Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years

Ten years.  One decade.
Birthing three more babies.  A preschooler turned into a teenager.  

Ten years.  Three thousand six hundred and fifty days.
Six moves, including one to a new state.  Selling a house.  Buying a house.  Hanging drywall.  Tearing out tile.

Ten years.  Eighty seven thousand, six hundred hours.
Noses wiped.  Boo-boos iced.  Meals cooked.  Floors swept.  Diapers changed.  Hugs given.  Sticky kisses received.

Ten years.  Five million, two hundred fifty six thousand minutes.
Facebook posts.  Pictures taken.  Movies watched.  Soccer games attended.

Ten years.  Three hundred fifteen million, three hundred sixty seconds.
Sunny days.  Rainy days.  Cranky days.  Joyful days.

Ten years.
Everyday, normal living.  The ups and the downs; the good and the bad.

Ten years has past since terrorists attacked the United States by using airplanes as missiles.  I sat in my living room that day, glued to the TV, as my two young children wondered why I couldn't stop crying.  Finally, I had to turn the TV off.  It was all too much.

I wasn't impacted directly.  No one I knew was killed, injured or even near the events.  But, like everyone who lived through that day, I was impacted.  What else was planned?  Were we safe?  Would we ever be or feel safe again?

I didn't understand how anyone could hate another person enough  to do this.  I still don't.

My power, the U.S.'s power had been stripped from us.  We fought back.  Some of our response was ugly;  Those who looked like Muslims were threatened and beaten.  Some was controversial; Our government sent troops to the Middle East.

Some was very personal.  I took power back from the terrorists by becoming prepared and by becoming involved.  I joined the Red Cross and became a first responder.  Soon I was teaching first aid and CPR classes.  It was my way of showing the terrorists that they hadn't succeeded.  It was my way of showing myself that I was strong and that I would be OK     

You'd think in ten years, I'd have gotten over it.  I thought that in ten years, I'd gotten over it.  Yet, just like I did ten years ago, I've had to turn the TV off.  The hurt and sorrow is still there.     

What isn't there is the feeling of helplessness.

Ten years.  One decade.
CPR demonstrated.  First Aid lessons taught.  CERT classes organized.  Medical volunteers recruited.

Ten years.  Three thousand six hundred and fifty days.
Water tank fastened.  Gas meters found.  Emergency supplies gathered.  Water stored.

Ten years.  Eighty seven thousand, six hundred hours.
Neighbors served.  Community joined.  Voting my conscious, even in primaries, accomplished.

Ten years.  Five million, two hundred fifty six thousand minutes.
Anxiously waiting through five Middle East tours.  Heartfelt prayers offered.  Comforting reunions.

Ten years.  Three hundred fifteen million, three hundred sixty seconds.
Kindness shown.  Tears wiped.  Laughter shared.

Ten years.
One heart changed.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

I'm home today with a pukey child.  Which means that we are watching non-stop videos.  I just put in one of my favorites from the "Liken" series:  The First Christmas.  I love the music, and I love that they help children imagine the scriptures.  I really love that it's a "kid" movie that I can actually watch without puking myself.  I love that they show a modern day child using scriptures stories to solve his or her modern day problems.  But, what I love most about this particular video is that the angels are multi-cultural and come in a variety of shapes and sizes!

I think that the reason we think of angels and heaven as being white is because their glory is so bright that our mortal eyes can't see the color.  I believe that a God who created such a beautiful world with so much variety and color would live in a world that's full of the same rich variety on a grander and even more beautiful scale.  God loves all of his children and we are all created in His image.

There's absolutely no scriptural support for (or against) my color theory, as far as I know.  But, now you know what I think about when I'm home with a sick kid.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Recipe: Stuffed Summer Squash

It's that time of year again.  The time of year when you lock your car at church to make sure it doesn't get filled with zucchini!

Our neighbor has a glut of these really pretty round yellow summer squash and brought us a boatload of them.  They are round like pumpkins, so I thought I'd try stuffing them like pumpkins.  They turned out wonderful!

Stuffed Summer Squash

8 round yellow squash (but you could really use any over-active similar produce.)
2 boxes Stove-top Stuffing
1 lb cooked crumbled bacon
2 lb grated Mexican style cheese (mix of monterey jack and cheddar will work)
2 heaping Tablespoons of minced Garlic
2 cans condensed milk
1 C sour cream
1 tsp Cumin
2 eggs

1.  Cut the tops off of the squash.  If using regular crookneck or zucchini, cut in half long way.  Scoop out & discard the innards.

2.  Mix the stuffing, garlic, cheese, and bacon together.

3.  Stuff the dry mix into your vegi bowls.  They should be pretty full.

4.  Mix the milk, sour cream, cumin & eggs together.  Carefully pour this mix into the dry mix in the bowls.
5.  Bake 350 for less than one hour.  You want the summer squash to be soft but not mushy.

These are cool looking when served whole, but can be cut into wedges too.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Recipe: Breakfast Burritos


  • 40 med. tortillas, the fresher the better
  • 1 lb. hot sausage, cooked & drained 
  • 1 lb regular sausage, cooked & drained (not brown sugar flavor.  Can cook both sausages together.  Use the leftover drippings to make gravy for tomorrows breakfast.)
  • 24 eggs, scrambled (can cook in oven/turkey roaster*)
  • 2 bags O’Brien potatoes, cooked in oven until firm
  • 1 1/2 lb. shredded cheese (mix of cheddar & Monterey jack)
  • 1 lg. can green enchilada sauce
  • 1 box Velveeta type cheese, grated
  • 40 Foil wrappers
  • Box of gallon zip-lock bags to store the wrapped burritos in (can use tortilla sacks)

Mix sausage, eggs, potatoes, cheeses, and enchilada sauce in a big bowl.  All the cooking and mixing can be done a day ahead.

Fill & roll tortillas.  Wrap with foil. Freeze.  To eat, unwrap from foil, microwave approximately 2 minutes from frozen.  The foil can be saved to use again.

*To cook eggs in turkey roaster:  spray turkey roaster with non-stick spray. Scramble eggs in a bowl; add 2 C milk, stir.  Pour all into turkey roaster at 350.  Stir every 1/2 hour until done.  Expect it to take about 1 1/2 hours.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Chrissy Ellsworth's Panang Curry Recipe

In Relief Society (church women's group) meeting about a year ago, Chrissy Ellsworth taught us how to make Panang Curry.  Back then, I had no idea who Chrissy was.  Now she's my wonderful neighbor.  This recipe turns out soooo good and can be made mild for wimps like me.

Panang Curry

  • 1 Can Coconut Milk
  • 1 tsp Panang Curry Paste (any brand - will keep in fridge for 2 years)
  • 5 shredded lime leaves* (roll them all up together, then shred cut them.  They are tough and won't dissolve.)
  • 1 heaping tsp coriander (Chrissy uses baked coriander seeds.  She cooks them with out oil on the stove top, until brown like sesame seeds.  I was lazy & just dumped in ground coriander.)
  • 3 T Sugar
  • 3 tsp Fish Sauce
  • 1/4 C Water (optional)
  • 1 Chicken breast, raw, cut into chunks
  • Assorted chopped Vegis (whatever you like and/or is in season.  Such as: carrot, colored peppers, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, broccoli, zucchini, bok choy, mushrooms, green beans, peas)
  • 1/3 C Fresh Basil, chopped
  • Jasmine rice, cooked

Pour half the milk in a pot and bring to boil.  Add in Panang Curry paste, mix well & return to boil.  Add lime leaves, coriander, sugar, fish sauce, the rest of the milk and water (optional) and return to boil.  Add raw meat & let cook into the broth.  Once the meat is near done, add veggies.  Then add basil.  Lightly boil until meat is fully cooked.  Serve over rice.

Chrissy says that the goal of Thai food is to obtain a nice balance of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy heat.  Adjust sugar (sweet), fish sauce (salty), lime (sour), and add chili peppers (hot) to your liking.

*About this point, ya'll are wondering, where do I find lime leaves?!  At Asia Oriental Market 2408 Meridian St., of course.  This is my favorite oriental grocery store in Bellingham.  They have great prices on fresh basil, cilantro, etc.  Seriously, like $1 for a nice sized bunch that would cost $5 at the grocery store.  Asia Oriental Market is a crowded little store with hand baskets instead of carts.  The owners speak decent English and are very nice.  They'll answer questions and help you pick out what you need.  Once, when I was getting things to make Pad Thai, they noticed that I hadn't purchased the noodles and reminded me.  I really appreciated not having to make a second trip. There are two oriental grocery stores in this area of town.  The one you are looking for is the one right next to Creative Dancewear.    

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Review: Science in a Nutshell

We've used Delta Education's Science in a Nutshell as part of our homeschool science curriculum for a while now.  While I do like them, I can't give them an unqualified thumbs up.

The kits come with most of the supplies you need to perform the experiments.  However, you must check the experiment ahead of time to make certain you have the other supplies needed.  They aren't always simple items like tape & scissors.

I also recommend that you carefully check your kit when it is received.  I ordered several kits.  There were broken, missing, or expired parts in some of them.  Delta Education was really good about replacing the parts, but it would have been hard to take care of it I hadn't check the kits until I was ready to use them.

The projects can be done by homeschool families, but all are written to be done by small groups in a class room.  As homeschoolers, we've seen this before, so it's not a deal breaker.  It's just nice to know that you may need to adapt some.

The projects and learning activities require parent involvement.  Unless you have an older learner who is fairly self-motivated, plan on doing these along with your child.

If you want to use the work book, you have to make copies, which is a hassle.  Individual workbooks aren't available.  However, the book is spiral bound, so it's not difficult to make the copies.

The text/workbook organization is jumbled and confusing.  It's not a straightforward approach.  It is designed to be used by a teacher in a classroom.  I can see that a teacher who plans on using something over & over, would put the time into figuring it all out.  But, I want something easy to open up and use.

However, I do like the kits.  The experiments are easy to do.  My kids get excited when I pull one out.

There are plenty of supplies for more than one child to use the kit. The kits come with most of the hard to find parts and supplies.

I love that they come in nice, tidy, easy to store boxes.  The boxes stack easily and are easy to move around.

We've used them to best success when I've set up a co-op or "summer science camp" with four girls.  Even numbers are better since many experiments put the students into pairs.

Delta Science recommends these kits for grades 2-6, and I agree that this is a generally appropriate range.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Homeschool School Room

Sometimes I am asked what our homeschool room is like.  The whole world is our school house.  We go on field trips and learn from a wide variety of teachers.  We watch spiders hatch in our back yard & study ecosystems at the beach.

You can find my children reading all over the house.  Ballerina prefers her bed.  Princess & Little Red like to  curl up on the couch.  Farmer girl reads everywhere including in her garden.  We have books stashed in most rooms.  I try to sneak a variety of educational books in, and I never comment when I catch the kids reading them.

But, that's not really what people want to know.  They want to know where we do our book work.  So, here are some pictures of our "school room."   And, yes, it usually does look this messy or worse.

Ta Da!  On the left you can see one of three desks lined up on that wall.  Baby Boy has a red and blue "tool bench" in front of the sliding doors,   On the right behind the table is one more desk and shelves.  The blue covered chair in the right front is mine.  It's on rollers so that I can zoom around the room to help each child.  

Each girl has her own desk with space to store her books and other assorted junk. Farmer Girl's desk, on the left, is graced with a paper mache dragon head right now. It's a model of a dragon from the book she is writing. Ballerina painted her desk a bright and very pretty pink, which doesn't go with anything else in the room, unfortunately. But, she likes it, and that's what matters. Princess has the desk on the right.

Little Red uses this desk. She doesn't really need a desk yet, but she likes to have her own space just like the older girls. The rest of the unit holds assorted books, paper, paint, crayons, other supplies and rewards (aka bribes.)

Despite the fact that each child has her own desk, the dining room table is everyone's favorite place to do work.  

My desk and computer are in the background.  I'm not known to share either very often.  

Since I am stingy with my computer, we have a family
computer station set up in the living room.  The internet is locked on this computer, so the kids only have access to pre-approved sites.  I unlock access when they need to be able to view a broader range of material.

We used to keep this computer in the dining room on the shelf next to Little Red's desk.  The noise level in the dining room made it hard for Farmer Girl to work on her on-line Latin class.  So far having the computer in the living room is working well.

Those are the "official" school  spaces.  We spend a couple of hours every day using these areas.  The rest of the time is spent actively involved in hands-on learning.  But, if you ask my kids, they'll say it's just play.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Plastic Bag Ban

This just irritates me.  I'm all for decreasing waste, not littering, and using reusable items.  I recycle heavily, and I also try to reduce our waste.  I utilize reusable containers as much as possible.  I've been trying to convert to using reusable bags with moderate success.  We reuse, mend, repair, recycle, upcycle, hand down,  make do, and get creative as ways to reduce waste.  And I will admit that, to a point, I actually agree with the idea of not using plastic single-use bags.

However, I don't believe that a majority of Bellingham residents actually want a bag ban.  Grocery stores offer bags because consumers want them.  If we all used reusable bags, grocery stores wouldn't offer them.  I do believe that more people are changing over to using reusable bags.  Social pressure and education are having a positive impact.  

But, what really bothers me is that I don't believe that it's government's role to make this sort of decision.   I'm tired of a paternalistic government deciding what is best for us regardless of what we want.  The message continues to be, "You aren't smart/wise/informed enough to make a good decision, so we will make it for you.  If you don't agree with us, we will force you to do what we think is best."  A little power has gone to our representatives heads.  This voting season, I will be voting for candidates who will focus on core government functions and will stop meddling in areas that they should stay out of.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Cryin' through Temple Grandin

I just finished watching Temple Grandin.  I cried for Temple, at her pain.  I cried for her mother, at her pain, and at her frustration, and at her patience and tenacity.  I wonder if I can be as supportive of a mother as Temple's.  Can I find that balance between providing support & celebrating my daughter's uniqueness with the need to push her & help her to fit into society?

My precious daughter is beautiful, intelligent and very high functioning.  She doesn't look or seem autistic at first.

However, I am in the position to watch her daily struggles. Often, exasperated teachers reprimand her, once again, for not letting other children have a turn to answer the questions.   Some locations overwhelm her with too much input.  Noise increases her agitation.  She knows that she doesn't quite fit in with other little girls, but doesn't understand why.  She sees life as black and white; there are no shades of grey in her world view.  Children tease her because she talks a bit differently.

In search of a diagnosis, we've seen medical specialists in specialties that I didn't even know existed.  I've cut tags off clothing and taken my daughter on a search for sheets that were soft enough for her.  I've learned about spinning (no, it doesn't involve fibers) and how to make a people taco, about proprioceptive input and cross body movements, and about weighted blankets and clothes that give hugs.   I've read multiple books on social interactions and found Ipod apps to help her learn to interpret facial expressions.

I have spent many hours physically restraining her to prevent her from hurting herself or others as she screamed and flailed with frustration after a morning of "holding it all together" in public.  Over the last several years, we have worked with her, helping her to recognize when she is loosing control.  Now instead of having screaming, flailing tantrums when overwhelmed, she comes to me and asks for help.  Usually, she can hold it back until she is with me, but the longer she holds it together, the more intense and the breakdown is and the longer it takes for her to become calm.  Sunday afternoons are becoming a bit stressful right now.  Unfortunately, she will accept no one but me to help her, and she is unable to do much self soothing yet.  It's exhausting to be someone's constant and sole source of support.  

However, this is progress.  She is learning to recognize when she needs help.  She is willing to accept it.  And she is allowing one person into her personal world.  Additionally, we've learned that a dark, quiet room and deep physical input seems to help her regulate. We've created a space of her own, for her to use as a retreat.  She is experimenting with different activities to find some that can help her calm down.

She is working hard at learning subtle social rules, even though she really doesn't understand them.  We are working on reading people's faces and body language.  And, I am working on pushing her more to do what she is capable of doing.  Her conversational skills are improving.  A week ago, she even set up a play date with another girl from church.  I was so proud!

Despite the progress that we have made, I continue to feel that maybe I'm not doing enough or that if I did something different or better, she wouldn't struggle so much.  Like Temple's mother, I sometimes feel very alone.  People who barely know her announce that the doctors & therapists are wrong, that there's no way that she has autism.  It's difficult to work as hard as I do with her to have people tell me I just need to work harder, or that I need to cut the apron strings, or that putting her in public school will solve all her problems.

On the other hand, I compare myself with other parents who have children with much more severe needs than my little girl has, and I think that what we are dealing with doesn't deserve the help we get.  Yes, I actually do think that sometimes.  I am my harshest critic.

However, in quiet times of reflection, I know that she is doing as well as she is, that most people don't realize that she has autism, because of my concerted, daily effort in her behalf.  I have to trust my heart and follow the Spirit's guidance.  When I really listen, I know that we are mostly on the right track.

We are blessed that she is now able to, mostly, keep it together in public.  We are blessed that we have had access to a wide range of services.  We are blessed that I have the education I need to navigate the system and advocate for her.  We are blessed to have caring therapists.  But, most of all, we are blessed to have our wonderful daughter.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Free Homeschool ID Card

Get a FREE
Homeschool ID Card!

I've participated in the Homeschool Buyers Co-op for several years now.  They have wonderful buys on homeschooling resources and they offer free homeschool ID cards for teachers & students.  You do have to sign up to get the ID card.  However, they don't send spam and don't sell your email.  Membership is free and gives you access to all kinds of great deals.  

Monday, June 20, 2011

Way to go Lego!

For her birthday last year, Grandma & Grandpa took Constance to pick out a present.  Constance chose this Lego set specifically because it has a blond haired girl in it.  The girls like to use the Lego people to play pretend. Constance wanted a girl with blond hair like she has.

Before Constance was even able to bring the set home from Grandma's, her  (then three year old) sister hid the hair!  Of course, being three, she forgot where she hid it.  We thought the hair would eventually show up.  After a year, it still hasn't shown up.  

So, I went to the Lego website to see if I could purchase a replacement.  It wasn't there, and I emailed Lego for help.  Within a day or so, I heard back from Lego:

Dear D,

Thank you for contacting us on 06/02/11 and for your interest in LEGO® brand products.

I'm sorry to hear your LEGO piece needs replacing. We get to play with LEGO sets all day long (the best job in the world?), so I know that sometimes a piece wears out or gets lost or gets taken by a sibling.

That's why I've asked for a replacement piece to be sent out to you. We always try to match the color you want, but sometimes stocks run low, so we might have to send you a different one.

Although we usually ask people to pay for replacement pieces I'm sending this one for free - so now you can get building and have fun!

Your LEGO parts are on their way from our warehouse in Denmark and should be with you in 7 to 10 business days.

Thank you again for contacting us. We wish your family many happy hours of creative building with LEGO brand toys in the years to come.

Your LEGO Friend,

LEGO Direct Consumer Services

Note the purple highlight that I added.  They actually read my note explaining what had happened and customized the email back to me.  :-)  We received the replacement hair (would it be a wig?) last week.  

Thanks LEGO for great customer service!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Preschool at Home

In my earlier post, I stated that I don't believe that formal preschool is really necessary for most kids.  However, preschool aged children do need to learn preschool skills. Fortunately, preschool skills aren't very complex.

What should they be learning

Preschoolers should be learning about their five senses and learning how to take care of their bodies.  They should be learning to recognize and write letters and the sounds they make.  Many preschoolers will soon be sounding out simple words.  Counting, sorting, relative positions (up, under, beside...) and shapes are important to learn.  In addition, preschoolers should be learning about their community and society.

Easy, Everyday Lessons

Most preschool learning should be part of everyday life.  Preschoolers are naturally curious about everything.  Daily activities can be turned into learning activities without much effort on Mom's part.

For instance, at the grocery store, explore the colors and smells in the produce section. Count apples as you put them in a bag.  Talk about healthy foods.  Review how to stay safe in public and what to do if lost.

Everywhere you go, ask lots of questions and encourage your preschooler to politely ask questions, too.  Ask questions at the post office, dry cleaner, store, library, and every where else your errands take you.  Allow some extra time in your schedule to move at a preschoolers pace.

Explore the outdoors.  Your yard is good enough.  Watch insects.  Describe what is happening as you plant a seed and watch it grow.  Observe the weather and talk about differences between seasons. Talk about what clothes a person would wear for each season.

Read, read, read, and then read some more.  Read about our country's history.  There are wonderful books about our nation's founders and about holidays.  Read about other nations and other cultures, too.

Hands-on Activities

Give your child an old magazine, some scissors, and a gluestick.  Let him cut and paste to his hearts content.  It's not terribly messy and develops needed motor skills.  Help him write a story to go along with his picture.

Use chalk to write letters a big as you both are able on the sidewalk.  Form letters with playdough and cookie dough.  Use your bodies to form letters.  Draw letters in a bowl full of rice.

Once your child has learned to form letters, she'll probably want to write notes to friends and labels to pictures.  Help her sound out the words.  Don't stress if she spells things phonetically.

Get out the button jar & let your child sort the buttons into an egg carton.  Sort by size, color, shape, or any other characteristic that you fancy.  My kids love to get into the button jar.  They think that they are getting away with something.

Most Importantly

The most important part of schooling a preschooler is to have fun. Enjoy each other. Take time to answer questions.  And, don't make it harder than it should be.


Starfall -  Lots of animations.  (I've never used the paid part.)
Enchanted Learning - Not all is available for free.  Free stuff has ads.  But, lots and lots of good things here.
Worksheet Lab - Fun, colorful worksheets.  I just found this recently.
Handwriting for Kids - Writing skills.

Most "Preschool" or "Kindergarten" workbooks.  Just look through it to make sure that the work is about right for your child.

My all-time favorite resource is my public library!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Dinner Redo: Black Bean & Lime Soup/Clean Out the Fridge Burritos

I love leftovers!  I like to cook, but often get busy with other things.  Leftovers make my life so much easier.  However, my family will start to complain if they have to eat leftovers too often. So, I've started trying to create two meals from one time cooking. The idea comes from Cook Once, Eat Twice.   The following recipes, however, don't come from that book.  I'm not really in love with the recipes in it.

Day one: Black Bean & Lime Soup. I have no idea where I got this recipe from originally.  I've changed it so that it can be made entirely with food storage items.  But, the truth is that I usually use fresh items, except for the beans.  I'm usually too cheap to buy canned beans.   

Black Bean & Lime Soup

Work time: 10 minutes 
Cooking time: 2 hours  
Must soak beans overnight

2 C (1lb) dry black beans
4 tsp chicken bullion
1/2 C dry onions
1 Tbsp garlic powder - I will often chop fresh onions & garlic, then saute them before making the soup
3 C salsa (1 to 2 16-oz jars, to taste)
3 Tbsp lime juice
4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp dry red pepper
1 C dry sour cream mix (optional) - I use fresh sour cream
Corn chips (optional) 
Cilantro, fresh (optional, but really nummy)

SOAK beans overnight.  

DRAIN, then cover beans with fresh water and bring to a boil.  Boil for 5 minutes, turn heat down to simmer.  Cover and simmer until soft (about one hour) stirring occasionally.

ADD remaining ingredients (except for sour cream, corn chips, and cilantro) to the beans.  Cook 25-30 minutes, until dry onions are soft.  I will usually make this up in the morning & let it simmer most of the day so that the beans get really soft.

MIX dry sour cream mix with 6 Tbsp water and allow to sit while soup 

GARNISH each bowl of soup with
 sour cream and corn chips.  (And cilantro, if you have it.)

8 Servings 

(Nutritional content without garnish:  101.1 Calories, 0.9 grams Fat, 0.0 mg Cholesterol, 704.5 mg Sodium, 423.9 mg Potassium, 19.5 g Total Carbohydrate, 5.7g Dietary Fiber, 0.3 g Sugars, P5.6 g Protein.  --  Daily Values based on a 2000 calorie diet:  12.5% Vitamin A, 10.6% Vitamin B-6, 27.1% Vitamin C, 3.1% Vitamin E, 5.6% Calcium, 21.0% Copper, 20.8% Folate, 14.5% Iron, 12.3% Magnesium, 17.7% Magnanese, 5.5% Niacin, 2.7% Pantothenic Acid, 10.1% Phosphorus, 3.8% Riboflavin, 2.1% Selenium, 11.0% Thiamin, 5.6% Zinc.)

Day two: Clean Out the Fridge Black Bean Burritos

Minimum ingredients:
Leftover Black Bean & Lime Soup

Clean out the fridge ingredients at our house have included:  

Leftover cooked Rice
Leftover sauted onions
Grated cheese
Tomato (leftover from hamburgers)
Sour Cream
Lettuce or Spinach
and, my favorite:  Hidden Valley Spicy Ranch dressing

To take this up a notch, I've made the following chicken to go in the Burritos as well. Cooking the meat kind of defeats the idea of only cooking once, but I can marinate the chicken the day before, and it really doesn't take long to cook if I don't have to make the full meal.  

The chicken recipe is my take on Applebee's Tequila Lime Chicken from Low-Fat Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilber.  

Lime Chicken

1 C water
1 C teriyaki sauce
2 T lime juice
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp liquid smoke
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground ginger

4 skinless chicken breast fillets (I use frozen straight from the bag, and I don't defrost them first.)

Mix up marinade, pour over chicken.  Chill for 2-3 hours.  Cook in your preferred way (grill, saute, bake....)  I  usually throw these on the George Forman.  To use in tacos:  When the chicken is done, I remove the meat & boil down the marinade (partly to kill any bacterial from the meat & partly to make it thicker.)  Meanwhile I chop up the meat.  When the marinade is thick, I stir the meat back in.

Recipe: Fresh Lemon Sorbet

For Christmas, my brother gave us this ice cream maker.  We've been having a lot of fun with it.  Since Kathleen doesn't handle milk well, we often make non-dairy frozen treats.

Fresh Lemon Sorbet

Bits of fresh citrus zest add a burst of flavor to these refreshing sorbets.

Makes about eight 1/2-cup servings

2 C Sugar
2 C Water
1 1/2 C freshly squeezed lemon juice [If I have a lemon, I'll use whatever juice I get out of it, along with bottled. If I don't have a lemon, I just used bottled.]
1 T finely chopped lemon zest [If I have a lemon.]

Combine the sugar and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-hight heat.  Reduce heat to low and simmer without stirring until the sugar dissolves, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Cool completely.  This is called a simple syrup, and may be made ahead in larger quantities to have on hand for making citrus sorbets.  All to cool completely.  When cool, add the lemon juice and zest; stir to combine.  If not freezing immediately, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Turn on ice cream maker and pour in ingredients.  All to mix and freeze until desired serving consistency after 12 to 15 minutes of freezing.  If sorbet is not thick enough, continue mixing/freezing until desired consistency is reached, checking every few minutes.

Nutritional analysis per serving:
Calories 204 (0% from fat)
Carbs 54 g
Protein 0 g
Fat 0 g
Saturated Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 g
Sodium 3 mg
Cal. 5 mg
Fiber 0 g

Fresh Lime Sorbet:  Substitute 1 1/2 Cups freshly squeezed lime juice for the lemon juice and 1 T finely chopped lime zest for the lemon zest.

Fresh Lemon-Lime Sorbet:  Use half lemon juice and half lime juice and 1/2 T of each of finely chopped lemon and lime zest.

Fresh Pink Grapefruit Sorbet:  [Ewww.]  Substitute 1 1/2 C freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice for the lemon juice, and 1 T finely chopped grapefruit zest for the lemon zest.  Add 1/4 C orgeat syrup to the mixture (orgeat syrup is used for cocktails such as a mai tai or scorpion and can be found with the drink mixers in most grocery stores.)

Recipe from:  Cuisinart Recipe Booklet

We also have an ice cream maker kind of like this one.  With seven of us, we'll often have both ice cream makers going at once because neither one makes an awful lot of ice cream.  However, they are both super convenient because you don't have to add ice or salt.  You freeze the "bowl" that comes with the maker and use it instead. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Homeschool Book Review ~ Betsy Ross by Alexandra Wallner

This cute little book was a hit in our homeschool classroom (aka the dining room.)  Even my 10 year old, who said she knew all about Betsy Ross, was sucked in.  Not only was she interested in the story, before the book was over, she had taken it and started reading it to her sisters.  Later, she snuck it upstairs to read, so I wouldn't know she was reading the book that she said would be boring.

The illustrations are cute without being overly juvenile.  The colors are vibrant, much like colors used in colonial times.

Wallner presents a simple biography and the traditional story of how Betsy Ross contributed to the design the first flag.  She also includes an author's note at the end of the book, explaining that there is no way to prove that this story is true or that Betsy Ross actually did make the first flag.

At the end of the book, we are taught how to make a five pointed star.  This lead to a fun time designing our own 13 star flag.  This entertaining activity helped my children learn about our flag and it's symbolism.

I recommend this book for elementary aged children K-5.  Here's the link to the copy at the Bellingham Library.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


As a homeschooler, I'm hardly the person to ask about preschool.  But, I have opinions anyway.

Generally, I'm not one who thinks preschool is all that important.  Yes, the skills learned are important.  Kids need to learn colors, numbers, letters, how to wait their turn, and basic classroom behavior.  Any involved parent can teach these skills at home and by involving the child in church or some other program.  

However, two of my children did attend a formal pre-school.  Both Keegan & Dawnlynn have developmental delays.  After participating in the Birth-to-Three early intervention program in our area, they each attended our local public school district's special education preschool.  I can state with conviction that early intervention works.

At school they received speech and occupational therapy that I couldn't provide at home. Keegan went for approximate two hours a day, five days a week.  

Dawnlynn went for the same until January of this year.  She'd begun begging to stay home and crying about going to preschool.  In addition, her development is at target, with the exception of a few speech sounds.  Finally, she was showing a great interest in the schooling we were doing at home.  Over Winter Break, Dawnlynn was much happier staying home with us.  Now she goes to preschool one day a week to continue speech therapy.  

As for my other children, Kathleen was a bright child who was always ahead.  She would have been bored in preschool.  She joined a public school strings class with no problems in 5th grade.  Due to her developmental delays, Constance would have benefited from the early special-ed program.  Baby Benjamin isn't old enough to make the preschool decision yet.

For a typical child, I wouldn't worry about preschool as long as Mom is playing with and teaching the kiddo.  We count stairs while we are climbing them, talk about colors in the produce section at the grocery store, and read together.  We also attend church weekly where the children learn what's expected when in a group.  

Socialization is always a question.  But, how much socialization does a three, four, or five year old really need?  If s/he's an only child, there's an argument for getting some extra outside socialization.  But, if there's more than one child of somewhat similar ages in the family, playing with each other and with other neighbor kids some is plenty of socialization for that age.  

Finally, I don't think that preschool is bad.  I don't think that parents who put their kids in pre-school are bad.  There are lots of good reasons that families make the choices they do.  I just don't think that a child who doesn't go to preschool is doomed.  

Friday, May 27, 2011

Unveiling the Girls' Dormitory

After months of work, we have moved the girls into the Hogwarts style girls' dormitory.  Our goal was to use limited space efficiently to create private and shared spaces that girls can use to rest and to play.  We've done most of the work ourselves, but have had **lots** of advice and instruction.  Here are some pics.

Before:  small, leaky window, no heat, active wasp nest, dusty, stinky, full of spiderwebs and dust.

 Nearly ready for move in:  new sheetrock, insulation, window, flooring, lighting, heating.

We still  need to build the door for the access hole on the left.  The storage space is also insulated and provides some needed room to put things like the Christmas tree.

After move in: still some work to do. 

Each of the four girls has her own corner of the room.   Each girl has two can lights in the ceiling, one over the head of her bed and one over the dresser.  She has her own switch to control her lights.  She also has two outlets.  We wired plenty of circuits to make sure that multiple hair dryers can be used at once.    

A different perspective to show a room divider mounted from the ceiling. 

There is a wooden wall divider mounted on the left and the right side of the room.  Where the dressers are now will have freestanding closets added.  The dressers will be scooted over toward the walls, in front of the room dividers.  Each girl will have a ceiling-to-floor curtain hung in the "doorway" of her space, so that she can have complete privacy and the ability to escape into her own personal world.

The other side of the room.

The girls chose their own wall colors.  Kathleen has a bright cheery yellow.  Constance chose a lovely shade of lavender.  The two little girls went with a soothing shade of blue.  The ceiling and trim are white.  My mom says they are "Easter Egg" colors.

The flooring is the cheapest laminate from Lowes.  It was chosen to blend with the rustic hardwood in the rest of the upstairs.  There is one step up to get into this bedroom, so while the flooring doesn't match exactly, it goes well enough to blend nicely.

We still need to add legs to the beds (which my dad made.)  We will also add underbed storage bins to hold the girls' assorted stuff.  

Across the hall is the room that they have been sleeping in. It has a full height ceiling and will be used as a play room.  We call the two upstairs rooms the "children's suite."  

Thursday, May 5, 2011

What's your child's (or your) Learning Style?

For the month of May, you can find out for free through an arrangement that Homeschool Buyers Co-op has made with Learning Success Institute. Click here for more info.

I love the Homeschool Buyers Co-op.  They always have good deals on homeschool curriculum, on-line programs, materials (like the Lego science kits), etc...  Deals change throughout the year.  I've been a member for several years now.

One more nice thing about the Homeschool Buyers Co-op is that you can get homeschool student and teacher IDs through them.  They are free if you print them out yourself (I laminate ours) or, for a small charge, they'll make up a credit card style one for you.

I don't get anything for posting this, I just really like them & wanted to share.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Animated Hero Classics: The Wright Brothers

Let me start by stating the I really don't like cartoon versions of history (don't get me started on Pocahontas), but, I was *very* impressed by this.  The characters were drawn to actually look like the real-life Wright brothers.  The video included real science and discussion of what breakthroughs the Wright brothers accomplished.  It also brought in additional related characters and events from the time period.  Finally, there were no made-up animal friends!

The video told the story in a straightforward, easy way to follow.  My 4 yo, 7 yo, and 11 yo all sat down to watch and enjoyed it.  Although she won't admit it, even my 13 yo was caught peeking.  I, also, learned new things. (I had no idea what wing warping was or why it is important.  But, now, the whole family knows.)

After watching the video, we took the quizzes that came on the DVD.  The multiple choice questions gave me the opportunity to evaluate how well my kids understood the video.  Each question has the option to watch a small snippet of the DVD again to learn the answer.

The video has language tracks in English & Spanish, and has subtitles in both languages.  It's available through the Whatcom County Libary System.

Evidently, this is part of a full series of DVDs.  To be honest, I'd probably not checked this out had I known it was part of a "character building" series.  It's not that I object to character building; it's just that often they tend to be too sappy for my taste.  After trying this one, I'm going to check out some more from our library.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

When does life begin?

To listen to all the news on Abortion, one side is full of misogynists who want to keep women barefoot and pregnant, while the other-side is full of lazy, selfish, morally corrupt baby killers who use abortion as their only form of birth control.  We all know that those extremes don't really portray most people on either side.  Throwing those stereotypes around like mud doesn't do much to help get to the heart of the matter either.

There's talk about the mother's, the father's, and even grandparent's rights.  But, during all this debate, there is next to no mention of the fetus or baby, other than choosing which word to use to refer to it/he/she.  This lack of discussion confuses me.

I have my own opinions of course, but I'm curious what other people think.  At what point do the two cells become "living?"  At what point does the developing fetus become "human?"  At what point does it gain "human rights?"  Are those human rights different because the fetus lives in and is dependent upon another human?  How?  Do those rights change over the course of the pregnancy?  If so, how?  Does the fact that a woman is carrying a fetus change her rights?  Where do the two beings (woman & fetus) rights intersect?

I'm only interested in this small part of the topic of abortion.  Abortion is an emotional subject.  But, I ask that we try to keep the emotions in control.  I'm interested in serious contemplation and discussion.  The ability to sit back, cool off, and think about what I am going to say is one of the benefits of internet based discussion.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Homeschool Books Reviewed ~ Jane Goodall & The Chimpanzee Family Book

Book #1: Jane Goodall (Scholastic News Nonfiction Readers: Biographies) by Jo Kittinger

I'm afraid I don't have a picture of this one.  This is a simple, very basic biography of Jane Goodall.  It's a nice introduction to her & her work.  However, it is far too simple to be used with any but the younger grade school children.  It's published by Scholastic and is available in the Whatcom Co. Library.

Book # 2:  The Chimpanzee Family Book by Jane Goodall is a delightful story of one day in the life of a mama chimpanzee and her baby.  Jane follows them for one day & tells us all about what they do.  When I first flipped through this book, I thought I'd have to summarize the pages because there is quite a bit of text.  However, when I started reading it, I found that it was written in story-book fashion.  My kids enjoyed listening to it and looking at the pictures.  

Both books can be used for a study of Jane Goodall.  Her story provides a great launching point for lots of learning and discussion.  Here are a few suggestions.  They aren't all appropriate for all ages of children.

Personification:  Jane names the chimps rather than using the typical numbering system.  She also attributes human-like actions and feelings to them.  Is this a good thing?  How does it affect our views about the chimps?

Tool use:  Before Jane's observation of a chimpanzee using a stick to obtain termites to eat, it was believed that making & using tools was an ability only possessed by humans.  How does scientific discovery progress? what happens when we learn something that doesn't fit with currently held beliefs?  How do we currently determine what is a human?  What traits are uniquely human?

Treatment of animals:  Do animals have rights?  If so, what are they?  Do humans have responsibility to animals?  In what way do humans affect wild animals?  What about the Frodo's attack killing a human baby?  (Don't read this if you're pregnant; you'll cry.  Should he have been "put down?" How much interaction should people and animals have?

Science:  What did Jane expect to find?  What did she learn over time?  Did any of her theories change?  (For a long time she thought the chimps were kinder than people.  Then she learned that they can be very violent too.  Females at the top of the social order, sometimes snatch and kill other females babies.  Different groups of chimpanzees battle.)

History:  What has happened to baby Galahad in the last 20 years since the book was published?  (He died in a disease outbreak.)  What has happened to Jane Goodall?  (She's still alive and lecturing.  You can hear her greet you in "Chimpanzee" at

I hope you enjoy learning about Jane Goodall and chimpanzees as much as we did!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

What's in Your Purse? 2011 Version

I'm a little afraid to dive in there, but for history's sake, here are the contents of my purse today, April 2, 2011.

1 diaper
ziplock with a couple of baby wipes
Mini babypowder
ziplock with samples of paint colors
ziplock with cloth nursing pads
eye glass cleaning cloth
grocery outlet receipt
wic packet

uncashed check for $5
medical id cards
Red Cross training/instructor cards
assortment of store id cards/punch cards

black bag with:
tape measure
hand lotion
hand sanitizer
tic tacs (guess this has replaced the Princess Pez dispenser)
eye drops
asthma inhaler
thumb drive
"work" id tags
leatherman micra
ear buds
MRC "coin"

Most revealing is my wallet with: 
home school ID
Lowe's gift card
temple recommend
State of WA emergency worker card
Costco card
Ham radio license
a few bucks
library cards
"work" business cards
"family" business cards
drivers licence
credit card

What's frighting is that I (or a small family member or another) actually USE all this stuff.  When I go out, I add my Ipod & phone.  My purse is a backpack style for a reason.  There's even room to add small purchases, a change of baby clothes, errant toys, or a sling as needed.

What's in Your Purse?

This is a retread from a FB note in 2009.  Since then, we've added a baby to the family, so a diaper & ziplock with a few wipes have been added to my purse.  

What's in your purse?

by Dawnette Chumley Chadwick on Tuesday, April 28, 2009 at 9:48pm
I was searching for something in my purse and was entertained by it's contents. Here's my list. What's in yours?

Digital camera
Bottle of Excedrin
Work ID badge
Granola bar
2 packages of "potty candy" aka Skittles
2 unused, but crumpled tissues
Cinderella PEZ container
1 piece unopened junk mail
Grocery receipt
Goodwill receipt
Bank deposit receipt
10 coupons (unexpired, for once)
2 business cards from other people
Medical Reserve Corps "coin" - gotta keep it with me to avoid buying drinks
2 quarters
1 penny
2 tubes of lipstick
Mechanical pencil
2 watch batteries
2 rubber bands
1 credit card I'd lost and was why I was cleaning out my purse
Redbox DVD "Sunday School Musical"
2 popcicle sticks carved and taped together to make tweezers?
Tag from a scarf
Fabric scrap that I want to match.

That's what was in the main pocket. I didn't get to the others.

Friday, March 18, 2011

St Patrick's Day Feast

This year for St. Paddy's Day, I decided to see if I could come up with a less greasy meal.  It turned out great.  The kids ate **ALL** of the cabbage and raved about the meat.  In addition, we had Irish "Champ" (a sort of mashed potatoes) and Irish Soda Bread.  And, of course, we learned a bit of history.

Baked Corned Beef
10 min prep, 2 hours baking

1 pkg (about 5 lbs) Corned Beef
Black Pepper
1/4 C Honey
1/4 C Brown Sugar
10-12 Whole Cloves

Drain corned beef & discard the spices that came with it.  Place meat fat-side up on a large piece of foil.  On top of  beef:  sprinkle black pepper "to taste",  spread with honey, then sprinkle brown sugar on top.  Insert cloves evenly, every couple of inches.  Since corned beef is already salty, you don't need to add any addition salt.

Wrap beef in foil, leaving a bit of room at the top.  Place on a shallow baking pan.  Bake 350 for about 1 hr 50 minutes.  For the last 10 minutes, fold top of foil back & broil or cook on 450 degrees to brown the top of the meat.

Use a larger cut of meat than you need.  You can use the leftover for Ruben Sandwiches or Corned Beef Hash.  Yum!

INTERESTING HISTORY:  Cows were a status symbol in Ireland.  So, the Irish tended to eat sheep & pig more than beef.  Corned beef is an Irish-American food though.  Probably because beef was a more economical choice than pig here.


2-4 Tbsp bacon drippings or olive oil
1 large sweet onion, sliced
2 cloved garlic minced (I use the pre-cut ones that come in a bottle)
1 small head cabbage, sliced
Salt & Pepper

Heat oil or bacon drippings over med-high heat.  Add onions & saute until they are just beginning to brown.  Add garlic, cook for two minutes more.  Add in 1/2 of the cabbage.  Let it sit on the bottom of the pan & brown.  You need the skillet to be hot enough to brown the cabbage quickly without burning it.  Stir & add the rest of the cabbage.  Brown, then salt & pepper to taste.  I didn't salt this too much, since we were eating it with the corned beef.

INTERESTING HISTORY:  When an Irish recipe calls for "rashers", you can substitute bacon.  Rashers are like bacon, but with very little fat.



2-3 lbs potatoes,cut into 2" cubes
1 bunch green onions, sliced incl. greens
1 C milk
2 tsp salt
4 Tbsp butter

Boil potatoes until tender.  Simmer green onions in milk for 5 minutes.  Don't boil.  Drain potatoes, then mash (or whip) them.  Stir in milk, salt & butter.

INTERESTING HISTORY:  Potatoes became a staple in Ireland due to severe poverty and famine.  I usually peel my potatoes when I'm going to mash them.  However, the peels have valuable vitamins and fiber.  The vitamin C found in the peels can help prevent scurvy.  (Not much of a problem in our society today.)

10 minutes prep.  40 minutes baking.

Irish Soda Bread makes up & tastes a lot like biscuits.  Good with butter & jelly.  Don't let the lengthy instructions keep you from trying this.  It's really easy & pretty quick.

3 1/2 C flour 
1 tsp sugar (optional)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 C buttermilk (OR 1/2 tsp lemon juice and 1 C milk)

Mix the dry ingredients well.  You want the baking soda well distributed.  Stir in the buttermilk.  (I rarely have buttermilk around & never think to buy it.  You can substitute by mixing 1 C milk with 1/2 tsp lemon juice or vinegar & letting it sit 15 minutes.  The flavor is a bit different, but not an issue.)  

You want the dough to be the consistency of biscuit dough - sort of stringy and thick.  However, you may need to add a bit more milk than one cup depending on the humidity, your flour, etc.  You can add just plain milk if needed.  

Once mixed, kneed it once or twice by hand.  It really doesn't need much. The reaction between the soda and acid starts right away, so you don't want to fuss around with this.  

Shape into a ball.  Take a sharp knife and cut half way down to make a cross shape in the bread.  Bake.

There are several ways to bake Irish Soda bread.  Check out Peters-Mums-Soda-Bread-Recipe for lots of ideas & more information.  It's a great site.  I chose to bake mine in a small dutch oven, but it can be pan cooked, baked on a stone or even on a cookie sheet.  

To bake in a dutch oven.  Pre-heat dutch oven at 475-500 degrees.  Flour the dutch oven.  Plop bread into it.  Replace lid & put into oven.  Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 375.  Bake for another 10 minutes, then remove the lid.  Bake for 20 more minutes.  Remove from oven & remove from dutch oven.  

For a crisp crust, let sit on a cooling rack.  For softer crust, wrap in a dishtowel.

INTERESTING HISTORY:  In most areas, fuel was limited so bread was baked in a community oven.  However, in Ireland, fuel was much easier to obtain. Most people could make their own bread.  

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

YUM! Philly Cooking Cream - a must try

Italian Cheese and Herb Cooking Creme
You HAVE to try this stuff!  It's so good.  I tried it because I hosted a "House Party" to promote it.  After trying it, I'm going to keep buying it.  I made two different main courses for my "House Party."  First was chicken enchiladas.  Second was a creamy Alfredo-like pasta dish.  Both were super duper easy and quickly devoured.

The cooking creme made is easy to throw together fast meals with a minimum of ingredients.  In addition, I think the Santa Fe flavor would be a great chip dip by itself or with some grated cheddar cheese stirred into it.  I also want to try the Santa Fe flavor as a layer in a seven-layer Mexican dip.  Yum, yum, yum.

My family loves enchiladas, but they are a pain to make, so I don't do it very often.  This recipe is zippy-fast and easy.   It doesn't look like it'll serve a lot, but, with the addition of a nutritious green salad, and some corn or refried beans, it will fully feed my family of seven.  You can have this done in just over 30 minutes. We will be eating enchiladas more often now!

Saute one diced onion in a bit of oil or butter.
Add about 3 C of cooked chopped chicken (2 cans of "church" cannery chicken, 5 "tuna" sized cans,  1 lb pre-cooked frozen diced chicken...)
Stir in 3/4 container of Philly Santa Fe Cooking Creme
and 1 can of diced tomatoes, drained
Add 1/2 C grated Mexican cheese

Spoon this mix into 8 tortillas, roll each up and place into a 13x9 baking dish (sprayed w/ PAM.)
Top with remaining cooking creme.

Bake covered for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees or until heated through.

Garnish with fresh diced tomatoes & green onions, if desired.


You can never go wrong with bacon.  This has a flavor similar to Alfredo, but it's richer & creamier.  I liked it better than Alfredo.  The following recipe will feed eight as a one-pot meal.  It even has a vegi in it, and takes less than 30 minutes from start to finish.  It would take less time if you already had the bacon cooked.  I'm definitely making this again.

Start water boiling for 1 lb fettuccine.  Cook fettuccine, drain.
Meanwhile, cook 1 package bacon (cut into 1/2 inch pieces) until crisp.  Remove bacon from skillet with slotted spoon, then drain off all but about 2 Tbsp of drippings.
Saute 1 chopped red onion in the drippings, until crisp-tender.  (You want this to still have a touch of crunch and you want to preserve some of the red color.)
Add 2 containers Philly Italian Cheese & Herb Cooking Creme,
and 1 C milk,
and 2 C frozen peas.
Then cook and stir about 3 minutes, until warm.
Stir in the cooked fettuccine, and the cooked bacon.


Quick tip:  If I'm cooking bacon anyway, I routinely cook up more than I need.  I recently learned to cook it in the oven.  It broils quickly and turns out nice and crisp with a minimum of effort or clean up on my part.  Then I toss the extra bacon into the freezer.  I also keep a pint jar of bacon drippings in the fridge.  Drippings are a great flavoring when cooking eggs in particular.  Just add a smidge to your non-stick skillet or a bit more to any other pan.  This recipe would take next to no time to make using pre-cooked bacon & drippings.