Friday, March 20, 2015

Week in Review: First Lessons


The week started off great, because it was Pi day. We ate pie (who didn't?). Chocolate mousse pie with coconut whipped cream. (You can see the picture below in the food section. Recipe to follow later.)

George had his very first gymnastics lesson. He was very excited but once it was time to go in he got shy. I carried him in there and sat him next to his sister and went back out to the parents area to watch. Once the students got up to go over to the pit for some fun, he went along and never looked back. For a first lesson, he did great. He is the youngest in his class, and it was funny to watch him get used to things. He did his very best to behave and follow instructions, even if he was a bit too excited.

It helped that his big sister is in his class. She'll be with him until the end of May, when she advances to the next level. I cannot believe how big Bridget has gotten. She's probably the oldest in her class now, and the tallest. She is much more confident than she was when she started. She takes great care in doing each position and movement correctly. I am glad that I was able to get a picture of the two of them together. Bridget kept a good eye out for her little brother.

This little guy here, not to be left out of the fun, started crawling this week! I did not get any photos of him crawling because I was too busy making a video for daddy. Daddy may have to work long hours this time of year but with modern technology, he doesn't have to miss out completely on the "firsts". Liam is also eating "puffs" by himself. He has figured out how to grab them with his fingers and stuff them into his mouth.

Now that Liam is crawling, he feels it is no longer good enough. He is now pulling himself up into an almost  standing position up against the side of the couch, and has taken a few tumbles backwards. I am unable to stop him, regardless of how many fun toys I've placed before him. I never remember how exhausting this stage is until I'm doing it again. The toothless smiles make up for it, though.




We began BOB Books Set 2 this week. There are a lot of new words to sound out and she wants to grab Set 1 again just to get her reading done but I told her that she needs the practice and to move on to the next level. I have every bit of confidence that she'll catch on to this set the same she did with the first one.


Bridget had her first "formal lesson" this week. Well, as formal as it can get being taught by her mother. She took it very seriously this time (we attempted the piano a year or so ago and I felt she was not quite ready). So far, we are working on finger placement and getting her fingers used to playing by doing some exercises hitting notes C-G using the correct fingers 1-5. (I have no idea if that sentence makes sense, but that's what we're doing!) We are doing the same with her left hand, but of course in the other direction. The first day was a struggle but she goes to practice on her own each day since. She has picked up speed and does a great job. The notes seem to flow nicely and I think she notices the improvement. Because these exercises were not enough for her, I did teach her to play Twinkle, Twinkle. This needs more work but she studies the keys until she gets it right (all on her own).


We are still reading Alice in Wonderland. This book is taking a lot longer than the others because it is so... unreal. Bridget has a lot of questions and seems to think that every character in the book escaped from the looney bin (they did). As the reader, I am not enjoying the book. It is not my kind of story. I asked Bridget (hoping she'd say yes) if she wanted to stop this book and read another one but she wants to continue. So continue we shall. We are almost done with the first story and then will be starting on "Through the Looking Glass" in the second half of the book. Perhaps when Bridget is older and can read the book on her own, we'd both enjoy it more. George is completely lost with the story so he instead plays quietly while I read. 


Chocolate Mousse Pie
Southern Chickpea Salad
Southern Black-Eyed Peas
with biscuits and collards


Final Thoughts

We're all excited that Spring has arrived. I am so tired of the cold weather. I am not looking forward to the allergies. Some years I am unaffected, and in other years I am down for a week. We'll have to see how this year goes (although since switching to a plant-based diet, they have not been nearly as bad as they used to be).

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Friday, March 13, 2015

Week in Review: Sibling Love & War


I have to be honest. This week flew by and I am having trouble remembering everything we did. It's been one of those weeks.

Bridget (5) and George (3) have been fighting a lot. More than usual, I think. It got so bad last week that we moved their beds to separate rooms so that they could have their own space to play. The play room is now Bridget's room and George has the big room all to himself for now. Our original plan was to move rooms around once Liam was ready to join George in the boys' room. Plans change when the kids are out for blood. I thought they'd miss the company at night but I was wrong. They're doing great. They are still fighting but at least now I can separate them. The fights are usually over certain toys or over Bridget trying to "mother" George too much.

Although they fight a lot, they are also still affectionate and loving. Yesterday as I was preparing dinner, George decided that he would finally poop on the potty (he's been peeing on the potty for awhile now). When I called them for dinner, I got no response so I went searching. There they were in my bathroom and Bridget was helping George wipe. George was proud of finally pooping on the potty (I hope it continues!), Bridget was proud for helping him, and I was proud of the both of them. We all may have been beaming with pride for awhile. In a good way. To share the moment, I took a picture of George with his accomplishment and sent it to daddy, who was still at work. I'll spare everyone else the image.

Liam (who poops often, in case anyone was wondering) is doing much better this week. His drool rash is almost completely gone and had a visit to the pediatrician yesterday. He also got a vaccine booster while we were there. I only mention this because at 2:30 this morning, he woke up screaming, didn't want to nurse, and felt rather hot. His temperature checked in at 101.5 so I gave him some medicine (in case it had any plans of going higher) and we both went back to sleep. He still has a slight fever today, which I am rather bummed about. Tonight is our church's annual Chili Cook-Off and I really wanted to attend. Mainly just to see my husband (he's working 60 hour weeks right now). He was going to leave work early and meet us there to enjoy some family/church time. However, because I am not a fan of taking my children to activities when they have a fever, we may be staying home. The good news is that I have a pot of chili for dinner. The bad news is that I didn't modify the spices to make it suitable for the children (since I thought I'd be serving adults). But we're back at the good news... an entire pot of chili just for me, and I'll have leftovers to feed my husband and I dinner tomorrow night and possibly Sunday.

I managed to get a few pictures this week of the kids doing their every day thing. Here's George playing with Liam. Liam is fascinated by cars (I now know that boys are just wired this way). He gets a kick out of watching George race the cars, and squeals with excitement. Sometimes George lets him hold a car to slobber on. I enjoy seeing this brotherly love and friendship develop at this young age.

Bridget is trying to be a little mommy  She was so proud to be holding up her little brother. His feet are dangling a couple of inches off the floor but she has a good grip on him.  



Bridget finished up BOB Books Set 1 this week. We also tested to see what grade level she's reading at (only to make sure she's not falling behind). She is currently reading at a 1st grade level, and she knew many (but not enough) of the words to put her reading at a second grade level. We're almost there, but I'm in no rush. She's doing great for her age so we'll just keep on doing what we're doing.

George has decided that he wants to start reading too, so we started on My First BOB Books: Alphabet. We're not doing any scheduled reading lessons for him (although he's usually present during Bridget's lesson), but I'll do the books with him whenever he bring them to me. Some days we don't do them, and other days we spend a lot of time practicing the letters and looking at the pictures.


Last week, the children had an argument a disagreement about which book to read next. Alice in Wonderland won because on the evening we were to start a new book, George fell asleep early.
While reading these stories to Bridget, I cannot help but wish I had never seen the movies. The books are way better and the movies don't stay true to the story (except for The Secret Garden... that movie is still mostly accurate). An even bigger regret is that Bridget has seen most of the movies (Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, etc.) and she is always comparing the book to the movie. At first she tried telling me that the book was wrong. I assured her that this was not the case, and that the people who made the movie had obviously not read the book.

Paglio e Fieno (Straw and Hay Pasta)
Copy-Cat Wendy's Chili with TVP
Baked Macaroni and Cheese


Final Thoughts

Next week I had scheduled for us to have off, but because we are not where I want to be with our lessons, we are having school. With the things that went on this week, we neglected to do a states study. I only hope that next week will be less blah.

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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Recipe: Banana-Orange Smoothies

George, my three year old, is always begging me for orange juice. He loves the stuff. But, it can become expensive if I gave it to him every time he asked for it. However, by turning it into a smoothie and adding bananas, it becomes more filling and he also gets the satisfaction of helping out in the kitchen (one of his favorite things to do). It's a win-win for everybody.

Banana-Orange Smoothies

Makes about 2 1/2 cups

2 very ripe bananas
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup ice
2 Tbsp. agave
1 tsp. vanilla

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Serve and enjoy!

Note: You can leave out the ice if you remember to freeze the bananas ahead of time.


Sunday, March 8, 2015

Recipe: Paglio e Fieno (Straw and Hay Pasta)

This became a favorite in our home recently. I love it, the kids love it, and even my husband loves it. It's a pleasantly mild cream sauce that is very easy to prepare (just throw it all into the blender!) with fresh peas, sun-dried tomatoes, and shiitake mushrooms. How can you go wrong with any of this??

Paglio e Fieno (Straw and Hay Pasta)
Recipe Source: Chloe's Kitchen by Chloe Coscarelli

8 oz. linguine
8 oz. spinach linguine
1 c. frozen peas
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 oz. shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced*
sea salt
black pepper
2 c. unsweetened almond milk
1 c. water
1/4 c. cornstarch
2 Tbsp. tahini
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp. onion powder
10 sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and chopped

*The original recipe calls for 6 oz. of shiitake mushrooms but they are rather pricey so I just buy one 3 oz. carton. This also helps keep the mushroom flavor to a minimum, as my husband is not their biggest fan (yet).

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add linguine and cook according to package directions. Add frozen peas to the boiling pasta right before draining. Drain and return to pot.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté mushrooms until soft and lightly browned. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

While mushrooms are cooking, prepare the sauce. Combine nondairy milk, water, cornstarch, tahini, soy sauce, garlic, onion powder, and 1 3/4 tsp. sea salt in a blender. Blend until smooth. Transfer sauce to a medium saucepan and let cook over medium heat, whisking frequently, until thick (about 5 to 10 minutes).

Toss hot pasta and peas with mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, and sauce. Serve immediately.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Week in Review: Baby Cheeks, New Jersey Disco Fries


Over the past two months, we have been battling a severe drool rash with Liam. The first photo was taken back in January, around the time it began. He woke up one morning with blood on his pajamas. By the time we got him to the doctor, it was already looking better so the doctor said to use Aquaphor on his cheeks and chin to keep them from getting irritated and to use hydrocortisone cream when it developed into a rash. This worked for a little while, but then the rash would come back and the Aquaphor seemed to have stopped working. The rash would usually look the worst over the weekend and by Monday it would be healing. This last weekend, however, he was miserable and itching, trying to scratch his chin on anything he could (usually my shoulder). His rash developed into sores with blood and puss. I took him in to see the doctor on Monday morning. She prescribed a steroid cream and also gave us some tips for the eczema. I do hope that this continues to do the trick. I'm glad I am able to kiss those chubby cheeks again. 

On Wednesday, we experienced some unusually warm weather. The temperature got up to 80 degrees!  Unfortunately, we had gotten behind with school and so we stayed indoors but opened all of the windows in the house. George pushed off all of our school books and papers from the top of the bookshelf so that he could have a seat to watch the birds and enjoy the fresh air. I forgave him for the mess on the floor and let him enjoy his afternoon.



We covered New Jersey for our states study. So far, Bridget has remembered the capitals and the locations on the map of the states we have covered. She is very proud of herself. Because we like food in our family, we usually prepare a dish that either originated in or is popular in the state we are covering. New Jersey has a treat called "disco fries", which is an Americanized version of the Canadian poutine. Poutine calls for brown gravy and cheese curds on fries. Disco fries calls for brown gravy and mozzarella cheese. I did not know what either of these dishes were, but I am glad we made it. Because of our diet, I made a mushroom gravy and vegan mozzarella cheese sauce for the fries. The kids really enjoyed it and we'll probably make it again.





Bridget is learning to skip count now. This week she learned how to skip count by 2s. She caught on quickly and it turned out to be a very quick lesson. We nearing the end of our math book for the year and I may need to purchase the next level before the school year is up.

Little Brother

George is becoming more interested in joining us for school. Every time I start any lesson with Bridget, he drops his toys and comes running, saying, "Me too, Mommy! I do school too!". So we're counting bears and making patterns while Bridget completes her math work. He is also (sort of) doing the vowels poem and consonants rhyme with Bridget. He doesn't understand what he's saying but he sounds cute when he says it. As far as the other subjects go, he really just shows up for the food.


We finished The Secret Garden. Bridget loved it and talks about India all the time now, even though the main character was only in India for a short time. We've been reading a few Berenstain Bear books I picked up at Barnes and Noble when went to buy more Classic Starts books. We are undecided what I will be reading to them next. George wants me to read Peter Pan and Bridget wants me to read Alice in Wonderland. I could do both but the fighting is over who gets their book first. I am glad they love being read to but it makes it less fun for me.


Disco Fries
Stuffed Shells
Lentil Loaf

Final Thoughts

I've decided to continue with homeschool through the summer. I had originally decided on finishing in May and starting back up in August, but things happen and we get behind. We also enjoy it so much (most days) so why would I want to take that away during the summer? I'll be sticking primarily with reading, writing, and math and let Bridget decide what else she wants to continue doing. If nothing else, then fine.

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