Archive for July, 2012

I needed this, so maybe you do, too.

A blogger I follow (Mir over at Would Coulda Shoulda) has a daughter in a teen long term care facility whose personal care products kept getting stolen. After talking with all the pertinent authority figures at the facility, Mir discovered that many of the girls in the ward are given nothing by family members and rely solely on what the hospital has to offer by way of personal hygiene (You know those diaper type pads with the ties from the WAY BACK that tie into paper underwear? Those were just ONE example of what the hospital offered. And NO tampons). So Mir had an idea, why not let the internet help out. So many of her readers had been asking what they could do to help her in this difficult time. Well, here it was. Girls in need. So she opened up a mailbox at a UPS store (who wants to give out their home address to the internet at large?) because they accept UPS package deliveries and sent out the word via her blog. The following is the result. It’s amazing!

ps. I posted this on Facebook already, but not everyone who reads my blog is my “friend” on Facebook and vice versa. Also, I just wanted to say that I cannot stop laughing and crying about how amazing the response to this has been. I love how selfless this act is and how much good it’s going to do. I do so hope that this little gesture, that has grown so big, can in some way impart how even strangers can care for one another and help in the healing of some of these girls.



I read. Most people who know me know this fundamental fact. My favorite kinds of books are pretty frivolous. I like high fantasy. I like romances. I like paranormal just about anything so long as it’s well written. I like novels of the just plain ‘ole variety. I really prefer books that are tomes of monstrousness with epic prose and lots of detail. I like books written with amazing collections of words. I like to read books that I consume and wish I could have written that.

I have a few most favoritest authors. Topping my top 5 is Joshilyn Jackson. She doesn’t write romances or fantasy. Her books are not long, but they are thick with amazing imagery and layered with meaning and general awesomeness. Well, a good friend of hers wrote a book and I’m all over this thing.

See, Joshilyn Jackson isn’t only good with words. She is good at reading them for her audio books and she had performed the reading of her friend, Lydia Netzer’s, Shine Shine Shine. I’ve said it before, but I’ll reiterate. Joshilyn Jackson could read the phone book and it would be the most amazing thing you’d ever put in your ears. That is no lie.

So. Shine Shine Shine. It’s about love and family, what it means to be human, and about murder and robots. You should read it. In an interview Ms. Netzer was asked who she imagines reading this book. Her response was:

“[…]I imagine a mom reading this book in a stolen hour while she’s waiting for the kids at karate class. Maybe she’s sitting in her car with the book in her lap, feeling like crap because she forgot to pack a healthy snack for dance camp and had to buy a Lunchable instead, or because the dog barfed on the baseball pants and possible she’s the only one that can see the outline of the barf stain but she knows it’s there.

At some point in reading SHINE SHINE SHINE I hope she closes the book for a minute and says to herself, You know what, forget this elusive “Perfect Mom” measuring stick, and forget this comparing myself to everyone else. I’m a kick-ass mom, I own this job, and my kids are awesome.

I imagine a man reading this book on some high-tech device, who could get some satisfaction and encouragement from the fact that other people see human relationships as engineering problems, and don’t cry when people die, and count simple declarative sentences as poetry, and memorize what to say to their children.
I’d like that man to know that a scripted response counts as heartfelt, and that you can be a great dad and husband and still never really know what to say, or how to say it. I don’t know if this book will ever find that guy, but maybe it’ll find someone who knows him.” (you can find the interview here.)

Pretty powerful, I say. If you’d like to know more about the author go to Lydia’s blog. She wrote an insanely good post about marriage that I think everyone should check out. Now. Don’t you wanna read her book?

You may not know this about me, but I like to cook. I’m actually, pretty good, too.

A few years ago, I decided to start making mac-n-cheese from scratch. I found a couple of really good recipes and worked it until I’d made a dish of cheesy mac with which I was happy. I started with this recipe from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food. The adults loved it, but the kids wouldn’t touch it with their eating utensils. (They wanted the fake-y orange of blue box Kraft).

Well, you see, white cheeses melt smoother than the yellow ones, so I wasn’t about to compromise on the color, but what I did do was halve the amount of white cheddar and make up the difference with white American. HOOO-BOY! It’s so good!

But it is very labor intensive. Bring milk to a boil. That, in and of itself, takes time because too high a temperature, and you scorch the milk. Once it’s boiling, you add the cream cheese that has been cut up into little cubes (cutting cream cheese is no picnic, folks). Freeze it a little you say? Well, you really want it almost room temp so that you don’t lose the boil on your milk too much. Oh, and about that, you add the cream cheese a little at a time until it’s fully melted and then add more to, you guessed it, avoid lowering the temp of the milk too much.

Once all the cream cheese is incorporated, you add the grated cheddar/american, again, a little at a time to preserve that milk temp. This takes a little longer. All the while you must be stir-stir-stirring! Once the cheese sauce is done, you stir in the already cooked noodles before dumping the entire concoction into a casserole dish and put it in the oven for 25 minutes. Then, adding the buttered breadcrumbs before cooking it five minutes more (or however long it takes to brown the crumbs).

Most Delicious!

Well, it’s a lot, and it makes big dinners like Thanksgiving and Christmas veritable scheduling nightmares. BUT about a year ago, maybe less, a recipe came into my possession for crockpot cheesy mac. I studied the recipe and decided to go for it. I began substituting my own ingredients for the ones on this new, anonymous recipe. And VOILA!

Now, the very involved mac-n-cheese is prettier, but this is JUST THE SAME taste wise. I can’t believe how great it is with so much less effort.

You should try it.


You’ll thank me.

Here it is, my recipe:

T’s Cheesy Mac

Either spray the inside of your crockpot with non-stick spray, butter it, or line it with a crockpot liner. Then mix in your crockpot–

>> One can Evaporated Milk (12 oz)

>> 2 large eggs (beaten)

>> 1.5 cups whole milk

>> 1/4 cup butter (melted)

>> 8 oz cream cheese (pinched up)

>> 8 oz white cheddar cheese (grated)

>> 8 oz white american cheese (grated)

>> 8 0z elbow macaroni (uncooked)

>> 1 tsp salt

>> dash of pepper

Cook on low for 2 hours and 45 minutes. I recommend stirring every 20 minutes or so, to keep the noodles from burning to the side. Yes, this has happened to me. Test a noodle at the end of the time and add 15 minutes if they aren’t quite done (mainly because slow cookers vary).

And there you have it! Super easy. Super tasty. Let me know if you make it. Let me know how you like it.

**Update** Please see comments where I talk about my experience with this curricula.

Original Post, April 2, 2012:

I’m preparing to teach a Kindergartener. I was completely freaked about it. Teach my kids about molecules? No problem. I’d rather dive headfirst into teaching them Calculus than be responsible for teaching them the foundation on which all their subsequent learning will be based. YIKES!

So like any good completely freaked out nerd, I did research. I bought books and read stuff on the internet and I went to my local homeschool store and talked to the professionals (Have I mentioned that I LOVE that place? The Homeschool Gathering Place is the best. They sell new and used (on consignment) curricula and the people who work there are knowledgable homeschoolers or previous homeschoolers. I LOVE THEM!). *ahem* Through various tips and suggestions, I decided to try out a new spelling curriculum, a new reading curriculum, and a new math curriculum. I’m sticking with the grammar, handwriting, history, and science curricula that I’m already using with the older kids.

Beginning with Reading/Spelling (I’ll talk about the new math curriculum another time)–

While the two are not the same, they are related. As you probably are already aware, reading has been something of a problem with Pynni since Kindergarten and we had to backtrack and start all the way over earlier in the year. It has taken me a while to get passed her aversion to even try to read and get her on to the learning part. I don’t want to unintentionally visit any of those issues on Pieces, so I decided that I needed a more comprehensive solution to teaching reading/spelling than what I’ve been doing with Pynni (and, yes, I’m going to use the new curriculum with her).

All About Spelling

Meet All About Learning Press. They make All About Spelling and All About Reading. Their motto is “programs that teach thoroughly so your child can succeed amazingly”. It is a lightly scripted curriculum, which we’ve had success with so far in our schooling endeavors, and is intended to be used in 15 minute increments in the beginning so that the child does not lose focus or get frustrated. It uses a multi-sensory approach to teaching in order to teach children the way they learn most naturally: using sight, sound, and touch. The program uses memorization and repetition in an engaging way in order to permanently create those pathways in the brain that will help your child be a lifelong reader and an excellent speller.

I decided to use the All About Spelling with Chi. He’s a very advanced reader, but spelling is not one of his strong suits. So I’m starting him at the beginning, and since this curriculum is designed to be taught in whatever size chunks your child needs, Chi will speed through the early stuff while still learning the things he needs to know in the more advanced levels. Chi was insulted when we started the first lesson and it was just flashcards and phonograms, but he didn’t know all the sounds vowels can make and learned something new. Pynni was, also, insulted with the content of the first lessons (she’s doing both reading and spelling) and that made her mulish. We persevered, but the fact that she didn’t know all of the phonograms was hard to take. I told her that Chi missed the same ones she did and that it wasn’t bad to not know something because that gives us new things to learn, and learn them we shall. She perked up at that. Pieces took to the lessons right away and enjoyed himself.

Huh, I guess I started teaching Kindergarten today. Not so scary after all.

That’s right, I mean YOU, Lowe’s.

I was on a quest. I needed a meter stick. You failed me on many levels, not the least of which was NOT KNOWING WHAT A METER STICK WAS. Yeah, failure should be your middle name.

I am not crazy (okay, maybe a little). I bought a meter stick from Amazon. (Thank you, Amazon!) So I did, in fact, know what I was talking about.

It’s THIS much longer.

See? A meter stick is a little longer than a yard.

This child moves a lot.

See also, that my five year old son is small. Cute, too. Oh, and the picture? It’s blurry because when standing still Pieces flashes fakey smiles.

For your information:

A meter is 100 centimeters. An inch is 2.54 centimeters. There are twelve inches in a foot and three feet in a yard.

3 ft*12 inches= 36 inches

36 inches*2.54 = 91.44 cm

100 cm-91.44cm = 8.56 cm

8.56 cm/2.54 = 3.370 inches

THAT is how much longer.

Piece of Cake

Done and done. We have officially finished our first year here at Lamp Post Academy. I’ve posted about the things I’ve learned and about some of the ups and downs we’ve had this year. I think, all in all, it was a great success!

Except for one thing. In North Carolina, I am required to test my kids with a standardized test at the end of every calendar year (for us that would be in August). I am not required by law to report the results, just keep them on hand in case I get audited. I have been dreading this. Mostly because I didn’t teach to the test. I hit the reset button on a lot of things for my kids this year, and while they are ahead in a few areas, they are a little behind in others. No worries, we are closing the gap rapidly, but I didn’t want to do any damage to my kids’ self-esteem if the tests were too hard.

Well, we finished those tests today, and they passed with flying colors. I know they did because I went back over the tests and checked. Heh.

So now, onward with the next school year. That one will start on July 18 after our trip to San Antonio to attend the annual Jackson Family Reunion. YAY!