Friday, February 24, 2017

Warm February, Cub Scout Cake Baking, and Art Class

Me snuggling Tobias on Monday and ignoring my To Do list.
I love being a mom!
We enjoyed a 4 day weekend from last Friday through Monday. Random things were accomplished amidst playing outside in beautiful weather. Joseph had his 3rd Merit Badge Pow Wow for Boy Scouts. Makayla had a girls camp planning meeting. Daddy had school work. Grocery shopping was done. Church on Sunday. A Daddy+7 kids trip to the movies on Monday to see the new Lego movie. Piano lessons. A library trip. Just a nice long weekend of family life.

Tuesday we dived into school as usual. I think my favorite part today was hearing from different children about the books they are reading and the books on their ever-growing to read lists. My younger boys got the giggles when I read The Greedy Python to them. Daniel and Oliver made official decisions for their Blue and Gold Banquet cakes.

Wednesday we did life school, meaning the kids did their own choice of activities so long as there was some educational aspect. They were pretty creative in their explanations of what could count for school. I got to play Ticket to Ride: First Journey with several of my boys for geography - and by the end they were getting pretty good at remembering the names of the cities on the board and I had shared interesting information about them. ;)

Makayla spent the day shadowing a local veterinarian for a project. She loved it! Between watching appointments and surgeries, taking notes for a presentation, and asking questions she learned a lot. They invited her to come back any time. She saw a variety of surgeries - everything from declawing, spaying, and neutering, to the removal of an eye - and she still wants to be a vet.

Daniel and Oliver baked their creations for the Cub Scout Blue and Gold Banquet and decorated them. The theme is Wild West so Daniel made cowboy cupcakes with cute hats and a couple teepees.

Oliver made a cake with teepees and two fires for the Native Americans of the wild west. The evening had a lot happening including Oliver getting his Bobcat rank and Daniel getting 4 achievement belt loops. We were also treated to the Order of the Arrow dance group performing tonight - then joined them in a dance. They boys had a great time and have been dressed up as cowboys and Indians ever since.

Thursday was back to our usual school plans. One fun thing we've added to our week is YouTube videos. There are so many interesting topics my kids want to learn about or I want to introduce and videos are sometimes a great way to do that. For starters Makayla will be working through the Crash Course Intro to Psychology videos (40 videos). The rest of the kids chose to start with Crash Course Kids Space Science: The Sun and Its Influence on Earth videos (14 videos).

A lot of the morning Star Wars music could be heard from the direction of our piano. Joseph, Emma, and Daniel have been trying to play the theme (a very simplified version). They've made requests for music from Disney, Star Trek, and Harry Potter as well. I love that they are enjoying piano lessons!

Makayla also got to work on the PowerPoint slides she'll use in her live presentation for the online veterinary medicine class. She did this last semester too, so she's ready to dive in and get it done for the semester.

Friday (today!) we had Art Class with friends. It's been ages since we were all healthy enough to get together and everyone was thrilled to be together again.

We finished up an art project based on the book Over and Under the Snow, which felt rather ironic because we're having a snow-less, record-breaking highs February. The kids took the painted paper they created last time and cut out trees, added animals they had made at home, and then covered the entire collage with mod podge we had stirred glitter into.

Our second art project was to create moving fish. These fun little bony fish can bend and twist and flex. Sometimes it is the simplest things that are the most interesting.

The youngest kids needed a buddy to help with some of the work on the fish but were thrilled with their final product.

Our third project today was a Dr. Seuss inspired directed drawing. Half the kids chose to draw fish similar to the ones in One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.

The other half chose to draw Seuss inspired cities. They were allowed to choose just drawing or to add color with chalk pastels.

Dinners this week + A Couple Comments

I don't know what dinner is like at your house. I'm just a regular mom with a larger than average family to feed. Sometimes I make easy meals or use kitchen tools that simplify the cooking process. Other times I choose slightly more labor intensive meals. This week had a mix of both.
  • Chicken and broccoli stir fry and rice - This was an easy night. I put rice in the rice cooker which took all of 3 minutes hands on time. Then I put water, stir fry sauce, and some frozen chicken breast in the Instant Pot. Hands on time - 3 minutes. Broccoli was steamed on the stove top. Hands on time - 5 minutes maybe?
  • Meatloaf, potatoes, corn, and green beans - The meatloaf went in the oven, mixing it up took about 4 minutes. Potatoes went in the Instant Pot, all I did was wash and cut them in half. Hands on time 3 minutes. Corn and green beans - we opened a couple cans and heated them up on the stove. Hands on time 1 minute.
  • Chicken Enchiladas or ground beef tacos (depending on preference) - This is a more time consuming meal but will be eaten for leftover lunches for another day or two. I make the enchilada sauce from scratch in one pan while browning the ground beef in pan #2 and heating up canned chicken with some more ingredients for the enchiladas in a third pan. Hands on time: 20 minutes. When the beef is done I add black beans, spices, and tomato paste and let it simmer while wrapping the chicken enchiladas and putting them in the oven. Hands on time for this portion: 8 minutes.
  • Leftovers or Cereal - I needed to clear some space in the fridge so I offered all the leftovers from various meals as well as fruit, salad, and cereal. Now I have space for more cooking!
  • Tonight we will probably have pancakes for dinner. It's an easy meal that we always have ingredients for. I'll add sausage patties and fruit to the plates and we will be set.
I'm linking to Weekly Wrap Up.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Consistency Gets us Through February

Lots of working around the table this week for the younger kids.
It makes it easier for me to bounce between people to help them.

For Valentine's week things were pretty business as usual around here. Homeschool work got done.  Piano was practiced. Food was cooked. Kids got sick. Yes, large family = someone is always sick in the winter. Sigh. I forgot to use my camera until mid-week, so I'll just sprinkle those pictures through this post with captions.
Caleb finding word family pairs.
Tuesday the kids got an early morning visit from their grandma with oreos and candy for Valentine's Day. Mid-morning I snuck up to their bedrooms and decorated with hearts, leaving bags of candy, pencils, and blank books on their beds as gifts. Tuesday also saw the early delivery of our second triple bunk bed and so we now officially have 6 of the 7 boys in one bedroom.
Tobias loves to be included in table time.

Only Tobias is not in there. At just 14 months old he is still happily sleeping in his crib in mommy and daddy's bedroom. The 2 girls and 3 reptiles share the other bedroom. (To be fair though, the boys have the master bedroom with the most space.)

Samuel doing some pattern block puzzles during table time.
Wednesday was really low key. We did school and then Joseph spent part of the day throwing up while Makayla, who still had no voice and was coughing, took a 4 hour nap all afternoon. I played Dragonwood with Daniel. The other kids spent a lot of their free time playing with Legos, dress up clothes, and the matchbox cars. Makayla napped for hours, still sick.

Joseph can just barely grip a large dry erase marker with his cast,
so he does math on the white board right now.
Thursday was the last day of school for the week. We did our lessons, played more games, and it was a good day. Joseph was feeling better but Tobias was beginning to feel not so great and just wanted held and snuggled by the late afternoon. In the evening I got out to a fun Relief Society (women age 18 and up) activity at church - Chocolate Extravaganza. We ate chocolate desserts and then had three interesting get to know you games. I got home in time for my husband to go to bed.

Tobias was 'helping' someone do their chores.
I'm not sure if I have ever really mentioned on this blog about my husband's work/sleep schedule. He's a truck driver making deliveries to gas stations stores and other places (colleges, camps, parks, small grocery stores). He works Tuesday through Friday but because his routes start very early he is usually in bed by 8pm Monday through Thursday nights, leaving the bedtime routine and getting 9 kids to bed to me. He is also in college full time, so most days he has lots of work to do for his classes as well, both in the evening after his full time job and for several hours on his days off. It's a challenging season!

Books this week:

I have really been pretty light on reading. I finished the Fairy Tale series I was reading. After a nice immersive dive into a world I usually flounder around until I find another world of books to dive into. For my break I picked up Spark Joy by Marie Kondo. I read her first book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, about a year ago.

What I've been Watching:

YouTube videos by A Young Mum. I first found her about the time I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up for the first time. Then life got busy and watching You Tube didn't happen. I'm catching up by working backward through her archives at random moments - like when I'm cooking dinner. Her videos are often short, maybe 10 minutes, so if I'm in the kitchen for an hour I get through several videos while cutting, sautéing, and doing all the meal prep. Often kids help me in the kitchen, but lately I've just wanted dinner prep to be my own 'quiet time'. The kids aren't complaining!

Using linking cubes to do patterning and then to build a letter of the alphabet.
One more thing I don't want to forget: We told Mason he could officially 'do school' this week. He turned 5 last month and has been asking for his own school time. He is so happy. For my own memories, here is a list of the types of things he's done for school this week:
  • Story time - We're reading books like "My 'M' Book" as well as fairy tales and other fun picture books.
  • Tracing his name. I write it in dry erase marker on a lap board and he traces over it with another marker. Or it goes on paper and he traces with pencil or crayon or regular markers.
  • Pre-Writing fun pages - these have him practicing straight lines, slanted lines, etc by finishing a picture's decoration. A shirt that needs more horizontal stripes, for example.
  • Math - hands on math concepts with manipulatives, games, or challenges. He wanted to know how to count to 100 this week, so we worked on that too. He worked on patterning (orange, black, orange, black, orange - what comes next?).
  • Puzzles
  • Letter Sounds games
  • Building letters with foam pieces and with linking cubes.
Sometimes it is just the simplest things that work best.

Other posts on the blog this week:

Linking with Weekly Wrap Up.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Easy No-Egg Doughnuts with Biscuit Dough

Melissa asked for my doughnut recipe and I just had to share. This is my 'I'm going for quick and easy so I'm not even making my own dough' recipe. Just so you are warned!


  • Oil - enough to fill your pan 1/2 inch full. This is what you will be frying the doughnuts in. I use a large skillet to cook as many doughnuts at once as possible.
  • Biscuit dough - I buy cans. The first time we used jumbo biscuits and cut a hole in the middle. The second time we used regular small biscuits and didn't bother with adding a hole. It is much easier to cook the smaller biscuits all the way through! For the 11 of us I made 80 small doughnuts and we had leftovers for the second day.
  • 2 sticks of butter - You will melt this and dip the cooked doughnuts in butter before topping, unless you are using icing.
  • Toppings - powdered sugar, cinnamon and sugar, icing, etc.
  • TOOLS: You MUST have tongs or something to turn the biscuits in the hot oil and remove them. I also like to have paper towels for the cooling step.
Here is my setup from the first time we made doughnuts. You can see a cookie sheet on the left of the stove for uncooked biscuit dough, the pan of hot oil, a cookie sheet with paper towels for cooling a bit, bowls with butter and toppings for dipping, and a cookie sheet for finished doughnuts.

What to do:
  1. Heat your 1/2 inch of oil in a pan on medium.
  2. Melt your butter in a bowl.
  3. Put any other toppings in bowls.
  4. Put biscuits in the oil and cook until the bottom is golden brown, then turn over and cook the other side of biscuit to golden brown. This takes just a minute or so per side, depending on how hot your oil is.
  5. Remove cooked doughnuts to a pan to cool enough to handle. I line this pan with paper towels.
  6. Once cool enough to handle dip your cooked doughnut in butter and roll in your topping. The only exception - if you are icing your doughnut you can skip the dipping in butter.
  7. Eat. And cook more doughnuts.
Tobias really liked the chocolate dipped doughnuts!
See what I mean? Easy. Please remember that any time you are cooking with hot oil you need to be very careful. Once we begin the doughnut process I do not walk away from the pan of oil. I have a helper who does the buttering and topping of doughnuts because I don't want to take any chances that a child might walk near the stove with a pan full of hot oil.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Kid Fun: Painter's Tape + Cars, Magnet Tiles

Sometimes it is the simple things that are the most fun. I'm sharing about two toys my kids enjoy using.

When you have a lot of little boys it is nearly inevitable that you will own small toy cars. While bigger kids may enjoy using the plastic orange track pieces it quickly becomes frustrating with a toddler in the house. The solution? Painter's tape!

Today we made a couple roads and two parking lots out of painter's tape on the floor. Several of my boys have been happily playing with their cars ever since.

Here is a close up of one parking lot.

The second toy I'm sharing about today is in response to a reader question. I mentioned in my last post about Mason decorating his pretend grave with magnet tiles, but I neglected to share a picture. Here is Mason laying in his nicely decorated 'grave':

Boys can be interesting creatures.

Today I grabbed a picture of Oliver's creation with our magnet tiles. This is a more traditional way of using them. The kids build all sorts of towers, garages, space ships, and places. Sometimes they will also use these on the refrigerator to create mosaics.

You can find several brands of magnetic tiles on Amazon. The name brand is Magna Tiles. We actually have the Picasso Tiles brand because they were on sale one year before Christmas. Right now there is a $50 price difference between Magna Tiles 100 piece set and Picasso Tiles 100 piece set. We just have two 100 piece sets, though you can find a lot of other sets with different tile shapes or amounts. Remember, links to Amazon are affiliate links. That means if you make any purchase (truly, anything you get, not just the item I am linking you to) through my link I will receive a small credit from Amazon. Thank you!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Birdwatching, Broken Bones, and Books

Saturday was busy early on but slowed down after dinner. Jason had a driver's meeting at work, Joseph had a Merit Badge Powow for Boy Scouts, there was grocery shopping. We had a visit from grandma, cooking, cleaning, game playing, and then swimming for the couple of kids practicing. Home in time to cook dinner and then breathe a bit.

Makayla spent several hours drawing. She's picked zentangle drawing back up. Daniel, Oliver, Caleb, and Mason used magnet tiles. Mason stopped me at one point to demonstrate the grave he made for when he wants to pretend he's dead. It was all decorated with magnet tiles. (What can I say, he is a boy?!) We also watched and sang along with Fiddler on the Roof this evening.

Sunday found half the family sick and staying home from church while half of us went. Winter is so hard in a large family! Once one person gets sick we can pass it around for weeks. Sigh. It was a lovely day at church and our afternoon and evening were quietly spent as a family. Emma was inspired by her sister to do some zentangle drawing too, but has yet to let me take any pictures of her art.

Monday we were back to the dentist for 2 cleanings, 1 cavity restoration, and 1 child getting 6 baby teeth pulled. Daddy decided he would handle the dentist visits today as Mommy is sick. I was in charge of the homeschooling, which involved a lot of new math lessons, reading lessons, biology, notebooking, brainstorming for writing, and reading books. The zentangle drawing continued. Piano lessons for 4 children happened, with a few younger siblings sneaking in a turn at the piano as well.

Tuesday was a very rainy day. I have to admit I love that our winter has been super mild! I'll take rain over snow and ice any day. We had a relaxed school morning, which is my favorite. I feel like between doctors and dentist appointments the last two months have been much too busy for my liking. And we still have several dental cleanings to go at the end of this month. And orthodontist appointments coming up. And then it will be nearly time for the eye checkups again...Sigh.

Makayla had one final activity she needed to do for Biology - birdwatching at home and at another location. Today she and I went to a local arboretum to complete that task. We spent the majority of our time at the feeding station windows in the nature center, where we saw many different birds over the course of an hour. It was fun to watch their habits and identify each species. On our way out of the arboretum we chose two areas to walk (the rain had let up for a bit) to see if we could find more birds. Around the Japanese gardens we saw a few birds, heard birds, and saw a wasp nest hanging in a tree. In the swamp we saw and heard no birds - but it is beside a busy road so we weren't too surprised. Here is the list of birds she identified today:
  1. American Goldfinch
  2. House Finch
  3. House Sparrow
  4. Mourning Dove
  5. Northern Cardinal
  6. Hairy Woodpecker
  7. Eastern Phoebe
  8. White-Crowned Sparrow
  9. Tufted Titmouse
  10. Carolina Chickadee
  11. Red-Headed Woodpecker
  12. Carolina Wren
  13. Downy Woodpecker
  14. White-Breasted Nuthatch
  15. Dark-Eyed Junco
  16. Red Tailed Hawk
Oh, one more note about birdwatching. As we were getting in the car to leave Makayla commented that now all she wanted to see was a Red Tailed Hawk, Vulture, or Owl. We pulled out of the parking lot and not 100 feet down the road sitting on a bird house in a field was a Red Tailed Hawk. I had one happy daughter.

To celebrate finishing Biology we made doughnuts for the first time. Fun Fact - most of my children have never tasted a doughnut. With egg allergies in the house we simply never bring in food with eggs. That means no doughnuts. Ours turned out pretty great and we even had some left over from our two dozen for the next morning.

Wednesday was a quiet morning at home. Kids ate breakfast and did their chores first as usual. Then it was school work, piano practice, and playing. Listening to Peter and the Starcatchers for book club happened during snack time. Joseph worked on preparing for a lesson he is teaching part of this Sunday at church. Emma worked on a talk she will give in Primary - with a few tears because she doesn't like public speaking. I think she'll be ok by Sunday. She's going to practice every day before then. We also played storytelling games Wednesday and I posted about the games we played.

Joseph went roller skating for the first time Wednesday evening. He had a great time until close to the end when he took a bad fall. And broke his arm. Of course. Thursday morning we went to the doctor to confirm the break with an x-ray and get it casted. He'll be in a cast for a month and then a splint for a couple weeks after that.

Other than that, Thursday was spent doing school work, playing more Story Time Dice, and birdwatching at our feeder. We worked on some Cub Scouts activities as well.

Books this Week

  • The Fairest Beauty by Melanie Dickerson - Finished. Book three in the fairy tale series. This is the retelling of Snow White. The creepy stepmother in this one made for an overall creepy feel to the book, but it was enjoyable.
  • The Captive Maiden by Melanie Dickerson - Finished. The fourth book in the fairy tale series and probably my favorite so far. It is a retelling of Cinderella that doesn't follow quite the plot I expected it to follow. I really loved this one!
  • The Princess Spy by Melanie Dickerson - Finished. The fifth book in the fairy tale series. I found the female main character in this one frustrating at first. She is the sheltered daughter of a duke, talks a mile a minute, if she thinks it she says it, doesn't take things seriously, etc. Over the course of the book she DID grow and mature.
  • The Golden Braid by Melanie Dickerson - Finished. Book six in the fairy tale series, this one overlaps the time period of The Princess Spy but focuses on different characters. It also goes beyond the time period of the fifth book's ending. I liked how she put Rapunzel's story together in an unexpected way.
As I type it is mid-morning on Friday. Most of my children have worked steadily on school since breakfast and are nearly finished for the day. We plan to listen to more of Peter and the Starcatchers and stay inside where it is warm. I need to work on preparing my Primary lesson for church, so I'm going to push publish on this post and get that done. Have a lovely week!

Linking to Weekly Wrap Up, Homeschool Highlights, and Homeschool Blog and Tell.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

An Afternoon of Storytelling Games

This afternoon seven of my kids pulled me to the floor to play a game. This is not so unusual, we love games. They were excited because today was the day I promised to open some new games and game add-ons. With the 1 year old napping and the high schooler busy with her own project that left me with kids ages 3-12.

Our first game was Rory's Story Cubes. We have had three of the Rory's Story Cube sets: Original, Actions, and Voyages (links in this post are Amazon affiliate links)for four years. Just recently I had two add on dice sets delivered from Amazon. I left them sitting in view for a week and told the kids we would use them soon. Today was the day.

The add on sets are 3 dice each. Theme one is Prehistoria and includes dinosaurs. I have a lot of dinosaur lovers in this house.

Theme two is Intergalactic (for my Star Wars and Star Trek fans). Kids got to choose a couple dice and we went around the circle rolling our dice and telling a short story on the spot.

It is always funny! There are other ways to play, such as a continuing story where each person picks up where the last left off, but for today we kept it to individual story telling. The boxes for the regular sets include ideas for different game play as well.

After two rounds of Rory's Story Cubes I brought out our newest game addition, Story Time Dice. I found three sets on Amazon:
These are different than Rory's Story Cubes in some interesting ways, so I wanted to explain that a little.

  • Not just 6 sided - The dice in each Story Time Dice set are varied - 6, 8, 12, and even 20 sides. The dice are also bigger, which is nice in a house with little children.
  • Each dice is a specific story category. Hero, villain, monster, setting, obstacle, ending, tools, twists, prizes, and even vehicles, depending on the set. This is wonderful because it supports my younger children as well as my older ones in creating a more detailed story.

  • There is a printed guide identifying the many graphics on the dice. This is helpful too - both in recognizing what they rolled (they are sorted by dice category) and in making visual how to spell these words - in case your child is using the story cubes during a writing activity instead of an oral game.
  • The printed guides also include different game play ideas, more detailed than those of Rory's Story Cubes.
For the Story Time Dice we tried a couple game options. One that was especially fun was Hero vs. Villain. Two children divided the dice from one set between them. One had the dice for Heroes, the other had the one for Villains. They both rolled their dice and the hero began telling his story. Then the villain got to take a turn adding to the story, presenting the hero with twists, turns, and unexpected events. Story telling would switch back and forth until they ran out of time or reached the end of their shared tale.

We spent about 45 minutes playing games this afternoon. It was neat to hear each child as they had to think on their feet and create stories based on the roll of the dice. We laughed a lot!

Have you ever played storytelling games with your children?

Friday, February 3, 2017

Friday Mash Up - Lots of Little Things

This week was a mix of school, swimming, sick kids, and 8 dental appointments. Blah. School went fine this week. We explored crystals and polymers in science with lots of experiments. We started listening to Peter and the Starcatchers for Homeschool Book Club. Kids did math, read various books, and discussed so many topics I can't even remember them all. A few highlights:
Makayla with her snake Olympia.

Makayla is almost finished with Biology. 4 days of lessons left. Wednesday she did 4 days of lessons in one day instead of spreading it out over the week. She also spent lots of time with her reptiles and even had them out where siblings could pet them some of the time.
Daniel is doing much better with long division. Thank goodness! I don't know why long division throws kids for such a loop but I am always grateful when they figure it out.
Oliver is still reading Grasshopper on the Road. I want to pull him into All About Reading level 2 lessons again but he wants to finish this book first, so that's what we're doing. I think he'll be able to fly through a number of lessons when we do. Reading aloud to me for a month from regular books has done a lot for his reading fluency.
Caleb is happily reading CVC words to me every day using AAR level 1. This week he had an activity with gifts on one side of a paper and words on the backs. He would choose a gift, decide who he was giving it to, and read the words to see what they got. There were things like a wet map and a red hen.
Joseph is happily reading the third book in the Ranger's Apprentice series. I asked if he liked it and he said, "Yes. No. It's complicated, Mom. A little stressful right now."
Samuel's potty training has been pretty easy. He pees in the toilet with only an occasional accident. He pooped in the toilet for the first time today, so we're well on the road to being finished.

Emma's first drawings of Tinkerbell
Emma has been drawing a lot this week. When she was home sick from church a sweet friend named Eden sent home a drawing book for Emma to use. Tinkerbell was the first one she tried from the book.
Mason has been building with Legos a lot this week. He's creating weapons and contraptions with long, involved explanations of what they do.
Tobias has been sick all week. Clingy. Usually whining too. But always cute.
Tobias is literally holding my leg while I try to do other things.

I am knee deep in school planning for next fall. I usually begin this process in January or February in years where I will be attending a homeschool convention. The convention is in April and before that time I need to decide what each child will be using and price out the items I need. Then I purchase things at convention if it makes sense. I also watch Amazon and Ebay for used copies of books. Next fall I will have 7 official students and 2 preschoolers. I am not sure how that is possible. I remember when we started with just one little preschooler more than a decade ago.

The new bunk.
Three of the boys were excited to get a triple bunk bed this week. We have 5 boys in one bedroom and once we get a second triple bunk bed we will move Samuel into the boy room as well. We're saving up money for one now. That will just leave Tobias, who will be able to move into either the girls' bedroom or the boys' bedroom when he moves out of the crib and into a toddler bed.

Books I Read This Week:
  • North and South - I'm still listening to this one.
  • Brentwood's Ward by Michelle Griep - Finished. This one was good! Bow Street Runner hired as temporary guardian of a spoiled young woman, mystery, murder, and a change of heart or two.
  • The Healer's Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson - Finished. This is the first in her series of fairy tale retellings. It is the story of Sleeping Beauty.
  • The Merchant's Daughter by Melanie Dickerson - Finished. Book two in the fairy tale series. This one retells the story of Beauty and the Beast.
  • The Fairest Beauty by Melanie Dickerson - Still reading. Book three in the fairy tale series. This is the retelling of Snow White.
I'm linking up at Weekly Wrap Up, Homeschool Blog and Tell, Homeschool Highlights.