Menu Planning for October 21, 2018

This past week was a weird one and not like I planned.  My husband grilled twice, so that left us, thankfully, with a lot of leftovers to eat for our meals during the week.

Here’s what we had last week:


Lunch: Polish Sausage and Cabbage, rice
Dinner: Grilled heart and chicken and potatoes with salad



Lunch: Chicken fried rice
Dinner: Grilled hot dogs and hamburgers, zucchini, salad, tater tots


leftover grilled food


leftover grilled food


Santa Fe Casserole, Brussels sprouts


Bean Soup from the freezer with bacon


Taco salad

For more meal ideas, visit Menu Planning Monday and Gluten Free Menu Swap.


Stages Emotion Cards: A Timberdoodle Review

Two of our kids have high functioning autism, and while they can do well on many things, they do sometimes have trouble reading emotions.  Both children also receive speech therapy at home, and I often hear the speech therapist working with them by modeling different faces, asking them to explain what emotion she’s exhibiting and then explaining if they’re wrong.  Sometimes she’s even called me in to make a certain face.

When I got the opportunity to review Timberdoodle’s Stages: Emotion Cards, I immediately thought of both my using these with the kids and the speech therapist using them.

About Stages: Emotion Cards

The cards come in a sturdy box that also works as an excellent storage container.  There are 81 cards, including one card that is blank.  The cards are one of two types–either the card just has a single person expressing an emotion, or the card has two people together, expressing different emotions.

Each of the first 40 cards shows one person exhibiting one of five emotions–happy, sad, angry, disgusted, and surprised.  There are eight different cards demonstrating each of the five emotions.

One the back of each card, there is a number as well as a description of the card.  There are questions/conversation starters as well as program details, a place to write the date introduced, and a place to write the date mastered.

The kit also comes with a 16 page Instructions for Educators booklet that offered a variety of suggestions for how to use the cards.

These cards are sold as part of Timberdoodle’s Pre-K curriculum, but as our experience suggests, they are also excellent for children with autism who may have trouble reading facial cues.  It retails for $34.99.

Our Experience Using the Stages: Emotion Cards

I was so glad that there were two types of cards!  Both of my kids could fairly easily identify the cards that just contained one person, but the cards that showed two people interacting were more difficult.  The speech teacher used these for several weeks and generated good discussion with the kids such as how the people were feeling, what might have just transpired beforehand, etc.  One of my kids especially had trouble distinguishing between annoyed and angry, so these cards offered good practice.

I used the Instruction for Educators pamphlet to guide me on how to use these cards; we had fun playing “Go Fish” with the cards and also playing a matching game with them.

If you’re looking for a great way to teach your younger children or your special needs children emotional intelligence, these cards are an excellent choice.

Note: I received these cards for free in exchange for my honest review.  No other compensation was given.

Homeschool Crew Review: St. Bartholomew’s Eve by Heirloom Audio

Now that we’re driving a minimum of 1.5 hours a day, we’ve been burning through audio books; in fact, that is one of the main ways we get some of our school done despite driving so far every day.  We were recently given the opportunity to review St. Bartholomew’s Eve by Heirloom Audio, and we were riveted.

St. Bartholomew's Eve

About Heirloom Audio

Heirloom Audio seeks to provide wholesome entertainment for kids.  They are especially interested in bringing history to life for today’s kids, and to do so, they try not to sanitize history.  In addition, they travel to the location where the story is set to create the audio story.

We have listened to many Heirloom Audio Productions including The Dragon and the RavenWith Lee in Virginia,  Captain Bayley’s HeirIn the Reign of TerrorThe Cat of Bubastes, Wulf the Saxon, and Beric the Briton, and they are all excellent.

About St. Bartholomew’s Eve

The story follows two cousins, Francois and Philip.  Francois lives in France, and Philip lives in England and is visiting his French relatives.  The story is set in the 1500s, when the Huguenots are fighting against the Catholics for religious freedom.

Early in the story, Francois and Philip join the war effort, and much of the story recounts their battles.  When Francois and a Count are taken by Catholics and put in a prison, Philip must find a way to rescue them.  Philip meets a young boy, Argento, and his sister, Clare, whose father was recently murdered.  Because Argento helped the Huguenots, Argento’s later attacked and shot; he loses his leg.

As the war progresses, Philip becomes an experienced soldier and rises through the ranks thanks to his bravery and excellent fighting skills.  Even though Philip didn’t have to participate in the war because he’s British, he still chooses to, risking his life frequently.  The story takes a surprise twist in the end when one of the main characters is killed.

Like all of Heirloom Audio’s audio production, this story is rich in sound effects that add deeply to the story and make it that much richer.  The battle scenes are especially chaotic with the sound of swords clinking one another, men shouting, horses naying, etc.  Listeners can almost visualize the battle as if they are there.

Our Thoughts

I appreciated the story and the determination of the Hugenots.  Before listening to this story, I knew very little about this time in history, and now I’d like to know more.  St. Bartholomew’s Eve did a great job presenting the Protestant side of the war; now I’d like to learn about the Catholic side.  In addition, I was encouraged to hear throughout the audio that there were many Catholics who thought the war was unjust and tried to help the Hugenots.

One minor note is that the sound effect for the crickets that often played in the background during night scenes were distractingly loud.  Sometimes I had trouble hearing the dialogue over the crickets.

My girls liked this story, as they have all of the Heirloom Audio Productions that we’ve listened to, but I imagine young boys would really enjoy hearing about the battles, especially since the battles make a good portion of the story.  Overall, this was another great audio performance by Heirloom Audio Productions.

Heirloom Audio Productions
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I was one of 80 people to review St. Bartholomew’s Eve.  To read more reviews, click on the link below:

St. Bartholomew's Eve {Heirloom Audio Reviews}
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When Your Homeschool Dreams Are Derailed

We started homeschooling in 2013, when Bookworm was in 4th grade.  We were just going to try it for a year, but it turned out to be a good fit for our family, so we kept homeschooling.  PB & J Girl and Cuddle Bug have never been to school.

I still remember our first year homeschooling Bookworm; we used Sonlight’s Core D (as it was called back then), and we both loved it.  I remember either that year or the year after, we sat down together with the Sonlight catalog and marked all of the Sonlight Cores Bookworm would use as he homeschooled through high school.  We even planned out his high school electives.


Thinking back on that memory now, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at my naivete.

Homeschooling has definitely not been that smooth, linear path I planned for years ago.

In the last few years, our lives feel like they’ve been turned upside down.  As a result, we’ve made some changes to our homeschool; the changes might be temporary, I hope they’re temporary, but who knows now?  Now I’m taking it one month at a time, and I’m definitely not planning years and years ahead in the future as I once did.

Enrolling in an Online Public School

This year, we made a radical change for our family and decided to enroll all of the kids in an online, public school.  There are a few reasons why we did this.


Bookworm was not motivated at all to do school.  He’s a very bright kid, much brighter than either my husband or I, but he lacks motivation.  For the first three years we homeschooled, everything was good.  He was an eager learner; then, when he hit 7th grade, we hit a wall.  I was tired of cheering, cajoling, bargaining, and expending a lot of energy on a kid who had no interest in book learning.

This year, he’s a 9th grader, so we decided to enroll him in an online public school.  He does better with firm deadlines and being accountable to someone else.  I hope that he stays in the online school for the rest of his high school education, in part because he can take college classes while in high school, and the online school will pick up the tab.

Educational Testing

One of my children was struggling with reading and writing.  Letters were flipped backward, numbers were reversed, handwriting was hard to read and spelling was atrocious.  This child can read, but the child reads very, very slowly and can have trouble with comprehension.  I noticed this problem a few years ago, but I thought the child would grow out of it, but the problems still remain now.

I asked our local school district for testing, and they tried to tell me what I was reporting was on the low end of normal for kids at that age.  I disagreed.  In the end, last spring, they gave my child a quick, 10 minute test, dismissed me, and told me some simple strategies to help improve reading ability such as using a piece of paper to cover the rest of the text so the child could focus on only that line (s)he was reading.

I was fed up.  As soon as we started online school this August, I requested testing.  The online school has been wonderful.  They took my concerns seriously, and they hired an educational psychologist from the local university to test the child.  The test was 3.5 hours long, and in the end, I not only got this child’s IQ score, but also a diagnosis (specific learning disability in basic reading skills, reading fluency skills, and written expression).  Essentially, this child has dyslexia.

We were also given a long list of educational suggestions to help this child have an easier time with schooling.  The child will now receive one hour of specialized instruction through the school to help with issues caused by dyslexia and assignments have been modified to make them less exhausting for a child with dyslexia.

Homeschool Plans Derailed

In the last year, I have discovered that I have not one but two kids with high functioning autism (Asperger’s, though they don’t use that term anymore) and another child with dyslexia.  All of my kids qualify for and have an IEP.

Certainly, homeschooling is never easy, but these extra challenges make it more intensive.  I would still like to homeschool the girls, but we’ll see.  For my husband and I, the most important thing is to place our kids where they can do their best and learn and grow as they should.  Right now, that’s through an online school.  We’re still essentially homeschooling, but it’s in a way far different than I ever planned when I naively browsed the Sonlight catalog with Bookworm years ago.

If you have or currently homeschool, have you found your homeschool journey taking a different path than you had ever anticipated?

Menu Planning for October 13, 2018

In part of my attempt to adjust to our new, busier schedule, this weekend, I did some meal prep for the upcoming week.  On Friday we had Taco Rice, so I doubled the recipe and put one in the freezer.  Then, I made ahead Hamburger Vegetable Soup so that will be waiting for us Monday night for dinner.  I also made two batches of 3 Ingredient Banana Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies–one batch with chocolate chips for the kids and one batch with raisins and walnuts for me.

Here’s what we’re having this week:


Lunch: Polish Sausage and Cabbage, rice
Dinner: Roasted Pork Loin, Baked Potatoes, Roasted Root Vegetables


Lunch: Iranian Kebob
Dinner: Roasted Whole Chicken, baked potatoes, mixed veggies


Lunch: leftover pork loin, baked potato, peas
Dinner: Hamburger Vegetable Soup, homemade GF/DF biscuits (made extra and will use some for lunches on Thursday)


Lunch: diced potatoes, bacon, cheese & egg, fruit
Dinner: leftover Hamburger Soup, Split Pea Soup, and Iranian Kebab, and cheese quesadillas


Lunch: fried rice with chicken, carrot sticks
Dinner: Hearty Meatball Soup, salad


Lunch: Twice baked potato with egg (sounds bad but tastes really good)
Dinner: Pepperoni Pizza Casserole, veggies


Lunch: Twice baked potato with egg (sounds bad but tastes really good)
Dinner: Chicken tacos, refried beans, lettuce tomato

For more meal ideas, visit Menu Planning Monday and Gluten Free Menu Swap.