Thursday, December 6, 2012

When temperments clash..the strong willed

I was frustrated...seemed anything could irritate me. Waking up to another mess the dog had made during the night didn't add a constructive undertone to my morning. Nor did the spat at 7am over waffles and syrup. Trying to breathe some peace into my day I made my mornings coffee and invited each of the boys to sit with me to discuss their progress in their studies. 

Carter was up first. He's very pleasant to talk to. Quirky but agreeable. Our meeting concluded that he has jumped leaps and bounds since August. A for amazing. 

Next up was Cylas. We began by going over his completed units in Math and English. His arrogant tone and lack of participation nerved me, but I went on to point out his successes, which brought him a smile. He likes positive attention. The tides turned thought when we moved onto our I pointed out his weakness in math, tension rose. He can be utterly difficult. His mind was on one thing, He wants to finish his book that I tore him from, and he doesn't want to put any more effort into math...and when is lunch...and can you take me to the store? My invitation for him to discuss his progress annoyed him. And his response aggravated me. He is very contrary to ideas that are not his own...really a leader in nature, but I couldn't ignore his attitude. So off I went, informing him that if he wanted to succeed in life, he would first off need to learn how to get along with people better, to be more agreeable. To think of others and think positively, optimistic. A team player. Uhh. 

As I am saying these words to my growing son who is trying to find himself I am vaguely reminded of my own attitude on life as a child. Looking at him I saw myself..through and through. If anyone were to understand what was going on inside this boy, it ought to be me. He and I clash...we are each stubborn to the extent that compromise is hard for us. I understand that. He doesn't. I need remind myself of this often. He is finding his way in life, and who better to teach him the skills to use his personality to advance his potential character. He needs affirmations..big ones. Daily I need remind myself that being critical of him only drives him farther into his tendency to rebel. As a mother, this is a learning curve for me too. As much as I think my parents never affirmed my presence, I need to boldly establish my son as a very important and contributing member of the family in the most empowering way. This is the key for him. Carter is different. His needs are unique too, but in such a way that he is much easier to please. My 2 year old is developing into a similar version of the strong willed child. Hopefully by the time he faces the same trials that Cylas does, I'll have a more experienced grasp on things. Poor Cylas, he's really a living experiment. My first child. I make mistakes. We learn. We get better. I know we will be okay. 

As much as this journey is terrifying, emotional, and lifelong I catch glimpses every day of the treasure I have in my children. To see their personalities blossom as they make their way. Seeing how they care for each other. Those moments when I look at them and know that they are the greatest gift God has ever entrusted me with. I am so Thankful. For every moment. The peaceful ones. The challenging. The rewarding. It's all good, we are moving forward.

Monday, December 3, 2012

TV...from lazy to learning

TV you say? ...what's that about kids learning to be lazy? Huh. 

We have gone through many fads when in comes to TV. Once upon a time, we saw tv as a good educational know, for abc's and the like. After all, Baby Einsteins is pretty thought provoking..isn't it? From Pooh Bear, to Astro Boy...and Star wars to Spongebob...we've seen it all. And please don't forget the greed teaching commercials that brainwash children and adults alike to spend hard earned dollars on meaningless gadgets that end up in the next garage sale. 

 Without limits and direction, TV quickly became a nightmare. Everything from kids running to their father frantic to show him a toy that they just *had* to have, to peer disputes that are ironically similar to the last episode of Jimmy neutron. Sigh. The kids seem to know nothing other than how to grab the best seat in front of the tube..and what time iCarly comes on.

Thankfully, I grabbed a grip on myself and realized that fresh air, and some structure was desperately needed. When we decided to Homeschool, I made that radical move towards.. *gasp* ..TV TURNAROUND. My first step was to limit..yes limit screen time (this includes the computer). 1 hour..per child..per day. Period. Add stuck to it. 

Next up was to banish the world of commercials..which is amazingly easy with the use of we turned off the satellite and turned on Netflix. It took the boys awhile to get used to their limit of one hour. A lot was said about being bored, and having nothing to do and the so on...but they lived. 

What was the real shocker was when I expected them to pay for tv time..yes. I said that correctly. They earn "merits" for doing well in school, passing tests, household chores and the like. 1 hour of tv? 3 merits please :) 

I started my anti TV conspiracy back in the summer is now Early December and my boys have well adapted to their new norm. Instead of watching random infomercials and wasting afternoons on cartoons, the boys (ages 9 & 10) have moved towards a fad in Youtube (we have since disconnected even the netflix) They often watch short clips of LEGO movies...sometimes amature, others are brilliant. They also find interesting games to play, or dust off the xbox for a good old hunting game. I don't mind these things. They at least are a product of what interests my boys have...rather than a tv listing of peer influences that I don't so much agree with. There is something about having to type in a search word of your own, from scratch, that gets ones brain into "individuality mode". Requiring them to actually think of something that they want to watch..rather than picking from a parade of choices.

Now that the boys are happy with their screen experience, I have gone into the next phase: Student led learning aka un-schooling...better known as: a life of learning..or better yet, "teach yourself" screen hour. Before this, the boys had 6 days of tv time where they could watch..well, anything..with some discretion. On Sundays, they had a free day where they had no time limit and did not have to pay. Now, Both Saturday and Sunday are free days (most the time we are not home), but as a toss up, the week day screen time can now be used *only* for learning. Additionally, rather than each boy having an hour, they now have one hour total...they are to learn together.

Talking about and enjoying in common interests has shown to be a dynamic learning tool. Children will retain information more readily as a group than if they are alone. I have shown them how to use Google to search for items of interest. Carters first choice was to find out more about Dinosaurs. So they chose a short film about the history of the beastly animals. You see, there is compelling research that if children are given access to information, and have the drive to learn, that they can and will succeed at teaching themselves whatever it is that they want to learn about. TV is not all's just the garbage that is offered as eye candy that turns such a great tool into rubbish. 

As we turn this new leaf, I see two enthusiastic kids...ready to learn, who love the technology of screens. I can not deny that screen time is becoming increasingly popular among teens and adults alike. Nor the fact that my kids are drawn to it like magnets. From social media, to texting. Video games and ipods, e-readers ect ect..My children are growing up in a world where they will need the skills to use these tools in a productive and responsible way. To cross off the use of technology entirely is to introduce a disadvantage to my kids. We embrace. We learn, from lazy to learning.

How to make Jerky

How we make our jerky

Every year, about this time, we end up with a little surplus of ground meat. A favourite at our house is the salty, protein filled, teriyaki jerky. My first dehydrator was a cheap...a useless machine. It had no temperature gauge, and ran very hot...which I suppose may be okay for jerky..but not so nice for my fruits. A few years ago, I scored a better dehydrator at a second hand shop for only $14. It's perfect. 

First off, when making jerky, be sure to have good quality, fresh ground meat. 
A local butcher is a great place to look. 
We don't measure so much when we make we have aprox 5 lbs meat, and have sprinkled close to 2tbs of Kosher salt on top. You cna adjust the salt content to suit your tastes. Sometimes, I don't use any at all...but it will store longer when you use salt. Mix in well. I let this sit for a few hours to soak in well. Some suggest letting it sit for longer, but 2-3 hrs will do.

Next we work in a seasoning. The sky is the limit here...choose whatever you like. You could purchase specially made seasonings just for jerky, or make your own. We use a 475 ml bottle of our favourite Teriyki sauce. I'd love to make my own sauce...but have not come across a good recipe that we all love. If you have one you cherish, please share :)

Once the seasoning has been worked in well, we use our Nesco Jerkey Pump to squeeze out strips of raw meat onto our dehydrator trays.

 Once the Dehydrator is full (we have 9 trays), I set the temperature to 155f and leave it to do it's work. I usually check back in an hour or so to flip the strips. This can be a sticky mess if the meat has not dried enough. So if it is still pretty wet, I wait longer.

 While we are waiting, here is where I found my 2 year old. He learned from his older bothers how to do see, they climb up and over the banister to avoid the baby gate....and Griffen's legs are just a little short of he just hangs out here.

When I turned on the dehydrator it was early at bedtime the jerky was nearly done...but not completely. So, I set the heat on low and left it to finish over night. In the morning Cylas exclaimed, "It's as hard as bark but tastes awesome...can I have another piece?" I haven't quite figured out the art of having dry, yet tender jerky...mine is always dry dry...but equally yummy. Have you tips on making your jerky tender? Care to share?

I managed to bottle 4 quarts before they had devoured it.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Hop Down Cherry Lane

 Since starting our rabbitry, we have been the landing spot for bunnies that our family or friends no longer want as pets. This, I suppose is borderline weird. My husband is not soo eager to cull the cute furry animals to start with. But add on that, the idea that this, once, was a child's cherished pet, and have a dilemma. Yes, there have been a few tragic stories in the past...but yesterday brought anew the tearing of the heart.

This is Oreo. He is a dwarf. My husband was the first to meet him. I had heard he was small...but when Dan proclaimed that we could just not throw him in the freezer, my first thought was "get a back bone"...but then I saw how absolutely tiny he was, and how domesticated he had apparently been raised. The story was that he was given to a friend, who gave him to a friend. He was homeless. Poor thing, he just needs an everlasting home...not the cooker.

Immediately, as if in unison, our Family adopted Oreo as our own. He is now in the home as a pet. I'm not sure what this may do for our future culling experience...but for now it reassures us that amidst our journey of making a sustainable life for ourselves, that we can draw a line between things given for need, and things given for us to care for.

May I resolve that we welcome large breed rabbits. 
The small ones need a family home..and we already have one :)