Tuesday, December 31, 2013

5 Public New Year's Goals

Well, OK, so they're resolutions ... Let's face it, we're better off calling them goals. Besides that it's easier to explain to Peanut what a goal is instead of "resolution" mainly because she wrinkles her little nose at me and tells me I'm silly.

This year each member of the family has made one public (able to be shared with you) and one private (not sharing with ANYONE) goal. So, even though I'm listing five goals here (one for each family member) there are actually ten total.

Peanut's goal : Peanut wants to be reading by the end of 2014.

Younger Cracker Jack's goal : YCJ wants to know all the songs in her new music book by the end of 2014.

Elder Cracker Jack's goal : ECJ has made a goal of being more organized in 2014 and he's making a game plan on how to do it.

Mommy's goal : Well, my goal is to finally get down to a size 8 pant again. I've made it into the dress! (YAY! Doing happy dance) Now it's time to slim the rest of me down. It's been several years of slimming to get me to this point. I don't ever want to be tiny, however, I'd love to be a size 8 again. I was healthy and happy and able to keep up with my children all day long without my back hurting back then. For me to do this I need to loose about 20 - 25 pounds (all belly area). It's somewhere around 2 pounds a month if you break it down. It's totally doable ... just frustrating because this is the second year in a row with this goal.

Daddy's goal : Daddy plans on loosing weight to this year although he's not setting a pound number on it or a pant size. He simply would like to loose some weight. Honestly, his goal is probably going to be the easiest to accomplish. A couple years ago we both went on a diet at the same time, same diet even, and he lost 100 pounds to my 30.

There's nothing new or surprising about these goals. Nothing amazingly outlandish. And yet for each person these things are a challenge. At the end of 2014 I want to be able to say we all accomplished our goals.

* And for those of you wondering what we'll be doing to celebrate tonight. That picture up top gives a hint. We'll be watching the ball drop as a family (those of us campers that make it to midnight that is) and drinking a few ounces of sparkling cider. The one I bought this year came from Dollar Tree and is just shy of being 8 and a half ounces. I usually buy a bigger one but we're a bit ill here and I've no plan for making my French Onion Soup any time soon (which is what I use the left over sparkling cider for). *

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Monday, December 30, 2013

Our Winter Bucket List

We had so much fun doing our Fall Bucket List that we've decided (for sure) that we'll be doing a Winter Bucket List! Here's the list of what we've decided to do:

  1. Walk on a lake (frozen)
  2. Build a snowman family
  3. Build an igloo 
  4. Fully remodel one child's room
  5. Partially remodel last child's room (will need to wait for warm weather to replace an old window)
  6. Grow crystals
  7. Say the rosary each day (either as a family or separately)
  8. Begin seeds indoors for outdoor garden
  9. Make "easy" sock snowmen
  10. Complete one craft (or for Daddy a project) each
  11. Read a book a month as a family
  12. Make a chalk pastel snow scene
  13. Children cook "day"
  14. Make sun catchers out of beads
  15. Find animal tracks in the snow
  16. Be someones secret valentine (outside of the family)
  17. Build Leprechaun traps
  18. Make "fire starters"
  19. Build a robot
  20. Make a bird feeder for the outdoor birds
  21. Make our evil twins
  22. Begin our "good things happen" jar
  23. Make a snow angel "snow flake"
  24. Invent our own board game
  25. Mailbox Mondays

So, the goal here is that we're going to have every item on this list crossed off by Wednesday, March 19. Why? Well, the first day of spring is the 20th of March. I'll be keeping you updated on how we are doing and posting pictures along the way! Some of these will only take a few minutes to do and others will take weeks or even months. Some weeks we may do a lot and some weeks we may get none of these things done. Either way we'll have fun doing it!

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Winter Bucket List Link Up!

Menu Plan for the Last Week of December 2013

In just a few days it'll be 2014! Boy, how time flew this year and there was a ton of things that happened! I'll be posting a Year in Review on Wednesday (New Year's Day) about everything.

But, for now, it's time for Menu Monday with Organizing Junkie!!!

Sunday - Lasagna (an extra one I prepared Christmas Eve)
Monday - Rotisarie Chicken and roasted veggies
Tuesday - Beef Stir Fry 
Wednesday - Swedish Meatballs (made with a mixture of ground turkey and ground pork)
Thursday - Smoked Turkey legs, fried potatoes, and corn
Friday - Talapia fish "packets" on the grill with veggies
Saturday - Left over buffet

Nothing really fancy and a couple things that we don't eat often. But, the idea here is for quick meals with little prep to make this next week as smooth as possible.

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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Our Week Off (Christmas)

Back again! We had a wonderful week off of school (and the blog). We did do a few worksheets this week but they were the bare minimum. Mostly they were a few math worksheets, creative writing, and a couple cursive worksheets for YCJ. We won't really be back into the full swing of things until January 6th. This next week there's no school on either Tuesday or Wednesday and only a half day on Friday. We don't attempt to do school on New Year's Eve or New Year's day as everyone wants to stay up to watch the ball drop. 

So, what did we do with our week off other than worksheets?

Well ... of course there was Christmas!!!

We finished our Jesse Tree and Advent lessons. Nope, we didn't finish our colored books for Advent but we'll do that next year and I'm sure I'll have some crossword puzzles and word searches added in by then. This will make it more fun for all three children and will allow me to use Holy Heroes again next Advent for even ECJ (due to his love of both crossword puzzles and word searches). YCJ was even more excited than Peanut when last construction paper link was removed from the bell to count down until Christmas.

 Christmas morning dawned and there were chocolate muffins for breakfast (made the night before). And plenty of gifts for each of the campers to enjoy unwrapping. Surprisingly, other than YCJ's recorder, the clothing was the biggest hit of the morning.

We then packed our lasagnas into the car and ourselves and went over the river and through the woods to Grandma's house. In our case this is pretty much a literal description. We posed for our yearly Christmas photo in front of Grandma's fireplace.

Then four out of the five children went and changed their clothing. This has become a tradition of sorts ever since YCJ was a baby, all the kids would rather be more comfortable and I'd rather not get dinner on their "nice" clothing. The lasagna was a giant hit (there's still a mini one in my refrigerator for dinner tonight). And, as always, Grandma outdid herself with the rest of the giant spread of dinner. Then it was time for gifts and socializing.

Christmas Eve I had spent about an hour or so making my first sock snow man for a friend of ours a few doors down who likes Harley Davidson. I sewed most of the components due not only to my lack of a hot glue gun but my wish for all of the pieces to stay put for a really long time.
Christmas night these three campers fell asleep watching a movie together in Peanut's bed.

 Just a few shots of the campers working on their worksheets Thursday and Friday. Yup, PJ days! No reason to get all dressed when all you're planning on doing is spending the day relaxing inside. ECJ did end up getting dressed both days as he had a new friend from just down the street who came over (yes, both days) to hang out in the house and have snow ball fights outside.

YCJ spent most of Friday working on learning Hot Cross Buns on her recorder! She'd spent a little time on Thursday doing this as well but actually had the song down (most of the time unless she's nervous) by the end of Friday afternoon. She'll be spending several hours a week learning how to read and play music over the next several months. ECJ will be doing the same, only he'll be learning on his brand new acoustic guitar.

Everyone did manage to get a decent amount of outside time in this week. With everyone totaling 8 hours, except for ECJ who had 10! That brings our year to date total for the 1000 Hours Outside Challenge to 154.75 hours! I'm not going to count ECJ's extra two hours in our grand total, though I am adding each of our times up separately for my own records starting next month.

We've crafted and watched movies. We've laughed and we've prayed. We've visited and relaxed. Now, this Mommy is actually ready for school to get back "in" so that we're back to our regular scheduled programming around here.

I hope that all of you had a wonderful Christmas and that your New Year's will be brilliant! 

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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Snow Forts and More

At the beginning of the week we had one heck of a lot of snow. Inches of it had fallen and while it certainly isn't the most snow we've ever seen (or had in MI) it's the most I've seen at this time of year for several years. Having spent last winter in Kentucky where our total snow fall was about three inches the recent snow fall was a veritable winter wonderland. When there is snow on the ground the children enjoy winter more, as YCJ says, "Snow makes it worth playing outside in the cold."

The only one of the children to spend any time out of doors on Sunday was ECJ and that's because he was helping Daddy shovel our decks, porches, walkways, and driveway as well as helping to do the neighbor's. By the time they both came in they were chilled to the bone and since it was still snowing Daddy and I decided that Monday would be a better day to play outside. Sure enough as soon as lessons were done on Monday all three children bundled up and went out the door to play.

 There were regular snow angels made, "forward" snow angels made, and snow ball fights for two and a half hours! If you're wondering what a "forward" snow angel is it's when you lay on your belly and make the snow angel. YCJ has gotten the hang of keeping her face out of the snow, but Mommy had to dust off Peanut's face and glasses. Some of my favorite pictures that day were taken of Peanut playing in the shadow of the house because of the blue tint that occurred without doctoring the pictures. 

Tuesday was another day to play outside in the snow. The plow trucks had come by and made a massive pile at the end of our street which also happens to touch our yard. This pile was bigger than me. To any child, and indeed to me, it looked like the perfect makings of a snow fort. They spent another two hours climbing the "mountain" and digging tunnels with their hands. The snow was really not stable enough for them to climb inside and hang out once the fort was made but they had a ton of fun making it.

Later that night some boys from the street behind us destroyed the fort in their attempts to build a ramp in the snow to snowboard down. Daddy and I actually had to send the boys home because they were facing the ramp into the drainage ditch next to the farmer's field and could have gotten seriously hurt. 

The rest of the week we were either busy running errands, entertaining, or the weather was rainy (yes, rainy!) and so the children didn't go out to play. Once that sun sets the temperatures drop and there's no being outside in that chill in the dark. As I write this over half the snow that fell last weekend has melted due to the rain and we're not supposed to get more than a flurry or two before Christmas.

This week we added 5.5 hours to our yearly total for the 1000 Hours Outside Challenge making our new year to date total 146.75 hours of outside time! Nope, I haven't made it to the quarter mark yet as you can plainly see. And really I will be surprised if we hit the 250 hours mark before the end of winter. But, as I've said before those spring through summer months next year will be bursting with outdoor time. We camp and spend time at parks, we walk and go to beaches, we picnic and we hike, and we explore new places. We have several camping trips and outdoor field trips planned for next spring and summer!

Remember in these chilly months to keep that hot chocolate flowing, the hugs warm, and the clothing layered! This is my last post before Christmas, I won't be back on the blog until December 29th. Though sometime before Christmas and sometime right after Christmas there will be a few things on our Facebook page . I'm looking forward to a week off of lessons and spending time with those I love. I hope that your Christmases are wonderful, that your family's are full of hugs, and you know that you are loved this year. Many many blessings from all of us here to all of you out there.

Friday, December 20, 2013

In the Week Before Christmas

This week has been jam packed crazy around here. Knowing that we're taking next week off of our lessons, and having two half days this week, had the Cracker Jack's scatter brained beyond belief. 

The week started on the right track of course. Monday everyone was up and ready for school and our lessons were done quickly and correctly. We actually finished all of our lessons (excluding ECJ's Apalogia science) inside of an hour and a half! This left the whole afternoon free for them to all play outside! Which when you have a pile of snow bigger than you are in front of your front yard is really exciting. We live at the end of a pretty short street and the plow trucks push it all into the open area before the two track. I have to admit that the pile looked tempting even to me.

Peanut's negative space art.
YCJ's negative space art.
Tuesday came and went without any issues as well. We didn't finish our lessons as quickly as we had on Monday, but the kids were still outside and playing before the public kids got out of school for the day. 

Wednesday we had an appointment around thirty miles from our house early in the morning, so I'd scheduled a half day. We did grocery shopping while we were out and by the time we got home no one wanted to do our lessons. So, before dinner that night we broke out the dry erase boards from the dollar store and everyone practiced math and writing for awhile. It seems like if you add a dry erase board and markers suddenly these subjects you get fought on otherwise are now fun.

Everyone was excited for Thursday to come because Noni was coming over! Another half day was scheduled ahead of time because of this. Instead of doing Thursday's lessons we did Wednesday's though. I had originally thought we might get both days done but Noni came by a bit earlier than we'd thought she'd be able to originally. She came bearing gifts because she cannot spend Christmas day with us and must work Christmas Eve. Everyone received gifts that we'd really wanted (Yup, even Mom and Dad! We're not used to receiving gifts so we were just as thrilled as the children.): ECJ received a students guitar which he'd been asking for for the last two years and went over the moon, YCJ was gifted with more craft supplies and all the things to learn two new ways of stitching with yarn, Peanut absolutely loved her play dough machine, tools for Daddy and a surprise sewing kit for Mommy were the hits of the day. Of course other gifts were given as well from dolls and accessories to Lord of the Rings Lego kits. The house has rung with the sounds of children playing with new items since. After the gifts were unwrapped and played with a bit we went and saw the movie Frozen at our local theater. It was wonderful!

That leaves us with Friday. The last day before our week long break. Friday, oh sweet Friday how I usually love thee. Today you were a stinker. The children were distracted and chores took far longer than they should have. Peanut was able to finish out her lessons for the week but even with her it was a struggle because of her new toys. ECJ managed to do almost all of his work except for his Apalogia science lesson. But YCJ was a whole other story. She was distracted and allowed herself to get stressed out (seriously over nothing as I'd planned this week lesson light to begin with) and just could not focus. At four this afternoon Daddy called a halt to lessons for the day and informed the children of something new that we'll be doing*. (More on that in a minute.)

In PreK/K things are dashing along like a sled through snow. Daily things are becoming more K level than PreK. Peanut seems to just "get it" this year and I'm glad we decided to do nursery level work with her last year. With the new play dough gifts she'll be able to continue you hand strengthening and add in some arm work. I'll be writing a post after Christmas explaining why she needs this and what we do with her to help.

Third grade seems to be a different type of year for YCJ. Mommy has stepped back a bit and is refusing to read everything to this little eight year old girl. YCJ grumbles over this and though the lessons take a few minutes longer for her to read by herself she's still very glad that she "discovered" that she can read. Math still seems to be one of her stronger lessons, though for a child who would rather be creating art than anything else it seems odd to me. A math lesson can be flown through on most days without a single missed step or wrong problem. 

And, of course, ECJ in sixth grade is having no real issues. If he continues at this pace in his English lessons then he'll be finished before the end of March and we'll just go ahead and move him on to seventh grade English. Math doesn't seem to be too much of an issue either this year, though he's not flying through that as quickly as English (and we didn't really expect him to). He's still fighting reading Little Women and saying that Jo is still the only "good" character in the whole book. To quote him, "She even sold her hair, Mom! Her hair!"

Our advent lessons are going wonderfully! The children are still enjoying Advent Adventures by Holy Heroes and the readings and ornaments that we got from Confessions of a Homeschooler. The whole time both of these were about a day apart, whatever I read from the Bible was reinforced by what they saw on Holy Heroes. In the last few days they are merging closer together as we near the end of Advent. The children have noticed and talk about it during their afternoon play. The decade a day on Holy Heroes has also made Peanut interested in having her own rosary, so after the beginning of the year we'll be making a few rosaries out of beads and asking our priest to bless them for us.

We finished our Five Days of Christmas Carols that Homegrown Learners had given to her readers at the end of last month (I believe, it could have been the beginning of this month). We really enjoyed it and after much talk are seriously considering purchasing her SQUILT music appreciation curriculum within the next few months. 

As for our Christmas Around the World lessons that we were going to be doing ... Well, we got no further than Great Britain before we stopped. It was simply too much to add into our schedule this year. Perhaps we'll do better next year.

So, what is this "new"* thing that we'll be doing? The goal has always been to be finished with all lessons no later than four in the afternoon Monday through Friday. Most days and weeks this is exactly what happens. Sometimes, like today, it isn't. Beginning the week after Christmas the children will all have a "mailbox". Each day whatever hasn't been finished by four that afternoon will get put in the mailbox and cannot be touched until Saturday morning. I'll be making a sheet for each child to write down (yes, their responsibility) what they didn't finish on, and that sheet will be placed in their mailbox. The rules are that if you can't sit and do your work during the day that it's assigned then you can't do it until Saturday, no more working until late in the evenings and no finishing it the next day. Anything on the list not finished on Saturday by four P.M. will either be given a reduced grade (if started but not finished) or a zero if not done at all. It is essentially homework. 

We really didn't want to have a specific homework day or game plan when we first started homeschooling. But, when you're trying to teach a child and they simply will not do what they're being asked to do (not when they're not understanding the concept but simply refusing to do the work in a timely manner) then you have to do something. My children love their weekends that they have off and to put our foot down and say you will not have Saturday free if you do not finish your lessons really shocked the Cracker Jacks. There will no longer ever be school on Sundays, but if their lessons aren't finished they will have no extra privileges Sunday afternoons. In our house those privileges include, but are not limited to: extra TV time, free computer time where they're allowed to play games, going over to friends houses (this includes Saturday night sleepovers), riding bikes/skateboarding, and radio privileges. 

It was not the note I wanted to end on before our Christmas break. However, I can change my mindset to "We'll begin our break Saturday after four PM." and not feel badly. Boundaries have been set, a system will be in place by the week after Christmas, and children have been warned. If I had written this last night or first thing this morning I wouldn't have said anything until after this new homework idea had been in place for about a week. But, I sat down to write this at 4:30 this afternoon ... just minutes after the children were told about the new homework policy.

I want to wish all of you a Merry Christmas! I won't be doing a wrap-up next week (or indeed any posts next week at all) and won't see you all on a Friday again until January 3, 2014! Oh my! Another year is almost done and it's amazing how quickly it went! In less than two weeks it'll be 2014 and I'll be days away from having a 12 year old in the house!

Other posts from this week:
Week 3 of Advent Begins
Preparing for Christmas Menus
Staying Orange When Outside is White
Mosts Post of 2013
What We Are Doing the Week of Christmas
We've Finished Our Fall Bucket List!
A guest post (getting outdoors isn't so hard) for 1000 Hours Outside

Linking up with the following wonderful blogs today:
Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers
Squishable Baby
Faithful Mom of Nine
Homegrown Learners
Great Peace Academy

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