Saturday, January 31, 2015

Let it go (It's not about that one movie, I swear)

This weekend there is a really cool event going on in down town SLC. It's called Start SLC and it's all about technology and entrepreneurship.

I received an email about it from the online charter the boys use for their curriculum work and saw that there were free classes.

Yesterday Alex chose to attend a class that was intended for adult professionals on the computer program Python. Class started at 9am and went until 12pm. He got up and Travis drove him to it and I picked him up when it was over. He seemed to really enjoy the experience and it definitely gave him some insight in to how intricate and open computer programming can be. He is even more excited about going in to computer science as a profession.

Today is the "Family Day" for the event and this morning there were kids classes. We all slept a little late so the kids missed the class on general programming. When we got up there was time to make it to the class on programming Mods for Minecraft. Alex decided that sleep was more interesting. Cassidy got up and ready to go and Travis dropped him off for the class!

Here's the thing... back when they were in traditional school, none of this would have happened. Alex would have been in school on Friday. Cassidy would have been so burned out from the week of school that there is no way he would want to wake up early to sit through a class on a Saturday.

Most days, now, I let the boys determine the amount of "curriculum" work they do. We're part of a charter school so we are required to send a weekly "Learning Log" that details there academics for the previous week. I tell the boys to work until they feel they've learned something. Some days that takes 15 minutes a subject. Some days it's 45 minutes or longer.

The more I have let go of "control" over their learning the more they have learned.

Let me repeat that a different way:

The less I impose standards and rules on their learning journey the more motivated they are to learn on their own.

It's been a slow process for us because I tend to want to push them towards certain things academically and I've been in "school" mode for almost my entire life. (If you don't drill vocabulary and spelling you'll never learn it! Math facts must be memorized or you will never succeed at life! Not true! Not true! Not true!) I also have a hard time letting them out of my sight.

Alex went to a class by himself for 3 hours on Friday. He had a cell phone for emergencies. He didn't get kidnapped. He had fun and got to stretch his wings.

Cassidy is at a class for an hour by himself as I type this. He has a cell phone for emergencies. He'll be fine. He has always been hesitant to try new things and I am so proud that he wanted to do this on his own.

Handing over the reins of my children's education has been slowly teaching me a huge lesson in trusting my kids.

The more I try to control them the less they take responsibility for their own lives. If I'm making every decision and hovering over every outing, they can easily leave the accountability for the way their life is going with me. I was, after all, the one making all the choices.

More freedom means more accountability. It also means more chances to screw up, but teenagers are humans too and deserve to make their mistakes on their own terms. Hopefully, the way we as parents have lived our lives with them to this point has given them a strong stable base to explore from and come back to when they need a break from their adventures.

The best I can do for my boys now is to be their safe space, their helping hand, their resource librarian, and they can be my guide.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

One Hour Bread Recipe

I've posted about how I make our own bread before. I really like the recipe I use. It makes fabulous toast, yummy sandwiches, and is beyond delicious straight out of the oven with some honey butter spread on it.

If your looking for a fancy artisan bread, look elsewhere. This bread isn't organic, gluten-free, "all-natural", or low calorie. It is fast and easy and tasty.


5 1/4 cups white bread flour
2.5 Tbsp sugar
1.75 tsp salt
1.5 Tbsp (rounded) instant yeast
1.5 Tbsp oil
2 cups warm water (between 100-115 degrees Fahrenheit)

First you're going to mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl.

Next you're going to add the oil and warm water. If you store your flour in the freezer, like I do, make sure your water is closer to 115F than 100F. (I've found that if I just run my tap at full hot for a couple minutes it's the perfect temperature. My water heater is set to 120F but the water always measures 115F when I bother checking it.)

Now you're going to mix it. I start with a rubber spatula but always end up using my hands after its about 3/4 of the way incorporated. You're going to want to mix the dough for about 5 minutes or until all the flour is well mixed. The dough will be pretty sticky. 

(I forgot to take a photo of the dough mixed before kneading it. Fail.)

Now your going to turn out the dough on to an oiled kneading surface. DO NOT flour the dough any further at this point. Knead the dough a couple times until it's nice and smooth. Separate it in to two loaves of whatever shape works for you. I make oval loaves because it's easier for slicing and making sandwiches and toast.

Place loaves on an oiled baking sheet or use parchment like I do. Cover with a clean dish towel and allow to rise for 30 minutes. Heat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit while your loaves rise.

 When the 30 minutes is up oil a sharp knife and cut 3 or so 1/4 inch deep slashes in the dough to give it more room to expand during baking.

Bake the loaves at 350F for about 25 minutes or until nicely golden brown.

Cool on a rack so the bottom doesn't get soggy. As soon as it's cool enough to touch I slice a piece off and slather it with honey butter. DELICIOUS!

I hope you enjoy this simple bread as much as we do!!

Alex's photog skills, card games, and cookies

Some days don't have a lot to photograph. Some days I need to run errands and dither about whether the boys are doing enough curriculum work. Monday was like that. Cleaning, the gym, grocery shopping, school work, board games with Emie, video games, and skype sessions.

When the day finally dwindled out Alex retreated to his room in the basement to read and Cassidy and I sat down to a heated game of Skipbo. The girls watched over the proceedings.

As soon as Travis got home he wanted in on the game. I whomped them the first round and Travis took us out the second. Next time Cassidy and I are going to gang up on him to take him down!!

Tuesday was a zoo outing. The morning was nice and easy as we dressed and packed snacks for the day. Travis baked some of the biscottis he and his mom had made the dough for on Sunday.

We invited some friends from my facebook homeschooling/unschooling groups to join us at the zoo, but as far as we can tell no one made it out. There were hardly any people there so we had a really nice time wandering at our leisure.

Alex wanted to take pictures with my fancy new camera, so he took off on his own. He gave me permission to share my favorites here. I think he did really well!

After we got home, I made our bread for the week, did some laundry. The kids played some games. Emie played with kinetic sand. I made spaghetti for dinner...and a corn dog for Emie.... and chicken nuggets for Dot.... and a giant salad for me... Apparently, I'm trying to earn my "Short Order Cook" merit badge. My dad would be proud.

The Team Fortress 2 action never stops in this house!

Cheese and nuggets and fruit sooth the savage toddler.

Don't you line up and color coordinate your Frozen fruit snacks before consuming them? 
It was a nice couple of days.

Oh, by the way, if you think we did all of this and my house is still clean and my laundry is all done and I have an organized ANYTHING in my house, you're wrong.

My house is a disaster and the laundry to fold has piled up in my room again. My floors need to be cleaned and my kids all need baths. It's about balance and rolling with it and letting things slide because life keeps happening and that's totally okay.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Sushi and Waffles and Gaming, Oh My!

This weekend was quite delightful. As a full time stay at home/homeschooling mom I  don't get a whole lot of "me" time, except for my gym time 3 days a week and grocery shopping. Usually this isn't a big deal for me. I enjoy my time with my kids and our adventures together.

Weekends the boys spend with their paternal grandparents and their dad. (This means that any adventures we take on the weekend when Travis is home the boys miss out on, unless they decide to stay with us. Divorce sucks.) Travis is home and gives me some time off from being the sole care giver for the girls which is so nice. Weekends are time to relax for me and it's oh so nice.

Travis worked ten days straight, from Tuesday the 13th through Thursday the 22nd. By Friday my nerves were frazzled and I needed a moment to breath. I took the kids swimming with our awesome unschooling group, then Travis took Alex to a friends house to teach them how to put together the hardware for a desktop computer. He didn't get home until 7pm. We drove the boys to their grandparents and on the way home we stopped at Crown Burger to get me something to eat because I had forgotten about food since breakfast, which is what I sometimes do when I'm stressed.

When we got to the house the girls were soundly sleeping in their car seats so Travis sent me in the house to eat in peace. I poured a rum and root beer and ate while serfing the internet. It was a delight.

The next morning Travis told me to take a day to myself. His mom (Grandma Debbie) was coming over to start the process of making biscotti and help him with the girls. So, around noon, off I went!

I went and drank coffee and worked on the final touches of the table top role playing game Alex and I had been developing. (More about that in a minute)

When that was finished, I went and bought new smelly things for my van, one of which smelled like a perfume my sister wore in the late 80's or early 90's (think "ex'cla-ma'tion") and now it makes me smile every time I get in the car.

Since I was at the mall I decided to try and find some jeans that fit and a new shirt with a coupon I had for Torrid. I actually succeeded and I didn't even cry while trying on jeans! VICTORY!

After the clothing success, I bought celebratory Orange Julius and pretzel bites!
It was a nice relaxing day and I'm heading in to this week feeling ready for anything!

To top of a wonderful day of relaxation Travis ordered some of my favorite sushi for dinner. We sat at the table and took our time enjoying each roll. Emie ate an entire salmon hand roll and half of a special roll (called a "flower" roll with salmon, tuna, avocado, and carrot) all by herself!

 Sunday morning started with Travis made waffles and some Aladdin on the computer for our viewing pleasure!

At 2pm it was the test run for our table top role playing game. It's based in the world of "The Walking Dead". Even though 1/2 of the people we thought were coming had to cancel last minute (stupid winter illnesses!!!) we had a really great time!

Katherine was the most  energetic of our players, obv.

Cassidy had some trouble with his dice rolling 1's...

Our amazing survivors! Chapstick LaRue, Armless McLego, BluGuy LegoGun, and CoughDrop.

There are definitely a few quirks I need to work out to make combat run more smoothly, but I think it went really well and everyone seemed to have fun!

I definitely feel like this week is starting on a high note!