Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween! (Post 2 of 2)

Today was the Big Day.  Halloween.  One of the traditions that I started recently (as in, last year) was making an actual Halloween meal.  Last year I did a cutesy thing where I made faces with food.  This year, I went a little more disgusting.

Moldy green beans with pond scum
 I made these by making green beans the same way I always do.  I started by pan-frying up some bacon, then throwing the green beans into the bacon grease, adding a little water, and simmering everything until the green beans are done.  Then I crumble the bacon and add it back in.  Not exactly health food, but it works.

The difference today is that I added black food dye when I added the water.  For the record, bacon takes food dye really, really well... and really quickly, too!  And in the end, the green beans were pretty gross-looking.

For the main dish I sliced hot dogs into really thin strips.  Simmer the strips (again, I added some red dye to enhance the color) until they curl up.  Drain, and add ketchup or barbecue sauce for 'blood.'

If you do it right, you can convince your kids that the hot dogs are actually worms or intestines.  My kids were extremely skeptical about that dish, and usually M1 sees right through these sorts of food pranks.

After we ate, it was time for dressing up.

This year I had Alice in Wonderland and the Mad Hatter.

M2 loved being Alice.  She also learned that long skirts making climbing stairs hazardous.  Don't worry, she's okay.  Ignore the red all over her face.  She's still recovering from having poison ivy all over her face, and she keeps rubbing her cheeks and licking her lips, so some spots are chapped.  *sigh*

Together, the kids were irresistible.

They do love one another.

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Halloween! (Post 1 of 2)

Halloween is always a month-long celebration around here.  A couple weekends ago we went to the pumpkin patch and selected our pumpkins, but we didn't actually do the carving until this previous Sunday.

Rotten pumpkins don't really make good holiday decorations, IMHO.

Oz cut the tops off of the pumpkins, we gave the kids spoons and bags, and they went to town.

Say cheese! 
Cleaning pumpkins is a messy process
M1 developed his own cleaning technique.
Cleaning pumpkins takes a while, and M1 got his cleaned out first.  Since he's getting a little older, we decided to let him try to carve his own this year.

Heh heh.  Heh.  I have a knife.

I'll admit, it was a little nerve-wracking watching him carve, but he did really well.  He didn't even nick himself.  It took a little work for him to get used to the process, but he eventually figured it out.

Meanwhile, I helped M2 finish cleaning out her pumpkin.

(Side note: When Oz picked up the camera, it was my instinct to either insist that he put it down or, alternately, delete the photos, but I read a blog post the other day about how moms never get in the photos and their kids miss that later... and so do the moms.  So here I am, IN THE PHOTO!)

M2 asked Oz to do the actual carving.  She drew her desired face,

and Oz carved it.

He got in the photo, too.

Oz also participated in the day by faking a Halloween costume.  Watch the transformation from regular guy to Unibomber.  It's freaky.

My very own Ted.  He just needs to get a little more gray in his hair.  And be mentally unstable.

On second thought, skip the Halloween costume.  I'll just keep my Oz.

Dress-up photos in a few!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Cue the Panic Attack

As I type this, my entire body is an adrenaline-fueled monster.  It's in full-on fight or flight mode, and a large, LARGE part of me wants to turn off the computer and walk restlessly around my house until I either have a nervous breakdown or someone tells me to stop (which isn't going to happen because the kids are upstairs in bed and Oz has to work tonight).

I'm not sure from whence the panic comes.  A tiny part of my brain screams, "It's because of Christmas!" and another part says, "YOU HAVE KIDS, DUMMY," and yet another part is telling me that it's all to do with a completely inane and harmless thing that happened today in which my dog ate something on the neighbor's porch which M2 thought was their dog's treat, so I replaced the treat with some of our treats and a note, and the neighbor came and told me that no, whatever it was wasn't their dog's and to not worry about it.  And yet another part says the panic comes from homeschooling and having a house and getting it all done and faking this whole SuperMom thing and


Because that's how my brain works.

It's stupid.  I'm aware of how completely silly all that sounds.  I know that as a parent, as a human, we all (OK, so most people... there are a few rotten eggs out there) do the best that we can and muddle through, grateful for anyone who will acknowledge that we're decent human beings despite our massive shortcomings.  I am no better or no worse than anyone else.  The decisions I make will not be the decisions that anyone else makes.  And 99% of the time, I understand and am okay with that... except when the panic sets in.  I lose all sense of rationality when I have a panic attack.  I feel like there's a vise gripping my heart (not in the arrhythmia sort of way, just the emotional sort of way) and that I should second-guess every. single. thing I've done that day.  And probably any decisions that I'm thinking of making in the next 24 hours.

The worst part is that there is very little that I can do to make the panic subside.  When it happens, it happens.  I could get up and put on headphones and clean manically (which sometimes happens) until it goes away, but the cleaning itself doesn't actually purge the sensation.  I could read, listen to Buddhist chants, exercise, or sit and play mindless computer games, and nothing would help.  I can't get in the car and drive until I feel better, even if Oz *was* home to monitor the munchkins.

As it is, I'm probably going to finish up this post and grab some of the toy catalogs that have come lately, see what the kids have circled, and attempt to make up Santa's purchase list for the upcoming holiday.  Then I'll e-mail my mom some of the other options, take a shower, and do some reading before bed.  And if history is anything to go by, I'll lie in bed for hours, my mind churning, until I finally fall asleep out of sheer exhaustion.

If you can relate to this post, I feel for you.  I really do.  Just know that you're not alone in this, though, and that we can tough it out, one way or the other.  Right? (Please tell me I'm right.  I'm not sure I can handle being wrong right now.)

Thanks for listening :)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Rainy Saturday

Now that it's gotten cold, it's kind of fun to look back at the weather even a few weeks ago and see how much of a difference, oh, 20 or 25 degrees can make.

Rain also makes a difference.  A few weeks back we had a warm, rainy Saturday.  It was one of those lazy days where we *could* have gone places, but it was rainy and nobody really wanted to get out in it and walk around, so we stayed home.

I turned on some jazz music through Pandora...

... and the kids painted their sculptures that they'd made.

Oz took a short nap on the floor in front of the couch...

... and after he got done painting, M1 climbed up on the other couch and imitated him quite successfully.

M2 and I had more energy than the boys.  After she finished painting, she grabbed an umbrella and went puddle-ducking in the back yard.  The bottoms of her pants were soaked, but she had a blast.

Mama stayed in the house and did the weekend cooking.  Applesauce was the first order of business...

... and while that was cooking down, I made some cream of mushroom soup to use in a casserole later in the week.  I was surprised to learn how easy it was to make cream of X soups; Pinterest is my friend!

I also made another Pinterest recipe that was amazingly delicious.  These little rolls have half a frozen (well, thawed, but formerly frozen) meatball inside along with a small piece of string cheese.  The rolls themselves are canned buttermilk biscuits that I divided in half and wrapped around the meatball and cheese bits.  Bake and serve with marinara sauce.  YUM.  The bowl in the back is tortilla dough.

Even though it's only been chilly for a couple of days, it seems like summer is definitely over.  That's all right, though.  I'm quite ready for fall.  Bring on the apple cider!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Everything's Up to Date in...

C'mon, now, y'all know the song.  I presume.  Maybe it's only folks here in Okielahoma who can sing almost every song from the Rodgers & Hammerstein classic.

It's possible.

Anyway, the end of the line is "Kansas City."

Our family had needed a little getaway for a while, and Oz finally decided we'd take the kids there.  Besides anything else, the kids were desperate to go to the Great Wolf Lodge since they'd been to the one in Dallas; they wanted to see how different the two were. (Answer: The layout is very different, and if you are a fan of the MagiQuest, I suggest KC, but if you're a fan of the water park, go to Dallas.)  So we drove up on a Thursday morning and spent the afternoon and evening letting the kids swim and play MagiQuest to their heart's content.  The best part was that Oz got M1 to go down a water slide (a first!!!) by bribing him with dessert.

Hey, whatever it takes.

The next morning we had arranged for a late checkout, so we went swimming again, washed up, and headed out.  After a quick lunch, we drove over to Crown Center.  We parked, walked into the mall, and I discovered an entire store full of cat stuff.  I didn't go too crazy, promise, especially since the real reason we'd driven to the Center was to go to the aquarium.  But we had to window shop, especially when we saw the store where they had fresh fudge cooling on the counter.  That mall is an easy place to lose yourself... and a hundred dollars (did I mention they also had a kitchen gadget store?  I'm now the proud owner of 12 silicone cupcake liners, which are perfect for making egg muffins).

The aquarium was the perfect place to kill an afternoon.  It was very kid-friendly, and the kids spent about 20 minutes in one room alone, just watching the fish and rays swim 'round and 'round in their tank.  After that, the kids were toast, so we checked into the hotel and ordered pizza delivery.  I think that everyone but me was asleep by 9:30.  Night owl that I am, I read till 11:30 or so.

Our last day in town - Saturday - was when I finally had the chance to break out the camera.

That'd be a "Union Station" sign behind those trees there.

Here's an actual shot of Union Station... well, OK, an actual reflective shot off a glass-front building nearby.  It was rainy while we were in town, so I didn't want to stand in front of the building and get my purdy camera soaked.  So I shot this picture from the walkway between Union Station and Crown Center.

Inside Union Station, it's a photographer's dream. (By the way, be warned, a photographer I am not.)

The ceilings are high and gorgeous...

... and there's marble everywhere you look.  There were actually a couple of weddings taking place while we were there.

Inside Union Station, there are several places to visit.  There's a small model train museum, which has free entry with the purchase of entry anywhere else, there are restaurants, and most importantly to my kids... there's a science museum.

We had wanted to take them to the zoo, but... well... it was raining.  And it was supposed to storm.  And while I don't mind the rain, storms are another matter entirely.  So we stayed inside.

The museum opened at 9:30, and we got there shortly after; I think we left about 3:30 or 4, though we took a short break for lunch.  The museum was simply that captivating.  They had everything from math puzzles...

... to a house filled with illusions...

... and everything in between.  They even had a couple of 3-D printers set up and running while we were there, and if you look on M1's shirt, you'll see a small red patch.  That's a small flashing pin that he got to solder himself.  The guy who was running the soldering activity also had the 3-D printers going, and he and M1 chatted for quite a while.

Even though it was a rainy, gray weekend, the trip was everything we had needed.  It was an escape from routine, a place not too far away or too odd, and it was just a neat place to visit.

Oh, and did I mention the Crayola store?

Kansas City was great :)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Kitchen Wizard Wednesday - 10/17

The Wednesday cooking classes persist!  I had wondered if we would be doing them this week, since the public schools are out for fall break, but by 5 p.m., the kids were in the house.

M2 did her dish first.  I had her make a pasta salad.

While we waited on the water to boil for the pasta, she worked on the other add-ins.  I had purchased some cherry tomatoes to quarter and basil to julienne, and she also elected to slice and add some olives.

She overcame a big fear of boiling water to dump in the pasta all by herself, and after I drained it (a big pot of water + pasta is a little much for a girl to lift safely), she dumped it in the bowl and mixed it all together with some Italian dressing and balsamic vinegar.  Then we put it in the refrigerator to chill.

M1 made Parmesan-crusted fish tonight.  It was his first time to work with fish, and he did a great job!

We dried the fish and mixed up the milk/egg and breading mixture, and then he overcame his fear of gunky hands to cover the fish.

He was very serious about his fish.  He's very serious about most things.

I taught him how to flip fish and tell when they're done, and he did a great job.

Next week they've requested Cubans and some sort of steamed veggie.  M2 will be in charge of the sandwiches and M1 the veggie.  I may have M1 do some sort of dessert as well since steaming a vegetable doesn't teach him anything new.  We'll see.  All I know is that I'm so glad my kids are learning these skills!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Two-Digit Numbers

The boy is 10 now.  It's hard to believe that it's been an entire decade since he was a screaming bundle of joy.

He's not much of a bundle any more, but the screaming and the joy have not subsided.

Question:  What happens when you put eight boys between the ages of ages 6 and 11 in a game room?

Answer:  You don't want to know.  But from what I understand, it involves lots of flatulence... and fart jokes... and gas... you get the idea.

We let M1 have a birthday party this year.  This is the first year he's really had a lot of friends right around his age (and a couple of siblings) that he wanted to invite to a party, and I couldn't very well tell him no.  He picked a Plants Vs. Zombies theme, and he had a great time.

His friends rocked his world when it came to gifts.  He scored everything from Pokemon cards to a fishing pole and tackle.  After the party, we let a couple of the boys spend the night.  

You can take the boys out of the party...

But you can't take the party out of the boys.  I was rather impressed, though... they were all asleep by 10:30!  Quietest.  Sleepover.  EVER.

I'm quite sure that when M2's birthday rolls around in a few months, that will not be the case.  She's already been promised a mega-sleepover party and has already begun preparing her invitation list.

Back to the boy.  The party was held the weekend before his birthday, and since Mama is a good old-fashioned slacker when it comes to getting gift bags and birthday-themed wrapping paper, he didn't have a single thing to unwrap on his birthday.  No sirree.  Instead, I made him go on a scavenger hunt.  He thought it was great!

He scored new slippers, a book of banjo chords, a book of magic tricks and illusions, a cookbook (yes, he loves cookbooks and I found a series that shows every step with a photo... perfect for my boy!), new shelves for his room, and a digital camera.

Then M2 gave him the gift she'd gotten him:

He'd been jonesing for this particular ant farm for a while, and M2 knew it.  She's a great sister.

Overall, he had a great fantastic birthday, and what surprised me was that the party wasn't his favorite part!  He loved his actual birthday more, even though we didn't do anything special; in fact, he had to go to swim team practice.  He's an introvert who occasionally can handle a party.

I'm now officially the mom of a pre-teen.  What an odd feeling.  I'm theoretically more than halfway done raising this child.  Someone slow time down, please!

Here I Am!

Lots of pictures to post soon.  The boy turned 10, we took a short vacation, and various other topics will be covered soon.

On a completely unrelated note, is it too early to start planning for the 2013-2014 school year?  I need thoughts on this...

Friday, October 5, 2012

Remember When...

Do you remember when your kids were so tiny...

... you could snuggle them for hours on end just to feel their softness?

... they would stretch and arch their backs and curl up their arms and legs and look so adorable you could just cry?

... you could wash everyone's laundry on the same day and theirs would only take up a fraction of a load?

... they babbled "Mama" on accident and you got so excited you called everyone?

... you counted every tooth every time a new one popped in?

Do you remember?

Do you remember when they were so little...

... you could feed them two cut-up apple slices, two pieces of ham, a piece of bread and a cheese stick and feel really good that they had a big, healthful lunch?

... their shoes would fit in the palm of your hand?

... bathtime meant toys?

... you knew you could teach them everything because you were the smartest person in the world?

Do you remember?

Do you remember when they were so young...

... they wanted to help with everything, whether it was making meals, cleaning bathrooms, or dismantling the DVD rack?

... they wanted you to push them on the swing, push them on the bike, read them a story, and cuddle at night?

... they told you everything?

Do you?

Do you remember...

... the first time you got a full night's sleep?

... the first time they buckled themselves into the car?

... the first time you made a chore chart?

... the first time they took off on a bike?

... the first time they used the potty by themselves?

... the first time they read a book independently?

Do you remember?  Do you really remember?

I do and I don't.  My son turns 10 in the next week, and as I'm looking back, I realize just what an adventure it has been to raise this young man.  He has never given me a moment's rest, that's for sure, and it's definitely been a journey of parenthood to get him this far.  All the sleepless nights and fretting over the fact that at 5 years old he would stay up till midnight because he simply couldn't hold still (solution: melatonin, which he takes almost every night to this day)... all the effort that went into teaching him to read, clean, cook, talk, etc.,... all the laundry, meals, positive and negative consequences... all the snuggles, books, tears of both joy and sadness... everything... every. last. thing. has been worth it.  I see how far we both have come, and while there are a few bittersweet thoughts, mostly I'm looking forward.  I can't wait to see what the next 10 years brings, to discover what sort of adult he will become.  I know that no matter what, it will be an epic ride.  With a boy like M1, how could it not?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Electronics Win

Electronics are supposed to be anathema in a classical education if you follow the strict guidelines set up by the "Well-Trained Mind" folks.

I've never been one to let others tell me exactly how to do things.

Math-U-See has been M1's math program from the start.  Last year we adopted La Clase Divertida as our Spanish curriculum.  Both of these are DVD-based.  I'm also not entirely sure how a child is supposed to learn to type without sitting in front of a screen.  But never mind... let's just accept that the modern family is typically pretty well immersed in electronic media, no matter what the form - television, movies, computer games, video games, handheld devices, etc.

We are no exception here.  And one of the things I'm pretty sure I couldn't live without these days is the iPad.  I'm obviously not saying you have to go out and buy one - they're pricey!  But since I do have one, I utilize it.

We have all the games by Dan Russell-Pinson (Presidents vs. Aliens, Stack the States, etc.), Brainpop, Khan Academy, SkySafari, etc.  And yes, those are fun and can be useful.  But lately I've been browsing through the Kindle and iBooks stores just to see what educational things they have, and I've been surprised by the amount of material out there.  I've checked these out before, and I'll be honest - I wasn't impressed.  But now... well, the number of apps and educational books for both kids and older students is growing by leaps and bounds.

CK-12 has listed their textbooks on both the iBooks store and the Kindle store.  The high school biology book even has a workbook and teacher's guide to accompany it.  I've purchased an atlas; this saves me both money and shelf space and is much easier for the kids to search than flipping through the index of a 'real' book. Today they used it to do a geography activity. Since both of them enjoy geography quite a bit, I think this book will see a lot of use in the future.

I'm going to keep hunting over the next few days to see what I can come up with. I'm excited about the possibility that next year our science curriculum won't be a pre-planned, purchased curriculum.  I just might make my own. 

And without the iPad and the numerous resources that it can provide, that wouldn't be possible.  This is definitely an electronics win!