Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Look Who's Cooking!

My sweet 10 year old has caught the cooking bug, and I couldn't be happier!  Thanks to some very talented moms at our Coop, she's getting great instruction as well.

I got her permission to share one of her newest creations (adapted from a online recipe):

Baked Oatmeal, To GO

5 cups rolled oats
2 ripe bananas
1 tsp salt
5 Tbsp of Maple Syrup
2 2/3 cup water
1/4 cup coconut oil
2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

plus - her secret weapon - 2/3 cup chocolate and butterscotch chips (combined together)

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease your muffin tin, or use paper liners.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all your dry ingredients.

In a separate bowl, combine all the wet ingredients and mix the dry into it.

Pour into muffin tin, and bake for 20 min.   She put on the broiler for the last 2 min to make the tops crispier.

Makes 2 dozen.

They were gone faster than you could say... "Breakfast's Ready"

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Olympics are Coming!

I absolutely LOVE the Olympics!  It's less than 2 weeks away...  Sochi, Russia, here we come!

I thought I'd share a couple of my favorite resources to turn all the Olympic excitement into a learning experience (just like a homeschool mom to make it into "school" huh?)

My all time favorite guessed it!

This is a 4 week study for grades K-12.  We pick and choose what interests us most, and just add it to our day.  There truly is something for everyone in this study.

Don't miss the FREE Companion Lapbook for the younger children too.

Another resource I can't wait to dig into is Southern Hodgepodge's  Chalk Pastels ebook.  I'm not super "artsty" - but, I've tried some of her techniques, and even I can do them!

Of course, each of the kids will pick a country to cheer for.  (By the way, we just learned in history class - if you're cheering for the Netherlands, you should be wearing orange).  This is one of our favorite activities.  We make it a rule that no one can pick the US (we all cheer for them anyway).  It's funny how attached we all become to that country...forever.

I love the nightly family time watching the highlights and heroes of the day.  I love how the games bring the whole world together, for a brief time.   Plus, our maps and globes get an olympic-sized workout in school for a a couple of weeks.

And then, there's the medal counting.  (some of you may call it math, but - I'd prefer not to)  Off to my friend Pinterest for some inspiration....

Let the Games begin!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Our Homeschool Trail...

I have a sign hanging in my home.  A simple wooden sign, but one that spoke to my heart, and I just had to have it to hang up. 

"Do not follow where the path may lead, instead go where there is no path and leave a trail"

I hung it in our stairway, so we would see it every trip up and down the stairs.  It's been an encouragement on tough days, but recently - a conviction too.

Some new friends came over to talk with us about homeschooling.  They are considering this option for their family, and wisely "counting the cost" before beginning.  Their children are young, and they have reached the fork in the road...  Do they go the well traveled route, or take that "road less traveled"?

As my husband and I shared about our homeschooling journey, which is now in it's 12th year, I began to think of how much we have learned along the "road less traveled".

I wouldn't trade a second of the journey to have traveled on the well worn path.  Has it been difficult?  Oh course!   Has it always been fun?  Of course not!   But, has it always been "best" for our family?  No doubt!

As we encouraged this young family to simply follow where God is leading them, I felt God asking me "Have you left a trail to follow?"

So, I thought I'd take a couple of minutes and "leave a trail".  Will this be your path?  I don't know.  But, the lessons learned along the journey are surely worth sharing. 

First, simply trust the one who took you this direction.  Simple I know - in theory.  When God began to whisper to our hearts about homeschooling, I could not have been more resistant.  Really, I  worked in the Superintendent's office of our public school and snickered at parents that came to "bring their children home."   I thought that HE had probably made a mistake and really wanted someone else to do this, surely - not me!

But, HE did mean us, and everywhere we went, we could not escape HIS calling to us.  Every radio show, every magazine article, every new friend we met - all were messages about the benefits and wonders of homeschooling.   "Okay enough! I'll think about it", was my reply.

All God needed was just a tiny window of opportunity.  We started down the homeschooling path...  Certainly not blazing any trails... just a blind faith walk really.

Now, 12 years and 8 children later, it's still just a blind faith walk.  I can tell you wholeheartedly, this is exactly where we were supposed to go.  I made a deal with Him - I'll do this, but only if you show up too!  I'm not going without you...  HE has faithfully kept his end of our deal.  Showing up to whisper - "this is the way, walk in it".

 If God calls you on this path, HE's planning to go with you!  You just follow him, and it'll all turn out alright.

I plan on continuing this with some more of our "trails" soon,  keep in touch! 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The "Bentz Experiment" is About to Begin!

I've gotten quite tired of the state of our home,  especially the disaster zone   , I mean children's bedrooms.

We have 8 children - the 4 boys all share a room, and the girls are split into 2 room with 2 girls each.  We keep most of our toys in another disaster zone... I mean, toy closet (a large storage closet).  With the toys in there, I can shut the door and ignore.

My problem is - their beds are rarely, if ever made,  toys and books are everywhere, and you don't even want to get me started on the laundry issues!

I'm finally getting to the point... something has to change.  I'm simply not training them in this area, but in my defense, it was a tough year.  I would hate to send them off to future spouses in this condition.

Last year I read a really convicting book - Cleaning House: A Mom's Twelve-Month Experiment to Rid Her House of Youth Entitlement by  Kay Wills Wyma  - This is NOT a book review - it's the beginning of the "Bentz Experiment".

This mom decided to be systematic and intentional  in training her children in several key areas.    I've taken some inspiration and came up with our own "Bentz Experiment".  Here we go...

January we will focus on Bedrooms.  Here are the goals for the team:

  • a made bed (not perfect, lumps are allowed - just make a decent attempt)
  • nothing on the floor (NOTHING!)
  • clothing put away, and drawers actually shut
See, I'm not a cleaning freak, I just want a little neatness, order, and their future spouses to be happy.  Martha Stewart would never last in my world.

To help motivate the team,   here is the Reward System,which has to be super simple to actually be enforced...

Each child will get 30 dimes in their bucket at the beginning of the month.  .  The author of the book used dollars, but - she has way less kiddos than me!

Everyday, an unannounced inspection will randomly take place. Hopefully to encourage the making of bed and cleaning of room all the time - not just when "warned".   If the 3 goals have been met - the roommates keep their dimes. If not, I simply remove a dime.  At the end of the month, whatever they have in their basket - is theirs to keep.  I found these cute metal baskets in the dollar section at Target....

  I'll report back at the end of the month...  so far - they are keeping more dimes than they have lost.

I like it, it just may work!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Fondue... Fun or a Flop?

Me and my bright ideas...

We have many food traditions around here.  In fact - we seem to revolve around food, especially at holidays.  I *should have* thought about this before jumping into the fondue pot.  We already have a good , labor intensive, New Year's food tradition - chili.  But, all those pins on Pinterest looked so inviting...

I decided New Year's needed another tradition - let's try fondue fun! 

As many of my cooking adventures go, this was more flop than fun.  Starting with my "fondue pot", which really turned out to be a mini deep fry pot.  I must confess, I got this pre-marriage (19 years ago) and hadn't really used it yet... I was waiting for the proper time.   :-)  I thought I remembered it as a fondue pot, strange.

After cleaning out the dust... I decided it should work fine to whip up a little Swiss Cheese fondue (enjoy the link).

Mine versus the Pinterest picture... not too bad.  The goo on the sides came from it almost boiling over.

It was going along well, until I tried to overachieve.  If one fondue is good, two will be great, right?  So, now I have to get out the trusty crockpot to serve as the second "fondue pot".  No problem - my friend Pinterest had a great "Chocolate caramel crockpot fondue" recipe!

I added the lumps on purpose... really!

Now, for the cutting up the food.  I'm starting to get a headache, and all these food items are piling up everywhere.  
  • Pretzels, sourdough, salami (Matt's idea) for the cheese.  
  • Apples, bananas, apricots, angel food cake, grapes  Opps... I bought seeded grapes by accident!  Why on earth do they sell those - does anyone like picking out the seeds?  Really! 
All this cutting is taking forever...

Yikes - I was waist-deep in the dippers when I noticed the cheese fondue was at a rapid, rolling boil.  I don't think it's supposed to do that...  

After several tense moments, and yells for kitchen back-up, I'm back on track. 
  • The dippers are cut, check.  
  • The chocolate-caramel fondue is ready to go, check.  
  • The Swiss cheese fondue has cooled, but keeps separating into a liquid and squishy substance, oh well - check.

I set it all on the table - but, had to unplug the pot.  We didn't have fondue forks (due to it really being a fry pot, not a fondue pot) So, I figure we'll make due with bamboo skewers.

Once the boys stop sword-fighting, we're ready to begin.  Here's where it literally started to fall apart... note to self, bamboo skewers don't hold the food on well enough when dipped into the fondue. The bananas especially.   Okay, no problem - we can use forks and spoons, kinda kills the fondue FUN part though.

By now, cheese is a large glob - but, I'm told "tastes great".   Several family members liked it, one family member had to go to the bathroom, because "the smell is making me gag".  I'm not sure this is what I thought "Fondue Fun" would be...

The cleanup was even worse than the set-up.   Cold cheese fondue creates a cement like substance that can actually clog up your garbage disposal, really.  And, don't even get me started on the chocolate caramel residues left everywhere!

I think Fondue may be a one-hit-wonder instead of a new tradition.

But, I wish you better luck with yours!