Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Million Things to Do with your Kids...part 1

1.  Hug them.

2.  Tell them you love them.

3.  Let them play with their food.  We were eating supper a few weeks ago and Big Mac had some mashed potatoes left on his plate at the end of the meal.  He said, "Can I pick these up with my hands?"  I said, "Sure!"  much to my husband's shock and surprise.  After a few minutes of squishing, he cleaned everthing up including himself and his plate and we moved on with the evening.

4.  Take a walk.  Find a new trail to hike or a new road to travel.  We recently discovered a new trail at our local state park and it's our go-to favorite.

5.  Stop at a playground.

6.  Play a video game.  The boys are great at them.  I am not.  They begged and begged for me to play with them one day.  I finally agreed and we had a great time.  I was killed multiple times in 15 minutes, but we laughed and joked the entire time.

7.  Play chess.

8.  Play checkers.  You can make your own set out of bottle caps and paper if you don't have checkers.  You can draw a checkers board in the sand at the beach and use shells or in the dirt at a campsite and use rocks.

9.  Throw the baseball.

10.  Keep a gratitude journal.  You can both share your thankfulness.

11.  Go to a baseball game.  Whether it's your local little league (which can be hysterical) or a minor or major-league game, these are lots of family fun.

12.  Clean their closets.  It's actually fun to see what they've worn in the past, what they've outgrown, and make a list of what they need.

13.  Learn a new card game.

14.  Cook supper.

15.  Dance.  Turn the music up LOUD!

16.  Have a campfire.  If you can't have a fire ring in your yard, fire up the grill.  OR when we lived in an apartment, we put a bunch of tea light candles on a tray and had a "campout" inside the apartment.

17.  Play in the sand.  You can do this at the beach, in a sand box, or, again, inside.  We put a bag of sand in a large flat plastic tub and had an indoor sandbox.

18.  Start a nature journal.  Draw a picture of something in your backyard and look up the proper name for it on-line.

19. Play chinese jumprope.  If you don't own a chinese jumprope, make one out of elastic. 

20.  Keep track of the weather.  This is a great use for an old calendar.

21.  Paint.  Finger paints...watercolors...acryllics...oils...poster name it.

22.  Make a mural.  Tape a big piece of butcher's paper onto your wall and let the kids add to it whenever the mood strikes.

23.  Watch birds.  We have a platform feeder outside our living room picture window and a hummingbird feeder attached to our picture window.

24.  Have a pet.  In the past we have had dogs (still have 2), cats (still have 1), a rat, 2 anoles, a frog, 2 guinea pigs, and 2 Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches.

25.  Take in a stray.  We took in a stray dog in late January.  She gave birth to 5 puppies three weeks later!  We had no idea!  What an adventure.

OK, that's the first installment of 1,000,000 things to do with your kids...only 999,975 to go!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Write It Down!

Ok, I think I'm learning!  I really do.  I'm learning that even though I have a good mind and a good memory I can't remember it all.  I need to write things down!  Here's what happened to solidify this for me:

I was working on math with T-bone.  During our work, he and his brother had a very funny conversation that I wanted to remember.  I quickly grabbed his notebook and scribbled down what they were saying.  The next day, I could not recall that conversation, but I could remember that I wrote it down!  I found the notebook and copied it into one of my own so that I could have that little treasure.  The same day that the boys had that funny conversation, I was making breakfast and used the last of the non-stick spray.  I thought, "Oh, I should have the Big Dog stop on the way home and pick this up."  But I didn't write it down.  Later that day, the Big Dog called from work and said, "Do you need me to stop and pick anything up on my way home?"  My answer?  "Well, I know I do...but I can't remember what it is!"

So here's the lesson boys and girls!  Write it down!  Have a great thought?  Write it down.  Think of something you want to blog about later?  Write it down!  See a great idea in a magazine at the Dr's office?  Write it down!  That's my plan.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Our New Favorite Snack...

I recently read this post for a popcorn snack.  We've been eatting our share of popcorn lately, it's our favorite snack.  But this sweet treat is especially terrific.  Although the recipe as written is good, I've adjusted it slightly and I want to share it with you:

Popcorn Treat

1 bag microwave popcorn (not the small individual size)

1/4 C butter

1/2 C honey

1/4 C or more of slivered almond

Instructions:  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  While it's preheating, spread almonds on a baking sheet and place in the oven to toast.  Keep an eye on them because they burn quickly.  Pop popcorn in the microwave and then pour into a large bowl.  (Our favorite is Pop Secret Homestyle)  While the popcorn is popping, melt the butter and honey in a saucepan on top of the stove. Bring that mixture to a boil.  When the almonds are lightly browned, sprinkle them over the popcorn.  Then slowly pour the honey butter mixture over the popcorn and nuts.  Stir well to ensure that it's all coated.  Place aluminum foil on a baking sheet and spray with non-stick spray.  Pour popcorn mixture onto baking sheet and spread out across the pan.  Bake in the 400 degree oven for 5-10 minutes.  Again, watch it, it burns quickly!

This feeds the four of us with no leftovers.  And we devour it.

Monday, May 23, 2011

How I Follow a Blog

Although I consider myself somewhat technologically savvy, I don't get some of the blog-following tools and how they work.  Some of my friends use Google friend connect.  I've connected to their blogs using this, but other than connecting, I don't know how to follow or read their blogs using friend connected.  This blog you are reading is part of Facebook Networked blogs.  You can add me the blogs you follow using that.  I follow a bunch of blogs on Networked blogs.  When their blog entries show up on my FaceBook page, I read them.

But the way I truly follow a blog is this:  If I find a blog I enjoy reading or that follows something I enjoy, like homeschooling, knitting, or crochet, I add it to my favorites.  In my internet favorites I have a "blog" folder.  Links to all those blogs I enjoy are in the "blog" folder.  When I get a few spare minutes in my day, or if I just need a little pick-me-up, I go to my blogs folder and start clicking through to some of my favorites looking at any updated content.

I'm not going to share all my favorites with you, but two of them are :

  • Everyday Crochet  Doris Chan, popular crochet designer, blogs here and shares some of her lovely patterns for free.  She's really amazing and I'm anxious to make several of her crochet projects.  They're always lacy and beautiful.

  • My Repurposed Life  I have a headboard and footboard in the attic that I'm longing to turn into a bench.  The projects and pictures on this blog are really inspiring!

So that's how this not-very-blog-savvy individual follows blogs.  Check out those two above, you may find them enjoyable.  What blogs do you follow and why?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Homemade Sausage

On the weekend, the Big Dog makes breakfast.  If we're not rushing off to church or some other weekend activity we love a big fry-up.  He makes eggs-to-order, toast, and homefries.  When we catch a good sale, we have bacon, ham or sausage with our fry-up.  But then I found this recipe for sausage seasoning and now we can have breakfast sausage every day!

The recipe is for five-pounds worth of sausage.  But what I do is mix up the total recipe and then add a heaping tablespoon-full to one-pound of ground meat.  We've used ground-venison, ground-beef, and even ground-chicken!  And it tastes delicious.  All the spices are ingedients I usually have on-hand in my pantry.  We often get ground meat in our monthly purchase of Angel Food boxes, and this is a great way to use some of those packages that aren't of the quality you would use to make burgers or another ground meat main dish.

As a matter of fact, the picture above was made with ground chicken from Angel Food.  And we're due to get one-pound packages of ground chicken in this month's box too.  I think there will be some biscuits and gravy in my future!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Time for Prayer!

I have a little wooden sign on the windowsill above our kitchen sink that says "Time for Prayer!"  It's a great reminder to me.  I love the idea of  praying without ceasing.  I think we should always have a conversation going with the Lord all day long.  I love that the Amish women wear their prayer kapps all the time because they want to be reminded to pray without ceasing.

So, I have tried to sprinkle little prayer reminders around our house and throughout my day to remind me to keep the conversation going. 

I have an alarm on my phone that rings at 11 AM every morning.  This all began when I was talking on the phone with my friend Eric.  He was walking down the street in New York City, where he lives and works, and he said, "Hey let's pray for each other at 11 AM today!"  And so we did.  This began a daily habit.  The alarm reminds me to pray for Eric at that time every day.

I have started writing down prayer concerns in my calendar.  When I hear of a friend or family member having a medical appointment, or other challenge on a certain day, I put it in my calendar.  I don't keep a special prayer calendar, I use the same calendar that I write all my family appointments in.  It's the calendar I look at each morning to plan our day.  So I see that prayer request multiple times in a week and am reminded to pray.

Lastly, part of my daily devotions is to read a prayer in "The Valley of Vision."  This book of puritan prayers touches me every time I read a prayer.  It's not rote repition for me but a way for me to cry out to God in prayer.  The prayers in this book always speak to me about my life and spiritual state.  I use the words in the prayer I choose from The Valley of Vision to guide my heart in speaking to my Lord.

So, those are some of the ways I am able to fill my day with prayer.  Do you have more ideas for me?  I'd love all the tips I can get to fill my day with prayer.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Sometimes I feel like the homescool outsider.  Many prominent homeschoolers have lots of children.  We have two.  Many prominent homeschoolers eat all organic, grind their own wheat, bake their own bread.  Although I love to bake, I do it when the mood strikes me, not to keep our bread-box supplied...we buy white bread *gasp*.  I've read lots of articles from homeschool parents listing all the hazards of computer-time, video games, and TV.  We love TV.  We own multiple computers, recently buying laptops for the boys.  And the boys have an X-Box.  We don't limit computer or video game time.  They boys are well-behaved and interesting.  When we want to go outside and play they are eager to do so and don't whine that they want to stay at their laptop or X-Box.  I must admit that we all are overweight.  I'm sure that a little less TV and a little more outside time would benefit all of us greatly, but we're working on it.

So I struggle.  I am hesitant to admit in certain circles how much TV we watch or what X-Box games the boys own.  During last year's Schoolhouse Expo I listened to Todd Wilson's presentation with rapt attention.  He said something like, "You are the mother God intended for the children you have."  That statement really impacted me.  Not to say that I don't have a LONG way to go in the parenting department.  But God put the boys in our home ON PURPOSE, as much for their learning as for ours.  And we are a technological family.  Daddy works in a computer-related position.  In the past I was a PC trainer, now working for TOS where everything I do is on my laptop.  We appreciate and understand the impact the internet has made on education.  And so I'm trying to embrace who we are and not feel as though I need to be something else for those around me who may not share the same lifestyle.  After all, I don't think, "Oh they're so natural.  They should spend some more time in front of the PC!"  Why would I assume that others are judging me and saying, "Look at how much time they spend with technology!  They should really change!"?

All that being said, when the boys were working on their final projects for the 4-H embroyology class, I decided it was time to learn MS Power Point.  These videos were the silly-ones they created when they learned the software.  They did much more serious presentations for the Embroyology class, but I thought these were fun.


and T-Bone's:


Our nephew has had to do a few Power Point presentations at his company, including one that detailed his 10-year plan for his future with the company.  Our 14 and 12 year old sons are well on their way to learning the technology needed to compete in a technology forward-world.  I am unashamed at their prowess and quick-learning.  Their PC skills are excellent for students their age.  As a family, we embrace technology.  That's who we are and how God made us.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

How to solve a word problem...

T-bone is working through Algebra 1/2 this year and there's one problem that comes up again and again that we have working formula for.  I want to share this with you, in case it could help you with your math studies or instruction.  Here's the problem:

What number is 70% of 35?

We have had quite a few of these problems this year and t-bone is a total master of them.  Here are the tricks:

  • of means multiply

  • is means equals

  • the phrase that starts with "what" is your variable.

So, in this case, the problem would be written like this:

WN=.7 x 35

This is an easy one because the variable is already on the end.  We don't have to worry with getting it by itself.  So all you do is multiply .7 times 35 and you get the answer 24.5.  Want to try another one?

25 is what percent of 100?

Using the same method above, you just read the problem from left to right.  Start with "25 is".  The word is means equals:


Then we have "what percent".  That's our variable, the word "what" is our clue.  So now our equation is:


Then we have the word "of".  do you remember what OF means?  Of means multiply.

25=WP x

Finally, we list our last number and we have a complete equation:

25=WP x 100


Ok now we have to SOLVE this problem.  It's a little more complicated because the WP variable isn't by itself.  Anytime you see a variable or a letter your goal is to get it by itself.  Since our WP is not by itself, we need to get rid of that 100.  How do you do that?  You do the opposite of whatever it is doing to our WP.  In this case, we are multiplying WP by 100.  So the opposite of multiplying is dividing. 

Another ruled:  whatever you do on one side of the equals sign, you must also do on the other

So, we divide both sides of the equal sign by 100.  That gets rid of the number with the variable, WP.  And now we have a math problem to solve.  25 divided by 100 is .25.

WP = .25

Let's take it one small step further and then I'll be finished...I promise!

The problem asks us "what percentage."  .25 is not a percentage.  But here's the dealio, any number with two decimals can be converted to a percentage by just dropping the . and adding a %.  In our case:

WP = 25%

And there you go.  Step-by-step how to solve a very basic algebra problem.  See YOU CAN DO THIS!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Valuable Geography Resource

Have you ever been working through a Unit Study, reading a book with your children, or studying a certain period of time and thought, "I wish I could find a map for this, but I want to be able to customize it?"  I have!  There have been so many times that I have wished for a specific map to go with our bible studies, book, or history studies.  Well, I was so excited when I received my copy of Wonder Maps from Bright Ideas Press.  This is just the resource I've been wishing for all of these years!

Using Wonder Maps, you can customize a map to just what you want.  It can be color or black and white.  It can have labels or not.  It can have borders, topography, or a "modern overlay."  The modern overlay is really cool.  If you are using an older map, say the colonies before anyone really lived in America, you can see the map how it would have appeared then WITH how the country is divided into states today!  Brilliant.  This resource is an invaluable resource for all of our studies.

The best way to understand what WonderMaps is is to watch the introduction video on You Tube.  Check this out:


To contact Bright Ideas Press for more information about this product, I'm going to quote the vendor directly:  "If at any point you have questions or require technical support, you may either call our office at 877.492.8081 (ask for Tyler) or email Our offices are open M–F, 9am–5pm, Eastern Time. We're more than happy to assist you in any way possible."  You will find them easy to work with and full of information.

Right now you can find Wonder Maps featured on the Bright Ideas Press homepage.  It is $49.95 for over 350 customizable maps.  No, this isn't a curriculum, but more of a supplement to your current curriculum.  But, think about it, whatever time period you are studying, you can go into Wonder Maps, customize the map to whatever you are studying and have your children work from this map tailored to their studies.  You can incorporate geography into all your studies using Wonder Maps.  For instance, if you are reading a book or story set in a particular country during a particul time-period, find a map on Wonder Maps and have your child mark the map with the main characters and their travels.  There are limitless possibilities for this resource.

But, as usual, don't take my word for it.  Check out the reviews of my fellow crew members and do your research.  In my opinion, this is a really useful resource for all homeschoolers.  It will be something you use every year and incorporate it within your history and literature studies.

I received a complimentary copy of Bright Ideas Press' Wonder Maps in order to complete this review.

Sermon Notes

I'm a note taker.  It helps to keep me focused.  Usually, I take my notes, star the scriptures I want to remember, and then file the notes in a little notebook in my desk.  Today I thought I'd share these notes with you.  Don't worry, it will be quick.

Today we had a guest speaker, Dr. Terry Brensinger.  The scripture was Isaiah, 31:1-3.  Isaiah 31:1 is the one I really want to remember and it summed up the entire sermon.  Here it is:

Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the LORD!

Here's the deal, men disappoint, and die.  Houses crumble.  The weather fluctuates.  The only steady thing...the only thing we can count the Lord.  Dr. Terry said it better than me when he said,

"Pyramids crumble

and pharoahs pass away,

but God stands firm forever."

Friday, May 13, 2011

Listen to Me!

Do you use that phrase?  I do.  It's usually when I want the boys attention before going to an outting.  It goes something like this, "Listen to me.  We are NOT staying at this gathering for long.  Do you understand?"  or "Listen to me.  If you do not behave during this meeting there will be no X-box for a week!" 

For me, "listen to me" is a preface to a command.  I'm telling the boys that something serious is coming and they need to perk-up!

Yesterday, I heard that phrase in my head but in a different way as we were driving to a youth group gathering.  The boys are always excited on Thursday afternoons.  They are part of a group of very like-minded like-personality junior-highers at our church about 40 minutes away from our house.  The group is called Edge.  Actually, Thursdays are a fun day for the the boys and me.  They have "Edge" in the afternoon and then we hang out near the church, going out for a fast-food supper together, and return to the church for worship team rehearsal where I play the piano, sing and sometimes lead.  It's a long day, but a fun one for the three of us.  Daddy "fends for himself" here at home, and I get some special time with our guys.

Since we have a lengthy drive to church, and the boys are always excited about going to Edge, they are very animated and chatty.  Yesterday was no exception.  We weren't even a mile from the house when the boys were talking over one-another trying to tell me all that was on their minds.  Their conversations are funny as they jump from subject to subject, sometimes in a very random way.  I have to confess that sometimes I tune them out.  I let them chatter and I make my mental lists or re-hash a recent conversation.  But as we were heading to Edge yesterday, I heard "listen to me!"  in my mind.  I'm sure it was the Holy Spirit's prompting. I was drawn into their conversation, reminded that the time I have with the boys is precious.   I need to listen to every word, even the silliness, and be part of it. 

Our oldest is 14 and a half.  Our yougest is almost 13.  It seems like two minutes ago they were 2 and 3 years old.  The time goes by so quickly.  I am often reminded that our time with the guys is fleeting.  And they will be adults in such a short amount of time.  I know I will long for those 40-minute drives with our chatty boys when they are out and on their own.

And so, with renewed perspective, I'm listening.  I am putting away my lists and concerns long enough to hear whatever is on the boys' hearts to share with me.  Hopefully, I can tuck away what they have to say for those days when they are fully grown and I'm missing them.  Since that reminder to listen, the phrase, "listen to me" holds new meaning.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Natural Egg Dyes

I know.  I know.  Easter has past for this year.  But the boys and I are finishing an embroyology course through our homeschool support group and our local 4-H and one of the things we did tonight for an experiment was dyeing eggs with natural items found around the house.  Check 'em out:

For the yellow in the foreground, we used turmeric.  The dark purple on the right are red wine.  The dark brown in the middle are coffee.  And the deep rust colored eggs at the top are onion skins.

Here is the process:  put the raw eggs in the pan and cover with water.  Then pour a splash of white distilled vinegar into the water and the item you are using to dye the eggs.  Bring to a boil and boil for 15 minutes.  Rinse with cold water to stop the cooking of the eggs and enjoy the natural colors!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Field Trip: Military Museum

We trundled into the van with our close friends to take a trip to the military museum in Boalsburg, PA this week.  It was a damp and cold day, not great for being on their beautiful walking trails, but the boys didn't mind.  They still took all the time they could to climb up onto the tanks.

The boys had to climb on all the tanks before we went into the museum.  Although I found it to be appealing, for $6 per person, it was a little pricey for the size.  We saw the entire thing in under 1/2 an hour.  Now, granted, if you took the time to read the text at every display, it might take longer, but when you're with three energetic boys THAT's not going to happen!

We went back outside to eat our lunch.  The boys ate on a tank, the moms ate in the warm van.  We would have taken lots more time to walk the grounds, but again, it was cold and damp.  There is a beautiful memorial and we took a bit of time to tour that before heading to the van for good.

We will go back.  And take the Big Dog with us.  He would LOVE that place.  There was a small gift shop an the boys each got a lapel pin.  T-bone's is a pair of flight wings, like the Airforce receive.  Big Mac got a pin that says he is an Army Ranger.  Next time, I would pick a sunnier, warmer day, and skip the museum, simply spending my time touring the grounds.  There is plenty to see as well as a lovely walking trail.

It was a great trip.  We will definitely go back.  They stage lots of reenactments during the year, so we'll be there for one of those soon.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Printable Graph Paper

We are working our way through our embroyology papers as part of a 4-H project when I needed some graph-paper.  I know I have a tablet of graph-paper somewhere...but where?  So I went to swagbucks, typed in "printable graph paper" and one of the options was this.  It's simple.  It's brilliant.  "Print Free Graph Paper" is useful and very handy when you need a sheet of graph paper.

And it's not just for the homeschool.  Are you planning a room re-design?  Use graph paper to lay out the room on paper.  Are you designing a crochet or knit pattern?  Use graph paper to design your pattern.  And you can customize your graph paper to your needs.  Too cool.

I know that those of us that homeschool think about the pioneers and wonder how they did it.  I wonder how they did it without the internet!