Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Another Unanswerable Question

Me: Why did you put toothpaste on your ears?
Anonymous Child: ....

Eventually I stopped asking "why?" and switched to "how?"
I suppose I actually meant, "What were the circumstances?"
At any rate, "How?' turned out to be an answerable question.

Anonymous Child: But everybody knows how to put toothpaste on your ears, you just squirt it out and put it on.

Clash Day

I don't think words will help...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Two Questions Without Real Answers

Question 1:
Leena (6) to Mxyl (11): So, what are you going to do when you are 42?

Mxyl: (very long pause) um (longer pause) I really don't know.

Question 2:
Choclo is an ideal 3 year old: rough and tumble one minute, sweet and snuggly the next. In the morning he greets me with , "I love you soooo much!"

But why, oh why, when he wants a butterfly kiss does he stick out his tongue?

OK, fine, Question 3:
Have you ever seen a kid whose response to a camera is to smile nicely? Or do they all do this?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Apple Recipes: Apple Butter

I'm going to give two recipes here.

What I usually do:
Chop the apples into quarters. (maybe 5-10 lbs)
Have preschooler count apple pieces as he puts them in the big pot.
Put in whole spices: maybe 3 cinnamon sticks, a dozen cloves, (cardamom pods and ginger slices if I have them on hand!)
Add water and/or apple cider until the apples are just floating.
Simmer for hours while the smell fills the house (or until apples are tender - less than an hour)
Scoop out the apples and put them through a food mill (I have one for my Kitchen Aid) to remove seeds, whole spices, and peels.

Boil the left over water/cider to reduce it.

Add brown (or white) sugar to taste and enjoy some of the pulp as applesauce. If it is getting late, I save the pulp til tomorrow.

Now there are several options:

If I am making pies, I continue to boil off the water/cider until it is thick and syrupy. It is then boiled cider and makes fantastic pies as well as oatmeal/ice cream/pancake topping.

You can also add the pulp back to the water/cider and simmer it until you get nice thick apple butter. Or You could boil it down and add the boiled cider to the pulp. You can also serve the water/cider as mulled cider (this works even if you started with water, as long as you simmered the apples for several hours). Or you can toss the water/cider and just start simmering the pulp!

If you are starting with plain pulp, the easiest thing is to spread it in a pan and bake it for a few hours at 350 , stirring every hour or so. Otherwise, simmer for a 2-3 hours (or longer depending on how much water you had in with the pulp and how thick you like your butter.

I do it this way because I like my apple butter very thick, and I like boiled cider in pies (and I like my house to smell fantastic for 2 days!) . Most of the pectin in the apple is in the peel and the core, and the pectin is what thickens the butter.

I have also done it this way way: All Day Apple Butter. Still very good, the best option if you have no food mill, but not as thick unless you take the cover off the slow cooker.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Apple Recipes: Fabulous Fritters

Tracy, this is for you and your dh! I fell in love with The Emperor over a plate of begneits at the Cafe Du Monde. Ah, the romance of fried food!

Favorite Fruit Fritters

Oil for deep frying (I use an 1 1/2" of peanut oil, just don't use canola)

2 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
1 Tbs baking powder
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 c milk
2 tsp vanilla

4 sweet apples, peeled, cored and sliced (I use this) If slicing by hand, 1/4" to 1/2" is good. This also is fantastic with peaches or pears (use ginger with pears).

Powdered sugar for dusting

Heat the oil to 375 degrees.
Mix the dry batter ingredients and then add the wet ones.
Dip the slices and fry, flipping once so they brown on both sides. If they don't brown in 20 -30 seconds, the oil isn't hot enough and they will be soggy, so toss em and try again!
Drain on paper towel lined plate and dust with plenty of powdered sugar! Yum!

Monday, October 13, 2008

We Went Broccoli Picking!

OK, so we picked apples and pumpkins, too, but I had never picked broccoli before. It's fun! And it really does taste better than the store stuff...

We had a great time! Choclo was in tractor heaven.

Anyway, a toddler, a preschooler and 30 lbs of apples were enough for me to carry, so I asked Mxyl and Klenda to handle the camera. All these were their shots. No broccoli pics, alas.

What to do with 30 + pounds of apples? We've made apple butter, apple sauce (twice), apple fritters (twice), apple pies, and gone bobbing for apples. Oh yes, we've also just plain eaten a lot of apples!

If you're wondering about that last one, no, my children were not so scarred by a day at the farm that they all curled up in a fetal position. They were trying to look like pumpkins.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Leena's Page at 3

Here is Leena's page from when she had just turned three, shortly before Choclo was born.

Sorry about the size: I had to scan it because I can't figure out how to get Blogger to import things from Word. If you can't read the text, try clicking on it.

Any good ideas for what to call these pages?

Not Scrapbooking

I don't do scrap booking, I'm not really doing so well on the baby books, BUT, every 6 months, each kid old enough to express an opinion makes one of these. I don't know what to call them; they're easier to do than to explain!

I put a copy on the wall and one in a binder we have for this purpose. So far we have them going back about 3 or 4 years and it's amazing to look through and see how each kids preferences have changed.

We started out just asking,"What would you like to tell your grown-up self about what you are like right now?" Since then, we've evolved into some pretty standard questions for the sake of comparison, but they're free to add odd details. And they do.

Here is Leena's from this September. I'll also post her earliest one separately so that you can compare them.
My name is Leena. I am 6!
My favorite colors are yellow and pink.
My favorite music is Beethoven's Wig (5th Symphony).
My favorite animal is a squirrel.
My favorite sea animal is a dolphin.
I wish my name were Dolphinny.
I like to eat pizza.
I like to read books, especially Amelia Bedelia.
I like to play Hide and Seek.
I'd like to learn about sign language.
I like to play on the swing.
The most wonderful thing in the world is rain!
I like God! I like everybody in the whole world!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Oob's First Fingerpainting

It took him a while to figure out why I kept giving him paint.

I mean, it was shiny and all, but it tasted terrible!

But, when he finally got it, he loved it, spreading the paint with wild windshield wiper motions that flung paint everywhere.

It took a long time to clean up; in fact, he still has blue paint on his left foot.

Oh, no! It's a Blue Footed Oobi!

The Sojourn in Egypt Part III, or, It's a Wrap!

We didn't actually do everything I had thought we might, but we did food. We made flat bread (but didn't put sand in it, I was thinking of it for authenticity...) and date-honey candy (yum!).

We skipped the costumes, but then, a lot of Egyptians at the time skipped the costumes, too.

We made cat statues! Paper mache around water bottles. That was fun!

We made shabti (small statues buried with the dead to do all their manual labor in the after life) out of grated soap. You grate the soap (we used Ivory), wet your hands and then mold the soap. After it hardens a bit, you can carve the details. I couldn't quite get the camera to show the details on ours. Actual shabti are sort of plain and mummy like also.

We really liked the grated soap thing - it lends itself to all sorts of sculpturing possibilities! Alas, I used my food processor to grate the soap and it was really tough to clean out and tossing it into the dish washer was not the right move. Unless you like your dishwasher to foam at the mouth.

On the plus side, unlike most craft projects, they can be recycled as soap!

The Grand Plan called for a fabulous finish: A play in which one of the Zoomlians was mummified. This would use the outfits we didn't do, and tie everything together in a memorable way which demonstrated their thorough grasp of the subject.

But we got distracted, so we're just going to wrap all the kids in toilet paper and call it a day.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Ebb Tide

I really must finish the last blog about Egypt, but that means taking pictures, uploading them and thinking more than I have time for just now.

We have, er, wrapped up Egypt and I had been thinking about what to do next. We've had two high tides in a row: electricity and Egypt, and we've started our home school co-op and assorted activities:CCD, Cub Scouts, etc. We are still repairing from the household disasters. We are also in the midst of making Christmas presents.

Time to de-stress and let the tide go out.

We'll keep working on the basics, of course. Klenda and Mxyl each just started writing stories. We all read pretty compulsively. I want to read aloud to the kids more. Math U See is gaining excitement as 3 of the kids finish up their levels. Science is all around us. We are still going on Child's History of the World. Several of the kids need extra individual time (like Leena playing store). But I think the extra stuff will be art for a while (also known as making presents).

We try to get all the presents done before December so that we can concentrate on Advent and the spiritual meaning of Christmas (also it looks like we'll do the annual December co-op play this year). And we can mail the packages to distant realations in time!

In practice, this means figuring out what we will make in August, gathering materials and starting to knit in September, and starting kid projects in October. Crazy! But last year I started thinking in late September and had avery stressful December! This way we can go at whatever pace we like and still be sure of hitting the mark.

Good thing this is low tide!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Problem With Me and Math U See

First let me say that there isn't a problem with Math U See. It's a great program. The problem is with me and Math U See.

When I was pregnant with Oobi I was on bed rest a lot. Pretty rough going with 5 kids being home schooled. Something had to give and it was the house, the cooking, and the math.

We kept reading (from bed) and we kept a loving, God centered, learning environment, so I think we did pretty well, over all! The fact remained, after the dust from Oob's arrival settled, that I could easily catch up on cooking (everyone had gotten used to not eating) , eventually catch up with the house and... hmm... needed to find some way to get back on track with math.

This wasn't about grade level so much as the kids continuing to learn. Before Oob, they had (almost all) really enjoyed math, and were on a good trajectory; after Oob, they seemed hazy on the details.

I had been hearing (over in the Bonnie Glen) about how great Math U See was and how well it taught how and why math works. Sounded great!

I sent for the demonstration DVD. The kids wanted to watch it over and over! Heck, I wanted to watch it over and over! I was sold.

6 months later:

Mxyl is doing very well.

Klenda understands and enjoys math more than ever before.

Zorg is having a great time.

Leena... well, not so much. I am having a hard time figuring out what she gets and what she doesn't.

Then one day I realize she doesn't really know the values of coins.

That's my problem. The reason I don't usually use a prepackaged curriculum is not that I can do it better than the experts; it's because I unconsciously think that if they do the curriculum it's enough. Bingo! Box checked off, let's move along.

Math U See does teach the value of coins, but what Leena needed was for me to sit down and play store with her. She needed to find 100 random things around the house and put them in groups of ten. She needed to play games with many sided dice. She needed a bazillion games of Chutes and Ladders and Heigh Ho Cherry-0. And she needed to play with the Math U See blocks.

Honestly, I don't think there is a better prepackaged math curriculum than Math U See, and I am certainly continuing to use it. Still, this was a wake up call to me: the best curriculum in the world is no substitute for paying attention to what my kids need.