Saturday, January 29, 2011

Weekly Challenge

I have several areas of my home that are not functioning as they should.  Each time I have to deal with them I think that really needs cleaned out and organized, but then life calls me and it is left undone. So I have joined Bowl Full of Lemons Weekly Challenges. I hope to use it as motivation to tackle one thing at a time and in the end have a more efficient home. So I spend less time on the urgent and more time on the important. If you want to join in hop over to Bowl Full of Lemons and get the details. I will be posting each week on the progress.

What a Week

Last week seemed to fly by. I had several projects that I wanted to get done around the house while hubby was off, but I can't think of one that got completed. I didn't even find the time to post my normal Teaching Tuesday post. But one thing I did do, was read and spend lots of time with my family and friends. I had been wanting to read Mary Beth Chapman's book Choosing to SEE: A Journey of Struggle and Hope. A few weeks ago, I noticed it was on sale for the Kindle for $2.  So I bought it, and hoped I would get to read it soon. Then, my good friend, Shawna told me I had to read it and Kyle should read it too. So I set out to read it with him this week. We got through almost half together. We were laughing and crying from page to page.  I sent him back to night shift with instructions to finish it on the Kindle and I borrowed Shawna's copy. I finished it up Friday night. I couldn't put it down. I highly recommend it. It is not just about the tragedy that forever changed them as a family, but about the journey God has them and each of us on. It is a must read. So I didn't get a lot of house work done, but we took time to enjoy each other as a family and catch up with good friends. What better way to spend the week.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Mom to Mom

It's Almost Nap Time is hosting a Mom to Mom link party today.  She wants moms to share what has worked for them.

Three things popped into my head when I read her post.  They are not related to each other, nor are they new ideas.  Just three things I'm glad I do.

Baby Wearing - I have had some kind of carrier or sling for each of my children.  For Landon we had the Baby Bjorn front carrier.  I have to admit I only used it briefly because once he gained much weight, it killed my back.  My husband on the other hand loved/loves it.  We would do our grocery shopping with Landon strapped to his chest.  It was great Landon felt snuggled and loved and we could concentrate on the task at hand.  When our second came along I knew I wanted a sling for her.  I would need my two hands free to take care of Landon who was a mere 22 months old.  So I purchased a HotSling from Target.  It worked great.  It distributed the weight across my back.  She loved it too.  Then they got recalled for I was on the look out for something else for Baby #3.  My friend recommended the Sleepy Wrap.  Let me tell you, I wish I had had one from the beginning.  It keeps the baby so snuggly and it so comfortable.  I can do everything I need to, besides shower, with Levi snuggled up on my chest.  He has been a super baby, but does have some tummy issues, and when I put him in the Sleepy Wrap he relaxes and can sleep or just take in the world around him.  So I would recommend the Sleepy Wrap to any new mom.

Napping when Kids Nap - Do it.  Nap when your kids nap.  If some of your kids are too big for naps, have quiet time, and you nap.  I am telling you it makes you a whole new women, just getting a quick power nap.  I know you have a list of things to do during nap, and sometimes I have to skip nap too.  But if you would even just let yourself nap a few times a week, you will think more clearly and be much more productive.  I haven't had a straight 8 hours of sleep for a long time, because even once the baby is sleeping through the night little children wake and need taken back to bed.  So catching a quick nap during the day has been essential.

No shoes in the house - I know this may sound silly, but it really revolutionized my life.  Instituting no shoes in the house came from us moving into a home with hard wood floors on the first level.  I read up on how to care for them, and the worst thing you can do is wear your outside shoes on them.  It's like walking around with sandpaper on your feet.  So we started it to care for our hardwood floors, but it has had so many benefits.  First outside dirt stays at the door, so I have to sweep up less tracked in dirt.  Second, and possibly my favorite, we always know where the kids shoes are.  See we have a basket right by the door, and when the kids come in, their shoes go right in that basket.  No more running around the house trying to find where they took off their shoes the last time, as you are trying to get to the library or church.  So even if you don't care if you wear shoes in the house, having a central location for them is a must!

So there are my 3 quick and unrelated mom to mom tips.  What would yours be?

Friday, January 21, 2011


Today's recipe is another adaptation of a recipe I found on Betty Crocker's site.  In fact I have two adaptations to share with you.  The first is Chicken Enchilada Lasagna and the second is what my husband has deemed Enchiladacotti.  

Enchiladacotti w/lean beef ingredients are pictured.

12 uncooked lasagna noodles (12 ounces) or manicotti noodles depending on which variation you try
2 cans (10 ounces each) enchilada sauce
1 can (4.5 ounces) chopped green chiles
1 medium tomato, chopped (3/4 cup)
2 cups diced cooked chicken or 1 lb ground beef or turkey
1 cup shredded Pepper Jack Cheese (4 ounces)
8 medium green onions, chopped (1/2 cup)
1 cup sour cream
1 cup shredded Cheddar or Mexican Blend cheese (4 ounces)

Chicken Enchilada Lasagna

Heat oven to 350ºF. Grease rectangular baking dish, 13x9x2 inches.  Then mix enchilada sauce, chilies and tomato. In separate bowl mix meat, Pepper Jack cheese, onions and 1 cup sour cream.
Spread about 1/2 cup sauce mixture in baking dish.

Then place a layer of lasagna noodles.  Then layer half the meat mixture followed by half the remaining sauce mixture.  Then repeat.  Top with the Mexican Blend Cheese.  Cover and bake 40 to 45 minutes or until hot in center and pasta tender.
Prepare your pan, mix your sauce and meat mixture, and put sauce in bottom of pan just like in the above directions.
 Then stuff the manicotti pasta (no need to precook as long as your sauce covers your pasta) with the meat mixture, and place them in the pan.  I had a little extra filling for the pasta I had so I just filled in around the filled ones.  
Then pour the remaining sauce mixture over the filled pasta.
Cover and bake 45 - 50 minutes or until hot in center and pasta tender.
This dish (either variation) is so yummy.  It has a little more prep then most of my usual supper choices, but it is so worth it.  So give it a try and let me know which variation you picked.   

We're Organized Wednesdays...or Fridays

I wanted to get this simple project done in time to post Wednesday, and then Thursday, but alas it is now Friday.  So you are getting a two for one today.  First my simple organization and crafty project, and later a yummy recipe for Enchiladacotti.  If you are not sure what that is, you'll just have to come back and check it out.  Now on to my cute little tags.

It has been on my list since early December to really go through the childrens' toys that are kept in their rooms.  Most of their toys are in the basement, so they are sorted more frequently.  I knew there were lots of broken and outgrown toys stashed away upstairs.  I think it happens because most of my work gets done while the kids are asleep, therefore I avoid working in their rooms.  So a few weeks ago, my husband graciously offered to take the older two out for a morning of errands while I worked frantically in their rooms.  So the organization part has been done for a while, but I wanted to make these cute tags for the cubbies.

To make the tags I used my new Cricut I received as a complete surprise for Christmas!  It was a Black Friday special my step mom nabbed.  I had a small one, but now I have the big one.  I don't know much about it yet, but so far it has proven to be amazing. I am sure more crafty projects will come from this gift.  I first cut out the white tags.  Then cut out the ladybugs and frogs.  These cubbies are in Elaine's room that she will eventually share with Levi until he is old enough to share the loft bed arrangement with his older brother.  So I want to add some elements to the room that keep it from being all girl, hence the frogs.  After I did the organizing and cleaning out, one whole cubby was empty!  I attached a tag so it will be ready to label when we find something that needs a home.
I wanted to make the tags for a few reasons.  Now someone else can assist in cleaning up and know where things go.  They also help with early literacy as the kids see the word dishes and learn that is where the play dishes go.  Also I think they make the plain cubbies so cute, which is what makes organizing fun.

I'm linking to We're Organized Wednesday at Organize and Decorate Everything.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Teaching Tuesday: Resources for Pre-School

Today I wanted to pass on a few resources that I have used to plan some hands on, age appropriate activities for both Landon and Elaine.  For me the day gets away from me if I am not purposeful in my time with my children.  Before I know it I have spent the morning on laundry, email, dishes, and cleaning.  Then it is lunch time followed by nap.  Then after nap it is supper prep time, then dinner, then baths and bedtime.  The day is gone and I haven't taken the time to focus on my kids.  Really spend time with them.  So even when Landon was very little I started looking for ways to play with him intentionally and help him learn about the world around him.  The first resource I found was a really fun book, Slow and Steady Get Me Ready, by June Oberlander.  I purchased an older edition from ebay.  It starts at birth and goes through age 5 with an activity a week.  I haven't always done every activity with each kid, but when I am looking for something fun to do it is full of age appropriate ideas.  The ideas usually involve things you find around the house.  I have had to improvise a few times for instance when it suggests using empty spools...I don't sew enough to have empty spools lying around, but I always found something that would work.  This fish activity was one I found in the book.

The second place I want to highlight is Hubbard's Cupboard.  It is a website with tons of great ideas for 2 and 3 year olds.  I have used lots of her ideas this year.  I used her monthly themes loosely for Elaine.  I love having the suggested books to read, because finding books at the library can be tricky while watching a 4 year old and a potty training 2 year old and pushing a stroller.  I also used several of her ideas for Christmas too.  Here Landon and Elaine are making shape angels, a link I found on Hubbard's Cupboard's Christmas list.

Next Tuesday I have some activities I have used to teach reading comprehension that can be used with several age levels and with almost any book.  Later this week the crafty organization project I have been working on and another yummy recipe.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Steak and Pasta Soup with Homemade Peasant Bread

I have an easy supper idea to share.  It is great on these cold winter nights.

The main course was a recipe I tweeked from Betty Crocker's website.

Steak and Pasta Soup

1 jar (around 26 oz) mushroom spaghetti sauce
 2 1/2 cups water
1 lb boneless beef round steak, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (I purchased meat that was ready for stir fry and just cut the strips smaller)
9 oz refrigerated cheese filled tortellini (You could use ravioli)
Parmesan Cheese - grated

Pour the sauce, water, and beef into your crock pot.  Cook on low 6 - 8 hours.  Then turn heat up to high and add pasta.  Cook for another 30 minutes.  Serve with the cheese sprinkled on each bowl.  If you have more then 3 - 4 people to serve you may want to double the soup recipe.  We only had one serving left for hubby to take for lunch the next day.

I had been wanting to try making this Peasant Bread Recipe for awhile and this was the perfect meal to serve it with.  Grocery Cart Challenge does a great tutorial so I will just let you hop over there to check it out.  I made one loaf with Parmesan cheese on top and one with cinnamon and sugar.  I have already made a batch again we enjoyed it so much.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Life with 4, 2, and New

Life with a 4 year old, a 2 year old, and a New baby (well he is technically 16 weeks) is never dull.  Let me catch you up on what's going on with each of them.

4 - Landon - aka Superman, Spiderman, Ironman, Lightning Landon, and our newest alias Spy Guy
He spends his time climbing, jumping, and creating.  He knows the sounds of most of the letters in the alphabet and can even read a few words, but would much rather learn about dinosaurs or interesting animal facts.  He knows all the words to the theme song for the Wild Kratts cartoon.  But he still loves to snuggle at bedtime and play "What's Your Favorite?" and his prayers are so sweet and genuine.

That brings us to

2 - Elaine -
She still spends most of her time trying to decide if she wants to be a big girl or a little girl.  She loves to do school work and has actually surprised me with some of the things she understands.  Yet often gets words confused like cheeto for cheetah and ghost for goat.  She tucks all her babies into bed each night and keeps their diapers clean and hair brushed.  She is getting quite brave in her pursuits to keep up with Spy Guy, but still needs lots of sympathy when she gets injured in the line of duty.  She loves to sing and we love to listen.

And finally

New - Levi
He is getting so much personality and it isn't like his siblings as babies.  He seems to really watch everything and notices mobiles and hanging toys his brother and sister always over looked.  He is pushing himself up with his arms and reaches for toys.  If he is on his tummy very long he rolls to his back, we are waiting anxiously for him to roll himself to his tummy.  He is cutting two teeth and can bring toys to his mouth.  He loves to snuggle and smiles so big when you talk to him.  He is quite fond of his family and we can't imagine life without him.  I've already had to pack away the newborn and 3 month clothes.

Even though seeing each of the children grow and change is bittersweet, I have been reminded to be present in the present.  Each stage is packed with moments I never want to forget, but that doesn't mean I need to go back and repeat the past.  Ashley at Under the Sycamore says it so well here and here.

What are your children doing that you want to slow down and enjoy?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Teaching Tuesday: Half Way Point

For all practical purposes we have reached a half way point through our first year of homeschooling.  We didn't take off a long time at Christmas and New Years, for two reasons.  The first being I had taken a break when Levi was born and again when I had surgery.  Second, the children do well with the structure and routine especially when it is too cold to play outside.  So I wanted to take some time to reflect on this half of the first year.  Even though I did do some "school" with Landon last year it was very casual and informal.  Which is how I think it should be.  Kids need time to play, there is so much learning and growing during free play.  So this year I have had to work out a balance not only for him, but for Elaine.  She is only 2.  She needs to play, play, play.  She wants to do school work like Landon but doesn't have the attention span to hang in there, so often she becomes a distraction.  Thankfully Landon has come to understand that when I take her and help her find some toys to play with, its not a reward for her while he is punished with "school".  He is older and has new responsibilities.  Also he has learned (not that he doesn't have to be reminded) that when she isn't interrupting and he is focused, our formal school time is quite brief.  Some days it is only 30 min and at the most an hour.  Outside of our structured school time we read books, paint, use our imaginations, cook, clean, go to the library, take karate, and play with our friends.  All of those things are important, not just phonics and numbers.  I feel good about the balance we have created.

As for the second half of the year we will press on with our phonics, numbers, Bible, and readiness skills.  We will finish up our health and safety lessons and move into character traits.  I am also going to add in some science experiments and lessons on dinosaurs thanks to some amazing books we received for Christmas.  I am excited to share those with you as well. 

Over the next few Tuesdays I plan to share some resources i have found for 2-3 year olds and what curriculum I plan to use for next year.  I actually have some crafty ideas and recipes for later this week!  We have snow here, so I am sure snow angels are in the plans for today.  I hope you have a great Tuesday.