Tuesday, July 29, 2008

yum! Summer goodies just in time for the fast

The fast for the Dormition of the Theotokos is quickly approaching. It is a short fast, only two weeks, and it is a beautiful one, if you are able to attend the Paraklesis services throughout the week. I love that it falls at the peak of summer vegetable production, making it hard to even think about breaking this quick fast. Our tomatoes are coming in, juicy and sweet, the cucumbers are plentiful and crunchy, and we have corn coming out our ears :) So, here is a favorite summer recipe of mine, adapted from a recipe Kh. Martha used to make in the summer at our old parish. It makes great use of all the wonderful garden vegetables, and hits the spot on those hot summer days. It can be served as a soup, or eat it like a salsa, scooping the vegetables up with corn tortillas. For a full meal, just add some Spanish rice and black beans on the side. Perfect for summer fasting!


garden fresh tomatoes
3-4 carrots
as many cucumbers as you like (or have) - slice in half length-wise and remove seeds before chopping
3-4 stalks celery
1 large bottle of V-8 juice
1-2 bell peppers - red or green (we have some beautiful red ones right now!)
1 red onion (I am trying to use mostly vegetables from our own garden or CSA, so I have substituted a white onion in a pinch)
juice of 1 or 2 lemons
salt and pepper to taste

Chop all the vegetables into bite-sized chunks, add the V-8, lemon, salt and pepper. Refrigerate for several hours (even better if you can leave it overnight before serving, but I rarely can wait that long to eat it). Serve cold. If you cannot get fresh tomatoes - you can used canned - but it's just NOT the same :)

Kh. Martha's recipe calls for olive oil, tabasco and jalapenos - I am a bit of a wimp when it comes to spicy, so I leave the peppers and tabasco out. And since it is a fast, I also leave the oil out.

Monday, July 28, 2008

NOT an apology (see BWO in sidebar)

I have not posted in a while for several reasons. One, if you don't have anything good to post, don't post anything at all! Not that things aren't good around here, but it has been chaotic, and that combined with me being sick with a nasty cold/allergy thing, I have not been very productive . Second, my internet has been spotty over the past week or so, which has been a huge frustration. It makes me realize how much I rely on the internet for little things - like earlier today, the kids brought in a bucket full of green apples they picked from the yard, and wanted me to cook them for dessert tonight. My first thought was, oh, I'll just go*gle a recipe for an apple strudel. Oops, can't, internet's NOT working. I have to actually get out a cookbook and look it up, or call mom and get her ideas. Last night I was trying to make plans for vacation - we are heading to the beach in a week with my husband's family (10 children under the age of 9 all in one condo :), not to mention the adults. I thought I would look up local photographers to see about having some pictures done on the beach - oops, can't, internet's NOT working. When did "go*gle" become a verb? And when did I become so dependent on the ability to instantly get what I need (want)? I love internet access, and have quickly come to rely on it for everything from recipes and party ideas to directions to get anywhere. It shows the generational divide too, I think. My mother (who has a master's in physics) couldn't go*gle if her life depended on it. The idea of finding something out by looking online is completely foreign to her. It makes me stop and wonder, when will my kids pass me up in the technology march?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What I wish I could say!

I love the show House, because it is a fantasy world where Dr. House gets to say all the things to patients every doctor wishes he could say. Well, here is a list of all the things homeschoolers wish they could say to all those "well meaning" busy bodies who like to question us about homeschooling! My personal favorite:

#12 If my kid's only six and you ask me with a straight face how I can possibly teach him what he'd learn in school, please understand that you're calling me an idiot. Don't act shocked if I decide to respond in kind.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Toddlers and School Time

How do you keep a toddler busy and out of trouble? This certainly is a perennial problem of home school moms, so I am going to post a list of things we do to keep "the queen" busy at times when I need to focus on the older two.

sink time - this only works if you have a sink near where you school, which I am fortunate to have! I have a small tub with water toys that is kept under this sink, and a stool so she can play in the water

bean play - this has been a great entertainer - though if you have little crawlers you need to be careful about the choking hazard. I got a shallow storage box (like the kind for storing clothing under the bed) and filled it with dried pinto beans (courtesy of the Y2K stash!). I also put some plastic measuring cups and spoons, a shovel and some bowls for mixing, stirring, measuring and pouring beans. She can pull the box out herself now, and plays in the floor, then one of the older ones gets the job of sweeping or vacuuming beans. Much easier to clean up than sand :)

bubbles! - again, you have to have the right set up - we have a door off our school room that opens onto a patio - and windows all the way across, so I can let my 3 year old sit on the patio and see her the whole time. We have a box of bubble paraphernalia - and it keeps her entertained for quite some time.

activity boxes - I have 6 small boxes I filled with things that only come out during school. One is full of sticker sheets, paper, scissors, stamps, etc. One has a Mr. P*tato Head set, another contains a lot of little "happy meal" style toys. I filled a box with play doh and sculpting tools. One has "crafts" - pom pom balls, felt, pipe cleaners, glue, sequins etc. The last one contains the Fisher Price Let's Go Fishing Game - her favorite.

other items to have on hand to entertain a 2-4 year old

bean bags - with a box to throw them into

coloring books


matching games

lacing shapes

large beads to thread onto laces

large set of plastic jacks

felt story books - I had some of these from my teaching days, and my kids love them - many teacher supply places carry them - they are story books of familiar tales (Goldilocks, Red Riding Hood, Hungry Caterpillar) with felt pieces to put on the pages to tell the story (there are no words in the books) They are wonderful for second language instruction (that is why I had them) but they also are just plain entertaining. They are a bit pricey, but would make a great birthday or Christmas gift.

I also have a file box of Zipl*c bags with a variety of homemade activities (sorting, matching etc. ). Many of these ideas can be found at Paula's Archives.

Another great find was a water play station from K-Mart - it was on clearance and cost under $30 - a great birthday present for grandparents to give!

Finally, something I learned from MOTH: I have certain times during the day when an older child is assigned to play with a younger child. Both the older ones take a turn with the baby during the day (20-30 minutes), and they also each have one on one play time with the four year old. This is probably the biggest help. So when I know I need 30 minutes of time with the crocodile hunter, the little princess plays with her little sister during that time. Then they can trade off. Not only does this help me, but it encourages them to spend one on one time with each other.
Well, you have read my ideas, now share some of yours - if you have a great way to keep your toddler busy, leave me a comment with your idea or a link to your blog with ideas. I am always looking for more!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Just Say No

Remember that phrase? Well, this is something I have always struggled with, just saying no, to commitments, that is. I cannot tell you how many times I look at my life and realize it is time to cut back. I enjoy so many different things, and I have a tendency to jump in and do anything and everything I can squeeze in. Just in the next few weeks I will host a baby shower with 50 guests, a cocktail party to celebrate my brother-in-law's engagement, finish painting the mural on the nursery walls (which I started before the baby was born - she is almost 9 months now), receive my Kelly's Kids trunk for shows (yes, I'm a rep), make a poodle birthday cake for my niece, finish sewing beach outfits for my 3 girls (for beach vacation portraits in August), and teach a pillowcase dress class at the local children's fabric shop.

All the while, I am trying to get my home decluttered, my scrapbook room organized (ha, ha), and get ready for school to start. I look back and ask, what happened to summer? August is almost here! I list the above not to show "how much I do" or to make anyone feel like I am some sort of "supermom" (just ask my kids, I most definitely am NOT!). I recognize that my life is no busier than yours, that we are all constantly juggling the everyday events that pop up. I think most people go through life thinking they are so overwhelmed, and that no one else could possibly imagine how hard it is to live their life. But, I know that you have just as many pressing things on your mind, though they may be of a different sort. At the same time, I am immersed in books such as Seven Habits, and that is where the "just say no" comes in. I have been very struck by the time management paradigm that Covey uses. He boils our lives down to four different types of activities. Things are either important or not important, and they are either urgent or non-urgent. Most of us live in the urgent-not important. The ringing phone demands to be answered, it is urgent, but rarely important. The next event is always on the horizon, and life becomes crisis management. I enjoy planning parties. I enjoy teaching, sewing, and scrapbooking (or I used to, before I got 4 years behind!), I enjoy cooking, gardening, and decorating my home. I enjoy being able to have my children participate in activities such as soccer, gymnastics and "bug camp" (that would be for the Crocodile Hunter :). Each of these things is precious to me, they are things I look forward to, things that challenge me. They are not obligations for the most part, they are things I want to do. But most of these things are not that important. I am reminded of the tag passage at the bottom of my blog page, a passage that I have to keep posted in my kitchen to remind me to not become angry with others who in my mind don't seem to do their share when it comes to volunteering for jobs in church and elsewhere. One thing is needful. What a powerful phrase. So, once again, it is time to prune. I will try to focus on that one thing needful.

P.S. Dad, if you are reading this - note I used the word "enjoy" not "love" - see, some of those little pet peeves of yours got through :)

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Brain Overload

I am really excited to share what I listened to on my NEW i-pod. My husband ordered me one and it arrived the day before we left town. He set it up and showed me how to download (yes, I know, I am WAY behind the technology train). I am so glad he did! Remember the 9 1/2 hour trip (one way) I mentioned below? Well, I got to spend most of it listening to homeschool workshops. A friend sent me an email a few months ago, asking me if I had heard of the Ultimate Homeschool Expo. I checked it out, and decided to buy a ticket. I did not get to listen to any of the talks live, and have tried to listen to a few on the computer, but just have not had the time. So, I downloaded 16 different workshops on my i-pod, and listened and took notes. It was really great! I took about 15 pages of notes, and my head is spinning from different ideas that I can't wait to try out. If you can get past the moderators excessive use of the word "neat" and the tendency of every speaker to use the phrase "eksetera", it really is worth the time to listen. It was just the kick in the pants I needed to get me motivated to finish working on our plans for the fall, and to take another look at our routines and daily rule. I also got through most of Educating the Whole-Hearted Child, and found it to be a very helpful tool. It was a very productive trip, and I will be sharing more about what I learned if future posts.

A quick addition: I just received an email from Ultimate Homeschool Expo, and they are featuring a weekend of talks about getting organized for the new school year. Check it out, looks good! You can listen live for free, or purchase a ticket if you want to access the talks later as downloads.

Road Trip: Then and Now

Remember those long car rides you took when you were a kid? I vividly remember our family vacation trips to Florida (about a 10-11 hour drive from where we lived). My brother, sister and I used to pile all of our pillows and blankets in the floor of the station wagon (70's and early 80's) or Suburban (80's). We would bring books, snacks, toys and games, and make tents and have a ball. I still remember my favorite treat to take was those little baskets of gum that were shaped like strawberries - they even came in a little green plastic basket like real strawberries. What fun those trips were! I am sure that is not quite how my parents remember it. I am sure there were hours of "are we there yet?" and "I need to potty" and "hey, get off my side of the car!" And my father will never let me forget the time when I was 3 and threw up on the way home from D*sney W*rld, all over his brand new company station wagon.
Well, boy have times changed. We just arrived home from a long trip to visit my husband's extended family. The car ride there was 9 1/2 hours long. It was rather odd to look around our car and see my 2 older ones with headphones listening to Chronicles of Narnia on CD, the 3 year old (christened "the queen" by her godfather) with her headphones watching March of the Penguins on a small TV we had strapped to the console with bungee cords, and my husband and I both with our headphones on listening to our respective i-pods. Now, if only they made little headphones for a 9 month old :). She slept a total of 30 minutes the whole drive (did I mention it was a 9 1/2 hour trip ?) and cried for the last three hours straight. While I miss the days of making tents in the floor of the car on the way to Florida, I will confess, if you have to strap them down for 9 1/2 hours (and only make two 20 minute stops), then at least let them be entertained! That is hard for me to say, since I am all for them coming up with their own entertainment, but for sanity, we gave in to the technology, and only had to listen to "are we there yet?" a few hundred times.