Monday, June 28, 2010

Animals and A Giveaway!!

Don't you just love National Geographic?  Since I am using Galloping the Globe as my spine for this coming year's curriculum, I am gathering all sorts of resources to study places around the world.  For each country we are studying, I am also making mini-units on animals that live in that country.  My hope is to end up with a Stanley-like "Great Big Book of Everything" at the end of the year.  (Are you familiar with Stanley?  That is one show I wish Disney had not dropped from its line up.)  I think it will be great to have our very own, homemade animal encyclopedia!  Anyway, Galloping the Globe directs its readers to this National Geographic Animal page. On the right side of thie page, there is an animal A-Z search where you can find great pages on tons of animals with facts, pictures, and maps of where the animal lives.  How cool is that?

Do you want to study the aardvark? No problem - they have a page for that.

Interested in the spotted salamander?  You're in luck!  There's a page for that, too.

I am really enjoying planning the year using Galloping the Globe.  I think it is such a great book, I'm giving one away here!  This book is adaptable for K-4th grade and covers geography, history, and science, and also give suggestions for literature, language arts, and Bible.  In addition, it has ideas for activities and cooking projects for each country.  This giveaway is for one copy of the 2010 version of Galloping the Globe with included CD-ROM.

To enter, simply leave a comment telling me what your favorite homeschool resource is.  Simple, huh?  It can be a web site or a book or a piece of advice you've been given. 

1. One entry with a resource per person.
2. Earn an additional entry for each of the following: (leave a separate comment for each one you do)
  • Mention the giveaway (with a link) on your blog.
  • Facebook about the giveaway.
  • Tweet about the giveaway.
3. The contest will close Thursday, July 1, 2010 at 8:00 PM CST.
4. Winner will be chosen randomly and announced Friday, July 2.

I cannot wait to lean what all of your favorite resources are!

Proof Positive That I Am Indeed Crazy

As we contemplated the task of refinishing our kitchen cabinets, we seriously considered paint over stain since the amount of work involved in stripping stain off the large amount of wood we have in our kitchen is staggering.  In the end, though, when I saw just how amazing the countertops were, I couldn't put painted wood up next to it.  Jerry told me over and over that he would really, really prefer to use the power sander to strip the cabinets since using the stripping compound and scraping would take forever.  I kept refusing since I knew it would make the biggest mess I could imagine - dust all over the house!  But when I watched Jerry strip and restain the one small area he did already, I saw what he meant.  Since the cabinet doors were already off to have the hidden hinges added, I thought I'd surprise Jerry by prepping the kitchen for power sanding.
Moving the refrigerator and putting up the plastic sheeting.

A closed-in kitchen "before" shot.

I removed every last item from my kitchen.  I emptied every cabinet and put everything in my bedroom.  I bought plastic sheeting so that Jerry could seal himself in while he sanded to try to contain the mess as much as possible.  I didn't tell him I was doing this, I just had it done when he got home from work last Friday.  He actually didn't notice that all the cabinets were empty when he walked past the kitchen! It wasn't until he went in our room to put his things down and saw al the contents of our kitchen on the floor that it hit him.  I love a good surprise!

Ethan thought a bicycle helmet, safety goggles, and a bandana = perfect outfit for power sanding!

The first step was to try to seal the kitchen off as much as possible to try to contain the dust.  Next, Jerry and the boys had to suit up for the work.  I found it hillarious what the boys thought would be a good get-up for power sanding!

Aaron went with the full cammo get-up, a Bob the Builder construction helmet, safety goggles, and a bandana!

This is over halfway through the process.  Notice how dusty Jerry's skin is!

It took a long time, and created a LOT of dust, but in the end, we got all the stain off the parts of the cabinets that cannot be removed and sanded or stripped outside. 

Everyone helped with the clean up!

Cabinets ready for new stain!  What looks like a dirty lens is actually dust particles still hanging in the air from cleaning up!

Of course, now the cabinets look really funny.  Some still have the original stain.  Some are stripped down to the raw wood.  Others already have the new stain on them.  It may look silly, but it is the look of progress, so I'm okay with it.  Overall, the sheeting did work pretty well.  The dust primarily stayed in the kitchen, but the kitchen?  There was a layer of dust on the counter so thick, you couldn't even see the counter.  Even the walls and ceiling were completely coated with it. 

Through the process, we discovered that the end panels of the cabinets are 1/4 inch plywood.  They'll have to be removed and replaced since you cannot power sand stain off that thin of a board...Live and learn!

Ready for the next step!

This isn't my favorite part of remodeling, but the results are very worth it!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Mini Post

  • I broke my toe last week.  It still is quite painful when I wear shoes, but is almost pain-free without shoes.
  • I exercised today for the first time in forever, broken toe and all.  I think the toe actually helped me because normally I tend to start exercising with too much gusto, end up injuring myself, and have to take another month to recover before starting the whole process over again.  Smart, huh?
  • My kids are in VBS all week this week.  Why, then, am I the one who is so tired I could fall into bed and sleep for a week?
  • Both my kids invited friends from their T-ball teams to go to VBS with them.  I love watching them want to share their love for Jesus with others!  I don't even mind the extra driving to pick up and drop off two extra kids this week to foster that mindset!
  • I have had a half finished post showing more kitchen progress for almost a week now.  I'd love to say I'll have it up tomorrow, but I know better. ;)
  • Our blackberries, the one plant we've had success with in the garden, are dying.  The only bright note to this sad story is that I think through trying to figure out why the berries are suddenly dying we've figured out why we cannot grow anything in this yard - our soil is infested with more roly-poly bugs than you can imagine!  Now I have to figure out how to kill doodle bugs.
  • We got new phones last week.  I am loving being able to text, check facebook from my phone, and take great pictures with my phone.  However, they sent me a defective one, so I have to exchange it.  The battery on mine dies within 4 hours of a full charge, even when I am not using it!  The store tested the battery for me, and it is fine, which means I managed to get a defective phone.
  • When my grandmother was visiting last week, she was playing "Sorry" with my kids.  After beating them pretty soundly three times in a row, Aaron asked her, "Great-Grandma, what game are you really bad at?"  Ha!  I guess now I know why my whole family is super competitive.  It has been handed down for many generations now!

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Look of Progress

The kitchen is still a work in progress.  Today all the cabinet doors are off!  Jerry took them to a custom cabinet maker to have interior mount hinges put in them.  I cannot say that I will be sad to see the old, brass hinges go.  Out with the eyesore, in with the polished and streamlined.  Progress is good, even if it means I have to watch Andrew like a hawk today!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

He's a big boy officially now, folks.  That's right.  Gone is the high chair, and Drew-Drew has joined us at the table.  You cannot tell in this picture since he is focused only on eating his applesauce, but he is very, very happy about this new turn of events.  His high chair is still out waiting for a cool morning to put it up in the attic, but he ignores it and goes right to his booster seat when it is time to eat.  I have to say that it feels really good to have our entire family of five at the table for meal time.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

His God-Given Right

As the oldest child in our family, Aaron feels that it is his God-given right and responsibility to keep the rest of us in line.  He consistently corrects his baby brother and religiously tells his other brother everything he is supposed to do right after I have already told him.  And he doesn't limit his correcting reminders to his siblings.  He also makes sure I know when it's nap time, dinner time, snack time, or the day for an event we've been planning.  He is especially hard on Jerry, reminding him what foods he is allergic to and admonishing his father when he dares to eat something that isn't the best choice.  In short, he's bossy. 

Thankfully, he's also cute.

But 7 is oh, so grown up, right?

Ahem.  Anyway, we faithfully remind him that our family already has two parents to help guide the children (including him) and that he is NOT one of those parents. It hasn't sunk in yet.  Just the other day, he left these two signs on the table at Jerry's spot.

"Jerry, This is how you shold (should) write your name."  He's on a first name basis with his dad these days.

"Not like this - lashdfoewingoasnl."

Apparently, on top of everything else, he is now also the handwriting police.  Great.

Friday, June 18, 2010


We just got some food back in this last month, and wheat is one item we can now add to our rotation. We can have some wheat twice a week, and I have to tell you that this is very exciting for me!  I have missed pasta.  Tomatoes are still out, so a traditional Italian pasta dish is still out, but pasta is quick, easy, filling, and cheap.  We have dabbled with bits of wheat here and there, but I finally finished our new, revised schedule for foods and yesterday was our first full-fledged wheat day.  For dinner I made a great Olive Oil and Garlic sauce for pasta and added chicken and broccoli.  Oh. My. Word.  It was so good! All four of my guys asked for seconds!  I'm sure to the average person it would have just been an average dinner, but to us?  This was special, amazing, magical even.

The picture doesn't do it justice, but I was too anxious to dig right in to stop and get just the right picture for you all.  Sorry about that. No.  Really I'm not sorry.  I am a bit sorry that I'm not sorry for caring more about getting into the pasta than getting a good picture for you, though.  What? I lost you with all the sorries?  Oh.  Sorry.

I was equally excited about dessert.  I made a chocolate cake and frosted it with this frosting that I had seen on Tasty Kitchen. (I couldn't make a regular frosting since powdered sugar has corn in it and it isn't a corn day...) I don't know if it is because I bought whole wheat white flour or if our tastes have just changed that much, but we didn't really enjoy the cake that much.  Or the pancakes I made this morning, for that matter.  I am determined to keep trying, though, because wheat flour is about 1/5 the cost of spelt flour and 1/7-1/10 the cost of the other flours we have been using.  Oh, and it is already ground for me.  You know? Maybe that's it.  Maybe I should buy some wheat berries and grind them myself.  Perhaps we are just used to the taste of freshly ground flour now. 

Either way, the bottom line is the same.  We love pasta.  We've missed pasta.  We'll be adding pasta to our regular menu again with rejoicing.  However, the other wheat flour items?  Well, their just not all we remembered.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Books, Books, Everywhere

I love this time of year.  Packages come in the mail day after day with books and curriculum for next year.  I have to admit that I get as excited (or more excited) with all of these packages as I do at Christmas time when all the gifts start rolling in!  And I think I am more excited about it this year because I didn't order a set curriculum package, but rather I put together my own book list and am working on coordinating it all into cohesive units.  It is so rewarding and fun to see all my ideas coming together and turn into a great school year that I cannot wait to get into and teach.

There are some really neat books that I think Aaron will really enjoy.  I am currently reading through all of them and dividing them into "read alone" books for Aaron to read and report on, and "read aloud" books for us to read together and discuss.  So if you are wondering if I am ignoring my family to do nothing but read when you see my book list growing and growing, never fear!  Most of the books I've added in the past few weeks are on a 3rd - 8th grade reading level.  It has also been really fun for me because children's literature is my thing.  I have had a personal goal to read more great children's literature for some time now, and it is good to be doing it. 

One of the books has been really fun to read.  This is Saint George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges.  This book is a retelling of Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queene

Check out that dragon!  You can really get a sense of the bravery that must be within the knight to be willing to go up against that dragon.

The pictures in this book are amazing!  The scenes just draw you in and make you want to know more about what is happening in the story. 

It is clear to see why this book won The Caldecott Medal!

Trina Schart Hyman is an amazing illustrator.  I am always amazed at what the illustrator adds to a text.  You can have a great story, but for a child it can be lost in the jumble of words.  But when illustrations like these are added, those same words open up a whole new world to the child reading them!

As it turns out, Aaron got my "book bug"!  He has been as excited about each new package as me! I have had to ask him not to read the books for next year's school so that we do not have them all read before school even starts! 

Saturday, June 5, 2010


I finally took some pictures of the completed backsplash!  Jerry did all the tiling and most of the grouting, but I did help with the last bit of grouting and the washing.  It is so beautiful!

In this picture, I've leaned a drawer front to show the color we're staining the cabinets with the counter tops, sink, and backsplash.  Doesn't it look great?

(Notice my remaining yummy onions up there on the ledge?)

We also pulled out an old, semi-working trash compactor and Jerry built a cabinet to fit the spot.  We ordered a door to match our existing doors, and we didn't realize looking at the pictures online that we ordered one that was split half and half, while ours have a smaller cutout on bottom than on top.  So we ordered the correct door and decided that our mistake door would now be our experiment door to decide on stain color and hinges.  We got the new door yesterday, and it's wrong too!  We checked and we didn't order wrong, but they made it wrong!  I guess we'll have two experiment doors now. 

(Please ignore all the dishes along the counter tops...)

Now comes the huge task of stripping all of our cabinets to restain them!  It is going to take a long time, and we'll have lots of times where one door is missing or things are different colors.  In the end, though, I think it will all be worth it.  We are taking the wood a very dark brown.  We started with the biggest panels right in the front of our kitchen, and this is how the wood looks after just one coat of stain.  I'm getting excited!!

(A missing cabinet door here and there is going to be the norm around here for a while!)

(Jerry did a lot of hard work stripping off all of this old, stubborn stain.)

(One coat of stain.  It will get quite a bit darker with the next coat!)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Birthday Boy

About a month ago, my oldest son turned 7.  I had all kinds of grand plans to post pictures of his birthday much sooner than this, but you know.  (If you don't, just read the post right before this one.)  Anyway, his birthday fell smack-dab in the middle of the craziest part of t-ball, but since I had already told him he would not be having a party this year, it was okay.  Plus, Jerry's parents made a trip down to watch t-ball games, so they were here for his birthday, which is a rare treat.  On Aaron's birthday, we let him choose where to eat his birthday dinner (he chose Colter's) and went to the Flight Museum at Dallas Love Field Airport.  Both sets of grandparents joined us for the whole outing, so it was lots of fun and extra special for Aaron.

(Aaron posing in front of an actual space suit worn on a space flight with his map.  This kid has a thing for maps...)

One of the planes at this museum is a fighter jet that has the ejection seat out and on the floor so guests can sit in it and see what it feels like.  Of course all three boys wanted a turn in the seat.  Don't they look cute?  Maybe we have three future aviators in the family!

(Aaron looks to happy to be about to eject for 10,000 feet...  But the way he is gripping onto the sides for dear life gives him away!)

(Andrew has no idea what the big deal is about, but he's really happy to be doing what his big brothers are doing.)

(Ethan's turn!)

Or maybe an aviation mechanic.

(Aaron checks out the under side of a plane.)

After the museum, we went for dinner then back to our house for presents and cupcakes.  Aaron really wanted a huge, 1,200 piece Lego set that was a ridiculous amount of money, so we combined our gift with two of his grandparent's gifts to get it for him.  I've never seen a kid happier!  But, of course I forgot to take a picture. He used the leftover birthday money he had to order Lego Bricklayer magazine, which comes with a small Lego set mailed to your house six times a year.  He got the first one last week and was thrilled!  Of course, I don't have a picture of that either. :)

After presents came cake.  Here's the birthday boy with his cupcake and candle.

I think I finally found an allergy friendly cupcake recipe that everyone likes.  The stuffed mouths and messy faces are signs of approval to this mom!


Happy belated birthday to Aaron!  I couldn't be happier that he is my son.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

This Is Why

I sat down to write a post in which I reveal my awesome new kitchen backsplash and how it all looks together.  But after getting a total of four sentences written in a whole hour (don't ask), I realized that I don't even have a picture of it completely finished, AND blogger isn't letting me put the text left justified - it is stuck in "center"!  So now, an hour after I started this journey, I am frustrated, tired, and still have no post.

And this is why this blog has such a lack of new postings.  I just thought you'd want to know.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Savory Surprises

I had a great birthday surprise recently.  I went out to get the mail, and this box was sitting at my front door!  When I was visiting Joanna a couple months ago, she and I had a conversation about onions in which I shared my *love* of onions.  I put onions in everything I can, and I tried my best to introduce Joanna to my favorite way to eat them: roasted!  Anyway, I guess I made an impression on Joanna with this conversation, because she ordered these lovely Vidalia onions from Georgia for me!  I have really enjoyed them.  They are perfectly sweet without losing their bite. Mmmmmm.  I only have four left, and I am rationing them!

Thanks, Joanna!  You're the best.