“You Keep Losing That Weight, Girl!”

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Remember the post I made at the beginning of the year about improving my health? I’m still at it. I’m still about 15 – 20 pounds away from “goal”, but I’ve lost 60 pounds since I made that post and 80 since my heaviest non-pregnant weight in 2011. There have been a lot of unexpected side effects from weight loss that I wasn’t anticipating. All of my life I’ve been big, I’m smaller now than I was at 19 when I got married. I’m smaller than I was at 14.

I’ve complied a list of unexpected things that happen while you’re losing weight:

– You have no idea what size you are.

There’s a huge myth that 10-15 pounds = 1 dress size. That’s totally not true, at least for me it’s not. If it was true, I should be a size 8-10 right now. I’m not. I’m still hovering between a 12 and a 14. It can be disheartening because I was a size 14 at 180 pounds, how on earth am I still a size 14? You think that once you lose weight all your problems will disappear with it. You’ll be able to shop in straight sizes and just pluck something off the rack and have it fit fabulously. Not true. You still end up with things fitting oddly or having one size on the top and another on the bottom. I am completely lost with regards to bras. No idea at all.

I recently picked up 3 tanks because I was getting sick of the too-big XXL maternity tanks that I’ve been living in sliding off my shoulders. I didn’t try them on because I have some other shirts from this brand so I figured I knew what size I was. I got home and put one on, my first thought was instantly “oh god this is too small”. Then I had to step back, look at myself and say “No, tanks are supposed to be tighter than tents.”

I’m trying not to beat myself up about what dress size I am and what dress size I want to be is still an ongoing process.

 

– This body feels foreign.

I have days that I look in the mirror and think “Gosh, is that me? Am I really this small?” My husband can pick me up and throw me over his shoulder now. I feel lighter, I have more energy, I’m sleeping better. There are other days that I catch my reflection and see the old me. I think that I look huge, I focus upon the skin overhang on my stomach, I feel like I’ll never be attractive, I feel like I’ve not lost any weight at all.

Logically I know that’s not true. I know because I can look at old pictures of myself and see it. It still happens though and it’s upsetting when it does.

 

– All those comments you were looking forward to don’t feel as good as you thought.

When I started this I was so looking forward to people noticing my weight loss. The first 20-30 pounds, nobody noticed. I noticed, I just wanted someone to say something. I wanted someone to acknowledge my hard work. And then they started to. And now I hate it. Comments have run the gamut from the benign “You look great” to the somewhat offensive “Wow! I didn’t recognize you at first!”

I’m a shy individual, I don’t like being looked at, I don’t like being the center of attention. People commenting on my body makes me more uncomfortable than I assumed it would. Sometimes I just want to say “Stop looking at me.”

There’s a person in my life that says “Oh my gosh you look so good! You keep losing that weight girl!” every time she sees me. Every time. Sometimes multiple times during the same interaction. I don’t enjoy it, it makes me feel self conscious.

The problem with this is that all of these comments are well meaning. People think they are being nice or being encouraging. I don’t want to make them feel bad by asking them to not comment so I keep my mouth shut about it and shift about on my feet, blush, and mutter “uh… thanks”.

 

– The idea of maintenance is scary.

I figured out how to lose weight, I’m awesome at losing weight now. I’m 2 pounds away from “goal 1”. I pushed my goal lower another 15-20 pounds so that I’ll be in the “normal” weight range instead of the “overweight” weight range. I’d be lying if I said that was the only reason that I pushed my goal lower. With another 15-20 pounds to lose, I don’t have to worry about maintenance.

Maintenance scares me. Why? Because all the statistics out there say that people who have lost weight are very likely to gain it back. The likelihood that you’ll lose weight and keep it off is discouragingly tiny. I need to find the sweet spot. I currently weigh myself every day, sometimes multiple times a day. I’ve read that this habit is the best one to keep up for weight maintenance. Part of me feels like that’s obsessive and unhealthy, but I never ever want to be 232 pounds again.

 

My journey isn’t over yet, but I’m closer to the finish line than ever before. I’m starting to realize, however, that it’s not a finish line. That this isn’t a sprint. This isn’t even a marathon. It’s a treadmill and the ground will keep moving under my feet.

The benefits of baking your own bread

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A recent venture for me has been baking my own bread. Every Saturday, I start early and get a nice hunk of dough rising in the cupboard. I also make a couple of quick breads. Due to the season, it’s been zucchini bread. Why? Because I was getting sick of reading the packages of store bread in a futile attempt to find the “best” one.

It’s very difficult to find bread in the bread aisle without high fructose corn syrup in it. Even more so to find bread that’s not been loaded with preservatives. I get it, bread is a hard thing to keep shelf stable for a long time. If you get fresh baked bread from a baker it’ll go off within a couple of days unless you refrigerate or freeze it. That, obviously, is bad for profits. But is it good for us?

I’m not an eater of bread any more, but my kids and husband are. I decided to start baking for them. I try to feed my family well. I’m not a staunch buyer of organic produce, you won’t find kale quinoa goat cheese bites anywhere in my house but I feel like we’ve found a decent balance of fresh, healthy and low cost. They eat hot dogs, but they’re locally made and I know what’s in them. They eat a lot of fruits and steamable veggie bags from the freezer aisle. We get our eggs from the farm next door (and soon our own chickens). Bread was the next logical step. I feel better about giving my kids this bread because I know exactly what’s in it. It keeps in the fridge for a week (well, likely longer than week but it’s never lasted that long), toasts well and freezes for up to 3 months.

I enjoy the process of bread making. I used to do it a lot in high school but it had been years. The first time I tried went badly, it didn’t rise, it sort of looked like a sad French stick. I discovered that yeast could expire. Every time I’ve been making it it’s been improving though. Today, I added flax meal and I’ll be making a cinnamon raisin loaf just for fun.

Here’s the recipe that I’ve been using with some slight tweaks. I’ll post the raw recipe first

– 3 cups of warm water (110 degrees)

– 2 (.25 oz) packets of dry active yeast

– 1/3 cup honey

– 5 cups bread flour

– 3 tablespoons melted butter

– 1/3 cup honey

– 1 tablespoon of salt

– 3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

– additional butter for greasing things with

 

 

  • In a large bowl, mix warm water, yeast, and 1/3 cup honey. Add 5 cups white bread flour, and stir to combine. Let set for 30 minutes, or until big and bubbly.
  • Mix in 3 tablespoons melted butter, 1/3 cup honey, and salt. Stir in 2 cups whole wheat flour. Flour a flat surface and knead with whole wheat flour until not real sticky – just pulling away from the counter, but still sticky to touch. This may take an additional 2 to 4 cups of whole wheat flour. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to coat the surface of the dough. Cover with a dishtowel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled.
  • Punch down, and divide into 3 loaves. Place in greased 9 x 5 inch loaf pans, and allow to rise until dough has topped the pans by one inch.
  • Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 25 to 30 minutes; do not overbake. Lightly brush the tops of loaves with 2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine when done to prevent crust from getting hard. Cool completely

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/simple-whole-wheat-bread/

 

Now: Here are the modifications I’ve played around with

– Using warm milk instead of warm water just for that little bit of extra taste / nutrition

– Not putting the second 1/3 cup of honey in. I feel like it tastes too sweet, so I only used the first 1/3 cup of honey to activate the yeast.

– Kneading in flax meal. You can also knead in oats or well anything you like!

 

Why I weaned my toddler cold turkey

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Ap-poo! Ap-poo!

As I type this, my almost 20 month old is carrying an apple around happily munching little bites out of it and announcing to anyone who will listen that he does, in fact, have an apple.

We started our weaning journey about a week ago after a marathon nursing session that started at around 3 in the morning and went intermittently until we left for school at 8:00. I’ve been ready for wean him for a while, personally, but I stuck it out this long because I know the benefits of nursing a toddler. My oldest child weaned at 19 months, my middle child weaned at 23 months. I swore up, down and sideways that I’d try to make it to two years this time but when they are toddlers my constitution wains.

There’s a huge difference between nursing a baby and nursing a toddler. Babies nurse on a schedule pretty much, sometimes it’s a tight schedule granted but it’s still a schedule. It’s predictable. Toddlers nurse because they want to. Many people, especially on the internet, will make you feel like a terrible mother if you do not kowtow to your toddler every time he throws a limp-noodle screaming fit because he wants boobie NOW and whatever else you’re doing is not nearly as important. No a cup of milk will not suffice.

When they are walking, talking little people I start to feel odd about nursing. I start to feel like my personal space is being invaded. I’m naturally an introverted person, being climbed upon and crawled on and having my shirt unbuttoned, tugged on and pulled up (sometimes in public) is not something that I generally enjoy.

Are you clucking your tongues yet? Yes, I weaned for selfish reasons.

My older two kids were easy to wean. With my oldest, I was 5 months pregnant and already huge. He was losing interest in breastfeeding and was down to a session a day maybe. My milk dried up, it wasn’t a fight. With my middle, he was addicted to nursing but I had all sorts of problems. I had reoccurring bouts of mastitis and was on my 6th round of antibiotics in as many months. I could justify weaning because I was not an effective parent while suffering from pain, chills and fever almost constantly. I stuck some cabbage leaves in my bra, told him the milk was all gone and that was that. We had a couple of days of tears and asking but that’s all it was.

I don’t have a legitimate reason to wean my youngest child. I don’t have a reason that’s good enough. I still make lots of milk, he’s a little guy that would almost always chose nursing over food so he was still nursing on demand. Sometimes his nursing pattern looked just like it did when he was a newborn, especially at night.

What can I say, I want my body back.

I’ve spent the past almost 8 years of my life pregnant or breastfeeding or pregnant AND breastfeeding. I’ve almost lost the sense of what it’s like to have my body belong only to me, to not have to surrender it in the middle of the night to a vice like little mouth while being kicked in the face by little feet and pulled upon by little hands.

I also wanted to be done nursing before we began homeschooling. I can’t imagine trying to explain stone age man to my two older children while my toddler is pushing his nursing pillow into me and crying for boobie as he did constantly whenever we were at home.

Conventional advice would have you gradually reduce your nursing sessions and replace them with other things or distract your toddler when he asks. Apparently those dispensing conventional advice have never met my children. They all had similar personalities as toddlers, and it was very much a case of all or nothing.

Perhaps it’s my reason for nursing in the first place that leads me here. I do not enjoy nursing. Many mothers will describe it as magical, a special bond, moments of peace staring lovingly into their child’s eyes. I never viewed it that way. Sure, I had those sweet moments with my children but I view nursing as utilitarian. I did it because it’s free, it’s easy and I’m a lazy person (you automatically bring boobs with you and they’re always the right temperature) and, yes, there are benefits to be had from it. Over the years, I’ve learned more about breastfeeding than any sane person should know. Did you know that your milk ducts go all the way up into your armpits? Did you know that any child crying can make you “let down”, that is shoot milk everywhere like a fountain? Always convenient in the middle of the supermarket.

I fully believe that new mothers should be educated about breastfeeding and heavily encouraged to do it. I believe that making resources like lactation consultants and nursing clubs at the hospital available to everyone is important. I believe in breastfeeding. It’s a good thing. I just don’t believe that it’s the be all end all to motherhood and that I am a terrible person for ending it before my kids hit preschool age.

As the Time magazine cover would have you believe, I am apparently not “Mom Enough”.

So yes, I am weaning my toddler cold turkey. He has done fantastically with it. His night wakings have decreased, he drinks milk from a sippy instead and doesn’t ask to nurse during the day. I made the nursing pillow disappear, he asked a couple of times and I told him that the boobies were all gone but he could have milk and a cuddle instead. That seems agreeable to him.

I’ve been in a huge amount of pain, this is my punishment for weaning him. I’m leaking and engorged like I was when he was a newborn, for three days it felt as if hot brands were attached to my chest. I stood under the hot shower and rubbed them for fifteen minutes on the first day. The pain is finally starting to subside and with it’s disappearance comes the realization that this is it. My breasts will be deflated with the memory of milk. I will have moved beyond a chapter of my life that I’ll never return to. It makes me a little sad, like finishing a long book that you’ve been thoroughly engrossed in.

I look forward to the next stage. I look forward to there being no more babies, to the crib being dismantled for the last time, to potty training.

Bring it on.

 

Curriculum Rundown

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When we first decided that yes, we are going to homeschool I felt overwhelmed. The first thing I started doing was looking for a boxed, ready made, all in one curriculum. There are a bunch of fantastic ones out there but in the process I started discovering different individual subject curricula and instead started picking and choosing which of those I liked the best. So far the process has actually been pretty fun. This post has been a couple of months in the making because we’ve spent that long gathering our resources.

My state requires me to teach English (they call it Language Arts but I’m going to be calling it English), Math, Science, Social Studies, Art, Music, PE and Health. My older child will be 7 in July, a 2nd grader and my middle child will be 5 in July, a Kindergartner.

First we’ll talk about the curricula that I’m going to use for both of my older children to do in combined lessons. You can see them all pictured above but I’ll examine them piece by piece.

Science: Apologia

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Our science curriculum for next year is called Apologia. I like it because it’s a Christian world view centric curriculum and it doesn’t speak to the students like they are idiots. I was dubious at only doing one subject for the entire year at first but Apologia’s reasoning about it makes sense. I like how deep they delve and how thorough they are with each subject they cover. We actually bought all of the elementary text books and all of the junior notebooking journals to allow the children to choose which topics of study they want to learn in which order.

They chose swimming creatures followed by chemistry and physics for next year.

 

Social Studies – History: Story of the World

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I love anything by Susan Wise Bauer. The Well-Trained Mind is a valuable resource for homeschooling parents and really just parents in general. We actually purchased her history books before we decided to start homeschooling, all we had to buy for this were the student pages. It’s important to me to teach history chronologically. History is a passion of mine and I dislike very much how country-centric most History programs are. American kids are taught about the world from America out. British kids are taught about the world from Britain out. I like that this series does not focus on one country as the “center” of the world.

Most kids my kids’ age will be doing “all about my community” or similar things in their social studies programs, I think that this is kind of a backward way of teaching things. The best way to tell a story is to start at the beginning.

Next year we’ll be starting with stone age man and moving up to the Egyptians. If they want a faster pace, well go faster than that.

 

Music and Art – Story of the Orchestra and The Usborne Complete Book of Art Ideas

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Art will be done at our co-op for the majority of the year, but we are going to have a semester in the spring of 2016 where I will need to teach Art because the co-op is doing cursive writing that session and that is something that I’ll be teaching as part of English. I like the Usborne art book, it’s good for once a week lessons. There’s also a free art curriculum called Art Tango which has a lot of artist appreciation in it that we’ll use.

For music, I actually bought the pair of the recorders and a recorder lesson book (heaven help me) but The Story of the Orchestra was recommended to me by a homeschooling forum, so we’ll use that as well.

Now that we’re through the combined subjects, time to explore the individual subjects.

2nd Grade English – All About Reading, All About Spelling, Shurley Grammar, Watch Our Writing, Copycat Books Copywork, Journaling

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All About Reading / Spelling:

I was actually having a lot of trouble finding a reading and spelling curriculum before I discovered the All About series. It’s important to me that my kids learn to read and spell using phonics, I really liked the program that my oldest child did in 1st grade this year and I wanted something similar to that. All About was something I kind of stumbled on and I absolutely love it. It’s quite teacher intensive and there are a lot of fiddly little bits like magnetic tiles and flashcards but it is a good, solid program.

Shurley Grammar:

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The Shurley Grammar series is something that my kids’ private school uses starting with level 1 in 2nd grade. I’m a little dubious about it, it gets mixed reviews and the teacher book is quite a complicated read but we’ll see how we do. The great thing about homeschooling is that if you don’t like something you can scrap it and find something else. I like the jingles that this series has, my oldest likes to use jingles to learn things.

 

Watch Our Writing is a custom cursive curriculum that the private school graciously gifted to me. The Copycat Books copywork was downloaded for $5 a piece, we used the “Traditional” cursive pages and they’ll likely compliment our History curriculum. Finally, my oldest loves to write stories. I’m going to get him a journal and encourage him to just write whatever he wants to write.

 

2nd Grade Math – Singapore

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My oldest did Singapore math in private school this year, it made sense to just continue with it. The Singapore materials are bright, colorful and explain things well.

 

Kindergarten English – All About Reading – Prereading, Explode The Code “Get Ready”, “Get Set” and “Go”

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My oldest did Explode the Code in 1st grade, but I’m not sure if we’ll use it for second grade. I do like Get Ready, Get Set and Go though for my Kindergartner. We’ll be doing a “letter of the week” curriculum that I have written myself, these books will be a great compliment for it.

 

All About Reading – Pre-reading

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My Kindergartner will be starting to learn phonics next year, I don’t expect him to be reading next year but if he wants to I won’t stop him. We’re starting with the AAR pre-reading curriculum and moving on from there. We also own AAR / AAS 1 in case he’s ready for that next year.

 

Kindergarten Math – Singapore

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The Singapore Kindergarten Math books are interesting. Book A moves appropriately slowly, book B moves, in my opinion very fast. So what I did was go through book A and find more free examples online of the sort of activities that are in the book to pad my lessons out with. We intend to only do book A next year, but again if he’s ready for book B we’ll do it too.

 

For PE they take Taekwondo twice a week. For Health we work that into our daily lives.

 

Scanning System –

I have taken all of the consumables from these curricula and scanned them to our fileserver. I did this because it means that we won’t have to buy additional consumable books in the future, I can just print out pages as I need them. Sure, we’re going to go through a lot of printer paper and ink but I prefer it this way. It means that when our youngest is ready for school, all of his materials will be ready to go.

 

Subject Card System –

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This is my subject card pocket folder. I initially had a very detailed XL file with every day planned out in 15 minute increments. Then I stepped back, took a look at it and said “why”? My kids don’t need to be that regimented, they need to get certain subjects done yes but part of homeschooling is flexibility. So I came up with this idea. Each kid has his set of cards, I’ll put the cards that he needs to do that day in the folder in the morning and he can take the card out when he’s done. We’ll be doing Science and History twice a week, Art once a week and Music once a week.

Latin is a subject that I have added but I’m not sure how often I’m going to teach it. I think that Latin instruction is important, but not more important than the other subjects. I’ll be playing Latin by ear next year.

 

My favorite thing that we bought for homeschooling this year, however, is this –

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What kid wouldn’t want to have recess here?

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Is it summer yet?

Where do I start? We’ve had a busy spring so far. There’s been a chicken coop and a playground constructed, a garden planted, homeschool materials gathered and scanned and now I find my self counting down the days until the kids are out of a brick and mortar school. I can’t wait. When we began this journey I didn’t see myself nearly so excited. More like terrified.

The closer we get to our “start date” and the more things I see falling into place the more at ease I’m feeling. Something I told my husband recently is that no matter how stressed I am from the day, the moment I hit our driveway it starts to dissipate. I can’t wait to spend more time here. The kids are excited too. Sad about not being able to see their school friends as much (though we have promised many a visit) but other than that excited. I see a new chapter of our lives opening up.

The first thing I want to post about is the construction of our chicken coop. We built a modified version of the “Triple C” coop from Backyardchickens.com. A few things were changed, I like ours better. The outside painting still isn’t complete but the chickens have been living out in it for a couple of weeks and seem to be  liking it.

Here’s how it started. Just a humble rectangle on the ground. We were unable to bury hardware cloth because our ground is literally a few inches of topsoil covering slate. Instead, we put the hardware cloth underneath the frame. So far nothing has gotten in there, hopefully this trend continues.

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Next up, some walls!

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This is the first thing that my husband has ever built from scratch. It was quite the experience for both of us, I honestly think he did a phenomenal job.

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I dig the siding material that he used. It was a pain in the neck to paint but it’s good strong stuff.

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Here’s our finished coop. We hung the feeder and water underneath it. We’re using a nipple waterer which I love, there’s no dirty water to worry about and the chickens figured it out pretty easily. As you can see, there’s topsoil on the floor of the run. I’ve heard varying things about what your run should have in it, we opted for a layer of gravel (which the chickens promptly dug up) followed by a layer of topsoil. So far I’m liking it, the poop just kind of disappears into the topsoil.

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Here are the girls (and boy)

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We’re a long way off from fresh eggs yet, but they’re starting to get big. That cream colored one you see in the back is my middle son’s Easter Egger, looking forward to nice green or blue eggs from her.

 

Homeschool Room Tour

Hello everyone! I’ve been waiting to post because my husband and I have been working hard on gathering materials and creating our homeschooling space. We’re finally pretty much there (though I do have a “Carpe Diem” wall sticker on the way!) so now I can post some images and do a walkthrough.

Before we actually get into the room itself let’s look at the library / tot area in the living room.

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We have a very large living room area that we visually separated into two areas. A couple of Target bookshelves are on the left, a play rug and a chair. I plan on doing DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) time here as well as circle time type activities for my two younger children. The two rainbow things there on the right are a little tot bookshelf, that my 18 month old loves, and a multi bin toy organizer. There’s also a fabric toybox beside the chair that you can’t see in this picture.

Next we’ll actually go into the homeschool room. This was just “my office” before, blank walls, very blah.

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Here you can see the rainbow cursive letter board, the Quartet cork board, two posters (one scientific method, one numbers 1-100), the calendar time board and my desk. Pretty much everything here was purchased off of Amazon.com, except for the calendar time board. I got the printables for that from here http://www.mamajenn.com/MamaJenn/CalendarTime.html . It was a little bit of work but in the end worth it. My toddler has already stolen some of the flip cards from it, I’m grateful for them being all held together with lose binder rings. If we had a traditional pocket chart calendar I could just imagine the little cards everywhere in a heartbeat.

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Here’s a closeup of our calendar time board. Mama Jenn recommends you make it on a piece of poster board, I actually made it on a foam board because I wanted something that would take the tacks a little better. I also had to make my own “year” cards.

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This is the desk area. We got a desk for the toddler too so that he can feel like a big boy. The desks are from hayneedle. They are the perfect size for my soon to be 5 year old and my soon to be 7 year old will get at least a year out of them depending on growth spurts. I really like these desks, they’re adorable, they’re made of solid wood and the compartments inside are large enough to hold a couple of binders, a pencil box and more. I like that each child gets his own little storage area. The whiteboard is a Quartet magnetic white board. My husband had one in his office that I like, we just got the smaller version.

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Here’s my desk! Yet another Quartet cork board that will be flanked by some shelving, our weather station on the right there is the “AcuRite 01036 Pro Color Weather Station” and the printer scanner combo is the Epson Workforce WF-3640. We’ve been pretty impressed with the Epson printers so far, we’ll see how it holds up in the long term.

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Finally, here’s the inside of one of the closets. The bookshelves are $30 specials from Walmart, they serve their purpose and I don’t need them to be pretty. Our curricula is all on the two top shelves, the second shelf with the magazine organizers is going to be for student materials for individual subjects. On the right I just have supplies. Down on the third shelf I have all my maniplatives and counters.

The glass jar may be a little difficult to read, it says “Fruit of the Spirit”. My middle son’s preschool teacher does this and I thought it was a cute idea. Basically when the children do something nice or follow the rules they get a piece of plastic fruit to put in the Fruit of the Spirit jar. Once the jar is full they get a reward like a picnic or a trip to the bounce houses or something.

Beside that there’s the obligatory laminator and electric pencil sharpener.

Finally the fourth shelf has a bunch of stacking plastic boxes for my middle kid’s “centers” activities. The other plastic shoeboxes have magnatiles in them. I’ll go more into Kindergarten centers in a future post because right now I have to run out and take my kids to school. I’m counting down the days until we don’t have to do the 40 minute early morning drive to their school. Not long left!

 

When life gives you snow, make taffy!

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Like most of the East coast right now, we are being dumped on. Maybe not as bad as Boston but traversing the driveway has definitely been an adventure. My kids love the snow. For them, it’s like God threw playdoh all over the ground. They’ll play until their faces are red and come tromping in all out of breath and ready for some hot cocoa and a snack. One of their favorite snow day treats is a classic recipe I learned to make in my youth of Canadian winters. We had a friend who had a maple tree forest and a sugar shack, I still remember the way it smelled.

All you need for maple snow taffy is maple syrup, fresh snow and a candy thermometer. Well, I suppose you don’t really need a candy thermometer. We use our probe thermometer and it works out fine.

Stage 1: Task your kids with collecting some fresh snow. It was easy today, all they did was leave the pan outside.

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Stage 2: Set your maple syrup on the stove

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What you’re looking for is the soft ball stage, or 235 – 240 degrees F. Keep an eye on it because it happens quickly with high heat.

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Stage 3: Pour your maple syrup over the snow. You can pour it in any shape you want. Last time we made long sticks, today the kids wanted to see what would happen if we poured it straight down. the taffy came out shaped like little bowls.

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Stage 6: Eat immediately! This stuff has to go straight from snow to mouth otherwise it becomes gooey and difficult to manage. It has a unique chewy-melty texture and, of course, tastes of maple.

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Maple snow taffy is a great little science demonstration as well, you can discuss the stages of candy making and how sugar turns into candy.

 

Our Home Education Adventure

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Remember the issue with our private school and my middle son’s pink shirts? Perhaps that was the tipping point for me, I don’t know. I have been considering homeschooling for years, ever since my oldest was a baby in fact. Things have compounded that have shown me this is the way we should go. The cost, the travel time (the poor toddler spends hours and hours in the car) and the general schedule. I want more time with my kids. I’m sick of rushing from school to extracurricular activities and then rushing home, rushing through supper and homework and bed.

I’ve been full of doubts, however. I’m not sure that I’ll be able to motivate my notoriously stubborn middle kid, I’m not sure that I’ll be able to juggle the baby and the dogs and the housework and trying to take care of myself and the extracurriculars along with having the responsibility of my children’s education. But you know what? I’m going to take that leap anyway.

I liken this feeling to the feeling that a parent gets when they are expecting their first child. Can I do this? Can I have all the responsibility for the upbringing of a brand new person resting on my shoulders? What if I screw up and ruin them for life? Everyone has these feelings. In spite of this, we still do it. We still take a huge leap into the unknown and have children. This is just another leg in the adventure.

Now that I’m over my initial terror at the concept, I’m actually really enjoying the process. Right after the realization hit me that yes, we are going to do this, I thought I’d just use an all in one boxed curriculum and call it a day. Since then I’ve become hooked on researching curricula, reading reviews, talking to other homeschoolers and piecing together my own stuff. It’s getting fun and not so daunting.

I’m excited! The money we would have spent on private school will be spent on our homeschool room, our materials, music lessons and a playground for the back yard (we need somewhere for recess after all). So not only will I be chronicling our chickens this year, but I’ll be posting stuff about our homeschooling adventure as well!

 

Chia Seed Pudding

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On my adventure to living well the hardest road block for me to conquer so far has been breakfast. You’d think breakfast would be the easiest one, but I have some requirements for breakfast that complicate things. First of all, I shouldn’t have to cook it. Or if I cook it there should be minimal amounts of cooking involved. I’d much prefer a breakfast that you can take out of the fridge, assemble maybe and eat. This is because I’m also serving three kids, two dogs, sorting out who has what lunch for today, making sure homework was completed and reading a daily devotional at breakfast time. That rules out eggs unless we are counting egg muffins, which I like alright but which can also get repetitive very fast.

I’m also not a big breakfast eater, if I eat a lot of volume at breakfast I feel weird. So I prefer something small with a lot of satiety factor. Again, egg comes to mind but that requires a lot of prep.

I had been eating Greek yogurt, but I ran out of it and forgot to pick some up during the weekly shop. Besides, Greek yogurt also gets boring day after day after day.

I had heard about the merits of chia seeds in the past but sort of dismissed them as the next quinoa. Quinoa is  good but too much of it can mess you up. Then I found out what they do in liquid. They gel into a tapioca pudding type texture. I love tapioca pudding but it was something I’d pretty much written off. With that new information I decided to give chia seed pudding a try. I followed a vegan recipe but substituted whole cow’s milk for almond milk because I just can’t get over all the various chemical additives in most non dairy milk. This pudding boasts about 9 net carbs per 1/2 cup serving (less if you use non dairy milk), fiber, omega 3, protein, calcium and a ton of other nutrients.

The basic ratio of chia seeds to liquid is 3 tablespoons per cup. I chose maple syrup as my sweetener because, while it isn’t a 0 carb sweetener it’s again minimally processed and has a lower glycemic index than sugar (54 vs 65). Honey also has a lower glycemic index at 50 but, of course, isn’t vegan.

 

Vanilla Chia Seed Pudding

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: No cooking but it sits in the fridge for as long as possible

 

Raw chia seeds: 3/4 cup

Maple syrup or honey: 2 tablespoons

Liquid: 4 cups

Vanilla: 2 beans or 2 teaspoons

 

– Combine liquid, vanilla and sweetener until smooth. You may want to do this in a blender.

– Add chia seeds and stir.

– Allow to sit in the fridge over night.

2015 and Operation “Get Healthy”

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On January the 1st this year I did something that I don’t usually do, I made a New Year’s resolution. I don’t normally do them because I feel like they are pointless, nobody ever keeps them anyway so why bother. I wasn’t going to make one unless I was actually going to keep it. This year I’ve decided to do just that. My resolution started out with the end goal of 150 lbs, I would need to lose 60.

I’ve had an obsession with sugar, especially chocolate, for too long. I found myself buying a big bag of of those little individual squares “for my son to take to school” then keeping it in the cupboard. I was counting out 5 chocolates at the beginning of the week to set aside for school, then slowly eating all the rest of them. Every time I passed the cupboard, I’d grab a couple of squares. They’re just small, I figured, can’t do much harm. It’s not like I’m eating big bars of it.

The truth of the matter was that was exactly what it was like. All those little squares throughout the day would add up to a full bar, sometimes two bars. On top of that I’d have hot chocolate, nutella, a dessert after supper which usually consisted of a big bowl of ice cream (a habit held over from gestational diabetes) and a chocolate bar every time I went through the check out line at a store. Add to that all the diet soda I was drinking and fast food I was eating, it’s a wonder that I wasn’t heavier than I was. I think the thing keeping my weight stable was the fact that I’m breastfeeding.

They tell you not to “diet” while breastfeeding. That a decrease in caloric intake will decrease your milk supply. I took this as licence to eat whatever the heck I wanted, or sometimes stuff I didn’t want that was just in front of me anyway.

So at the beginning of the year I said enough was enough. I was calling it “Operation: Stop being such a fatass” but a revelation hit me the other day. It isn’t about what I look like or how much I weigh, it’s about how I feel. It started with eliminating all chocolate and soda. I instantly felt better. I like the taste of soda, I like the way the bubbles feel but it makes my body retain water. When I cut it out I lost 10 pounds of water weight very quickly.

Next came eliminating most other sources of simple sugar and all complex carbohydrates. What this means in practice is using lettuce instead of bread for burgers and tacos, using apples instead of bread as peanut butter vehicles, replacing potatoes and pasta with more vegetables and replacing rice with cauliflower rice. Most of that has been relatively straightforward, the thing I am having the hardest time with is pasta. I love pasta, I love how it’s a vehicle for deliciousness. I refuse, however, to buy myself low-carb alternative pasta. To me, moving from one processed thing to another processed thing just won’t solve the problem. I’ve been eating a lot of meat accompanied by mountains of veg for dinner. It’s a good thing that I like veg!

Notice what I did NOT cut out: Animal fat, plant fat (coconut oil / olive oil / peanut butter) and salt. I never cooked with much salt to begin with so salt really isn’t an issue. I will eat cold cuts and bacon still, not every day, maybe a couple times a week. Fat isn’t even on my radar. Without complex carbs I need my calories to come from somewhere, I need to keep my calories up in order to provide milk for my son. Fat is the most calorie dense substance, you get a lot of “bang for your buck”. So fat stays, whole milk and heavy cream and olive oil and butter stay. I’m also taking a multivitamin and calcium every day.

The final stage was to get back on my bike. I have a love / hate relationship with my exercise bike. The darned thing was bought maybe 4 or 5 years ago and two houses ago. It followed us through two moves. The seat is breaking, it’s missing bits, the handlebars have split and I had to ziptie them back together, the display no longer works because the kids stole the cords for it… but it does it’s job. It gets me sweating once a day for about half an hour.

I started out 20 minutes every other day, I’ve moved it up to half an hour a day. I don’t feel like I’m ready to return to the HIIT that I was doing before I got pregnant with my little one but that’s OK. I’m not looking for rapid, dramatic weight loss. I’m looking for a slow, steady discovery of health. I can’t say “return” to health because I have never been healthy. Even as a kid I wasn’t. I used to walk a lot but I also ate and drank like crap.

This year’s resolution is one I’m determined to keep. I want to be around for as long as possible for my kids, grand kids and, who knows, great grand kids maybe.