At Home- New and Old.

  Our move is getting closer- Paul's final day at his job here in TN is February 10th.  So sometime in the week after we will load up a truck and the animals and make our new place a home.

But there is a lot to be done still before we can move. Mostly involving the animals. Slowly we have been making progress on fencing a yard that will initially be home to our 5 goats. 

Sometime between now and March we will fence and build a second shelter for the girls- who we hope are pregnant, but we haven't confirmed it- and their babies to move into.  A larger place in the more permanent pasture with an area for milking.  Scooter, Scout and Thor will stay in this first yard. I am so happy to finally be able to separate them- Bella, and Bertie especially, are huge bullies to the little boys- who are not at all very assertive. So it will be nice for them not to be attacked while they are trying to eat or get treats.

We also have to find a place for the chickens. There is an old coop on the property- which is leaning off it's foundation and has a tree pushing it over as well. Paul, Rylan and Cale are over there today working and on their list is to see what we can do to salvage this building. (So far I think he has managed to jack it up and reset the blocks under it). It will need some work to make it safe against predators, but hopefully it will be sufficient until we get a big barn built and a coop within.

Our main project right now is the shelter for the goats. Our building material of choice are wood pallets we have rounded up from around town and from Paul's work. We started it a couple weeks and Paul and the boys are over today trying to finish. Although it is slow going with only one adult.  The end result will be 10' x 10' and about 8 ft tall.

The weather this winter has been really mild- the boys took a break last week to do some driving practice. Rylan received a set of golf clubs for Christmas (Thanks, Uncle Billy!) and they lined up and hit the many, many golf balls they have found all over the yard. 

 Annika enjoyed 'helping' with the building.

And here at home, we've been slowly getting things packed up. Annika, who always steals crayons, has been coloring on all of the boxes. 

Again, the weather has been really nice...I wouldn't mind at least a little snow, but since the daffodils are about to bloom that might not be a good thing. 

And school...
Chinese New Year writing assignment

and craft...

Today I am home with my 3 littlest. They are enjoying being in charge for once- and enjoying the house of boxes we built in the corner.

linked to the Homestead Barn Hop  and Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways


Beans, Beans are Good For Your Heart....

We've been experimenting a lot lately. With less grains in our diet, less refined sugar, more protein. The kids have actually really surprised me with their willingness to try my creations. This past couple weeks the star ingredient has been beans.

It started when I was searching around for new recipes that were grain-free friendly. I came across Diet, Dessert and Dogs. And while browsing the posts and links and all of that I found a recipe for Chocolate Bean Butter. The day before I had made a bunch of chickpeas for veggie burgers (and no-meatballs) and there was a bunch left. So I decided to try it. I altered the recipe a bit to use what I had on hand, but it was really, really good. The boys had it with peanut butter and waffles for lunch. They begged for more. And I will admit to eating it straight from the bowl as well.

Then last week I made a big batch of navy beans- intending to use them for dinner. Then I got roped into a game of Monopoly- which you know is never quick, even playing with the quick game option. So about 2 hours later when the game was over I realized the beans were way past done, and way past being used as actual beans in any dish. So they went into the refrigerator until I could figure out what to do with them. The next day we had bean-waffles. Basically milk, mashed beans and eggs. It tasted a lot like cornbread actually. Then I added a bit of flour and baking powder and they tasted very similar to my normal waffles. 

Tonight we had muffins. Peanut butter muffins. Which my boys decided to call Bean-nut Butter Muffins...

They turned out really good. I think I actually prefer them to my normal peanut butter muffins and they have a ton of protein in them- which is really good for Cohen- who won't eat eggs, meat, plain beans, etc.

And on to the recipes....

Bean-Nut Butter Muffins

2 cups mashed beans ( I used navy)
4 eggs
1/4 cup honey (more if you like sweeter muffins)
1/4-1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup almond meal (bought, self ground or you can use whatever flour you want)

Mix the first 5 ingredients well. Add the almond meal and baking powder and combine. Pour into muffin tins and bake at 375 for about 15-20 min until a toothpick comes out clean. I used my muffin top pan- which is why they are flat, the ones baked in the standard pan rose just like any other muffin.

And if you want, top it with Chocolate Bean Butter.

Chocolate Bean Butter
2 cups mashed beans (I've used chickpeas and navy- both were good)
5 T cocoa powder
1/4-1/2 cup Maple Syrup (add a little add a time until it is as sweet as you like)
3 T melted coconut oil
optional: 1/4 cup peanut butter
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until very smooth. 

disclaimer: all measurements are approximate. I didn't actually measure anything at all when making these recipes- but based on my experience in eye-balling ingredients these should be pretty close)


The Chaos of Cale

 All of the boys got their own cameras for Christmas. And they absolutely love them. I find it amusing to upload their pictures and find out just want they have been capturing. A lot of them are videos of car rides, dancing sessions or the fish tanks, which are too long to share here. But here a just a couple of Cale's more than 500 pictures...

Some are nice and normal...

Lakin at our new house

The view from the field. 

 The boxer that came to visit us

Lots  and lots of the barnyard-



Lots of Annika

And the kitten

The "snow"


But the majority are more like this one...

I think Cohen is dead here....attacked by Zombies if I remember correctly. Probably 25% of Cale's pictures are of Cohen doing something odd. 

Then there are staged photos like this....
Poor Diego...he looks a little like he's being tortured...

But by far the majority are of this:

This one is tame. I've got all sorts of strange self portraits. Including one of straight down his throat.


The Group Picture Project

This week's art co-op art project:

Each of our 12 kids completed one piece of the picture.

I printed out a picture and cut it into 12 pieces. The kids were each given one square to reproduce onto a larger square and then color however the wished.

Once most were done we started to assemble the pieces.

For a moment they thought it was the USA, but then the butterfly came through.

I thought it was really neat how some of their lines matched up completely, even though each of them drew their lines free hand.

(project idea credit)


Fuzzy, Furry Alpacas


Paul has a couple customers at work who run an alpaca farm and when he expressed interest in the animals they invited us to come and take a look.

We went over this past Sunday to tour their farm and learn more about Alpacas. 

 Aren't they cute!! The animals were very shy, but very curious and followed us up and down the fence rows as we walked. 

A couple were even brave enough to come up and see and smell the boys up close.

The farm was huge- with many more animals then I expected to see. There must have been at least a hundred of them- probably more.


Above are some of the expectant mamas- a couple due any day now. 11 and a half months these mamas have to wait for their babies!

Then we wrangled up some of their show quality babies.

And they showed us how to inspect their fiber for quality. 

And answered any questions we had about care, breeding and fiber harvesting.

And of course all of the boys came home with major alpaca fever. 


The Anxiety Wars

Genetics. It's sort of interesting having kids and watching them grow- you start to see more and more of yourself in them. Sometimes that is a good thing. They share your eyes, your talents, your loves. But then there are those not so good things passed down. It's in their genes. It's like in middle school science class drawing out punnet squares to see what the chance is of having a blue eyed boy as opposed to a brown eyed girl.

I've mentioned a time or 2 about my own struggles as a child and as an adult with anxiety and depression. I have always been a worrier. Struggled to meet new people. Struggled in being the center of attention. Struggled with the unknowns of everyday life. And when I became a mother, I worried. I worried that I would pass on all of this to my children. That they would feel like I did as a kid. That's the job of an anxious person isn't it? To worry?

So I was on the look out for it. Determined to help them fight it. To give it a name for them. To not let them suffer, thinking they were the only ones who ever felt like they do. But then it happened.

It took us all by surprise. Out of nowhere something happened. To cause my anxiety to swell and the anxiety waiting inside one of my boys to pour out. And the thing is, even though I have lived this. I have felt this. I am sort of, some what, most of the time able to contain and control my own anxious brain. I have no clue how to help my child.

This event in his life caused this gate inside him to open. A gate that had previously held back this wealth of worry and distress. I knew it was there in him somewhere, but now all of a sudden it was thrust in all of our faces and we had to sink or swim. And for months we have been trying to stay afloat. And it is getting harder and harder.

I have a child so worried, about everything, that he feels sick near constantly. Then he worries about why he's feeling sick. I have a child who suffers from anxiety attacks that can last hours. Who suffers from insomnia. Who is terrified of the unknowns in life.

And I feel like I can't do anything for him. I talk. I listen. I give advice. Which usually helps for the immediate time- but not long. I am at a loss most of the time for what to do for him, as I see him sink farther and farther. It is so incredibly hard to watch your child in this kind of pain and not be able to do anything to ease it. So I search- for advice from others, available programs, a doctor that may actually help and not ignore the problem- and hope that someday soon we can find a way to help him to learn how to control his anxiety, how to turn and fight his fears instead of letting them win, how to live his life to the fullest without fear.

I went back and forth over whether or not to publish this post. It's a very personal issue, but I also think it is one worth sharing- for all of the people in the world who suffer in silence, who pretend to be fine. And for all other children who feel different, who want their life to go back to normal, who are scared of the world around them. It's important not to feel alone- and know that somewhere out there someone else is going through exactly the same thing as you. It's also important not to bottle things like this inside and allow them to grow and eventually explode in an unhealthy way. And although those who know me and my family personally will know which of my boys I am talking about, I do not plan on disclosing that here.

This post is linked to Things I Can't Say- Pouring Your Heart Out


A Review of K5 Learning

We were given the opportunity to try out the K5 Learning program for 6 weeks. In case you aren't familiar with this program, K5 Learning is an online reading and math program for kids in Kindergarten through 5th grade. Its purpose is to help kids learn math and reading skills as well as build independence in their work. Their program is personalized through assessments, so that your child will be working on their personal level, not just their grade level. Parents can also assign lessons to their child if they feel their child needs extra practice on a certain subject.

Once you've signed up it is easy to set up your account- and I signed up all 4 of my boys, so I could get a good feel for the program at all levels. Assessments are the first step- so that they can tailor the program to the individual child. I requested reading assessments for all the boys and math assessments for Cale and Cohen (Lakin was starting at the beginning and Rylan currently works in a 7th grade curriculum). I found the assessments a good length and all of the boys completed them independently with no help from me. And once they were done I could immediately go in and see the results. As a homeschooler who rarely (or ever) gives tests in subjects is was kind of nice to see where they landed when compared to national standards. The assessment report was broken up into different categories such as phonics, comprehension, sight words and vocabulary and the student was rated exempt or high/low/mid grade level.

The older boys worked for 30 min each day on their K5 Reading lessons. They enjoyed them, they learned a lot and didn't mind doing them (aka no fights about that part of school)- all good signs.  The lessons are short- with many stop or go on points throughout so that you aren't forced to do an really long lesson in one sitting. They are visually appealing but not too distracting and game-like. We used the K5 Math a little less often since I preferred to spend most of their math time with their current curricula, but my youngest learned a lot- ordering and numbers id- the math fact portion was a great help for both my 8 yr old (multiplication) and my 6 yr old ( add and subtract).

Some Good Things:

  • The lessons are taught and not just quizzes. This is very helpful when the topic is something unfamiliar. 
  • Immediate feedback. They know if they got the question right or wrong immediately.
  • The reading assignments are informational and educational too. (This one came from my 10 year old- he liked that he learned other things from the comprehension paragraphs he was reading, not just fluff fiction)
  • Reports for me. I can see exactly where they were having trouble, so that I know where we might need to add a little extra practice in our school day. 
  • The ability to assign. I assigned lessons a couple times- especially with my youngest who needed to start at the very beginning and repeat some lessons.
  •  Independence. I hardly ever needed to help my older boys. And only occasionally with my 4 yr old. So this freed me up to work with other children.
Some Not-So-Good Things: (not bad, just things I noted and some are probably due to personal taste.)
  • Repeating lessons. This happened multiple times with 2 different kids- they had to repeat they lesson they had done last the previous day before they could move on. I am not sure though if this was a glitch in system or something my kids did wrong
  • Slow paced. This is one of those personal taste things, I (my oldest too) found the program a little slow when answering questions- as in it was annoying to us to have to wait and listen to "yes the correct answer is ......." over over.  Maybe we need to be more patient....but I found myself looking for a "skip to the next question" button. This didn't bother my younger kids in the least. 
  • Some of the vocabulary and spelling words were hard to understand. This frustrated my 8 yr old- who was the one testing out this part of the program. Sometimes it was because he was unfamiliar with the word itself, but sometimes I couldn't even figure out what word they said until I had a few letters as a hint. 
 Overall though, I found K5 Learning to be a great addition to our homeschool. It really helped to expose the kids to some of the topics I might have skimped on over the years or that they just needed extra practice and review on. I think it would be a perfect and easy option for reviewing during the summer months.

K5 also offers a free 14 day trial, if you want to try it out for  yourself and see if it is a good fit for your child. And if you are a blogger, you can sign up to write a review of the program and get a 6 wk free trial!