Friday, January 31, 2014

January Update

Wow!  January flew!

Most of my time this month has been centered on school-related activities.  Preschool required a significant amount of prep on the weekends.  I decided not to come up with new lessons, because I didn't have the mental capacity.  However, I had a slightly easier time after knowing what to expect.  Overall, I liked teaching preschool.  The kids are SO cute at that age and say the funniest things!  But I'm ready to hand the reigns over to my co-teacher the remainder of the trimester, so I can focus on lesson plans for my spring Chocolate! class.  That's what I'm calling it: Chocolate!, complete with the exclamation.  =)

I made a start on our co-op's yearbook last weekend, which was a relief.  It's been hanging over my head, even though I've been good about categorizing pictures along the way.  You just don't feel like you've done much until the actual pages are taking shape.

We finished science today, which wasn't a surprise.  It was a very easy curriculum.  I will be replacing it with something else.  I'm having Kylen read through a couple of science textbooks we never got to in grade school, so maybe he can spend more time on that.  Greg is beginning to teach him French.  Algebra has proved more difficult than I imagined.  With Greg and me both having strong math backgrounds, I imagined it would be a breeze.  Nope!  It's definitely challenging, but we're surviving.  I'm just a bit dismayed over how long it takes us to get through the lessons.  Our history read alouds and Latin/Greek roots are coming along at a good pace.  Kylen is doing well in his German co-op class.  His test scores are excellent, and I think if he really applied himself to any language, he would excel in it.

I'm looking forward to February!  Valentine's Day is one of my favorite holidays.  I love the bright colors - red, hot pink, white, lime green . . . thinking about icing, chocolate, strawberries. . . Mmmmm!

Saturday, January 25, 2014


We have several versions of Scrabble - Upwords, Banagrams, Pairsinpears, and Appletters, but we've never owned the original.  Occasionally, Kylen will tell me he'd like to try it sometime just to see what it's like.  I surprised him and ordered one before his birthday.  My first set of tiles had an interesting pattern going until I drew the seventh letter, a "b".  Too bad it wasn't another "o"!

The game took longer than I remembered from when I was a kid, but I'm up for playing again.  Maybe next time we'll try the shorter version suggested in the rules?

Friday, January 24, 2014

Illinois ~ Chicago-Style Pan Pizza

So I always thought pan pizza meant a ton of crust (yuck!).  Turns out it means a ton of toppings!  Greg said this recipe is in his top 10, which as I've stated before, means nothing.  He probably has 50 recipes in his top 10.  ;-)

Chicago-Style Pan Pizza

1 lb loaf frozen bread dough, thawed (or homemade)
Cornmeal (optional - we omitted)
1 lb bulk Italian sausage
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
8 oz sliced fresh mushrooms
1 small onion, chopped
2 tsp olive oil
1 (14 oz) can diced petit tomatoes
3/4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fennel seed (we omitted)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Mix tomatoes with oregano, salt, fennel seed, and garlic powder.  Let sit on the counter an hour to allow flavors to meld.

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9x13.  Dust with cornmeal, if desired.  Press dough into bottom and up sides of baking dish.  Sounds simple, but I worked and worked on stretching it out and still couldn't get it to go very far up the sides.  I finally gave up with a pretty shallow crust and cooked it 15 minutes.  Afterwards, we tried spreading the bread a bit more and pressing it down.  It looked ghastly.  I thought at this point the recipe would be a total flop.  The dough was very uneven and looked way too thick.  Do not despair; it still turned out wonderful.

Meanwhile, crumble sausage into large skillet over med-high heat. Cook and stir until evenly browned. Remove sausage with a slotted spoon, and sprinkle over crust. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over sausage.

Add mushrooms and onion to skillet; cook and stir until onion is tender. Stir in tomato mixture; cook until liquid is reduced quite a bit.  Don't worry about some liquid making the dough soggy.  Layering the ingredients like this will keep that from happening.  Spoon tomato mixture over mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle Parmesan on top.  We used Parmesan that was already grated, although reviewers said it's way better if you grate it yourself.

Bake 20 minutes or until crust is golden brown.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Lava Lamp

Recently while de-cluttering our storage room, I came across a lava lamp that had gotten swallowed by the clutter on a shelf.  I dusted it off, plugged it in, and was delighted to find it in fine working order!  Greg is completely mesmerized.  He keeps his laptop next to the counter where the lamp sits and will occasionally turn to stare at it or watch it during games while waiting for his turn.  I had to get a picture!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Kylen's 14th Birthday

We played laser tag in a big group with family last summer and thought it would be awesome to do that again with families from our co-op.  Much to our delight, Kylen chose to celebrate his 14th birthday at Laser Quest!  Twenty-nine people played, including lots of parents.  We all had a blast, and several friends told us they had no idea laser tag could be so much fun.  :-)

This was the first time since Kylen turned 4 that we had his party someplace other than home.  We began suggesting alternatives long ago, but he just loved having them here!  One more sign our boy is growing up.  While it makes me a little sad, it was nice not having the stress of preparing games, decorating, etc.  We did make cupcakes, which were delicious . . . and laser tag still gave me sore feet . . . but it was a great party!


Killing Time

The Drive Over

Waiting to Play

The Rules

A Blur of Colors

Putting On Packs


For the third game, we had teams.  "The Dudes" - the team with most of the parents - dominated, as you can see from the score below:

Parents scored more than double the points!

Kylen received a lot of cool gifts!  Above, he'd just opened Empire Monopoly.  The pocket knife may have been his favorite.  He began using it right away, walking in the footsteps of his grandpa.  Greg's dad likes to keep a blade handy.  Like him, Kylen used his new knife to slit open envelopes and cut ribbon.  My heart was in my mouth each time - parts flying out and knives getting pushed back in by inexperienced fingers.  I was sure he'd cut himself!  But he didn't!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Indiana ~ Sugar Cream Pie

Now that we've been back at school for a week or two, we've resumed state studies. . . which means new recipes!  Kylen chose the sugar cream pie from Indiana, although the breaded tenderloin looked so good, we might have to make that too.  Still, we're not regretting his decision - it's DELICIOUS!

I'd like to try serving the filling warm, as a pudding.  It's already quick and easy; skipping the crust would save even more time.  This filling on a cold, winter evening would be heavenly.

Sugar Cream Pie

1 (9 inch) pie crust, baked
4 tbsp cornstarch
3/4 cup white sugar
4 tbsp butter, melted
2 1/4 cups half-and-half cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp butter, melted
Ground cinnamon

Mix cornstarch and sugar in small bowl. Add 4 tablespoons butter and half and half to a pan. Stir in the cornstarch/sugar mixture.  Cook over medium heat at first, then crank up to med-high, stirring constantly, until mixture boils and becomes thick and creamy. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.

Preheat oven broiler to high.

Pour mixture into pie crust. Drizzle 2 tablespoons butter over top and sprinkle with cinnamon. (Use a very light sprinkling unless you love cinnamon, as it easily overpowers the taste.)  Put under broiler until butter bubbles--watch it carefully, as it doesn't take long. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

We Got Our Christmas Stuff Put Away!

Sunday, actually - two days ago.  I haven't put up the Valentine theme, so it looks pretty bare in here.

I let Kylen sleep as long as he wanted this morning.  I honestly don't know when was the last time we allowed him to do that, because he would snooze past 1 if we let him.  Sure enough, he got up around 1:20.  There's been bugs flying around, and Greg woke with a sore throat.  Plus, we got up earlier than usual yesterday for the first day back to co-op.  So I figured he could benefit from extra sleep.  Meanwhile, I finished up a photography book for some friends.

I'm teaching a preschool class this trimester.  Ever since I taught it a few years back, I've been telling everyone it's the easiest grade, and people have always been surprised.  Well, it really was the easiest class I ever taught.  Most of the children were calm, great about staying in their seats, and didn't seem to have any expectations of me.  My biggest challenge was a couple of unresponsive children who didn't want their existence acknowledged and one who loved to talk constantly.  And there were a couple who were out of the nursery for the first time and didn't want to leave their mother.  But for the most part, it was a piece of cake!

Throughout the day, several moms expressed their appreciation that I stepped up to fill the sudden and unexpected need for a preschool teacher.  I really didn't think it was all that praiseworthy, being such an easy class.  And besides, I already had lesson plans made from the first time.  Plus, I have a co-teacher who will likely cover the second half of the trimester.  No problem!

Well, I will never look at preschool the same way again.  The class started in a state of total and complete chaos.  Only seven children were there, but we had the full range of personalities.  One of my assistants had to track down two different students at different times who fled the room.  I asked a mom how they usually deal with that, and she said someone stands or sits in front of the door.  We didn't have anyone babysit the door, but I had my chair near it and made several lunges over the course of the class.  There were a couple of students who pouted off and on.  One girl spent a good portion of the hour sucking her thumb and asking to do something else.  I also had a couple of unresponsive students who didn't want to do anything at all.  One actually had her head on the table part of the time and looked miserable.

Thank the Lord, my lesson plans had a couple of very engaging activities, and both my assistants were fantastic.  The 13-year old was wonderful at working with a couple of the girls.  My adult assistant has had prior experience teaching AWANA to the same age group, and I was just amazed by her.  When the class ended and I was out of material, she entertained the children another 15-20 minutes.  I hadn't anticipated needing to extend the last class by that much time.  What a blessing she was!  Wow, God is just so good!!!

I was a bit shell-shocked, but now that I've had some time to think and talk to several people, I may have some insight into why it's different this round.  The biggest reason could be that I am teaching the last hour instead of the first.  By the third hour, this age group is tired.  They've had a busy, fun couple of hours filled with activity and stimulation.  Their concentration is decreased, and since they just came from lunch, those who ate anything with sugar are probably wound up.  Being only three and four years old, some may still be nappers, which could explain why a couple were so unresponsive.  I don't think there is anything I can do to address these differences, but I am still excited about teaching them.  It's just that I will need to rethink my next three lesson plans a bit, perhaps make some changes.  As I've said before, it always amazes me how different every trimester is at co-op, even when there has been little change in the people attending or the age range or the class material.  I think this is a big reason why homeschooling has such huge academic advantages.  It's easier to adjust lesson plans for a small group than for an entire class.  One size simply doesn't fit all!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


I wish everyone a happy and blessed 2014!  =)