Tuesday, May 06, 2014

I Know a Little German!. . .

. . .he's sitting over there.

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The S's are heading to Germany!  We're learning "a little German"! :)  Get it??? Germany, though?!?! How did we get here?!?!


Jason lost his job back in October.  His "position was eliminated" during a re-org and well, he's been hunting for a job ever since: local, out of state....internationally!

Ideally we wanted to stay local, in our home.  When J lost his job we hadn't even been in our house for an entire year yet!  However, we largely chose our house based on location: it's proximity to Jason's job and the boys' school. Well. . .

A few months into this period we pulled the boys out of school and I began homeschooling.  Jason has always dreamed of being foreign missionaries one day and, well, homeschooling would likely be a part of that scenario.  I was always anti-homeschooling, I honestly did not ever see myself doing it.  And then somehow, with the position we found ourselves in, we didn't see much other choice and I was happy to try homeschooling out.  The position we "found ourselves in"?  Well, the boys' school was a mess.  I was concerned about what they weren't learning: they had huge gaps in their educations.  I was concerned about their safety: the school had some questionable practices.  Teachers and families were leaving left and right.  The place was falling apart and we really wanted to get out of there before the kids suffered too much and the place totally imploded.  But where to go?  Most families who left transferred to other schools.  With Jason's non-job, things were too uncertain....we didn't want to transfer to a new school, only to have J get a job out of state and have to transfer them to a 3rd school in a single school year.  So, homeschooling it was. 

Oh wait....I was talking about Germany.

Anyway, J applied for bunches of jobs all over.  It was really slow going over the Thanksgiving - New Year's holidays.  Finally things started happening again.  He's had a few face to face interviews, many phone interviews and screenings, and somehow, in all of this, a job in Germany found him.

That's right.  He didn't apply for this one directly.  He applied for a different job...in Canada. 

And now?  A timeline:

2/27/14  Jason gets an email from the company in Berlin saying his resume had been forwarded to them.  They'd been looking for "a Superman" . . . based on J's resume, they suspect they might have found him! They wanted to talk to him!

3/3/14 Jason has a phone interview with a guy (from Spain!) in Berlin, it goes well (really well!) and he's anxious for J to talk to another CTO

3/4/14 - 3/5/14 Jason flies out to Ohio University for an interview for a totally different position

3/6/14 Jason has a phone interview with the aforementioned CTO (in Calgary), it also goes quite well.  That very same night Jason gets an email asking if he can fly out to Palm Springs for a face to face interview on Sunday the 9th.  Both the Berlin guy and the Calgary guy would be in the States for a conference and they wanted J to come out there.  It was moving so fast!  But, the day they wanted to see him was Jason's birthday.  Plus, it had gone well in Ohio and we were wanting to hear about that one as well as a local opportunity. So, J said he couldn't go that Sunday. I think it was partly a test....would this turn them off? Would they continue to pursue him?   Almost like: if this is where God wants us, it'll keep moving forward.  He said he was free beginning Monday.  Well then we didn't hear anything.  No response at all . . .

. . . for a week.

3/13/14 finally hear back "no big deal that you couldn't make it, it was last minute, we'll have you up to Canada perhaps in April." 


3/18/14 we get wind (from J's references) that an offer was coming from Ohio. With that news, Jason contacted the local position and Berlin that he was expecting an offer from somewhere (in other words, "if you're interested in me, best move things along").  The local job was like, "sorry, nothing we can do" but Berlin was like, "Okay!  We'll get you up here stat!"

3/19/14 Jason indeed gets an offer from Ohio University and also a plane ticket to Calgary to interview for the Berlin thing (for 3/25).  The Ohio offer was sort of an answer to prayer in that it was not what we'd be willing to relocate to that tiny town for.  Other than J liking the idea of the job (quite a lot, actually), it felt like trying to force a square peg into a round hole. We just didn't have any sort of peace or leading that this was where God wanted us, except that it was the only place we'd gotten an offer from in nearly 6 months. But, we asked Ohio for a week to consider and pray about it further (and interview somewhere else *wink*). We mostly just wanted to see if God worked on us further with that opportunity.

3/24/14 my mom invites me and the kids to join her and Lauren for "Muppets Most Wanted", J stays behind to prepare mentally for his big day in Canada the next day.

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So, the rest of us head down to Aurora for the movie. The Muppets are going on a World Tour. Guess where it kicks off?

 Yup . . .Berlin!

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Believe it or not, my German is already so good that I can translate that. It says, "The Muppets in Berlin" ;)

That was not the only "sign"/coincidence we had noticed, though.  When the unemployment first started, we prayed and prayed that we get to stay local but also that we wanted to go where God wanted us if He happened to have something else in mind. We also prayed He please make it clear because, well, that's how we are. Sometimes it's hard to know what is God and what is not, am I right? In the meantime, Jason and I were more and more drawn to the idea of Germany. Somehow, with the company seeking him out and with nothing else really feeling like a clear choice we started thinking about it more and more. I mean, this company was looking for a "Superman" and admitted to having a very hard time finding someone suitable for the role. And then they talked to Jason and it seriously went so fast (at first). We began looking at schools and neighborhoods and cost of living and such. Could Germany be where we supposed to go?  Did we have a "mission" in this liberal, post-Christian society that we could also fulfill?

Jason has always had some sort of pull to Germany. Well, first of all, there's our last name which basically means "to set" in German. I always thought J told me it was more of a stone mason/brick layer type of set but looking into it recently it's more of a price setter at markets or, more likely, a type setter.

Jason's dad was once stationed in Germany so, of all the places in Europe, that's the one he grew up hearing the most stories about.

Jason studied German in college. 

Jason's pastor from home was once a missionary in Germany.  We are still in touch with him and a few of his kids.

Jason and his ex-wife went to Germany on their honeymoon.  They named our first cat Blitz...German for lightning.

And then there was the whole fact that this Berlin-based company sought Jason for the role.

As Jason was praying one night recently he just really felt a strong urging, if you will, for Germany.  (And also at another point when he was not praying--just looking in the refrigerator!)

There were other silly little signs as well. After they first started talking to Jason, I was watching a rerun of "Friends" one night. The episode? "The One with the East German Laundry Detergent."
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When we watched "Star Wars Episode 2" the same day we went to see "Muppets Most Wanted", I happened to Wikipedia Hayden Christensen. The picture Wikipedia features? He's in Berlin:
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Sitting in our usual spot at church, this is what I see when I look up:
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The very first episode of House Hunters International we went to watch?  In Berlin.

Teaching the kids about the circulatory system in homeschool, they asked about artificial hearts. I was all, "There's no such thing as putting in a mechanical heart in someone!" and Jason was all, "Yuh huh, there was that first dude back in the 80s!" So, who do we ask for help when we don't know who gets to be right? Wikipedia! Turns out we were both kind of right: no one has ever gotten a fake heart and sewn back up and walking around and living regular life and all but yes, there are ones people have been hooked up to them in the hospital while they wait for transplants/healing. Anyway . . . in learning all that, we stumbled across something called:

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There were actually other things as well that I didn't bother to remember, Bible verses that spoke to us, references in pop culture, etc.

Okay, anyway, back to our timeline . . .

3/25/14 Jason flies to Calgary for the day to interview face to face with one guy while they briefly Skype the Berlin boss in.  I read about Berlin at the library with the kids that morning:

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Jason calls that night saying how well it went and that the Calgary guy left it with, "We like you. We like how you think.  All that's left is to make sure you and {Berlin boss} are on the same page as far as compensation."  All that's left?!

We were totally expecting an offer!  This is how Easton took the news that night when I told him:

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3/26/14 With the great Berlin interview and feedback under his belt, we officially decline Ohio's offer.  They're bummed, offer to sweeten the deal a smidge, and ask J to contact them if he changes his mind.

We didn't hear anything from Berlin for awhile.  In fact, as I told Jason, I didn't "feel" it anymore.  That Thursday the 27th just two days later I no longer felt the "push" or whatever it was I had been feeling.  Jason didn't agree with me, of course, but it was weird: whatever supernatural feelings I'd been having in regards to Germany were gone. 

Eventually Jason sent an, "Hey what's up? Why haven't I heard from you?" email and while the kids were having a sleepover at my mom's, he got a response (1:30 a.m. which is 8:30 a.m. in Berlin)

3/31/14 (technically 4/1 since it was after midnight): suddenly Berlin had found two more candidates to interview :(  J got the email before he came to bed and he really did not sleep that night which is a shame because the kids weren't here.  What a blow that must've felt like to him.  After they'd been so super excited to have finally found their "Superman"?  Was it not such the homerun Calgary guy acted like it was at the interview?

4/1/14 Jason sends basically a "don't forget about me" email in response to their "we're going to interview these other people over the next week or two and get back to you" email.

Radio silence.  Jason friend requests the Berlin boss on LinkedIn. :)  He's wanting to stay in the forefront of their minds.

4/7/14 Jason decides (much to my chagrin) to send the contact info for his references (unsolicited) along to Berlin. 

4/13/14 sitting down to do a little reading during homeschooling, Dalton just happens to open up the World History Encyclopedia to Germany:
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4/14/14 that night's episode of "Bones", the first few minutes of the show they talk about an opportunity to relocate to Germany and how great that could potentially be.

4/16/14 Jason writes Berlin again asking for a status update.  I've explained how unnecessary it is, that I didn't "feel" it anymore.  He was the one that felt the more supernatural urgings.  All I do is notice Berlin when it comes up in media. :)

4/17/14 We get the news that they've selected one of the other candidates.  Jason came in second. :(  We're confused and disheartened a bit.  Confused because at one point, we (Jason still) really thought that's where we were being led.  We didn't look for this job, this job found us.  Nothing local was panning out at all ever.  J goes back to square one in this search for employment.

4/27/14 We decide to treat ourselves to lunch after church.  Without a job, you can imagine how infrequent such "splurges" might be even though we went to a cheap(ish) place with coupons. :)  As our pastor said, "We were stepping out in faith."  That night we headed back to church for a meeting for volunteers.  The new senior pastor (a friend of ours who is also the former senior pastor's son) wanted to share his vision with the church.  Talking with him before hand he was like, "God must be planning something big for you guys!" and "Hope you get to stick around for the church stuff I'm envisioning".  During his presentation to the church about how we're going to be a "sending church" sending people out all over the world for missions, local missions, church plants, etc. I begin to have that supernatural feeling again and thinking, "Hmmm, we might still end up in Germany after all.  I feel it happening again."

The very next day...

4/28/14 my car needs fixing.  Great--more money.  Jason bikes to pick up the car from the shop after lunch.  When he gets home, he's running up the stairs making this annoying whooping sound.  This is not like J at all. Before I can roll my eyes too far back in my head, he thrusts his phone at me where I read the email that "The Berlin job is still available, are you interested?"  It came at, like, 9:30 at night Berlin time.  What's with that?  Being as it was only 2:30 here, Jason wrote back that we were indeed still interested.

4/29/14 We get the offer.

4/30/14 Berlin boss offers to put J in touch with some of their Berlin-based American employees and H.R.

5/1/14 We pitched our counter offer after their close of business. 

5/2/14 I wake up and look at my phone.  The image of the day on Bing's search page is . . .


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I was seriously speechless.  I was like, "Ummmm....J! J! Isn't this Berlin!?!?" A bit later we get word on our counter offer and now have the final offer.  It's acceptable.  Decision time!

5/4/14 On the way home from church, we're officially decided.   We've been heading that way for awhile.  We call our parents and my sisters.  Take passport photos for me and the kids. 

Our friend from church (the new worship pastor) is looking to relocate from Colorado Springs since he works up here and all.  They want/need to rent.  They homeschool their 5 kids.  We meet them for dinner and they come back to check out our house in case we want to rent it out vs. sell.  It's a shame we're moving since their youngest 3 are the same ages as our 3 and they hit it off like the best of friends and had such a blast together that evening.  So fun!

5/5/14 We accept Germany's offer officially.  We tell other family and close friends.  We apply for our passports.  (Jason's the only one who already has one.  Mr. International.)

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That woman was funny.  Jason was like, "Aren't I supposed to take a picture for your blog or something?" but we were already pretty much done with the process!  She put all the forms back up for me to pretend and then hid out of the way for, like, 3 pictures.  What a sport!  She once lived in Germany herself.  Not one person has been like, "Oh, how lame!  Sucks for you guys!" except for the sad part of leaving my family, everyone is super supportive and excited for us.

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5/6/14 Autumn greets me 100% in German when she sees me this morning, "Guten morgen, Mutti!" all on her own.  We tell the rest of the world: you know, Facebook and my blog.  My sister Lauren shares that this picture was in her feed today:

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As a side note, Jason also gets a generic email from the Ohio University people that they've decided not to fill the role (that they offered to him . . . I guess if they couldn't have him, they didn't want anyone. Ego boost!)

So, that's the beginnings. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments.  I am already planning another post very soon with answers to some questions about the house, schools (homeschooling is illegal there), how our familes are taking it, how the kids are taking it, when we leave, how long.  But there you go! We're off on a new adventure!

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

How's Homeschooling Going?

I've been getting this question quite a bit lately . . . we are two months into this, after all.  But at birthday parties or playdates recently I've found myself trying to answer this question frequently.

So, I though I might share a bit of my thoughts here.  I still don't know if this is long-term for us.  Do I love it and think, "Oh this is the perfect situation I never knew I wanted!"?  No.  But I don't hate it, either.  I enjoy it.  I really like this time with my babies, I like the easy pace of life right now.  However, I still don't know if this is going to be a forever thing.  And because I don't know if this is going to be a forever thing, I feel like I approach this a little differently than a lot of homeschoolers: 

Perhaps I'm wrong, but I feel like a lot of homeschoolers don't worry about keeping kids on track with their grade level, more like a, "Eh, as long as they learn it by college we're good" kind of mindset.  But, since I don't know if they'll be going back into a traditional school I feel like I do need to keep them up to speed with their peers, all the while filling in the gaps they have from their previous school and their non-curriculum:  Long division in 2nd grade? Sure!  Telling time in 4th?  Huh?  Luckily, that is an easy one to fill in (as it's often learned in kindergarten) but it's identifying the holes in the first place where I struggle a bit.  I'm not a trained teacher.  I have no idea what sorts of things might be developmentally appropriate and where I might need to nitpick.  Writing numbers backwards (like Dalton did) was not a problem at our previous school.  However, there were kids in Easton's 4th grade math class who still did it.  When should it be corrected?  Probably before then, I'm guessing.  Phonetic spelling?  When do I stop allowing it?  Which words do I allow and which don't I?  So, that's where some of my own struggles are.  A few times a week I make at least one child cry with my "high" standards. (They really just are not used to that from our previous school.)

For example, Dalton recently completed a 23 chapter, "The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad" book and I presented him with a very simple book report form.  We talked about complete sentences and practiced a few and I left him to it while I worked with Easton on something.  When I came back to check on Dalton, I found work like this:
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Okay, Dalton, very funny.  But if that really was your favorite part, tell me what happened in the end.  In complete sentences.  "Why do I have to do it again?!  I already did it!  Why do you have to be so mean? Waaa waaaaa waaaaah!"  To which he was sent up to his room for a bit and came down to do it better.

Or Easton, "Why do you have to correct all of my words?! (when writing a short paragraph)You don't have to be so rude!" to which I have to point out how such and such a word was on his spelling list last week and I expect him to be able to spell it (or find HOW to spell it).  And, "Since when does a word end in just 'r'?  'Member how we talked about this?  It needs a vowel with it to get an '-er' sound?"  Good times. 

I'm on top of Dalton for his penmanship.  On the right you can see a sample from his very first day of homeschooling, on the left is from mid-March.  Granted, it's "copy work" where I'm expecting his very best handwriting, but see:
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He's improved leaps and bounds, no?  That part is so fun to see, that they're actually progressing with me.  That I can do this.
Here's some of Easton's work, not that you can see how he's improving as much, but more because I think his interpretation of Confucius is amusing:
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And his thoughts on homeschooling back on our first day:
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I can still read what their previous classmates are up to at our old school . . . and I structure what I'm teaching (mostly for math) around that.  So, Dalton's old class was doing a money unit.  Some of it Dalton gets soooo easily and then other parts, like making change, he was really struggling.  Guess what?  I read that none of the kids did well on their unit post test so the teacher extended the unit.  I'm no worse than she is! :)  To review at homeschool, we got to do fun things like play "store" with all the kids and Dalton had to make change.  I think about how many young people in this world struggle with making change and need a cash register to tell them and then I feel better about my 7 year old not getting it immediately.  It's maybe not just me.
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For literacy I've been using a free homeschooling website called Easy Peasy All in One Homeschool for Dalton.  For Easton I pick books and look for free resources on Teachers Pay Teachers.  Currently Easton is reading "Holes" by Louis Sachar, my sister also does Holes with her middle schoolers and she had some accompanying ideas for me that I can adapt.  But, as they are, like, 12 and he is 9 I also do some more age appropriate stuff.  I believe this one is geared for special needs kids whose teacher does Holes as a read aloud but it's just a little something to make sure Easton is paying attention:

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Some of the deeper "literacy" will come later once he's further into the book.  It's hard to do much of a secondary character analysis in just Chapter 7 (of 50!).  We're excited to watch the movie as a family once he's done with the book although he seems to think Dalton should have to read it too in order to be able to watch the movie.  Hmmm.

So, what does a day look like for us these days?  Well, I'll tell you.  It's so nice how casual things can be.  You might not think the mornings should be too stressful but they were.  Full of "hurry up!" "c'mon!" "I thought I told you to put on your shoes?!" "Yes you have to wear jeans! You should be downstairs by now!"  But now?  Jason and I begin to stir around 7 when the kids start getting up.  Normally I would've set an alarm to be showered and packing lunches.  The kids eventually make their way downstairs and watch TV or play quietly till we join them.  Three days a week Autumn still has school so I help her get ready and Jason takes her to school.  I usually make myself coffee and check in online for a bit before making myself and the boys breakfast.  We eat.  No rush.  Then we'll start school.  In our jammies.

In the mornings we typically tackle math and language arts type stuff.  This will include their spelling, grammar, penmanship/typing, reading and writing.  Normally I'll pull up a few things on one laptop for one boy: an IXL math lesson, perhaps a math game, a typing game, maybe a grammar activity or spelling activity, sometimes a worksheet and then I'll sit at the other laptop with the other boy going over new concepts or listening to them read aloud to me while the other boy works independently(ish) on the computer.  Then they switch. 
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Autumn doesn't do too much with us in the mornings usually, even when she's home. Sometimes she'll ask to "do school" and I'll have her do abcya.com or starfall.com or practice her handwriting:

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Then we take a break.  Usually around 11 when Jason goes and picks Autumn up from school and I want to snuggle with her and talk about her day while the boys play.  They call it "recess". :)  Then we have lunch. 

I should've started them on this long ago, here's Easton and Autumn making their lunches recently:
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After lunch we usually have quiet time.  The boys actually enjoy quiet time.  I insist on quiet time.  Jason's not really "supposed" to bother me during this time either.  This is to keep me sane.  I need just a bit of time for myself.  I'll often read or blog or watch a show.  It is strictly leisure time.  After 30-60 minutes of quiet time we regroup, this time it's on my bed.  We usually read for pleasure for 20 minutes.  I say 'read for pleasure' but it's still something I have to make them do.  But, the "pleasure" part comes from not making them challenge themselves too much (lots of Magic Treehouse for both boys).  It's just reading to read. 

After our reading timer goes off, we go into the day's Bible story and discuss.  Then we move into history.  We are all doing the same stuff for history and science.  For history we read from The Story of the World which I enjoy as a simple introduction.  We're in Volume 1 which is Ancient Times.  It's presented to me in a way I didn't always think of and in regards to the Bible so even I feel like I'm learning.  I might ask them to draw a picture of what we read about or give me a brief narration of what we discussed.  I might ask them to write it down, requiring slightly more from Easton and Autumn would just draw a picture and then dictate to me what it is.  Occasionally we'll read a picture book from the library, like when it was the Egyptian gods and goddesses we read quite a lot of their myths and legends in picture book form.  Or we wrote our names in hieroglyphics.  We sometimes watch a YouTube or BrainPop video to tie into it as well.  Like how they made papyrus or mummies.  Or getting silk from silkworms when we read about ancient China.  We all learn! 

After history we'll do a little science.  After reading The Well Trained Mind, I just love how they approach science in regards to the periods of discovery in history.  Such as, the ancients studied the human body, biology, and basic classification.  When we'd move to Volume 2 of Story of the World, it would be more Renaissance topics like earth science and astronomy.  So, because we're studying the ancients, and because Easy Peasy Homeschool started it for me, and because it's, like, my area of expertise we are studying the human body.  We're exploring the various systems.  Sometimes we've gotten books or videos at the library, we watch Brain Pop and Brain Pop Jr., we've watched Bill Nye episodes or Magic School Bus episodes that cover the same thing.  We traced Autumn onto a sheet of freezer paper and draw in various parts as we learn about them, half her body has got a few pieces of the skeletal system, we attached some of the muscular system to them, she's got a digestive tract....  For a spell the boys thought it hilarious to inform us, "I have to go feces".  Oh my gosh, when I took Dalton for his well-child visit he was sort of impressing Dr. Groovy with his knowledge talking about why blood is red and how white blood cells are like little Pac Mans eating up the germs.  It's pretty fun.  

I wish I was better about integrating our subjects.  The times it's happened have been mostly happy accidents: like when we were reviewing contractions in grammar and then also learning about muscles -- which contract to move your bones.  If I were to continue to homeschool I would most definitely want to buy some curricula to help us.  Every Sunday is a bit of a chore as I try to figure out the coming week.  And if our old school doesn't have their topics up just yet, Lord help me. 

So, each Sunday I sit down to this:

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Not each blank is going to have something unique, sometimes the "penmanship" assisgnment is part of "writing" or writing is part of literacy.  Sometimes the typing and spelling practice are the same.  Sometimes our writing will be after (in relation to) our science or history.  My problem is perhaps wanting them to do too much.  Heck, I'm wanting to start Latin with them!  And various "life skills" beyond what we already have them do!  So, this is by no means filled out in every spot every day with something, but it's where I start. 

If we have plans in the afternoon, like meeting friends at the library or park or perhaps taking a "field trip" then we'll shorten things, skip others (don't really need to be typing every day) and squeeze more into the morning to free up our afternoon.

Speaking of field trips, we did take one recently with some friends who were on Spring Break. 
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We plan to keep this up somewhat through the summer, as we always do at least some academics just to stay sharp.  Not sure yet what the plan is for the next school year.  I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, April 03, 2014

"Real Food Recipe": Polenta with Black Beans and Spinach (Vegan!)

This is one of our favorite dishes to have since we've changed how we eat. I'm so proud to say: I made it up myself!!! We love it and Jason loves to go on and on about how "nearly perfect" it is nutritionally. He's developed some strange hobbies like visiting nutritional info sites. :) I always keep all the stuff for this on hand for emergencies like if there's a big snow or we forgot to plan what's for dinner or whatever.

So . . . the cast of characters:
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That's two tubes of premade polenta.  Two cans black beans.  One can diced tomatoes (in the summer we use fresh tomatoes from the garden).  One onion.  Garlic (ideally you would use, you know, actual cloves of garlic...minced). Cumin. Tabasco.  Oh . . . and spinach.  Oops, I guess that's not in the picture.  Darn it!  Well, picture a bag of baby spinach up there in the corner.  I keep frozen spinach in the freezer for when we might need to use our "emergency rations" for this meal.  We've also used kale.  Because I use canned beans and tomatoes, I don't typically add salt to the recipe but do whatever you like.

We prefer the store bought polenta for this recipe.  It just looks prettier and the firmer texture is nice.  The price isn't my favorite but we just got Trader Joe's and their polenta prices are much friendlier.  I've made my own polenta a couple of times but it takes quite awhile and the texture just isn't the same.  Still tastes good, though.  Just mushier.  Like grits.

Alrighty, so what do you do?

Well, I like to preheat my griddle (on high) while I slice up the polenta.  Maybe about 1/2" thick?  I counted and each roll I got 15 slices:

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Then I spritzed my griddle with some olive oil and threw those rounds on there:
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Don't be afraid to turn up the heat.  My griddle is pushing 400 degrees. If you don't have a griddle, I've also made these in a regular ol' pan on the stove (you just obviously can't do as many at once) or you can bake them in the oven. 

While the first side starts browning, I dice about half a cup of onion and open my cans, drain just a bit of liquid off the beans and throw that all into a pot.  Top it with a tablespoon of garlic (we like garlic) and a teaspoon of cumin and I usually do half a teaspoon of Tabasco.  I a wimp when it comes to spice.  Jason always puts extra on his later. 
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Get that all stirred and heating up nicely:

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Then throw in a bunch of spinach.  It'll wilt.  A lot.  I did 3 big handfuls:

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Give it a stir and throw the lid on for a bit:

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This is usually around when I flip the polenta rounds over as well:

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Before too long the spinach will be wilted and the polenta will be nicely browned and you can stick it on a plate.  Here's the vegan variety:

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And here's how I like mine with cheese, sour cream and avocado:

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Looks kinda fancy, no?

Okay, I don't know how to make a fancy recipe card thing for my blog but I'll type the recipe out here:

Polenta with Black Beans and Spinach
2 cans black beans, drained slightly
2 tubes polenta, sliced 1/2" thick
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup onion, diced
1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 - 1 tsp. Tabasco (or to taste)
3 handfuls baby spinach

Brown polenta on a lightly oiled griddle or pan or in your oven.  Meanwhile, in a saucepan over medium heat, mix together beans, tomatoes, onion, garlic, cumin, and Tabasco.  Stir and bring to a simmer.  Flip over the polenta to brown the other side.  Add spinach to saucepan, stir, and cover to allow the spinach to wilt a bit.  Serve over the browned polenta rounds.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Spring Breakin'

Yup, even us homeschoolers took a spring break with the district around here....including Autumn's school.  It was nice.  Jason and I took turns sleeping in.  We were extra lazy.  Lovely.

But we did enjoy a few special activities. 

First things first:  Monday was a day of movies.  Seriously.  We watched Frozen (again) first thing in the morning after a friend gave it to us when they came for a play date!  Then we put on Star Wars Episode II. 

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Then we were invited to join Gramoo and Lauren for the Muppets Most Wanted.

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On Tuesday Jason headed to Canada.  You know, just for the day.  He had a meeting.  The rest of us took Autumn to dance.  The boys and I ran to Walmart while she was at class:

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Then we all hit the library.  We were there for quite some time.  Our local libraries are amazing and this one is right by our house.  We meet there for playdates all the time and the kids love to play there without extra friends as well:

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We did run into a former classmate and her mom which was fun.

Over lunch, I let the kids start the first Harry Potter movie. 

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We've been doing the book as a read aloud and they're super into it (yay!!!) so I let them watch up to where we were in the book (right after Harry nearly swallows the Snitch!). 

We didn't do much on Wednesday.  I had an appointment in the afternoon and Jason played guitar at church that night.  The rest of us didn't go.  We very rarely go on Wednesdays but Jason is often asked to play if he's not already scheduled for that Sunday (and sometimes when he is).

Thursday we met some friends at the park in the afternoon. 

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Friday we initially had plans with some friends from our old school. We were going to have a picnic lunch at the library but they are notorious last-minute cancellers. So I made sure not to tell the kids. Sure enough, when I touched base the night before, they cancelled. So, instead the kids entertained themselves with their Build-a-Bears.  It was pretty cute.  They also played Build a Bear on the Wii.  And looked at Build a Bear stuff on the computer.  And planned the next things they were going to buy at Build a Bear.  

Saturday was my day to sleep in.  I didn't open my eyes till 10:46 a.m.!!!   This is previously unheard of.  Like, seriously, not since becoming a mom and maybe not even before that.  Even when given the chance, there is no way I can sleep for, like, 11 hours.  But I did.  Bless my family for staying quiet for me.  And there was coffee ready when I woke up.  I was in a great mood! :)

Further more, it was an absolutely beautiful day and the five of us set out for our very first EVER family bike ride.  Yup.  Ever.  For the longest time, Jason and I didn't have bikes.  Then I got one with a baby seat on the back but J didn't get one till last year.  Then Dalton didn't quite have the endurance and he didn't ever try (or care to try) to ride a two wheeler till January. We hadn't been on bikes since the summer.  But back in January, right before the AFC Championship game we took off his training wheels and he took off.  No running along behind him, no helping him get started.  He just rode.  Guess we waited a little long on that one!  Anyway...  back to our first ever family bike ride:

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I like how I cut off Jason's head and the pile of dog poop takes center stage. :)

Look at my Dado go up there!

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After that pic, Dalton let me know he didn't think that was very safe of me to selfie and drive.

We stopped at the neighborhood park towards the end:

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Then Jason and Easton took off on some faster, more challenging terrain that Dalton's just not quite up for yet and I took the little two home.

After lunch and showers for J and me, we headed down to a mall we don't go to often.  I was in need of some new jeans and wanted to hit the Banana Republic outlet (as opposed to the regular BR in our regular mall).  No luck at Banana Hammock but the mall has a Lego store:

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And a Build a Bear store.

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And there was a guy in a bunny suit:

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We came home for dinner and showers and some more Harry Potter reading:

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Sunday was the second week in a row that we were all able to go to church together as a family of five.  Most weeks Jason has to report at 7:00 a.m. for worship.  Or other weeks I have to report a little early to teach the 4 year old class.  But somehow two weeks in a row we've all been able to go together:

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We came home for lunch and Gramoo and Lauren came to get Dalton for his special outing.  Around each of their birthdays, Gramoo has started a fun tradition of taking that kid to a unique activity.  Autumn has done tea and the toy and miniature museum, Dalton's gone to a monster truck show.  Most recently, Easton went scuba diving and this time Dalton got to go to Disney on Ice:

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When they brought him back home, Lauren and Moo joined us for dinner and cookies and headed on their way. It was so nice to have a break but it was back to school for everyone this morning.