Uncle Maddio’s Pizza

Dining out can be difficult when vegan. It can be especially difficult with children. So when I find a restaurant that has vegan options and is kid friendly, I get pretty excited.

While I love making my own pizza, and my husband and kids enjoy it immensely, sometimes I want the ease of going out for pizza. This isn’t easy for vegans, so you can imagine my excitement when I heard about Uncle Maddio’s Pizza Joint. A pizza shop that is close by, has a vegan crust, vegan cheese and vegan toppings, AND has a family night on Wednesday evenings where kids eat free? I’m sold!

I took the boys to dinner this week and we had a very nice experience. Uncle Maddio’s is very much like a Chipotle or Moe’s, where you go down a line and have a custom pizza built. You start with crust, then select sauce and cheese and any toppings. I found the 9-inch personal size was more than enough food for me, and the kids’ meals consist of a 6-inch pie. I got two kids meals free with my one adult meal. 

While this chain offers a fair amount of non-vegan food, it is nice to have a place that offers fresh food and a vegan option. I think we might make Wednesday night pizza a regular occurrence. 



 *** A 9-inch personal pizza with wheat crust (the only vegan crust option), Daiya cheese, tomato-basil sauce, roma tomatoes, roasted garlic and grilled tofu. It was pretty awesome!


Natural Hand Sanitizer

With younger children running around touching everything, I try to keep a supply of hand sanitizer and other balms tucked in my bag whenever we are out. While I prefer to just have my kiddos use soap and water, it’s nice to have something quick for little hands. 
Natural Hand Sanitizer

6 ounces aloe vera gel

Essential oils:

10 drops tea tree oil
10 drops lavender 
10 drops peppermint
5 drops eucalyptus
3 drops lemon
2 drops clove
5-10 drops vitamin E oil
I combine aloe, essential oils and vitamin E in a bottle. This solution is thin enough that I could use a spritzer top, but a pump or dropper top would also work well.
Shake before each use to make sure oils are well dispersed. 

Vegan Body Balm

I have a new favorite skin care product!
I usually struggle with dry skin in the winter months, suffering from cracked hands and flaking skin on my face. My skin usually recovers by spring. This year, however, my skin has remained dry and flaky long after the cold weather has passed. I suspect it has to do with being pregnant.
I’m very picky when it comes to any lotions I use. I dislike anything that leaves my skin feeling greasy. I also need something that can really penetrate and heal my dry skin.
I use this balm all over the body. I love using it on my hands. It does not leave my hands greasy, but has completely repaired my hands and kept them from cracking. I’m always nervous about putting anything on my face, with the exception of a little coconut oil, because I am afraid of clogged pores and breakouts. But this balm doesn’t feel heavy on my face and doesn’t clog my pores. It actually leaves my skin feeling supple and plump. I have even used this as my lip balm.
Because this is a thick balm, a little goes a long way. I split the batch I prepared in half, and have the second jar stored in my fridge.
Body Balm
1/2 cup avocado oil
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup carnauba wax
2 Tbsp cocoa butter
1 Tbsp mango butter
Essential oil(s) of choice 
All ingredients were combined in a pyrex measuring cup and placed in a saucepan of water, as a sort of double boiler. I heated on Medium heat until oils and wax were melted. Carnauba wax may take several minutes of heating in order to melt completely. This prep yielded a approximately a cup and a half of balm.

2014 – 2015 Curriculum

I have taken an extended break from posting, wrapping up an especially tiring pregnancy and adjusting to life as a mother of four (yes, four!) children. 

We have maintained a light school schedule through all of the new baby chaos, focusing on Math and Spelling, and a little Science for good measure. But I have been in full planning mode, getting ready for the Fall term, and I figured our curriculum plan for the new school year would be the perfect first post after my hiatus.

Though we do school year round, I typically “promote” at the end of Spring. We spend our summer keeping up with Math and Language Arts, and then move into our full schedule in the Fall. 

I’m excited for this new school year! Kyri is becoming more independent in her school work, which frees up time to work on early preschool material with Ender.  We’ve changed our Science and History curriculum for this year, and I’ll be posting more details on both as we get into them in the coming weeks. 


Kyriandra – 3rd grade (age 7)


**we switched to Saxon 5/4 middle of this past year, and will continue.
Language Arts
 ** we switched to a new curriculum late Spring. This year’s focus will be on Chemistry!
Supplemental Texts:
History – U.S History
 **we have opted to take a break from the Story of the World sequence, and this year we will be focusing on American History.
 **we will be continuing our study of Hebrew this year, with mastery of the alef bet (recognition and writing) as well as some basic vocabulary and phrases.
Health and Wellness
 ** we will continue focusing on maintaining our health and wellness through preparing wholesome foods as well natural products for health and home. We will incorporate running and hiking, as well as healthy cooking, into our weekly schedule.
 ** we are continuing to read and discuss Old and New Testament scripture and history with Bible Road Trip, as well as work on scripture memorization and building character through participation with AWANA. 
 ** we are taking a more relaxed approach to Art Appreciation, exploring well-known works of art and having some fun with art projects inspired by these pieces.

Ender – Early Preschool (age 3)

**Ender enjoys practicing his ABCs and 123s, and so we will be using content from LotW to work on letters, numbers, shapes and colors. Excellent reading selections, including those listed in Before Five in a Row, will be a large part of our weekly schedule.



My Compass

compass (n.) an instrument for determining direction

In the past year, I have been doing a lot of reading about the Thomas Jefferson Leadership Education philosophy. It has really resonated with me, and I am incorporating more of the philosophy into our educational style here. Leadership education isn’t something just for the early years, though. It is meant for lifelong learning.

One of the ways we inspire our children to pursue learning is to model learning. I really believe this. This is true for most things. We can tell our children to do (or not do) something or behave a certain way all we want, but if we aren’t doing it or modeling it ourselves, the lesson will often be lost on them.
Learning, and loving learning, is no exception. This does not need to be anything “formal.” There are things that I want to learn and I need to set aside time in my day to pursue this continuing education. I benefit from this, obviously, but my kids see me reading and studying, and this models a love of learning. I want my kids to see that learning is something that we should want to do, not just something we do because someone else requires it.
One component of Leadership Education is planning and evaluating what you know and what you want to learn, This evaluation, which should be done every six months, is callled a Compass. 
The details on working up a Compass are a little vague in TJEd literature, probably because this is a personal process and there are a multitude of ways to tackle it. While this can be personalized as needed, I did find a wonderful resource online. This author outlines how she does her compass, and is quite detailed in her process. I am going to be using her guide as a starting point and putting together my own six-month compass. After putting together my own compass, I will feel more confident in sitting down with Kyri and writing out her own six-month compass.
Check out Freedom Educators for an excellent outline of how to work up a Compass. 
Briefly, I am working on three areas. 
First, I am detailing my strengths – what I like to do and what I am good at doing. I am also building a list of my top 30 books I’ve ever read. Reading good books, classics, is a key part of the TJEd philosophy, and so reading good books that have a lasting impact on us is very important. I’ve read a lot of books over the years, so I have had to really dig deep to come up those that I would classify as my top books.
Next, I am taking a critical look at myself and listing areas that I need to strengthen. This isn’t limited to academic areas, but also includes personal growth or life skills.
Finally, I am making a plan for the next six months. Included in this plan is a list of books that I would like to read, things I would like to learn (again, not limited to academics, this includes life skills, even fun things like new hobbies), and my personal mission. 
Coming up with my personal mission is a tough one. This is where I need to dig deep and think about what I am meant to do with my life. I think for my first Compass, this mission statement may end up being a little vague, but over time as I do more exploration, I will refine my mission.
The Compass is meant to be read weekly as a reminder of your personal plan. After six months, it should be reviewed and updated. What goals were accomplished? What new things were learned? What new books were read? Incorporate your accomplishments into your new compass. 
I am looking forward to this process. It is so easy to make plans or set goals for ourselves and then lose sight of them, only to wonder later why we didn’t accomplish anything.

Nature Study with Young Children

I recently listened to a discussion on the iHomeschool network over on Google+ about incorporating nature study into a school routine. It was very informative and got me thinking about how we do nature study at home.
We’ve done nature study in some form or fashion since we started homeschooling three years ago, and I think it is an important part of our schooling. Families do nature study different ways and I think knowing the needs of your particular family and the learning style and personality of your children makes a difference in how you do nature study. How nature study looks in your home may also depend on the “season” your family is in.
Local Classes
Classes are an excellent mixture of nature study and science lesson. There are often excellent classes offered at local nature centers, through a city’s Parks and Rec department, museums and botanical gardens. We often participate in homeschool classes at our Botanical garden and at the various natural areas around town. There is usually a lesson and some crafts/activities, as well as an guided nature walk through the gardens or natural area.
The resources listed below are specific for San Antonio but many cities will have similar programs available.
One program that we have participated in at our local parks is Growing Up WILD/Project WILD. I have even gone through training for this curriculum, and its great! It would be worthwhile to see if there is a Growing Up WILD or Project WILD program in your area.
Preplanned Nature Study Topics
There are wonderful resources available for planning nature study topics. One of my favorites is the site Handbook of Nature Study.
This is the home of Barb McCoy’s Outdoor Hour Challenge, a weekly “challenge” to get outdoors and do nature study.
McCoy has put together awesome nature study resources using Anna Comstock’s The Handbook of Nature Study as a guide. This book is wonderful resource and can be found free online. However, I think purchasing the book would be a worthy investment because it is a big book, and the free domain version is a bit cumbersome.
McCoy’s Handbook of Nature Study site uses this book as a guide to plan and organize topics of nature study. There is an abundance of activity suggestions and nature study notebooking pages available. Many of the resources are free to download as well as purchase in ebook format for a small fee.
Unscripted Nature Study
While we have enjoyed taking classes, as well as planning out what we wanted to look at on any given outing, Kyri has expressed interest in doing something a little less structured lately. She loves being outdoors, and wants to be able to just explore and follow where ever her interests lead her that day. 
We are putting together a field kit for these unscripted nature study outings. A few good field guides (we will be including Trees, Insects, Birds, and maybe Texas Wildflowers), a hand lens, a small notebook and colored pencils, and some bags and containers for (non-living) sample collections. A simple pair of kid’s gardening gloves, along with forceps and a small terrarium will round out our kit.
I have laid down some basic rules, especially as they apply to live specimens. The terrarium isn’t in the kit to start a collection of creatures at home. It is to hold a specimen for a short while to examine it, take some pictures, and possibly a simple sketch. Then, whatever she finds has to be released.
Between the natural areas, the botanical garden, as well as the parks around here, we have plenty of places to explore!


I recently tweeted that I’ve been trying to get up earlier to have some “me” time before anyone else wakes up. 
I used to consider myself a night owl, staying up late to get things done or just watch some television alone. But I want to be able to read a bit, tackle some chores to get a start on the day, and just sit and hatch with a cup of coffee.
I determined that late nights weren’t working for me. I was too tired to get anything out of my reading. And I was so tired that I honestly didn’t have the energy or motivation to get any tasks done.
If I get up an hour or more before the rest of the household, I can get the dishes loaded into the dishwasher, start a load of laundry, make a coffee, read facebook and the news, and spend a little time reading my current book. By the time anyone else starts stirring, I have a jump on the day and have had enough alone time to be mentally ready for having none for the rest of the day.
When I was younger and in school, I could go weeks under heavy stress, and then a nice weekend or even a week  of just relaxing would be enough to recharge. With kids and a household to run, though, I find that burnout comes a lot sooner. I need a daily recharge in order to be effective at running the house and being patient with the kids. 
When I posted my tweet the other day, a reader on G+ commented that with three kids you can forget what “me” time is. I think for many of us, this is true. Taking care of kids and dogs, keeping up with laundry, dishes and all the other clutter and mess, can be so time consuming.
Spending a little time in the morning reading and enjoying a cup of coffee can almost feel selfish in a way. Like, I should be doing something more “productive.” But I think when you have a house full of dependents, it’s even more important to carve a small portion of time out for yourself.
Though it often feels like it,  moms aren’t some infinite pool of energy and resources. We squeeze as much out of ourselves as we can, and we do it out of necessity, but there are limits. My children don’t get the best mom they can have if I am overextended and overwhelmed and overtired. If I can spend an hour in the morning by myself, reading and enjoying a coffee alone, doing my own thing, I feel recharged and prepared to face the day. I’ve gotten a jump on the day. I can get breakfast started, chores started and enjoy my coffee. I can even take a shower in peace! 
It’s really simple. We need to take care of ourselves if we expect to have the energy to take care of everyone and everything else. I don’t need a weekend at a spa, I just need  my morning “me” time.