Thursday, January 16, 2014

Operation Breakfast Update | Meal Plan w/ Grain-Free Granola

We are two weeks into the new year and new plan, and Operation Breakfast has been a huge success.  It's not been easy, but the reward has been so great that the effort has been worth it.
So what has changed?  Me and my approach to breakfast.  Such a simple idea.  But for this non-morning person introvert, it was a hard calling to answer accept.  

I'm getting up earlier and making a full breakfast of whole foods for the kids.  Once breakfast is finished, I set the table with a hot breakfast, wake my son, call my daughter, and scoop my youngest from her bed and deliver her to the table with snuggles. We all eat, clean up together, then they start morning chores while I have some quiet time.  

The result?  We have a huge improvement in attitudes around our home.  School is going so much smoother and instead of trying to fit in time for snacks around school, we are able to stay out of the kitchen until lunch.  

Here is the first recipe I whipped up for breakfast for my kids with food allergies.  It's a favorite around here and I hope you love it.

2 cups organic, raw sunflower seeds
2 cups organic, raw pumpkin seeds
2 cups organic, coconut flakes
1/4 cup coconut oil, warmed gently until melted
1/4 cup (scant) raw honey (or sweeten to taste)


1.  Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
2.  Add the seeds and coconut flakes to a large mixing bowl.  Drizzle with coconut oil and honey.  Toss until well coated.

3.  Spread the mixture onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Spread the mixture out into a thin, even layer.  Bake for approximately one hour, turning every 20 minutes.  Continue baking until the coconut toasts to a light golden brown.

4.  Cool and store in a covered container.  

5. Serve with milk, over granola, over berries, or snack on it dry.  Feel free to substitute any nuts or other seeds in place of the sunflower and pumpkin seeds.  My options are limited by the food allergies in our house.  Feel free to add more honey to make this sweeter.  You can easily turn this into a granola bar by adding additional honey, pressing it into your pan, and baking longer.  Granola is just so incredibly flexible that you almost can't mix a bad batch.  Add in what you like.  

The rest of our meal plan for the week is below.  I typically serve a raw fruit and veggie at every meal, including breakfast. 
For my kid with food allergies...
Monday: Granola Cereal w/Ham
Tuesday: Sausage Wraps (recipe coming)
Wednesday: Ham Wraps (recipe coming)
Thursday: Granola Cereal and Bacon
Friday: Steak

For my girls and myself...
Everyday - pretty much some form of bacon/ham and eggs or a veggie omelet.

I hope our family recipes and our experiences can help someone else.  Homeschooling alone can be hard enough.  And so many know the struggle of nourishing children with food allergies.

Make it a great week!
~Michelle @ My Blue Daisy

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year's Homeschool Reflections | Operation Breakfast

I love this time of year!  New year, new plans - or maybe just a new look at old plans.  I use this time at the first of the year to take a look at how our school year is going, pray, and determine if we are still on the best path.

After just a bit of prayer and reflection, it became clear to me that we are on the right track but have some problems to solve.  One of the little-big issues that I found hindering our progress is my own morning routine (which is a whole other future blog post) and the second is breakfast.  Who knew something as simple as breakfast could be such a huge hang-up to our morning school work? 

I wish I could make a quick scramble of eggs and a side of bacon for everyone and then move on with the day.  Everyone would be well nourished, satisfied and ready to focus on school.  But my little guy is allergic to eggs and several other foods.  Cooking whole food lunches and dinners isn't much of a problem for me after all these years of dealing with food allergies, but breakfast has been my hang up for a long while.  I am not a morning person.  I prepare lunches and dinners from scratch, but breakfast?  I taught my children from an early age to prepare their own breakfast.  Great, right?  Evidently, not so much.  It's a fine plan for my girls.  My older ones are capable of preparing eggs, greek yogurt and smoothies as they like and my youngest typically shares my breakfast.  But my little guy...  And he's become quite picky about breakfast.  Left to his own choice, he would choose a bowl of rice cereal with a side of rice milk - the sweetened kind.  You can just imagine how well that works for him.  About the time breakfast is done, he's already looking for a snack and complaining that he is STARVING and there is nothing to eat.  Regardless of what healthy, whole food options I list off, he still sees nothing of interest for breakfast.  His second preference for breakfast would be a fresh grilled steak.  Smart kid!  But I don't have the budget to grill steak every morning.

Thus, Operation Breakfast begins.  We created a weekly breakfast meal plan for my son and another for my daughter's and I.  Together we make the plan, shop, and prep the dishes on the weekends or evenings - although most of that prep work is on me.  No more "There's nothing to eat!" complaining as they stare into the refrigerator.  And no more "I don't want that!" when I respond with their options.  The plan is made (with their input) and the plan is what they will eat.  It has worked just fine for lunches and dinners all these years, I'm not sure why I didn't do this for breakfast sooner as well.  Oh right, that whole I am not a morning person thing. This year that is also changing.  

Our first breakfast item - Homemade Granola (egg free, grain free, sweetened with honey) is prepared, Instagrammed, and ready to be stored for the week to come.  It's delicious, crunchy and filling.  Pictures, Meal Plan and food-allergy friendly recipes coming soon!  

Also stay tuned for updates as we move our way into the second half of our 2013-2014 homeschool year in Rome to Reformations and First Grade with My Father's World.  

Happy, Happy New Year!
~Michelle @ My Blue Daisy

Friday, August 9, 2013

Life has been busy this summer!  My garden is growing, my children growing and learning, and so am I.  In May I took on a new adventure and began training in Olympic Lifting (Oly Lifting) at CrosFit Olathe.  Today I want to brag on this a little bit.  Please know this is not a paid review by any means at all.  

In short - I love this place!  It's hard to not type that out in the all-annoying all capital letter format.  My husband and I have held about 5 various gym memberships over the course of life since college.  CrossFit Olathe is nothing like any of those 5 gyms.  People are friendly, encouraging and happy.  There is a sense of friendship, giving, camaraderie, challenge and joy inside this cinder block building.  I'm telling you this place is like some kind of therapy.

As their name describes, Crossfit Olathe provides fun and challenging Crossfit classes.  I am constantly impressed by the effort the members put into their own workouts as well as encouraging those around them.  There are high fives all around at the end of the hour.  It is impressive to witness.

As for me, I have been specifically training with Oly Lifting.  Crossfit Olathe has much to offer those with fitness goals.  My posture has improved as my confidence and strength have increased; I have added 35lbs to my back squat in just three months.  Overall, I simply feel better and I don't sigh heavily at the gentleman at Costco who loads up the over sized insulated bag to where it is literally overflowing with heavy fresh and frozen food.  Instead I smile as I lift that bag out of the cart and into the back of our vehicle.  

I had been lifting weights on my own and trying to learn a proper back squat for about 18 months before I walked into Crossfit Olathe, so I am not new to the bar or the squat.  But I was stuck at 85 lbs and frequently injuring myself and having to start back with just the bar.  What I have accomplished in 3 months of training with Jerell, is just amazing to me, especially when compared to the results of that previous 18 months of lifting.  Last week I squatted 120lbs.  My next goal is to squat body weight and that should be happening very soon.  

If you are looking to achieve some fitness goals, to get stronger, come by and check out Crossfit Olathe.  Give them a LIKE on Facebook, too.  And for more images of Crossfit Olathe, the owners, coaches and members, see my photography website.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Our Family Garden: Pt 2 of 3

You can find Our Family Garden: Part 1 here.  In part one, my little scientists/engineers assembled the Tower Garden, set up the pump, and started our seeds in the provided rock wool.

Once our seedlings reached at least 3 inches tall (and weather permitted) we finally moved our Tower Garden outside into the sunshine, filled it with water, mineral solution, and transplanted our seedlings.  Once filled and plugged in out backyard was filled with the sounds of trickling water.  So our backyard garden doubles as a water feature.  The most relaxing sound ever!  (By the way, there is no reason to set this thing up inside at all.  We could have waited to set it up until our seedlings were ready to transplant outside.  We were just so excited to see that huge box when it arrived and wanted to set it up immediately, even though that meant living with it in the kitchen until our plants were ready.)

So how we did it.  We used our popsicle stick labels to cut and divide the rock wool 'brick' that we started our seeds.  My laborers carefully transplanted each little section of rock wool filled with its seedling and roots into each little black basket on the tower. 
 We placed our cucumbers and zucchini on the bottom, kale and lettuces in the middle, and left room at the top for our basil and stevia plants.  (More on the basil, stevia, and tomatoes in Part 3 of this series.)
Here is a close-up of one of our kale seedlings newly transplanted into its basket on the Tower Garden.  It is being nurtured by the mineral solution that is pumped from the base and rained down on the roots.  What are you planting this season? 

We live in Kansas where you never know what the weather is going to be like.  So 4 days after we transplanted our seedlings, we ended up with snow, sleet and freezing temperatures.  We raced home from that Thursday afternoon to rescue our lovely little plants.  I grabbed this image with my phone while we were frantically pumping water out of the base in order to the lighten the load before we carried it back inside. Fortunately all of our little plants seemed to have survived.

Our Tower Garden is back in our kitchen for now.  Below are some close-ups images of how the rock wool sections and seedlings sit in the Tower Garden. 

This is the basket where the seedlings will be 'planted'.  It's important to securely place your rock wool transplant all the way in.  The roots need to be touching the very bottom of the basket to make sure it receives sufficient water and minerals.
The rock wool and base of the plant will nearly fill the entire basket.  This is one of our cucumber plants.
Another cucumber plant.
The left and middle plants are the cucumbers above and the one on the right is one of the zucchini.  I can't wait to get them back out in the sunshine.

Stay tuned for Part 3 to see it back in action outdoors and see how quickly our plants are growing!  Anyone else have to make a mad dash to save their little plants due to weather change?  Your comments are blessings!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Our Family Garden: Part 1 of 3

I am so excited to have an aeroponic garden this year!  I cannot wait for fresh tomato and basil salad.  No worrying about GMO's or pesticides.  Yay!

Last year our backyard garden was nearly a complete failure.  The heat and the drought were just too much for our daily watering, and then there was a fungus that attacked some of our tomato plants.  It was deflating.  And then there is the month of June.  Every June I am away at church camp with my little ones for one to two weeks.  And when I'm away, I always lose about 1/3 of my garden due to heat and lack of attention.  Even when I hire someone to water.  I need a garden that required less maintenance, could stand up to the heat of a Kansas summer, and didn't require a gazillion gallons of water to maintain.  What I found was the Tower Garden.

We ordered ours in April and promptly set it up.  Set up was so easy that my little ones tackled it while I was still fumbling with my camera and the instructions.  (Please excuse the mess.  I still had moving boxes in the living room when we set this up back in early spring.)  This fall I will be picking up a grow lamp and setting up the garden in the basement to keep us supplied with kale, lettuces and herbs all winter.  So excited about that.  I will be journaling our experience here at My Blue Daisy.

Unpacking and organizing.  Can't you tell it's organized?

Installing the pump and connecting it to the base of the tower.

All assembled!

Preparing the rock wool for the seeds.  They aren't always so thrilled about having a camera following them around... 
This is what we planted.  So far all the seeds came up beautifully except the canteloupe.  None of the canteloupe seeds germinated.  Sad, sad.

Inserting seeds into the center of each rock wool section.  
All carefully planted and labeled the seeds.  Just waiting to be covered with a teeny bit of vermiculite to hold in the moisture.  My 10 year old made a nice diagram and write up for her science notebook.
All done!  The basic Tower Garden can hold 20 plants.  We started 18 seedlings and I ordered several tomato starts from an organic heirloom seedling store that we will transplant into those last two spots.  
And here is the warm, sunny spot for our seedlings to germinate.  Next week I will show you our current status of beautiful seedlings transplanted into the Tower Garden!  Anyone else using an aeroponic garden?  Or are you planting traditional style?  What grows at your home?
You can find out more about the Tower Garden here.  In part two I'll show you where we set our aeroponic in the back yard, how we transplanted our seedlings, and the result of Kansas snow in MAY.  Argh!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Scheduling School

I hope this will cover the questions on how I plan school.  The pictures are fairly hard to see; click on them to scroll through larger images.   

The first thing I do is figure out how many week's of school need to be completed.  Check your teacher's manual (if you use one) and double check your state requirements to make sure you aren't left in a deficit.  

Then I look ahead at the coming year and decide when I want to be DONE with 'school'.  My little ones compete on swim team in the summer, plus the pool, lake and parks are just irresistable when the weather is lovely.  I know I want to be done with our core curriculum before swim team practices start up in the last week of May.  (Daily reading and math are completed year round.  Get up, eat breakfast, do your math and read something - that's just how we roll; I'm sure you will find your own path for family education.)  

Once I know when I want to be done and how much there is to be done, and I start counting backwards adding in flex time as needed.  I rarely build in specific days off, aside from important holidays.  Instead, I build in margin so that days off can happen naturally without causing tension in our schedule.  Adding in margin allows for a day off for nature hikes on gorgeous fall days, rest days when everyone is tired, or scrubadub days when we need to pull the house back in order.  Once that is done I find I am typically looking to start school around the middle of August for second grade on up, and September for kindergarten and first grade.  

This is what our calendar has looked like for the 2012/2013 school year.  My second and fifth graders are working together through the same core curriculum  - My Father's Work Creation to Greeks (CTG).  Each school week is denoted by CTG: Week 1, etc.  Note that I didn't schedule kindergarten most of the school year?  Explanation on that down below.  

August 2012.  We start the year out slowly in mid-August adding a subject at a time into our daily routine.

September 2012.  We took off the week of Labor Day (again still completing math and reading daily).

October 2012: We schooled all through October, but stretched two weeks of curriculum out across three calendar weeks to allow for rest, nature hikes and deeper study of some subjects.

November 2012.  We stretched one week of curriculum across two weeks to allow for Thanksgiving cooking and time with family.  

 December 2012: Plenty of time off to spend with family.

January 2013.  Back to schooling right on through.  

February 2013.  We moved in February, so we definitely took some time off for packing and unpacking.

March 2013.  Spring break in March was full of snow sledding.

April 2013.

 May 2013.  Finishing up Fifth and Second grades in time for swim team.  Still working through A to Z (kindergarten).

June 2013.  Continuing with kindergarten.

July 2013

August 2013.  Finishing up A to Z (kindergarten) just in time to start first grade.

My youngest isn't technically school-aged, yet.  Through most of the school year I have been fairly laid back about using our kindergarten curriculum.  She sits with her older siblings during most of literature, history, science and Bible and enjoys a computer-based phonics program, too.  But recently she has been more interested in having her own school time.  Plus I am enjoying more one-on-one time with her now that my second grader has better study habits.  So we are now moving quickly through her own curriculum (My Father's World A to Z) and plan to start her in first grade (My Father's World Learning God's Story) in the second week of September.  If we had started our kindergarten curriculum in September, we would be done about now.  And honestly, with the work she has done with her siblings this year we don't even need to go through this curriculum.  We are only continuing on through because we love it so much.  It is such a full and fun curriculum.  It's like icing on the cake she already has in front of her.  I love the flexibility and customization of home education!

So that is how we schedule our school years but it's only one way.  Feel free to share how you go about this process!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Counting the Costs

When friends and acquaintances ask me about homeschooling, my response tends to sound like rainbows and roses.  Not because I intentionally spin homeschooling in a golden-hour glow, but because we love it so much.  My husband often warns me to send people to him to chat about homeschooling after they have spoken with me -tongue-in-cheek, of course.  So today, let's talk about the hidden costs of home education and counting those costs.  Did you count the costs at first or did you just jump in with both feet?

I recently read through Educating the WholeHearted Child again (by Clay and Sally Clarkson).  I appreciated the section in chapter one where Clay talks about counting the costs.  I recommend their book!  Check your library for it.  

Homeschooling will change you; it will change your parenting; it will change your heart.  Are you ready for that?  WERE you ready?  I wasn't - at first, but now I am so thankful.  I am a better parent for my decision to homeschool.  One of the things I have learned is that I can't HIDE from my children on bad days, messy-house days, or sick days.  I can't pretend life is grand when my head feels like it's going to split open or when our schedule has become overbooked.  My children can see right through any mask I might try to paint on during those tired and cranky days.  I have learned that they can see right through me so I might as well get real and honest with them.  What a blessing in disguise.  Homeschooling has brought me so much closer to my God, my ever present Help.  I can do anything through Him, right?

Homeschooling will change your life in unexpected ways.  Some changes take prayer and sacrifice to accept and some changes are blessings in disguise.  I have finally embraced shopping with my children.  I have learned to involve them - not just in meal planning, but even in the budgeting and selecting.  And guess what?  They are excellent helpers!  The only time I blow the budget now is when I shop alone.  When they are with me, we run by the bank first and pick up cash.  My three little ones arm themselves with calculators and diligently subtract away as we add items into our cart.  When we get close to our goal we have to start making tough choices.  Do we pick up an extra pack of nitrate-free bacon or that dark chocolate bar as a treat?  Do we still need 8 pounds of organic apples this week, or can we substitute a pound or two of the bananas or oranges that are on sale?  My children never cease to amaze me in their decision-making capabilities.  

Have you surrendered your home and housekeeping?  We just recently moved and not everything is in place, yet.  We needed to get back to our studies, so much of the painting and arranging will have to wait for summer.  I have a spacious dining room, that has become the homeschool room. We are planning out built-in bookshelves for the dining/homeschool room, but that will have to wait until summer.  In the meantime I have cardboard boxes as book shelves.  In our last house we didn't have a homeschool room at all.  Our books and supplies pretty much took over the living room, and well - the whole house.  Even now with a dedicated room, we have to be diligent to keep it contained.  My early-rising 10 year old prefers to do her math in her bedroom as soon as she wakes up - even before breakfast.  My little guy likes to do his math lying in the floor.  Reading happens everywhere all at once - literally.  Science typically happens in the kitchen and dining room.  My house often looks like a paper explosion.

There are papers, memory scriptures, notes, maps, and art randomly stuck on my walls.  I do try to keep this limited to the homeschool room, but its there.  Flip side is everyone seems to love huge wall maps.  I would love to have another.  It's a great conversation piece!

There are random toys mixed in with school and water bottles left all over the house.  Everyone has their own summer and winter water bottles and I am constantly chasing them down.  And there is no doubt that learning happens in this home.

See that pile on top of the white counter space?  That's my to-be-filed pile.  I promptly cleaned that up as soon as this picture was taken, but I know it will return.  I am outnumbered by my children, after all.  Keeping up with them is a full time effort.  
 Yes, we have systems and closed storage, but life happens and this is a real blog post.  Sometimes my house is neat and tidy just they way I prefer and other times it looks just like this with paper stacks on the counter and hair bands and paper airplanes on the floor.  I am learning to be content in all situations and learning that somedays school is set aside while we all scrubadub.  I am certain this will be easier when our built-ins are completed or after I declutter our books (hardest thing for me to do!!)  In the mean time...

What costs have you had to count?  What unexpected sacrifices and blessings in disguise have you encountered?