Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Simple Things....Backyard Fun!

It has been terribly long since I have posted and for that I apologize.  I have been so busy with schoolwork and toddlers I babysit as well as a few other things I am trying to take care of (not to mention being a wife and keeping the house)!  Organization has been a big thing...I reached one of those points where the 'stuff' was really frustrating me - I'm sure you know how things tend to pile up and then it seems like every free space in your home is crammed with more than it should be. 

We have been cruising along with My Fathers' World 1st & CTG and I'll try to be better about getting some pics and posting more on what we are doing...I think posting something every week on my curriculum is unrealistic for me.  (Lately - posting every week has been unrealistic!) 

What I wanted to post today is really simply the best toy every invented.  Before I show you, let me begin with a few statements that many of you can probably relate to.  Things have been so rocky financially lately...raises weren't given for my husband again this year and I find myself cutting everywhere I can to make ends meet in this trying economy.  The kids have been fine with birthdays trimmed back even further and of course we told them Christmas will be even smaller this year.  Funny thing is that they really haven't complained - they really seem more content with less.  Not that they really have less with 4 older siblings...anything they want has been handed down and that includes plenty of great Legos, blocks, and PC or video games and board and games are in plentiful supply...too plentiful, thus the need for me to really spend time cleaning the past few weeks!  However - in spite of all they stuff they have to do when our schoolwork is finished the funny thing is that the toys they enjoy the most came from my husbands work and they were free!  I have most of the neighborhood playing with these new 'toys' every afternoon!  Take a look...

He brought home these wonderful plastic barrels...lightweight enough that two 10 year old boys can hurl them over the fence and display their machuvism...but sturdy enough to be walked on, ridden on, and rolled over!  They line them in rows and try to walk on them or the they each take a barrel and try to walk independently to see who can stay on the longest.  I can not believe the countless hours they have played with these barrels, sometimes well after dark.  It's amazing that  many times the funnest things in life are free!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Moments from MFW...Study of Egypt 9/19-9/23/11

WEEK 5 - Creation to the Greeks, Mummies and Pyramids:

We have really been enjoying our study of Egypt in it's earliest history.  We are learning the books of the Old Testament and during this week we are also studying mummies and pyramids.  My historian is loving this study!  He is especially interested in all of the efforts kings took to preserve their bodies.  Several times both of my children commented on how important they thought they were from the size of their tombs, and how little humility seemed to be a part of Egyptian life for a pharaoh!

We enjoyed a science project, which we began this week, but will continue watching in the weeks to come.  This was done to expand on our study of how well the Egyptian people preserved the bodies of the dead in order to avoid mold and decay.

First...we took three slices of bread.  Then we labeled three baggies "plain", "antibiotic ointment", and "toast".  We put one slice of bread in the "plain" baggie, without doing anything to it.  We spread antibiotic ointment on another slice and slid it into the appropriate baggie.  The last slice was toasted and slid into it's baggie as well.  All baggies were sealed and we placed them on the hutch to watch daily for several weeks.  My children made a hypthesis in their science journals according to what they believe will happen to each slice of bread.  Here are the slices of bread and my daughter's science journal:

Their favorite activity, by far, was building a pyramid.  I was really surprised at how much they enjoyed this activity, since they wanted to just build them out of the paper patterns rather than out of another medium.  My little girl really enjoyed decorating the walls of her pyramids with images she thought might have been found inside.  My son preferred to draw the bricks on his for a realistic effect; however he stowed a surprise inside.  Prior to "sealing" his tomb, he cut a small pharaoh out of paper and colored him inside his sarcophagus.  He placed him inside the pyramid where he had drawn the chambers into the walls.  Then he sealed the pyramid to "protect" his tiny king from robbers.  He really enjoyed knowing he had secretly stowed a pharaoh in his pyramid.  Here is a photo of the pyramids after they were completed:

Currently, we are in week 6; learning about Job, Abraham, Sarah, Lot, Hagar, and Ishmael.  Hopefully we won't be as terribly delayed in posting about week 6 as we were in week 5!  We have been pretty busy.  We are reading through Tanglewoods' Secret and very much enjoying this beautiful story and how it depicts salvation for a child.  My son began construction on a Lego ziggurat this evening, just for fun!  What fun it is to see them enjoying about the history they are learning about during the weekly study!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Practical Help in Tough Times! Laundry detergent - easy & VERY inexpensive!

This economy has been really tough on many of us and I have been seeking ways to cut expenses everywhere I can.  However, sometimes making something from scratch is so difficult that it is hard to do regularly.  In addition, I have found that many items people use to make at home to save money, such as clothes, are now more expensive...I am shocked at the price of fabric and polyfill lately (not that I'm much of a seamstress..but I have tried)!!!  However, I found a very easy to make laundry detergent that is truly cheaper than the commercial brands.  I would never have guessed you could make a good product that is much less than buying the store brand, but this really is just that.  It doesn't have the strong fragrance of store brands, but this seems to be a good thing as several people in my family have very sensitive skin.  This is truly simple to make...I did this in less than 30 minutes and it was simple.  Here is the recipe: need 3 ingredients, plus water, and a large bucket with a lid to store it in, that will hold at least 2 gallons.

Here are the ingredients you need:

1/3 - 1/2 bar* (about 2 to 2-3/4 ounces) of a 5.5 ounce bar of laundry bar soap (usually Zote or Fels Naptha) I found a 5.5 ounce bar of Fels Naptha & a 14.1 ounce bar of Zote...I only used 1/3 of the bar of Zote (a little over 4 ounces, but not quite 5 ounces) & made a double batch, about 4 gallons of detergent.  (*UPDATE:  11/10/2011 - I have been using 1/2 bar of the 5.5 ounce bar.  It seems to get the clothes a little fresher - and they didn't seem as clean with 1/3 bar.)

1/2 cup washing soda (Arm & Hammer - but not baking soda, this is in laundry detergent aisle, it is called washing soda)

1/2 cup Borax

Here is a picture of these ingredients:

One store carried Zote, so I tried it first, but then another store carried Fels Naptha, so I bought it to try the next time.  The Zote smells very much like Ivory soap.  The Fels Naptha has a little more fragrance to it, both smell nice, but not over-powering.  This is the Fels Naptha:

Here is what you do:

1.) Grate the soap (I grated it in seconds in my food processer).
2.) Put the grated soap in a pot with 6 cups water and heat until it melts.
3.) Add the watshing soda and the Borax and stir until they dissolve.  Remove from heat.
4.) Pour 4 cups of hot water into the bucket.
5.) Add the soap mixture to the water in the bucket and stir.
6.) Add 1 gallon, plus 6 cups of water  (22 cups in all on this last addition) to the bucket and stir.
7.) Let the soap sit for about 24 hours and it will gel.  It looks a little funny; like a watery gel, but it works!  It still works even if yours doesn't gel up as well, and I've noticed mine seems to gel better as it sits over time.
8.) After 24 hours it is ready.  You will want to stir it occasionally.  Use about 1/2 cup per load, slightly more for really dirty, smelly clothes.

Now for the savings...this is incredible compared to the price of commercial laundry soaps!  I recently paid $11.97 for 100 ounces.  Here is my cost breakdown:

I figured high...since prices are different everywhere.  I paid $3.76 for Borax, $2.88 for Arm & Hammer Washing Soda, & $0.97 cents for Fels Naptha / Zote.  I rounded these up to $4.00, $3.00 & $1.00.

A 55 ounce box of Borax yields nineteen 1/2 cup portions for about $0.21 cents per 1/2 cup!
A 76 ounce box of A&H washing soda yields a little over thirteen 1/2 cup portions for about $0.23 cents per 1/2 cup!
A 5.5 ounce bar of Fels Naptha cut in 1/3 is about $0.33 cents per portion (the Zote was even cheaper since I paid less than $1.00 for a 14.1 ounce bar!  (**UPDATE:  11/10/11 - I'm changing the calculation to 0.50 cents per portion since I have decided that 1/2 bar of Fels Naptha works better.)

Therefore for the cost of these added together, without calculating the cost of my water, is:
.21 + .23 + .33 = $0.77 cents for 2 gallons of detergent!
**.21 + .23 + .50 = .94 cents for 2 gallons of detergent if you use 1/2 bar of Fels Naptha @ approx $1.00 per bar (UPDATED 11/10/11 due to finding that 1/2 bar works better for our clothes)

That is seriously less than the commercial brand...and it really does work - and it really was easy to make.  I cannot imagine how much money I could have retained if I had been doing this for I choose not to think of that - but I will think of how much money I can save from now on!!!

Enjoy your next laundry day!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bunny sighting!!! Update on our wild baby bunnies!

I am so behind on posting.  We have been really busy with school work & just life in general!  Also - we are SO thankful for the rain...but since I haven't got extra cash to buy a surge protector I don't keep my router or computer plugged when there is lightening around - I don't get on the computer at all!  I have a wonderful practical tip I'm going to share soon - so check back in a day or two!  But for now - I wanted to share our exciting news about our bunny sighting!

About two weeks after we discovered the baby bunnies - it became necessary to coax them to relocate.  Our dog was literally getting sick from being indoors too much.  He did not want to "go" on a leash and ended up with a kidney infection!  I would never have known that could have happened.  We were getting him out every day to run around freely in the evenings (off-leash) - but it wasn't what he was used to - so he would wait too long despite frequent trips outside on the leash in the daytime.  We had spotted the mother bunny under a nearby shed and kept hoping she'd move the babies there where they would be safe from Diesel!  Then - one bunny vanished.  We could not find him anywhere, but judging from how well the other three were jumping about - we thought they were gaining independence.  We waited till late in the evening - when the mother would usually be getting ready to come feed them - placed them into a box and carried them over to the shed and let them go.  We found a spot to hide nearby and were so thankful that they found their way to her.  We often wondered about the fourth bunny.  We've spotted the other three several times and the mother, but not the missing one...until yesterday!

The little girl I babysit, and my little artist, came running into the house breathlessly!  In a woodpile by the fence, not far from the playground where they were once nested, they spotted him.  He was almost doubled in size and very cute.  I went to see - and sure enough - it looks just like the missing bunny.  He looks well and healthy - and even briefly hopped out from under the wood to see us!  We left him as he seems to be doing well.  We were very thankful that it appears all four bunnies are safe.  And our dog is now doing much better too!  We repaired a larger yard that we had used in the past giving him a wonderful yard and shelter so he can have more room to play! 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The heart of a child... Moments from MFW 8/30-9/2/11

This week...I just want to share a wonderful moment that happened while we studied "The Victor Journey Through the Bible".  We were reading on page 12, "The Fall", about Genesis chapter 3.  This is the story of the original sin of Adam & Eve and how they were cast out of Eden and a Cherubim, with a flaming sword, placed to guard the entrance to forbid entrance from that point forward.  We read a passage as follows:

"No trace of the beautiful garden has been found and some think that it withered and died when God expelled Adam and Eve.  Others believe it was destroyed by the great Flood in the days of Noah.  Some think it still exists."

Those words lingered in the mind of my historian.  After we finished reading the section he pondered.."What if the garden really does still exist?  What if we are blinded by our own sin and our sin does not permit us to see the garden?  What if the cherubim still guards the entrance but no person can see any of this because of our flesh and sin?"

He thought about this a moment longer, as did I, savoring the moment where his heart gave me a thought that I had never imagined on my own.  I began to wonder myself...what a thought.  How wonderful to imagine that, with God, this is actually possible.  And what an amazing thing to think of that beautiful garden still there.  Maybe God still walks in it during the cool of the day.  I was really enjoying that moment when he offered one final thought...that is really very much a thought that I could see him having next!  He then wondered aloud, "And what if there are still dinosaurs roaming the garden?"

Wow - what a blessing to be home with my children to capture these amazing moments where their innocent minds and childlike hearts think thoughts that our reality hardened hearts don't dare remember as easily!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Celebrating a day of rest!

What a special day we planned for last weekend.  Though we didn't do it on Friday, leading into Saturday, as it would have been done traditionally; we really enjoyed our day of rest very much.  We celebrated on Saturday evening and throughout Sunday.  However - it did not come without much preparation!!  We spent time in the week prior preparing by making a centerpiece out of pie tins, cork, and wick to float in a beautiful bowl passed on to me from my aunt.  The kids also really enjoyed painting a challah bread cover for the ceremonial loaves.  We carefully made our shopping list and headed to the store to buy what we needed as well.  The preparation was well worth it - we were ready to prepare the feast when we woke on Saturday morning!

We spent the day preparing golden yoiche soup, challah bread, carrots, brown rice, streusel, candlestick salad, and cholent.  We also prepared tea, kept all the dishes washed and spent time cleaning the house.  By sunset on Saturday evening, the table was set and 4 of our 6 children were there to enjoy this time as a family!  That in itself made our feast that much more special!

We spent time in traditional prayers as well as the lighting of the candles to represent creation and redemption. Our little historian passed the bowl to wash our hands to show gratidude to God for his sanctification.

Sunday was wonderful too; everything was prepared and clean.  We went to church and then came home to the cholent (roast beef, potatoes, and carrots) in the crock pot.  We enjoyed the closing ceremony with the Havdalah candles, closing prayer, and extinguishing the Havdalah candles in the over-flowing cup of wine.
The kids really enjoyed the feast and one of our sons, in on weekend leave from the Marines, took many pictures while we feasted.  He even captured a memorable shot of himself as he feasted on homemade challah bread (ok - so we aimed for reverence, but lets face it - being silly is just part of our family tradition)!!

This was a wonderful way to kick off our year and to wrap up our week of learning about creation and celebrating the day of rest that God preserved as a gift to us!

Father's prayer


Mother's prayer

The Sabbath table before the feast (with our candlestick salads at each place)

Here is a picture of the blueberry streusel we made for dessert!

This is our challah bread! little artist and I kneaded it together and prayed as we kneaded our love into the dough!

This is our centerpiece and candles we left burning late into the night.

This was a very nice celebration that we would have never thought to have done without My Father's World homeschool curriculum.
Blessings, Ashley

Saturday, August 27, 2011

MFW Experiences, Week of 8/22 - 8/26/2011

What a great first week we had with My Father's World curriculum.  We began Creation to the Greeks this week and continued 1st grade (we'd already started a few days of it in the summer - my little artist couldn't wait).  This week was incredible and we are really excited about it continuing into the weekend.

For the first art project in "God and the History of Art"; we had an unexpected project.  The children were told about the amazing story of Joni Eareckson Tada and how she became parylized in a swimming accident and has learned to paint holding the brush with her teeth.  Our topic was frustration in art and we also talked about several famous artists who experienced frustration, including Michelangelo and Monet.  (By the way - did you know that Monet was never truly satisfied with his work?  That surprised me as I have always enjoyed his work!)  After we learned about these things the children were instructed to draw a picture of a butterfly, duplicating the one in the book, but to do it holding the pencil in their teeth.  No hands allowed!  My little historian struggled for a minute and then completely surprised me by beginning to enjoy the project.  He actually went on to try his hand...I mean his teeth...on a ladybug!  My little artist also surprised me as she became incredibly frustrated.  Usually she is so proud of her work - but this was very difficult and she just couldn't make it work at first.  She ended up in tears.  We had a nice talk while she rested her head on my shoulder about everything I knew that Joni E. Tada had done, in spite of her paralysis.  She was fascinated to hear about the camps and programs that Mrs. Tada has spear-headed for other disabled people.  This really got her attention - and she decided to give it another try.  This time...she was able to complete the task - and presented her picture to me with a smile on her face!

Above are some photos of them drawing, while holding the pencil in their teeth.

All week we have been preparing for a very special event we will be doing over the weekend.  We are studying biblical feasts this week and will be preparing a special meal for sundown on Saturday (supposed to be Friday - but we are going to do this on Saturday into Sunday).  For Saturday night, we will be baking homemade challah (Sabbath bread), golden yoich (a homemade chicken soup), candlestick salad, baked fish, carrots, tea with lemon, wine (or juice) and strudel.  For Sunday lunch, we will prepare cholent, which is a pot roast dish.  We will be cleaning the house and preparing all the meals prior to sundown on Saturday night and getting ready for a time of rest and togetherness as a family.  Our focus is to spend time reflecting on what God has done for us.  We will be learning some traditional prayers and spending time together as a family.  This week, as a special centerpiece, my little historian cut the tin into the shape of the Star of David and glued thin pieces of cork underneath.  We pierced these and will place a wick into the holes.  These will float on water covered with oil and burn until the fire extinguishes itself.  We also spent time painting a cloth napkin we already had to make a special challah bread cover for our feast.  The kids really enjoyed doing this together.  My little artist painted they bible (& used Sharpies when I didn't have enough colors of fabric paint - she loves color) and my little historian painted the candlesticks.

These are some photos of them painting the challah bread cover and of the finished project.  This will be a cherished memory in our house for years to come.

They have really enjoyed the story in "Dinosaurs of Eden" and my little historian even said math "isn't too bad".  We also enjoyed learning the Greek root 'biblos' and many derivatives we have from that word.  We have really enjoyed our first week in My Father's World curriculum and we are excited and really looking forward to the rest of this year!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Update on the baby bunnies!

Just a brief update on the sweet bunnies that have been born under our playground.  They are growing and their eyes are open.  They are starting to get out of the tiny little hole and hop around the clubhouse.  They still sleep most of the day and prefer to stay huddled together.  Here are a few pics so you can see them!

This is the nest; the mother is leaving is no longer covering it with grass when she leaves.

Here is a close-up; they are still tiny enough to sit in the palm of my hand.

Praying for them to become independent and be ready to move on dog, Diesel, really wants his backyard back!

Friday, August 19, 2011

What a sweet problem!

We have new residents in our backyard...they have been discovered under our playground set my hubby recently added onto for the kids.  Take a look at our precious new find!

Tiny hole with baby bunnies!

A tiny little hole, covered with grass containing 4 sweet baby bunnies!  They are adorable; my children are so excited.  So why did I call this a sweet "problem"? my other resident who usually spends his days in our backyard - and only his nights in our laundry rooom...Diesel!

Diesel peering out through the fence.

Diesel enjoying his ears being scratched!

Diesel is a very active pup who adopted us several months ago.  I had just put him out on Wednesday morning and was brushing my teeth when I heard him barking very excitedly.  My bathroom sink has the window right over it and a perfect view of the backyard, so I could see he was very animated over something under the playground 'hide-out' room my hubby recently completed.  Fearing another skunk was in the backyard and would fragrance our excited pup, I walked out to see what he'd found...very carefully.  As I approached he became even more excited as tiny, little, brown, creatures started hopping up and pushing up on the grass covering a bit.  At this point - he moved from the slatted side of the 'hide-out' to the open end and charged in after them...but I grabbed him in time.  He really was about to have his second breakfast.  I put him inside and went back to assess the situation.  First I will show you the playground...this is the slatted side peering into the tiny rabbit nest:

The nest is behind the slats (right under the slides)

This is the opening - clearly making it impossible for us to protect the tiny bunnies:

The opening allows the children - and Diesel - easy access to the hide-out!

And now - poor Diesel has limited reign of our backyard - he has to be taken out on a leash.  I am terribly sorry for him, but I don't have the heart to move the bunnies...the mother's pink eyes can be seen at night if we shine the flashlight out the window.  She arrives after dark to take care of her babies and leaves before dawn.  I'm afraid she wouldn't find them if we move them.  And with all the coyotes around our backyard - they wouldn't have much of a chance outside the fence anyways!

One of the tiny little rabbits; though not the best pic.  Their ears are still laid back on their heads and eyes are just beginning to open - but are still usually closed.

So...for now - poor Diesel...but look at these precious, tiny babies!

Just thought I'd just isn't everyday we find these little things - we usually find them somewhere outside the fence and often they are taken by wild animals so they don't make it.  Hopefully they'll be ready to move out soon so Diesel can have his daytime home back!!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Practical tip...healthier, budget friendly popcorn on family movie night!

Last night was movie night in our house.  The kids love when I say we are doing that and they always want popcorn.  It is just so easy to keep a box of microwave popcorn on hand, but it is expensive and I have no idea how much salt, fat, and who knows what else is in it.  As a homeschool mom, I'm always on a budget, but I love things to be simple.  I have been doing this for years - and it really is easy on the budget (not to mention, I have a small kitchen - so keeping an air popping appliance was not convenient either).

Here is what I do... I keep a bag of regular popping corn on hand all the time (the kind you put in a skillet with oil, you know)! 

1.) Place a small pat of BUTTER (you can use MARGARINE or OIL) into a LUNCH SACK
2.) Add a small scoop of POPCORN (probably 1/4 - 1/3 of a cup)
3.) Toss in a sprinkle of SALT
4.) Fold down the top of the bag a couple of times
5.) Pop it in the microwave for 2-3 minutes (listen for popping to slow down to 1-2 seconds between pops)  That's it!!! 

Everyone can have their own personal size bag of popcorn...and I think you could personalize the flavors too!  My friend did something with caramel in hers when I told her about it...yum!  Maybe she'll jump on here and let you know what she did!  Hope you have fun with your next movie night.  This also makes an inexpensive afternoon snack for the kiddos.  If you try some fun sure to let me know! 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Fun day at the DMA!

We had such a great day yesterday at the Dallas Museum of Art.  They held 'Free First Tuesdays' this summer and we had not been in a while so we went to check it out.  I absolutely love that museum; and it is such a great way to enjoy a hot, summer day.  I took a few pics...though not nearly enough to really capture some of the cool things you find there...but I just thought I'd share!

They loved making fans for the "Beat the Heat" theme!

We really enjoyed the fourth floor exhibit...they have a collection of beautiful antiques donated by Wendy and Emery Reves.  Such a step back in time to see the library, salon, bedroom and dining room as you stroll through rooms  that look like they just beg for the butler to be called in to bring a tray of tea and crumpets! 

We also enjoyed some very cool historical art.  My son LOVES American History - and what boy doesn't love the Samurai?

My daughter adored a completely silver vanity - and what little girl wouldn't love to lounge on a panda papasan?

Having studied Mexico and South America this past year as we covered the globe when we studied countries and cultures in My Father's World ECC...both of my kids enjoyed some of the art from Mexico:

Mexico - Monkey Bowl
State of Oaxaca, Zapotec Culture, 400-100 B.C.

Mexico - Aztec
Snake, 1200 - 1521 A.D.

If you haven't been in awhile or if you ever visit the Dallas's a wonderful place for a sketchbook and watch the creativity be ignited in your child.  They also have some cool activities in their children's area.  I wish I had more pics of the very cool exhibits there!  I had taken two extra kids, inlcuding my friend's toddler I was watching - so my hands were pretty full.  We also saw a wonderful marionette show in Horchow Auditorium - they did Hansel and Gretel - it was very enjoyable.  Even the 16 month old in my lap clapped through the show several times!!