A Bushel of Brooks

A Bushel of Brooks
Us as we are ...

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Best Way to Say Goodbye

to August, that is.

I'm hoping to say goodbye to temperatures higher than 100 degrees. I had been known to say to multiple people, multiple times this week, "Everything would be perfect if it were just 20 degrees cooler!"

Not that everything really would be perfect, but that was the thorn in my side. Although I got the boys outside for a couple brief times on the slip 'n slide, every time I suggested heading outside - even with water involved - both looked at me like I had lost my brains, and shook their heads. The milder summer was fabulous, and I don't mind hot, but this week of super hot temps just was not what I expected! We stayed cool inside, and I'm not looking forward to my next AC bill = (

I'm ready for fall. Ready for some venturing to find colorful leaves. Ready to pull out the classic fall and Thanksgiving crafts. Ready for even the desire to light a pumpkin or yummy scented candle as we study at the kitchen table together.

We ended August with a great day. Time at home, working on a couple overdue house projects (yay for a new dresser - given to us! - for the boys' room), a fun workout with my friend Lisa, and then a much-loved friend over for dinner.

Kaleb was in town for a wedding, and we got blessed enough to get a few hours of his time this evening. He came over to hang out, get tugged on, eat dinner and dessert, and catch us up on all that has been going on with him. Our whole family, but especially Eli, has missed Kaleb since he moved the beginning of June. "Mr K-Love" was welcomed with a whole lot of hugs, tackles and other little boy antics = ) Thank goodness he can put up with it!

And now I feel like going to bed, reading for a short while, but sleeping 'til tomorrow and welcoming a new season.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Lil' Boys

When you walk down the hall and see this

your heart just melts. = )

My days are over-full, but in good good ways. I have lost most of the few moments to myself that I had during Matthias' naps in order to work on school with the bigger boys. Some days it feels like a greater sacrifice than others! But, I have found more joy in homeschooling than I thought that I would. The different curriculums and books that I choose have worked amazingly well with both boys, and they are having fun in their work.

Yes, there are definitely the moments when Matthias is holding my leg, screaming because I won't give in to what he wants, trying to explain a math concept to Jonah while giving Reuben directions on phonics work while my mind might be thinking I need to create a program for a client at work. Oh, and have I started prepping for dinner yet? And my brain and body are screaming "OVERLOAD!"

And then there are moments when we're reading together, or suddenly a concept makes sense and a little boy's face lights up. Or we laugh as we're learning about muscles in the body together. Homeschooling is much more beautiful to me than I thought. I expected hard work, and I think I almost expected to slightly dread each day. But I don't. Yes, I get behind on the house, behind on little things, but God has been faithful and has given me AND the boys grace each day.

And heck, we got to take recess outside on the slip n slide today! Whoop!

Trying to enjoy it ... one day at a time.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Quinoa: Thai-Style

My mother-in-law dropped off some grocery ads last week for me to look through (we sadly cut our newspaper subscription several months ago to eliminate the cost from our budget). I usually now look online, but she had some coupons for me, and left the ads with them. I found a recipe in the Natural Grocers ad for quinoa that I immediately wanted to try! Thai-style. Anything with peanut butter is also a hands-down winner in my book.

I made a few adaptions, based on what I had on hand, and took out the cilantro. I do like cilantro most of the time, but 1) I didn't have any here; and 2) Eli and the boys really don't like cilantro. I had no hopes of Jonah or Eli trying my recipe unless forcefully administered, but I knew that Reuben would probably have some if it didn't have cilantro in it. Removed. I figured it would make a good.easy.quick. lunch for me to grab in the middle of a work and school day.

Really, really liked it! Finished the last today, and think it would make a great accompaniment to a meal when having people over as well. Reuben happily ate it as well. I got a few bites down Matthias, but he was a little unsure ... working on that one (side note: the littlest picky eater in our family is now eating CHEESE and has tried bites of MEAT, raw red peppers, carrots, celery ... yay yay YAY! We're going to win him over to the better side).

Thai-Style Quinoa 
adapted from naturalgrocers.com

2 1/2 c. cooked quinoa
1 chopped red bell pepper
1 peeled and chopped cucumber
2 carrots, peeled and shredded

3 T. creamy peanut butter
1 T. honey
3 T. soy sauce
1 T. rice vinegar
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 T. olive oil or toasted sesame oil

*Combine quinoa and veggies together. Put peanut butter and honey together in a mason jar. Microwave for about 15-20 seconds. Stir. Add in other dressing ingredients, put lid on jar and shake away until combined! Pour over quinoa mixture and stir well. You can serve warm or chilled! Enjoy!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Waiting for Fall

Although it has been a mild summer, by most terms, I am starting to crave fall: pumpkin candles; crackling leaves; boots; sweaters; windy days; outdoor playing weather; evening walks; brilliant trees ... not because I am complaining about the rest of summer. I think it is that I am used to seasons. Which means as one begins to draw to a close, I have anticipation about the next one coming.

The boys and I are both ready for days to play outside without getting super sweaty. They don't really vocalize that: but I can sense it. When I suggest on a hotter day the idea of going outside ... they opt for another idea. They want to run and be active (ALWAYS), but they, too, are ready for September to roll around and more 70's everyday.

I have ended up with boys wanting something to do in the afternoons when school is done, but not really wanting to head into the backyard to keep busy. Every day when I go to work, I drive by a local applicance store ... and decided I might use that to our advantage. I dropped by last week and asked if I might by able to get a couple big boxes from them. The boys could play with them in the basement, color on them, we could cut out windows, read books, play whatever their little imaginations can dream up. I distinctly remember sitting in a big box in my own room, reading "These Happy Golden Years" = )

They said that would be great, and we went by last night to get them. They ended up only having one left for us, but it is a big refrigerator box, so plenty big for two boys!

I promised them they could play in it today after all their school was done. Here they are: ready to let this box be all kinds of things! There is a wonderful book about a girl and all she does with a cardboard box that we have read many many times: "Christina Katarina and the Box". The best thing about this is this box can be easily recycled when we are done with it and cost us nothing! And I am always up for games that use imaginations and the boys playing together ... no media involved.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

First Grammar Poem

I am really excited about Jonah's grammar/language curriculum this year. It is called 1st Language Lessons, and uses poetry, memorization, copy work, critical thinking, stories, and more to teach grammar and correct use of language. We've only just dipped our toes into the book, so to speak, but I'm excited about it. It doesn't start out with loads of copy work, which helps to get a little 6 year old boy to buy into the work, rather than come along grudgingly.

His second lesson in was to begin to memorize a poem. Well, technically, he had several days to continue to master the poem, but he liked it so much, he had it done pretty much the same day. And then next day, he woke up in the morning, proceeded to open his book, get out a notebook and pencil, and copy the poem down himself. = )

It does help that it is about bugs! Once again, I have high hopes for myself, and plan to get a little video of each of his poems. We'll see. At least I will get some, and those will be fun to have later on.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Chocolate Bread Pudding

My sweet tooth will A.L.W.A.Y.S. be a part of me. I have completely resigned come to peace with myself about that. I love sweets. Give me a choice of a swirl of frosting or a cube of cheese. No brainer. givemethefrostingandnoonewillgethurt. It takes an enormous amount of willpower to not eat sugar all the time. Yes, I know that sugar itself it addictive. And no, I'm not going to completely eliminate it from my diet. = ) I want to be able to enjoy a few jelly beans at Easter time. Or maybe a few jelly beans other times of the year as well.

But, I do watch it. Otherwise I would weigh considerably more than I do now, and would feel quite a bit more 'bleh'. I enjoy an occasional indulgence ... and work hard at eating healthy the rest of the time.

But, oh. We did enjoy some amazing chocolate bread pudding at a friends' house for dinner many weeks ago. The kind of warm/hot dish of chocolately goodness that you can't just pass up. I had to have some of that dessert.

And when Eli's dad was coming over for dessert last week, I was wracking my brain on what I could make him. I mean, he lives in a house where top-notch pies are routinely made. My mother-in-law is a great baker. I didn't want to even attempt a regular "Brooks" dessert: I can't imagine my pies would hold up to hers. So, I needed something different.

Something like Chocolate Bread Pudding.

I sent a text to my friend requesting where she got the recipe, and she sent me back this LINK.

It is a fairly simple recipe. Chop up bread. Make a ganache of sorts, with an egg in there to give the pudding its "pudding" texture. Sprinkle with sugar and bake away. We made our simple homemade vanilla ice cream to top it off with. My pictures aren't great because it was dark outside, which means no bueno on good lighting. But just trust me: it's a good dessert. Eli, who is typically not a fan of bread pudding/bread stuffing because of the idea of soggy bread, might have had two servings. Just sayin', = )

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Memorizing Scripture

It has been a goal of mine and Eli's to get the boys to memorize Scripture. Written on their hearts. Last fall, I posted a few videos of the boys quoting verses that they worked on doing Bible with Eli. I got behind in filming, and in the fall, we ended up falling behind in what we hoped to accomplish while Eli was finishing his thesis.

We worked to get back on track in the spring, and then worked on some this summer (VBS sure helped!), and have a plan for the fall semester. With Jonah in 1st grade, Reuben in preschool, it is amazing what their minds can memorize and store away. As long as I put the time slot on Eli's calendar, it gets done. Team effort = )

They learned five verses in the week they went to VBS at church. And got little Bible buddies (like dog tags) that have the verse written on them that they can wear around and look at. It is in faith that we teach them the Word ... in faith as we see how God knows right when to bring a verse back up to the surface in our minds in a timely moment. His Word will not return void. In faith that we continue to teach principles to them - not always seeing results as they are young. But teaching. Instructing. Directing. {Praying}

Today, I got a glimpse of His work. The boys had done amazingly well in school today with me. They had really helped each other and were just plain getting along well. At one point, I looked over at them and said, "Boys, I am very proud of your attitudes and the way that you are really encouraging each other today!"

Reuben looked right up at me and responded instantly: "Yup, Mom. Remember, 'Encourage each other and build each other up. 1 Thessalonians 5:11' ".

I felt like I could burst at that moment. Amidst the daily fights, squabbles, tears, and "IT'S NOT FAIR" ... a gem. A Truth.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Ending with Smiles ...

Look at this ...

The cutest, right? Three little cousins, all born in 2012, smiling together. I ended up hanging out with my sister at my parents' house tonight for a bit. Both my brothers were there (but they weren't really hanging out with us - they were absorbed in ping pong competition), so little Selah was there also! These three little troublemakers-to-be haven't really mastered playing together yet, but to capture a moment of them all sitting together, smiling back as Aunt Adi got their attention, is a memory to preserve. Ahhhhhh, someday they really will be tearing through the house together = )

I started school with the big boys this week. I felt, for us, we needed a week or two of "easing in" to our homeschool routine. Since we weren't going to leave the house for schoo, their entire routine at home is going to undergo change. For us, I decided to do a first week of 2-3 subjects a day, not too tricky of subjects, to start our brains in the right direction. We'll add in a few more next week, and hopefully be to a full schedule of math.science.history.geography.writing.phonics.spelling.art.etc. by the start of that following week. Whew!

It actually has started out soooooo great! I was relieved. Worried I might be trying to hide in the bathroom because of wanting to pull my hair out. The only real challenge moment was when I mentioned math flashcards to Jonah = ) Not that I'm looking at this too sunnyside up or anything ... we will have our moments, but at least everything started with positive experiences and outlooks. The boys actually asked to start school today, with Jonah proclaiming: "I LOVE DOING SCHOOL!"

Although I know I will get a big bulk done each day during Matthias' nap, I also am working on practical ways to keep him busy while they do some work as well. God dropped an idea in my head on Wednesday, and it has worked wonders. He LOVES to color anyway, but I'm always keeping crayons/markers out of his hands, because it ends up everywhere! Walls, floors ... ugh. Then, suddenly, I realized I had a bit of a roll of huge paper downstairs, and I could tape it over the table, and buckle him into his booster:

He had so much fun! I think he sat there for almost half an hour with the rest of us at the table too (not that I'm thinking it will always work that long), scribbling with pride. We did it yesterday and today for awhile as well. Praise God for that one! He just always wants to be right in the way involved in everything the boys and I are doing. This helped.

Week is ending well, we have a showing at the house tomorrow, and a special workout to head to together ... good time to head to bed.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Coconut Chocolate Ice Cream

We've been keeping the countertop ice cream maker warm the last month. We hadn't really been buying much ice cream at all this summer. When the boys would ask if we had some for dessert, there typically hasn't been any in the freezer. Popsicles, yes. But no ice cream.

Then we remembered, we could make flavors all our own, and make just enough to enjoy for a short time, in that little churner. And, of course, I was inspired by the many many ice creams created by browneyedbaker and Eli is ALWAYS game to give things a try!

We made her peach ice cream. yum.yum.yum. How could you really go wrong with that? I will say, that we have done ice cream the lazy Brooks' way. In other words, we've left out the eggs/heating/chilling process. Just cream, milk, sugar, vanilla, and whatever else ingredients called for. That means we can whip it up quick, pop it in the freezer to chill, and have it later that same day. Not quite as custard-y, but still good.

Last week I made a Coconut Chocolate Ice Cream ... perfect to scoop into the waffle cones Eli picked up at Aldi = ) I admit, I never can give myself a whole cone, but he shares bites with me!

Coconut Chocolate Ice Cream
2 c. heavy cream
1 c. whole milk (hey, we have it around for Matthias!)
1/2 c. sugar
2 tsp. pure vanilla
*Mix well, and churn in ice cream maker according to directions*
Meanwhile ...
Chop about a cup of Coconut Cream Hershey's Kisses
Melt together about another cup of those plus 1/2 c. of semi-sweet chocolate chips
*When the vanilla base is done, scoop into a container, gently mix in your chopped candies and your coconut/chocolate/melted goodness (create a ribbon of sorts!)

And then enjoy. Oh oh, it is SO GOOD!
... you could enjoy like Eli does, a whole cone of deliciousness. Or, you might be like me, who just likes to open the container and scoop about 3 bites worth out and enjoy a little because it goes a long ways ... bit.by.bit.