Life on the funny farm

It has been anything but funny around here. More like chaotic, overwhelming, stressful and a nightmare.

It all started with homestead problems. Our well started pumping sand. So that was a month before we could get our new one dug and an unexpected expense. Then we had one chicken problem after another, from incubators not holding temperature to sick chicks from a feed store. UGH you name it; it happened. There was a lot of lost on the homestead.

Then started the personal problems.

My oldest daughter moved across the country. It was for the best. She needed a reality check and she wasn’t getting it with Mom and Dad. So she moved in with my brother-in-law and his family. But it wasn’t the easiest thing to do.

Hubby’s business just died! Nothing for almost 2 months.

Then my granddaddy suddenly passed away. It was a long 2 days of being at the hospital. He went from walking, talking and living on his own to relying on a ventilator in a matter of 12 hours.

At the same time, we were in the middle of a huge homestead fence project. Thankfully, my hubby wasn’t working and he was able to be there for the kids and work on the project while I took care of what I had to do.

Then my special needs daughter start having a rough time. I guess it’s all too much for her. Too much change; too fast. So we found an autistic school that she will be attending next school year. That will give me a break and her something to do.

Next was my son’s unexpected surgery. He came through like a champ. But Momma was a wreck.

Now we are nearing the end of our fence project. My son is healing nicely. Hubby’s phone is ringing. And Brianna is getting ready for school.

So there’s an abbreviation of the past 3-4 months of my life.

It was anything but funny!

 

Peak into our homeschool life

Like I had said in an earlier post, we didn’t start a new school year in August. We are still finishing up Kindergarten, 7th and 9th grade. Our new school year begins in January, after our holiday break.

But I wanted to give you a peak into some of the things we have been doing.

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Scavenger Hunt at the park

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Beginning spelling and yes he is shirtless 99% of the time

Growing a large family

This is after he beat me at Go Fish for the millionth time

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Pumpkin fun

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More Park Fun

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She free-handed her pumpkin drawing then carved it.

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My lil farmer boy

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Homeschool Day at the Florida Aquarium

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Turtle Learning at the Florida Aquarium

We have had a lot of park days lately. We also have had quite a few field trips.

This post is partying over at:

Simple Homestead Blog Hop

New school year

Usually this would be where I tell you all about the beginning of our new school year. Except I’m not because we didn’t. That’s right. I think its dumb to try to teach kids how a calendar year works when school begins towards the end of it. Plus we had a very slow start last year that I decided our year is running from January to November. So basically we are finishing up with the last of our months of school before everyone moves on to new grades. During the summer we took a slower approach but there was still learning and progress being made.

Dakota is finishing up Kindergarten. He has finally gotten excited about learning and doing school so that has made things more exciting and fun for me. And the best part is the little booger knows more than I gave him credit for. He is breezing through letter and sounds. Writing is coming easier for him. And Math and Science are his favorite right now. He has even started learning to add on his own, count by 100’s and read numbers in the thousands. All this has happened naturally and I love it!

Brianna has been a little bit more difficult only because we have noticed everything has been sliding backwards with her. We were always told that no one could predict what her limit was and I think we have max it out. So for the most part I try to incorporate a lot of art, science experiments and letting her join in where ever she feels like. But she still has a workbook to work out of and I try to give her computer time or tablet time at least once a day.

Cailin is done with English 9 and has moved on to English 10. She is finishing up pre-Algebra which has been a struggle for her. We are also almost done with Biology. American History has been a struggle for me to begin because I hate History but I know it needs to be done so I am starting that. She is also beginning Creative Photography and American Sign Language. OH and over the summer she completed the written part of Drivers ed. Now she needs her permit and her Daddy to start with the actual driving part.

I am very happy with the progress we are making. Sometimes I feel like we are not learning anything and then I write it all down and feel good about our progress. Plus we did testing and everything was confirmed.

Lowe’s Build and Grow Workshops

A little over a year ago, my hubby started taking Lil’ Man to our local Lowe’s for the build and grow workshops. It is usually one Saturday a month. And it really provides a lot of fun and skill building time for the little ones or big ones.

Our first time they gave Lil’ Man an apron, safety goggles and a name tag. Each time you go you will receive a certificate and an iron on patch. You borrow a small hammer and they give you everything you need to make whatever it is you are making that day. It’s awesome!

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Our first building experience

 

And did I mention it’s fun, easy and FREE!? Yes, it’s completely free. You’ll want to go to the Lowes Build and Grow site. There you will see the date for the next workshop, what you are building and when sign-ups open. Signing up early is very important because these fill up fast. Sometimes you can just show up and wait until all the register participants have shown up and see if any are left. But registering is a less than 5 minute task and easy.

Next workshop is Saturday, February 14th at 10 am. Sign ups open February 2nd. And your child will be making a sweetheart picture holder.

Future project looks to be a Monster Truck.

Have fun and enjoy!

Hello 2015!!

New year 2015

 

I know I am a little late, but honestly I don’t start my new year resolutions until after my birthday on the 5th. Why deprive myself of cake and celebration!?! I made it another year and, dang it, I earned that slice of cake!

So my new year starts when winter break is over and normal life resumes. Well as close to normal as this bunch can get.

I have thought about my new year’s resolution for sometime now. Months actually! I feel like 2014 was my year to find myself. I found out that I have a passion for homesteading that I never knew was there. And not only homesteading, but natural living, without all the chemicals and medications. I like being able to keep my family healthy without the use of antibiotics or over the counter drugs. I like cooking from scratch and knowing what is going into my food and that the items are of the best quality that I can find.

But there were many areas that I floundered at. I don’t want to say fail because that is so negative. I feel like I never failed. I may not have put my best effort in to them, but I never failed, so floundered is the perfect description.

So here they are my resolutions:

  1. Learn more and love life~ Enjoy it, every minute! I noticed my anxiety has flared up a little bit and I want to get a handle on it better so I can accomplish this task. Just get healthier in general. I see too many family members fighting different diseases and I don’t want that. I wanna be around for a long, long time.
  2. Expand our homesteading. I would love to get where we can raise our own meat and add some more egg layers to our little flock. Ducks are coming only because they are so cute!
  3. Separate myself from the negativity. Too many times I let other people’s life choices stress me out and worry me. Yes, they are my family and I love them, but they are not my immediate (in my household) family and those are the ones that need my guidance and attention. So I am going to learn to Let it go! (cue Frozen song here)
  4. Blog more and interact with more bloggers. Expand this and possibly make a business that will thrive and I can be extremely proud of.
  5. Spend more time with my kids. This year my oldest is turning 18!!! How did that happen I have no idea?!? But I feel like I blinked and her childhood was gone. So I am using that as an eye opener and cherishing every moment I have left with them all.

To help me with these, I will probably set little mini goals each month. I seem to do well with a to do list type thing. Sometimes I get so busy with just the everyday stuff that I look up and a whole month has gone by. I would like to try to slow down a bit and that is my overall theme of the year.

Slow down and enjoy being me!

My Favorite Childhood Holiday Cookie: Pecan Balls

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Growing up my mom wasn’t around a lot, so my memories of traditions are very few. But one thing I do remember is these amazing little bite size cookies. I couldn’t get enough of them. Well one year my mom decided that I was too old and stopped making all the cookies and holiday feast. It all fell on me. I searched every cookbook looking for a pecan ball recipe. What I didn’t know until I got this beautiful thing called internet is that they are actually called Mexican Wedding Cakes.

Then it took quite a few years to perfect the recipe to how I remember them tasting. Now it has become a tradition with my kids and they know it is not Christmas without this cookie! I even got my picky lil man to try them this year and it was instant love.

I really hope you enjoy this cookie as much as my family does.

Mexican Wedding Cakes

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 8 tbs confectioner sugar, plus more for rolling in
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups chopped pecans
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients except pecans with a mixer until well blended. Add pecans and mix.

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I used my smaller cookie scooper on these because I like them to be 1-2 bite size. Scoop and roll dough into round small balls. Place on lightly greased baking sheet.

Pecan Balls

As you can see I put a lot on one sheet because these cookies don’t spread, they hold their form. I managed to get on batch on one sheet. They do puff up a little so you may have a few that are touching but nothing you can easily pull apart.

Bake for 11-12 minutes.

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As you can see they look almost the same after baked. So you have to do a touch test. You want them a little firm and a very light coloring.

Cool completely then roll in additional confectioner’s sugar. Now if you are like me who absolutely does not wait until they are cool completely; then you will have to roll them again in a day or so. If they last that long!

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Enjoy!

 

3 year Blogiversary

 

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Growing a large family 3 year blogiversary

 

It was 3 years ago today that I decided to start a blog. A place where I can vent and connect with the world. I also did many searches for large family blogs and couldn’t find any. So I decided that that was the direction I wanted to go. Over the years it has morphed into an eclectic collection of moments in our lives from homeschooling to homesteading. I try to keep it real, but classy and positive at the same time. I hope I have provided some humor along with some ideas and tips to help with your lives. All I ask is that you spread the word.

 

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Now let’s take a look back at my top post over the last 3 years.

First Day of School 2013

Homemade Pizza Dough

Building our Coop de Ville

 

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My Favorite Post:

I’m Southern and I can’t bake biscuits

This is my favorite post because I always ask myself why can’t I make biscuits. I grew up watching Grandma make them. I have tackled some pretty difficult recipes and have honestly impressed the heck out of myself sometimes. But biscuits are my Achilles heel! UPDATE: I still haven’t found and made a good biscuit yet!

Selfie! OH wait am I too close!

Selfie! OH wait am I too close!

 

Theses are the post that sum me up as a person. These post show who I am perfectly.

Our Frugal Disney Vacation

City Girl living a Country life

Check in with my flock

Family Dinners

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Let me know your favorite post and what you would like to see more of.

 

 

Beginning a new school year

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This is from a few years ago, but totally captured how I felt beginning this new school year.

This school year has had so many ups and downs that I am scared to see what the next 8 months bring. I just couldn’t get everything going. I had no motivation. Plus I was lost trying to homeschool 3 kids at 3 different levels. This was a first for me. Even when my girls were all home, they were close to each other that I could teach them all and then give different activities. But this year was different.

I have a High schooler,Cailin, as if that isn’t stressful enough. All the questions of am I doing the right thing? Am I screwing her up for life? Am I giving her enough classes or too much? What about college?!?

Then I have my special needs daughter, Brianna. She learns something but still struggles with 1st to 2nd grade math. We haven’t moved past basic division because she get so frustrated. She loves Science and Nature but hates writing and history. She gets frustrated if I try to help and then in the same breath frustrated that I didn’t help. *SIGH*

Last is my darling son, Dakota, who is extremely smart and retains things very quickly, but HATES SCHOOL!!!!! He would rather play with video games and toys or watch Disney Jr than pick up a crayon. He can write his name and recognize most letters. He just learned to count to 25 but would rather learn adding and telling time. Like I said extremely smart, but also my “I can’t” kid, which I have never had to deal with before.

Needless to say in the last month and half that we have been suppose to be doing school, there were a lot of struggles, tears and me saying I was done. I sat down with the kids a few times and tried to brainstorm what would help all of us. What I heard was

  • I hate being in my room reading from 10 different textbooks (Cailin)
  • I want more science ( Brianna and Cailin)
  • I want more projects or hands on stuff (both again)
  • I want more art (both again)
  • I like stickers, painting, storytime, circle time, fun games and toys, BUT NO COLORING! (demanding  darling son)
  • Cooking (all 3)

For me, it was research time!

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Maybe we were unschooling all along! Snow ball fight in Florida!

 

Unschooling
Unschooling was one of the first methods I checked out. I knew I was tired of worksheets and blah reading. And I also knew I was burned out. And I knew I just didn’t have it in me to be stressed out and worrying about curriculum deadlines. But I was worried about Cailin not having enough credits or requirements to get into culinary school. I knew she would read and learn on a daily basis, but what about Brianna. During the weekends all she does is sleep, walk around the yard or sleep and watch TV. She has no goals, interest, hobbies or independence. She needs me to lead and direct. Then there is Dakota, who as I stated earlier would play video games all day long.
I didn’t like the couple of days we tried it and neither did the kids, except Lil Man. At the same time, there were some readings about how unschooling is letting go of everything. No chores, no rules, eating whatever they want, basically letting them make their choices. Again this is not going to work in my house.
  1. I am a control freak and so is my hubby.
  2. My kids will eat junk food instead of making healthy choices.
  3. I am trying to go organic and that stuff is expensive. If I let my skinny mini special needs child go on free will by the end of the day my groceries will be gone. She doesn’t eat because she is hungry. She eats because it is 8 o’clock, 12 o’clock, 5 o’clock or because she is bored.
  4. I have a VERY hard time getting the kids to do their chores as is, if I let them choose then nothing will be done, other than me listening to Hubby complain.
  5. I have a large family and I am only 1 person!

So some of the ideas didn’t sit well with me.

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Doing a fun project just because we can!

 

Project based learning
Project based learning was next. I liked how it was very hands on and I knew my kids would love that. But it was once again child led. We tried this for a few days. My oldest began a project, did very well, but hasn’t touched it since. My youngest just wants to read the Mo Willems Pigeon books, but no activities to go with them. And Brianna refused to read the book, picked out a cat, started to make a cat but then got frustrated. Once again I helped too much and then not enough.
Meeting time
We sat down again and went over everything we liked and didn’t like about the last few weeks. The things we took away from this meeting were pretty simple. My kids liked when I was teaching them and planning the activities. They didn’t want to have all that responsibility, but they do like a say in what we learn. Which is fine because I love Pinterest and planning all those activities.
My kids hate writing! So I will include that in with other subjects.  Brianna loved Little House in the Big woods and Cailin wants to read Shakespeare. UMMM OK!!! Everyone wants more science. Heck, if all day, everyday was just science they would be happy. Cailin was doing Biology and she liked what they were teaching just not how and Brianna is very interested in animals, insects and plants. Take away textbooks, add some hands on activities, videos, interactive notebooking and field trips~ you got yourself and very fun science curriculum.
I struggled with History and Art. That is not my thing. American history, YES! World History, NO! So I have my mom helping me to put that together and make it more hands on. They liked our curriculum, Story of the World, but wanted art tied into it and more videos and hands on. I have to admit in my we have to finish this now, I would skip a lot of hands on activities. Yup bad mom of the year here. But it’s okay, because I am reformed now! And again, thank God for Pinterest and lovely homeschool blogging moms who have the answer to my struggles.
This helped with my older kids, but what about Dakota. Well for one, he likes to say he is smarter than his sisters. So I being the mom I am told him if he doesn’t do school and they do school eventually he won’t be smarter. Don’t judge! He is my stubborn one and if it works it works. But seriously, I also noticed that if it is something that catches his attention, he will participate. The other day, the girls were observing and drawing in their nature journal outside, which was his idea (a miracle). He had to have a nature journal too. And so he sat, drawing and from time to time running to catch butterflies. That in my book is a success!
In the end
We can’t and won’t be labeled. We are Unschoolers. Everyday is learning if you really pay attention and think. We think we are just living, but living and learning goes hand and hand. So me explaining why the dumbass who just cut me off in the car is a dumbass is learning. Or why we need to go get this for the chickens or why we don’t buy this brand or version of the food. It is valuable information that they are soaking up and storing away.
We are Project Based because we love using our hands and really being able to observe and process it. We love a good project but also know when to move on. It doesn’t consume our lives.
We are Teacher led because my kids want to spend time with me and listen to my knowledge. And let’s be honest, I don’t know how many more years I have with them and I am going to enjoy them. They are getting older you know.
We are Curriculum Based meaning we follow a curriculum but it was set up based on suggestions from the kids. Which must mean we are Child Led also.
Look I don’t know about you, but recently the reality has hit that my kids aren’t staying little. I have a year and a half until my oldest public school daughter graduates and goes off to college and 4 years with Cailin. Those years are going to fly and I just want to enjoy. I want to make memories and laugh. I want to have fun and live. I want to enjoy this season of my life before the next comes around. So I am not looking to check off a box of another school subject done. The only boxes I want to check off is moments lived!
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Picnic time

Cooking with kids~Pumpkin Cookies

Today is the beginning of a brand new series here. Cooking with my kids is something I am trying to do more of. Sometimes it is easier to just get in the kitchen and do it myself. But other times it is easier to involve one of them because then it cuts down on the fighting from boredom.

In celebration of hoping and wishing for fall here in the deep south, Lil Man and I made Pumpkin Cookies. I have to admit I have never tried these. I don’t like pumpkin! *GASP* There I said it while everyone is counting down to Pumpkin this and that, I am looking forward to apple flavored items. But my family loves these easy cookies. And they don’t last long at all, so they must be good.

I found this recipe on Pinterest. It only takes 2 ingredients can of pumpkin puree and box of spice cake mix.

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Mix them up real good.

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And bake at 350 degrees for about 8-10 minutes. Let cool. These are a soft cookie so they won’t take long to bake and less likely to dry out.

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I am a huge fan of Pinterest! You can follow me at http://www.pinterest.com/jeanetteford/.

Enjoy!

 

Our Frugal Disney Vacation

One day at Disney World can be expensive for a family of 6, but 5 days can be down right ridiculous. You can read about how we save for our Annual passes and this vacation here.

We stayed at the Fort Wilderness Cabins. I chose here because I have always wanted to stay in a cabin and it also came with a kitchen. Now Disney has quite a few options for large families. There is the option of getting 2 rooms at the same hotel, but you are not guaranteed side by side rooms, though I have never had a problem getting them. But there is no kitchen and would have to go out to eat for every meal. Then there are family suites at some hotels that sleep up to 6 and have a kitchen, problem though is you hear everyone walking through the halls and talking loudly. The cabins are placed about apart from each other so you don’t hear all the footsteps and voices.  Comparing the cabin and the family suites, the cabin turned out to be much better priced. Now the cons, we are early to bed and early to rise people, so I didn’t take that into account when it came to the daily 10pm fireworks show that we could hear clearly even though it was at Magic Kingdom across the lake. The kitchen was poorly stocked as far as cookware. Let’s say it took some adjustments to cook the meals I did cook. Can you say aluminum foil cookie sheet?

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After we checked in, we headed for the nearest Publix to do some grocery shopping. I had it planned where we would have one dinner and one breakfast out and the rest at the cabin. And of course for the first night we grabbed some subs at the store. For a total of $160 which we took from our grocery budget.

Breakfast: Pancakes, french toast sticks, toaster strudels or breakfast sandwiches and then out to eat. You have to have Mickey waffles once while at Disney.

Dinners: subs, Burgers, chips and leftover potato salad, Golden Corral, Chicken Cordon bleu and tater tots.

Not the healthiest meals but better than hamburgers and french fries everyday.

Now as you can see I left lunch out because we were mostly at the parks during that time. And most of the time we didn’t eat breakfast until 9am so we weren’t hungry for a big lunch. We mostly purchased snacks. First day was fruit, second day we actually ate a big lunch, third day funnel cakes and last mickey pretzels and churros. (Don’t judge it’s a vacation from our diet too!)

Souveniers are a given when you are at a place like Disney. My older kids had earned or saved some money before the vacation. I had also earned 4 free $10 Disney giftcards with our movie rewards and then my grandmother gave each of them $5. So each had $10-15 saved, a $10 giftcard and an additional $5, once it was gone it was gone. And Mom and Dad weren’t handing out extra. This was to be spent on whatever (within reason) they wanted. We provide necessities but if you want a bag of candy, you have to buy it yourself. This worked out well for some and not so well for others. But maybe it was a lesson learned. (Hopefully?!)

In the end, we came home with over $100 still in our pocket to put towards our next vacation fund. And a lot of priceless memories!

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