Jun 19, 2018

Ida's Pie

Ida, one of my PA heart babies LOVES this pie.She (half) jokingly asked me to make her one and since I still had the ingredients for it, I agreed. It shocked her, but she is worth it. (I don't think she really thought I'd do it!) It's been 'Ida's Pie' since. It is actually a Bavarian pie and the recipe I used is from The Good Housekeeping Cookbook 1963 printing. The picture above was made with chocolate chips instead of shaved chocolate because I have a daughter that even now knows all my secret chocolate stashes. (I have noooooooooo idea where she gets it.........cough! cough!) I also use a store bought crust instead of making one from scratch most of the time, but a nut crust is my favorite (especially if it's pecan).

Chocolate-Flake Bavarian Pie
(Good Housekeeping Cookbook 1963)

9" Baked Crumb Crust, Nut crust, or baked pie shell (I usually use graham cracker crust, pre-made)
1 env. unflavored gelatin
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
3 egg yolks
1 1/4 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract (I have used rum extract with good results)
3 egg whites
1/2 to 1 c. heavy cream, whipped (do it by hand, it's much better that way)
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 square unsweetened chocolate (I usually just used my favorite dark chocolate as I almost always           some on hand)

Combine the gelatin, 1/4 c. of sugar, salt. In double boiler top, beat egg yolks; stir in milk, gelatin mixture. Cook over hot, not boiling, water, stirring, until custard coats the spoon. Stir in vanilla. Refrigerate, stirring occasionally, until mixture mounds when dropped from spoon. Beat until just smooth. Beat egg whites till fairly stiff; gradually add 1/4 c. sugar, beating until stiff; fold in custard, whipped cream. Turn into shell; sprinkle with nutmeg. Refrigerate until set. Serve with shaved chocolate on top. (The recipe says you can use the whipped cream as a topping instead of folding it into the pie, but we prefer it folded in.)

I wish I had a better picture, but they never lasted long enough for me to get one, and the only other one I took had Ida with a grin from ear to ear pretending to lick the whole thing. I wish I could find that picture! We always had a blast cooking together.

Jun 15, 2018

When They're Sick - Homeschooling Mama Edition

We all have those days we are under the weather and homeschool kids aren't any different. The good news is we don't have to worry about how many days they stay home before getting a doctors excuse if they are sick for more than 24 to 48 hours. At home, they can rush to the bathroom, lay on the couch, drink during lessons, and take naps during the day without having to worry about repercussions or interrupting an entire classroom. Almost a decade of homeschooling has taught me a few things that I hope you find as helpful as I have.

1. Sleep!
Let them sleep during the worst of it. If they want the couch to let them sleep there, the (clean) floor in the bathroom, their floor, their bed, any bed, it doesn't really matter as long as they are getting the rest their body needs during the worst parts of it. My oldest used to sleep on the kitchen floor a short distance from me while my mom or I cooked. We all knew where he was and it got to where we'd just automatically step over him. (We looked like idiots after he moved, but hey it's a small price to pay.) Let them nap in front of an open door or window for fresh air if they want. You know them and their habits, what is a comfort to one isn't always to another so don't worry to much if their favorite napping spot seems odd.

2. Internet
Using Netflix or YouTube is a great way to continue learning without overloading them once they are on the mend. Netflix for the documentaries is especially nice, but if they aren't feeling up to a full-length movie I'll pop over to YouTube for sound bites. YouTube is amazing. You can find any topic you want from how to math equations to read aloud books and stories. There are quite a few channels that have hours long videos of nature sounds, classical music, and other soothing sounds. It really helps keep the atmosphere relaxing if they aren't up for learning just yet.

3. Online Radio
Much like the YouTube music channels, it's great for those rough days where all they want to do is sleep. I just type in whatever music they studying and they can listen while they drift in and out of sleep. Our favorite is Pandora.

4. Read To Them
Reading aloud is also a great way to keep the gears running when they are feeling puny. It is also one of their favorite comforts. Just read a few extra chapters from whatever chapter book, the Bible, maybe a little bit from some of their readers, or even a few poems. Sometimes I'll read articles from their favorite magazines also. Sometimes they just need the sound of our voice to know we are there.

5. Books/Reading Material
I keep their favorite reading materials close to them so that they can pick up and read when they want to on their own without stressing. This counts in their reading logs.

6. Education Aids
Flashcards and lesson books are kept nearby once they are able to start working for short spells or if they want to in between naps. My daughter loves her dinosaur flashcards and will look at them for hours if given half the chance. When she's sick I give her free reign with them. Lessons are added gradually and in short bursts depending on how they are feeling.

7. Tablets
Playing educational games on the internet or tablet is a great way to get in short lessons. The kids use them for review and quick skill boosting moments. I will let them play Minecraft a lot more when they don't feel well. Sometimes I have them build a historical home or monument, sometimes I get them to do simple math. Other times I'll let them have fun and build an original piece in creative mode or play in survival mode for a short time for problem-solving.

8. Heath Lesson
Learning about their illness on the internet or in books is one of the things the kids really seem to enjoy. Let them look up their health problems and find the root causes, treatments, and so on once they start. Encourage curiosity, just keep watch so the common cold doesn't become stage IV cancer and an inoperable brain tumor. (We've all done it.)

9. Team Effort
My favorite homeschool activity isn't really an activity at all, it's more a life lesson. When one feels under the weather the rest band together as a team to help the downed player. They learn empathy, family traditions, and cooperation. Nothing and I do mean nothing makes me feel as good as seeing my youngest pull a blanket up over someone she loves and offer her favorite dolls, or my oldest stopping by (he lives with my mom) to check in on everyone and bring soup or breadsticks from work and/or a cup of hot coffee for mom. It's even better when he runs out to pick up cold medicine or other supplies we might need. (Gatorade runs are amazing!) My second son making the hot herbal teas or a quick bowl of canned soup we use in a pinch makes my day and that of his sick sibling. When my youngest son looks up remedies or ways to help comfort, even if it's just trying not to laugh videos to lighten the mood it helps us all. My oldest daughter (my first heart baby) asking me to teach her how to make my homemade chicken soup so she can pitch in for us the way we have for her never fails to make everyone feel better. When Gran stops by with brat diet goodies and they listen to her in RN mode it helps knowing she is making sure they are doing what they need to, I'm doing what I need to, and her wisdom brings comfort and security. We all have learned the "if Gran isn't worried, we're good" lessons in life. They see teamwork, cooperation, and most of all they see and feel the love they need in order to get well in a safe and supporting environment. That is the best medicine of all.

Jun 14, 2018

bai Kula Watermelon - Product Review

We've all been there, the checkout line, absolutely dying to get home. It's hot outside and you just know the car is 1002°. Those drinks in the cooler are looking better and better. The other day, when my PA acclimated hiney was stressing in this AL heat I grabbed a Kula Watermelon bia. Soda makes me sick when it's too hot and this looked so pretty! It was pretty good, but not amazing good. Will I get it again? Probably not at the price it was. There are drinks I prefer to this one, but if someone handed me one or if it was this or a soda I'd go for it. It uses erythritol and stevia sweeteners instead of sugar. I, unfortunately, tend to be sensitive to sweeteners, thankfully this one didn't bother me outside of the mild aftertaste. Nothing to bad and for 10 calories per bottle, yeah, I can handle it. I also didn't realize it had caffeine in it before I downed it, because frankly, I didn't read anything on the label I just saw the pink liquid and went 'OOOOHHHHH PRETTY', exactly the same way my daughter did her blue tropical punch drink right there with me. Impulse buying at it's finest ladies and gentlemen. Not proud of it, but it is what it is.

It has 35 mg of vitamin C and of course the 100 mg of antioxidants advertised from coffefruit and white tea extracts. It was very refreshing and it didn't have an artificial watermelon flavor at all despite the aftertaste. In fact, I was impressed with how natural the watermelon taste was even if it was a tad watered down. That said I'm not sure if it's supposed to be a flavored water or not, but it does come across a bit watery if it isn't. It wasn't super sweet, which is good in my opinion, especially when dealing with the heat. Overall, I'd give it a 5 out of 10, and one of the biggest factors is the price. 

Jun 2, 2018

Parenting Truths - Teen Boy edition

Used with permission.....in fact, he's getting a kick out of it.

I've been a mom now for over 20 years. My oldest three are all males. (Prayers are always appreciated.) Here are a few things I've learned over the years concerning them.

  1. They stink. They hit puberty and *horrormoans hit them with BO. Do NOT sniff their laundry. I repeat do NOT sniff their laundry. You WILL gag.
  2. They stain things. (Actually, this never goes away and starts at birth, only the stains change.) Buy the good detergent, and get fabric softener. 
  3. They fight. Dominance will be determined one way or the other. Hopefully verbally, probably not entirely.  
  4. Show no fear. You show fear and it's over. Chances are if they aren't taller than you, soon they will be.
  5. They will scare you with the stunts they pull. If you're lucky it will be skateboarding. If you are me it will be skateboarding down Killerhill, without a helmet, no glasses, and idiot friends cheering them on or worse parkour from one roof-top to roof-top.
  6. Housework won't kill them. They will swear it does and they will sound like they are dying. They won't. Invest in earplugs.
  7. They can cook more than Hotpockets and pizza rolls. Make them cook a meal once in awhile. 
  8. They can and will use their cooking skills to impress girls. Try not to laugh at the memory of them whining that none of their friends cook, and how stupid it is for a guy to cook.
  9. Grunting. It's a thing. You can usually get the gist of what they are trying not to communicate if you listen despite their best efforts.
  10. The side eye. It will manifest. Nip it in the bud. It's your first clue an attitude is fixin' to happen.
  11. They remember everything. They use this skill with the art and talent of a Michelin star chef with shaved truffles. Basically, when life gets boring they remind you of when it wasn't.
  12. Pizza is a food group. Period. 
  13. The time they spend on their hair and grooming before a date doubles that of a teen girl in an average week.
  14. Axe. It's evil. They can and will overuse it. You will get headaches. Fresh air, find it.
  15. You will swear they have shoes everywhere. They don't. It's the same pair they wear every day. They are just so huge that no matter where they put them you will trip.
  16. They still like fart jokes. Having a girlfriend that likes fart jokes is called a keeper. Same with burps. A girl that can outdo them is "wifey material". 
  17. Video games are now a permanent part of your life. You may never pick up a controller, but you will know more about Call of Duty and Skyrim than you ever wanted to.
  18. They eat and I do mean EAT. When they open the freezer after you've just spent over $200 and complain there is nothing to eat remember deep breaths...deep breaths. and repeat "I love my children." as often as needed until the blinding rage subsides.
  19. Insults are not insults around friends. It's how they bond. The meaner/deeper the cutting remark the deeper the trust. Apparently, it's an art form. Headlocks and pulled punches are especially appreciated.
  20. Having one is amazing, having multiple teen boys is a blessing. They will break your heart when they ache over their first break up. They will melt your heart when you see them helping a younger kiddo. They will lighten your heart when you see them goofing off with each other, especially if they are brothers. They will fill your heart with pride when they start to step out of childhood habits and start to take up adult responsibilities. They will make your heart overflow with love when they look you in eye and say 'thanks' and you know it's so much more.
Yup, teen boys, I wouldn't trade any of mine, biological or otherwise for all the money in the world. As my daughter used to say, 'they are better than chocolate!'. 

*horrormoans - pronounced horror - moans, the made-up word I use instead of hormones. 

Jun 1, 2018

When You Just Aren't Feeling It - Homeschool Edition

We all have days where it's just not happening, you're sick and tired, or just plain sick. I have a few tricks up my sleeve to help stay the course. In each section of ideas, I'll be including a tried and true resource list that I hope helps you. (Please note that many suggestions can be used in multiple categories.)

1. You can't effectively help anyone if your heart, mind, and body aren't in the game. Pray and/or read a little from the Bible or another Catholic book. (My favorite is an old prayer book given to me by my mother in law.) Have a cup of tea or cocoa or hot beverage that helps ground you. Something to get the heart and head in the game. If needed ask for prayer from a trusted friend or even in a prayer group. Just don't dwell there. Get up and move. Make sure you are taking the supplements/medications you need, for example, I have anemia so I need extra iron, B12, and I take a multivitamin. If you feel overwhelmed, take a walk, get some physical activity and fresh air. Get those endorphins kicking. Take time to take care of yourself daily, mind, body, and soul even just a few minutes a day can help tremendously. 

  • English Tea Store - where I got my favorite teapot, their tea is good too 
  • Chock full o' nuts - my favorite coffee hands down, order directly from them or find a local source
  • Twinings - I love their Earl Grey, English Breakfast, and Orange Pekoe
  • Adam's Drugs - (local drug store) 
  • Walgreens - for my vitamins, iron, and B12 
  • My Fitness Pal - app that helps you keep track of your eating and exercise
  • The Rosary Workout - YouTube channel I have used successfully before I had to stop
  • Beachbody - I had my greatest success with the 21 Day Fix and Beachbody on Demand (I no have an account or coach but I do like the workouts and their products)
2. Find like-minded friends and a support system. Even one good solid homeschooling friend that you can count on is priceless. I found mine on Facebook, learned we lived fairly close, and we have been good friends since. Look for your Nan J. in the homeschooling co-ops near you or even on the social media groups that fit your family. The homeschool group lists range from freebies, large families, secular, special needs, to you name it. There's a group that will fit your family. Also, find a local co-op. I loved the co-ops we were members of here in AL and the Schuylkill Co. co-op in PA was fantastic. Get out and interact as much as possible, if there isn't one close by consider starting one. Meeting people in person is by far the best way to find support, scary as it is. Nothing beats a mom's night out or an emergency playdate at the park with moms that get it. It really doesn't matter where you start or where you find your support as long as you find a good one. Homeschooling, in some areas and even in some families is not a popular decision. You will need like-minded people to talk with on the bad days, the sick days, and especially the days you are bustin' to share a success that stands a good chance of being shot down or misunderstood by those that don't measure success the same way we do. Look for us. We are out there. We have been there. We get it.

  • Google "homeschool co-op near me" or "homeschool support near me" it's how I found local groups in AL and PA
  • Facebook - do a homeschool groups search, for specifics add things like ADHD, large family, single parent, etc. they are out there
  • HSLDA resources - national, state, and local organizations
  • Homeschool World - organizations and support groups
  • The Homeschool Mom Local Support (just click on your state)
  • Meetup.com (this is a great resource and loved the PA co-op I joined there)

3. Keep their books and supplies in a bookbag. That way no one is looking all over the house for supplies and their books are easily accessible. When lessons are on the computer, the laptop is on the coffee table where kiddos can sit on the floor to use it. I can't even begin to tell you how much sanity this step has saved me. On the really rough days (mom is sick but life goes on days) the laptop can be placed on the bed, nightstand, or dresser and everyone just piles in with pillows, stuffed animals, kleenex, Vicks, and hand sanitizer. The book bag also makes it easier to grab and go for those days you just want to get out of the house to get some air. Basic art supplies and a nature notebook are always on hand this way.

(our favorite basic art supplies and composition books)
(online curriculum)

4. Have a bookbag/tote bag for library books. (Older kids with their own library cards might want their own bookbag/tote.) This takes *some* of the panic of looking for misplaced books on their due date (let's face it there is always the one you can't find no matter what you do). On the days that you just want to crash on the couch with Netflix, tissues, and plenty of fluids it makes the fuss less of a headache when you just put the bag next to you so keeping up with who has what and where is that much less of a bother.

(tote bags/book bags)
(find a library)

5.  Easy slow cooker meals are good for these types of days. Just dump it all in and go crash on the couch. Soups are my personal favorite. You don't really need sides except for maybe some crackers with a good soup.  Keep some in a thermos and some brat friendly snacks close by on the days when you are really sick. I learned it's easier on everyone when the person that's sick has what they need on hand. It also helps keep younger kids from worrying quite so much if they can see you have what you need. *brat stands for bread, rice, apple, toast and is what childhood sick days tasted like when I was growing up. There is a link on tip number 8 for more about it.)

(Helpful Products)
  • Steelers Crock Pot - a girl can dream, right? You can easily find yours here too.
  • Newati Herbals - they carry my favorite herbal tea supplements for those days I am not doing it myself

6. Enlist kids the kiddos! (Try to make it fun, or at the very least play to their strengths.) One of my kids likes to clean, another likes to cook, one of my adult sons likes to make sure I have everything I need, and my oldest helps when he's here by keeping the little ones busy, bringing food, or by giving his brother a break. Valuable life lessons from basic teamwork to home economics to empathy are learned. Don't stress out, they will surprise you by how helpful they can be. Try to have things they'll need readily available and within reach. Be appreciative, even when they make mistakes. Try, try, try to remember they are trying their best to help you......and try not to dwell on what the house looks like. Let her give you her baby. Let him make the soup. Whatever. While they are working on school if the younger ones get stuck and you are not up to helping ask an older sibling to try.  Sometimes though schooling can be The Magic Schoolbus or a documentary. If you can't you can't do *official* schooling it isn't the end of the world. They will have learned how to get through an illness and other life skills. Crawl into bed, order out if you need to and call it a day.

(recipes for kids)

7. Use electronics. They are your friends right now. Documentaries are great! Educational games are all over the place. For the record, I include Minecraft here for problem-solving and creativity. It is Legos for the computer, but with zombies. Look up something they have found interesting then encourage them to go wherever it leads them (within reason). Use apps on phones, tablets, and even on computers. You can find things from guitar chords and singing lessons to advanced math and science. My kids love to use human anatomy and geography apps. For art, they can use things like Paint.Net or print out coloring pages. There is literally a world of information at their fingertips in this day and age. Just be smart about it.

(online books and reader apps)
(Software download)
  • Paint.NET - free image and photo editing software I've used for years
  • Calibre - my favorite free e-reader
  • Free Kindle App - most of us probably know this one, but just in case

8. Talk to them. Look up the best ways to combat your illness or your need for a down day. Just be careful about looking up symptoms. This has been known to backfire. (How many are guilty of looking on the internet and thinking the worst.) One kiddo loved researching illnesses and wanted to be a doctor. He would look things up constantly. As a result, he learned quite a bit about health and nutrition. That helped him to bond with my mom, an RN, even when he was quite young.


9. These are great review days if you are up for it. Young brains won't be straining on a new concept. They can crowd around you on your bed, couch, or on the floor. Blanket forts where worksheets or online review can be made fun. This is a good time for them to do some acting for you. For example, CJ once acted out Whistler's Mother using my rocking chair and an old piece of lace after we visited the statue in Ashland PA a few days or so before. Darian once acted out Washington's crossing of the Delaware River with stuffed animals, and then there was the unforgettable day I felt like death on the couch and they acted out the Titanic tragedy falling dramatically into the icy waters below *cough * on the other half of the sectional * cough* All that's really required is maybe a quick video or documentary on the subject beforehand and letting them do their thing. The noise is reassurance they are alive and well, freeing you from the panic of the too quiet moment in a house full of young children. Just make sure you have lots of cushioning for the overly dramatic kiddo.


10. Don't beat yourself up! Some days are better than others and even public school teachers take sick and/or personal days. If you need to, take it. If you can call someone to come help or to take the kids for a little while, even better. If you can't find anyone, see the first sentence of this paragraph. My favorite remedy kids there or not is a hot bath Epsom salts, essential oils, and a warm washcloth over my eyes. Candles and soft music just make it better. The kids have a little free time and I concentrate on breathing in and breathing out for as long as I possibly can. 



Sick or just plain sick and tired. Take care of you mama bear. They will be fine.