Reusable Sandwich Bags

I pack lunches for our whole family twice a week. The kids also get a morning snack and an afternoon snack. I quickly discovered how many ziplock baggies we used in one day… enough to choke a whale.

I was putting their sandwiches in plastic tupperware-type containers, but I also discovered that these took up a lot of room in their lunch boxes.

I also like our earth and would like to do my small part in conserving its resources. Obviously when it is somewhat convenient to me, but nonetheless.

So while the kids ate their lunch today I sewed up some reusable sandwich baggies. With the leftover fabric I made smaller baggies for crackers and such. I don’t expect these will last too terribly long. I didn’t put much effort into making them sturdy and Sam-proof. They are far from perfect, but since I had the fabric and other materials, I figured it was worth it.

I cut up some large ziplock bags and lined the fabric. I folded and sewed the sides, added a velcro closure, reinforced with some hot glue, and that’s it! I had to add some cuteness to Antonella’s, and I did have to convince the boys that theirs was a jungle print, not flowers.

The fabric I used for the boys’ baggies is a thin flannel that I think will hold up better. I hope to be able to wipe these clean most of the time, and rinse them out when I need to.

I would like to make baggies for their snacks as well to differentiate between the AM and PM snack easily, so I will report back when I get around to those! Maybe I’ll use a pattern and zippers and hidden seams… Nah, it has to be done before the kids finish eating!

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A Little Timer And A Lot Of Patience

With the first week of school under our belt, I thought I’d share the schedule we are trying to implement this year. Although it is probably still too early to tell, the schedule worked great for us this past week. It is very similar to what we did last year, except this year the older boys have assignments to fulfill.

Because we have to be out the door so early to make it to school on time on Mondays and Wednesdays, I do not make my kids wake up at a certain time on our home days. Once every one is up, we head downstairs and have breakfast as a family. We are so blessed this year to have Neil at home during breakfast, and after eating he leads the kids in our family devotional: scripture memorization, catechism, singing and prayer.

The kids clear the table and go do their chores while I clean up and begin to get their work ready. After they are dressed, I set the timer for 15 minutes and they have their quiet times. During this time they have to stay in their room and read, listen to music or play an instrument. The 2 year old goes in his crib with books. When the timer goes off, we meet in the school room to begin our studies!

Antonella’s Creation Book

This simple daily routine has brought so much peace to our home. It provides a little bit of time for me to get organized for the day, gives the kids age-appropriate responsibilities to help out around the house, and their time alone really sets the tone for the day.

The Pre-K class is using the FIve In A Row curriculum, so we begin our school day with the book of the week. I highly recommend this curriculum for toddlers and up. I cannot say enough how much our entire family has enjoyed it. This is our third year using it and the activities are always engaging and educational. I will try to highlight some of the curriculum we are using throughout the year, but if you have young kids, even if you do not want to homeschool, this is a great way to get through children’s literature.

Each of our kids is in a different level of Saxon Math, so after Five In A Row we begin our Math Meeting. We do the calendar, weather and counting together, and then each of the kids completes their level activities. At this point, Antonella begins her independent work while I bounce between the boys, teaching their math lessons and assigning activities. We usually save the hands-on, crafty activities for the end of the morning.

Another rice activity- using self control to pour!

Use your pinchers to pick up any grains you dropped- fine motor skills!

Along with math, the boys complete handwriting practice, spelling, and reading. We have started the year with pretty basic assignments, laying the foundation to build upon the rest of the year. Antonella is able to do her handwriting and reading while I teach the boys.

After lunch and the boys are in bed, I have time to teach Antonella her math lesson and also complete the other subjects. We are usually done before the boys wake up from their naps, and we have a little bit of time to rest, get some things done around the house, or get dinner started.

Although the assignments will increase and require more time as the year goes on, I am hoping this schedule will serve to allow me some individual time with each of the kids. I am sure you are wondering what August is doing this entire time… He has special toys that he is only allowed to play with during school, Antonella plays with him part of the time, and he generally floats around and I throw things at him to entertain him. He can also participate in a two-year-old version of most of the activities that the older kids do.

Hmmm…

Our mornings are a mixture of peaceful learning and loud controlled chaos. From day one we have started to work on patience. Each of them at some point or another has to wait for me to finish up with a sibling and continue their lesson. Each of them hears “Just a minute!” several times a day and each of them has to figure some things out on their own. But in the midst of the questions, the flying erasers and the fights over the pencil sharpener, they are learning so much more than their textbooks teach them.  I believe that in this environment they will thrive and learn and worship, and it is my joy to be a part of it.

Classical, University Model

Our family is a part of a Classical, University Model School. I will briefly explain what this means, but  the journey that led us here is another story of God’s provision and faithfulness. He has allowed not only the convictions but also the desires of our hearts to be realized for educating our children.

Uniforms ready!

Our oldest three kids will start school Monday! Going to a University Model School means that they go to class on campus on Mondays and Wednesdays. Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays they are at home with me. Parents are considered co-teachers, so I will teach lessons, perform experiments, grade papers, and administer tests on the days they are at home. University Model Schooling combines the best of a private, Christian school with homeschooling. Parents are the ultimate authority in the child’s life and the school exists to serve the family in the academic disciplines.

Books ready!

Pretty soon after we began researching education for our oldest daughter, we discovered the ancient, classical way of teaching children.  The classical education method is based on the Trivium, using different emphasis on teaching methods that correlate with the child’s developmental phase. The content is rich in literature and history, with the goal of integrating all subjects and equipping students with the tools of learning. The quote on the back of their field trip t-shirts says, “Non shcolae sed vitea discimus.” We learn not for school, but for life. Classical education, for us, has been the means of teaching our children knowledge that we hope, leads to wisdom.

Much has been written about both these distinctive aspects of education that we have grown to treasure for our family. What we treasure the most, however, is the third priority that our school upholds, and that is to be Christ-centered. We are excited about the school year, and I will continue to share this week the practical ways we will go about homeschooling one child in Pre-K, one in Kindergarden, and one in Second grade. And one in the School of Demolition.

Nursing Back to Health

I woke up with a sore throat this morning, and after trying to ignore it the first half of the day, by lunch I was feverish and fatigued. I diagnosed myself with strep and climbed in bed. Neil, who worked from home all day, was gone when dinner time rolled around. I sluggishly went downstairs to get dinner started.

Antonella stops me and says she would make dinner. I pause… I tell her not to use anything made of glass and head back to bed. She quickly delegates tasks as I walk up  the stairs; August to his chair with some crackers, Jeremiah to help with sandwiches, and Sam to get drinks for everyone. Just like I would do.

I slowly shut the door behind me and decide that I feel well enough to sprint downstairs in case of an emergency. It seems strangely quiet and I am tempted to sneak a peek. But I rest… and moments later I get the report. She leans on my door and calmly recounts. Peanut butter and jelly for three, turkey for one. Crackers and carrots on the side. No spills. And for dessert, ginger snap sandwiches filled with whipped cream and mini chocolate chips, an original creation.

Before shutting the door again she asks, “Can I get you some buttered toast?”

My mind races back to our first winter together in our basement apartment. Snow piled up all around us and she wore a pink snowsuit to sleep. Teeth clenched in never before felt pain, I was committed to nurse the chubby girl. She needed me. Tonight, I need her.

Wonder and fear, the good kind of fear, fill my heart as she runs off to play pirates with her brothers. What a gift, what responsibility. What sobering joy–the kind that fills you and empties you of all power at the same time.

This article helped me so much tonight. For a seven year old, I think she rides with grace.

Staycation

Vacation. We had grand plans. We made reservations. We had visions of relaxing poolside and long afternoon naps… And then we remembered we have four kids. Going anywhere with our crew is a lot of work. Trips are always fun and provide for quality family time, but I wouldn’t necessarily call them relaxing. And after a long summer filled with changes, work, and activities, we needed to take a breath and relax. So we headed to my parents’ house!

The lake, the pool, the playground, and the trail combined with the extra help with the kids and meals made for a very relaxing and peaceful week.  We spent most of our time in the pool, and I unfortunately did not snap any pictures of our little fish! We also found some fun things to do locally that the kids hadn’t done before…

We went bowling in the middle of the day to escape the heat. The place was empty so the kids got to explore a bit. We saw a lot of this:

It was really a lesson in patience as we, kids included, waited… and waited… and waited for the balls to make it down the alley. They got the hang of it though, and by the end of our time there August was the only one laying down for nap while his ball made it to the pins.

We also visited the Railroad Museum. All my boys have been obsessed with trains at one point or another, and this seemed to spark it all back to life.

They climbed antique engines, waved tearful pretend good-byes from the back of a caboose, and were all together enthralled by the size and detail of the machines. There were buttons to push, doors to slide open, and crazy phones with wires attached to call home with.

There is something magical about trains, and I wish they were really running to catch this one…

After the museum we had lunch on The Strand and visited an old candy factory. Another magical place. Maybe just for me…

We wrapped up the day with a visit to the army surplus store. The kids had a blast rummaging through everything, I was afraid I would lose one of them in the piles and piles of camoflouge and tin. As souvenirs, our girl picked out a pin with a sword on it, “to represent the Spirit.” The boys picked out bullets the size of bananas. No spiritual significance.

The weekend consisted of extended family fun. My niece turned one, but that’s another post!

Not very exciting to some, but for us, it was a perfect week of relaxation.

Gracias Mama y Papa!

Smile

We are on vacation this week and my camera battery died. I will post a recap in the next few days, but until then I thought maybe Sam, our four year old,  would entertain you… He is our quietest child–in our family that means that he stops to take a breath between sentences. It seems like lately everything that comes out of his mouth cracks us up.

Coming from the playroom yesterday morning, “Augie you are a bad boy! Bad bad bad bad! B-O-C- bad!”

In a hurry, entering a public restroom, “Um, mama, you have a magazine I can read?”

At a restaurant for lunch, “Jeremiah, you have cheeseburgeritis.”

In the car, “Your birthday money is no match for my birthday money!”

In the pool, “Dad, if you had a mohawk and it was on fire, it would be called a fire hawk.”

Sam: “I am not going to get married.”

Me, teasing: “What about Meredith (new little friend)?”

Sam: “What’s a meredith?”

At Mamu’s house, “I can’t share with you Elijah, I only have two!”

Of course these are much more funny to us because we know him, and we know that he never really tries to be funny. It’s been a joy to watch this guy grow into his personality.

And this guy makes us laugh sometimes too.

The second at six

his request- chocolate soccer ball cake

Dear Jeremiah,

Ever since you started to talk, you have asked a lot of questions. Any one who knows you and is reading this is smiling and nodding. “Why?” was the first, but it has not worn off as it does with most children. You were offended a few years back when some one tried to stop the flow of questions by saying, “You’re just a curious little boy, aren’t you?” I had to explain that curious means, for our purposes, smart.

You ask because you really want to know. You want to know how things are made: how the steering wheel turns the tires, how a camera captures a picture, how a battery provides power. And you really want to know why: why mommy drinks coffee, why your skin burns in the sun, and why it is so hard to stop sucking your thumb.

We have learned to give you the most honest, thorough answers to your inquires because more questions are sure to follow. And I have to confess that every once in a while I answer, “My brain is really tired of thinking up all these answers. Can we rest?”

Your questions are often a glimpse into your heart. It is a privilege to be part of the conversation, the process that goes on in your soul as you work through things. And so many times after long discussions, drawn diagrams, and google searches, whatever the answer is usually points to the Final Answer.

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever.

As you begin this new year, our prayer is that your questions will continue. That we will continue to have the honor of being viewed, in your eyes, as ones who know the truth. And that your heart will become more and more accustomed to trust, and find peace, in the Keeper of All Secrets.

Happy birthday, Jeremiah James!

The Fourth at Two

Augustine turned two last week. I wanted to share some pictures from the last year to celebrate, knowing that these pictures cannot show the joy that this boy has brought to our lives.

Shopping in pajamas

Last summer

One year ago- tasting his first cake!

18 months- grew some wings

August,

We are constantly amazed at how awesome you are. You are always happy, always peaceful. You have acquired quite a vocabulary thanks to your older siblings, and love to “whisper” secrets. You love to play with trains, you love to play with your brothers and sister, and you love to be outside. You are very friendly, even to strangers. You say “thank you” for everything that is given to you. You love to sing, especially the Doxology before meals. You have “memorized” quite a bit of scripture, again thanks to your older siblings. You love to laugh and make us laugh.

You love to eat and take your time doing so. Long after your siblings have cleaned up and gone to play, you sit at the table, eating while I wash the dishes. Maybe you like to eat slow. Maybe you like to keep me company. Maybe you realize there are few moments in the day to have mama all to yourself.

You love to give hugs and have recently figured out that everybody else gets to stay up and read at night so you are working hard at sitting and listening so you can stay up too! At bedtime, when I tell you, “Most of all, Jesus loves you!” your response is always, “Thank you, Mama.”

Auggie, this is just a list of the things you are up to at two years old so that some day we can look back and remember more clearly. Just like these pictures cannot capture the joy you’ve brought to our family, words cannot describe how thankful we are for you. You are a child of the living God, bought with a price and rescued for eternity. His joy is what shines through you, His joy is what makes people stop and talk to you, and His joy is the reason you exist.  Our prayer is that you will know that joy more and more each day, and count everything else loss in comparison.

Happy Birthday, Augustine John!

(Note: the first, sixth and seventh pictures–the good ones–were taken by my best friend, Jenny.)