Sunday, January 29, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 1/6/17

Jake (10½), Alyssa (8½), Zac (7), Tyler (4½), Nicholas (2)

This week, I took Jake out for his special day, we celebrated the New Year with family, and we tried to reclaim some order after the craziness of the holidays. 

1. Tyler, pretending to cook in the bathtub: ". . . You put it in the oven for 100 seconds. Then you put it on the table, because it's hot. When all the hot gets out, it's warm. Then you eat it!" 

2. Tyler: "My heart is beeping fast." 


4. Me, sternly: "Zachary Allen Leaf."
Zac, excited: "That was the first time you've ever said my whole name when I was in trouble! Yessss!"

5. Alyssa: "Aw, it's like Nicky is a little human . . . well, that came out wrong." 

6. Zac: "I've heard before that a rooster makes half the egg and a hen makes the other half. That's weird."

7. Me: "Look. They already have valentine's stuff out."
Jake: "These stores jump through holidays too quickly." 

8.  Jake saved up his money to buy the LEGO Star Wars Millennium Falcon.

9. Nicholas was playing in a kitchen drawer and found our ice cream scooper. He immediately got excited and said, "Papa. Papa. Papa," because my dad gives the kids ice cream every Friday night.

10. Jake: "I write better than her."
Me: "I write better than she."
Jake, disgusted: "Better than she?"
Me: "Yes, because you're actually saying, 'I write better than she writes.'"
Jake: "Oh. That's where I draw the grammar line." 

What made you Smile this week?
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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Kids Cook: Cocktail Meatballs

It's been forever since I've posted a recipe. I told Leighton I wanted to get back to posting one every Tuesday, like before (like a long, looong time ago before). That was months ago and I have yet to get back to posting recipes. 

Until today, that is.

Since the kiddos are taking turns cooking on Mondays now, I thought it would be fun to show off some of their yummy creations. Plus, it will get me back to posting recipes. It's a win-win! 

The oldest 2 kids cooked the first 2 weeks of the year and each did a fantastic job. Jake's main dish was Chinese chicken (along with rice, veggies, and buttermilk biscuits), and Alyssa made chili and cornbread. They each made a dessert, too, because when you get to pick the meal, you gotta add dessert!

This week was Zac's turn. He was a bit apprehensive to be the one in charge of the meal at only 7 years old, but got excited as soon as he started flipping through the recipes. For now, the kids are using the Gooseberry Patch 5-Ingredient Family Favorites cookbook since all the recipes are fairly easy and use 5 or fewer ingredients, making it the perfect option for them. 

Almost immediately, Zac said, "This one! I want to make this." It was a sweet & sour meatball appetizer. Why not? If other variations of meatballs can be the main dish, then by all means, so could these. I read over the ingredient list and realized that it was similar to one of my all-time favorite party foods. I grew up loving these tangy little balls and even asked my mom to make them for a Christmas get-together just a few weeks ago. Surprisingly, none of the kids had tried them that day. (I'm pretty sure they were too distracted by the chocolate fountain and all the yummy goodies they could dip in it, ha.) Zac determined that he wanted to try my beloved recipe instead of the one in the book.  

You need only 2 ingredients to make the sauce: chili sauce and grape jelly. If only you could have seen the look on the kids' faces when I told them! It seems like an odd combination, but it's so good. Most of the time I make my own meatballs, but since Zac was the cook, we used a bag of frozen, pre-made ones. You can use thawed or frozen, homemade or store-bought. No matter what, they are delicious. 

Zac did a great job making the sauce and was thrilled that you toss everything in the crockpot to thicken and coat. The hardest part was waiting for dinner! 

He also served mashed potatoes (received a lot of help with this) and roasted brussels sprouts (his absolute favorite vegetable). Dinner was delicious, but more important than that, his confidence in the kitchen multiplied. 

Yes, I loved his meatballs, but even more than that, I loved seeing the smile on his face when his older siblings told him what a great job he did. 

Cocktail Meatballs 
12 oz. jar chili sauce
16 oz. jar grape jelly
2 lbs. meatballs, cooked

Pour chili sauce and grape jelly in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until warm and thoroughly combined, whisking occasionally. Place meatballs in a crockpot and pour the sauce mixture on top. Cover and cook until heated through (high 2 hours - low 6 hours, approximately).

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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 12/23/16

Jake (10½), Alyssa (8½), Zac (7), Tyler (4½), Nicholas (2)

This week, my mom and I had our annual Christmas cookies baking day, the kids had their Christmas program at church, and we continued with the festivities of the season. It's such a busy time, but filled with many Smiles and memories. 
1. Alyssa: "Oh, you're painting a Christmas tree. Forgot."
Tyler: "You're painting a Christmas tree for God?" 

2. Last year, Zac was too nervous to even participate in the children's program at church and instead sat with me in the pew and watched. This year, he sang a solo. He was still nervous and wanted to change his mind right before it started. We talked about how being courageous means doing something even when you're scared. I wasn't sure if he'd sing, but when the time came, he stood tall and sang out.

3. Zac, getting ready to start a new chapter book: "I can't wait to finish this book! It's probably going to be today. Then I get to read the next one!"

4. Me: "Hey, we still need to read How the Grinch Stole Christmas."
Alyssa: "Dad does."
Me: "Oh, wow, thanks."
Jake: "It's not that we don't like you. We just like Dad better."  

5. "Where do you think the Tooth Fairy gets the money from? Do you think she has a day job?"

6. Nicholas making sure he was ready for church.

7.  Zac: "Can I have it next?"
Alyssa: "What's the magic word to get what you want?"
Zac: "Grandma."
8. Jake: "Mom, if you're not supposed to commit adultery, does that mean you're not supposed to turn into an adult?"

What made you Smile this week?
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Friday, January 13, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 12/16/16

Jake (11), Alyssa (8½), Zac (7), Tyler (4½), Nicholas (2)

Happy Friday! This week we decorated the house for Christmas, the kids painting new ornaments, Leighton and I went on a date to the Zoo Lights, and the whole family made and decorated sugar cookies. And Nicholas turned 2! Lots of memories; lots of Smiles.  

1. Alyssa: "The best smells in the whole world come from our kitchen."

2. Jake: "Mom, do you think we could get shipwrecked on an island that has parrots? Then we could get one for free."


4. Alyssa: "This is the worst Boxcar Children book in the world! People destroyed the library! They tore pages out of books and threw the books on the floor. How could anyone do that to books?" 

5. Alyssa, sweetly: "Aw, Nicky has such kind, little eyes."

6. Zac: "Christmas is about one present: Jesus."

7. Tyler: "You're making eggs for Nicky? Aw, that's so nice of you."


9. Jake: "Do we have any bread."
Me: "No, it's all gone."
Jake: "Are we exceedingly poor?"
Me: "Exceedingly poor? No, we're just out of bread."

What made you Smile this week?

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Sunday, January 8, 2017

Word of the Year: 2017

A new year is a good time for reflection and to reevaluate priorities. For the past couple years, I've chosen a single word to focus on the entire year. Instead of resolutions, this Word of the Year is a reminder to me of what is needed most--in my life, in my home, in my family. 

2015 was purge. I worked on purging our house of unnecessary things. I was tired of spending my days organizing and maintaining and just wanted less stuff. Clutter is stressful to me and I needed less of it around. It so happened that my sweet friend Michele from Family, Faith, and Fridays hosted a 34 Weeks of Clean challenge during that time. It was fun cleaning, organizing, and purging with friends, even if they were hundreds of miles away, ha. We shared each other's misery as bigger messes were made (it always gets worse before it gets better, right?) and shared in the joy of completed tasks, as well. (She's getting ready to revisit the series again, starting this week. Join us! It's been two years and I'm in need of purging again. And it's always more fun with a friend.)    

I didn't write a post for 2016, but my word was praise. I wanted my focus last year to be thanking God for our numerous blessings. Instead of getting frustrated with the constant laundry, praise God we have clothes. Instead of getting annoyed with the mess (because I couldn't bring myself to purge absolutely everything, ha), praise God the kids have toys. Instead of getting overwhelmed with responsibility, praise God we have the opportunity to homeschool. Instead of being bothered that my husband has to work so much, praise God he has a job that provides our needs (and so many wants). I've always believed that your attitude--not your circumstances--determines your happiness. Praise God.  

What is my word for 2017?


That may seem like an odd choice for a homeschooler. I mean, isn't that my main job already, especially with a house full of littles?

teach, verb:
  1. to cause to know something
  2. to cause to know how
  3. to accustom to some custom or attitude
  4. to cause to know the disagreeable consequences of some action

For more than 2 years now, my life has been more about surviving, than thriving. Sure, there have been periods of time where I felt accomplished, but over all, things have changed. It started with a difficult pregnancy and continued with a baby who never wants to sleep. Getting only a few hours of broken sleep every night for years will take its toll on your body. And living in a constant state of exhaustion will hinder what you can fulfill. The kids and I rarely did projects, crafts, science experiments, and games because once I'd finally get the baby to nap a little, I utilized that time to catch up on housework that couldn't be done while he was awake. I read the kids only a few lengthy chapter books like biographies and classics, because once I'd sit on the couch and stop moving, it was nearly impossible for me to stay awake. I rarely asked the kids to help me in the kitchen, because it is so much faster (and easier and less messy) to cook by myself--even with a baby on one hip or hanging on my legs--than it is to walk little ones through the process step-by-step.

I'm not saying that we stopped those things, but instead of weekly and even daily occurrences, they became every-now-and-then events.

And I've felt guilty. 
2017 will be spent getting back to those things that have been overlooked and set aside. I always said that homeschooling is a way of life for us. It's not just doing schoolwork during certain times of the day (though we do that, too), but incorporating learning activities into every area of life.


1. To cause to know something: As a homeschool mom, the complete education of my children is my responsibility. Lately, I've found myself relying more and more on workbooks and textbooks. It's much easier for me to hand each individual child his papers for the day, than to make time to sit with them all and learn together as a family. A boxed curriculum is a great choice for many families, but it has never been our main style of learning. It fit a need for a period, but now it's time to get back to our tailor-made education. This year we will teach using unit studies and living book read-alouds. Learning together and immersing ourselves in a topic will replace sitting at the table and filling out worksheets.

2. To cause to know how: I've always been a firm believer in teaching kids how to do things at a young age. Life skills is an important part of our schooling, and working in the kitchen is near the top of the list. The older children can follow a recipe and cook and bake without my help. In fact, Jake was only 6-years-old when he invented his own cake recipe completely by himself. As I said though, the kids are helping in the kitchen less and less. 2017 will change that. Every Monday, a child will be responsible for dinner--choosing the menu, gathering the ingredients, prepping the food, and preparing the meal. I will be there to teach new kitchen skills and help them improve their abilities.

3. To accustom to some custom or attitude: Children are messy by nature. (Shocking, I know.) And they don't naturally want to clean up and do chores. I do have one that is really great about cleaning up after himself most of the time, but the others are perfectly fine waiting until Mom makes them do it. Cleaning up after yourself and completing chores without being told should be habit. This year, my goal is to teach them responsibility through consistency

4. To cause to know the disagreeable consequences of some action: Everything has a consequence, whether good or bad. We have punishments in place for various offenses in our family. Not every wrongdoing requires the same response. In fact, not even the same misbehavior will necessarily warrant the same punishment for two children. Our kids respond to different things. One child couldn't care less about losing electronic time, but is devastated if he can't read in bed at night. Another child doesn't mind if you make him do extra chores, but cringes at the thought of writing an apology letter. Finding consequences that match the violation of rules for each child is important. I admit, I have been lax with this lately. Some of our punishments no longer have any effect. Instead of finding something to work, I've resorted to simply reprimanding wrong behavior. Sometimes, reprimanding--teaching right from wrong, and why--is the best response. Other times though, a harsher punishment is necessary. Not only is my goal to find the appropriate consequences for my little ones, but to teach that it's better to obey than to suffer those disagreeable repercussions.    

I'm going to be intentional about my time in 2017. Instead of just surviving the days, I'm going to use my energy to teach my little ones. These five kids are my greatest responsibility and teaching them is my first priority.

Did you choose a Word of the Year for 2017? Share it with us so we can be an encouragement.

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