Thursday, April 23, 2015

How to Boil an Egg

I have been boiling eggs for a long while and have tried ALL the methods --or so I thought-- to get eggs to peel easily. I reasoned I had a pretty good handle on this most basic of kitchen cookerys.

Boiling eggs came up the other day in a group I'm in, prompting much discussion. I had thought that adding salt or baking soda to the water worked fairly well, especially for farm fresh eggs like we usually have. I still did spend an inordinate amount of time peeling the little cackle berries though. I had tried the pin method too, where you puncture the shell but not the sac around the albumen in order to let the water separate them and make peeling easier. I thought this made the eggs too wet and frankly a little gross. I had also tried the YouTube videos' wherein they basically blow an egg out of its shell in seconds--which didn't work at all for me.

Then last night my friend Amber changed my life forever. Boiling eggs again came up in conversation. She shared how she just read an article how to boil eggs and was feeling success in the egg peeling arena for the first time in her life. She had pretty much given up until she read the article. It convinced her because told her the science behind the method, so she thought she would try one last try.
My experiment included the white store bought eggs of undetermined age we had on hand for Brielle's activities she came up with when she taught preschool last week, the brown eggs I marked "old" which were at the back of the fridge from a friend's farm, and then the plain brown eggs we took out of the nesting boxes within the last couple of days.

Here is what you do: boil water. Put your steamer on your pot.
Add the eggs to the steamer--only once the water is boiling, mind you. Cover.
Set your timer for 12 minutes. Go laugh your head off to a Good Mythical Morning episode. (I guess that part can be optional, but seriously, you should do it.) When your timer rings, immerse your eggs in an ice water bath.
We didn't have very much ice but it still worked.

I didn't time this part, but I first measured my kids' tee shirts to be sure of their sizes and placed an order for some Classical Conversations shirts.
So however long that took is how long they sat in the icy water.

Now. This is the amazing part.
Elivette and I peeled all nine eggs in about two minutes,
even the ones that had been under a chicken a day or so ago. 

Now, go boil and peel happy. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Commence Operation Fill the Freezer

I thankfully have had pretty amazing energy the last couple of days, so I thought I would actually make some food instead of the catch as catch can kind of meals that have been happening around here lately. I will share what works for me.


I had been part of a freezer exchange group for several months, but it kind of fell apart. About a dozen people would make 12 of the same meal and then exchange it for 12 different ones. I was ok that the group dissolved though since I (and some other members) would work really hard on preparing healthful homemade generous meals and we would receive in exchange (from a few people) white pasta and store bought sauce with very little meat. I guess we are kind of food snobs around here because I would have to revamp the meal so my children would eat it. This kind of defeats the purpose of the exchange group. 

Another time my mom and I spent an entire day cooking 10 different meals. We trebled the recipes and I took two and she took one. That worked pretty well, but it was an exhausting day and it was hard to juggle the children and the cooking even with both of us there. It is also hard to find an entire day that works for both of us. Another drawback is that it's expensive to buy all of the ingredients for 30 meals at one time, even without counting the cost of the homegrown beef in our freezer. 

What has always worked best for me is to double or treble a recipe that I am already making. We eat one meal --and usually have leftovers--and I put another one or two in the freezer. Then on a low energy or sick or busy day, I can pull a freezer meal out and have a healthful homemade meal, regardless of the day's circumstances.

Last night I got organized and made a list of meals I would like to make over the next month.
I started on a homeschool blog of a mom with seven children, but then realized I would be clicking all over the Internet and it was likely going to take all night to see if the recipes would fit our family's taste. Plus most of the recipes are for chicken, and we eat a lot of home raised beef and pork. 

I then pulled out my favorite publisher's freezer magazine, which is a special publication they put out in the fall, and it only took me a short while to make the list. I made the grocery list at the same time, even though I probably wouldn't buy everything at once.

I was watching a friend's daughters today, which really makes things easier because the kiddlets run off and play and don't torment me about how they are so hungry. 

Whenever I am working in the kitchen, it makes people hungrier than hobbits.

We had Chicken Broccoli Skillet for lunch. It was pretty good, even though I forgot the cheese, and I got two meals in the freezer with very little extra effort.

Then for dinner (supper if you're from a farm in Iowa), since it has been bitter and blustery, I thought Italian Wedding Soup sounded good. I didn't account for all the kajillions of tiny meatballs. Or the fact that my helpers would want to make meat snowmen. Or that once their friends went home, my Hungry Offspring would be whiny and tearful and prone to accidents.
 I managed to get dinner made, and some extra meatballs, but making the other batches of soup will have to wait until another day, as that was far too ambitious for this pregnant mama. 

My precious eight year old who happens to be in possession of boundless energy made the Onion French Bread and as an added bonus, made some orange sherbet. 

Thursday, April 02, 2015

An Honest Review of Classical Conversations

We are finishing up our 24th and final week of our first year in Classical Conversations this week. I thought I would write up a quick review of it to help other families perhaps decide if it is right for them or not.

Our community was in its first year. I also was a Foundations tutor. My three oldest, ages 10, 8 and 6 were in it all year. We added my 4 year old at semester. My 10 year old was also in Essentials. Community Day is 1 day a week. The Foundations students, ages 4-11 meet for 2 1/2 hours. There is an hour lunch/recess. Then students aged 9-11, who are optionally and additionally enrolled in Essentials meet for two more hours. The younger siblings attended a child care on campus. You can opt to not be in Essentials even if you are old enough, and it's possible to only be in Essentials if you don't want to do Foundations. I would recommend you only do that, however, if you already had a good grasp of the three cycles CC goes through.

The morning flies by, with a half hour each of Fine Arts-ranging from learning about the orchestra and composers, famous artists, drawing lessons to practicing the tin whistle (similar to a recorder), Science, introducing New Grammar (seven subjects, referred to as grammar as elementary schools used to be referred to as grammar schools), Presentations and Review.

The Essentials time is divided up into basics of the English language, like diagramming sentences and identifying sentence parts, learning to write well, and math games.

When I first heard about Classical Conversation in our area, I immediately wrote it off. When I began homeschooling I read copiously about the different methods of learning and styles of homeschools. I could not envision myself as a classical teacher by any stretch of the imagination. It seemed much too structured and linear for me. I am much more of a relaxed, life learning type of person. Or so I thought then.

I watched a couple of friends dive into it and saw how it benefited their families. Last summer I attended an open house and saw a model of a Foundations class at a couple different age levels in action. I thought we would give it a try, mostly to help one of my children have a consistent peer group and to have someone ELSE be in authority over another one of my children, at least for a few hours a week. I didn't have a real grasp of the Classical Method yet, but I thought it couldn't hurt.

I was asked to tutor in July and attended a Parent Practicum. The practicums are three day seminars held all over the country for parents for free. This was the best thing that could have happened because my eyes were opened to what the Classical Method really was, and how it can fit into even a relaxed, unschool leaning family. I got so excited about teaching and tutoring. (The moms and dads are the teachers in their homes and the classroom time teachers are referred to as tutors)

The men walking on the moon is one of the boys' favorite parts of our time line song. 
The children stuff themselves inside a space capsule when we visited NASA.
Students at the elementary age are hard wired for memorization. You may be amazed at how your young child can sing a song from a commercial he has only heard a couple of times or when they remember something you said a few weeks ago, but to the the child it is simple. In the Classical Conversations day, we don't teach context. We leave that up to the parent to address how they will. But it is amazing even without any context how the content they have memorized applies to the world they interact with on a daily basis.

An example in my own life: One of the 'pegs' in our timeline song is 'Otto von Bismark unifies Germany'.  I had never heard of him before or understood how key this was in the history of the world. We are of German descent on both sides. We were at our local German Heritage Museum recently and I was fascinated to discover more information about von Bismark and how his reign directly affected me because of affecting my ancestors! I probably would never have even noticed his name if it weren't for Classical Conversations. Incidents like this happen regularly to all of us because of this program. Even my four year old will randomly point out things he is applying from learning these basics during CC, and he was only in the actual class for 12 weeks.

One of our history sentences this year was in regards to the U.S. astronauts walking on the moon.
Brielle tried it out on our NASA visit.
I have watched my children blossom through the loving attention of our tutors. It is terrific for me to see other Christian adults love on and teach my children. They have all matured so much this year, which may have happened anyway, but I do attribute a lot of it to the structure and consistency of CC. My oldest set the goal for herself to memorize every single thing that was thrown her way, and be orally tested on it FOUR different times. She has one more test to do, but I am confident she will achieve her goal. I am so proud of her striving for this challenge, and completely of her own volition!

It is hard to describe all of the benefits we have gained from being a part of CC, but I hope I have given you a good overview of what we experienced and piqued your interest so you do your own research and look into it further.


how we typically do school 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Things I'm Afraid I'll Never Again Have

I've been a mama now for 10 1/2 years...expecting our sixth little Farm Fresh Blessing. I should be used it by now...and yet sometimes I'm afraid.

I'm afraid I'll never have a house clean for longer than twenty minutes.

I'm afraid things will always move around seemingly of their own accord. I'll forever be finding hairbrushes on the floor and never knowing what happened to my orange handled scissors and my flour sifters will always be taken out to the sandbox.

I'm afraid...

I'll always wake up to the sound of people fighting.

I'll never go a day without someone crying.

Mopping will only happen because someone spilled something.

Someone will always be touching/pushing on/grabbing at/pulling on/poking at/sitting on/kicking (from the inside) me.

I'll forever have to listen to petty squabbles--because how else should one handle it when someone is reading the book someone else checked out from the library?

I'll never again have an uninterrupted thought.

I will be repeating myself ad nauseum for the rest of my life. I will be repeating myself ad nauseum for the rest of my life. ISAID, I will be repeating myself ad nauseum for the rest of my life.

I will constantly have to think about what we need when we leave the house; will this outing coincide with a hunger time, do I need snacks, do I have extra bundies/diapers/outfits/wipes, does everyone have shoes, does everyone have a coat, do we need waters? Et cetera, et cetera.

Someone will always be peeking in on me in the shower.

Someone will always be bluntly commenting about my body.

I will forever feel crowded.

I'll have to listen to other people screaming for the rest of my life.

I will always be stepping over small socks strewn in a swath of other disembodied and discarded clothing, toys and sundry other household items.

I will never be able to do just ONE load of laundry.

People will be making their birthday wish lists nine months in advance and talking about them in great detail every single day... forever.

No one will ever again say to me "I wuv you so mutz, Mama."

I will never ever be woken up at the crack of dawn by someone asking permission to open my curtains, "betuz I just wanted to share the sunrise wif you, Mama."

No one will ever again fold their long limbs into my lap saying, "I just need a snuggle."

I won't have anyone to rock and breathe.

No one will ever again come banging into the house leaving the door ajar smelling of fresh air and little boy.

There will be no one to enthusiastically make me a cup of coffee.

I won’t have any adorable tiny

bodies to clothe in handmade creations.

I won’t need to teach or correct or corral or remind or reprimand.

I’m afraid because these days are so long and so arduous and so tedious and so challenging and then one day, these days will be gone.


My job will be completed.


Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Grandmother's Hands

Buckling your little shoe
Making toast and jam for you
Caressing your chubby face
Folded neatly, saying grace
Lifting you onto her lap
Tucking you in for an afternoon nap
Helping you plant a tiny seed
Bandaging a scraped up knee
Gently brushing wispy hair
Serenely snuggling in the rocking chair
Wrinkled, sun spotted, capable,
     Carriers from above
Calloused, experienced, soothing
      Reminders of His unending love
A grandmother's hands
     work hard and create fun
A grandmother's hands
     a life well done.


Dedicated to my children's grandma Joyce


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Smack Dab in the Lap of Imperfection

7:20 a.m. Hear someone crying. Get up.
Find sweatshirt and sweatpants and robe. Come downstairs barefoot. It's one degree outside and the floor in the bathroom feels about the same. Feel annoyed with Elivette for pulling on my sweat pant strings and untying them while I'm trying to pee. Feel guilty that I'm annoyed, especially since I did get to stay in bed past seven.

Denton gets hit in the face with a light saber while I'm trying to navigate the whole coffee and creamer and right side up cup ordeal with half open eyes and I feel guilty about looking in the refrigerator for the creamer while halfheartedly comforting him.

Sit in my comfy chair by the corn stove with toddler on the left and preschooler on the right arms of my chair. Elivette snuggles into my chest and asks to nurse. This child who hasn't nursed since November still asks me nearly every single day. Shot of guilt for weaning her when *I* was ready and not when she was ready.

Read several books to Elivette while I ignore the boys upstairs bothering their older sisters who are still in bed. She and I have lots of giggles about the pictures and faces in her book. Wonder if I should interfere with the situation upstairs. Wonder if I were a "better mom" if they would still torment and tease. Wonder if my kids are normal or if there is too much yelling in this home and that is why they yell. Feel guilty.

She starts pulling on my hoodie strings and kind of choking me. I put her on the floor where she cries. I let her climb back up when she starts "smooshing baby" and pushing uncomfortably on my belly. I put her down again and she cries again and I feel like a heartless mom who doesn't just sacrifice herself for her toddler but I must maintain boundaries and take care of myself too which feels like an impossible task.

The kids want to listen to a CD only we can't find the cord to the CD player. After looking in several places, I pirate the cord from my camera charger which miraculously fits. Wonder if we would still have all the lost things if I were better at organizing and teaching the kids how to put away their things. Feel guilty. Denton starts screaming and slamming doors because Cadrian is the one who gets to hold the CD and put it in the player.

Cadrian finally goes to begin unloading the dishwasher after having been asked roughly thirty times. Denton comes out of the keeping room and begins pulling on the CD player and making the CD skip and yanking on the camera cord, which makes me feel angry and anxious that my camera cord will get ruined and the library CD will get ruined. After asking him to stop several times and gently pushing his hands away and moving his whole little body away, he will not be altered in his destructive course. I not so gently push him away and bodily pick him up and plop him on the couch in the keeping room and shut the door. Feel on the verge of tears that I've already had a temper fit and it's not even an hour into my day.

Loudly remind Cadrian to finish his job for the umpteenth time. Loudly remind Elivette to take her sippy cup to the kitchen for the umpteenth time. Try to read a couple articles in my Holistic Parenting magazine which are about the importance of real food which I then translate into my being a 'bad mom' because all I've fed Fizzy Baby is a couple cups of coffee and a cookie and we're going to have frozen breakfast pizza for breakfast.

Change Elivette's stinky pants the smell of which makes me internally puke a bit. Feel guilty that I didn't take her diaper off earlier so she would have gone in the potty and that the wipes are so cold and that taking care of her basic needs makes me want to retch.

Now Elivette and Denton are fighting over pulling up the antenna on the CD player. Cadrian is playing with the BopIt in the other room. The girls are chatty and overwhelming me with questions and comments and anecdotes.

Brielle is writing a story she intends to submit to PBSKids about a little girl whose parents are so mean they don't let her watch X or R rated movies or drink alcoholic beverages, not even margaritas. Wonder if the PBS people will think WE watch X movies and wonder how she even knows what that is, and if I should make her change it or just ignore it and wonder why I even care what these strangers think when I know we don't do anything "wrong" but then again it's appearances that seem to matter and...what if?

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Until I wrote this out, I didn't even realize how much of my day is punctured with guilt. I don't know where this comes from--other than the Enemy who wants to steal my joy.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

23 weeks pregnant--or pregnick


We started calling the baby Baby Fizzy--those early movements can feel fizzy, but mostly it's because my friend offered up her children's names if we wanted to use them...only starting with an F of course: Femma, Folly, Foolia, Fandrew or Fizzy. We are definitely going with Fizzy.

Although, four year old Denton did suggest we name the baby Fat.

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I have figured out why I've kind of quit blogging.

I am lazy.

It's infinitely easier to post on Facebook or Instagram little sound byte snippets of my life, rather than to sit down and "think" of a blog post.

Additionally, blogging has changed so much in the past eight years. When I started this blog, expecting Brielle, blogging was fairly new. No one really knew what it was. Now, everyone has one.

And, I feel like everyone expects a blogger to have some sort of revealing insight or amazing intellect to offer, and frankly, I'm just too tired for that jazz. When I started this blog, my parents didn't live locally. Facebook hadn't taken off yet. It wasn't so easy to share photos and life bits with people as it is now, and that was my primary reason for starting this blog.

I love to write. I just feel like I don't have much of anything to say.