Home Organization and Rewards, Again

100_2281When we first started homeschooling grade level in 2012, I took the summer before to get our home life running a bit more smoothly, and it really paid off.  We instituted a system for chores (see post here: Restore Sanity) that we tweaked off and on over the years.  More recently, when our life got very chaotic, we decided to just assign one chore to each child, the same every day.  It worked fairly well, after some bumpiness, but we had some feelings of being underappreciated and under-appreciating the work of others.

Complicating this is that we’re in summer phase.  We’ve had a really intense year, “moving” basically 5 times, and homeschool really suffered.  So we decided to take a full break from school for the summer; that, plus we are very busy this season with Nathan’s new work as a pastor (and we’re doing a garden).  I am going to have five students in the fall and without help (we’re trying to find a tutor), the kids are going to need to start taking more ownership of their own learning.  So for the summer I’ve decided to “encourage” more independence.  Their new chore chart includes several school related things that they can do on their own time – reading, doing math pages, geography puzzles, etc – and if they do at least two in a day, after getting chores done they can have their 20 minutes of computer game time.  If they do more school things, they’ll get bonuses.  Today is the first day.  Our master chore list hasn’t changed much.  The most significant change is that each of the 3 olders are paired with one of the 3 youngers.  The other difference is that I’ve printed out a weekly chart with checkmarks.  Each of these is in a plastic holder that’s made to be used with dry erase markers, so they can re-use the same chart every week.

I’ve uploaded these charts here if anyone wants a visual. Here’s the master list, and here’s the kids’ individual charts.

We’ve stopped our reward board (see here) system and just stuck with our normal system of allowances.  Each week, each child doing chores “gets” $4 (Canadian money lol).  But we keep $0.50 for sharing and 0.50 for saving (12.5% each), so they receive $3 each.  They can spend it in the “Mommy Store” which is a little system where I buy treats like Kinder Eggs or granola bars and sell it to the kids at the price I pay.  We use old The Game of Life money so they get used to handling and counting money, the $100,000 bill is our dollar, $20,000 is 0.20, etc – the old money is necessary, the new Life money just say “K” now.  Or when we go into town, they can buy things at the dollar store or grocery store.  This system has worked really well in a few ways; their money handling and addition has really improved, and, even better, there is NO whining at the store!!!  They just ask if I can buy something for the mommy store if they can’t afford it themselves right then.  Because, of course, at $3 a week it’s awfully hard to buy granola bars or chips or what have you because those things often cost more – up here, everything costs!  You can hardly find something for $1 at the Dollar Store even, most of it’s $1.50 or more.

I’m really hoping we’ll be seeing fruit of this in the fall.  Of course, in the short term it’s more work.  My “dishwasher” is training her siblings on the proper way to load the d/w!  And my sweeper today needed to “see” that there _is_ dirt under the table, in the corners, etc – the change from always doing the dirty diapers was so exciting, but realizing the new jobs are actually work was a let down.  😛

That’s one thing about homeschooling.  When _everyone_’s home all the time, the home simply MUST be a working team or everything falls apart.  Here’s to hoping!! 🙂

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Easter Party!

We had an Easter “picnic” party this year, to try to get to know our new neighbors.  It was a blast!  Except..so much for the “picnic” part.  We got snow the whole day before the party, so the day of (Easter Saturday) it was cold and slushy and muddy (you can see the piles of snow in the pic below!).  The kids played on the trampoline and soccer outside anyways, but they’re northern folk and hardy. 😉

I made these as my special “Easter dessert” and while it took quite a bit of time and work, they were well worth it.  Here’s the recipe and directions: Easter Creme Eggs or cupcake chocolates (Easter Cream Cups)chocolate creme cupcake egg

We ended up with 24 kids total, which was awesome!  But a bit crowded in the house. 🙂  We started at noon, so we started with eating of course!

IMGP1921

Nathan kept saying, “We can’t run out of food!” so I made lots.  Here’s the list:

Easter Creme cups for dessert

Hot dogs on a stick

Paska rolls (recipe)

Pizza rolls (not shown as I’d forgotten them in the oven when taking this pic!)

Cheese and crackers and artichoke spread

Lots of raw veggies and dip

Popcorn

Frozen seedless grapes (seemed appropriate considering the weather!)

Avocado egg salad and olives on crackers

“Corndog” muffins (this recipe was helpful)

Two types of fruit salad – one with Jello, as a trifle, and one with canned fruit (I used a yogurt/Dreamwhip/chia pudding made with almond milk/cottage cheese/pudding mix base and added either Jello chunks or tropical canned fruit.  I got asked for the recipe several times so it must have been decent.)

For activities, I had planned two, thankfully, as the outside time didn’t quite materialize like hoped.  First we made paper bag puppets, after I used my “sample” puppet to tell the Easter empty tomb story. I’d found stickers with faces and mustaches and provided paint and glitter and I was happy to see the whole crowd get into it (kids aged up to 16).  While they did that, hubs went outside and hid plastic Easter eggs.  They went outside and had a blast in the mud finding the eggs.  I’d also found at the dollar store plastic “flowers” that were larger which were perfect.

easter egg hunt

See, we’d filled the eggs and flowers with candy, but it wasn’t candy for them to keep right away.  It was decorating candy.  I’d made a cake for each family (I’d used a large flower mold so we had lots of space on top, but it took a whole box of cake mix to make each), and I’d made an “empty tomb” for each cake out of chocolate rice crispies.  By the way, I used some Nutella and mint chocolate chips in the rice crispies and they were amazing!

rice crispie empty tomb and stone

Each family got a cake and an empty tomb.  Since I’d just told the Easter story, the kids knew the general layout of it and who was there (the guards, angels, women, and Jesus…well, he did show up later to chat with Mary!).  Then, they went to town decorating their cakes!

I’d made three colors of frosting.  It was cream cheese frosting and chocolate frosting, then I added a little green tea powder and two drops of green food coloring to a small part of the white frosting to make some green.  I put all the frosting into frosting bags and sealed one end with those plastic clips.  This worked perfect for little hands, when the time came to decorate I just cut off the tips and they squeezed away!  Then they decorated with the candy.  We’d opened all the eggs and pooled the candy on the two tables, so everyone could have a choice of decorations.  There were sour patch kids (they made appropriate zombie like guards), teddy bear cookies, twizzlers, mint “leaf” gummies, caramels, small chocolate chunk candies, sprinkles, and more.  Here’s an example of one cake, the kids all did such a good job!

empty tomb cake

Looking for other party ideas?  I’ve written up a few more here:

Science/Adventurer themed

Bug themed

 

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Many Waters

ferry across shining waters

Ferry

There’s a book by Madeline L’Engle by this name, and it refers to the Bible verse, “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised.” (Song of Songs, 8:7).  This verse doesn’t quite fit my thoughts, but it feels right.  The season we are just about ending has felt like a flood of many waters, and yet God’s love has held us and we have not drowned.

I realized it’s been a long time since I updated here.  In June we got notice that we had to find a new house.  We spent three months trying to find a place that would rent to a family with six kids.  Nobody.  Not one person.  Not even people with huge houses.  Sigh.  The area has very limited rentals coming available anyways, but for us, it was impossible.  So we moved in August into my mom’s 22′ travel trailer.  Some very kind strangers allowed us to park on their property and that’s how we lived Aug-Dec.  Another kind person, a friend’s parents, gave us a second trailer that doubled our living space, but it was still extremely close quarters.  I figured it out at one point – 8 of us in 336′ of space.  Claustrophobic is a good descriptor.  We spent most of the fall out, we signed up the kids for a bunch of classes for homeschool and so we all didn’t go stir crazy…..well…not every day anyways. 😉  To up the crazy, we went from one dog to two when our neighbor’s (unwanted) dog “adopted” us.  Before this time we had encountered someone from the Village Missions organization, and had tentatively started investigating them.  We decided to apply, and were accepted eventually.  We started fund raising (Village Missions sends out missionary pastors to rural churches who can’t afford, or get, a pastor), as all VM pastors must raise a part of their salary.  As part of this process, we decided for a multitude of reasons to give notice at Nathan’s job, pack up the stuff in storage (all our worldly goods, which we discovered had been infested with mold) into a container, and drive down to Southern California.  We made it just before Christmas, were able to spend the holidays with family, then continue support raising.  See, we couldn’t go start doing ministry til all the funds were vouched for.  At the end of January, we reached 100%, so we bid farewell to friends and family, left the trailer with my mom, and headed north.  We stayed in temporary housing a month, then got our stuff out of the container storage and moved again, into our parsonage.  Nathan began as pastor in mid February, and it’s been a wild ride.  We haven’t really had internet much for the last three months, so I’m trying to catch up on things now.

Winter sunset over frozen lake and field

Winter Sunset

We are just settling into this new role, and getting to know our community.  We held an Easter (Saturday) picnic party to get to know the local kids, and it was great fun.  We made “empty tomb” cakes, and the kids really went to town decorating them!

Cake decorated as empty tomb

Empty Tomb Cake

Life is going to be very hectic for the next 6 months.  We have two conferences, one vacation Bible school week, one summer helping at a Bible camp, and homeschooling to finish…oh and we might squeeze in visiting family as well.

If you’d like to see more about the ministry, listen to Nathan’s sermons, or follow us more regularly we’re using a facebook page: Born Family Ministry.  As we are missionaries who need to raise support, we have a way you can do that if you choose, please check out the “About Us” link for more info.

church steeple

I’m not sure how much I’ll be posting during the upcoming year; we are both “full timers” basically.  But I’ll try to do it a bit more regularly than I have. 🙂

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Camp cooking

We are camping in the trailer and have a potluck to go to tonight. As I am still setting up the stuff everywhere I was thinking of just picking something up on the way….but then I got inspired to make cornbread to go along with the store bought soup and decided to triple the recipe. Here is the original recipe: http://www.justapinch.com/recipes/bread/sweet-bread/coconut-flour-corn-bread.html

I can never leave a recipe alone. I didn’t need this one to be GF so I added regular white flour. With my tripled amounts here are my changes:

1 c. Cornmeal

1/2 c. White flour

1/2 c. Coconut flour

1 c. Butter

1/3 c. Bacon fat

2/3 c. Coconut oil

2/3 c. Honey

1/3 c. Corn syrup

The other ingredients I just tripled. It was so soupy at 10 eggs I hesitated to do the whole 18 but I remembered how coconut sucks up the moisture so I went ahead and did it. Then I changed my mind and added a bit more flour, coconut flour and baking powder! I made 12 muffins and baked the rest in my cast iron roaster. I only added the vanilla to the pot. The muffins were done at 20 min @ 400. I covered the roaster for the first 20 min and then uncovered for 5-10 more since the top looked soggy.
The muffins definitely tasted more bacon-y.  The bread had a more vanilla taste. The texture was pretty good. Yum with butter! 🙂

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Terrestrial 

I had a thought today as I was cleaning about what the word terrestrial means. Space is vast. So vast that humanity simply cannot believe that we are the only living beings in existence – that this tiny “Goldilocks” planet is the only one is the universe to support life of any kind. And of course there is no way to prove extra terrestrial life, or lack thereof. Some other “goldilocks” type planet candidates have been found but usually on closer inspection (or more information) they turn out to be different enough that humans at least couldn’t live on them. 

Yet we persist in believing. And in many ways humans long to escape the limits of this planet. Whether it be New Age “planes of consciousnes” or spacecraft, humans around the world seek a way off, even if just to explore and come back. Of course, after thousands of years of staring at the stars, we now live in the Space age.  We have as a race accomplished space travel…even if only to “get there first” over other humans!  And the ultra rich can now escape Earth even if only for a quick visit to space. It boggles the mind!

Yet…what if there are extra terrestrial beings? The Bible’s answer is plain.  There are. The Bible teaches that God made angelic beings as well as humans.  Beings with a form of life, consciousness,  will, and ability to interact on some level with us. Beings that can appear as terrifying  (their first recorded words are usually “Fear Not”), or who can appear as human as you and I. Beings who, as recorded in various books of the Bible, exist to do God’s will…and yet, some of them (a third according to one verse) chose to reject that purpose and rebel against God. According to Scripture,  they were locked out of their natural realm – Heaven, where they could be in God’s presence – and thrown to the earth. And, they will eventually in the fullness of time be thrown into a special place of eternal punishment prepared for them by God. They know about this. One demon (s) speaks to Jesus and asked if Jesus was going to throw them into that place before their time. In fact they beg Jesus to be allowed to enter pigs instead.  Jesus gives his permission. ..and the whole herd of pigs goes absolutely mad and comits mass suicide. 

The thought that struck me today is this, that demons (fallen angels are called demons by the Bible to differentiate them from the obedient, un-fallen ones), were created unlike us in significant ways. They were not created to be tied to the earth. They can move without regard to gravity. They are not, in some significant way, bound here the way we are. Yet demons were cast down to the Earth. In Job, God asks Satan (he demon “ring leader” if you like), what he has been up to. His answer each time is, going to and from on the Earth. That always struck me as an odd exchange. Of course God knows where Satan has been. Why ask? You can assume it is to introduce the subject of Job, God’s servant, but what if it means more? Is being stuck on earth a form of punishment for demons? Is God reminding Satan of his living hell, his limitedness?  Is being terrestrial a terrible punishment for an extra terrestrial being? It sure would explain, at least in part, their absolute hatred of humanity – a terrestrial species who has the promise of eternal joy in the presence of the Lord for those who trust in Jesus. And the demons get…Hell. That has to really chafe. It isn’t like they can forget their low “estate” either because some verses of the Bible indicate that demons struggle against angels.  That must be like having otherworldly salt rubbed into the gaping wound. 

It is sobering to think of. And we still miss the point. In Luke 10 Jesus sent the disciples out to do his work. They came back rejoicing that even the demons had obeyed them. And Jesus replies, paraphrased, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from Heaven. I have given you (all my powers). But don’t rejoice that the demons obey you, rather rejoice that your names are written in Heaven.”  Those poor disciples always miss the point. (As fo we so often!) They see victory over God’s enemies as the supreme good while missing the point that they have that power because they have been given part of God’s authority, because they are now part of God’s family! How supremely reassuring for us. That we, brought into familial relationship with our creator, will be able to enjoy him forever in perfect fulfillment of our created purpose. Hallelujah!  🙂 

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Summer Fun days

“Go Outside and Play!”  That’s been my standard line all day.  We’ve had Fall come upon us already, leaves falling, rain every day…until today.  Sunny and warm!  So we kicked the kids outside while we made chocolate birthday cakes.  They had a blast.  Apparently it’s a ton more fun playing on the trampoline when you use the watering can to make it wet.  🙂

Here is my mostly GF chocolate cake recipe.  We also made a cake from the box.  Can you tell which is which?

two chocolate cakes cooling on racks

Which one is GF?

Tomorrow we are going to decorate them.  I’m going to try to use marzipan (homemade) for the first time in my life, and Nathan is going to try to fix his box cake’s split personality.  😉

I’m aiming for a “castle” theme with my decorations.  I have some macha (green tea) powder which I am thinking will make an awesome moat mixed with frosting.  The kids want to know where the towers are….so hmm…may need to make some towers!  Good thing we just bought ice cream cones.  Whatever happens, I know “my” mostly GF cake at least won’t make the kids blood sugar go crazy.  😉

Will post pics if they aren’t a disaster.

Since life is in total upheaval, moving without a place to go, we acquiesed to child one’s request to go mini-golfing.  Hopefully some friends and family will be able to join us.  And, I don’t have to move all the half-packed boxes out of the way to party here.  It’s going to be more expensive, way more, but hey you only have a birthday once a year right?  And I think the lack of stress over hosting will be worth the money.

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Kids can cook?

The answer is, of course they can.  Many kids and younger siblings would die of starvation if they didn’t manage to learn basic survival skill #1: Getting something to eat.  I remember one aspect that was mind-blowing during our visit to Cameroon was finding out that kids there get their own machetes at about age 4.  Kids at 6 or 7 were care-giving for their siblings all day.  So my sheltered 10 year old started looking _really_ sheltered.  We decided to introduce real life skills like chopping food a little bit earlier than we had assumed after that, and yet it’s still hard for me to see them wielding chef’s knives. Ok, I admit it, I bought a campy little device that they use in one hand to make sure they don’t cut their fingers off! Here it is:

One of the things that really got our kids going was looking through my issues of The Food Network magazine because everything looks so good in there!

Up to this point we have spent more of our homeschooling efforts on other aspects like this one, a visual comparison of what 100 calories look like for different foods…

Various amounts of foods that make 100 calories

100 Calorie Food Comparison

and learning about nutrition.  What is fat, protein, carbs, and why does it matter?  What are calories?  What are vitamins and why do we need them?  How do you shop for foods?  How do you menu plan?  Etc.

This year I decided we are going to really focus on actual cooking skills.  One of the reasons is that I watched an episode of Rachel Ray’s Kids Cook-Off (interview with the winner here).  It was amazing watching these kids chop veggies quicker than I do usually!  (ok, I’ve cut myself too many times, so I just choose to chop slowly…but still)  My kids are nowhere near winning their own cooking show, and I’m fine with that, but we need to get going on some of these skills.

For fun today, I made one of the contestant’s sandwich recipes for lunch.  It’s a take on PB&J, only with fresh berries mixed with the jam, and adding in sliced bananas, candied pecans and chopped bacon.  We used fresh raspberries mixed with blackberry jam and no Chipotle.  I had my 10 yo help by candying the pecans and slicing the bananas, then helping me assemble the sandwiches.  It was fun!  The sandwich itself got mixed reviews, most of the fam said it was a bit over the top, but it tasted good and it was a fun change up for us.  The Food Network put this recipe up online from the show if you want to see it there.  This is ours in mid assembly:

PB&J with bananas, fresh fruit and baconOne of the joys of parenting is seeing your childrens’ gifts come out and flourish.  I’m sure the parents of the kids on that show were mighty proud.  I’m not expecting anything like that out of my kids, but I am looking forward to seeing what fun adventurous ideas they come up with in the kitchen!

 

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