Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Outdoor Challenges to get the Kids OUT!

Some of you remember that I posted about how hard it is for me to get the boys outside.   It is still hard.  Just to be clear!  But I haven't given up!

I promised you a list of fun outdoor challenges, so, I am here to deliver!  Below you will find some fun outdoor things to do for all different kinds of kids WITH LINKS - because I need pictures sometimes.

Let me know if you do any of them and how they went!

Credit to all the great assemblers of terrific outside information!

Build an outdoor tent.  There are SO MANY different types.  I like this one. EASY!

Plant a children's garden. For lots of reasons this is a great experience for both them and you.  Start with plants that will be super successful like sugar snap peas, beans, sunflowers, radish and beets.
Here's ours! 

 Soda bottle Sprinkler!  Take your last empty bottle of soda or seltzer and attach it to your hose for some fun!

Outdoor tic-tac-toe! There are a lot of these on Pinterest, but I really liked this one for it's simplicity.

Set up a backyard pulley system.  Here's an interesting one.  I know some kids would absolutely love moving stuff back and forth with this

And if you really, really want to get in on the fun, run a MESSTIVAL in your backyard! I dare ya!!!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Sprouted onions? No Problem!

When you go to the grocery store and are shopping for onions, you have a couple choices.  You can purchase one or two, or, you can purchase a whole bag full. 
If you're like me, and use a lot of onions, you might choose the bag option.

Good intentions aside, sometimes a few of them invariably get old before you can use them and sprout healthy green foliage out the top.  By then, they are typically a bit shriveled and emaciated looking.

So, what do you do?  Do you throw them away?  Chuck them in the composter?  Feed them to your chickens?

I have done most of those things (as well as throwing them into the woods for the raccoons).  Just because I don't want to eat them, doesn't mean some-'thing' else won't!

But I recently stumbled across one of those foodie-hack sites that tells you all the things you can do with things you thought were old and/or unuseable. And after reading through it, I realized that I DIDN'T have to throw away those onions, I could, rather, plant them!

This goes along with my favorite motto from the Depression-era - "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without." Reusing my old onions (sort of) is a great way to save money and "wear it out"!

As I am in high garden season (my favorite time of year), I immediately took them out to the garden and found a place to plant them.

First, I retrieved them from the garbage. Yes, they were in the garbage.

Second, I dug a deep-ish hole (about 3-4 inches) - onions like to be buried deep to successfully duplicate themselves.

Third, I peeled off the outer later of shriveled up skin.

Fourth I placed the onions in and covered them.

I should have some new onion babies by August.

Give this a try and let me know if you have any success!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

100 Days of Real Food Dinners

For the next few weeks I am going to be cooking dinners from this blog post from Humorous Homemaking. I would love it if we could forgo ALL processed foods, but we are not ready for that, so we are starting with REAL FOOD dinners.

I was feeling PRETTY BORED with my own cooking and we were straying away from the dinner table and starting to eat in front of the tv, because, well, dinner was boring.

Anyway - we started last night with the Chicken Italiano and even my sour cream hating husband loved it!  Even my picky eater child number 2 was pleasantly warm to it!

I forgot to take a picture.  I am new at this. I will have a picture for the next meal.

Why am I interested in real food?

Well, to be honest I feel our family was slipping dangerously into a pit of convenience and snack foods. I have noticed that the boys are filling up on psuedo-junk food often.  I say "pseudo" because I don't even buy the worst stuff, but even the 'healthy' chips are processed etc.  And it's no surprise that snack foods are THE MOST EXPENSIVE...even with coupons and sales...and what's the point?  Like I say to the boys, "they're not gonna help you grow.  You can't grow on chips!"

Tonight's meal is Cheeseburger Soup.

- Jenny

Monday, May 16, 2016

Getting the Kids to Play Outside Again...or not?

Every Spring, I notice we go through a period where my children need a lot of encouragement and, yes, parental pressure, to play outside again.  As they have gotten older, other more "interesting" forms of entertainment have taken over. 

I am sure I am not alone when I say that television, Youtube videos and video games play a major part in my children's lives.

 Being a nature-lover myself, when Spring does finally roll around (this year it is taking exceptionally long) I want to get out and I want the boys out there with me!

So, we annually have this conversation:
Mom: "Let's go outside."
Kids: "Mooooooom.  There's nothing to do outside."
Mom: "There's a ton to do outside! Ride your bikes, build a fort!"
Kids: "That's booorrrrring."

Eventually, I win (because I am the mom) and we go out.

I have done a lot of reading about this issue. Both online and in book form and there is a lot to say about how the world has changed since the 1970's and 1980's.  Whether it is a misconception or not (some feel it may be), many parents don't feel it's safe to let your kids wander around the neighborhood the way our parents did twenty to thirty years ago.  And there are some real dangers out there to be concerned about. I share those concerns.

And with the recent media frenzy over "free range parenting" - any parent who actually allows their kids to play in the yard (their own yard, mind you) without standing out there next to them, is afraid a neighbor might call the cops on them!

So, I ask you, what is a parent to do?

Everything seems to be consorting against us!

According to a news piece:

"A growing body of evidence is starting to show that it's not so much what children know about nature that's important, as what happens to them when they are in nature (and not just in it, but in it by themselves, without grownups). Respectable scientists – doctors, mental health experts, educationalists, sociologists – are beginning to suggest that when kids stop going out into the natural world to play, it can affect not just their development as individuals, but society as a whole."

Balance.  It's what I tell my kids.

Why can't they play video games and watch t.v. all day?  Balance, kids.  Just like grown ups, kids needs to have a balanced lifestyle.  A variety of external stimulation, the healthiest of them being outdoor play.

I am happy to report that eventually they begin to enjoy themselves outside and even find their own fun with gardening, spraying each other with the hose and digging holes in the yard (deep, deep holes).

Additionally, I have a toddler that LOVES to be outside. That makes me happy for sure.

So, this year, like every year, I will be pushing my agenda with my three boys: "get outside!" and I know one day they will thank me for it.

- Jenny

Ps I am working up a list of summer challenges for my kids to accomplish outside...forts, and scavenger hunts - which I will share soon!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Sunshine is Finally Here!

So, I thought Spring was here in March. We had about two weeks of warm and sunny weather.  It was amazing.  My husband and I got outside and started clearing beds and raking. The kids were outside - even the baby (now 15 months). And then God reminded me that he was indeed still in control and it got colder and ... SNOWED.  My crocus were up already! 

During that period of about two days when that "white stuff" was on the ground, I tried not to look outside.  ha, ha.  I was pretending Spring was still here.

But, now, hallelujah!  The sun is back and the grass is turning green!  What a joy!

There is something about Spring arriving that always lifts my spirits, even if I don't realize they have been down.

We have done a lot to the garden already - widening it, removing an old sandbox and re-fencing it.  Our fence was about 10 years old and had seen better days. We hired some local people to come and pull out some of the really stubborn weeds which had taken root in the last three years - I think it was wormwood. The roots are long and the longer it sits there in the ground the deeper they dive and the thicker they get. 

So, that felt really good!

Seedlings have been started and the garden is cleared and ready for some healthy, mineral rich soil to be added.

We will be planting tomatoes, potatoes, kale, lettuce, carrots, peppers, spinach, cucumbers, and various squashes this year. How about you?

Monday, September 21, 2015

Homeschooling a Middle Schooler

The thought of homeschooling my sixth grade son makes me a bit nervous.

I enjoyed third, fourth and fifth grade.  But, now that we have hit sixth grade, I have to tell you, I feel the pressure increasing.  I know I am not the only one, too.

As I talk to other homeschooling moms who have middle schoolers, we say to one another, "I hope I am doing enough," and roll our eyes looking for a reassuring "yeahhhh."

Why does this happen when our kids hit sixth grade?

Let's face it, it's a time filled with changes.

 Here he is going off to his first sleep over camp.

1. MAJOR social changes are occurring at this age.  My son has had to work through some real friendship challenges this year. Acquaintances have tricked him, teased him and there is a definitely unspoken "are you cool?" thing going on.  He has started to comb his hair (shock), care about what he wears (well, at least a little) and insist on brushing his teeth before we leave the house (even if he already did - I am NOT complaining).

2. He is looking for his VOICE.  This is that age I remember when everyone was looking for someone to "hang out" with.  Where do I fit in? What group do I belong to? As a homeschooler, I think we are spared some of this sort of pressure.  He doesn't have to choose yet between being an athlete or a word-nerd, but he is sensing the difference between his interests and his friends' interests.  "'So and so' REALLY like sports, Mom...." says my son who plays baseball, with varying levels of interest every Spring.

3. I am thinking about HIGH SCHOOL. Yeah, I have to admit it.  I am thinking about high school.  I am also wondering if I will be able to handle homeschooling high school. I am wondering if he will want to go to public school - and what I need to cover before he gets to that point so he's not totally behind.

So what am I doing this year?

I decided to utilize an online curriculum for him.  I am using Time4Learning and so far I am happy with the material. The reason I did this is because I felt I could not cover everything I needed to with Language Arts especially.

We are attending co-ops regularly with kids of his age group. We belong to two groups that have a bunch of 9-12 year olds and it helps him feel he is connected to friends who have the same interests as him.

 He continues to be involved with Boys Scouts which is a great confidence and independence builder.

What kinds of challenges are you facing with homeschooling your middle school age kids?

- Jenny

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Mom I'm Bored...

I have three boys who are all different.

My oldest son has a to-do list in his head every day.  Legos, minecraft, play, tv, video games, play, legos...something like that (it's summer). At the end of the day, if he doesn't get something accomplished, he knows it and says so.

My middle son is different.  "Middle" wanders around the house waiting for something to jump out at him and say, "play with me!" He often schleps up to me and says, "Mom?? I am bored." (cue slouching and pleading look on his face).

More than not, it irritates me.

I don't know if it's because I tend to be more like the older child or because I am so busy with other things, but, just the thought of boredom is like a luxury.

I think the main reason is because I don't have any answers for him.

I actually think being bored is good for you.  I even say that to Middle sometimes.  He doesn't like it.

Let's get to the heart of boredom.  Why are kids bored sometimes?

For us, and for my Middle, it comes down to not being allowed to watch t.v. or play video games 24-7.  He likes to be entertained - easily.  So much so, that he has lost the ability to come up with something to do almost entirely.  Now, I say almost, because after a few tears and protestations, he will eventually find something to do.

He asks: "Well, then what should I do?"  At first I took the bait - I would come up with a list of things for him to do.  I should do it like my friend who if their kids tell her they are bored, she puts them to work.

Middle never likes any of my suggestions.  Any guesses as to why?

Number one is that he is disgruntled that I said no to technology.
Number two is that he doesn't really want to be told what to do.

He knows he should use his imagination.  He knows he can come up with something to do.  What prevent my son from choosing something to do is his strong desire for easy entertainment and something that I am going to war against in my home: technology addiction.

Here's the soapbox portion of this post.

It is my opinion that our kids are so used to being surrounded by technology these days - video games, television, handheld devices and cell phones, that a portion of their brain has all but shut down. The part of the brain that has to do with creativity, imagination and contentedness.  Technology is an escape and a lazy form of entertainment.  Viewers are not required to think beyond allowing the images and sounds to penetrate their eyes. Binge watching television can lead to later mental health issues too.

It's not a secret that technology is everywhere and our kids are surrounded on all sides.  So what are we to do?

I try to limit their tech time. 

We are striving to cut back as we speak.  This summer (and during my recent pregnancy) I let it get a little out of control to be completely honest with you.  By that start of school I am hoping to implement my yearly "no television before school, episode at lunch rule."  Since we homeschool, the temptation for t.v. is always there!

Also, I found that the longer my kids play video games, the harder it is for them to get off of them and to start interacting with other people in the house again. It's like they learn the ability to communicate while they are gaming! My kids have a hard time transitioning from video games to personal interaction.

I have also shared with them your concerns about how much technology time they have.  It's important to let them know you want them to be happy and healthy - and that staring at a screen 4-5 hours a day is not healthy.  My kids hate it when I say it, but, I tell them it will turn their brains to mush.

And the hardest one of all...I am trying to control my own technology habits.   I am a computer-geek.  I love to research things online and blog too. This one's hard for me - but - every time they come into the room and find me on my computer - I feel my conscience being pricked.

Hey!  Do you have any good ideas for making sure your kids don't spend too much on technology?  Tell me in the comments! I need some fresh ideas!