Saturday, December 27, 2014

Family Fun - Just a little break :-)

I'm going to take a few days off to celebrate many things with the family - a birthday (which has been delayed a few days due to one very, very sick birthday boy), Christmas, Christmas Again, time with my brother before he returns to Brazil. 

I'll be back (I know you are all worried HA) with lots to post and lots to talk about - by January 1st! 

Friday, December 26, 2014

Weekly Menu - The end of the Year

Wow.  That's all I have is, wow.  Ok, maybe not all I have but still, 2014 is done.  I must say that December has not been my best cooking month.  The kitchen was "out of commission" for about 3 weeks total plus we were out of town for Christmas - that left only a handful of days that I cooked.  January will bring much more cooking I do believe!  We usually stay home a lot in January after the busyness of December so maybe I'll get some new recipes made too! 

Here's our plan for the next week!

Saturday - I think we will still be at my parents.

Sunday - We'll be eating with the family :-)

Monday - Chicken and Dumplings - this was the plan before Christmas but then my kitchen was taped off for painting which limited cooking once again!

Tuesday - Chick Fil Lay Nuggets and Fries

Wednesday - New Year's Eve!  Our tradition is to have soup for dinner so we will have Chicken Noodle Soup (from the Chicken and Dumplings!) and than Easy Peasy Cheesy Broccoli Soup.  I'll also make some bread and Mac and Cheese for the boys. We have plans to go to a friends house for the evening and will have lots of finger foods/snacks.

Thursday - New Year's Day! I'm working this year (starting right now) on creating some tradition type things for holidays.  Of course, food is always a big deal so that's where I'm starting.  So, today, we'll have brunch - Sausage Gravy and Biscuits, Hashbrowns, and Fruit Salad.  Than, for "Linner" later in the day, I think that having something I can actually put together the day before (since I don't like cooking on New Years Day!) is the best idea so, Lasagna, Salad, and Garlic Bread will be perfect. 

Friday  - Tacos, of course!  :-) 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

From our family to yours . . . .Merry Christmas! 

I pray that you are able to enjoy a wonderful day with family and friends just as we are doing on this most Wonderful Day of Christ's Birth. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

What We Are Eating - An almost total flop :-(

Not every new recipe is a success story, that's for sure.  Even the ones that are touted as "the best chicken recipe ever". 

Well, this past week, I put together a chicken recipe that I found on Pinterest called Lemon Dump Chicken.  It sound good; and I was able to throw it all in a freezer bag in the freezer after grocery shopping, ready to use later in the week . 
 It's nothing fancy but wow, was it boring.  The flavor was just, well, non-exsistant.  Plus, for whatever reason, the chicken was extremely rubbery, which I realize is the problem of my chicken not the recipe.  Either way, we will not be making this again.

I also tried a new recipe for Mashed Potatoes.  Now, my favorite mashed potatoes are the Bob Evans Refrigerated Mashed Potatoes because, well, they are easy and taste good.  BUT, Josh LOVES Mashed Potatoes so I really need two packages of those potatoes and that is just too much money.  So, I'm working on perfecting my homemade mashed 'taters.  This recipe was pretty good, and I should be surprised as it comes from The Pioneer Woman.  I'll probably just tweak these some more each time I make them until they are perfect :-)

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Teaching Tuesdays - Week 17 - The Week Before Christmas

So, our week didn't start out as planned!  I ended up taking Josh to the doctor and he had strep throat!  This is a first for either of the boys and, for the record, I'd much rather have a kid with strep than with the stomach flu! (I guess I jinxed myself because as of the posting of this, I have one kid down with the flu!)  Anyway, we did not do school on Monday - Josh, who loves school, looked at me as we got home from the doctor and said, "Mom, I don't want to do school, I don't feel good.  I just want to sit under a blanket".  Well, I had already figured we'd cancel school but he was just too sweet!

We continue to work through out daily lessons but we also had fun with some winter themed worksheets this week too.  

 We did letter matching on a mitten worksheet that I found over at Made By Teachers (and it's free).  A snowflake counting worksheet from Teachers Pay Teachers where the boys had to write the number for each group of snowflakes.  (This comes from a larger packet)
 We also built a snowman found over at Mrs. Karle's Sight and Sound Reading.  This was great for their cutting skills.  Yes, this is Josh's.  Nate took his and hung it up else where and it took me forever to find it HA!  (He has decided that he will now hang all of his papers on his wall because, "Mom, it is MY wall." )

On Friday, we worked on some great crafts for Christmas. 

 We are trying hard to focus on the Nativity this Christmas (even though my boys are enthralled with Santa too).  so when I saw this great craft, I knew we needed to do it.  I would like to share the link with you but it is no longer working :-(  I pre-cut the figures for the boys but than they "built" the stable and added the figures.  Nate really enjoyed this one the most  - his is the one on top.  You might notice a "lean to" on the side of the stable; he put that there so that Mary and Baby Jesus had a special place to sleep. 

I wanted to make these last year but I completely forgot about making them until it was too late.  Well, I found the idea over at Free Fun Christmas and it was a huge hit.  I used my circle punch to punch out the eyes and mouth and hand cut the nose.  I used a pipe cleaners and large pom's for the ear muffs.  One thing I learned after struggling with the hot glue on the earmuffs - cut a small slit in each side of the jug; stick the pipe cleaner through each slit and then hot glue the puffs on top of them.  The glue will go into the slits and hold the pipe cleaner in place.  Also, if you can find them, battery operated lights would be the best things to use; I couldn't find them so I just got strands of 50 lights (not the 100) and, as you can see, they are very well lit up.

I'm not going to lie, I'm looking forward to this week and not doing regular lessons.  I have a few activities/crafts I'd like to do but nothing is set in stone.  On Monday, we have some fun things planned for Nate's birthday; the boys want to make and decorate cookies one day, and we have to pack and load up too.  It will be a very fun week! (Obviously, I write this prior to the big sickness - we did nothing for Nate's birthday as he was/is so sick and I don't plan on doing any baking until we are all well again!)

Monday, December 22, 2014

Make It Monday - Our Christmas Card (And A Birthday!)

First of all, I must say Happy Birthday to our wonderful, fabulous, FIVE year old, Nathan!  Pictures to come of all of his birthday fun! 

Second, now that my Christmas cards are mailed and received by all, I wanted to share them both here!

As I did last year, I found a  Groupon and was able to order a higher end card for very little money.  Like last year, however, it was not easy to make HA!  I didn't realize it until after the fact that I used the same company I said I wouldn't use again for that very reason!  Obviously, I did finally get the photos to work and I love the card.  The top photo of the boys is from camping this summer and is a favorite because it shows them as they are - two very happy, fun-loving boys.  The photo of Darryl and I was taken at my niece's house back in June and, well, I actually like it!  Of course, the bottom two photos are of Josh and Nate - just taken a few weeks back during the huge snowstorm that hit before Thanksgiving.  Gotta love those faces!

Here's our Christmas Letter too - enjoy!

Christmas 2014

Dear Family and Friends

Doesn’t it seem like just yesterday when we were turning the calendar from 1999 to 2000 and there was so much concern about “Y2K”?  Yet, here it is, 2014 . .. I’m not quite sure where the last 14 years went!!  I do know that 2014 went by incredibly fast.  I so enjoy reflecting back on the year and sharing the ups, and yes, even some downs, with all of you.

Our Animals – Our family experienced another change this past year with our dear pets.  In April, Misty, my sweet cat of 19 years, got extremely ill and we lost her.  It was devastating to say the least even though I knew that she was getting weaker and wouldn’t be around for too much longer.  To not have her snuggling in with me or to see her sleeping on top of the fridge was such a sad thing.  I really had no desire to get another cat but sometimes, things happen that we don’t expect.  In July, a friend posted that she had a cat that she needed to find a home for due to her dog trying to use it as a play toy.  Her cat was the exact cat we had discussed getting if we ever got another cat – a full grown, fixed, declawed, fully in-door, male cat.  Added to that, she said we could give him back to her if he didn’t work for us and she gave us everything right down to a huge travel cage for him – all at no cost (and free is always great!).  Well, Harley was a perfect fit for our family.  He is fun, cuddly, loving, playful, and a snuggler.  He will reach out a paw and touch whomever he is sleeping closest too; he loves the boys; doesn’t mind be carried around upside down; and yes, even smacks China upside the head to get her to play with him!  I still miss my sweet Misty but Harley sure is a fabulous cat.   As I just mentioned, we do still have China.  She is still the best dog in the world and we enjoy her so much!  Her age is slowly catching up with her but, if she gets a chance to escape the yard, she will run for her life and “laugh” at us as we chase after her. J She is still very protective of the boys and the boys still love her. 

Our Kids – The boys continue to bring us so much joy, laughter, and happiness.  It seems that each year gets more fun, yet we miss the things that you lose as they get older (ok, not all things like diapers, sleepless nights and baby puke HA!).  Both boys played soccer this year in both the spring and the fall.  We learned that Josh is extremely competitive as he fought for the ball from the very first game; Nate likes the idea OF soccer but playing is not his favorite thing.  We did see a big improvement in their skills between the spring and fall though, and Nate has cleaned off an entire shelf in his room so he has room for all of the trophies he plans to earn in the years to come J  The boys also both learned to ride bikes without training wheels this summer which was a HUGE accomplishment.  We are continuing with homeschool this year – Josh is in Kindergarten and Nate is in Preschool.  The boys love learning at home and just plain love school.  I try to take a day off here or there but both boys beg for work; recently they even took their work to Papa and Nana’s house (my parents) so they wouldn’t miss any days.  Josh continues to try and lead everyone (aka “be in charge”).  One day I had to remind him that I was the parent; not him and someday, when he was adult, he could be in charge.  He then went to his room, sobbing, and saying, “It will take forever until I am big enough to be in charge”. Hahaha  We are working hard to direct him towards being a kind and compassionate leader so he can use those strengths someday to “make friends and influence people”.  He is funny, has a great sense of humor, gets sarcasm, and is constantly asking questions.  He cares deeply and therefore hurts deeply and gets frustrated with lack of perfection. Josh is also a fierce defender of his brother so, well, don’t mess with Nate.  He makes us smile and laugh every day.  Nate has a fantastic imagination and is a great problem solver.  He prefers to find a solution for a problem instead of arguing about it and will have deep conversations with us over everything from how to fix his bed to how we can organize the garage better.  Nate highly dislikes seeing Josh upset over anything so he will try to smooth over situations that arise but, don’t get me wrong, he will also get super angry with his brother when he pushes just a little too far J  Nate is a tender hearted, strong willed, caring, loving little boy.  He keeps us laughing, is always moving, and knows flashing a smile makes everything better. 

The Adults – When we “left” you last year, Darryl had been struggling with some health issues which revolved around some pretty severe back problems.  Those issues continued into 2014.  After a long wait, lots of tests, and trying various things, he had major back surgery at the end of June.  He had a fusion of the L4 and L5 vertebrate.  We had hoped for a quick recovery but that was not the case.  He ended up being off of work for 3 months and still struggles with back, leg and hip pain.  He continues with physical therapy in order to improve the issues yet, at this point, we aren’t sure how much more “recovery” will take place.  We are thankful that he was able to go back to work at Calder City Cab and is able to work full time.  We continue to seek God’s will for other employment that not only would be better for his health but would also provide more for us as a family.  Darryl had to take most of the past year off from the music group he plays guitar in, Alive, but is looking forward to getting back into the group in the coming year.  He was voted in as a Deacon in our church this fall which is something new for him as well.  I must add that despite the surgery and recovery, we were beyond blessed and are so thankful for the simple fact that Darryl got to spend three months home with the boys and I AND that it was during the summer.  The boys simply loved having their dad home every day; they three of them went for 2-3 walks/bike rides (the boys riding!) a day; played games, built Legos and Lincoln Logs, read books, took car rides, went to the park and yes, even watched cartoons together.   I also enjoyed having Darryl home for the summer.  Not only just having him around for adult conversation but just the fact that I could go to the store, run errands, and have extra help during the day was a true blessing.  I am still babysitting for a friend of mine which I enjoy plus it gives the boys great playmates!  I’ve become more involved at church as I’m now serving on the Missions committee, singing on the praise team, playing piano and singing too.  I also had to take a break from singing in the Community Choir due to Darryl’s back/recovery but look forward to returning to it in 2015.  Scrapbooking, reading, and teaching homeschool fill up the rest of my time. 

Our Fun – This past year was pretty “quiet”.  We didn’t get to take a week off for vacation, yet we had Darryl home for months; we didn’t get to take over night hotel stays, yet we did indoor camping, and got to camp in our pop-up in the driveway for fun.  I am thankful though that we did finally make it to Mackinaw in October.  It was something that the boys had been dreaming of since last year.  We surprised them with a three day get away and it was perfection.  The boys had the opportunity to “drive” the Ferry across the lake to Mackinaw Island as well they were taught how to coil the ropes and get the boat ready to dock.  Riding their bikes on the Island was another highlight for them as was several trips across the “Mighty Mac” bridge.  Prior to that, in August, we finally were able to go camping.  The boys l.o.v.e.d it.  They got to ride their bikes all over, play in the dirt, go swimming at the beach, eat ice cream, roast hot dogs and blow glow-in-the-dark bubbles.  Back in June, we were able to make a trip down to Alex and Alicia’s (my niece) for a small family reunion.  It was a lot of fun to laugh and laugh with my family.  Kel, Deb, and Micah had just returned from the mission field – we miss them so much when they are gone and love spending time with them when they are home.  Kel and Deb were able to spend Halloween with us and went Trick-or-Treating with the boys which they all loved. 

I guess that’s all for this year.  For a year that I felt wasn’t filled with much it seems now that it was filled with, well, much!  We are looking forward to 2015 and are excited to see where God leads in the coming year.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Things My Kids Say

* When we went to the Live Nativity, we explained what it was before we went.  As we were driving there, Josh pipes up with, "Are we going to the Activia now?" To which Nate replied, "It's not an Activia, it's a Live Activity!" HA!  When we started our 12 days of Christmas Advent cards, we asked the boys if they remembered where Jesus was born, and Nate said, "YES!  He was at the Live Activity - we saw him there!"  It's just too cute to correct! 

*On the way home from AWANA the other night, the boys piped up with, "Mom, did you know that dad is a sinner?".  I ask them, why, of course.  Their response?  "Don't you remember, mom, that one time when dad touched the piano and didn't wash his hands?  Then we told him to wash his hands and he said they were clean.  He's a liar because they weren't clean which means he is a sinner."  LOL  Well, at least they have the concept, right? 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Family Fun - Seeing Santa, Christmas with Great Grandma and some fabulous lights

This past week brought some really fun things! 
 There is an official Michigan Santa house not far from us and we finally were able to go see Santa.  I've wanted to take the boys for two years but, one year we were so super sick that we did nothing and last year the boys said NO! to Santa.  This year, they were beyond excited and Santa and Mrs. Claus did not disappoint. 
 Josh had zero fear.  He walked right up to Santa, talked to him and told him exactly what he wanted - LEGOS!. 
Nate, on the other hand, hid behind me.  He wouldn't get near the big guy in the red suit so I managed to snap this photo as we were leaving. 

 Darryl and his grandma - she is 94 years old (soon to be 95) and yes, she is using a laptop, remembers just about everything from her life, has amazing stories and has all of her senses.  It's pretty amazing when you think about it.  She lives in a nursing home since she is unable to walk but otherwise, she's as alert as anyone else. 
This year, the family decided that we would each take time to visit Grandma individually instead of trying to hold a Christmas party at the nursing home as we have in the past (which, honestly, isn't a lot of fun).  This way, Grandma can visit with each family and the focus be more on her instead of all of us just sitting around trying to talk and not be bored :-)  It really was perfect.  The boys had made a snowflake ornament for her and she loves homemade gifts so those were perfect.  Darryl and I took her a container of my homemade cookies, again, something she enjoys - homemade food!  We were there about 2 hours and the boys did great - we played "I spy" and then went for walk to get some water from a water "tank" - the boys loved watching the bubbles and, like always, the old people love seeing those two blonde boys walk down the hall. 

After leaving the Nursing home, we went to Red Robin for dinner.  There's a reason we go to Red Robin . . .because the fries are free and Nate loves to just eat fries for dinner.  It saves us some money.  Throw in the fact that Darryl had to return his burger because it was ice cold . . .it cost us less to eat at Red Robin for four of us, than it does to eat at McDonalds HA!   

 We then headed downtown Grand Rapids to see the lights  This huge blue and white display is on the side of the Amyway Grand Hotel and the picture does not do it justice.  It literally took my breath away!
 The Trees were beautiful too!  So many lights. 
 This was the huge tree that is downtown by the Ice Skating Rink.  The whole area was so nicely decorated. 
More beautiful trees.  I so love Christmas lights!!

 From there we headed to the "Largest Light Display in Michigan" at the Fifth-Third Ballpark.  It is a mile long lighted drive through the ball park and it was beyond amazing.  This will be a family tradition without a doubt!
 One of the traffic guys told us that they work on setting this up for three months and have been doing it for 16 years.  It's pretty amazing.

 The "Activity" was pretty amazing (Aka The Nativity!)
 Don't you love that blue tunnel?  There were several tunnels throughout the drive -some with moving lights and some just with tons and tons of lights like this one.
The boys loved the Elf flying the airplane.
 The Helicopter was another huge hit.

 Dragons and Dinosaurs always are a hit with the boys.
The light display wouldn't be perfect without Santa and his Reindeer!

Another perfect weekend! 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Weekly Menu - The one with a Birthday and Christmas

I'm not quite sure how it happened but, it's Christmas Time.  Wow.  Really, that's all I have to say!

Saturday - Today is Darryl's family Christmas.  We are doing snacks for food so I'm going to take The Bacon Wrapped little Sausages and Bacon Dip with Chips.

Sunday - Baked Sloppy Joes, Salad, and Rolls.  This is a new recipe but it appears to be something simple I can put together on Saturday and then cook after we get home from church.

Monday -Today is Nate's birthday so we are meeting my parents for dinner to celebrate.

Tuesday - Marinated Steak Bites, Sweet Potatoes, Green Beans, and Biscuits.

Wednesday - We'll be heading to my parents for Christmas.  Our tradition is to feast on snacks after the Christmas Eve Service.  I plan on taking a cheese ball/crackers, Gingerbread Cheesecake Dip, Bacon Wrapped Dates, and veggie pizza.  (Well, that's my plan at the moment!)

Thursday - Merry Christmas ! My mom is cooking - I think we are having Steak and Potatoes.

Friday - Our family Christmas so we'll have the full Christmas spread.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Christmas Tour

Here's a look at our Christmas Decorations this year!  I found that I enjoy putting out our favorite things and not overloading the house with stuff.  :-)

 We love these two musical houses.  My mom gave them to me and the boys love to hear them play Christmas music and light up. 
 This set holds a special place because my Grandma made them.  I have several other Christmas items that she crocheted through the years and I love putting them out each year.  She was extremely talented and make awesome things through the years (I miss the slippers she used to make us!)
 I love the top of our TV cabinet.  The trees, the Christmas Tree and Snowman which are snowglobes that run on batteries, the candles - some of my favorite items! 
 My nativity scene!  I made this during the summer and was very excited to get it out this year.  The boys have enjoyed the "Activity" too. 
 Of course, our tree!  I love having a Christmas tree up - especially at night or early in the morning when the lights are all that is on.  It is so peaceful!
 Another thing I love is to put out things the boys have made - those snowflakes were made a few years ago. 
 Of course, there must be trees in the boys room!  They each have their own and they love to decorate them.

 A few more art projects :-)  Nothing better than hands and feet (and fingerprints!)

 This tall, skinny tree is a new addition.  I bought it after Christmas last year and just love it!  I wouldn't mind getting a few more to place in corners around the house.
 This is "my" tree.  It sits in the dining room and is covered in pink and purple.  It's a total girl tree and I love it HA!  Plus, it matches my purple dining room!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What We're Eating - Corn Casserole

Corn Casserole
adapted from Made from Pinterest
I came across this recipe when someone posted a link on Facebook.  It sounded good and like something a little different for a side dish than what we usually have with dinner.  A friend of  mine shared that her family has been making this for years and it is a true favorite.  It really was tasty and it is a pretty inexpensive dish to make also.  

1 (8 ounce) box Jiffy Corn Muffin mix
1 (15 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
1 (15 ounce) can creamed corn (not drained)
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a bowl, mix all of the ingredients together and pour into a greased 8″x8″ casserole dish.
Cook uncovered for 50 minutes or until lightly browned.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Homeschool Happenings - Week 16

I remember, when I taught school, how exciting this last week of school was before Christmas break.  I would plan special activities that revolved around our studies currently, make special crafts, finish up work on Christmas gifts I would make my students, and plan our Christmas party.  Really, I was just trying to make the week go faster so I could enjoy a few weeks off HA!  (Now you know how teachers feel!) I have a similar feeling this week - I want to do some fun things, wrap up some studies, and get ready to take some time off. 

 I shared on Monday about the Snowflake craft that we made this past week.  We usually do our crafts on the day that the munchkin I babysit doesn't go to preschool which is normally Friday but, this week he did not have school on Tuesday (but went on Friday instead) so we did our craft on Tuesday.  They all enjoyed glitter glue and paint to the fullest extent possible.
 The boys had fun "rolling" a gingerbread man (the idea comes from Teaching Hearts) .  They always love when they get to use the giant foam dice that we have and, amazingly, they had very few extra rolls; they had to tally mark each number that they rolled and you can see that there weren't a lot of marks!  (Josh's is the one above and Nates picture is the orange one.)

 Another day, we colored this cute little reindeer based on reading sight words. This comes from a packet created by The Moffatt Girls
 The boys really love to sing so using some printables from 1+1+1=1 to teach them "The Twelve Days of Christmas".  We sing one section each day and they have a number tracing sheet to do as well.

 Nate's numbers to our song.
 Josh's Numbers to our song.

I really struggled this holiday season with what to use to teach the Christmas story.  I've done something dinfferent over the past two years and thought about using one of those again but, honestly, I wasn't feeling a month long advent study - I felt like it was just too much.  Then I came across this 12 days of Christmas concept from Happy Home Fairy that was perfect.  It's just these little cards/pictures that you place inside an envelope; each day pull out the card which tells one piece of the Christmas story and the pictures.  It's a great way to talk about the Christmas Story with the boys. 
Just a peak at our White Board.  Josh likes to keep track of how many days we have to special things such as Nate's birthday (The "Happy Birthday") and Christmas.  He changes the numbers every day.

Our regular school work is going great.  Josh accomplished a big thing in phonics . . .he can sound out words; he is beginning to read!  It is so awesome to see that happen and see him start to put the sounds together. 

It's hard to believe that we are coming into our last week of school for 2014.  We will take the week of Christmas off without anything school related at all.  We will do some fun things but mostly, we'll focus on Nate's birthday and Christmas.  The week of New Years, I'd like to do as little as possible but I may plan a couple of fun crafts to break up our day.