Sunday, March 12, 2017

Spring Assessment

I'm still here...It occurs to me that the first blog post ever published on this site was in December, 2005. It is now 2017. More than eleven years later, and I have had seasons of real consistency, and seasons when I had much less to say. This has been one of those seasons. Looking back it seems like 2010-13 were my most prolific blogging years, and then things got tough for my mom in her journey with Alzheimer's and she passed away in 2014. Her death changed me. The way I think about my family changed, I became more quiet and private than I had been previously, and my son, who was growing more self-conscious in his teenage years became more private about what I posted. Then another blow struck that caused me to really pull in. My closest friend and I parted ways, and I was left with another lump of grief to deal with. This situation turned our homeschool in a very different direction. We no longer had the core group of friends to do co-op with, and so our Tapestry of Grace group disbanded. I have tried continue to use Tapestry with my dialectic / logic stage daughter, but I confess it has been a bit of a flop--a homeschool mom failure. We have done fine in some areas, but in history and TOG-related things, we have not begun to cover what I had hoped we would cover this year.

Here is what has worked well for us:

1. Math U See: This has always worked well for us and math generally just gets done because I'm afraid not to get math done. We will continue through zeta and then use Mr. D Math for pre-algebra.
2. Jr. Analytical Grammar: Gets done because we're grammar geeks and we don't mind doing it.
2. Apologia Anatomy and Physiology: This works great for us because we have partnered with a friend and have a weekly co-op to get this done. That weekly point of accountability is so helpful.
3. US Geography: Again, we are co-opping with this.
4. The Fallacy Detective:
5. Art: because I teach it
6. Violin lessons via face-time with our beloved teacher who moved away. Who knew this could be a thing? It is working out very well.

first landscape paintings

And for the high-schooler in my life:
7. Well-Trained Mind Academy: Son is taking Chemistry, History, Rhetoric and Literature through this online school. It gets done because I'm not his teacher. He has straight A's. It is rigorous and demanding, but the teachers are excellent, and having the pressure of having to meet someone else's expectations has been a very good thing.
8. Mr. D Math: Wow! I cannot say enough good about Mr. D Math. Why? Because he is a great teacher. It has been A's in math for my son and he doesn't hate it. That is huge progress from a kid who despised math until this year.

We have done some history and literature, just not as much as I typically cover. We have covered primarily the period from Napoleon through Queen Victoria, and are currently working on a lap book that will contain mini-books and reports about various aspects of that era.

So the year has not been a flop--far from it in fact. We have learned a lot about what we need to motivate us (extrinsic deadlines are extremely helpful!) and we have three months left to finish well. Upon finishing well, we are looking forward to our third Carribean diving trip! We will return to Roatan, Honduras to dive. We could not be more excited.

Below are some of our adventures from this school year so far.

testing the effectiveness of "cerebrospinal fluid"

giving Thomas Jefferson the thumbs-up

deep in conversation at the National Gallery of Art

NGA: what's not to love?

learning the process of mixing colors

cold and windy day in Colonial Williamsburg

dressed for the occasion...

happy golden years...

getting outfitted for Colonial Williamsburg

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Whole 30 2017: Day 1 - Cooking Extravaganza

We started our planning and preparation for Whole 30 a few days ago, and mentally over a month ago. That is the first thing anyone taking this on should be advised of--this is not just a "okay I'm going to eat healthy for a month" schtick. Taking on Whole 30, or any kind of dietary change such as a switch to more paleo style eating, vegetarianism, or even just eliminating sugar, takes a lot of attention to detail and some planning for success. If you fail to plan, plan on failing--especially in this case. To get us started and make sure we didn't go hungry the first couple of days, I made a huge pot of hearty beef vegetable soup to have for lunches or fill-in meals. Glen made clarified butter / ghee since we can't use regular butter according to Whole 30 rules. 

Today I cooked. A lot.
Planning for us means stockpiling a few key ingredients that will help make meal preparations easier, and today was the day. I hard-cooked eggs to have for quick dinners or snacks, marinated lamb chops to have for dinner tomorrow night, cooked a whole chicken for meat to throw into salads, stir fry or whatever quick recipe might call for it, and I will use the bones to make bone broth. I made Kalua Pig and cabbage (from Nom Nom Paleo) to have over sweet potatoes tonight. Tomorrow morning I will prep a giant bowl of salad greens and make a nice dressing so that we can have salads for lunches or sides at dinner.

Greek-style lamb chops

Kalua Pig

I am remembering now...this takes a lot of work on the front side. Meal preparation is something that we are so often tempted to phone in, shortcut or whatever with food that is quick easy, half done for you already, or even eat out. To make food that is whole, complete and full of nutrients takes time and energy. It will be a challenge to make this work this month and balance it with school and all the things that must be done along the way. 

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Whole 30 for 2017

I'm doing it again

I've done something called the Whole Life Challenge once before, and Whole 30 before once, and loved it. Let me rephrase that. I didn't "love" it. I thoroughly, deeply appreciated it. I lost weight, felt awesome, slept like a big, hairy bear in deep hibernation every night, and cooked every single day. That was the part I didn't love, come to think about it. The cooking.

But that was almost two years ago, and now I am ready to do it again. The things I learned from Whole Life and Whole 30 helped me to improve my lifestyle and diet by leaps and bounds both times. Since I feel I have slipped back quite a bit in the latter half of this year, I am going to take it on again, recenter myself, and reclaim those healthy habits.

This time my whole family, including the kids, are doing it with me. We each have our own reasons for doing it. Glen's and my reasons have much to do with weight loss and self-discipline when it comes to eating, as well as the reduction of inflammation which causes me in particular joint pain and fatigue. Molly is 11 and facing the normal physical and hormonal changes that every kid goes through, and she is hoping to start developing good eating habits and figure out what her ideal body composition should look like. Matt is hoping to eat healthy and get "cut" and strong. My sister and BFF are also jumping in with their families this time! I'm excited, because we have a group of families that have big reasons for wanting to do this and can support each other in the process.

Today is January 1, 2017, and I'm using this as a transition day. We have eaten up most of the off-plan foods and done some preparatory cooking. I have cleaned the pantry (hallelujah!) and gone through my arsenal of hip cookbooks in order to plan menus for the month. Tomorrow I will start on plan. While I like the new Whole 30 cookbook, I really think that Danielle Walker of Against All Grain is the queen of grain-free cooking, and I can find so many appealing recipes for meals that will be Whole 30 compliant that I hardly feel that this is going to be a sacrifice!

So far I have made a huge pot of vegetable soup that includes no grains, or legumes (I usually have beans, corn and peas in the soup, but these are not part of the Whole 30 protocol). Glen has made a couple of jars of clarified butter, or ghee, and I have a stockpile of hard boiled eggs, almonds, apples, and cooked chicken for quick meals, salads, and snacks.

While on Whole 30 I hope to also reset my fitness goals and get back into the gym. I have been out for a while as my shoulder is rehabbing from an injury, but I am excited to get moving again. I feel a bit like a slug.

Please follow along! I plan to post what meals I am preparing, how the journey is going, and offer some encouragement and help to anyone else who thinks they are ready to take the Whole 30 plunge!

Happy New Year, 2017!

Happy New Year 2017!

I'm ready for this new year. 
Many are saying 2016 was the "worst year ever" It wasn't. It was a tad stressful, mainly because of the election, but the drama-babies that feed on social media and media in general are way overblowing things. I had some personal challenges, indeed. One of the biggest I've ever faced, to be honest, but it's past and time to move on.

Our family had some beautiful, unforgettable moments in 2016. Taking the kids on two different SCUBA diving trips to Roatan and Bonaire were some of the best times we have ever had together. 

Molly started horse-back riding and found a new happy place this year. It has been so good to see her in an activity that is all her own. It has grown her confidence, and she loves demonstrating her skills and teaching us about the things she is learning.

School has been a brand-new challenge so far. For the first time I am not Matt's primary teacher, but have taken more of a role of "coach." This is a very good step for him. The time had come for me to let him stretch his wings and see what it's like to not have Mom or a friend of Mom teaching him. He is doing very well and maintaining all As, but his classes are quite tough. Well Trained Mind Academy is not for sissies! The teachers are very qualified, their teaching is thorough, and their grading is fair. At the same time that Matt has been taking on this new challenge, Glen has been attending graduate school to earn his MBA. The timing could not be more perfect, as Matt has had the opportunity to see how to study effectively, see what a heavy course load actually demands of a student, and also to learn how to manage his time and resources effectively. 

Molly's co-op with her friend continues, and is a highlight of our weeks. We do science, geography, art, logic and ASL together every Wednesday.

We enjoyed some lovely time with family in Florida for Thanksgiving, which has become an annual tradition, complete with gambling lessons.

And Christmas, just the four of us was quiet and delightful. Through the course of the month we all managed to spend one week with a cold, starting with Matt, then Molly, then myself, then Glen. Par for the course. We all managed to be well for Christmas eve service and day, though!