Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Quest For a Filling Breakfast...For Active Boys!

I have a challenge. I have 5 growing boys who can really eat. A LOT. Especially breakfast. Increasingly, I am getting more and more complaints as we're finishing breakfast or shortly thereafter:

"Mom, I'm still hungry. What ELSE can I eat?"

I didn't get this response often until we moved a month ago. I guess if there is a downside to having lots of space to run and play after being in a small apartment with no yard for so long, it's that these boys can really work up an appetite now! All that exercise and fresh air, you know...

Right now, our breakfast rotation includes oatmeal twice a week, eggs twice a week, cold cereal twice a week, and something a little more special, usually pancakes or waffles, on Saturday. Oatmeal consistently fills them up, but they aren't especially fond of oatmeal, so I only cook it twice a week. And they complain that I make it THAT often. But, they eat it and it fills them up! On the days we have eggs, I cook 18. That's usually for just the boys and I, except for the rare occasion that Jeremy eats with us. I usually serve the eggs with some sort of bread--toast, biscuits, or lately I've started making and freezing extra pancakes/waffles on Saturday to reheat and serve with eggs the following week. On cold cereal days, they will eat several bowls each. I'd like to do fewer cold cereal days, but the boys beg for it and it is, admittedly, easy and convenient. Our cold cereal choices are usually Cheerios, Honey Nut Cheerios, Frosted Mini Wheats, or Raisin Bran. So we're not talking total sugar-loaded fluff here, although my boys would be thrilled to live on Lucky Charms and Froot Loops--if I would let them!

We used to have a fruit smoothie with breakfast several times a week, but I have to admit I haven't been doing that since we moved. Right now, we're having milk or OJ instead. It's definitely time to start making smoothies again.

So I need to come up with a plan to fill these guys up--hopefully without breaking the bank! I have high aspirations of feeding the boys more than usual while also reducing the amount I spend on groceries--think I can do it? I do have one thing working in my favor: Groceries here are cheaper than they were in the city, and I now have the option to shop weekly and take advantage of specials and loss leaders. When we lived in the city I shopped once a month in New Jersey, then picked up a few things here and there in Manhattan--at a premium price-wise.

I'm thinking I'll try making some breakfast-y foods that can be individually frozen. Then, whoever is still hungry can pop something in the microwave, and I haven't wasted food by cooking extra for those who aren't still hungry. Unfortunately, I can't seem to think of anything but muffins or breakfast taquitos that I could individually freeze.

Any ideas?

Friday, October 29, 2010

More Babies!

Look what came in the mail today!! Yes, they are 26 super-cute little baby chickens. I got a call at about 6:45 this morning that this package was waiting for us at the post office. Jordan and I got dressed and headed over there to pick it up. It was funny, because the second we walked in the door of the post office we could hear them cheeping in the back! The boys are sooo excited about their new "pets" and I'm excited about having fresh, organic free-range eggs in the spring!

I was surprised that they all fit in such a little box. We ordered 3 different varieties--Barred Plymouth Rocks, Buff Orpingtons, and Easter Eggers. The first 2 will lay brown eggs, and the last one blue/green eggs. There is also a free "mystery chick" included--it's chocolate brown and gray--it will be fun to try to figure out what it is as it grows! They are supposed to all be pullets (girls) since we want them for eggs, but that's only 90% guaranteed so I'm sure we'll be guessing genders as well as they grow. Fun, fun!

The boys immediately all wanted to hold them...

Our temporary brooding facilities...I need to contrive a better way to anchor the heat lamp, and then make them a little bit larger home. The feeder and waterer take up almost all of the space that you can't see in the picture. Their coop is almost finished--it's fully insulated, so we're hoping to move the heat lamp out there and use the coop within the next couple weeks.

And the shipping box? Why, it makes a perfect bed for two little kitties, of course! They've latched on to that box and have been caught sleeping in it several times today.

In addition to our newly arrived chicks, we've had some drama here today!! I let the kitties out to play on the porch this afternoon with Jordan and Joey. When the boys wanted to come in, I told them they could leave the kitties out to enjoy the warm, sunny day a bit longer. Well, about half an hour later we went out to get them and little Charlie was GONE! We put Carlie in the garage, where she mewed piteously and LOUDLY for her lost brother, while the boys and I searched the yard. When we couldn't find him, I searched the inside of the house, in case he had managed to sneak in, then I searched under the deck all the way around the house, hoping I wouldn't end up with any spiders on me--ewwww!

The boys were all over the yard, and by this time Jonathan was in tears and Joshua was nearly hysterical. I started doing those silly things you do when you are looking for something with small children--going through a small box of toys on the porch, even though a kitty totally wouldn't even fit there, etc. As I was making one more trip around the porch, I stopped to pick up one of our little straw scarecrows (of the fall decoration variety from Walmart) that had been blown over by the wind. Lo and behold, there was little Charlie asleep under that thing!

I've never seen such relieved little boys!! There was much celebrating, and of course the kitty was passed around so that everyone could give him a cuddle. I'm thinking we won't let them out alone again for a while yet, even though he didn't ever leave the porch!!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

October 2010 In Pictures (So Far...)

Jordan's 7th birthday at Chuck E. Cheese's...

One of the many bouquets of wildflowers Jordan and Joseph have been gathering for me from our yard...

The "tree house tree" at the edge of our woods--the boys have grand plans for this!

Joanna in the nifty aluminum backpack carrier I scored for $8.99 at our local Salvation Army...

Jonathan helping me take apart the kennels at the back of our shed--it's going to become our chicken coop...

An adorable pajama-ed helper...

Little Miss Princess--she's usually a very smiley baby until I pull out the camera--then she gets serious on me...

Joanna and Jordan...

Joseph and Joanna...

The view from our back porch...

Our new babies--Charlie and Carlie...

A hat Jon is working on with the Knifty Knitter--I found 9 skeins of thick yarn at Salvation Army for 59 cents a piece--now all the boys want to make themselves hats and scarves!

Hopefully it won't be another month before I have a more in-depth update! While we're pretty much completely unpacked, we're still pretty busy getting settled and organized. We are enjoying our new home immensely, though!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Change Is In the Air...

Boy, have I ever been woefully negligent of this blog lately! You'd think we fell off the face of the earth or something! Well, thankfully nothing that dire has happened around here. Actually, something super-fabulous has happened (or is JUST ABOUT to happen, anyway)...we are moving upstate! Yes, we will still be close enough for Jeremy to commute into Manhattan, and we will also have space for him to have a dedicated home office as well. I'm very excited that the boys will have plenty of room to run, run, RUN, and I'll be able to do laundry without leaving my home again. Can you tell I'm excited? :)

We move early next week. I'm up to my eyeballs in boxes right now--they are literally stacked 3-4 high along every available wall. I'd say the packing is about 3/4ths done. Guess what I'll be doing all weekend? Hopefully I'll be able to get it all done...and remain sane in the process!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Home School Report -- One Month Down!

Well, so much for my weekly updates! We've been so busy lately preparing for our anticipated move that I've totally neglected my blog.

We've finished our first full month of school, and things are going well so far! We went camping for a week this month which threw us off a little bit, but we did take our books along and got most of our school work done that week. We've made up the rest in the past week and a half. This is VERY encouraging to me, since we usually struggle to get school work done when we travel. One of the reasons we bought the trailer was to help keep our routines going, even when we're on the road. So far, success!

I don't have many specifics to report, except that I'm so proud of the hard work my boys are doing so far! I think the most exciting thing for me so far is watching Joey learn to read. To me learning to read is one of the biggest hurdles of beginning school, and it's SO rewarding to watch his little face light up when he successfully sounds out a new word. Priceless! I'm so blessed to be the one who gets to teach him! :)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Home School Report -- Week 1

Well our first week is over and it went fabulously well! We finished everything we set out to do, and the boys worked diligently--most of the time! :) I was thrilled to be able to work in some non-basic subjects this week...of course my plan is to do them every week, but in the past extras like art and music (except piano lessons) have always fizzled out--mostly because in the past it has become such a battle just to get the basics done. I really believe, though, that the fun of those extras and looking forward to them will be a big motivator and contributor to the boys' good attitudes towards school. After all, it is easier to get excited about an art project than a math test, right?

Joey has been doing phenomenally well on his reading lessons. Not just the material, which I was already confident would be easy enough for him (he's a bright little guy) but in his excitement and effort to actually DO the lessons. I was halfway expecting a battle each day at reading time. Jordan really had to be coaxed to do his reading lessons often last year, and he is far more compliant than Joey. Joey really wants to learn to read, though! He's ready.

This year I'm adding something new for Joshua and Jonathan--homework. Yes, that doesn't sound terribly earth-shattering, but I've never assigned work specifically to be done outside of our regularly-scheduled school time. While they are good about taking initiative to get their basic subjects done each day, I think they can learn some useful study skills by having assignments that they receive at the beginning of the week and have to turn in by the end of the day on Friday. They have to learn to manage their time and be responsible to get it done, or they'll have to do it over the weekend--which, of course, is no fun!

I still have 2 more subjects to work in, probably next month. We're going to start studying a foreign language--Spanish--this year, but we want to use Rosetta Stone and can't fit it into the budget until next month. I also want to add a writing program-- probably Institute for Excellence in Writing, but again, not in the budget just yet! I make the boys write quite a bit already, as they produce written summaries of each lesson in history and science, and also do written narratives of the literature they read. But I want to start doing something more structured for writing. I was a good writer in school, but for some reason I just don't feel confident teaching my boys to write without a program of some sort!

I'm going to try to post an update each week about what we're doing in school. If nothing else, I can come back here later in the year and read them myself, just to see how far we've come. ;) I know we'll have our ups and downs, just like we always do, but I'm looking forward to a really good year!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Since My Mom Keeps Asking for Pictures...

...Here's our new travel trailer! For those of you who don't know the story, we travel a LOT and now that there are 8 of us, we have to rent 2 hotel rooms every night that we are on the road. After thinking/dreaming about getting an RV for the past several years, we finally bit the bullet so to speak and bought one (at a FABULOUS deal, I might add!) near the end of our recent 2-month road trip. Most of these pictures were taken with my iPhone, so please excuse the grainy picture quality. :)

This first picture is of the bunkhouse, where all 5 of the boys sleep. This was the big selling point for us to get this particular trailer. It has a slide-out on each side of this room, a dinette and couch that both fold into beds, and 2 bunks that fold down from the ceiling. Josh and Jon get the bunks, Joey gets the table bed, and Jordan and Josiah share the couch bed. The built-in dresser in the middle holds ample amounts of clothes, and the lower shelves on either side lift up to reveal storage...toy bins! Yeah!

The table side, with the upper bunk folded down

The couch side, with the upper bunk folded down

Looking from the bunkhouse into the main living area

The bathroom sink is between the bunkhouse and the living area. This is another feature we love...someone can be in the bathroom/shower with the door closed, and others can still wash hands/brush teeth/whatever without waiting for the bathroom.

The kitchen :) It's not much smaller than my Manhattan kitchen. Really.

The living area has a table and sofa in a long slide-out. The two closed doors go into the other bedroom.

Another angle. The table folds into a bed, and the sofa has a fold-out queen air mattress inside. Someday we'll need these!

A view of the kitchen from the other direction, looking into the bunkhouse. The door between them is the bathroom.

And here's the other bedroom, with a queen bed and lots of storage. I hadn't bought sheets/pillows yet when I took these.

All of the boys playing at their table. The upper bunk is folded up here, which gives more headroom at the table. Another huge benefit of having that table in their room is we can all sit at tables for meals. I guess it's not as ideal as all sitting together, but we certainly didn't see any RVs with tables for 8, so this will do just fine!

This is the only picture I have of the outside, taken while we were packing up to leave after 4th of July weekend.

We've used it for about 7-8 nights so far, and I have to say we love it! It's so nice not having to drag everyone and everything into hotels (and pay for 2 hotel rooms), and being able to cook real food instead of driving through McDonald's on the road will do wonderful things for our health! :)

Just in case you're wondering, yes, we added a generator and have already tried out "camping" in a Walmart parking lot, lol! When we're driving cross-country and just need to stop to fix lunch or sleep for the night, that will work nicely! :)

Sorry, Mom, but I don't have any pictures of the van yet. I'll have to work on that!

Monday, August 2, 2010

First Day of School!

Yes, for us today was the first day of the 2010-2011 school year. Again I have 3 "official" students this year in 6th grade, 4th grade, and 2nd grade, and then Joseph in K4. All of my little scholars sat down to work enthusiastically and we had a productive first day. I hope we can keep up both the productivity AND the happy attitudes! Here they are, at the table ready to begin:

Yes, I removed the math blocks from Josiah's grip after snapping this picture. Please excuse the ketchup on his face--I asked Joshua to help him wash his hands and face after breakfast while I helped Jon with the dishes--obviously the face part was missed!

The 3 big boys started out with math. Here Jordan works on his subtraction skills.

Joseph was so excited to receive a box of brand-new crayons all to himself! He worked on some numbers coloring sheets I printed off Enchanted Learning, and then made patterns with plastic beetles before finally adjourning to the living room with Josiah to watch Thomas the Tank Engine.

I love the look of concentration on Joshua's face as he converts fractions to decimals. I can't believe we now have a middle-schooler! Where does the time go?

Everyone did very well today--I'm so proud of my boys! I still have some schedule-tweaking to do as far as the timing of everything, in order to make sure we're as efficient as we can be. I'm excited to see where this year takes us on our learning adventures!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Summer Pictures of the Kiddos at the New York Botanical Gardens

Since I spent all of Saturday cleaning, organizing, and prepping for the new school year about to start, and Jeremy and the boys spent Saturday driving around New Jersey picking up Josiah's bed, getting haircuts, and running errands, we promised the boys we would do something more fun on Sunday. We bought a family membership to the New York Botanical Garden back in January when they still had the model trains set up for Christmas (an AMAZING display, by the way!), but we haven't been back since. So, since we have to take full advantage of the memberships we have, that's where we decided to go.

Much to the dismay of my rough-and-tumble boys, I immediately realized that the combination of cute children + fresh haircuts + church clothes + beautiful gardens was a picture opportunity way too good to pass up! So before we let them loose to run around and get dirty, I made them pose for pictures. I think we got some pretty cute ones, and I needed updated pictures badly!

So, without further ado, here they are!

Jordan...posing by this metal frame thing was his idea, not mine. He has decided he wants to be a model, so he "can be the one in the pictures in the haircut book." We'll see, lol!






This one was totally washed out (not sure why) but oh, so I have to include it!

Smelling the tree, lol!

Joseph being a "crazy man." That's my Joseph!

Happy baby!!!

Trying to get them all to sit still, look at the camera, and SMILE-- all at the same time-- is quite the adventure!

Joseph in the rose garden

Jeremy and Joanna

My precious little princess!
Josiah smelling something again--this time a rose

Joshua peeking out of the gazebo

Jonathan peeking out from the other side

It started to rain about this time, so I took Joanna back to the car (she was hungry anyway) and Jeremy took the boys to the children's garden area where they played and planted sunflower seeds in little pots. Now those little pots are living in my kitchen window, and I've cleaned up several sprinklings of potting soil that keep appearing in the general vicinity. But they all had lots of fun, and that's what matters!
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