Monday, June 28, 2010

Holes Already

Sierra wore me down and convinced me to start school. I figure it'll make it easier to take a vacation when the baby comes anyway. To start off, we made a list of the different subjects and how much time we expected each lesson to take. Then Josh and I discussed how often we thought she should do each subject. Things like spelling and handwriting (which she really needs to work on) will be everyday. Things like math will be almost everyday, because she needs it, but doesn't like it so I'd like to strike a balance between pushing her and not burning her out. Other things like grammar and geography will be once a week because the daily lessons are ridiculously easy and I think she'll get more out of it doing a full week's worth at once. So I made a loose schedule (what subjects on what days) for this week and we're seeing how it goes and what changes need to be made.

And of course, it only took me 10 minutes to realize I had made a big fat planning mistake. Sierra wants to sit down and do work book after work book. She wants to be at a desk, pencil in hand, and just keep handing her worksheets or setting up a computer lesson to click through. Sedona, on the other hand, does not. I already knew that and had planned on Sedona playing with blocks or coloring while Sierra worked (and I helped as needed). That completely did not work. Sedona was more interested in getting into and grabbing things that weren't her's and my patience with that lasted all of 10 minutes seconds. I tried going through letter sounds with Sedona after I got Sierra started on something, but she was only interested in that for two repetitions. I think I have grossly overestimated the planning I need to do for Sierra and grossly underestimated the planning I need to do for Sedona. I found a webpage full of ideas for keeping preschoolers occupied while older kids do school work and I will need to put together some activities for Sedona.

And just to prove we're not exactly cracking a whip with regards to education around here, this is a picture of the girls this morning. The movie on the TV screen is Madeline, and I've lost exact count but I know for sure this is at least viewing number 12 (yes, TWELVE) since last Thursday. Apparently it's the best movie ever, I just wish I could get the music out of my head.

Edited to add: WOW. I just checked my Netflix viewing history and Madeline has been on TWENTY hours since Thursday. I'm willing to bet money at least 90% of that time it was actually being watched. Lazy Parenting: 1, Kimberly: 0. They did get to swim in the kiddie pool outside today and walked around the neighborhood yesterday and Saturday. Still, 20 hours. wow.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

So Much For My Posting Streak...

It's been almost a week, but I have more updates. We did end up making candles from old crayons. This was the first time I had ever made candles, so I'd highly recommend searching online for more detailed directions from more experienced people before giving it a try.

I bought these wicks from Michael's:
And decided to make the candles in these tiny canning jars I had gotten from a family member that I wasn't likely to use for canning: I used a small dab of hot glue to stick the wick to the bottom of the jar so it wouldn't move around.

I read that you should always melt the wax in a double boiler, so I used another canning jar (so I could just keep it as the "candle jar" and not clean it out) for that. I tried a couple of different methods. The first set, I used regular blocks of wax (also a freebie from a family member...this is what used to be used for canning jelly--don't do that, it's not safe--and is often still sold near the canning jars). I completely melted the regular wax first
And then added in broken crayons to get a color I liked
Now, I had read you should heat the jars so that you didn't get air bubbles between the wax and the jar, so I put them in the oven at 200 for a short while, which melted my wick, so on subsequent sets, I didn't do that (and I did get air bubbles). My final products came out okay except they all sunk in the middle (maybe you usually top them off after a little while? I don't know). The pink candles in the back are the first set. The blueish candle on the left is only crayons, with no other wax added. The red ones I melted the crayons first and then added in regular wax, which was a bad idea--if you're going to do that, melt your regular wax completely, then add crayons for color. And that was our candle adventure!

For the grandmothers' sakes, more pictures of the kids at the playground:(the arms hanging out below the red roof are Sierra's, I took this from across the playground to show how big it is)

And last, but not least...several friends are bugging me for belly pics. So here ya go, the start of a baby belly (at about 18 weeks)

Monday, June 21, 2010


What I think of as spring might finally be here! It looks like we'll at least be consistently hitting the high 60's or low 70's from here on out and more flowers are starting to bloom. Now I know it's technically the first day of summer, but I just can't believe THIS is summer.

In the flower bed in front of our house, a few huge flower buds finally opened up to reveal peonies (which I'd never knowingly seen in person before). Our landlord told me how you need ants on peonies to eat away a sticky layer on the bud and allow them to open. The skeptic that I am did an online search and turns out that's just a myth, but the ants are still beneficial. The peonies excrete a sugary substance, which attracts the ants and the ants fight off (eat, I guess?) some of the bad bugs.

We also had a bunch of these super cute little blue flowers come up. I looked on the Montana plant life website and I'm pretty sure they're forget-me-nots

And this little guy came up that kinda looks like blue flax, but I'm not sure because it's more purple than blue

Our tomatoes plants are doing well too. In front of the house, there used to be huge cottonwood trees and the stumps are still there. Josh's brother pointed out that the centers of the stumps were pretty rotted out, but still moist--like the tree's system is still pulling water up from the ground. He thought it'd be a good place to plant and we agreed. A week after we arrived, we got some tomato and basil plants along with a few squash seeds and we added a little soil to the stumps and planted everything there. All the plants are happy and the tomatoes are blooming. Here is a picture of me standing on one of the stumps to show how big they are...and I have size 11 feet, just for reference. Oh, and yes, that is the beginning of a baby belly in the way. Just yesterday I made the comment, "I'm starting to pooch out" and Josh immediately answered back, "YEAH you have!" (just because you have a PhD doesn't mean the brain to mouth filter is always in place when talking to your pregnant wife).

And last, but not least, the girl's riding their bikes the other day

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

All The Colors

I have a slight addiction to crayons. Okay, it might go beyond that...I bought crayons and coloring books for myself right on up through college (now I pretend they're for the kids) and I might get a little giddy when packs of crayons go on sale for $0.25. I've been known to buy an entire case of crayons some years. Yes, yearS and therein lies the problem. I was a little lax for a while about letting the girls get into the crayon stash, so there were A LOT of partially used crayons lying around. As I was setting up our homeschool room here, I decided they only needed one big school supply box of crayons and what didn't fit in the box, would have to go (not counting my not-yet-opened stash, of course).

So, Sierra and I sat down and picked out all the broken crayons and the really well used crayons and then just grabbed out a few more so the box would close. We peeled all the paper off these crayons and put them in baggies to save for crayon reincarnation (turns out crayons are slightly Buddhist, who'd have thunk it?). None of the ideas I list here are my own, they're widely talked about in various places on the internet and I can't even link to something specific, because I read a lot of pages and then just gave it a whirl.

First, we did window hangings like we made when I was a kid. I haven't found our crayon sharpener yet, so I just used the small side of a cheese grater to shave the crayons. A crayon sharpener would work a lot better if you have one. The shavings are put between two pieces of wax paper: Then newspaper is put on top (to protect the iron). Set the iron on low and briefly iron over everything, checking frequently to see if the shavings are melted yet. Once everything is melted and cooled, cut it into a shape you like. Cut a frame from two pieces of construction paper and glue them on both sides of the wax paper.
Hang in the window to enjoy! Sierra decided she'd rather use less shavings next time so it's not so dark looking in the middle.

The other project we did today was making new crayons. Broken up pieces of crayon (may be easier to do this with a knife) are put in a muffin tin. Bake at 250 until they are all melted (it takes a little while, but do not leave the oven!!), then carefully take out of oven (careful not to swirl your colors together) and let cool completely. Voila, new, multi-colored crayons. I should have put more crayon pieces in each muffin tin.

I have plans to make candles as well, but can't find wicks here in town. We'll be heading up to the "big city" of Missoula on Saturday for an appointment and I'm assuming I'll be able to get wicks then and try out the candles this weekend. I'll post about it when I do!

A few small tips: I'm a crayola loyalist, other brands just aren't the same. I've read other brands may not work as well for some of these projects, but definitely don't mix brands in one project because they may have different melting points. I've also read washable crayons are more brittle when they're melted and cooled, so they don't work well either.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Look! The Sun!

The sun came out today and it was almost warm. Reminded me of early Spring in Texas (except that it's June, but whatever). We had a busy day outdoors.

First, we walked down to the farmer's market, which is getting bigger every week There isn't a ton of produce available yet, but it's still fun to look at all the booths and check out the huge assortment of handmade goods There has been a little bit more produce each week though and today we picked up some carrots and sweet onions Once we were at the farmer's market, it was only two more blocks to get to main street, so we continued up that way to browse at the book store and to stop in at The Paperclip, which is a mash up of office, homeschool and art supplies.

We came home for lunch, and then struck out again to go explore Blodgett Canyon. We were told the Blodgett Canyon Overlook would be a good trail to take the kids on, so we tried it out.

At the trail head
We found wild strawberries! (I think, anyway, still need to look them up and double check and then, of course, see if they set fruit) (Update: I'm going out on a limb and saying, yes, we found strawberries)
A pretty butterfly that crossed our path
I think Sedona's destined to be a geologist. Everywhere we go, she's picking up rocks
The first look out point, that's the city of Hamilton below
An interesting flower we saw periodically. Any ideas on what it is? (Update: My mother-in-law let me know this looks like a trillium of some sort and after a little research, I agree the flower looks very much like one, except it didn't have "leaves" up by the flower and it looks like trilliums don't really grow around here. Trilliums are in the same Order as Lilies though and I found an entry on the Montana Plant Life website suggesting it may be a Gunnison's mariposa lily, or something similar. The picture isn't an exact match, but everything about the description matches.)
This whole area had a large forest fire ten years ago
We made it to the top!
The canyon (glacier carved)
We happened to have cell service, so we let Sierra call grandma and tell her she was on a mountain
And we watched all the chipmunks darting around

Fun times. Between me and the kids and the occasional narrow trail with steep drop-offs, we had to take it slow, but we made it up in about 2 hours and down in 45 minutes. We didn't even run out of water (which Josh and I seem to have a talent for). When we made it back to town, we went out and gorged ourselves on pizza--everyone was starved.

Quick baby update: I'm 16 weeks today. Started up with the contractions this week (not unusual for me), but they're very very infrequent and not yet worrisome. Lots of kicks and flip-flops and I've occasionally felt kicks with my hand too, but no one else has caught it yet.

P.S. I changed the blog design again. I like this one a lot better, but I'm still not sure. What do you think?

Friday, June 11, 2010

A New Look

Blogger made it easy to change up everything about your blog design, so I've been playing around. I'm not sure I like it, I might be changing things around for a few days ;-)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

School Daze

Wow, three posts in three days...I think I'm getting back on track with this whole blogging thing.

Today's post is all about homeschooling. Sierra is ready for "first grade" (which is really a mash up of first, second and third grades, depending on the subject) and Sedona is ready for some hardcore, strict daily reading lessons. I kid, I kid! Sedona will be doing plenty of arts and crafts and maybe we'll sit down with a BOB Book or two early next year (she does know most of her letters and their sounds, but she's more interested in counting). My biggest internal debate with her is whether or not I should spring for the pre-reader or alphabet BOB sets...we LOVE the regular BOB books, but I haven't see the pre-reader ones in person yet.

Sierra, however, will be doing "real" school, so I have a little more anxiety there. I have no doubt we will start some things, decide they don't work and switch things up. That's not really a problem, but it's just a little daunting to get started. A lot of people who homeschool will state their homeschooling "philosophy". Some people "unschool", some follow a set pre-purchased curriculum, some have a strict schedule they follow and some have set school times, but are flexible with when certain subjects are taught, and some have no schedule at all, just weekly, monthly or yearly (or heck, even lifetime) goals. I don't really have strong opinions on any most of these things. We're starting out with what I think will work best for Sierra and we'll tweak as needed. I figure it's imperative that I take a big ol' piece of humble pie now and prepare myself to have no hesitation or shame in buying different books, teaching differently, or putting her right into school if it turns out that's what she (or in a few years, Sedona) needs. Humble pie is not my favorite dish, but it must be done.

So, to start with...I never intended to have a "homeschool room". I was going to allow school to happen at the kitchen table for the most part, but also provide a desk because sometimes she just wants to be where she can be alone and concentrate. When we got to the house in Montana though, I walked upstairs to what had been called the "loft" and laid eyes on the most perfect space I ever could have imagined for homeschooling. My immediate reaction upon seeing it was "that's the school room". I started unpacking things yesterday and this is what we have so far:

I have a set of workbooks for Sierra to start with for spelling, grammar, science, geography and reading comprehension, plus a Spanish program (we bought the older, "power glide" version and I'm totally NOT sold on it being a good program yet--but we'll be trying it) and a math curriculum. Most of the workbooks are supposed to be done every day, but would only take Sierra 5 or 10 minutes to do. Because she needs A LOT of work on her writing and spelling to catch up to her reading level, she will do spelling and some sort of dictation or copy work every day, but for things like geography and grammar, she will probably cover a week's worth of work in two or three days a week, so she can focus on one thing for a little while and not have it so broken up. My biggest curriculum hang-up at the moment is history. Taking a classical approach to history makes sense to me--you follow history chronologically in blocks of 4 years and each time you start over, you add in more detail. This appeals to me because chronological order just makes sense and I think setting it up in this way will make it easy to teach all my kids at once (down the line, I could have 3 kids studying Greece, but where the youngest might limit their study to tasting hummus and feta and doing an art project, the oldest will be researching and writing a paper on Greek myths). I was all set to buy The Story of the World because I'd heard a lot of good things about it and the activity books looked really neat, but when I got to Amazon and used my trusty skepticism (i.e. I read all the 1 star reviews to see what, specifically, people didn't like about it), I was more than a little worried by the number of history majors going on huge rants about how inaccurate the books are. So I scrapped that idea. I'm going to stick with the classical history idea, but I'm going to do a more "on my own" approach. Instead, I bought the Usborne Prehistoric World and Ancient World books (which I also haven't seen, but I'm impressed with the other Usborne books we have) to give us a timeline and we will fill out the spaces with our own research and activities. I also love the idea of doing a LONG timeline on the wall at kid's eye level, like I read about on Pioneer Woman a little while back. In fact, I love this idea so much, I'm strongly considering buying the Book of Time shown in that post in a year or two (I think a wall time line's better for younger kids than having it in a book) even though I'm not a fan of Sonlight. All those stickers to color and place...oh the kinesthetic and visual learning! I might just buy one for me to do (I also bought and colored these books for fun when I was a teenager). But enough rambling, I think I have a jumping off point for teaching history.

My other hang up is when to start school. Sierra is begging to get started. Part of me wants to make her wait through the summer, but then I remember she's actually been out of school for over 2 months already. Long term, I think it'd be nice to follow a flexible year round schedule--taking several weeks off when someone needs it, but avoiding the three month, retention-killing break of summer. After all, we'll have the flexibility to stop and start whenever it suits our situation. But for this year, it's not really hurting her to miss 4 months straight--she's not forgetting how to read, she's not forgetting how to add, her science and history are still at a level of basic knowledge that she has just soaked up and already adds to every day through her endless questions. My mom has the very valid point that our winters up here will be long and it'd be better to get out of the house all summer and save the schooling for those cold snowy days. I'm thinking getting an earlier start will make it easier to take a break when the baby's born. Also, homeschooling doesn't take the same 7 hour block of the day that regular school would, nor does it have to take place at home. I haven't come up with an answer to my "when to start" question yet, but Sierra sure is wearing me down--it's a little frustrating and just kind of wrong to always been getting on to your kid for sneaking into the workbooks.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Blog Changes

I've made a few changes to the sidebar of my blog. If you scroll down a little, You'll notice an Amazon banner on the right. I just put that up this morning and I control what shows up there. I will only add books/items that I have or have read and that I can personally recommend. If you have any questions about anything over there, feel free to ask, I could tell you plenty about why I love each of them. The reason I added the banner though is that while I've been blogging, I've linked to Amazon who knows how many times when I was talking about something and I figured it was time to stop the free advertising. So if you click on something in that banner or a link to Amazon in one of my posts and then you make a purchase, I will get a percentage of that purchase.

In addition to putting up some recommendations, I'm also looking for one. I've read a lot about buying wheat and grinding your own flour with a home mill. The people I know who have done this all rave about how much better their bread is with fresh milled flour. Back in Texas, I didn't have the money or the easy access to wheat to make this a big priority. Now that we're here, locally grown wheat is available at the grocery store and our income has quite significantly increased. We're waiting on moving expense reimbursement and first paychecks and all that right now, but I'm thinking maybe by August, a mill will be in the budget. So who has ideas on what to get? The only really bad "review" I've read is that the one that attaches to your Kitchen Aid mixer isn't worth it because it will burn out the motor (and my poor Kitchen Aid has already been abused....I really need to get the professional model one of these days). So who has a mill they can recommend (or recommend I don't get)?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Here I Am!

Blogger finally let me upload pictures! Let's start with more unpacking....

The girls found their "cowboy bandannas" they got at graduation and had daddy tie them on:

And we discovered that banana boxes work as well (or better) for playing as they do for packing: But then, we already knew a box was a great toy.

Angel found herself a nice little cushion in the midst of the unpacking

We also did a large stock-piling grocery trip and worked on filling the freezer with meals. Most of the meals were from Fix, Freeze, Feast with a pizza recipe thrown in from Cook's Country (I wish they had more of their recipes on their site, but I promise the magazine is a worthwhile subscription!!) What I love about Fix, Freeze, Feast is all the recipes are based on "warehouse sizing"--one recipe will use the big 105oz can of tomato sauce, for instance--which saves money. Also, a lot of them require no or minimal cooking while you prepare, you just set up an assembly line and assemble all the ingredients and pop it in the freezer. When you're ready to have that particular meal, you thaw it out and either throw it in the oven, or for some things you have your meat marinated and veggies chopped, so you just pull out the package and spend a few quick minutes doing the actual cooking without any prep work. It's great! So, in this particular instance, I was looking to fill the freezer after the move. We don't have a Sam's Club here and I didn't want to buy a Costco membership (on the website it says they're $50!! I just didn't want to spend that much, plus Costco is an hour away...I wasn't sure it'd even be worth it), so all of my ingredients were purchased at regular grocery stores (which cost me a little extra). Also, some things I bought (parmesan, yeast, garlic, ketchup, vinegar, etc...) are pantry staples that I didn't completely use up in the recipes. I spent about $230 and made 41 meals. That's roughly $5.50 per meal (to feed all of us, sometimes with leftovers for lunch the next day). Not the best I've ever done, but you also have to factor in the convenience of a home cooked meal with no actual cooking involved on those days the kids are fussy and I'm tired. The only thing I managed to take a picture of was the veggie lasagna assembly (and yes, those are regular noodles, NOT oven ready, and you don't have to cook them--just put 'em in dry! The manicotti recipe is the same way and stuffing dry manicotti shells is a lot easier than stuffing cooked ones!). I ended up with 4 lasagnas, 8 bags of chili, 8 bags of mozzarella stuffed meatballs with sauce, 4 bags of chicken parmigiana, 4 bags of curry chicken, 2 garlic studded pork loins, 4 packets of raging garlic pork stir fry, 3 pans of cheesy chilada bake, and 4 cheese pizzas

Last, but not least, we recently visited the Bitterroot river for the first time:

And found the playground I'm sure we'll be pretty much living at this summer:

Oh, and Baby #3 is doing well. Flip-flopping like crazy at the moment, actually. I am hardly ever nauseous anymore, but still have a hard time eating much food in a sitting and I'm still losing weight. I've started eating a regular snack of cheese, raisins and almonds and my meals have been healthy, so I've added in a daily helping of fudge and drumsticks....If I'm gonna get in trouble for losing weight, I might as well enjoy myself, huh?
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