Sunday, January 31, 2010

Gooey Goodness: Cinnamon Rolls

I did something today that I have never done. I made cinnamon rolls. I've made maple-cinnamon-raisin sticky buns before, but never plain cinnamon rolls. This recipe is specifically adapted to use the 'dough' cycle of a bread machine. I found the reciped at Money Saving Mom's Bread Machine Cinnamon Roll post. They were very good.

I generally followed the reciped from the post. It was very important to check dough consistency during the initial mixing. Mine were much too sticky at first. I did only a few things differently, like using butter instead of oil. As a note, I believe the 4 cups of flour refers to all-purpose flour, not bread flour. I used 2 cups of bread flour and 2 cups of all-purpose flour. I divided the dough before rolling it out. I rolled the first half into a 10" by 14" (approximately) rectangle (wonky though it was), spread the filling, rolled it, cut off the uneven ends, and then slice it into 9 (almost 1" wide) slices. I placed the slices into a greased 9"x9" pan and then baked it. The second half (shown in the images) was worked slightly differently. I rolled it into a much larger rectangle (knowing that I would need about 15 rolls to fit into the 9"x13" baking pan I had available) that was about 15" by 18". After adding the filling and rolling it, I cut slightly less than 1" slices to get 15 of them. I place them in the pan and then let them rise, covered by plastic wrap, in a warm location (in my house, the only warm location was the open, off oven after the other rolls had finished baking). The picture above shows them after rising and before baking. The pictures below show them after baking and then with the icing. I doubled the filling, which was yummy, but with that and the too much icing, it was very, very sweet. I would use less filling and less icing next time.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Little Tip for Showers

Here is my boring bathroom. Totally monochromatic. I like the wall color (a bit like browned butter--more yellow than tan). I decided, with some changes in my own tastes, that I wanted a little more color.

After a trip to HomeGoods, I found a shower curtain, mat, hand towels, and even matching liquid handsoap. It is not a huge change like wall color would have been, but it is enough to make me smile. On top of the color, I added a little change to help make my every day life a bit easier.

I shamelessly stole this idea from a friend. It is a way of extending the shower curtain so that the water cannot escape the shower without having to fuss with the shower curtain a lot. When you have kids old enough to shower by themselves and yet absent-minded enough to forget to make sure the entire shower opening is blocked, this works out great.

I bought an extra shower curtain and a couple of 3M removable wall hooks. Install the hooks next to the shower rod and wait until the adhesive is set (about an hour). Take the extra vinyl shower curtain and cut it either in half or so that there are enough holes for the wall hooks and a couple extra. Put the shower curtain on the hooks and then put the rest of the holes on the same hooks as your regular curtain.
A semi-permanant way to keep water in the shower with less nagging and more reliability.

Another Objectivist Round Up

Hosted by Rational Jenn. Rachel Miner, with her new blog, has some nice parenting posts.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I Want My Own Conference

I want a Northeast Objectivist Mom conference. I'd get together with the 5 or 6 people I know are in the area, hire Dr. Ellen Kenner to speak (if she would) or perhaps a speaker from NYC.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Cleaning Lists

Welcome to the Kids Out and About readers! I know Deb loves to share great things with her subscribers and am happy this might be helpful to some of you.

I've decided to make Saturday cleaning day. Of course Saturday is always cleaning day. It's the day my husband is home from work and it's the day I'm off work (the work of getting my daughter educated). I enjoy having an official day for straightening up the house.

The point is that I want to make it easy for the kids to participate. My almost 11 year old, Hanover, is just about old enough to clean her room by herself, if only she could remember what she has to do. The 8 year old, Flurpee, is not ready to work completely on her own, but if she feels ready to try, I do not want to be the one holding her back.

Part of my previous career in mechanical engineering involved a lot of training of technicians to run machines. That type of training involves a lot of fairly innocuous, repetitive work--like housekeeping only using million-dollar equipment and supplies and which could cost you your livelihood if things went poorly. Along with the training came the quality control part of my job; how to make sure people did what they were supposed to do.

Once someone is mostly trained and before they hit full mastery, I would often encounter a period of time where I would just stand there and remind them what came next. After a few of those sessions where the person no longer had large issues and could remember what to do for each step, the only thing needed was a little prodding and quite a bit of practice.

Once the person hit this stage, the training meshed well with the quality control aspect. How did we ensure quality control where I worked? The dreaded check list. It required a lot of paperwork to be generated and hours spent getting sign offs and then stopping the work until the check list was approved, and how many times did the check list just become the next mindless task that was flubbed? But it was the most appropriate technique we were appropriately geared up to use.
I am still drawn to check lists in my home life. Especially for something far easier to do, like housework. The chore I want the kids to do the most is keeping up their rooms. This is especially important to Hanover who has a dust allergy. I would also appreciate some help in cleaning the bathrooms. I felt this would be more likely to happen if they had some direction to follow in case I am busy elsewhere (which I usually am when the cleaning bug hits me).

This past weekend I sat down and actually put down what I thought the process was for room cleaning. This is similar to a post a did a long time ago consisting of morning and evening routines. That list relied more on clip art since I had a pre-reader at the time. This list includes a lot more detail.

Clicking on the image will get you the original Word 2007 document. It should be able to be edited in Word or Open Office. There is no special formatting. The clip art is simply in-line with the text. I included the "gold standard" for me. Which is why I have the native document linked. If you decide to give something similar a try, you can adapt it to suit your own needs. I got all of my clip art free from Microsoft.

Once I printed the list for each room, I placed it in a paper protector and taped it on the back of the door to the room. I could also imagine it being kept with the master cleaning supplies or taped to the inside vanity door. I have used it once and Hanover was quite excited. Her cleaning was not what I would have preferred but it was better than the usual cleaning--none!

Both lists follow the same pattern.

  • Put stuff away
  • Empty trash
  • Dust
  • Polish
  • Vacuum
  • Linens

It also generally moves from ceiling to floor. If I ever regularly clean any room in the house that thoroughly, I would be amazed. If I get the kids to take a bit more ownership and pride in their own rooms, then even better.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Now Where Was I?

Oh yes--I was sending all of my school-age children to school. And then I didn't. Actually: and then I couldn't. Although I could have--just not in good conscience. Not in the way you may believe, or hope to believe, or for any other reason you may think except this one: I was a bad homeschooler. Homeschool FAIL! would have the proper connotation.

What happened? The school evaluation found Flurpee had strong reading mechanics and weak reading comprehension, analysis, and/or communication skills and, if they had gotten that far, bad or non-existent writing ability.

How did this happen? I can trace it back to a number of combined factors. I will document them here in case anyone else is blind to some of the pitfalls I embraced. Some of it was laziness, some was a lack of age-appropriate expectations.
  • I did not consider my daughter ready for extensive handwriting at 8 years old. It turns out that the public school expects a lot of writing (including writing with real exposition--not just creative writing) at this age.
  • I was being laid back about homeschooling. Part of this was due to wanting to avoid confrontations with Flurpee about getting her work done. Another part was because I was being pulled from our work by Omega (the newly 2 year-old). Another part was my anxiousness to be done with the homeschool journey and looking forward to getting my life back--new career, more baby time, more house time, more me time. Not to mention the distractions of real-life like car repairs, home repairs, Christmas shopping, etc. And not to mention the distraction of non-academic homeschooling pursuits that were fun but that took a lot of time away from the schooling. And not to mention the draw of a little more of an unschooling approach--kids will get things in their own time, no need to pressure them, no need to add stress to the parent-child relationship.
  • I was not paying enough attention to Flurpee without Hanover. Whenever I did a literature lesson (the time when we would be learning the meaning of our stories), Hanover was so excited to answer the questions, I realize now that Flurpee didn't get a chance to show what she wasn't getting.
  • I changed curriculum and chose a lower level to avoid missing out on essentials. You only need to do that once to fall behind a whole year.
  • I was picking and choosing curricula to fill in all of the subjects myself instead of going with a full curriculum package. Some things fell through the cracks and this also helped mask my poor age-appropriate expectations.
  • I was playing to my strengths and was putting off dealing with the subject I felt weakest teaching. For me, the subject I was procrastinating with was writing. For others it might be math or science. The fact is that it is a lot harder to play catch up (especially for average learners--bright kids, by definition, catch on quicker and need less time to get up to speed) than to work on the concepts early and often.
  • I would mistake Flurpee for her sister sometimes. Flurpee just doesn't have the same kind of strengths or weaknesses as her sister and because something went a particular way with Hanover, I would sometimes assume Flurpee with deal with it or get it the same way. This kind of thing didn't happen a lot, but it did happen.
  • Just because I already did something didn't mean I was done doing it. One of the things you realize with kids is just how often something may need to be repeated (occasionally with different levels of development and sometimes just with the same level) for them to really get it. When I had done something with Hanover I would check mark the little space inside my brain that said 'done' and sometimes I thought I really was 'all done', not just 'done for Hanover'.
  • I wanted to put her into public school only two months before the state tests. I know the evaluator was right about all of Flurpee's skills and do not feel that she misstated them in any way because of the tests. Though I do believe the tests and Flurpee's very late birthday had a lot to do with being offered to go into a lower grade rather than staying in the upper grade with additional help.
There are probably more reasons and I can go into each reason even more in-depth but I don't think that would be nearly as interesting as this first perusal. I mean this as a cautionary tale of low-expectations and the contradiction of homeschooling for academics (my original and still main purpose) and yet not focusing on the academic. Some may not care. After all there is no reason to care if your child is behind school kids if you never plan on sending them to school. Some will feel that being behind at 8 years old is not such a big deal because there is plenty of time to emphasize more stringent academics at older ages (this is where I was). Others do not homeschool for academic reasons at all and could not care less where their kids are academically as long as they are good stewards of the environment or God-fearing Christians or what-have-you. Others have been challenging their kids academically always remembering that ultimate goal and are now sitting back with a nice smug grin (and I don't blame you one bit!).

So I could have put Flurpee in school in a lower grade with additional help. It's public school, it's not like they could turn her away. The lower grade had always been a possibility and wouldn't be out of the running since her birthday is so late in the year. So why not do it? Because Flurpee had always considered herself to be in the older grade and I couldn't bring myself to put her in at the younger grade and have her always think "well, I would be in this grade except for my mother homeschooled me for two years so I'm a year behind."

Which leaves her still home with me. I've retooled my mentality, retooled our schedule, and retooled our rules. I have dusted off the workbooks I bought many years ago. Now I'm playing catch up. We will see where Flurpee is at the end of the summer and if she's not ready for the higher grade then she and I will decide whether we want to go to the lower grade in public school or continue with homeschooling for one last hurrah to catch up for the following year.

The good news out of all of this--yes, there is good news!--is knowing more of what is expected for Flurpee's age. I was also pleasantly surprised at the higher expectations from public school. Flurpee is quite a bit more motivated to do school work. Any time she starts to give me a hard time or says she does not want to listen, I only need to remind her that she needs to work hard to be able to go to school and that will usually lead to more cooperation.