Monday, March 26, 2012

My Father's World--The Letter K (Kangaroo)

The second week of March was K week!  Our key words were "I am safe in God."

The kids enjoyed learning about kangaroos and Australia and trying to find "K" words.

We colored our K coloring pages, practiced writing the letter K, and made binder pages with a mama kangaroo carrying a joey on them.  Even lil' Katrielle wanted to "do school" with us!

We measured the distance a kangaroo can jump (42 feet) and then the kids had several hopping contests to see who could hop the farthest.  Justus and Jer took turns being the winners even though they are shorter than Ali.

The boys continued to have swimming lessons

Everyone in our family would agree that their favorite K is little Katri!
The boys were anxious to learn to spell out her name with alphabet tiles

This is not the greatest pic, but it's the best I could get of the kids with their little kangaroo pouches.
We read the book Katy No-Pocket here and then the kids picked out fabric from my scrap fabric bin and I quickly sewed 4 little pouches.  Over the last few weeks they have worn their pouches almost daily, usually to carry their Nalgene sippies while biking or their little toys they want to take with them wherever we are going.  Even Katri has a little pink pouch!  The curriculum suggested making aprons but I felt these pouch sacks were a little bit more practical, especially for little boys.
Learning about kangaroos was interesting for me; those kangaroo mamas sure take good care of those little joeys!  We watched some educational videos online about kangaroos and read some books from the library about marsupials.

We never seem to have a dull moment around here!  During Kangaroo Week Josiah's family decided on short notice to come and stay with us for the weekend, so while the guys snowmobiled, Grandma Kathy hung out with us.  What a perfect week for Kathy to come!

March Challenge--Healthy eating Menu--Week Four

Chicken and Veggie Salad with organic ranch dressing

I'm a few days behind in posting my menu plan for the week as I went out of town with my mom for a women's conference this weekend.  But here it is, complete with price break-downs:


Oatmeal x3
 (My hubby amazingly decided to start eating oatmeal a few times a week!  This is HUGE for our family as the kids want to eat what Daddy eats!  I'm so excited!  He is doing it because oatmeal is cheaper, but it's also healthier too!)
1.50 cents to feed 6 people

Scrambled eggs with cheese (made with farm-fresh eggs from a local ranch)
$3 to feed 5 of us (hubby won't eat scrambled eggs)

Cereal x3
(I've been trying to do organic cereals and homemade granola as much as possible this month)
$3 per morning


Fruit/Veggies--$10 per week (thanks to Bountiful Baskets)
Bread (organic 9-Grain) and Butter--$2.50 for 1 snack for 4 ravenous kids
Hardboiled eggs--$2.50 per dozen (1 dozen equals 1 snack for my kids)
Oatmeal/Apple muffins  Approximately $4 for 24 muffins
Cheese --50cents to $1 thanks to a $2/lb. sale on cheese


PB&J with organic PB, organic bread, and all-fruit jam 
$3.50 for 6 people (not including side dishes like fruit/veggies from the fridge)

Leftovers x2  FREE

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
$5 for 6 people

Bean Burritos (locally grown pinto beans and homemade tortillas) 
 Approximately $3 for 6 people

Vitamin Smoothies
80 cents for 4 smoothies


Elk roast in the crockpot, baked potatoes, brussel sprouts
(Elk meat was a gift from a friend) $4 for 6 people plus leftovers

Macaroni and Cheese, homemade, vegetables
(Pasta isn't exactly healthy, but the kids love this, so it's a compromise!)
$4 for 6 people, no leftovers

Quinoa with Chicken and Veggie Stir-Fry
$8 for 6 people plus leftovers

Whole Wheat Pizza, with homemade sauce and veggie toppings
$4-$5 thanks to a cheese sale where I got cheese at $2/lb.

Chili, cornbread, Mexican melon
$5, which includes the peppers, onions, tomatoes, melon from BB

So, my total from the listed meals and snacks is around $80.  Of course this doesn't include pantry staples like spices, oil, the milk we drink, etc. Our produce, milk, butter, cheese, flour is not  technically "organic."  I cannot afford to purchase organic because of how much it costs in our small, rural town.  But our wheat does come from a neighboring state and Wheat Montana does not use genetically modified wheat or pesticides on their crops.  Our fruits and veggies get washed thoroughly with a veggie wash and we buy milk that is from cows not treated with hormones.

Is it possible to eat non-processed foods on a tight budget?  Yes!  Is it a challenge, especially with voracious eaters like my kids?  Absolutely!  It takes lots of work, but it is well-worth the effort if you are concerned about giving your family quality, nutritious food and avoiding artificial colors, preservatives, chemicals, and sugar.  If you can obtain wild game, this will give your budget a huge boost, and provide you with organic, grass-fed meat!  The Bountiful Baskets produce co-op has enabled us to eat many more fruits and veggies.  If you can join a similar group, or get to know a local farmer and barter for fresh produce, it will help you provide your family with healthy foods for less.  I am always looking for sales/clearance deals/bulk purchasing discounts, etc.

The reason I've included only 5 lunches and dinners here is because during the weekend we didn't exactly do healthy meals.  I went to a women's retreat in a nearby town and didn't have time to make homemade frozen pizzas for my family.  So they ate some Digiornos I found for $3 on sale, and my mom and I had a mostly healthy picnic for dinner in the car on the way to the retreat (Tabouli, chicken salad sandwiches, organic pears, and Girl Scout Cookies (yum!), and then on Sunday, we ate at a Mexican restaurant for lunch, and at my parent's house for dinner to celebrate my birthday.

The conference theme color was blue.  There was a Sweet Treat Buffet at break time, complete with two cotton candy trees! 

While it's great to eat healthily most of the time, it's fun to have some treats every once in a while too!

Friday, March 16, 2012

My Father's World--The Letter P (Penguin)

Learning about the letter P was tons of fun!  We all love penguins and have many cute penguin books so we enjoyed snuggling together to talk about how Daddy penguins care for their eggs while the Mommy penguins are away. 
Justus' favorite book during penguin week was "The Penguin Who Wanted to Fly."

We made P-shaped pizzas for dinner one night.  The kids all made their own pizzas.  In keeping with our key words for the week "I show love to everyone, especially to my family" the kids made
Katrielle two little pizzas so she could have special pizza too.
I think the P keywords now tie with the horse key words (I obey right away!) as the most-oft-quoted-by-mom MFW words in the curriculum!  I loved this theme.  I encouraged the kids to think of ways they could bless their family members and show love to them.

One evening while Daddy was working with Ali on handwriting practice, the boys and I made a penguin puppet.

Dr. Suess doesn't start with a P, but since it was his birthday and Read Across America Day, we went to a friends' house and had a green eggs and ham lunch and colored Dr. Suess pictures.  We read several of our Suess favorites too.

P is for pool!  The boys started swimming lessons, which are two mornings a week for 6 weeks.  They are loving them!  Mommy is loving that they are learning water safety/swimming and that swimming wears them out and burns lots of their energy!

Grammy stopped by after school on Dr. Suess' birthday with a funny disguise.  Katri didn't know what to think!

I'm not sure what masks have to do with Dr. Suess or P, but Grammy gave the kids these white masks to decorate and they were thrilled with them and wore them around for the next few days. 

The kids were pointing out "P" words all week and now I've forgotten most of the connections they made, but one I do remember is potluck.  We had a potluck after church on Sunday.

I let the kids watch a couple of penguin cartoons from the library during P week and we colored penguin print-outs and glued them to our binder pages.  The boys worked on tracing their names with these wonderful free worksheets I found online and we continued reviewing their alphabet and phonics.  Ali had a friend over and I taught them the basics of hand sewing and they made dozens of little tunics for their barbies.

And that wraps up penguin week!  I think next year I'll do penguin week right before Christmas and take the kids sledding and skating and we'll do snow-related science experiments.  Our cousins who are doing MFW Kindergarten this year are picking and choosing the letters they do each week, and I love that idea! Next year I plan to switch the weeks up a bit to better suit our own family's needs and the weather patterns in our area.

My Father's World--The Letter E (Elephant)

I know I'm a few weeks behind on getting this posted, but life has just been really busy.  "E Week" was tough because Jer had a very high fever for most of the week and we ended up taking him to the doctor twice.  He just had a bad ear infection and antibiotics cleared it up, but it made for a very exhausting week.
So, while Ali completed her regular My Father's World schoolwork, Jer and Justy were allowed to slack off this week.  Technically they aren't supposed to be in school anyway, so I tried not to beat myself up about it and forced myself to just relax.  Besides, we'll be doing this curriculum again next year! 
Learning about elephants was fun.  We've seen them in the zoo, but I found myself learning a lot of new things about these giant animals as we read books about elephants together. 
My aunt's best friend passed these elephant toys on to the kids a few years ago and they are well-loved!  Boy and Ella as they've affectionately been named, get played with every single day.  Since we don't have a zoo with elephants in it nearby, playing with these stuffed elephants was the next best thing.

I had Jer do the "E" pages in his cusenaire rods book.

Ali drew a blue elephant (hard to see here due to bright flash) she wanted me to take a pic of

The kids did their binder pages by using elephant stencils to make elephant shapes on their pages. 
We talked about how elephants supposedly never forget.  Our key words were, "I will remember what God has done for me."  One way I encouraged the kids to remember God's blessings and faithfulness was by pulling out their old Gratitude Journals, which they used to color in daily back when Ali was in homeschool pre-school and they colored things that they are thankful for and looked back over their old entries.

One morning, when Jer wasn't feeling ill, we went and helped my friend who coordinates the Backpack Ministry for needy kids in the schools.  The kids helped me fill backpacks with canned goods/cereal/granola bars which we delivered to the schools so needy kids can have food on the weekends that they otherwise wouldn't have. 

March Challenge--Healthy Eating Menu--Week Three

I'm loving this eating challenge!  It's been fun, and I'm finding that I feel so much more satisfied on healthier foods.  In all honesty, we aren't making enormous changes in doing this challenge.  We didn't eat terribly before, so switching to more organic foods or cutting out a few processed foods like crackers/granola bars etc. for snacks hasn't been that hard.  But, I am making a more concious effort to know what we are eating, know where our food has come from, and to cut out artificial colors and dyes.  I'm realizing again how little of the food in the grocery store is actually real food! 

One thing I would NOT recommend:  kelp pancakes!  A friend and I did a green picnic in honor of St. Patrick's Day being tomorrow and I tried to dye the whole wheat pancakes I made with kelp powder since I didn't have liquid chlorophyll handy.  Though I added more honey to cover the kelp taste, they still tasted funky and only half of the 8 kids ate them.  I can't say I blame them, I didn't like them myself! 


Cereal (Arrowhead Mills Puffed Rice, Homemade Granola or Cheerios) x 5
Organic 9-Grain toasted or made into French Toast x2


Sandwiches with organic PB and raw local honey
Quesadillas made with ww tortillas and mozzarella cheese


Fruits/Veggies from Bountiful Baskets
Bread and Butter
Popcorn (popped in a pan over the kitchen stove)


Quinoa and Veggies Stir-Fry
Whole Wheat Pasta with Spaghetti sauce, organic garlic bread
Chicken and Vegetable Bulgur Stew, whole wheat biscuits
Wild Rice Chicken Casserole (with wild rice my in-laws brought out last week from MN!)
Whole Wheat Pizza with Vegetable toppings and fresh green salad
Fish fillets, steamed veggies, baked potatoes

Next week, when I report back I will try to include a cost break-down so you can see what I spent on the meals listed above!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Simple Living Goals Update

Here's a re-cap of how I'm doing in my simple living goals:

Guard Sundays

Our Truth Project Bible Study ended, making Sundays less busy.
My hubby and I worked out a deal where I watch one TV show in the evenings and he agrees to have Sunday be a media/internet-free day.  I'm enjoying how we're playing games together and with the kids instead of just doing computer/media stuff.

Lately, Saturdays have been packed, causing me to have to do my cleaning job on Sunday afternoons when the kids are napping.  So, in guarding this day, my next goal is to get my cleaning done on Saturdays if at all possible so Sunday can also include a nap and be even more restful!

Examine My Relationships
I have let some relationships go and embraced others that are new.  It's really hard for me to come to terms with the fact that relationships ebb and flow and change with the different seasons of life.  Because many of my friends don't homeschool, it can cause us to be in different circles/stages (whatever you want to call it) and that can mean less hanging out with those friends.  And I've had to realize that this is okay.  Other friends have moved or want to move soon.  Other friends change and we have less in common.  I've learned that while it's wonderful to have forgiveness and healing in difficult relationships, sometimes you have to realize that all you will ever have with someone who is totally different from you is an acquaintance-ship and not a deep friendship.  And that's okay!  And the world doesn't stop turning if I don't throw a huge birthday bash or Ladies' Night Out for every single friend in my life!
This is an area of continual growth for me!  I need to continually let God lead me and show me who He wants me to be friends with in each season.

Participate in Activities

Ali enjoyed her homeschool drawing class at the library and learned a LOT!  She will be taking plaster-casting later this month.  The boys are LOVING swimming lessons.  Jer isn't sure if he wants to do spring soccer.  So, we may end up skipping soccer and doing more swimming instead.  Ali is excelling in AWANA and we all enjoy our Pray and Play group each week.  Ali has started leading a Bible Club for girls during that time when the moms are doing their own Bible Study/Prayer time.

Less Trash

I'm excited to start a compost bin this spring and have been looking for ways to cut down on our trash.  We've been recycling, buying in bulk more, and trying to re-use whatever we can.  I've been sewing cloth gift bags out of fabric scraps to save on wrapping paper and provide the recipient with re-usable, recycled bags they can pass on!

Shop Less
I haven't been shopping at Walmart since November.  Having 4 kids forces you to shop less because you just don't have the time and energy.  And since we've been trying to go more-organic in our diet, we've ordered a lot of things online (vitacost.  Bountiful Baskets provides our bread and produce, and I'm trying to stay away from buying little extras that we really don't need, like cute outfits for Katri on clearance, etc. etc.


Lately fb hasn't been a problem.  I'm not on there for very long and I mainly use it to keep up with close family and share photos of my kids with family and post notices about Pray and Play or Frugal Friends.  But, less "face-time" is an ongoing goal for simplifying life!

Container Garden

I'm making plans, in my head, for this endeavor!  I'm hoping the kids can help with the planting, watering, and harvesting so it can be a family thing.  But our growing season is very short and we won't plant until around June 1st.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

March Challenge--Healthy Eating Menu

Last week's granola was a hit with the family!  It was delicious, but my family went through 24+ cups of it (plus other cereal and breakfast food) in 10 days!  My family eats a LOT, which makes it difficult to feed them healthily at all times.

The hearty lentil chili was a little spicy, but delicious!  We took it to a church potluck and there was plenty leftover for a couple more meals too.  It was a hit with the gluten-free folks at the potluck and so we shared some with them.  I threw in some black beans and we ate it with cornbread and on rice for leftovers.

The chicken vegetable curry on forbidden rice was WONDERFUL!  I liked it soooo much that I had to put it on the menu again for this week's meals!

We tried to avoid processed foods, but didn't freak out when Grammy shared these delicious daffodil cupcakes with us.  We received a free package of Oreos from our local grocery store this week in celebration of Oreos 100th birthday, and we ordered Dominos when 3 of Josiah's family members decided to come stay with us on short notice for the weekend.

Today, I was excited to go to a Local Food Fair in a nearby town where farmers and ranchers sold local goods and gave info on their products!  I purchased 12# of raw, local honey and 8# of locally grown, pesticide-free beans.

Here is this week's menu plan:

Cascadian Farms Organic Granola (purchased on a good sale with coupons)
Arrowhead Mills Puffed Rice
Organic Toast with organic raspberry jam with half the amount of sugar

Fruits and veggies
Mozzarella cheese wedges
Puffed Rice with milk
Organic 9-grain bread and butter
Yogurt/Spinach smoothies

PB and honey sandwiches (Bountiful Basket organic bread)x2
Annie's Mac N' Cheese
Leftovers x3
Organic black beans in homemade whole wheat tortillas, with cheese

Crockpot Chicken Curry on organic brown rice
Beef steaks and steamed brocolli and roasted butter gold potatoes
Pork chop/potato casserole (scalloped potatoes) made with homemade cream of chicken soup
Whole Wheat Panckes topped with organic 100% pure maple syrup, Farm-fresh scrambled eggs
Pepper Stir-Fry on organic brown rice (using BBasket peppers up)
Elk roast (cooked in the crockpot), brussel sprouts, mashed potatoes

I'm thrilled to check out the sites of those who are participating with me in this challenge!  Can't wait to try some new recipes!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Beautiful Hair

Ever since a friend recommended this tutorial video, Ali has been enthralled with fancy heart hair-dos.
This was her Valentine's Day hair-do....

...her AWANA hair-do

Her Daddy/Daughter Birthday Date hair-do....

....her 7th birthday party hair-do...

....and finally, her Mother/Daughter Tea Party hair-do!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

It's March! Time for a Challenge!

Quinoa with veggies sauteed in butter and garlic salt--a yummy lunch!

Over the last few weeks I've been interested in feeding my family more natural foods.  Part of it is the fact that we are now fortunate enough to get Bountiful Baskets, which has led to a more healthful diet and a lot more variety with our produce.  Also, it seems every day I see an article like this one circulating, causing me to think about where our food comes from.  Lastly, part of it is because one of my closest friends, Amanda, has been on an organic/healthful eating kick since August, after returning from a trip to Africa and seeing a stark contrast from the healthful foods they ate there as opposed to the overly processed foods we eat here, even though we are wealthier and have far more choices when it comes to food.

Amanda has challenged me to blog about this so that I can stay accountable.  I'll be linking to her blog as well over the course of the month as she posts new recipes.  My plan is to post my menu for the week and an update on what we ate and how things are going.  I would LOVE if you would share any tips/recipes/online sources for eating quality foods.  I can't afford to go all-out organic, and I'm not going vegetarian, but looking for food ideas that are made from quality, whole foods, preferably non-GMO and as unrefined as possible, and organic whenever possible.  This doesn't mean I won't be eating some quality chocolate or won't bend a little bit if we happen to be eating out at some point in the next month!  I don't want natural living to become an idol, which can happen easily as it's easy to get focused on yourself when you are thinking about the products you use and the things that you eat.

Do any of you want to do this challenge with me?  If so, I'd love to have you join me!  Link to your blog in the comments or leave a little note telling me what changes you would like to make in this area of your own life!

Here is my menu for the coming week.  Friday is pay day and so I usually shop on Friday or Saturday.

Homemade granola x3
Arrowhead Mills Puffed Rice x2
Whole-wheat pancakes (topped with organic PB, honey, or homemade yogurt) x1
Farm-fresh eggs purchased from a friend x1 and organic bread toast

Our family rule is that morning snack is fruits or veggies (thanks to BB!)  So the kids can have apples, oranges, bananas, carrots, mangoes, etc.
Afternoon snacks can be homemade bread and butter, smoothies, quesadillas, baked goodies, etc. in addition to fruits and veggies.
String cheese
Herbal vitamin smoothie (My friend Nicci taught me to make these as an alternative to whole-food vitamins and I LOVE them!  I've been doing them daily for a few weeks and I feel a HUGE difference in my stamina, attitude, overall health, etc.)
Green smoothies with yogurt, spinach, fruits

Black Bean and Cheese burritos on ww tortillas x2
Leftovers x3
PB & J (organic peanut butter, raw honey, organic bread) x2

Crockpot Chicken/Veggie Curry served over Forbidden Rice
Quinoa/Elk/Veggie casserole, homemade 9-Grain bread
Whole Wheat Pizza and salad
Tabouli (a long-time family fave!), homemade pita bread, salad
Baked Potatoes (organic), roasted veggies (whatever comes in our BBasket on Sat.), fruit salad
Hearty Lentil Chili and cornbread

I'm wondering if anyone knows of a brand of ww tortillas and a brand/type of cheese that is less-processed and natural?  We go through a lot of tortillas and it can be hard to keep up when I make them from scratch.  We also go through a lot of cheese and I'm wondering which cheeses are genetically modified/filled with artificial colors, etc.

Over the course of this month I'll report back on how our week went and talk about cost of food and how to get the best deals on healthy foods!

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