Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Our quasi-CM DITL

As requested on the Secular Homeschooling forum...

For those not already familiar, LemurBoy is 7, LemurGirl is 4.5 (and all work being done is on her own initiative! I always feel I need to make that disclaimer), and the baby is 5 months. We're roughly following the schedule at Ambleside Online, with Story of the World substituted for history (though we've listened to An Island Story as an audiobook, too). I'm not sure, at this point, whether we're closer to Charlotte Mason or WTM-style classical. Both are influences.

All times are approximate. Assume various kid snacks, nursings, diaper changes, and potty breaks that aren't noted did happen.

Get up, kids get dressed, LemurBoy goes out to feed the pony after a bit of whining, and everyone eats breakfast - bacon and eggs for everyone but me, bacon and leftover soup for me because Baby doesn't tolerate eggs well. One of my slices of bacon for Baby, who clearly expressed she wanted some, and then tried desperately to get it to her mouth but failed to ingest anything, which is why I gave it to her in the first place. Done by about 8:15.

8:15 - I sit down at the computer with my coffee (2nd cup. 1st was with breakfast) to catch up on stuff and nurse the baby before doing the breakfast dishes. The kids take their respective computers to the couch (LemurGirl's is a v-tech toy thing, LemurBoy's is an OLPC). LB is trying to look up prices of Bakugan battle gear. Joy. A group of cows gets driven by on the road outside our house and we all run out to watch. The calves are so cute! (Need a video of this).

8:30ish: LemurDa comes in and tells the kids that, guess what! They're making walnut boats with me today! No, this has not been discussed with me. I be responsible/buy some time by saying LB has to do his math, handwriting, and reading first, and both kids need to get the rats' nests out of their hair. This backfires slightly, as LB wants to do his reading right then and there. Oh well, the internet will wait.

8:45: Complete a few pages of Hooked on Phonics with LB. He's so close to done with this level - one HOP book left to read, which he wants to do later today (our goal was to be done with this level by the end of March, so we should make that!).

9:00: LB starts on a page of Math Mammoth (we're covering money). He gets it mostly right, and the ones he gets wrong are obviously an attention issue rather than lack of understanding. Except the $3 bill. He figured if there were $1 and $2 dollar bills, there must be $3 bills as well... He corrects the ones he got wrong. LG wants some money Math Mammoth too, so I print her off a page from the 1-B books, but it's still beyond her - she's shaky on the concept of numbers past 20 still. After much fit-throwing on her part and my insistence that we need to build more of a foundation before doing the money (no, I did not actually use the phrase "building more of a foundation" with her), she settles down to a 0-6 addition facts worksheet, which she gets all correct except one.

9:20: I spray detangler and brush LBs hair. He cries. I say I want to cut his hair. Eventually it gets basically untangled and I put it in a ponytail. This is our regular ritual. Repeat with LG. Thankfully, her hair untangles pretty easily without significant crying, and I stick it in two pigtails, her favorite style.

9:30: Internet a bit more (and another cup of coffee) while LB does his handwriting and LG works on her math some more. I internally debate whether walnut boats are a handicraft (toymaking) or a futility. Not that it matters, as they're now excited about it either way.

9:45: LB is done with copywork (a short Jack Prelutsky poem, plus his full name and the numbers 0-9. He traces the printout (created at http://www.handwritingworksheets.com/flash/dnealian/paragraph/index.html) one day, then copies it on his own the next.)
Copywork and Math
I cover the table with newspaper and get out the paints. Kids paint walnut shells. LG throws fit at the suggestion of using playdough in the bottom of the boat to hold the masts up, so I google for a good alternative. Find this Waldorf homeschool blog entry suggesting melted broken crayons. Broken crayons we have, so we gather them up and start peeling the wrappers off. LG is not particularly happy about this plan either, but accepts it in place of the playdough.

I set up a double boiler with a pot of water and a glass jar, throw the crayons into it. They start melting. I stir it a bit with one of the sticks we're using for masts (long thin reed-like things from our window blinds, which we had to shorten to keep them from dragging on the floor, so we have hundreds lying around waiting for a project like this). LB asks to stir, so I let him.

LG starts trying to pull the chair out from under LB because she wants to do it too, and it's really HER chair. I march her to the bedroom for time out because pulling the chair out from under someone standing at the stove is dangerous. She cries and cries.

Sometime while I'm busy with LG, LB stirs a little over-enthusiastically, and dumps the glass jar over into the water, getting water into it. I throw my hands up in the air and stomp around the house ranting like a maniac for a few minutes, then pour some more coffee, because it's definitely turning into that sort of day.

LemurDa comes in and finds LG having dramatic fits in her bedroom, me throwing dramatic fits around the house, and a total mess of a kitchen. He informs me that if I pour off most of the water and let the remaining water and wax cook for a bit, the water will boil off. Well, that's good. I search through the kids' box of random junk and dig up a few more broken crayons to throw in, as well as a tub of playdough that has turned a rather odd mustardy color that I suspect LG won't be too attached to, just in case the wax doesn't work out.

(LG has gotten out of time out, and we've had cuddles and hugs and talked in a calmer way about why it's dangerous and that I still love her and so forth.)

Once the crayons are all melted (into a decidedly un-Waldorfy grayish color), I pour some into each of LG's boats, helping her hold the masts up until they cool adequately. LB chooses to use the playdough instead. The kids cut sails out of paper and attach them to the masts. They float them in a bowl of water. Mission accomplished! Except that LB's tip over and the playdough gets yucky. LemurDa reframes this into an experiment - now we know why water-soluble playdough is not as good a choice as water-insoluble wax. If I were a really good homeschool mom I'd go drag out the chemistry book and explain this hydrophilic vs. hydrophobic in more detail, but I'm not, so I didn't.
Blurry, sinking, walnut shell boats

11:15: Discover LG has paint all over her shirt. She'd asked for a paint shirt, and I'd said no because we weren't using *much* paint and she shouldn't be getting it all over herself. Famous last words. Oh well, it's water-soluble. Hopefully it will come out. I do internet stuff while nursing the baby to sleep so that I can work on lunch. LG asks to listen to They Might Be Giants. Sure! She asks me to turn it back off once we get past the song sung by a woman, which is the only part she actually likes.

11:30: Baby is asleep. I put her down on her pillow. She wakes and starts crying. I swaddle her up and nurse her some more.

11:45: The kids are whining about how hungry they are. The baby is looking up at me with big, utterly non-sleepy eyes. I give up, stick her in her booster seat, and start frying hamburgers for lunch. Thankfully, she is happy enough with this.
Rockin' the head-expansion mohawk
The LemurGirls
12:15: We eat lunch. LB has cheeseburgers with mustard and mayo on lettuce buns. LG has plain burger patties with cheese on the side. I have plain burgers on lettuce (because Baby doesn't tolerate dairy, either), and a sliced apple with cinnamon and ginger sprinkled on it. Baby has a slice of my apple (sans spice), which she never actually manages to pick up, but is thrilled to be able to push around her tray. The kids, for once, both eat without complaining. LB asks if we each got 1/3 of a lb of meat and we discuss fractions a bit. LG asks whether Annie or Pippi is stronger. LB says he's finished and asks if he may please have a carrot. I decide that perhaps they're cute, and maybe I'll keep them.

12:30: I do the breakfast AND lunch dishes. The kids go outside. Mail arrives, including a cute little plastic bag containing... trees! The Arbor Foundation has an offer for 10 "free" (with $10 membership purchase) trees. We chose the Blue Spruce. I decide I need to take pictures of all this stuff we're doing to go with this post, and send LB to go get the camera out of the workshop. He decides he's going to take some pictures himself. That's ok. He, at 7, is a better photographer than I am.
The contents

1:00: The kids go back outside with our housemate to prepare a spot to plant the trees. We watch a second herd of cattle get driven by (actually, this must have happened earlier, or I'd have gotten a video of it). Then I go to start up a load of laundry that I should have started this morning. I discover LemurDa's shop stuff is piled all over the washer. I leave the laundry basket there and go back to retrieve a rather unhappy BabyLemur, who gets nursed for a while. I try swaddling her so maybe she'll sleep soundly, but she really is not happy with that, so I unbundle her again. I turn TMBG back on and listen to The Edison Museum ("So when your children quarrel, and nothing seems to quell them, just tell them that you'll take them to the Edison Museum..."), but turn it off before the Sleepwalker song, which is way too creepy for me. I check my phone and see a missed call from a Davis number, which I google. It's apparently a dentist's office. None of us have ever been to this particular dentist, so I decide not to bother checking voicemail and wading through 30 messages from the library informing me of held books ready for pickup that I also haven't checked.
Preparing a spot for the trees
Poor mama hasn't had a shower yet

1:45: LG starts haranguing to do Starfall, and after a minute to finish up what I'm doing, I let her take over the computer. Baby is asleep, so I put her in her infant seat and carry her to the bathroom so I can FINALLY shower. She wakes just before I get in. Oh well, too bad Baby. I gotta get clean. Thankfully, she is perfectly content to sit in her chair and play with her blankie until I'm done.

2:00: Finish shower, dry off, and get dressed. Baby is at the limits of her patience, so I nurse her some more while using the laptop in the bedroom to compose this post up to this point. LG is still playing with Starfall, then comes into the bedroom with me and plays with her Leapster. She says it's too cold to go outside. It's at least the mid-50's, but I decide I don't feel like pressing the point.

3:00: LB comes running in yelling that Da got them a new game to play in the grass, which convinces LG to abandon her Leapster game and go outside to see. I take the opportunity to eat a few pistachios while there are no kids around to demand their share. Then I go out to check out this game and to see if my ever-so-subtle hint of a full basket of laundry has been taken and the washing machine cleared off (ladderball, whatever that is, and yes, it was).

3:10: Go out to ask DH if he'll be home for dinner (he generally has darts on Tuesday evenings) and if he's planning to grill the pork chops tonight, or if I'll be cooking them. He says that yes he'll be out tonight, and he's grilling the pork chops tomorrow. What the heck are we supposed to have tonight then? I'd been planning on the pork chops and haven't defrosted anything. He says we had this conversation (no we didn't. I think he probably had it with our housemate while I was in the room but not paying attention), and that we have some catfish nuggets, so I pull those out of the freezer to defrost.

3:20: I want to go out and hoe in the garden and get out some of my pent-up frustration, but still have a painful blister on my hand from doing the same on Sunday, so it's probably not a great idea. So I settle down to update this post, edit photos, and nurse Baby again. LD and kids are outside yelling "Yay!" periodically while playing ladderball. Baby stops nursing, gives me an adorable smile, and indicates she wants to play kissy game by grabbing my face and pulling it towards her to give me a big, open-mouth, sloppy kiss on the cheek. Then I kiss her cheek, and we repeat for a while. Then I set her down on her pillow while I go look for the USB cord so that I can take care of those photos. She happily babbles away and chews her toes. Babies rock.
Nummy Toes!

Ok, no more pictures unless something really cool happens.

4:00: I hear shrieking from outside. LG is apparently trying to break the game because she wants to be done and LB wants to keep going. LemurDa carries her inside and puts her in the bedroom, where I enforce a time-out, then get her calmed down and discuss how she could better have handled the situation (just walk away). We head to the couch and read Field Trip Facts: Notes From Ms. Frizzle's Kids, which I didn't realize we owned until she pulled it off the shelf. LB came in and listened along.

4:15: LG and LB head to the spare bedroom to watch their daily movie - LG's choice today, and it sounds like she chose a Pippi movie. I go to the workshop to retrieve the laundry, and hang the dishtowels and napkins on the line, because they're thin enough to hopefully dry before dark (and ok to stay outside overnight if not). I'd usually hang everything, but I don't think the heavier stuff will dry since I got it started so much later than intended, so I'll hang the clothing inside. Then I sit down to update this and work on the photos some more. And, of course, nurse the baby, who falls asleep.

5:00: Publish photos to Flickr. Attempt to publish photos to Facebook, but Shotwell has the "add to existing album" option greyed out. Google to find a solution to this. The solution is "Rebuild from source". I decide I ain't messin' with that, export the photos, and stick them on FB manually. Consider whether to continue using FB for photos at all, or just cross-post with Flickr, given content-ownership issues. Think about dinner - it'll probably take 10 minutes to prepare and 15-20 to cook, and we want dinner on the table between 6:00 and 6:30, so I should probably start it around 5:45 or a bit earlier. Add photos to post.

5:45: Stick Baby in high chair and start dinner. Preheat oven to 375F. Put olive oil, lemon pepper, and Old Bay spice on fish. Stick in oven for 15 minutes once it finishes preheating (it ended up needing an extra 5 minutes, too). Make salads, wash accumulated dishes, clean up kitchen and dining table from the day's adventures, and retrieve and fold towels and napkins from the laundry line while it cooks. The kids set the table and whine about how hungry they are. I finished folding just as the timer buzzed. It was totally impressive.

6:20: Dinner on table. LB and housemate discuss Egyptian hieroglyphics.

6:30 (no, dinner didn't last very long tonight - it tends to be very informal when Da is out): Kids run back outside to play ladderball some more while it is still light. I nurse the baby and internet some more. I intend to hang the laundry but the kids come back in before she settles down enough.

6:45: LB reads the last HOP book to LG, Baby, and I, puts his sticker in the chart, and stuck that box back on the shelf for good! Or at least until LG is ready for it. Then they poked through the box for the next level box for a bit.

I give LB a choice between a chapter of Pagoo and Story Of The World. Unsurprisingly, he chose SOTW. We're currently on Chapter 31 - Exploring New Worlds. We split this chapter in two, since we had lots of supplemental books about Columbus, so we read Columbus last week and Vespucci and Magellan this week. Then LB put Vespucci and Magellan's voyages on a world map, and added Erik the Red and Leif Erikson of his own accord (Cub Scout Geography Pin requirement #4). Worked with LG on reading, doing the first section of Progressive Phonics intermediate book #3.

7:30: Told the kids that they could agree on a short movie as long as they got ready for bed first (to avoid delays after). They chose Scooby Doo. Joy. I retrieve LB's mp3 player and stick his post-bedtime-story-story on it - he has a choice, for tonight, between the Howard Pyle version of Robin Hood and A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court. He chooses Robin Hood. We're doing Robin Hood CM-style, at a chapter a week, so getting it is a bit of a treat. Then I hand baby off to housemate so I can get the laundry hung up, since it really can't sit wet all night. She screams. Baby that is, not housemate. I get it hung up as fast as possible and nurse the baby. Again.

8:00: Kids are done with their movie, and head to bed. We're reading Secret of the Andes by Ann Nolan Clark, about a young llama-herding boy in the modern day Andes mountain, which supposedly also incorporates Incan history and mythology (we haven't quite reached that part yet), as we'll be reaching that section in Story of the World very soon. Make a mental note to try to find an example of the simple, quick, llama-hide sandals mentioned in the book, as we have plenty of leather (though not llama-leather) to do stuff with.

8:30: I finish reading two chapters. The darn mp3 player (a Sansa Shaker) isn't working properly, so I have to reload it. It totally sucks, especially for audiobooks. When we can manage it, we need to get him a better one with an actual user interface. The baby (and LB, for that matter) fell asleep during the reading, so I'm toting her around attempting not to wake her.

8:45: I sit down to finish this and post it around. Then I'll get ready for bed, which will undoubtedly involve another 5 minutes of baby screaming while I change, brush my teeth, etc. Then I'll get her back to sleep and probably read some of my book (April Fool's Day by Bryce Courtenay, which I really do need to get finished as I don't have any renewals left. Hey, let's see if I can finish it on April 1st! I kinda doubt it, as I have more than half left and I'm usually getting in twenty minutes at bedtime, but that would be funny), and maybe do a few sudoku. I'm nearly finished with all the ones on my phone, and am trying to finish the ones I'm stuck on before downloading more. I've finished 384, ranging in difficulty from easy to hard (mostly medium), since we moved in late July. Such an exciting life!

The day was both typical and not. We don't do crazy art projects every day (relatively rarely, in fact, which is probably why I get Shanghai'd into them). Nor do we regularly receive trees in the mail. But the general academics were about typical - we do math, writing, and reading every day (or nearly so, anyways). Other subjects (history, science, foreign language, original writing rather than copywork, artsy stuff) tend to happen a few times a week. Time outside, often involving working on the garden or yard, happens as weather allows, which it is doing more and more these days.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Two helpful videos

I don't spend a lot of time watching videos online, and rarely click on ones people recommend, post of Facebook, or whatnot.

These two are very worth it if you're dealing with the issues they address.

This video on pencil grip may (minorly) change my life. I've had an improper pencil grip since Kindergarten. My teacher worked on it with me for ages, and gave me pencil grips and all that, and eventually gave up. People still sometimes comment on my odd grip.

I tried the (quick, easy) exercises, and the pencil really does just naturally fall into the correct position.

Definitely going to try this with the kids, neither of whom has a correct grip, and I'm also going to see if I can learn to write correctly myself. It'll take some practice, since my muscles aren't used to writing that way. But having a proprioceptive mneumonic should help.

This video about B/D confusion seems to have finally gotten the point across to LemurBoy (and possibly Girl, too). It's aimed at the teachers, and you may want to watch it yourself and determine whether it's something you want your kids watching (Nothing particularly offensive, but I now find Boy saying "No Die Die!" and dissolving into giggles every time he runs across a b or d word...).

Some of his other videos look good, too.

In the good moments...

Lemur Boy and Girl are sitting quietly on the floor, playing with an organic chemistry modeling set. He's building her a diamond out of carbon.

Probably not a structurally accurate diamond, but it's the thought that counts.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Cranberry Beef Stew, Um... Potatoes, and Beef Hearts

LemurDa had suggested beef stew for dinner, so I made that.

We had a beef bone left over from our St. Patrick's Day Not-Corned Beef (that's what we get for not planning ahead!), so I tossed that, along with a soup bone and some water, into the crock pot on low overnight. In the morning, I chopped up some beef (probably 3ish lbs), browned it in the skillet with some bacon grease and spices (black pepper, cumin, and garlic powder I think), and tossed that in the crock-pot, too, along with some chopped up celery and root vegetables - 2 carrots and half a rutabaga (if I'm not mistaken). I chopped up and fried an onion and some garlic in the same pan I'd used for the beef, and tossed that in as well. At some point I added some more black pepper, cumin, hot sauce, a dash of basalmic vinegar, and worchestire sauce.

I kept feeling that it needed something more, and eventually, I hit on the bag of cranberries that was sitting in the freezer. Googling the idea to ensure I wasn't totally crazy, I found that other people had, in fact, had the same inspiration (this should not be a surprise. Not much is unique on the internet. I found, for example, that I'm not the only person who has literally dreamed up a recipe for Avocado Pie). So I tossed in the cranberries. LemurDa wasn't be crazy about that addition, but I told him to pick out the meat bits. The stew was already full of root veggies since I wanted it to be more than chunks of beef in broth, so he'd have to do that anyways.

* B said it was good.
* Autistic Girl ate it without comment or complaint.
* LemurBoy ate a bit, but didn't like it.
* I think LemurDa liked the meaty bits ok.
* LemurGirl was very happy eating the carrots and the pieces of meat with fat on them. She loves the fatty bits, and is always asking for more fat, which makes me cringe a little from a standard Western medicine point of view. But she's a child whose brain is still growing, so I try not to get too worked up about it. She asked for another piece with fat as a treat before bed.
* Me... eh. It was good-ish, but I'd imagined the cranberries as providing nice little plump bursts of tartness, when they actually provided little mushy bits of sour. They may not have been the best quality cranberries, and I probably would have gotten results more in line with my imagination if I'd used dried cranberries. I also should have removed some of the broth from the pot in the morning and saved it for something else before adding the ingredients. Without any paleo-appropriate thickener (most stew recipes use flour and/or cornstarch), it was way too brothy for a stew.

Baby tried out her new high chair for the first time, and I was able to actually eat dinner with both hands free until she got too fussy and had to be held. Very unusual these days, that.

Um... Potatoes. That's our new name for parsnips around these parts. LemurGirl adores potatoes, but they have a noticable effect on her behavior, so we don't do them anymore. But she'll happily accept cooked parsnips as potatoes. So we call them Um... Potatoes. Then send Boy to his room if he tries to insist that "Actually, they're Bunicula'd carrots".

Last night's recipe was an organ meat curry that, unfortunately, is really not worth writing about. Definitely not as good as the chili. Even the beef heart was a disappointment. I got it out all ready to totally do Anatomy Lesson with Boy before chopping it up for curry, and discovered that the heart was actually a half a heart, and not cut along a particularly useful plane. Someone else got most of the valves.

I did get to stick my finger through the hole between the right atrium and inferior vena cava, though. That was kind of cool.

52in52 #3 and 4 - System of the World and Papa Married a Mormon

System of the World by Neal Stephenson really shouldn't count for 52in52, as I started it before the start of this year. Well before the start of this year. Possibly even before the start of the previous year. In fact, I have the previous book in the cycle listed as a 2008 book, so it may well have been started in 2008.

I started the first book of the cycle in late 2003.

I was at about 75% of the way through System in early October, and posted a poll on FB asking whether I'd finish the book or the baby first. The results were unanimously in favor of the baby. Thank goodness they were right.

What a slog. I can't believe I read the whole thing, as Ramona Quimby said.

That said... I have this strange urge to start it all over again, on the theory that the whole thing will make a bit more sense now that I have a better idea of the bigger picture. It wasn't unenjoyable, just long and dense, with a little too much digression.

But first I need to learn more about that period of history, in order to better distinguish history from wild confabulation. Probably next year, when we reach that point in Story of the World. Just to keep things on-topic for this blog. And I'm not sure if I find it disturbing or satisfying that I'm starting to rely on SOTW for all the stuff I apparently never actually learned and/or retained my first time through grade school.

I actually finished Papa Married A Mormon a few weeks ago, breaking my long streak of not being able to finish a book, but didn't get around to writing anything about it. I checked it out from the library, and as I approached the due date, found that I couldn't renew it because someone else had reserved it. This is a book that had been checked out twice, including my checkout, since 2003. Go figure. At least it encouraged me to take the time to finish it!

This was a fun book - a biography/autobiography written by John D. Fitzgerald, author of The Great Brain series. It's much in the same vein as that series, but written for an adult audience. Anyone who loved The Great Brain should enjoy this book, which provides a bit more background on the family, which is more-or-less based on Fitzgerald's own.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Pi Day

Since yesterday was Pi Day (3/14), I was obligated to make pie. For the kids, of course.

I followed the inspiration of http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2009/06/how-to-make-a-raw-fruit-pie/, and made a frozen berry "ice cream" pie.

1.5ish cups almonds (hazelnuts, pecans, or coconut would be good too, or a picture)
a few spoonfuls of clarified butter (plain butter or coconut oil would work, too)
It would probably taste and hold together a little better with a few dates or something thrown in, but it was fine. The clarified butter was a good choice, flavor-wise.
A dash of cinammon

1 lb berries (I used frozen blackberries because that's what was least expensive.)
1 apple
Coconut milk. 1 cupish? Less than a full can.
A few spoonfuls lime marmalade (not paleo - lime juice/zest and a little honey or something would probably do fine, or you could probably skip the sweetener if you were using good, fresh, ripe in-season berries.
Good big dashes of cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom.

I also drizzled some syrup (the fake-maple pancake stuff) on top. That was good, but could easily be left out or replaced with something else. What can I say? We have this stuff that needs using up and I hate wasting food, even if it's actually "food".

Process nuts in food processor until coursely ground. Add butter or oil and cinnamon and process a bit more. Press mixture into bottom of pie pan, about 1/4" thick.

Process apple and about 1/2 to 2/3 of the berries together. Add coconut milk, marmalade (or lime) and spices and process a bit more, until it's like a thick smoothie. You could do this in a blender, in fact, but why get more than one appliance dirty? Pour mixture over crust.

Arrange remaining berries artfully across the top of the pie. Or just scatter them around if you're unartistic like me.

I should have arranged them in a Pi symbol. Darnit.


You probably want to take it out 5-10 minutes before attempting to cut to let it thaw a bit.

The kids, B, and I really enjoyed it. It was a bit too high on the glycemic index for everyone else. Warning: This is energy food! No one was tired after eating it, which is a problem at near-bedtime. I served the rest to the kids this afternoon before sending them to play outside.

I'm kind of surprised the kids enjoyed it so much - between the nuts, lime, cardamom, and low sugar content (relative to most SAD desserts, that is), the taste seems a bit more adult-oriented. But like it they did.

I think it would have been excellent with a spoonful of cocoa thrown in somewhere. In fact, I meant to include some cocoa or carob in the crust (probably carob, since it's naturally sweet), but forgot. Dark cocoa chips/chunks mixed into the filling would have been even better.

As far as I can tell, the baby did ok with the clarified butter, and that provided a good flavor for the crust. I've done similar pies before when we were eating a raw diet, and I think this crust was by far the tastiest.

Dinner was fish. I didn't make it, but it was just basic catfish fillets. I believe they just had some spices sprinkled on top, and were baked for 15-20 minutes at 385F.

The kids love fish, and ate it all up, leaving no seconds for the adults.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A SAD Kid's Nightmare Chili

When I was a kid, I didn't like liver.

I had a Sesame Street book including a princess character who loved liverwurst sandwiches, and my mom convinced me to try liverwurst on the basis of that. I liked liverwurst ok, but I still didn't like liver.

In college, one of my dormmates was originally from India. Her mother sent her back to the dorm after a weekend at home with a container of Indian-spiced chicken livers. I gingerly tried one. It was really good, prepared that way. But I still didn't like plain liver.

I had liverwurst again as an adult, and still liked it.

Then one day our housemate threw some sliced up liver in the soup. It was good. It was better than good. It fulfilled a hunger I didn't even know I had.

And I realized that I'd always liked liver. I'd just been told by various media that I didn't.

Tonight, I was a little stuck on what to eat for dinner, so I looked in the freezer. We had a pound of ground beef (too little to do much with in a house with 6 eaters), a similar quantity of pork labeled "for chili", and 3 lbs of steaks. I took the ground beef and pork and threw them in the crock pot, along with a cup or so of the chicken stock I made from the chicken stock a few nights ago. Half of a pepper from the stuffed peppers remained, and some carrots in beef broth from last nights dinner, so I threw them in, too.

SAD Kid Nightmare #1 - Leftovers.

I processed an onion and some garlic and threw them in, spiced it up (cumin, garlic powder, a bit of dried mustard, a bit of cinnamon, a half spoonful of sage, a spoonful of cocoa powder (see?), and a small small amount of chili powder so the pickies wouldn't be put off. Everyone else can add more hot if needed), and left it for a while.

I tasted it, and it seemed a bit flat. I spiced it up a bit more. LemurDa finally sent a message saying he would be eating at home, and I thought it wasn't quite a big enough chili considering that, so I went poking around to see what else I could add.

I found SAD Kid Nightmare #2 - liver.

Looking around at chili recipes online while it cooked, I found one that included spinach. We had spinach, so Sad Kid Nightmare #3 got added.


* LemurDa is out, and may or may not eat some when he returns (the tomato paste is probably a bit high Glycemic Index)
* B says it is her new favorite way to do liver.
* Autistic Girl ate it without comment or complaint.
* LemurGirl at first refused, but deigned to eat all the carrot bits I picked out for her, and was, in fact, quite enthusiastic about them. As they were coated in chili, that's a win.
* LemurBoy says he liked it, but ate 4 slices of pizza at a birthday party earlier, and said he wasn't hungry. I'm not sure if this was the truth (I'm sure the pizza part was true, not so sure about the like part), or a white lie. (Edit: Seems to have been a white lie - he said the next day that he didn't like it very much and didn't want his leftovers for lunch.)
* I loved it. It tasted just right. The liver added a creaminess and flavor that had been missing, and it really tasted like chili.

We'll see how Baby reacts. I'm not sure she tolerates tomatoes.

(Yesterday's dinner was nothing worth writing about. A pork roast thrown in the crock pots with some carrots and a cup of beef broth. It turned out kinda dry. The only win was that LemurGirl happily ate it because I was able to give her a piece with lots of fat on it. I still shudder at this, even though I'm supposed to get over the whole "fat is bad" thing.)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Roast chicken

When I was little, my mom would make us the dinner of our choice for our birthdays. I always chose roasted chicken.

Then I grew up, moved away, asked her how to make it, and felt a little dumb for letting her off the hook so easy all those years.

Preheat oven to 375F. Stick chicken parts in pan. Drizzle with olive oil (or oil of your choice). Sprinkle with whatever seasonings you happen to feel like using (garlic and dill was her standard. Tonight I used garlic, Old Bay, and something else that I can't remember now. And salt, but that's a paleo no-no, so pretend you didn't see that. I did not add cocoa powder). Stick in oven and bake for 45 minutes, or until juices run clear.

You can stick chopped up veggies in the pan with it before doing all the oil and seasoning. Many do fine with the 45 minutes, but brocolli only needs about 20.

* LemurDa wasn't home.
* Autistic Girl ate it without comment or complaint.
* B ate it without comment or complaint.
* I thought I totally nailed the seasonings this time. It was tasty.
* The picky kids gobbled it. LemurGirl got upset that hers wasn't cool right away and she had to wait a few minutes. She only ate one drumstick, but that's a hit compared to most dinners these days. LemurBoy ate two drumsticks.

With a prep time of about 2 minutes and it being about the only thing both pickies will happily eat, I'm not sure why I don't make this more often.

Bones are being saved for stock once we finish with the leftovers.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Stuffed Bell Pepper Boats

The other day I got the sudden urge to make stuffed bell peppers. I'm not sure why. I don't know if it's something I've ever had before. It just seemed something that might be visually appealing to the pickies and a good use way of integrating veggies.


3 bell peppers (we have agreed to wait until they're in season to get them again, because they're expensive now)
3 lbs ground beef
1 zucchini (standard grocery store size, not mondo garden size)
A few handfuls of grated cheese
One onion
A bunch of cloves of garlic
A few handfuls of spinach
Some bacon
Cumin (probably about 1 tsp)
Garlic powder to taste (we like garlic around here)
Lemon Pepper to taste
Leftover beef/pork drippings from a previous dinner

Preheat oven to 375F. Cut bell peppers in half lengthwise (you can also just cut the tops off, but this way stretched the three peppers across six people), clean out the seeds. Grate cheese and zucchini. Peel garlic and onion, and food process along with the spinach into smallish chunks (probably could have just thrown the zucchini in there, too). Chop bacon. Mix veggies, cheese, bacon, and spices with meat. Stuff meat mixture into peppers. Pour leftover drippings (or broth, or tomato sauce) over the top. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes.

I actually made half of these with cheese and the other half not (no cheese for me, AutisticGirl, or LemurGirl, who likes cheese but not melted in stuff). I meant to leave the zucchini out of part of it for low-carbing LemurDa, but the baby was fussing up a storm, and I got mixed up and didn't manage that.

This actually made enough for two small loaf pans of meatloaf in addition to the stuff peppers, which is interesting, since I thought I used the same amount of meat to make two just slightly larger pans of meatloaf the other day. I imagine the zucchini added significantly to the bulk.


* LemurDa liked it, but doesn't want that much in the way of veggies right now.
* B thought the bacon and cheese made for an excellent combination, and that the peppers were very good. I'm sure I would agree if I could do cheese.
* AutisticGirl ate it without comment or complaint, as usual.
* LemurBoy loved the meat, said the broth smelled good, had seconds of the meat, and wants it for lunch tomorrow, but didn't eat the pepper.
* I thought I might have a winner for LemurGirl. I called them boats, and cunningly offered to trade my "prettier" red boat for her yellow boat. She enthusiastically accepted, talked about how pretty they were... then refused to eat more than her requisite bite. And then wouldn't let anyone else eat her pepper because it was pretty.
* I thought it was very tasty. The broth inside the pepper was absolutely amazing and I wish there was more of it. I'll be eating LemurGirl's for breakfast tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Reinventing The Wheel

I'm busy reinventing the wheel. AKA developing a Charlotte Mason/Well-Trained Mind secularly-oriented curriculum.

Why? Because it gives me something to do other than check the state Board of Nursing website 50 times a day to see if my license has gone through yet. And homeschooling the kiddos, of course.

I'm taking booklists from a number of different sources - AO, Tanglewood, Sonlight, Beautiful Feet, Mater Amabalis, my own memory - and trying to integrate them appropriately. That's a ton of books. No way is anyone in their right mind going to use them all. But so many of them are *good*!

So what I'm thinking:

SOTW is the spine for grades 1-4. For 5-8 I hope to find something that follows roughly the same schedule so that families with multiple children can work together easily (OTOH, built in review is useful). However, I also want something more comprehensive.

Each 14 week trimester will have an associated "classic" focus, to be read slowly over the course of the trimester, CM-style, and this will be the focus for geography.

In addition, there will be a bunch of free reading/read-aloud choices each week.

US History:
This is something I'm kinda mixed up on. I understand doing US history only in the context of world history (as it is in Story Of The World). I understand doing it parallel, as it's handled in most CM-based curriculums. Doing it within the context of world history makes the most sense to me personally, but I can't help feeling that this leaves kids woefully lacking in US history for quite a while, especially those who need to follow state standards or do standardized testing (though I don't think the lower Elementary tests focus much on US history, so presumably this isn't actually an issue).

Really undecided. I keep going back and forth on this. If I do it parallel, it will probably be something like 1st grade - Native Americans, basic US facts, 2nd - explorers through Revolutionary War, 3rd - Everything else, 4th - State History to be determined by the parent (coinciding with many state standards). That's not actually far off of the WTM rotation, especially since elementary US History doesn't really seem to go much past the Civil War and westward expansion.

Most of the existing literature-based curriculums include Bible study. I plan to replace this with a focus on World Religions, hopefully tied into history in some meaningful way. Possibly a 2 year rotation.

Up to this point, we've primarily unschooled science, and I'd like to work out something more organized. Primarily a living books focus for 1-4, roughly following the WTM rotation? Actually, at this age, I think a 2 year rotation might make more sense.

Composer Study starting in 3rd, tied to history

Life Skills:
Handicrafts, cooking, survival skills, etc.

Foreign Language:
To be determined by parent. We plan to do Latin all the way through, and probably start another language around 5th or 6th grade, and hopefully another before graduation.

To be determined by parent. Maybe make some living book recommendations.

It would be fun to integrate scout badge/pin/belt loop requirements/4-H stuff (if applicable) into all this.