppy, or that she's writing some numbers backwards, I break out her number writing practice folder. I have two pages of each sheet, so it keeps her busy for awhile and most importantly, she's getting the practice she needs. The numbers go up to twenty, so she has a total of 8 pages to complete. Not too bad, although sometimes she wants to take a break because her hand hurts. So we'll have a snack and she'll get back to work. George loves it when I have Bridget work on her writing, because that means the math blocks are available. He enjoys building towers and bridges.

Other exciting news is that Bridget has completed every book in her BOB Books Sight Words for Kindergarten that Grandma gave to her. I'm very pleased with the BOB Books and went ahead and ordered the rest of them over the weekend. I can't wait for them to arrive so that we can continue on with her reading skills.

George had an injury the day before Thanksgiving. It involved Granny's hot glue gun, and resulted in a painful 2nd degree burn. I'll blog more about that when I finally get around to recording our Thanksgiving holiday. It was a major event in our household, as he was quite traumatized by it and talks of it often.

And for the last bit of news... Liam is now a roller! On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, he rolled from his tummy to his back. On the following Monday, he rolled from his back to his front. He's now our little roly-poly.

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Saturday, December 6, 2014

Recipe: LA-Style Chimichurri Tacos

This week I finally got around to trying Chloe Coscarelli's "LA-Style Chimichurri Tacos". I'm hesitant to make anything that has a lot of mushrooms (that are not small enough to go unnoticed) or that uses cilantro, as my husband does not like either of those foods. Me? I LOVE mushrooms. I LOVE cilantro. I may also have a bit of an obsession with tasty food, but that's another post entirely.

These were very easy to make, though it took me awhile to prepare it because I was trying to determine the best order to make things for it all to get done efficiently. I spent a good portion of the time preparing the fresh vegetables that I'd need for EVERYTHING, rather than just getting done with one thing first. Lesson learned. Prepare the rice first! While that is cooking, prepare the Chimichurri Sauce. After the sauce is done and the rice is still cooking, wash and slice the mushrooms. Cook these in the last 5 minutes, as this part is very quick.  You'll want the mushrooms to still be hot when preparing your taco but you don't want to overcook them and have soggy mushrooms.

LA-Style Chimichurri Tacos
Source: Chloe Coscarelli, Chloe's Kitchen

Tomato Rice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tomato, finely chopped (I used 2 medium vine-ripened tomatoes)
1/2 c. brown rice (I used a whole cup)
1 c. vegetable broth (I used 2 cups)

In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat and add onions and salt. Sauté onions until soft. Add tomato, rice, and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until all broth is absorbed and rice is cooked (this took almost 30 minutes). Turn off heat and let sit, covered, for 15 minutes.

Chimichurri Sauce
1 c. fresh cilantro
1/2 c. fresh Italian parsley
1/2 c. olive oil
1/4 c. lime juice
4 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp. agave
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor and blend until all ingredients are well-combined and the herbs are finely chopped.

Taco Filling
2 Tbsp. olive oil
8 ounces crimini mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat and sauté mushrooms until they have released their juices. Add black beans and half of the Chimichurri Sauce and cook until heated through. Reserve the remaining half of the Chimichurri Sauce to spoon onto the taco, if desired (I highly recommend doing this... it is so good!).

You will also need 1 package of 8-inch tortillas.

To prepare the taco: add rice, then mushrooms. Then various toppings, if desired: red onions, lettuce, fresh tomatoes, avocado, or your favorite vegan sour cream. I did without the sour cream and instead used the chilled Chimichurri Sauce to add that bit of coolness to an otherwise hot taco.

Lastly, this can all be made in advance and the rice and taco filling can be reheated quickly. I wouldn't recommend keeping the mushrooms longer than 3 days.

The above photo is of the tacos without any additional toppings (the way my husband prefers). Below is a fully loaded LA-Style Chimichurri Taco!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Extracurricular Activities, Fall 2014

The middle of November, both ballet and gymnastics had their "Parents' Week", and we got to watch Bridget show off what she has learned so far this year. She is in Pre-Ballet II and seems to be doing quite well. I think she is probably the oldest in her class, as she just missed the cut off for public school Kindergarten. The other girls are mostly 4 years old.
Her dance studio does not allow parents to watch every class, as it can be quite distracting for the students. Because of this policy, Parents' Week is crowded with parents and grandparents. Her teacher, Ms. Denise, is so good with the kids and they have the cutest songs to help them learn the different positions.

We also got to watch Bridget in gymnastics. I usually watch her during every lesson, but this time the parents were able to sit in the gym. Bridget has gotten much more brave and listens to the instructions well. She loves her teachers Mr. John & Miss Rachel. She is so close to doing a handstand without the support of the wall.

Bridget used to be afraid of jumping on the trampoline during her first year. This year, she's much more confident. She is able to control her jumps well rather than bouncing all over the place.

Halloween Festivities 2014

Halloween festivities lasted nearly a week for us this year. Every year, our church holds a 'Trunk-or-Treat' in the parking lot for all of the kids to have a safe place to show off their costumes and get some candy. Some areas also have chili cook-offs and games prior to the trunk or treat.
I am now back to using their real names. Their personalities change so often that keeping up with a good nickname was difficult and ever-changing. It was originally intended for privacy but became more of a headache. Besides, it's mainly family and friends reading this stuff anyway.
This year, Bridget wanted to be Elsa from Frozen (just like every other little girl on the planet!). Halloween was so warm this year that I didn't need to buy her any covered shoes to match her costumes. She was able to wear her summer time church sandals! She felt super regal every time she put on her costume. She even got to wear some makeup we had leftover from her ballet performance.
George wanted to be something that "roared", so I was very excited to find this dragon costume for him. He would get into character each time his costume was put on. The very first time his hand went into the "claws", he'd stare at them and wiggle his fingers. I know he was thinking how awesome it was to finally have dragon hands. He is such a fun, wild boy!

Liam became the third baby to wear this pumpkin costume for Halloween. He looked just as cute as his older siblings did. I love his smile!

Here are the older kids after the trunk-or-treat. As I rarely have given my kids candy (cookies and cake, yes.. candy, no), George really had no idea what all the packages in his bucket were. Bridget remembered from last year, though. Once we got back to the van, he got to try some. His life was changed forever.

Later in the week before Halloween, we headed down to my in-laws' to attend their trunk-or-treat. They had a lot more going on for the kids there, and we all had a blast.

Finally, the day of Halloween arrived. We typically stay indoors and have our own family fun. My dad brought over a huge pumpkin with some stickers to decorate it with. The kids began decorating themselves, and Bridget put this sticker on Liam. I couldn't resist taking a picture. I'm so glad he was happy about it.

I like to make a Halloween-themed dinner to make things fun for the kids. This year, I made "Ghoulash", using my husband's grandmothers recipe for Austrian goulash, and veganizing it (taking out the beef and changing the spices and adding a few more vegetables to make up for the lack of meat). It was so good and the kids got a big kick out of it. I kept the heat to a low so that the kids could enjoy it, but I personally would have liked to have more cayenne pepper. I can't wait until they get old enough to handle some heat! Oh wait, yes I can. STOP GROWING!

Our Halloween dessert: chocolate cupcakes with orange frosting and festive sprinkles. George couldn't wait to dig in!

He's Blessed, We're Blessed!

Our sweet Liam was blessed on Sunday, October 12, 2014. As previously posted, my husband's family came in from out of town to share the day with us. Liam was calm and happy while my husband gave him the blessing.

After sacrament meeting, we took some pictures in the foyer and came home to have a spaghetti dinner.

It was a little over a month later that we finally had some portraits made of Liam in his blessing outfit. I'm so glad that he was able to still fit in it!

One of my favorites. His eyes, his sweet smile, and those chubby cheeks.
His "Mommy, I'm ready for a cuddle" look.

We are all so very happy to have him in our family!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Gift of Gardenias

Recently, my husband and 5 year old daughter were in our front yard trimming some of the shrubs. One of them being my gardenia bush. While my husband was clipping all of the beautiful flowers, my daughter was picking them up off of the ground and making a big bouquet. It was so sweet of her to save my beautiful fragrant gardenias. There must have been 12-15 of them in the bouquet. She presented them to me and I put them in a vase. They lasted for about a week and made my kitchen smell heavenly.

Her kind gesture also did something else for me. It made me think back to my grandmother. My grandmother had a small vase on her kitchen table that always had a single gardenia in it. It was a very simple table decoration, but it made the area smell so nice.

Then I thought of how I would play in her yard and pick all of the dandelions and bring them to her. I could tell how she accepted these dandelions that she really appreciated this lovely gift from her grandchild. Even though they were weeds. She would then put these dandelion weeds in a vase in her kitchen.

Looking back, I can't help but chuckle at the reaction my grandfather must have had when he walked into the house to see a vase full of weeds in his kitchen. Although, I'm sure he understood.

Kid Convos: October 2014

Sugar Plum (age 5) & Charmer (age 2), on the way to church (October 19).
Sugar Plum: Look, [Charmer]! Look at me! Look at what I'm doing!
Charmer: No, I'm fine.
Sugar Plum: Look at me! Look at me!
Charmer: Hmmm mmm [ignoring Sugar Plum and humming].

... a few second later

Charmer: Look! Balloons! (car dealership at corner of red light we were at)
Sugar Plum: NO! I WILL NOT LOOK AT THE BALLOONS! (somebody's holding a grudge!)
Charmer: Balloons! Look [Sugar Plum], look!
Sugar Plum: NO!

... just as the light turns green

Sugar Plum: [Charmer]! Look at all the balloons!


Sugar Plum (age 5) & Daddy, during breakfast (October 24)
Sugar Plum: Daddy, do you know where I lived before I was 1?
Daddy: You always lived here in this house, but Mommy and Daddy lived in a different house before you were born.
Sugar Plum: No, Daddy. I lived in the temple.
Daddy: The temple? Do you mean you lived in heaven?
Sugar Plum: Yes. I lived in heaven for a long time. I had to wait a long, long time for good parents.
Daddy: Did you get good parents?
Sugar Plum: No, not really.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Week in Review: CHD Milestone & Baby Blessing

We're already half way through October! Can you believe it?!? I missed last week because we had a lot going on, so I'll quickly summarize our last two weeks.
The Charmer reached a very important milestone. October 7th marked one year since his open heart surgery. I remember it like it was yesterday but it also seems like so long ago. Look how far he's come! His scar is barely visible. We are so grateful to have this boy in our lives. He's quite a character!
The first weekend of the month, we also had our church's semi-annual General Conference. We enjoy it and it's a time for me to allow junk food in the house. Some people have "Game Day", our family has General Conference. I loaded up on chili-cheese fries (homemade dairy-free cheese, of course) and pigs in a blanket (made with veggie dogs). I dipped mine in extra cheese while my husband and kids enjoy theirs with ketchup.
Not only do we pig out on junk food, but we also get to do it in the living room in front of the television "picnic style". The kids love it. They were all mostly well-behaved and let us watch conference. While I enjoyed all of the talks, there wasn't a particular talk that spoke to me this time. My husband, however, had a couple of talks that answered many questions he had. So I guess this conference was just for him!
Last Sunday, my husband had the privilege of giving our son a name and a blessing. His family drove in from out of town and also participated. We love our little family. I'm so glad to be the mom for these three precious babies!

With all that had been going on, we still got a lot done in homeschool. Still doing good with math but this past week we really worked on reading. My dad offered to watch the Charmer for an hour each morning so that I can have some one-on-one time with Sugar Plum. She catches on so fast and I'm feeling a lot better about her reading abilities after just one week. My dad wants to continue this and I'm all for it! So thankful he's willing to spend some extra time with the Charmer. They keep busy down at Papa's house. The Little Man is still sleeping a lot and I love being able to focus on one child at a time. I'm thinking of investing in a spelling program. I've narrowed it down and may make a purchase next week. Sometimes it's so difficult to make a decision on a curriculum.

We're looking forward to another productive week!

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Monday, October 6, 2014

Week in Review: Our Oldest Turns 5!

With the exception of some reading, we did nothing in school last week. Why? Because we had some celebrating to do!
Sugar Plum turned 5!
Our celebration started on Sunday. Both sets of grandparents joined us at church to watch Sugar Plum in her annual Primary Program, where all children ages 3-11 at our church sing the songs they've learned throughout the year and tell us about the gospel principles they've been studying. Although she was very nervous, she did very well on her part and also did a great job singing. We were all so proud.
After the primary program, we came home for dinner, cake, and presents. Sugar Plum stayed dolled up in her church dress, but the Charmer stripped down to his underwear so I won't be posting any pictures of him from this day. Little Man was also here, of course, but spent a lot of time snuggling with grandparents.
Sugar Plum requested Shepherd's Pie for her birthday dinner and the day before finally told me she wanted a Frozen cake. I did what I could on such short notice but she was still very pleased.
Sugar Plum loves her new toys and has been playing with them all since. I think she's forgotten about any other toys she owns.

On Monday we don't have homeschool anyway due to a mid-day gymnastics lessons. On Tuesday was Sugar Plums actual birthday so daddy took of work and we spent the entire day together. We went to a park in the morning and watched a movie in the afternoon before her ballet lesson. We didn't have another cake or any more presents but she did have two birthday meals... lunch at Taco Bell and take-out Chinese tofu and rice for dinner.

Since we cancelled school for the week to give her time to celebrate and play with her new toys (and for mommy to relax after a busy weekend), I'll be making it up during the week I had scheduled our Fall break. Another reason why I love homeschooling... I can take off whenever I'd like and we can make it up later! The only downside about it is although Sugar Plum was having fun playing with her new toys, she kept asking me when we were going to have school. She still loves it, so I'm glad.

We still cannot believe she is already 5 years old. I can still remember when she was still the size of Little Man. I think I'll always miss holding them as tiny babies. She's too big for me now to pick up and carry so the only time Sugar Plum really snuggles with me now is during our bedtime story. I look forward to seeing how much she changes now until her next birthday. She's so full of surprises!

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Week in Review: Weeks 7 & 8

Homeschool is still going great for us. The highlight of the past two weeks have been studying ancient Egypt from our Story of the World book. Bridget has become quite fascinated with it. We read from a few books, looked at some pictures on the internet of the Nile River, and got a pretty good understanding of how the double crown of Egypt came to be.

George didn't do too much with the lesson, but did enjoy taking part in the crafty/play stuff. I thought he looked quite handsome in his crown.

The SOTW activity book had a small tutorial of how to build the white crown of Upper Egypt, but I wanted to build the united double crown. After looking at a few pictures of what it looked like, I attempted to make two of them for both Bridget and George. From start to finish, it took me about an hour to construct both (this includes the thinking process). I'm not a very crafty person, but I think they turned out alright. The kids loved them and that's what counts. Next time they'll be old enough to make them with me. I took pictures of each step for later reference for myself, but thought I'd compile them for the blog as well. 
Here is what you'll need:

1 piece of white construction paper
2 pieces of red construction paper
wax paper (about the size of a standard piece of construction paper, rolled in to a ball to be used in step 4)
tape (or stapler, whichever is preferred... I used tape)

Hopefully the rest of the steps are self-explanatory for when I need them 4 years from now.

Math is still Bridget's favorite subject. I keep trying to slow her down and wait to start a new lesson for fear that we're going too fast, but she seems to be grasping it well. She wants to do more and more. Maybe I'll let her take charge and we'll do a lesson a day if that's what she wants and can handle. We've been using our math manipulatives more lately. George especially loves it when these come out. They're his little building blocks. He has fun, but me not so much. Just minutes after this photo was taken, he took the entire box and dumped them on the floor. 

We have an exciting week coming up. Bridget will be turning 5 years old! I think I'm also going to focus more on reading and spelling. I've been slacking on those subjects because they are her least favorites.
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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Aaron Turns 32!

While technically his birthday isn't until today, we celebrated it with his parents last Saturday. It was an enjoyable visit. The kids always love going to grandma and granddaddy's house, and they're even more on board when there's cake involved. This was also the Little Man's maiden voyage to their home.
We got there mid-morning and spent the day with grandma while granddaddy was at work. We ordered Chinese take-out for lunch from a place just down the road from their house. They had a few different types of tofu to choose from (the birthday boy has become quite a fan of the stuff) so we got sesame tofu and tofu with mixed vegetables. Delicious, as always.
After granddaddy got home, we ate dinner. Aaron wanted my version of Wendy's Chili. It turned out great. Then it was time for cupcakes. The kids were so excited they couldn't contain themselves.
At Aaron's request, I made mint chocolate cupcakes. I've never done anything mint flavored before so I'm glad they turned out and that it was just what he wanted. Even the kids loved them (I wasn't fond of anything minty as a child). In fact, the mint icing was all the Charmer ate. I'm glad they were a big hit with everybody.
Aaron also got a griddle for his birthday. He has been wanting one for a long time! He makes us pancakes every Sunday morning for breakfast and it takes him a long time to cook them one-at-a-time with our small stovetop griddle. This Sunday, he was able to make all of the pancakes and even sit down and enjoy them with us.
Last year had its ups and downs (pertaining to the children), so I hope this year is an especially stress-free one for my dear husband!
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