Oh Christmas Tree…

Today we went to a Christmas tree farm and chopped down our tree.

Tree huggers!

Tree huggers!

My loves.

My loves.

tree-ben-copy

My guys

My guys

Family

Family

Sweet, handsome Gabe.

Sweet, handsome Gabe.

tree-buds-copy tree-sky tree-piney tree-little-tree

Heading back.

Heading back.

We’ve been buying live trees for years now, but we’ve never cut our own so that was a nice change of pace. I think we agreed we’ll do the same in the future. There was a bit of a squabble between the boys regarding which tree we took home. There were several really good ones. Overall we’re really happy with our little tree!

Can’t wait to show her all decorated!

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Homeschool Update: Life of Fred Financial Choices, Schedule Change, and More

Gabe finished the Life of Fred Math Series so I had him start on the Financial Choices book. He said it isn’t his favorite, but he’s also talked about some of the principles he’s learned so I believe it’s making an impact. When he’s finished with this I’ll move him to Saxon.

We started a new school schedule. We now do school from 10-1. The boys finish their bookwork so quickly that I felt like we were kind of missing out. I don’t think that kids need to be stuck sitting at a desk (or table in our case) for 7 hours a day, but they need more time then we’ve been dedicating here lately. So they do their bookwork in about 45 minutes and then we do history/Bible together. The rest of the time is spent playing educational games or doing hands-on activities.

Today, for example, we put together a large puzzle that depicted all of the presidents. Then we played with some math manipulatives. We finished off by going through a stack of landmark flash cards. Then the boys did their Spanish lesson. Luke then had music so we called it a day.

I can’t recall if I’ve posted about this before, but this is the book Luke is currently reading for Language Arts. We’re borrowing it from the library. It’s pretty easy as far as LA is concerned, but Luke really enjoys reading it every day. Never a single complaint. The Life of Fred series really impressed upon me how much kids can learn when we they are enjoying themselves.  When he’s done with this we’ll move onto another Total Language Plus booklet.

I’m seriously considering joining a second co-op in February. I just can’t decide. It’s about 30 minutes away. It sounds like this other co-op has more classes available. It would be really, really nice for the boys to take an art class. I can do crafty things with them and I can teach them art history, but the hands-on stuff is more difficult for me. So we’ll see.

Either way, we’ve been plugging along and despite our late start I feel like we’re finally getting somewhere in our books and we’re racking up the hours. It always makes me feel accomplished when I see it all come together!

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With Thankful Hearts

Our Thanksgiving week was gone in a blink!

Grateful

Grateful

On Monday we had our regular chiro appt and then music. According to muscle testing, Gabe is reacting to cat hair. We’re going to try a few natural remedies and I’m hoping and praying they work because I cannot imagine having to get rid of our sweet furry friends.

Waiting for brother to finish lessons.

Waiting for brother to finish lessons.

Tuesday we spent a good many hours at the Science Center. We don’t go there often, but this year we have a membership. It’s nice because the kids feel like they can really hang out at each station and spend their time building and creating. We met up with some of our friends.

Science Center fun!

Science Center fun!

We met up with some more friends on Wednesday to jump at Skyzone. We were there for an hour and the boys were a sweaty mess! Luke had a good time, but Gabe was ready to hunker down at home. That boy can only stand to be social for so long.

I also did a good bit of cooking and baking just to make our Thanksgiving Day less packed. I’ll post the recipe later, but I made an awesome sweet potato cake that I cannot wait to make again. Probably for Christmas.

We spent Thursday in Desoto with my dad, siblings, and grandparents. It was a relatively small crew this time which was fine with me. It’s easier to spend time with everyone that way. My little nephew is 4 months old and is so alert and chunky. He definitely stole the show!

Before we got home we dropped by a friend’s home to feed and water her dogs and chickens. She sweetly left a little gift for me: comfy socks and some essential oils! Such a nice surprise!

I made a full Thanksgiving dinner for just the 4 of us because I realized it had been several years since we’d had anything like that, due to food allergies. When we eat with family we eat whatever meat they have and then whatever veggies are available and that’s it. I made a turkey breast, cranberry sauce, gluten free stuffing, green beans, roasted potatoes, and paleo muffins. Plus the sweet potato cake and coconut milk whipped cream.

Gluten-free, dairy-free Thanksgiving Dinner.

Gluten-free, dairy-free Thanksgiving Dinner.

I wish I could say it was all good, but it wasn’t. The turkey ended up being too dry. The gluten-free stuff was some boxed stuff from Trader Joe’s and just not very good. The potatoes were such a disappointment because my baking stone broke and I had to make them in a regular casserole dish. Not even close to the same. The greenbeans, cake, and cranberry sauce were all tasty though!

My biggest blessings!

My biggest blessings!

I was hoping to relax on Friday, but Luke wanted to invite a friend over. He’s been trying to get together with this friend for a long time and they were actually available. It’s totally fine with me so he spent about 6 hours with us. Then I had to feed the dogs and chickens once again, and then my mom and siblings on that side came over for the evening.

It was a small group this year. Mom, Anna, Jacob and Jhamie, Karen, Tim, Tiza, Alli…I guess that’s it! Chelsea had to work so they didn’t make it up to Missouri at all.

We still had a nice time. I brought out my coloring books and they ended up being a hit. They women colored at the table and the guys played board games in the livingroom. The evening flew by and before I knew it everyone was heading home.

Uh oh, Grams is trying VR.

Uh oh, Grams is trying VR.

The artist of the family.

The artist of the family.

Saturday started out busy as well. Luke was in an impromptu show in Kirkwood. The kids played about 7 songs. The weather was really nice and they sounded good and drew a nice little crowd. I was grateful to see him play this show since I’d missed the other.

Set up

Set up

Rocker

Rocker

After the show Luke had his 2 hour band practice. Since it didn’t make sense to go home, we sat around at Kaldi’s and chatted and browsed the web. We didn’t make it home until 3:30 and we were starving!

Ben had the idea to make a huge Thanksgiving leftovers sandwich. It took longer to make that I would have liked, but it was pretty epic. So good.

Super awesome amazing leftover sandwich of doom.

Super awesome amazing leftover sandwich of doom.

Ben’s brother came over and the guys played games and watched youtube shows while I binge-watched Gilmore Girls. And yes, I watched all 4 episodes. I honestly wasn’t planning to, because I didn’t realize they’d all be released at once. Once I saw they were all available I was hooked. Didn’t get to bed until 11 and it was totally worth it! Ahhhhhh!

Sunday was our day to break out the Christmas decorations and finalize our Christmas plans. Ben is really excited about getting the most out of the season. I love his enthusiasm, but I just hope we can pull it all off! 🙂

The house is decorated except the tree. The outside needs some lights and I need to do some clean up out front. There are a few potted plants that are now officially dead and need to be composted, the hose needs to be stashed away, etc. Hopefully we’ll get to all of that in the next day or two and we’ll be able to relax a bit.

I’m thankful for a day to really practice gratitude. I know the first Thanksgiving wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. I’m okay with letting that part go. But, to me, Thanksgiving is all about family and gratitude and, yes, yummy food. God’s given us a lot to be grateful for. Today and every day.

 

 

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I Tried It and I Liked It: Dinner Rolls

I tried these dinner rolls a couple weeks ago to go with a vegetable soup. I’m really enjoying the texture that tapioca flour brings to baked goods so these seemed like a safe bet. They turned out….odd. Chewy, I guess. Funny enough, the boys went crazy over them and thought they were the best thing ever.

It just seemed like the rolls didn’t want to firm up or brown up but by the time they did they were almost over-done. Not sure what happened, but I will try them again.

The next time around I think I’ll go ahead and add some seasoning and maybe some garlic and cheese. If I can get the texture right I think it has a lot of potential to be an awesome sub for cheesy garlic bread.

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Just In Time for the Holidays

Last weekend we were doing this:

Breathing treatment

Breathing treatment

This poor kiddo. He’s been having shortness of breath every now and then all year long. We’ve been working with the chiro to pinpoint what is going on and how to treat it naturally. We’d started using a respiratory enzyme that really seemed to do the trick. I relieved, but I was also determined to go back to the GAPS diet after the holidays to fix the source of the issue.

His breathing worsened last weekend and nothing was helping. I finally took him to urgent care to get a breathing treatment. I hate those meds, but wasn’t sure what else to do. I had tried a variety of oils, the enzymes, a salt inhaler, half a dozen immune boosters, and a herbal bronchial relaxer given to us by a friend. In fact, we even pulled out his old inhaler and gave him some of that. It would lessen and then come roaring back. So breathing treatment it was.

It helped calm his system enough that he was able to get over the hump and hasn’t needed anything since, but obviously I can’t put off the diet any longer. Especially because I’d already been cutting things out to get us geared up before this struck and his breathing *still* got so bad.

So, here we are, on the verge of the holidays, back on GAPS. I didn’t put them through the intro diet this time so we’ll see how this goes. I know how well it worked for Luke, years ago, I hope and pray it will bring lasting relief to Gabe, too.

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I Tried It and I Liked It: Paleo Chicken Pot Pie

I made this a while back and it turned out really well. I added more veggies to give it some extra heft and it was good and warm and hearty. Perfect for a Fall day.

Well, a Fall day in normal land. Not here. It was unseasonably warm until about 2 days ago. I loved the sunshine and warmth, but it didn’t feel like Thanksgiving to me. Now it’s chilly and all is right with the world.

Anyway, back to the pot pie. I didn’t do a crust layer on top, I just shredded a bunch of goat cheese on it and then baked it until the cheese was golden. I like a well-done crust so I usually bake the crust first, add the filling, and then bake it for 15 minutes or so.

It was a hit and is on the make-again list for sure!

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My Thoughts On: President Trump

Wow, that feels really weird to type.

We weren’t excited about either political candidate and weren’t wracked with terror or joy at the thought of either of them taking office so we went to bed on time last night. Luke was very interested in the whole thing so we switched back and forth between news stations last night for a bit, but then we called it a night. I really expected Clinton to win and was so surprised to see the poll results this morning.

Of course, the results are all anyone can talk about today. It’s interesting to see how people are responding. Some are delirious with joy and are claiming this as God’s will and God’s victory. Others are stunned, angry, and incredulous – surely the world is going to end.

This is what I typed in a forum and I thought I’d share it here.

“My boys are older and we talk politics a lot, but we also put our faith in God. We strongly believe that we as individuals have the ability and responsibility to make our world a better place and can do that in a million ways big and small every day of our life. Yes it’s nice when our leaders are moral and upright and that’s worth working toward, but it isn’t always possible and we’ll be okay either way. I hate seeing kids get so worked up (and adults) because it really makes me question whether or not they understand how much power they have to change the world at a grass-roots level. They are giving that power away and choosing (or being taught) to live in fear.”

I know many Christians have been proclaiming Trump as a man of God and an agent of change. I hope they know that now that he’s elected the world is watching more than ever. We have a “Christian” as President along with a Republican-controlled House and Senate. So big changes are come for the US, right? Right? Let’s hope so.

As for me and my house, we’ll continue to do whatever we can right here and now where God has placed us. We’ll continue working in our community and serving our God and putting our words into action whenever and wherever possible. I only wish so many who have expended so much energy on behalf of this “Christian” many would do the same.

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Random Reads: The Story of Egypt

The boys and I have really been enjoying our history studies this year so when I saw this at the library I didn’t hesitate to pick it up.

Obviously, Egypt’s history spans a great many years and very little is known about many of it’s Pharaohs. Some reined for only a couple of years and they were prone to rewriting history to suit new rulers. But it was still a great read. Lots of info, but not too dry.

 

Our Book Club pick for this month is Fool my Once by Harlan Coben

I’ve long ago learned not to judge a book before I read it. This isn’t something I would be drawn to, but I ended up enjoying it! It was a good who-dun-it that wasn’t filled with sex, violence, or gore, and it kept me guessing until the end. Super easy read. It would be great if you want a “beach read” without having to deal with cheesy, sappy chic-lit.

The main character, Maya, spots her husband on her nanny cam. The only problem is he’s dead. She follows a twisted trail to figure out what is going on. It was a surprise ending to say the least.

Book Club meets this week and I’m interested to know what the other ladies thought about this pick.

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First Dance, 18 Years, and Everything in Between

I feel silly saying “We’ve been busy, ” because, well, who isn’t busy these days? I guess it just amazes me because we used to have a lot more down time and now we don’t and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

So, “We’ve been busy.”

Co-op continues to go well and the boys are both enjoying themselves and learning a lot. Gabe has been really challenged. He’s never had homework or presentations to do and now he has both. It’s become routine for him though and he’s doing much better about getting things done ahead of time and researching and writing his reports.

Harry Truman Presentation

Harry Truman Presentation

Speaking of co-op, we attended a trivia night to help raise money. It was a small group, but we had a lot of fun and our table of 4 came in first! I won a homemade rice pillow and some sea salt. Score!

Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

 

We took a hike at Cliff Cave Park. It was a gorgeous Fall day.

Luke was in a bad mood and ended up taking a different path then the rest of us. Ben called him back and was ignored. We were on a loop so Ben decided to follow after Luke while Gabe and I went ahead. Gabe and I had a great time. We found so many cool things.

There were all kinds of neat berries and persimmons, and various nuts. Moss, hollow logs, etc, etc. We chatted and had a nice time. I assumed Ben and Luke would catch up at any moment because Gabe and I tend to be the slowpokes what with his short little legs and my constant picture taking.

We walked on and I started to think that they had decided to just go the other way and that we’d eventually run into them. It was no big deal to me either way and I wasn’t worried about it.

At one point there was a turn off and small sign indicated that there was an inner loop. Before I knew it Luke popped out and joined us. I asked him where Ben was and he said he hadn’t seen him. I didn’t believe him. We kept walking and I knew Ben was waiting for and was going to jump out at any moment. Luke kept insisting that he hadn’t seen Ben the whole time but I wasn’t sure how that could be the case.

Finally, up ahead, Ben came into view. I jokingly called out and asked him if Luke was with him and he said, “No! He’s not with you?” His voice was full of panic. It turns out Luke one of the two of them had been mixed up and had been on the inner loop at some point. While Gabe and I were happily bobbing along, Luke was freaked out that he wasn’t catching up to us and we hadn’t come after him and Ben was frantically looking for him. He said that he’d run part of the trail, yelled for him, and had asked everyone he’d met along the way.

Needless to say, Luke learned his lesson. Running off to try and make a point didn’t work out well for anyone.

Hollow tree

Hollow tree

Moss

Moss

Mushroom

Mushroom

Path in the woods

Path in the woods

Walnut shell

Walnut shell

The springs

The springs

 

Gabe and I finally toured the Penguin and Puffin Coast at the zoo. That was his big Christmas present from last year.

We got to go behind the scenes with a keeper. She showed us around the kitchen and told us what they eat and what their daily routine is to care for the penguins. Then we sat on the floor and she brought two cute little guys out. They ran around, back and forth, while the keeper continued her presentation. We concluded the tour in the penguin and puffin exhibit. Gabe knew the answers to almost every single question she asked and she was really impressed. That boy loves him some penguins.

penguin-2 penguin-and-puffin-coast penguin-bw penguin-group penguin-up-close

 

Luke attended his first dance, also through the co-op, on the 21st. It wasn’t formal and nobody took dates, but still!! How can he be so grown up?

We bought a used bike off of Craigslist for Gabe. It has training wheels so that he can build up his strength, stamina, and balance. We all went out for a ride. Ben and I took turns riding with Luke while the other stayed with Gabe. He’s got a long way to go. Poor kid. He has low muscle tone and just really struggles with things like that. I hope we can get some more time in before it gets too cold!

As for me, I’ve been quite the social butterfly. Book club met early in the month. Then my friend hosted a painting party for her birthday. I haven’t posted a picture of my plaque because it’s a Christmas present. It was really fun, though, and I’m pleased with how it turned out.

I saw the movie, The Girl on the Train, with a couple of friends from book club. We’d read the book earlier in the year or maybe last year. The acting was great, but the sex and violence was more than I care for. One of these days I’m going to get good about looking that stuff up before I head to the theater.

Ben and I celebrated our 18th anniversary on the 25!!

1-8. Eighteen. Woah. I just cannot get over it. We went for a bike ride during the day and then headed to Bailey’s Chocolate Bar for drinks, dinner, and dessert. Woah. We’re getting old. Here’s to many, many more.

 

 

 

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Bank Field Trip

Yesterday we toured the First Community Credit Union with our homeschool co-op. The woman in charge of education has been teaching weekly at our co-op and Gabe has learned so much!

We got to look at the coin counting machine, which was really neat. She opened it up for the kids and they saw how the coins are counted and where they end up.

Next, we headed back to the drive-thru. We watched as a customer came in and made a deposit. The kids took turns sending stuff through the tubes.

Then we headed back to the vault. The manager even opened the vault and showed the kiddos what they store in there. She showed them the differences between a stack of old $100 bills and a stack of new. Then, they showed us all of the safety features of the bill and we talked about counterfeiting for a bit.

Next, we stood behind the tellers as another customer came it to withdraw money. They have nifty machines that dispense the money and they have to triple-count all the cash they handle and keep track of every penny.

Before we left, they gave the kids free goody bags and some popcorn. Each child received a $1 coin.

Everyone was so friendly and kind and they didn’t blink twice when the kids got excited and maybe, perhaps, a bit too loud.

After the tour, we all headed over to a nearby park and had lunch. The teacher sent the kids on a nature scavenger hunt while the moms sat and chatted.

I wasn’t sure about the co-op when we signed up. Homeschool groups can be clicky. Most people are friendly, but they don’t want to be your friend, if that makes sense. They are usually very busy and have their little circle already and just don’t have the time/energy for anyone else. As an introvert I get that, but it can be really frustrating as an outsider trying to get in.

This group has been very open and welcoming – probably because this is only their second year and everyone is sort of finding their way/place. Luke’s already hit it off with some of the kids his age and I have high hopes for him really establishing some friendships.

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