Archive for September 2014

My Road to Homeschool

Monday, September 29, 2014

Okay friends, the question I get asked the most lately by my in person friends is why I decided to homeschool Jonathan. It's something I never expected to do on account of I am disorganized, spontaneous, and have trouble with follow through. Also, a humongous part of why we live in Walnut Creek is because of the highly rated public school system.

Here then, is our story. 

Jonathan hated school. Pretty much since about 6th grade he's been telling me about his loathing for school. But whatever, right? Because kids don't have to like school, they just have to go to school? And he had good friends and got good enough grades as long as I remembered to sit on him when it was time to do homework? Plus what would the alternative be anyway? This was my thought process for the last few years.

But in the middle of his Freshman year it became clear that he really hated school. Like headache and stomach ache everyday kind of hated. Like he would rather sit in a bus full of puss than go to school hate. But he still had good friends, and he loved wrestling, and he would get decent grades so his dad and I could not figure out why it made him so miserable. And being your typical, not terribly self aware 15 year old male, he couldn't really figure it out either. So doctors and counseling and all that jazz and we still didn't really know why. So I'd just make him go but I'd feel really, really sad about it.

He was finally able to articulate that part of what made him so unhappy at school was how bored he was. He hated sitting in class and listening to attendance, and then waiting for announcements, and for papers to be turned in. He found it almost tortuous to sit still for 7 hours and then come home and do 4 more hours of homework.

Let me say here that I believe in listening to my mom heart and, equally vocal, my mom stomach. Because if my mom heart and my mom stomach are both upset about something then my mom brain probably needs to get working on a solution.

So I asked myself, why does he have to go to school? What are the outcomes we are hoping for? And I answered my cute self, he needs to be educated, and prepared for college. I mean, I didn't really care about him just being in high school for the sake of sitting in school. I'm aware that in the real world we often have to do things that we don't like, but I actually want to teach my kids to try and find careers that they do like and to take chances, and to not be afraid to be different in the pursuit of happiness and personal fulfillment.

Luckily I had a dear friend, Elena who was already homeschooling her three children so I grilled her about the pros and cons and I learned that in the age of the internet a parent doesn't actually have to become their child's main teacher for them to be schooled at home. I did a ton of research and learned that there are hundreds of educational systems out there that allow you to sort of curate your child's education. There are skype in math classes, and fully developed English curriculums, and an abundance of other independent study options. This was so exciting because the idea of me sitting down each day to teach Jonathan trigonometry was essentially horrifying. 

Another question I've been asked is how would he be socialized without going to high school? Each parent has to know their own kid and really, being social isn't one of Jonathan's problems. We are blessed that he is part of a wonderful church youth group and has lots of friends in and out of our church. We went to high school ourselves and figured it wasn't super important to us that he be "socialized" by a bunch of other stupid teenagers who swear, drink, have intimate relationships etc. He can be stupid enough on his own thank you very much.

In the end I decided to pull the trigger. I did a zillion hours of online research and talking to friends who work in the school system and had pretty much put together a curriculum for him for his Sophomore year when Jonathan surprised me by requesting a program he found online himself that is a college prep high school program based out of Sacramento. It is a charter school and he takes his classes online but meets with his certified teacher every other week with seven other kids from our area to work on group projects. He has live Spanish language labs online and there is tutoring available through skype everyday during school hours.

So far it is pretty awesome. It gives him the chance to really own his education. The curriculum is rigorous and with the online check points he has to pass to move on in his assignments there is no zoning out. Most days he likes to split his time between the library and Panera. It isn't perfect, procrastination can still be a problem, but his dad and I, and especially Jonathan, are happy. And that was the goal.

If you're thinking of homeschooling you probably have a million questions and I would be so pleased to share what I've learned with you. Please email me so we can talk. I didn't include any of the technical stuff in this post, like how colleges view homeschoolers or taking attendance, or P.E. or a million other details-but believe me, I am HAPPY to talk about them!
And finally, here are some links to websites that I found super helpful in educating myself about the wide world of homeschooling.

How does a home schooler apply to college 

DIY Super Easy Halloween Decoration

Friday, September 26, 2014

When holiday decorations start showing up in stores there is something inside of me that just wants to buy them alllllllll! But I can't so I gots to get crafting.

I just made this.

I actually made one first for Katie to decorate her apartment for Halloween. It was so cheap, quick and easy that I made three more and decided to share it here.

The only thing I had to buy for this Halloween tree were the $1 crows from the dollar store. To make one you'll also need a container, floral foam, moss, chalk paint, a stick from a dead bush (there are lots of these around here since California is in a severe drought), bits of ribbon and yarn and your glue gun.
1.Tape off the area you want to paint with chalk paint like so:
I like Frog Tape, it works on any container you want. I had these little guys but you could also use a terra cotta pot or a mason jar. I made one in a jar for a friend. 
2. Paint it with chalk paint, wait a couple minutes and then pull of the tape while the paint is still a bit wet.
3. Using a whole lot of hot glue, stick some floral foam to the bottom of the container and then stuff your stick into it. Use your artistic 6th sense to edit your stick, snapping off any superfluous twigs that you don't like.
4. Squish a bunch of moss stuff around the foam to make it look pretty. I used this kind that I got last year at our local nursery.

5. If your paint is dry get you some regular old chalk and make your mark. I decided to go with a simple monogram.

6. Now is the fun part! Decide where you want your crow to roost and stick him in there. The ones from our dollar store  have wire attached to their feet that I wrapped around the twig and added a dollop of glue for stability. 
7. Gather up all your fall colored ribbon and string and yarn and whatever floats your boat and cut it into little two inch pieces.
 8. Twist the ribbon and secure it with a little glue. Tying them on would be too much work. Glue is best.
And that's kind of it. I glued a tiny piece of twine with a charm on it to the beak of some of my crows, others I just glued a little piece of ribbon. 
I sort of love them.
Happy Fall y,all!
I'm linking up here. So many great projects, you should check them out!

How To Paint Grout DIY

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Another thing that really improved the look of our kitchen face lift was painting the grout white. I knew I wasn't going to replace the counter tops right now, but I sincerely did not like the way they looked as they were. Which was like this:

This is a practice bouquet we made for Maddie's wedding when we decided to do the flowers ourselves. Because we are crazy. But not so crazy that we didn't practice. You can also see the old cabinet hardware.

What I did like about the tile counters was that you can put hot things on them without worry. Like right off the stove or out of the oven hot. So I didn't want to replace them with laminate or any other cheap option.

If you want to do the same thing, here are the steps.

1. Clean the grout really, really, really well so that the paint will stick to it. Paint doesn't stick to anything greasy and grout is porous so it has to be cleaned a lot. We used this stuff that I got at Home Depot. I always feel like I should mention here that I don't have any sponsorships or affiliate links or anything...this is just what I used.
Here is a photo of that step. And the fussy wallpaper. I am so happy that Springbrook Ranch is completely wallpaper free now. Until I wallpaper my stair risers.
I think what's going on here is that I had started painting, because I like to jump to the fun part, and it wasn't sticking well so we had to go back and clean again. The stuff is kind of caustic so wear gloves.

2. We painted with this
It's called Polyblend Grout Renew. I used a small old paint brush to put it on. It took two coats to get really opaque. Dry time is pretty quick, by the time I finished the first coat on one area I could go back and do the second coat on another area. It took two bottles and I had about 1/3 of a bottle left over. 

After that was dry we sealed it with this:
And that is pretty much it. I actually like my counters now.
Here are a couple other tips if you are going to do this project. When you paint the grout it is nearly impossible to keep the paint from getting on the tiles a little bit along the edge of the grout. At first we were worried about that and tried to wipe it off with Q-tips (super annoying), but after awhile I got lazy and stopped worrying about it. It turns out once it is all dry and done you can't even tell.

Also, I continued to clean my counters each day with counter cleaner and a rag. After a couple of months there were a few places where the grout paint had flaked off. Luckily I had some leftover paint and sealer so it just took me a minute to touch those places up. If you do this to your counters I strongly suggest keeping your leftover paint and sealant, or even buying extra if you don't have leftovers, so you can touch up if you ever need to.

And that's it! Good luck fellow DIYers!

Weekend with my Sweetheart

Sunday, September 21, 2014

I can never get enough of Marc. It could be because I have a huge crush on him or it could be because he's an attorney who works close to a bajillion hours a week. Either way I was so very excited to take a little road trip with him up to Tahoe this weekend.
 The weather was perfect for travel with the top down. I usually want the top up because of how crazy my hair gets but it was worth it!

On Friday morning we found a little trail along the river where we could walk and talk about some of our goals for the new school year. It's time for recommitting to family scripture study at the Fosse home. We talked about finding a "spoonful of sugar" to make it easier in the morning and decided that chocolate chip pancakes might do the trick. It was beautiful if a bit hazy from the large King fire.

While we were walking I noticed all of this fabulous bright green moss on the ground. This moss was just begging to be used in home decorating so I had to jog back to the car to get a little bag to collect it in. Marc was like, "sure babe. do that."
Then we went and wandered around cute little downtown Truckee.
Where we got lunch at Morgan's Lobster shack. I had the lobster mac and cheese. Seriously. It was so good.
The next day we decided to try a trail ride. Neither of us have been on a horse in years. I think I was a girl scout the last time that happened. Here is my horse for an hour, Milo.
Marc was a natural. Milo and I kept falling behind.
Which was fine! I am totally fine with being on a slow horse. 

The weekend was short and lovely. On the way home we stopped for burgers at Redrum Burgers. My only regret is that I was too full to try the fresh blackberry milkshake. Maybe next time.

Do You Have to Make Dinner Again? Try This!

Friday, September 19, 2014

really good slow cooker chicken tortilla soup
I think that most people will agree with me when I say that cooking dinner is overrated. And that it should be simplified.  Like maybe with cold cereal.

But my family's taste buds are elevated and they just don't go for that. For example, when Jonathan was about five and I offered to take him to McDonald's for lunch his response was an emphatic sigh and a request to, "just go to Wegman's and get some cheese."

And when we go to family reunions my cousin-in-law, who is a chef, brings his sous-vide and foie gras. I'm not saying that we don't eat all kinds of low end food like donuts and Slurpees, but when it's time for dinner they all expect me to, like, cook. They hate frozen dinners, and chicken casserole, or box noodle kind of things, and really anything that might be fast and easy for me.

It's possible I am exaggerating but it's how I feel, okay?  And maybe it's a little my fault because usually I like to cook good meals but right now I don't feel like it and that should be my prerogative

So you can see that while I am fed up with the whole dinner making nonsense, it just keeps happening. Like Groundhog Day. I know you feel me. In response I have been doing a lot of slow cooker cooking this week in an effort to get something together for dinner early in the day before I start feeling really stubborn.

I've tried several so so recipes, but a couple days ago I finally hit on a keeper (yeah, I get it, I'm picky too) so I thought I'd share.

It's for a chicken tortilla soup and I adapted it from the one on Skinny Mom Blog. The main difference is that I can't use a packet of taco seasoning because one, gross, and two, Marc is allergic to msg. Instead I use a mix of spices to get that Mexican flavor.
these are great for seasoning taco meat too.
    Here's the recipe:

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (Just put them in frozen)
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 16 oz can  black beans, drained + rinsed
  • 16 oz can kidney beans, drained + rinsed
  • 8 oz can tomato paste
  • 10 oz package of white corn, frozen
  • 2 — 10 oz  diced tomatoes with chilies
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 1/2 Tbsp coriander
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp dried cilantro leaves
  • (really I don't measure any of the spices. I just put in a lot because it cooks so long in the slow cooker that you lose flavor if you only put in a little)
  • 4 Cups of water 
  • 4 Herb Ox Chicken Bouillon cubes (or 32 oz. chicken broth) I like these cubes though.
  •  Herb Ox Chicken Bouillon Cubes (25 count)
  • I topped ours with:
  • light sour cream
  • lime wedge squeezed over it
  • crushed tortilla chips
  • chopped avocado
  • chopped  cilantro
  1. Place chicken on the bottom of the slow cooker. Add remaining ingredients.
  2. Cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours.
  3. Remove chicken breasts and shred with a fork, return to slow cooker and mix well.
    this is how mine looked
  4. Spoon soup into bowls and top with crumbled tortilla chips. 
  5. Add optional toppings, especially the lime. Okay, especially all of them.

This was really good! Jonathan ate three bowls. 

Viola! Kitchen Face Lift

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

I had this idea that I would first blog about all of the steps in updating our kitchen, and then do a post with the final reveal, but it ended up being really hard to find pictures that show what I did but don't show how the kitchen looks now. So I'm going to show how it ended up, and then post about how we did things in little tutorial type posts later. Sound good? Cool! I'm super happy with how it all came together. And we did it without any big monetary layout, mostly just a TON of painting. I love painting...

Do you remember the big, bad before? With grosstastic laminate flooring, severely outdated cabinets with yucky hardware, wallpaper from the 80's, and tile counter tops with dark brown grout? Here's a reminder:

 Let's pause a moment to take it all in.

We decided to go for a fun, bright look since we needed to get maximum happy from minimum changes. Of course the largest change, besides the floor, are the cabinets.
 We painted the bottoms with Annie Sloan Chalk paint custom mixed by us and the tops with a mix of ASCP 1/2 old white and 1/2 white. Here's a beauty shot of the new hardware and hinges.
Oops. My floor is dirty. I can't believe I took a photo the one time when I have a dirty floor. Oh well. Click here for the low down on painting your own floors.
One of the best things we did was take off a couple of upper cabinet doors to display my teacup collection.

I'm seriously lacking in before pictures, mainly because the kitchen was so bad I never took pictures in there. Here is the eat in area, it's cleared out to be painted but you can feel the log cabin vibe, right?
Marc sprayed the bottom half of the walls white and the top half grey. He is a superior husband.
We updated with light fixtures with new ones from Home Depot.

I probably wouldn't put sconces there myself, but we had to replace the medieval dungeon style ones that were living there with something.
 There's a little desk type area right behind the swinging door that had a bulletin board already installed.
Oh! Can you see that little blue flower on the tile there? Those were scattered all over the back splash and I had to scrape them off with a razor blade. Looks like I missed one. Good times.

And we hung this little guy from IKEA over the stove. I really wanted a small pot rack, but our ceiling is too low. I do like this though.
I hand painted all of the brown grout white, it's easy to do-here's a link to the instructions. And that is about it.
We should conclude with this little gem that demonstrates that no matter how hard you try to get everything ready to photograph, if you have a teenage boy at home you may still end up with your mugs arranged to spell something interesting. But at least they look cute!


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