good friday

The great thing about Fridays is I can hop back in after a month-long-unintended-blog-sabbatical with Good Fridays!!!!  Three things about the last week that made my skirt fly up . . . made me smile . . . made me jump for joy . . . made me thankful to be living in this cRaZy time and place.

1.  Math is hard.  So hard it makes 2 out of 3 of my children cringe, slump their shoulders and shed tears.  I take the stance that Math is a discipline we must face, and therefor, sometimes we just have to plunder through it to get to the next subject. 
     Today math was really hard for Ellie and her sour mood carried right on over to grammar and writing . . . not acceptable.  I told her she could find any spot inside or outside of the house to complete her creative writing topic, and she replied with "There is NO PLACE I can go to feel inspired!"  (Yep, Ellie is my drama queen)  So I told her to try someplace new . . . like the bathtub or the front porch or the clothes dryer . . . just use your imagination!  (She gets the drama from me)
     Her spot of choice?  The dryer.  Oh my.  I hope today is NOT the day the homeschooling patrol shows up at my door to evaluate our progress.

(btw, before anyone feels compelled to tell me about all the safety hazards of hanging out in the dryer; I know.  The kids know.  Safety 101 was discussed after the project was complete.  And, yes . . . that is a cast on her arm.  Two fractures of the wrist due to improper scooter usage.  Thankyouverymuch)

2.  Living in Iowa is fantastic.  We have 4 full seasons with 87 mini-seasons within the major ones.  Rain, sleet, snow, hail, thunderstorms, glitterings (sparkles on a cold morning), thunder snow, wind, sun, scorching heat, unbearable humidity, and tornadoes.  Sometimes all in one year!  Our landscape changes so often you get the opportunity to see the same places in many different lights.
     So when a friend has an idea to meet up at a local lake to take a nature hike, we are always on board.  This particularly windy and brisk day brought white caps to our otherwise tranquil Saylorville lake.  The kids had a blast 'jumping' the waves and walking in the soft sand.  Maddi brought along her camera and captured some fantastic autumnal shots of the surrounding area:

My girl has some talent with the lens.  Braggy McBraggerton I am when it comes to her photos.

3.  Pumpkin season is here.  Which means pumpkin flavored foods.  Which means drooling over all the new recipes popping up with pumpkin spices and flavorings.  I have a very evil plan to make some baked pumpkin steal-cut oatmeal for next week's breakfast menu . . . . muahahahahahahahaha!
     But an old favorite pumpkin recipe made it to the oven this week and the entire family MMMMMMmmmmmd and YYYYUUuuuuummmmmd over it's return.  Just because I am nice, I decided to share this fantabulous recipe with y'all.  Enjoy.

Pumpkin Cheese Bread

2 1/2 C white sugar
1 - 8oz pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/2 C butter, 1 stick, softened
4 eggs
16oz pumpkin puree
3 1/2 C flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp ground cloves

2 C powdered sugar
3 Tbsp milk

Beat sugar, cream cheese and butter in large mixing bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Blend in pumpkin.

Add combined dry ingredients, mixing until just moistened.  Pour into greases and floured 9x5-inch loaf pans (or muffin tins or baking pan).  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool 5 minutes; remove from pans.  Mix sugar and milk until smooth.  Drizzle over bread.

Major Yumminess.  What is your favorite Fall food?


good fridays

What an absolutely beautiful weather week. We are enjoying temperatures into the 80's and a fabulous autumn leave-changing season. Homeschool has taken back seat to the outdoor exploring opportunities this week and I am not concerned one little nuetron. Soon enough we will have full days of freezing cold sleet to cuddle up inside and catch up on our boookwork. We want and NEED to get out and enjoy the great weather while it lasts.

And now, let's catch up on 3 things I am most grateful for this past week.

1. New Discoveries
I am most likely one of the last persons on the planet to create a Pinterest account. Sure, I have known about the 'virtual cork board' for awhile, but I was hesitant to add even one more thing to my addiction basket. I finally caved and I am oh so happy I did. What a great site to inspire, laugh and share ideas for a more creative life.

2. Hope
I am a Jesus Girl and believe in the gospel. I am also a Hope Girl who likes to live in a world where unicorns are possible. . . . even if it exists in my head. Why? Just take a look at this:

Isn't that grand?

3. Old Friends
I am most grateful to have spent my teenage years next door to these 3 fabulous neighbors. (my dad is on the far right). Sean, Mary Beth and Joe were the best kind of neighbors. They always waved and said hi when we were outside or walking by. Their front door was an open invitation to stop over and chat, grab a snack or borrow a cup of sugar . . . or eggs, or milk, or bread . . . whatever you might need. They were the type of neighbors, who, when witnessing our family's many teenage shenanigans, buttoned their lips and promised not tell our parents, but also let us know they were keeping a watch over us. They always assured us we could come to them if things got out of hand or needed a ride home without question or disapproval. As our family grew up and moved out of the neighborhood, we stayed friends and kept involved in each other's lives. Weddings, graduations, birthday celebrations and other family gatherings always included an invitation to 'old neighbors.'

This weekend our families will gather together again, but this time to celebrate the life and mourn the loss of Mary Beth. She passed away this week after battling multiple complications of chemotherapy. Mary Beth was only 48 years old, but lived a life full of joy and laughter. My family is honored to have known her and experienced the kind of friendship rarely found over the next door fence.

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend ahead to spend with the people you love most. Treasure the time now . . .


design of the times

Blue Gate Farm, our CSA, recently built a new barn to house, store and prepare their produce for local Farmer's Markets and their CSA members. They wanted to 'dress up' the barn by creating a barn quilt and held a contest to see who could produce a design that would capture the essence of their certified naturally grown farm operation.

While I have never designed a quilt block, I do quilt and love to look at patterns and completed projects. I sat down with my grid paper and began to imagine how an overflowing basket of produce would translate to a squared block. After some searching and sketching, I came up with this:

I submitted my design and didn't think much about it again until about a month later when I signed on to Facebook and saw a message from Jill, one of the owner's of BGF, telling me to look closely at their completed barn quilt design . . . . my submission, along with another, inspired their fabulous new barn art!

I was able to see the finished barn quilt in person when our family helped out at the 5th annual Farm Crawl this past weekend. It is bright and vibrant; perfectly poised on the top level of the barn that is so integral in the operation of the farm.

Being able to participate in the design of such an awshum concept (barn quilts in general) was reward enough, but BGF is never satisfied with 'just enough' . . . they always go over and beyond expectations. So, in addition to receiving credit for part of the design, I also received a generous gift basket filled with products from the farm!

Jill's famous crack pretzels, Elderberry Syrup to add to teas and sodas, Lemon Sunshine Jelly, some Pear Peach Butter and 4 handmade cards featuring photos from the farm. Major *love* happening!!

Finally, here is a collage featuring the 2 designs alongside the finished painting. I know I am biased, but I think it is the best barn quilt ever created ;)!

Now I need to take barn quilts off the brain and focus on getting these kiddos through schoolwork this morning so we can go jump in the fabulous Fall leaf piles. Do you have any piles yet?


ye olde schoolhouse

Franny told me it was high time to post up some pictures of ye olde school house, or the 'lair' as Maddi likes to call it.  The definition of lair, however, is 'a den or resting place of a wild animal' so I don't think it means what she thinks it means . . . but that definition actually fits quite well!

The schoolroom is in our half-finished basement, hence the concrete floors that resemble a cow hide.  (previous carpet and glued-down black pad left quite the interesting pattern)

This is the computer station, complete with re purposed comfy chair, printing station and a new addition: our Bamboo computer sketch tablet.  You use as fine point stylus and draw/sketch right on the pad . . . . bada-bing-bada-boom . . . your fine work of art appears on the computer screen for further manipulation.  I haven't played with it much, but the girls really love it and are spending quite a bit of time figuring out what all it can do.

Here is an example of Blue, one of the dogs at Blue Gate Farm . . . our CSA.  Ellie drew him on the Bamboo after coming home from an afternoon spent on the farm.

Next up is our note-taking whiteboard where all matters of truth are written.  The 3 clipboards are for reference sheets and daily assignments waiting to be completed.  Oh!  And see the yellow timer on the board?  It's a magnetic kitchen timer that doubles as our math drill timer.  I love dual purpose tools!

Above the computer desk and just to the right of the Whiteboard-of-Truth (wait . . . . someone erased the truth!) is a large map of the world.  We use this during our 'of the day' studies and the kids take turns using a laser pointer (mounted just below the map) to locate the countries mentioned in the articles.  Total cost for this map was $3 since I already had the spray adhesive and the 3M Command tabs.  My most frugal project to date!

To the left of the hanging clipboards is one of the greatest ideas I ever had . . . to convert our old entertainment center into our main school supply cabinet.  Brilliance over-floweths!  Although it looks like things are placed haphazardly, I can assure you everything has a place and there is a place for everything. 

Even though the kids do not have 'assigned seating', Maddi has claimed this workspace (to the left of the supply cabinet) since day one and spreads her things so thick on the surface that no one dare move it.  Here you can see her in-the-process sculpting of a clay bust for her research on Ancient Greece.

Moving along in our little tour, this is our . . . . well . . . um . . . . bookshelf.  Exciting, eh?  I do have to point out our lovely black flowerpot resting on top.  It was a gift from Sweet Bean and her Mama when we traveled to Alaska and they met us in Denali for a little dinner and chat.  Don't you love the decorated Omnipods?  It spells out A-L-A-S-K-A.  Makes me smile every time I look at it.

And here we make it around to where Ben likes to study/wiggle/jump/sing/bounce/tap/dance/hop/write/be.  He is close enough to my desk (you can see my chair on the left side) that I can correct him when he is being too disruptive and also close enough that I can throw small objects at him with ease.  Our spinny supply wheel is working beautifully and Ben only spins it 759 times an hour.  Oh how I love my busy-bodied boy.

And now, the moment you have all been waiting for, m-y  d-e-s-k.  As in my personal space.  As in DO NOT TOUCH ANYTHING ON THIS DESK IF YOUR NAME IS NOT AMY.  Yep . . . . all mine.  Notice the clutter, the overflowing to-do box, the multiple straws stemming from multiple sources of caffeine, the electrical tape keeping the arm of my chair from shedding . . . . it's homely but I Love, lOve, loVe, lovE this little corner of the room and will never give it up. (5 bonus points for anyone who can read what's on my iPad screen)

This little space just off the left of MY DESK is still kinda-sorta part of my desk, but other people can touch this area without fear of getting their limbs shredded.  Here we have an area on the bottom shelf for scratch paper, and just next to it a recycle box.  We are a green school . . . must save the planet.  On the top shelf sits my fabulous-oh-so-wonderful Gold Canyon pod warmer and scent pod.  Currently scenting our lair is Coconut Lime Verbena . . . very thought inspiring.  And the sketches?  Yeah, my students created those for me.  They also gifted me that lovely apple-holding raccoon for Teacher Appreciation Day. 

Finally, rounding up the left hand turns, we come to Ellie's space.  She loves to create and hoard scissors and drop glue dots all over the place in order to avoid working on math.  I do have to say, however, she was the only one still down here working while I was snapping away with the camera.  Either she really enjoyed her worksheets today or she played the avoidance game too long . .  . either way it was nice to see her tapping her foot away as she hummed a little tune.  (For 5 bonus points, can anyone spot Ellie's pod?)

Thank you for joining me on the tour of our classroom.  Even though we are in this space quite a bit, our 'classroom' extends beyond the basement to the upstairs, in bedrooms, out back on the trampoline, local parks, museums and even in the car.  Yep . . . homeschooling is the life for us!


by and by

Has it really been a month since my last post?

Oh my.

And, have I really not commented on any of your posts in the last month?

Oh, oh my.

Please forgive me. I have been busy being 'off the grid' with homeschooling and the huge overhauls that come with being with your children 24/7.

Allow me to 'ease' back into the groove of blogging with a few updates and a few comments to recent posts. Baby steps, if you will.

- Homeschooling is turning out to be everything I hoped it would be, and kiddos agree. It did take a couple of weeks to adjust to being around each other all the time and learn how to switch our roles from parent/child to teacher/student and back again, about 349 times a day. I think we are all developing multiple personalities and as long as we all get along I am fine with the extra attendance . . . we do need to start assigning names to all these personas so we know who we are dealing with and when, however.

- Ellie has been podding with the Ominpod insulin pump for six weeks and I think I can speak for her and say it it pure awschumness!! So far she has worn the pod on the back of her arms, her tummy and top of her bum cheeks.

We have experienced both a blocked cannula (on the third day within hours of a site change) and defective pods (not beeping when filled with insulin during a site change) but other than that, we have gotten the full 72 hours out of each pod.

While Ellie's blood sugars still fluctuate quite a bit, we are noticing less of the extreme highs or lows. Before podding, Ellie would experience 6-8 hyperglycemic episodes a week. In addition, before podding, we were rarely correcting a high blood sugar unless she was going to eat. Now, Ellie is having only 1-2 lows a week and correcting highs are a breeze with just a push of a button.

Our quarterly endocrinologist appointment is on Wednesday so we are anxious and excited to see if her a1c shows improvement as well as see if her 'rollarcoaster' numbers have lost some of their 'wwweeeeeeee' factor.

- in other news, autumn is here and I am l-o-v-i-n-g every second of the cooler temperatures, lower humidity and color changing plant life. Fall is my favorite time of year and I feel blessed to home with the kids this year so we can get out an enjoy as much time outdoors before old man winters chase us inside.

This week will be busy but I want to get back into a more regular blogging routine. I am not desperate enough to make a to-do list (I try to avoid making lists because they drive me mad!) but I will ask my 'organized personality' . . . let's call her Fanny . . . to keep me accountable to my tasks.

Enjoy the day and take time for a deep breath of autumn air, wherever you are!


through their eyes

Every Tuesday evening we pick up our CSA box of fresh produce at a coffee shop in downtown Des Moines.  I usually ask my hubby to stop by and pick it up since he works in a nearby suburb and is often out, about and near the area.

This Tuesday I decided to have the kids and I pick up the CSA box and take advantage of the beautiful weather by packing a picnic dinner to have and enjoy down at the nearby PapaJohn sculpture park.  I called Dave to meet us there and join us after work.

Now that we are homeschooling, I wanted this 'field trip' to incorporate an educational aspect, so I told the kids to grab their cameras for a lesson in photography.

We talked ahead of time about framing the subject, (not always or necessarily on center) choosing which direction to best utilize the light, playing with shadows and glare, paying attention to what would be in the background and getting creative with their angle of the shot.

Here are a collection of the photos straight out of their cameras, no photo editing other than placing them in collage format.

Through Ben's (age 7) eyes:

Through Ellie's (age 9) eyes:

Through Maddi's (age 13) eyes:

Yep . . . totally loving this homeschooling gig.

Still to come . . . I promise . . . podding (we all love it) and photos of our homeschool space.  There are simlpy not enough hours in the day or available computers in the house to keep up with my special blogging space!!!


called to serve

psssssssttttttt . . . . Hi!  How about we just ignore that little bloggie break and pretend it didn't happen, okay?!  It's not like I have been busy with starting Ellie on an insulin pump, beginning homeschool and spending weekends without my favorite boyfriend (he has been working crazy long hours/days lately).  Nope.  No excuses.

Let's move on.

1.  The Omnipod insulin pump system is f-a-b-u-l-o-u-s-i-t-y and I promise to devote a couple of posts highlighting our transition from MDI to podding.

2.  Schooling the kids at home is f-a-b-u-l-o-u-s-i-t-y and I promise to devote a couple of posts highlighting our roller coaster of a learning curve. (with pictures of the school room!)

So, what made me jump back on the computer to dust off the old blog?


Today our lesson plans called for service.  A field trip!  And two other very awschum homeschooling families joined us in volunteering for Meals from the Heartland

We signed up to serve a 2-hour shift of food packaging at HyVee Hall in Des Moines.  This is their annual fight against hunger, 4 day event.  Their goal is putting together and boxing up over 4 million meals to be shipped to countries in need.

Our team of 10 Hunger Fighters. (I am the photo taker and the other helper had run ahead ~ so excited!)

Some of the displays set up on our way into the convention hall.  They artistically recreated tent cities.

The top photo is what the food packaging area looked like BEFORE the volunteers came in, and the bottom photo is after hundreds of hunger fighters appeared for their shift.

Today I am so grateful to be called to serve . . . . and to have the opportunity to do it with my kids!


good fridays

Another Friday come and gone . . . well, almost.  Three moments I am grateful for this week (no T1D allowed) as the temperature and humidity crawl back up to August standards.  Ugh.

1.  We survived the first 2 days of going 'off the grid!'  No, we haven't moved to an eco-communal living farm.  We just took a flying leap off the public school grid and began homeschooling.  It was a surreal experience to wake up Thursday morning and head down to the 'school room' and begin teaching my kiddos the three R's . . . while adding in current events, science, art, music, geography, history and bible study.  I am not gonna lie, I was more than a little scared and anxious about how it was all going to play out.  Not only was I surprised at the ease of the transition, however, I also grinned and giggled knowing we could work at our own pace and change up the 'rules' when we needed.  Today was no different, and I dare say a little smoother, and I am beginning to believe we are actually going to make this adventure happen.  Woo-To-The-Hoo!!! 

2.  One of the best moments of the week was spent swimming at a church-friend's backyard pool with our 'other' family.  It also happened to be during the first day back to school for our community.  HeHe.  Yeah, we had ourselves a good old-fashioned 'not-going-back-to-school' party while most of their friends were sitting at a desk in a classroom listening to lectures.  Really, though . . . did you expect anything less from us?!

3.  The last grateful moment involves an appointment with my favorite 13yo and my hair stylist.  Maddi and I had our locks trimmed and colored, with her opting for a bright red hair extension and me selecting a overall dark chestnut full color with purple undertones.  Don't worry, it sounds so much more dramatic than it looks.  I guess I could prove it with a photo, but I would much rather let your minds wander and wonder. 

Yeah, it's definitely Friday an I am feeling a little spunky and snarky.

"Hey, did you SEE Amy and Maddi's hair?  What were they thinking?!"