Monday, September 9, 2013

The Start of Homeschooling - Preschool Style!

It is finally that time for our family - time to start schooling. While many were gearing up to send their kids off to their first day of preschool, I was preparing goals for our first year of schooling and picking up extra items I knew we would need throughout the year!
Preschool - for us, its definitely not 'formal.' While Caelyn may spend some time writing, our school is much more hands on and more everyday life.
My main and most important goal for homeschooling all of my children is to help cultivate a love of learning, which I believe often can be lost in normal schooling. I want my children to pursue their natural interests and passions first.

 Caelyn - on her first day of school

We are 3 weeks into school and we are finally getting into a groove that is working for us. Actual 'school' isn't more than an hour of our day - really, how much can a preschooler take? It usually involves our everyday activities:
  • Writing out the date
  • Checking the weather for the day!
  • Saying our prayers and reading the Bible verse we are focusing on for the week
  • Doing a few worksheets that revolve around the letter of the week.

 Brayden and Caelyn at the fire station - learning about community helpers!

Besides that, we spend a lot of time reading. At this age, reading is a wonderful way to learn and books can transport kids anywhere. We have read books about sea creatures, polar animals, whales, the Indians, Johnny Appleseed, and Abe Lincoln. I love to read and I pray that my children have the love for reading as I do once they are older.

Pinterest has become my absolute best friend! So many fun preschool activities can be found there. I usually pick one per day - whether it be a graph for numbers, a clothespin wheel, or some kind of nature activity. Whatever I pick, it tends to be fun and educational.
Two of Caelyn's number graphs

I try to tie in learning as much as I can and Caelyn is more than happy about it. Everyday has opportunities for learning, if we try to find them!

Overall, it is going fabulous! I cannot wait to reflect back on our first year and see what we learned (her and I both)!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Caelyn is 3 Years Old!!

Dear Caelyn,
You are officially 3 (as of two days ago). Mommy is having a hard time believing it has been 3 years since I first held you and looked at your beautiful face.
It is amazing how much you have grown in 3 years!
You are such a joy to our family!
 You have truly turned into a 3 year old - full of spunk, attitude, life, excitement, energy.
You tire mommy out just by watching you.
Your love of life and fascination to learn is contagious.
You give me a reason to get up every morning and to be a better mother everyday.
 Little girl, you tell me you love me more times a day than I can count. You strive to help me every second of the day. Your heart is so beautiful. Your personality is more than I can comprehend sometimes.
Everyday, I try to be a better person because of you.
 Your birthday was so much fun. You were so excited to have your family over to celebrate. Presents, cake, dressing up and family made your day!
You received a lot of great presents, but I think what made you the happiest was your family and party time.

You are so smart. I have people tell me all the time how impressed they are because you speak so well and have for months - full sentences and so clearly. You are so giving and wonderful with Brayden. You love being a big sister!
We are starting preschool officially next month with you (homeschool) and I know you are so ready to learn. You know most of your ABCs, numbers, colors, shapes, you can match and make patterns. So many more things! I can't wait to teach you.

I love you and I cannot wait to watch you grow!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Homemade Treats

Our kitchen has been busy today - full of laughter, smells, and yummy food.
I wanted to share these recipes with you that we made today!
We are on the quest to replace our old snacks and all of our food with healthy alternatives. After reading the ingredients in a lot of food, I can't believe what is added and I don't want to give it to my family! Here are a few replacements!

One of my favorite treats to make is graham crackers, but they are more similar to teddy grahams. They are super popular in our house!
I have been using Weelicious' recipe for Homemade Graham Crackers for nearly two years and we love it!
Caelyn is like any other normal kid and loves fruit snacks - ya know, those Welch's ones that pretend to be healthy and 100% fruit but then you turn over the box and can't pronounce the ingredients? Yea.. that one!

So, these are SUPER easy - they might take me 10 minutes but most of that is cooling down. This recipe for homemade fruit snacks makes me happy as a mom because there is FOUR ingredients - fruit (whatever one you pick), juice (whatever you pick - lemon gives it more of a sour taste. We like apple juice), honey, and gelatin.

I have been gearing up to make homemade yogurt. To be honest, it scared me a bit! It seemed intimidating. Yeah, I was so wrong!
I browsed a few websites and most of the recipes were the same. Here is a good description of what I did.
To make flavors, I blended up different fruit and mixed it in! Banana and strawberry banana are our favorites!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Introducing Praying to Children

Praying isn't something that has always come naturally to me. Even now, at times, it can feel awkward.

I never thought of praying as something that is taught, but when Andrew and I realized that we needed to raise Christian children, we were faced with huge problem. We weren't really raised, either of us, in Godly homes. Sure, our parents believe in God, but my parents never set time aside to read the Bible, pray, go to Church, or anything similar. So, when faced with this task, it was huge and overwhelming.

I realized right away that introducing prayer to our children should be a number one priority, but that means that I had to change as well. I couldn't always internally speak to God; I had to do this out loud as well.

It was so hard at first! Boy, the first time I told Caelyn to come pray with me, she looked at me as if I had 3 heads, but she did it.

I remember the first time that I sat at our large front window with her and we talked about everything she could see outside and then I said "Caelyn, God made everything you see. God made the trees, the grass, the sun." She was hooked and asked me if He made the rocks, the bushes, the birds - then we saw a birdie get a worm for its babies.
Then, I told her we have to thank God for what He gives us. She thanked him for the sun.... and her toys! (She thanks daily for her toys haha!)

We continued doing this daily, even a few times a day!

Then, we began to truly pray together.
It started when I realized one of my friend's had to bring her baby to the hospital for seizure. I called Caelyn over and we held hands and I prayed for the baby. After, she asked me all kinds of questions. It felt perfect.
Then, we began to do so all the time - we pray together when I know someone needs it or when I need it or her! The days I am feeling truly impatient or angry, when she is really struggling with her behavior, when Brayden is having a bad day - we pray. We pray before we leave the house.

I thought it would be so hard but I realize its not at all. Its always the perfect way to grow the bond closer with your child. I can't wait to see what our prayer life develops into!

We are now beginning to pray as a family at dinnertime; it is our next step. Then after that, we will begin bedtime prayers. I desire for prayer to be an everyday thing, not just something that takes place during Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Slow Cooker Potato Soup

Today, I think the weather outside might have hit 20 degrees - if that! It has been freezing!!

It was one of those days that I knew our dinner something warm and hearty. When I think of warm and hearty, soup always pops into my mind!

This time, I picked potato soup (Andrew would argue that he wants chili all the time but alas, the cook gets to pick)!
I've made potato soup before but never really loved the outcome, but I sure loved this one!

When I can, any meal goes into the slow cooker, for two reasons. 1) its much easier in the morning to put together a meal than rushing in the evening and 2) if there is a meal in the slow cooker, there is 0% chance of us going to get food out to eat (therefore, helping our food budget).

What you'll need:
5-6 large potatoes, sliced into 1/2 inch portions
1 large onion, diced
32 oz chicken broth
1 cup milk
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon oregano
1/4 cup butter
3 cloves of garlic, pressed or chopped.
1 cup sour cream
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3-4 pieces of bacon, cooked and chopped.

Combine the potatoes, onions, chicken broth, milk (or heavy cream if you have it), salt, pepper, thyme, oregano, garlic and butter.
You can cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.
After cooking, add in the bacon, cheese and sour cream.
I use an immersion blender to puree up the soup, leaving some chunks or you could just mash and mix it up.

Tada! Delicious.

Monday, January 21, 2013

It Is Just a Season..

On Christmas Eve, I was hosting dinner at my house. My grandmother was speaking to me as I was finishing up the last few details and I was also hurrying Caelyn to go pick up her toys.
She said, nothing ever seems to rattle you. You are always so calm.
I laughed and said yeah, but I was busy, so that was the extent of my answer.

It wasn't until later, a few days later, did I really think about what was said to me.
My grandmother doesn't see me when my face is turning red after a horrendous day of tantrums, no naps, accidents, and meltdowns.
She doesn't see me when I am talking to God, pulling every ounce of strength I have inside of me to calm myself.

I suppose, when compared to how I was two years ago, I have come far. Things don't stress me out this time around. My patience with my kids has grown.
Thank the Lord - I give him every ounce of credit!!
I had a realization when Brayden was born that this baby wasn't a baby forever.
Seems simple, right? Everyone always says it, but who actually thinks about it - hard?
It feels like yesterday that Caelyn was born. I can remember the anticipation, the joy of her first cry, the moment I held her, the sweet smell of her newborn skin...
Yet now, she is this beautiful, full of life little girl who says things beyond her age most days and keeps me on my toes. She is now a loving sister.
I remember people pressuring me to "put her down" and let her "cry it out" and let her fall asleep on her own. All kinds of things that never felt right to me.
I told them no, and let it go.
She is now almost 3 and goes to bed on her own. 
I rocked her til she was 18 months old. I never told people that before I knew the judgement would be insane. I LOVED it and I didn't want to hear criticism for my choice. One day, she said she wanted to go ni ni by herself and that was the end of our rocking.

Brayden isn't the best sleeper or napper. We fully cosleep at night and we are trying to get him used to sleeping in his crib for naps before we even consider nighttime.
I'm fine with that.
The days that are sleepless (with teething - its pretty frequent!!)I remind myself, one day I will have an empty nest.
Thats so crazy to think about!
But, 15 years from now, Caelyn will be graduating high school and considering college. She might leave to go away!
Then, Brayden and any other kids that we have.
One day, we will have no kids at home and I will have no kids at my home to keep me busy at night.
I don't think there are any 20 year olds out there that go home to be rocked to sleep by mommy.

I believe God put me in this "season" of my life for a reason. I really believe God is pushing me to develop patience and to appreciate my life.
On days that you have had 5 hours of sleep in 2 days, it is SOOO hard to see into the future. But, I promise it ends. I promise you will look back and smile, thinking of the coos and cuddles you had at 2am. One day, you will be crying because all of your babies are grown not over lack of sleep.

So, grandmother, I think you are right. Little does rattle me. I have picked to look at the bigger picture, not the tiny picture. I pick to see the future. I realize that, while in the moment that darn clicking noise my daughter is making with her tongue is annoying, its not going to matter in a day. There is no use in yelling. What is going to matter is the relationship that I developed with my kids and that I teach and mold my children to become productive, God loving, loving, kind, talented, smart, just-who-God-made-them-to-be children!

I know this is quite rambled together, but I sure hope you can follow my thought process this late at night!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Homemade Laundry Detergent

I have had a lot of people express interest when I say that I make my own laundry detergent. Many think that it has to be difficult or take too long to make. Quite the contrary really, I can do it when I start dinner and be done with the detergent way before dinner is finished. The total of time is probably 10-15 minutes and, considering how much money we save, it is well worth the time!

To start off, you need 4 simple ingredients: water, borax, washing soda (NOT baking soda!!!), and a fels-naptha bar.

Get a large pot (similar to the one in the right of this photo and a cheese grater. Grate the fels-naptha bar. You could probably use a food processor or anything to get it into small little chunks.

Put all of the grated fels-naptha bar and 8 cups of water into the pot and bring to a boil.. I let it boil for a few moments to let all of the chunks melt completely.

At this point tonight, I started dinner (Andrew took a picture of me doing so! haha). Once it has began to boil, add 1 cup of borax and 1 cup of washing soda. Stir this well and let simmer/cook together for about 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat!

You will need two gallon jugs. I use milk jugs and the same ones have lasted me 6 months. But, they aren't pretty!

I use a measuring cup and measure out 4 cups of the detergent for one jug and 4 cups for the next jug.

Fill the jugs up the rest of the way with water and shake them well! I let them sit for awhile.

Warning: this will get lumpy at times. Thats ok! I readd water after I put detergent into the washer. (So you get even more out of it all!) This tends to help it unclump.
I have used this detergent for over 6 months, probably closer to 8-9 months. I use it on everyone's clothes - including Brayden and I have from the start.

I consider detergent making pretty thrifty. I was never able to get detergent for free via coupons. I suppose if you can do that, then this isn't as cheap as that!
The cost to make this detergent:
$1 per fels-naptha bar
3.99 for a box of borax
3.99 for a box of washing soda
Water = free (Well besides your water bill but you get the point!)
Out of each box, I will probably get 20 cups so the price per cup for each is:
$.20 approx

so for $1.40 I get two gallons of detergent thats $.70 a piece and they last me about 1.5 months. Awesome!! I don't think I will ever NOT make detergent again!