Tuesday, April 22, 2014

#54 - Pay the kids their allowance (personally) every week for a month

I have {loosely} given Ryan an allowance for a few years now, but rarely, if ever, actually handed him the cash. Someone told me about an online piggy bank website that tracks how much you owe your kids, let's you make virtual withdrawals and increase their allowance at any time, so I've relied on that to tell me what I owe Ryan. And let's just say I owe him a lot. He has 184 week's worth of allowance that I need to deposit into his savings account!

But times, they are a-changin'. We wanted to start teaching the kids to be responsible with money, saving and giving before they spend it all, and it's worked out beautifully. We're about 5 weeks in and the kids are officially in the habit of asking for their allowance every Saturday. Even Jason looks forward to getting his 4 quarters! #54 is crossed off the 101 in 1001 list!
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Monday, April 14, 2014

#11 - Teach Jason to ride a bike

#11 on my list of 101 Goals in 1001 Days is nearly accomplished! As soon as Jason can figure out how to start himself on his bike, he'll be all set! 

He finally agreed to let Mike take his training wheels off a couple of weeks ago, then yesterday, Mike helped him work on starting and stopping on his own. Sometimes he can stop without crashing, but we're still working on the concept of starting. Every little bit helps! I wish I could figure out why my videos aren't uploading to YouTube because I have some really cute ones of him…he's SO PROUD of himself!!!
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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Overnight Baked French Toast (easily made Gluten Free!)

I found this recipe on Pinterest with the comment "Perfect Christmas Morning French Toast". We've had our friends' kids staying with us for the past few nights and yesterday, I couldn't flip pancakes fast enough to feed our temporarily enlarged family. So last night, I decided to find a make-ahead breakfast. 

I messed with the original recipe to lighten it up a bit, including a few adjustments to make it Gluten Free. Our non-GF house guests loved the GF version and begged for more! Everyone had seconds, until the pan was scraped clean.

         1 loaf stale bread (I used Gluten Free)
         12 whole eggs
         2 cups milk
         1 1/2 cup almond milk (or use regular milk)
         3/4 cups sugar (reduce to 1/2 cup if using honey or agave nectar)
         2 Tablespoons vanilla
         1/2 cup all-purpose flour (or Gluten Free AP flour)
         1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
         1 teaspoon cinnamon
         1/4 teaspoon salt
         1/2 stick (1/4 cup) cold butter, cubed

1. Grease a 9 x 13 inch pan.
2. Slice or tear the bread into chunks and place them in the greased pan.
3. Mix together eggs, milk, almond milk, sugar (or honey or agave), and vanilla. Pour the mixture evenly over the bread. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
4. Before heading to bed, prepare the topping. In another bowl, mix together the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Add the butter and mix until the batter comes somewhat together, like little pebbles. (I used a food processor) Store in a plastic bag in the fridge.
5. In the morning, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
6. Take the pan with the soaking bread and sprinkle the crumb mixture on top.
7. Bake for 45-50 minutes.

Yields 8-10 servings.

This is what the pan looked like 15 minutes after it came out of the oven. We will definitely be making this again! Probably for Easter morning. Yum!
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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Mommy Reward Chart

You know how I love checklists…

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Monday, April 7, 2014

#26 - Teach Ryan to read a recipe and make it without help

(Dear Future Daughter in Law…you are welcome!)

Ryan has been my little kitchen helper since he was two, but lately, cooking is really clicking for him. Last week, I gave him a new Flourless Chocolate Chip Brownies recipe to make on his own and he nailed it!
Then this morning, he made us all pancakes without any assistance. I'd say #26 on my 101 Goals in 1001 Days list is DONE! I need to get this kid to start making us all dinner once a week so I can work myself out of a job!!! 
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Sunday, April 6, 2014

Camping Theme Cub Scout Dinner

This weekend, Ryan's Webelos Cub Scout Den coordinated their Pack's annual Blue and Gold Dinner. All this Scout jargon to say that it was a fun camping theme that could easily transfer over for a birthday party or summer sleepover!

Here are some pictures from the event.
There were a variety of center pieces on the tables, including this one. Plus, we rolled plastic silverware into napkins, tied them with rope and stuck them in a blue bucket on each table instead of doing each place setting.
Another center piece - there was a tea light in the center that made the tissue paper glow and look life fire.
Another center piece - simply rocks in mason jars topped with an electronic tea light. The flash on my camera didn't exactly catch the cool "glow" of the jars, but you get the idea.
One of the moms made (hundreds) of campfire cupcakes. Chocolate cupcakes rolled in graham cracker crumbs for "dirt", fondant "fire" and Tootsie Roll "logs", plus some had edible rock candies on top.
They were displayed on a portable grill next to flashlights and propane lanterns. 
Ryan loves Cub Scouts. I'm not sure if he loves scouting as much as he loves all of the cool things he gets to learn and places he gets to go with the boys in his pack. Derby car racing, camping, hiking, learning to tie crazy knots, touring the state capitol, going to museums, learning about the Phoenix public transit system, whittling, crawdad fishing, selling things to raise funds (my little entrepreneur)…it's all pretty cool boy stuff. Plus he gets to earn patches and belt loops and other scout accomplishments! I'd like to take something out of our schedule to slow down a bit, but according to Ryan, Cub Scouts will NOT be the omitted activity. He genuinely enjoys it!
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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

My Accidental "Unschooling" Experience

I think I hit a wall. Or I didn't schedule enough breaks. Or I was burned out. 

After our unofficial Christmas vacation, we didn't jump right back into our homeschool routine because it wasn't long before we were headed to Hawaii. I fully expected to bring workbooks on the 6 hour plane ride, but was talked out of it by a fellow homeschool mom, who encouraged me to let our family vacation be about relaxing, not bringing our school routine across the ocean. I agreed.
We tried to get back into our rhythm after Hawaii, but a mere 10 days later, I up and left for Dallas for a leadership conference for four days. 

At that point, we were into February and had practically had a 2 month break from school. Sure, the kids did Spelling here and Math there, but nothing consistent. And I kind of liked it. I was dedicated to going to the gym every morning, which disrupted our previous jump-right-into-school-after-breakfast schedule. Upon returning home, everyone begged to play outside and how could I say "no" to that when it was 70 degrees in Phoenix and the rest of the country was snowed in? They'd play together nicely, then suddenly it was time for lunch, then nap time for Jason and I'd need to get some work done, pretty soon the day had gotten away from us. 
I spent February letting the kids play, explore, and learn from the world. We still did Spelling, Creative Writing and Math, but I completely scrapped our History lessons, ignored our Grammar books, and pretty much let all other subjects go for a while.  I got books at the library about time and space and we made sun dials and drew pictures about the months and seasons. We cooked and baked. We went to the park. A lot.
They finally began to fall in love with reading (I refused to ask them to put down a book to practice spelling words). Jason has made a daily habit of begging to read to anyone who will listen. He sneaks books in his bed at nap time to practice. 

How can I say "no" to that?

Yet I was struggling. Struggling because our loosey goosey school day didn't bother me. Struggling because I wondered if they were learning anything?  Struggling because we were spending very little time in our school room. Struggling because it didn't feel like we were really "doing" school.
Then March came. For one week, the charter school kids on our block were home for Spring Break and the next week, the public school kids were home for Spring Break. The doorbell rang off the hook all. day. long. Kids wanted to play at the park and ride bikes and play football and have Rainbow Loom bracelet sales in the front yard.
How could I say "no" to that?

Finally, last week, everyone else was back in school. The doorbell stopped ringing. There was space in our house to officially learn again. But had we really really taken a break from learning this whole time? 

I sat down at my computer and drew up a new schedule. I felt like we needed it. We'd spent 3-4 months accidentally living our lives as "unschoolers" and it was fun. For a minute. But I felt that we needed routine again.

These next three months before we take a break in June will be a little different. Ryan has taken over our pre-school "calendar time" which is mostly for Jason's benefit. I'm encouraging him to be responsible while expecting the littler kids to listen while he is in charge. 

We will be listening to our History lessons on CD in the van on our way to the gym and out and about running errands. We won't be summarizing the stories or answering follow up questions or doing activities, we're just going to listen. The kids already love it and remind me to turn on the CD as soon as their seat belts are buckled. Who knew the Middle Ages could be so captivating? 

They're still doing their independent work (Math, Spelling, Reading and Creative Writing) and I'm being more diligent about making sure each day's work is graded before they have free time. The only real group work we're doing is Bible/character lessons and Grammar. We spend less than an hour in the school room each day. The kids do their Math in the hallway and their Spelling words at the kitchen table while I make lunch or prepare snacks. They sneak in reading whenever they can and write stories with their (also home schooled) friends at the gym while I'm taking my Cycle or weights class.
I've been teaching Ryan to cook full recipes on his own with very little guidance from me. I just stand back and watch. Kaylin practices reading with Jason for fun. The kids work together to get chores completed quickly so they can play. (staying on task and not wrestling-until-someone-gets-hurt is still a work in progress)

Balancing our old, regimented schedule and our new, loosey-goosey approach is probably going to work best for us. The kids like to know what is expected of them and I like having a flexible plan to our day that allows the kids to follow rabbit trails and engage in their personalized interests.

I must admit that I used to unfairly judge "unschooling" homes. But I get it now. What a fun, easy way to establish a love for learning in a family! It's not 100% for us, but I hope I can incorporate more of a relaxed approach to our routine. It's so counterintuitive to my Type A personality, but it seems to be working for us at the moment!
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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Tricky April Fool's Day Food

The kids got a kick out of waking up to my April Fool's Day pranks this morning. All day, they were suspicious of anything and everything…wondering what lurked around every corner. I had more tricks up my sleeve, but ended up running out of time and energy. I promised to save them for next year. 

Ryan helped me make cupcakes for dinner (meatloaf with mashed potato "frosting") and crinkle French fries for dessert that were really Tastefully Simple's GF Vanilla Bean Pound Cake. It was fun!
{directions here}
I need to figure out how to upload my phone videos onto YouTube without a hassle, because I got the funniest video of him and Mike eating their Cheerios this morning. Ryan's were frozen solid in milk. BAHAHA! His reaction was priceless! I posted a shortened version of the video on Facebook, but I know many of you don't have access to my FB posts. So if anyone has any tips for why my phone videos won't upload to YouTube, please let me know!
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