Saturday, July 29, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 7/7/17

Jake (11 1/2), Alyssa (9), Zac (7 1/2), Tyler (5), Nicholas (2 1/2)

Happy Weekend! This week Alyssa made french bread for the first time for Kids Cook Monday, Leighton and I spent a date day at Go Ape zip line and ropes course, and we all enjoyed the holiday together.

1. Zac, the day he learned to ride his bike without training wheels: "Whoa! I was riding fast! I was going at least 2 miles per hour--maybe 3!"

2. Tyler, watching fireworks: "Whoa! I saw the steam!"

3. Jake: "What kind of corn is the nicest? . . . Sweet corn."

4. Jake: "Am I your favorite oldest child?"
Me: "You sure are."
Zac: "But who's your favorite child?"
Me: "I don't have one. I have 5 favorite children. But you know what I have only 1 of? I have only 1 favorite husband."
Tyler: "Who? Daddy?"

5. The typical cooperation I get from these two.

6. Tyler: "My hair is sweating!"
Jake: "Your hair is sweating?"
Tyler: "Yes, it's literally sweating!"

7. Alyssa, at the store: "That dress has macaroni straps." (spaghetti straps)

8. Me: "Being quiet is not one of Ty's strong suits."
Zac: "Tyler and quiet have never met."

9. Tyler, watching me apply make up: "Why do you put that on?"
Me: "Because I like it."
Tyler: "But why? It doesn't seem like there's anything special about it."

10. Me: "Tyler, please be careful."
Tyler, scaling the door frame: "I got all the way to the top, and I didn't even break a single leg."

What made you Smile this week?

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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

R.E.A.D. Curriculum Review

There are many benefits and various reasons that our family loves homeschooling. One of my personal favorites is teaching my little ones to read. Reading is a skill that will help them the rest of the lives. Whether for education needs or recreational desires, reading will mostly likely aid the process. And being the one to help them learn their letters and sounds, form early words, and read their first books is exciting to me.

Everyone has a different style, and while I didn't use a curriculum to teach my first three kids to read (but instead relied on skills I learned while teaching first graders in the classroom years ago), some might prefer something that is planned out for them. I admit, I've slacked lately in helping my soon-to-be-kindergartner with his reading skills, so it was nice to have the Learn to R.E.A.D. Curriculum Notebook and R.E.A.D. Review Pack to help. Since The Crafty Classroom did all the work of putting together the materials, all I had to do was print and get busy helping my little one.

The Crafty Classroom offers all sorts of downloadable curricula to help your students, including categories of the alphabet, Bible, geography, math, reading, science, and writing. There is super sequences, color science, ASL alphabet, U.S.A. mazes, writing prompts, The 10 Commandments, and so much more. Just browsing through the options makes me want to buy all the curriculum. It all looks so fun! As a homeschooling family with their own four kids, the Crafty Classroom has designed their materials to make teaching a bit easier.

The Learn to R.E.A.D. Curriculum Notebook (798 pages) is a 36-week curriculum for those who are Ready, Eager, Able, and Determined to READ. It's designed for a 4-day school week and contains everything you need to teach your child to read. The materials cover phonics, digraphs, blends, sight words, grammar, and writing. One word family and two-three sight words are taught each week. Set-up is simple; you print the pages and place in a binder. The only other supplies that you will need are basic classroom items (like crayons, glue, pencil, ect), a composition notebook, two page protectors, dry erase marker, and something to store flashcards.

The format is the same each week with the same activities/pages on their corresponding days. For example, the schedule every Monday looks like this:

  • Calendar & Warm Up
  • I Can Rhyme Chart (reading)
  • Letter Sound Chart (language)
  • Handwriting
  • Playdough Mat (activity/game)
  • Word Cards (sight word)
Other types of worksheets include find & color pages, word mazes, making words with letter tiles, finding the nonsense words, story reader, and more. Each day begins with the calendar and warm up exercises before completing the other pages. These warm ups teach key life skills like first and last name, time, weather, temperature, money, days, months, numbers, and more. The pages can be kept in page protectors so they can be easily erased and completed each day.  

The R.E.A.D. Review Pack is a group of 28 early readers. The books can be used as a stand-alone product, but they were created to correspond to the R.E.A.D. Notebook and promote reading fluency. The two products compliment each other well and help the student put to practice what he's learning. The mini books are very easy to assemble. Each one prints on three sheets of paper, then you cut, stack, and staple.  There is also an instructional video link included in the book. The download is 92 pages.

Each book is based on 4-6 word families and 8-10 sight words, as well as previously learned words. The first page of each one lists the word family review and the sight word review that is covered. There are simple pictures and text on each page.

My little kindergartner is loving using these materials. He's pleased whenever I tell him it's time to do his schoolwork. He really likes the hands-on pages where's there's something to cut and glue, the mazes, and dot-to-dots. He always laughs when we talk about real words and make nonsense words and likes using various liquids to complete the dot painting pages. However, he is not crazy about all the writing pages. He'll usually write the smaller portions with no complaints, but grumbles when there is a page that has line upon line of tracing or independent writing. Since he's still young and building up those hand muscles, I allow him to write each word once or twice and move on. 

The curriculum is working well and helping him to read better, which is evident by the fluency he's reading the review pack. One thing that concerns me though is the number of pages. Don't get me wrong, more for your money is a good thing, but more in every area is not necessarily good. I don't think he needs to be doing 5 worksheets along with the calendar warm up every day. To me, that's a lot of seat work for a little one. Which ones I choose to do each day depends on the amount of effort required and his interest in them.

Another issue with the number of pages is that the book is nearly 800 pages long. Even if I were to be able to print front and back, that's a lot of paper and ink, but because several of the pages have portions that are to be cut, it would be impossible to print on both sides. I could go through and determine which ones I could print double-sided, but that would take up precious time. I've used other curricula where there was a separate workbook with all pages filled and activity book with just the fronts to be cut. Maybe something like this would work here, too.

Making something work for your family is a great aspect of homeschooling. Choosing our pages instead of doing absolutely everything that's offered means that the Learn to R.E.A.D. Curriculum Notebook and R.E.A.D. Review Pack are great options for our home. My little guy enjoys his work and loves having his own books. Most importantly, he's learning to read.

You can connect with the Crafty Classroom on the following social media sites:

You can read more reviews of these products or of some of the others offered by the Crafty Classroom on the Homeschool Review Crew blog. 

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I have artsy kids, so anytime we can review art supplies is sure to be fun. Almost daily, someone is drawing, coloring, or folding origami creations, but it's not as often that we pull out the super messy supplies. The Rigid Wrap and CulluClay Quik-Sculpting Kit from ACTÍVA Products definitely falls into that get-your-hands-dirty category. Along with the kit, we received the ACTÍVA Products' Sculpture KIDS CRAFTS eBook that's filled with project ideas. 

ACTÍVA: Basic Materials for Creativity is a company that has been dedicated to quality arts and crafts supplies since 1959. They offer all sorts of materials from multiple types of air dry clay to plaster and molds for casting to colored sand and dried floral products and more. Along with their merchandise, their site is full of useful information like instructions, tips, techniques, and safety sheets. 

I knew the kids would be excited to start crafting as soon as the package arrived in the mail. I opened the box and immediately knew something was wrong. There was a white, powdery substance all over the kit and inside the shipping box. I carefully opened the kit to discover an even bigger mess. The CelluClay had a gaping hole in the clear, plastic packaging, causing the powder to cover the contents of the box. The two bags of Rigid Wrap, the instruction and project sheet pages, the remaining CelluClay, everything was a mess. I sent a quick email and received an equally quick reply. Within a few days, I received another kit, sans hole in the bag. Good customer service is always a plus for a company.

We really weren't sure what to expect with these products. I pulled up the free eBook and browsed through the ideas with the kids. My daughter (9 years) immediately was drawn to the bold beads made from Rigid Wrap plaster cloth strips. She loves making bead jewelry, so the ability to design her own beads was very appealing. The book lists skill level, time, materials, directions, and tips for each project. The directions for the beads was a little confusing, so it took some trial and error to figure it out. And though some of the beads were a little rough around the edges or bumpy and misshapen, that didn't stop her from exclaiming dozens of times how much fun she was having. She said, "I just can't stop making these!" Some more practice, I am sure her technique will improve and the bead-making addiction will be even stronger.

The boys, however, were not impressed with any of the suggestions in the book. (They were initially excited when I read "Deadly Dinosaur," but when they saw a friendly brontosaurus-type dino with a smile, they were disappointed.) They also did not prefer the projects that came in the kit either (which were mostly the same as the book and looks like a photocopy of a photocopy and blurry with one page so crooked that half of it was missing). Instead, they each decided on a project that we found while looking through the video demonstrations on the site. I found some old jars, gave the boys trays and bowls of water, and cut strips of Rigid Wrap. They got to work dipping the strips in water, removing the excess liquid, and wrapping the jar. My 7-year-old made his own (which he filled with roses and gave to his grandma, heart melt.) and my 11-year-old  helped his 5-year-old brother make one. (Make sure to check out the video at the end of the post he made of the process and see how easy it is to create your own!)

Both the beads and the vases dried quickly, but the kids didn't get a chance to paint them until the next day. That part was equally fun. I always like watching their creativity and differences as they design their masterpieces. The acrylic paints worked very well on the dried Rigid Wrap.


Next was trying to decide what to make with the CelluClay. This isn't a true clay, but rather an instant paper mache clay made from 100% pre-consumer recycled paper. Since no one wanted to recreate a project idea from the book, we brainstormed ideas and searched the web. It came as no surprise when we settled on a working volcano. (There is actually a volcano idea in the book, but it is a simple sculpture, and honestly, not what we were looking to make.) 

We enlisted the help of my husband to design the structure of the volcano. Then we used the CelluClay to coat it. This is where we ran into problems. There are no instructions whatsoever for the clay in the box. There's nothing on the bag. There's nothing in the eBook. There's not even anything in the description of the product on the website. Everything just says "mix the CelluClay in a Ziploc bag," but nothing is mentioned about amounts or process or anything. He did a search and found that it's recommended to use 32 oz of water to 1 lb of clay (which, I find a bit confusing, since the free eBook calls for 2.5 cups of clay for one of the projects. One is based on weight and the other volume. They're not interchangeable.) Just to be safe, we used 24 oz of water for our 1 lb, because you can always add water if needed, but you can't take away. Our oldest mixed the concoction, but instead of forming into a ball of clay, it stayed as a soupy pulp. It still worked to form the volcano, it was just sticky and messy and not clay-like. I enjoyed the process, but the kids did not like the feel of the goop. 

The volcano took a couple days to dry and the thicker parts finished off with the help of a fan. Next came a coat of spray paint, and our masterpiece was ready to erupt. The kids always enjoy watching the reaction of baking soda and vinegar. The CelluClay softened up again after multiple eruptions, and it seems that the vinegar has slightly eaten away at parts of the volcano, kinda giving it the feel of real lava destroying things in its path, ha. 
All in all, we love these products. I really hope they will improve their directions, both in the Rigid Wrap and CulluClay Quik-Sculpting Kit and in the ACTÍVA Products' Sculpture KIDS CRAFTS eBook. I did eventually find the full instructions on the website, but it took some searching around. I think it would be helpful if they linked to the instruction page on the product page. The Rigid Wrap was simple to use and the kids really enjoyed crafting with it. I'm eager to use the CelluClay again, with some tweaking of the amount of water. The possibilities of these products are endless!  

Here you can watch my 11-year-old create a vase with the Rigid Wrap. Super simple. And though the video is sped up, it only took him 7 minutes in real time to create it. You can see how he chose to wrap the top also, whereas his younger brother decided to leave it uncovered (in the vase and roses picture above). The best part of art is your creativity and uniqueness!

You can connect with ACTÍVA Products on the following social media sites:

You can read more reviews with fun projects made by kids on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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Friday, July 21, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 6/30/17

Jake (11 1/2), Alyssa (9), Zac (7 1/2), Tyler (5), Nicholas (2 1/2)

Happy Friday! This week we went to the park, did a ton of yard work, made a bunch of granola, and had a lot of Smiles.

1. Nicholas, looking at Alyssa with a giant magnifying glass in front of her face: "You so cute!"

2. Jake: "I know this is pig, because I can taste the 'oink.'"
Me: "You know that's cow, right?"
Jake: "Oh, yeah . . . but then why is it called hamburger?"

3. Zac learned to ride his bike without training wheels!


5. Alyssa: "Mom, will you come with me to kill a spider?"
Zac: "I will."

6. Tyler: "I'm so glad I picked a baby brother."
Me: "You picked him?"
Tyler: "Yeah."
Me: "Why didn't you pick a baby sister?"
Tyler: "Oh, yeah, I should have!"
Jake: "You didn't actually pick him."
Tyler: "Yes, I did. I literally picked him! Don't you remember?"
Me: "How did you pick him?"
Tyler: "You asked if I wanted a baby brother or a baby sister, and I picked brother."

7. Jake: "I went to Home Depot with Papa today to get top soil and sand to fill in the pond."
Me: "They took the pond out?"
Zac: "What! Why?"
Jake: "Because they didn't want it. Besides, Gramma already killed the fish."
Zac, laughing: "Yeah, can't you just see Gramma reach in and grab a fish and stab it with a dagger! . . . Wait. Is that why you had fish for dinner tonight?"

8. Nicholas, hugging my neck: "My pincess! My pincess!"

9. I found Nicholas walking out of the kitchen with a stick of butter. I snapped his picture, and he ran away while taking a giant bite. 

10. Me, opening a bag of cinnamon: "Wow! This cinnamon is strong!"
Tyler: "Why? It won't come out of there? Like it's holding itself in the bag?"

11. Me, in frustration: "Nicholas Samuel."
Nicholas: "Nichoyas Samuel Yeaf?"

12. Nicholas: "I see Papa."
Me: "No, not today. Gramma's coming over today though."
Nicholas: "I see Papa."
Me: "Not today, sorry."
Nicholas: "Mama, look. {puts hand to mouth and gives the most pathetic cough, cough, cough} I need Papa."

What made you Smile this week?

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Make-A-State Activity

We are thrilled every time get to review a product from Home School in the Woods. This time was even more exciting though, because we were able to use their newest product! The Make-A-State Activity, which is part of their Activity-Paks line, is filled with hands-on projects that teach all about the 50 states.   

Home School in the Woods is a family business that was started as a way to make history real, understandable, and applicable. Using timelines and realistic illustrations as a foundation, they've created many resources to make learning history an enjoyable process. I, like Amy the driving force of the company, did not enjoy the boring textbooks in high school. It wasn't until we started our own homeschooling journey that I started to realize that learning history wasn't boring, but, in fact, could be quite interesting. I was excited to download this study and learn more about the individual states that make up America.

The download (also available as a CD) comes as a zip file. Once you open it, and see the multiple folders, click on the "start" file. At that point, the entire program will open in your browser, making it very easy to use. Instead of clicking through multiple folders, trying to bounce back and forth among the resources, everything is laid out as you need it.

The Make-A-State Activity-Pak contains templates to create an individual lap book for each of the 50 states and also includes a bonus book for Washington D.C.. The projects incorporate illustrations, coloring, creative writing, map skills, research, and more. Each lap book covers the same 20 activities. Some of the templates are the same for each state, while others are individualized. There are 20 activities for each lap book:
  • Key State Facts
  • Origin of State Name
  • State Motto
  • State Symbols
  • State Song
  • State Industry/Agriculture/Climate
  • State Wildlife
  • Regions
  • State Geography
  • State Government
  • State Seal & Flag
  • State History
  • Famous People From . . .
  • Native Tribes
  • State Landmarks
  • Sports Teams
  • State Quarter
  • Recipes
  • State Vocabulary
  • State Timeline 

While there is a bonus page of learning about each state that is filled with facts and other brief information, the activity-pak is designed to compliment your own curriculum, text, or research. This product is different, in that sense, from the other materials we've used from Home School in the Woods (U.S. Elections Lap-Pak, Project Passport: The Middle Ages, and Project Passport: Ancient Egypt) that included the complete lesson texts. The company is known for their detailed, hands-on curricula, and this study does not disappoint. The activity-paks encourage independent study, by guiding the student through a series of topics and offering activities and projects. Hands-on assignments add another level of learning that helps the student to better retain information. There are detailed instructions for each project.

This study is recommended for grades 3-8, but, personally, I've found that it works well even for my younger kids (ages 5 and 7), too. We like to incorporate as much family study as we can, and the Make-A-Sate Activity-Pak is wonderful. Everyone can be involved, whether it's helping to research the information on the internet or helping to cut and tape or helping to draw and color.

We chose to start with the study of Michigan since that's where we live. The kids already knew things like the robin is our state bird and Lansing is our capital, but they've learned so much more than that the last month or so. They've enjoyed seeing our state symbol and flag, learning our motto, and listening to our song. We've studied about wolverines, assembly lines, the Great Lakes, the Soo Locks, meat pasties, and more.

The only negative opinion I have about this study is the breakdown of the PDFs. Because everything has very specific printing instructions (regular paper, colored paper, white cardstock, colored cardstock) each individual page is its own file. I understand the need for the "special" pages, but because of the individual files, you have to open each file individually and print. On pages that are double-sides, you have to open the file, print one page, turn it around, open another file, and print the back. The other studies we've used from this company incorporated more cardstock, whereas this one used mostly regular paper. It would be so much simpler, if the entire resource were one file, or could at least also be given as a single PDF, along with the current format. That way, I could choose the double-sided printing option and my printer can do the work for me when needed and have the option of printing all the regular pages at once. Printers have so many options now that make printing easy, and I really feel that this format hinders it. It's the same complaint I have of each of the products from Home School in the Woods. I had really hoped to see this changed since it's their brand new study.

Aside from the printing frustrations, we absolutely love this study; so much, in fact, that we will continue with our study of the states, even with the extra work to get it all printed. The lap book activities are well done and offer such variety. Because of the slower pace of our summer schedule, we're at the point where the Michigan lap book is about to be assembled. The older kids (ages 9 and 11), especially like the resources from Home School in the Woods, and since they're away at church camp for the week, we'll wait until they're home to put it all together. I'm excited to see the final project with all its moving parts and opening flaps and pages.

Home School in the Woods really is a fantastic place if you're looking for hands-on history curricula. If you'd like another activty-pak, like this one, they also have options for The New Testament, Artists, and a couple others. If you'd like a product that includes more lesson text, their Time Travelers or  Project Passport lines might be more appealing. The also offer timelines, map sets, lap books, and more. A new feature that is being offered is the A La Carte Projects, if you're looking for just a few projects for topical studies. Currently, you can even use code "alacarte" at checkout to get the Erie Canal project for free! Try it out and fall in love with their resources, just like we have. You can find entire lists of products on their website. 

The Make-A-State Activity is a great resource for encouraging independent study of the 50 states. My kids and I are enjoying using this product and look forward all that we'll learn as we continue our study.

You can connect with Home School in the Woods on the following social media sites:

You can read more reviews of products offered by Home School in the Woods on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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Friday, July 7, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 6/23/17

Jake (11 1/2), Alyssa (9), Zac (7 1/2), Tyler (5), Nicholas (2 1/2)

Happy Friday! This week we celebrated our 14th anniversary and Father's Day, did some major yard work, spent time with out-of-town family, and had many Smiles.

1. Jake: "Did you know that taking candy from a baby isn't exactly easy? I mean, they scream."

2. Tyler: "When can we do that?"
Me: "Whenever, I guess."
Tyler: "Right now! Right now! Right now!"
Me: "Well, not right now--"
Tyler: "Today! Today! Today!"


4. Tyler, adding ice cubes to soup: "I just colded my broth."

and later . . .

5. Tyler: "With you hotten your water, please?"

6. Jake: "Nicky, do you want to go see Papa tomorrow?"
Nicholas: "I go Papa now!"

7. I walked into the kitchen and found these LEGO creations sitting in the counter. I assumed they were for me. Come to find out, the boys built them for Alyssa, because she made a big fruit salad for them. Flowers and hearts to show their appreciation

8. Zac, about a Lego set: "Do you think Hulk was a good choice for Dad? 'Cause Hulk is strong and Dad is strong."

10. Tyler: "Alyssa! Mom has your archenemy--mustard!"
Me: "Archenemy? How can mustard hurt her?"
Alyssa: "I hurts my taste buds."

What made you Smile this week?
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Thursday, July 6, 2017

Dark Chocolate Cherry Granola

Dark chocolate cherry granola.

The name itself sounds like a decadent dessert.

And while you could definitely enjoy a bowl of it for dessert (ooh, or on top of a scoop of ice cream), we like to eat ours for breakfast. I mean, anytime you can have chocolate for breakfast it's good, right?

The sweetness of the cherries is balanced by the bitterness of the chocolate.Toss in some almonds for good measure, and you've got tasty, crunchy, granola goodness.

I cut my cherries in half to keep everything uniform in size and because the kids especially don't like the large pieces. This time I also used dark chocolate chips instead of chopping a bar, so I cut those in half, too. Of course, you could save yourself some time and work and just simply toss in the cherries and chocolate as is. But if you have picky, big-chunk-disliking kiddos, you might want to give your add-ins a chop. 

Either way, this granola is worth the work.

Dark Chocolate Cherry Granola
5 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup slivered almonds 
2/3 cup honey
1/3 cup coconut oil 
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup dried cherries
3/4 cup chopped dark chocolate pieces

1. Place oats and almonds in a large bowl.
2. In a glass measuring cup or small bowl, combine the honey, coconut oil, and peanut butter. Microwave for one minute; whisk. Microwave an additional 30 seconds, or as needed, to melt everything and allow it to combine smoothly. (Can also be melted on the stove in a small saucepan.)
3. Stir in cinnamon and vanilla. Pour over oats and almonds and mix to coat. (I use a spatula.)
4. Spread granola in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 275°for 20 minutes. Stir and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Let cool completely before mixing in dried cherries and chocolate. Store in an air-right container. 
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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Learning from Mistakes

I love working in the kitchen. Cooking, baking--I love it all and often make our meals from scratch. There's something therapeutic about kneading a batch of dough or creating a delicious pie or concocting a comforting soup. It's a creative outlet for me and relieves stress. It's also a way I show love to my family. Just watch the way their eyes light up when they see a plate of warm chocolate chip cookies or fall-off-the-bone bbq ribs. It's magical.

But I don't cook like that every day. 

Wednesdays are busy. School, chores, church. Leighton gets home from work, jumps in the shower, gets dressed, and we're out the door. There's no time for major clean up before church, and there's not much time afterward either. Rush in, snack, pajamas, brush teeth, bed. To save time in both preparing and cleaning, we opt for simple meals. Leftovers, sandwiches, homemade pizza, pasta, fend-for-yourself night. Something. 

This particular Wednesday was no different, except that I wanted to try something new. Well, not a new meal, but a new way of preparing it. 

The Instant Pot has been hugely popular with home cooks lately. Since I have a thing for kitchen gadgets and tools, I was won over by the lure of this magical pot a year ago. I had read rave reviews about this appliance and was excited when the box showed up on our porch. The kids and I tore open the box and carefully pulled out the pot. We oohed and ahhed. 

And then the pot sat there. 

I was intimidated by this thing! It's completely different than other cooking methods and can have a learning curve. There's no way to check doneness without stopping and restarting again. And how long do I cook things? Which setting do I use? Look at all these functions! And you have to decipher all sorts of jargon. QR. NPR. PIP. HP. 

I am trying to use it more, because it actually is convenient once you figure it out. Not everything has been fantastic though. The first time I used it for hard boiled eggs, I ended up with green rings in the yolks. The first time I cooked a pasta dish in it, the meal was a big pile of mush. I've also made under-cooked, crunchy rice and dry, over-cooked pheasant. Impressive, right? Not very appetizing. But those issues were a matter of following someone else's directions and not because I made a "mistake."

This Wednesday though, I wanted to use the Instant Pot for macaroni and cheese. When I bake the dish in the oven, I typically make it in the same basic way each time, but not by following a recipe. I change up the shape of the noodle and types of cheese. I never measure. A little of this seasoning. A little of that. But making it in the Pot was completely different. I found a promising recipe and gathered my ingredients. 

The oldest had spent the night at my parents, the toddler was napping, and the middle 3 children and I were playing a rousing game of Sequence for Kids. I was trying to multitask. Not a big deal, I mean, I have 5 children--multitasking is my life. I played a card and walked back to the counter to add an ingredient to the Pot.

"Mom, it's your turn."

It's a fast-paced game. Play a card. Add an ingredient. Play a card. Add an ingredient. Repeat. 

Despite their pleas, I finished up that game and called it quits so I could start getting ready for church before having to complete the next step of the meal. 

A little bit later, I heard the chime signaling that it was time to add the heavy cream and shredded cheese. Easy. Turn on the saute function. Pour, stir, dump, mix. I filled bowls for the kiddos and passed them out. I took a bite myself.

Whoa, is this salty!

My thoughts were mirrored on the faces on my kids. "This is really salty, Mom. Do I have to eat it?"

Well, let's see. We leave for church in 30 minutes. I have no time to cook anything else and you're not even dressed yet. That's a yes.

And there I was applying eye shadow and explaining to Leighton (er, grumbling) how I just have a hard time with this silly appliance. I know how to cook! Yet here I am, still having to look up cooking times and whatnot and following recipes and not liking the outcome anyway. I almost never follow recipes exactly, because I never like how it turns out. And why was it so salty? Do people really think that tastes good? I mean, I followed it exactly! It called for 2 teaspoons--

And that's when I stopped completely. Shock took over. And then laughter.

An image of the measuring spoon I grabbed out of the drawer was not a teaspoon . . . but a tablespoon. Oh. That's right, instead of 2 teaspoons, I used 2 tablespoons, which is the equivalent of 6 teaspoons. SIX. No wonder it was so salty. Huh, I guess it wasn't the recipe's fault after all. 

And I guess I wasn't doing so well multitasking during the game either.

We all gulped down the nearly inedible dish. I bribed the kids to eat faster by offering a piece of chocolate for each of them once they finished. You know, to compensate for the salt and balance it out. Big smiles. Empty bowls. Chocolate. Happy kids.

When we got home from church a few hours later, I was still laughing at myself. I grabbed both a teaspoon and a tablespoon and used my error as a teaching moment with the kids. I explained why it was so important to pay attention in the kitchen. Read the directions. Read the labels. Pay attention. I'm often pointing stuff like that out on Mondays when the kids cook, so this was nothing new. They were standing there listening intently, nodding their cute, little heads. And then I explained my mistake, and they visually could see the size difference and could mentally remember the taste of dinner. And their sweet, little faces broke into huge smiles. 

We all laughed, because, really, what else could we do?

All of a sudden, Alyssa stopped. "Wait. Did you do that on purpose to prove a point?"

Why, yes, yes, I did. 

 Ha. No. I made that mistake honestly by being rushed and not paying attention. But pointing out my fault to my little ones became a perfect example. These teaching moments are what I'm focusing on this year. And if they learn from my mistakes, then it's worth it.

Ok. Eating that much salt may never be worth it, but you get the idea.

These kids need to hear me admit when I make mistakes. Adding too much of an ingredient may not big a major issue, but if we're not willing to admit small faults, how we can ever expect to own major ones. Our kids like to put the blame on others when some mistake is made. It's a human flaw that dates all the way back to the Garden of Eden. We're trying to teach them to admit their mistake, accept the correction, and move on. Learn from it. 

I've since made macaroni and cheese in the Instant Pot, and wouldn't you know, if you don't add triple the suggested amount of salt, it's actually quite tasty, ha. 

We're never going to reach a point in life where we stop making mistakes. The important thing is to learn from them. And don't be afraid to humble yourself, so others can learn from them, too.

Also? Don't use 2 tablespoons of salt for mac & cheese. Trust me. Learn from my mistake.

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