Monday, December 26, 2016

2016 reads: One Year of Books!

I set out at the beginning of the year with my one word, "knowledge."  My goal was to display a love of learning to my boys because my hope is that they have a love of learning and a love of books too.  While I'll confess that I wasn't 100% all the time (who is?), I'm quite excited with habits built and proud of conquering the goal for the full year.

So what books did I read??  Here's the list.... I found that my preference was surprisingly not towards fiction and more towards growth and of course topics like homeschooling and my faith.  I mean, I'm in the trenches here, right?

Looking forward to picking up many more books in 2017, and I plan to throw in some more of the classics that my childhood missed.  What are you reading this year!?
  • "Simply Tuesday" by Emily Freeman
  • "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen
  • "The Crazy Lives of Police Wives" by Carolyn Whiting and Carolyn LaRoche
  • "Every Bitter Thing is Sweet" by Sara Hagerty
  • "French Kids Eat Everything" by Karen LaBillon
  • "Teaching From Rest" by Sarah Mackenzie
  • "Becoming More" by Lysa Terkeurst
  • "Outlander" by Diana Gabaldon
  • "You and Me Forever" by Francis Chan
  • "The Confident Homeschooler" by Pam Barnhill
  • "The Old Man and the Sea" by Ernest Hemingway
  • "Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World" by Kristen Welch
  • "The Abolition of Man" by CS Lewis
  • "Living Among Lions" by David and Jason Benham
  • "Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child" by Anthony Esolen
  • "Love Your Life, Not Theirs" by Rachel Cruze
  • "Improving Your Serve" by Charles Swindoll

Thursday, December 1, 2016

November Reads

It's been a while since I've put out a book post.  I think I started too many at once which led to a whole lot of half finished at once.  Haha!  The goal for December is to wrap them all up by the end of the year because I have a little hunch that Christmas includes Amazon gift cards, and Amazon gift cards = more books on the Kindle!

Here's what I completed in November....

What are you reading this Holiday season?  Or are you giving books as gifts?  Do share!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Instant Pot Family Favorites

Over 200,000 Instant Pots were sold on Amazon "prime day" just a few months ago.  I happened to be one of them!  I've posted a lot about my beloved instant pot on social media and it has brought lots of questions and curiosity-- it didn't take long for our instant pot to earn it's space ON the counter right next to the Kitchen Aid mixer.  In case you didn't know, counter space is kind of a big deal so having a permanent home on the counter means the Instant Pot itself is kind of a big deal.

With all the Instant Pot chatter after Prime Day, many were anxiously waiting for another big sale on them so they could snag one as well and see what all the hype was about.  SO, to all of you Black Friday shoppers I have two things to share with you.

1.  I'm jealous that you were able to get your instant pot for $11 less that I did.

2.  We've tried lots of recipes over the last few months and here are some of our favorites so that you can try them yourself.

  • Hard boiled eggs--  If you try nothing else in your pot, you have to try hard boiled eggs!  They call them 5-5-5 eggs because they take 5 mins to come to pressure, 5 mins to cook and 5 mins to cool.  Once you try making them in the Instant Pot, you will fall in love with this method over the traditional stovetop.  First, they are perfectly cooked every. single. time.  And second, they peel SOOO easy!!  Even farm fresh right from our backyard, peel SO easy cooked this way.

  • Macaroni and Cheese-- This macaroni is crazy easy and with a "from scratch" taste.  Because it is from scratch ingredients!  Put the orange powder away and never buy it again.  You can make this macaroni just as fast and it's so much better!  (We've done regular and whole wheat pasta and it's perfect every time.)

  • Mashed Potatoes-- We had easy mashed potatoes with our Thanksgiving without using up a burner I needed for other items and waiting for water to boil.  I used a 5 pound bag of red potatoes, washed and chopped.  I like a more rustic mashed potato so I left half with skins on.  Put the trivet in the pot and add 1 cup of water.  Stack the chopped potatoes on top of the trivet.  Set to manual pressure for 10 mins, and quick release.   Then just mash and season as you normally would with some milk, butter, salt, pepper and garlic (OR a pinch of nutmeg.)  Easy peasy!

  • Salsa chicken-- We've all done this in the crock pot, but now you can do it WAY faster in the Instant Pot! Even layer of chicken on the bottom, pour in a jar of your favorite salsa and hit manual for 7 minutes.  (If your chicken is frozen, try 15 mins)  Quick release, shred it up and eat on tacos with your favorite toppings.  (There's lots of other ways to cook chicken so have fun with seasonings!)

  • Cheesy Chili Mac-- We just tried this last week and there has already been a request to make it again.  Super easy recipe for a busy night and loved by all. 

  • Quick Pasta and Meatballs--  Bag of frozen meatballs, jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce, jar of water, and one pound of pasta all tossed into the instant pot on manual for 5 minutes.  Let rest 5 minutes before quick releasing the pressure and serve up with some garlic bread and salad.

  • Rice and quinoa-- Pending what variety of grain you are using, pour in the appropriate ratio of grain to water and use the rice function. 

  • Refried Beans-- homemade refried beans are delicious for one thing!  BUT, on top of that, they freeze so well!  I make this big pot of them, and portion some out in freezer bags to save for another day.  
Some honorable mentions of other items we've tried and enjoyed are... sweet potato casseroleBarbacoa BeefSteel cut oatschicken tortilla souphomemade yogurt (in jars),  roasted potatoes, and salted caramel cheesecake.

And my Instant Pot Pin board on Pinterest has SOOO much more that we haven't tried yet.  Now that so many are getting their hands on these pots, recipes abound online so if you are new to the Instant Pot, don't get overwhelmed-- start with something simple that you know your family likes.  Take a peek in your freezer and google "___x___ instant pot recipe" to use up ingredients you already have on hand.  There's a little bit of a learning curve adjusting pressure times, not being scared to release the pressure, and making sure to use proper portions of liquid BUT the reward is to drop something in the pot and walk away.  AND also to be able to have a delicious dinner on the table fast when it's getting late, you've had a busy day or you're just plain exhausted.   Enjoy!  

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Joel's 1st birthday!! (Wild Things Theme)

Today we celebrated our littlest man turning 1 with family and friends!  He officially became of age last week, but today was the big shebang.  Earlier this year, I actually WON a birthday party package from a fun local playground place-- they sell swing sets and trampolines and allow open play throughout the year along with birthday celebrations. (Think huge warehouse of swing sets.)  The party package included the time there, and then we could bring in table decor and whatever food we wanted. And Hallelujah!! --that meant that I didn't have to scrub our house down for people to come over. Ha!

Here's the down and dirty on his party-- it really was a super fun theme!  Maybe you'll want to throw a wild things party too.

The invitation purchased from Etsy's Katie Did Designs here.

Joel's super fun "Wild 1" birthday shirt purchased from Etsy here at Shop The Southern Bow.

Him and his "Nana!"
I crocheted Joel's crown (see invite picture, he wouldn't keep it on at the party) and I also made the tissue paper garlands using this YouTube tutorial.  The really cute 8x10 themed pictures came from a link over here on this site and after I downloaded them, I had them printed by Costco.

Crowns in place of party hats

We had a copy of the "Where the Wild Things Are" book out for folks to sign and write a sweet message to Joel on his birthday.  It will be a keepsake that we'll have for years to come. He is SO loved!

I love the way his cake and cookie treats came out! I was in a rush to get them done after vacation.  I found great cookie cutters from Sweet Savanna on Etsy. (His birth announcement we had on display was made last year and ordered from Vintage Sweet Design on Etsy.)

Kiddo has no idea how spoiled he is!  Parties are SO fun for little ones because they are completely oblivious to all that is going on.  He wondered around the warehouse checking out all of the playground equipment.  The trampolines and the basketballs were his favorite.  He got to open presents which consisted mostly of him grabbing tissue paper and running away and then he made a complete and total MESS of his smash cake.  He liked playing with it, smashing it, and throwing it on the ground better than he liked eating it. 

This kid sure is loved!  We are so blessed to have such supportive families nearby to come to our kid's parties.   Another year of fun memories up ahead for this "wild 1!"  Happy birthday Joel!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Happy Birthday Joel!

Today the littlest Kroh is one year old!

...And I wouldn't be a very good blogger if we didn't take a look back at the last year.  This year has been pure joy!

The very last bump photo-- 41 weeks.  He would arrive within a couple days.

I love reading birth stories, and Joel's birth story happens to be one of my favorites.  A witness to God's provision and His love and care in every single detail.

Of all the monthly photos I have taken, the pumpkin bonnet photo is my absolute favorite.  That sweet face, the pumpkins, the cheeks, the blue eyes... I melt every time!

The struggle of getting "the shot" in our first photo session as a family of 5.  This pretty much captures it all!  (Photo credit, my sweet friend Alisa)

You know I had to include a Christmas shot from the year.  Joel is the only baby (of our 3) to not cry on Santa's lap.  We'll see how it goes this year though!

Big 'ole grin and sweet baby chub at the park.

We blinked and suddenly he was standing for his monthly photos.  (7 months)

That very first time I got "the shot" of all three of them both looking and smiling! Victory!!  (And this one totally got framed!)

Baby boy loving the beach for the first time.

The picture we chose for his first birthday invitations.  (Can't wait to party with our family next week!)

Baby's very first haircut.  No longer a baby... definitely a toddler!

What a year it has been!  After genuinely believing that Hayden was going to be our last baby, I'm overwhelmed that we were blessed with another.  I'm so thankful that I have been entrusted by God and called to Mother the hearts of each one of our precious boys.  The year definitely went by way too fast but I have been challenged, and grown... I've laughed and I've cried... I've learned so much about myself, but even more about our mighty God!

Joel is such a sweet soul!
He loves to smile, and giggle, and snuggle.
His big brothers make him laugh the hardest.
He loves books and music.
He literally never stops moving-- not even in his sleep. Haha!
He loves church and gets so excited when we arrive to his class.
...and Joel is loved beyond measure by our family.

Happy 1st birthday Joel! We thank God for you!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

What's in the "mom bag!?"

Many many moons ago, I posted a review and "what's in the bag" post about the diaper bag that I was carrying at the time, so I thought it'd be fun to go through again.  That was back when we had TWO in cloth diapers and I carried basically everything but the kitchen sink everywhere that we went.  The new "mom bag" is much more streamlined and for the most part, experience (3 kids) has taught me to carry only the necessities!

This post is in NO way sponsored by Thirty One, but I am really enjoying these purchases and know that many of you would too!  If you are interested in checking out more that Thirty One has to offer, my friend Leslie has been so wonderful to work with for all of my Thirty One needs, and you can check out her website here.

So without further ado.... "What's in the mom bag!?" Enjoy!  .... and give grace to my Mom bun. Haha!

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Instant Pot

Ya'll... myself and literally 214,999 others purchased Instant Pots on Amazon prime day.  Were you one of those??  They were $50 OFF guys!!

Mine has already found a cozy home out on the counter joined by the Kitchen Aid.  If you don't have one, you are missing out and should run and add it to your Christmas wish list. (Just my opinion, but it's true.)

Missing out on delicious, fast food...

AND also missing out on the cult that is the Instant Pot Community on Facebook.  
There is a growing trend over there of folks naming their Instant Pots, which is awesome and hilarious.  I haven't made a habit of naming appliances previously, (though our 2 vehicles do have names), but after seeing some of the creative things folks are coming up with out in internet land, I know that I need to name our instant pot something now... I just need a day with my thinking cap and a lot of coffee first. 

Here's just a glimpse... 


Confession-- I laughed way too hard at the Donald!

Classic!  Can't go wrong when it involves The Princess Bride.

Of course the husband liked this one. 

The Instant Pot is a magical 7 in 1 appliance, including rice cooker, steamer, slow cooker and yogurt maker, but it's mostly known for being an electric pressure cooker and for getting dinner done quick and easy.  

Anyway, I've had so much fun with it already-- here's a list of some things we've tried.  (Best read in a Bubba Blue/Gump accent.)

So far we have had...
All made in the Instant Pot, and my list of things I want to cook in it just keeps growing.  I've heard that hard boiled eggs in the instant pot come out perfect and peel easier so I can't wait to try that!  And I'm really looking forward to having this handy appliance for the school year when co-op starts back up, our school work load grows and we are involved with more extra curricular activities  because I really need fast easy dinners on the days that we are busy.  

So, spill friends-- do you have an Instant Pot?  What's your favorite thing to make in it?

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Baby's 1st Haircut!

The littlest got his very first haircut today!  I cut the big boys' and Daniel's hair myself, but in an effort to make a big deal out of Joel's very first haircut AND because I was feeling a little anxious about the idea of having scissors around the wiggly guy, we took him in to a kid's specialty salon.


Bless the sweet lady that worked with him.  He NEVER stopped moving the entire time she was working... and in reality there wasn't a ton to cut.  He just needed to be evened up a lot because some of his baby hair was long and getting knotted and he was growing a little "rat tail."  But anyway, he was pretty enthralled with the police car and spent pretty much the whole time bouncing up and down to the sound of the sirens! No tears at all-- he really was a joy! Haha!!

The big boys are never going to want me to cut their hair ever again.  Going on a random Tuesday afternoon meant that the salon was empty, so they had a blast attempting to play video games and riding in the other vehicles.  (They had NO clue what they were doing with the video games.  Bless them, it was quite funny!)

AFTER (including his very 1st sucker!)

Such a sweet babe!  Handsome going in, and just as cute coming out of the salon. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Little glimpses....

Hi, my name is Dana and I'm a recovering control freak.... (Among other things.)

But it seems child number three is breaking me.  In the last 11 months, I've become more lax in my ways, less anxious, more apt to ask for help, and more carefree in my parenting.

With that said, I'm thankful to God for little glimpses of grace and lessons He is teaching me through this whole parenting gig.

So here we are midway through July and we're still chugging along through our schoolwork.  I don't know if choosing to school through the Summer was the right thing to do or not.... Some days, I know that structure is what my kids crave and continuing on is what holds us together, but some days just getting through the math lesson and nothing else is like pulling teeth.

Leeland has loved math since we started it last year, but with the advancement of a grade level, math is becoming more difficult for him.  We recently began addition and subtraction with him, and our curriculum is wanting him to become more comfortable and basically memorize his "doubles facts."  We began with 0-5 and they were a breeze, but when we added in 6-9, it threw him off a little and specifically 8+8 and 9+9 just don't come as easy to him.  

Yesterday was one of those "pulling teeth" kind of days when I feel more like a bull dozer pushing him through, than a gentle and loving teacher, and we're sitting there, him over his doubles facts addition sheet that he's struggling to complete, and myself over a cold cup of coffee.  The sheet itself repeats the problems through several times and so he had filled in every answer except for all of the 9+9 responses.  And 9+9 was on the sheet about four to five times.  He's beginning to pout and complain and beg for the answer from me because he just can't seem to remember what 9+9 is....

At this point, he's looking pretty hopeless, but I know that if he would really just apply himself and give it all his focus, he knows how to get the answer.  And I also know that my disappointment in his behavior is showing on my face, because let's get real, I have no poker face and people can read me like a book, even a 6 year old.

So Leeland says in a pouty, hopeless voice, "Can I pray Momma?"

In all honesty, I don't know that I was completely listening when he asked the question.  I'm getting frustrated... I just want the math to be DONE so that we can move on and I can finish my coffee.  Do whatever you have to do son.

...And in his small 6 year old voice, upset with math... "Dear Lord, help me to remember what 9+9 is. Amen."

"...18! ... It's 18!"

He barely finished the prayer and slurred right from the amen into the answer.  "18 Momma! 9+9 is 18."  A huge grin on his face, and his eyes began to get teary.  Naturally his teary eyes made my eyes begin to water too and he shouts, "That's so silly Momma! God answered my prayer!!"

Of course I know he didn't really mean silly, my sweet boy just didn't know how to describe these emotions he was feeling on the inside.  I replied with, "That's not silly at all.  It's wonderful!  God answered your prayer buddy!"

Sometimes I think while I walk this Motherhood journey, and especially through these homeschooling years, I think that God teaches ME more than he does the children.  While I LOVE that Leeland had that sweet faith moment that he's continued to remind me of and tell everyone about how God answered his prayer, I also know that I needed that little moment too.  I'm so thankful to God that I got to witness it, and I'm so thankful that God continues to show me that he cares in the big things and the little things, and that He just wants me to come to him when my tendency is to fall back into my controlling ways and think that I can just handle things myself.

...When I know, I can't. 

"I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
    and put their trust in him."
-Psalm 40:1-3

Friday, July 22, 2016

Happy 11 months Joel!

This is what it's like taking photos of an 11 month old...

Not a lot to say for 11 months-- the little guy is ALL over the place and into EVERYTHING!

He IS a toddler.  There is no more denying it.

He's walking and running and climbing.

He's opening cabinets and pulling everything out of them.


He also knows how to work a pouty lip and a fake cry when he wants to.

But he also gives hugs and kisses.

LOVES to snuggle.

And chases his big brothers around everywhere....

He's one sweet, sweet little boy!

His birthday invitations were mailed out to our family last week, and we are SO excited and ready to celebrate his big first birthday in a month. Happy 11 months Joel! 

Saturday, July 9, 2016

We're Official!!

Official homeschoolers that is!

Of course many of you already knew this since we completed our first year, BUT according to the state, we are now officially official!!  Officially....

Our state law requires that we register our homeschool in the school year that the oldest child turns 7.  I've completed the forms and sent in my necessary documentation this month so we are registered!

1st grade here we come!

Also, fun fact about the registering process is that we get to name our school.  Fun... but not to be taken lightly.  Should we homeschool through graduation, this name will follow our children and be on their resumes and transcripts down the road.  So as tempting as it is to name it the "school of hard knocks" OR something kiddish like "rainbows and unicorns academy".... you really shouldn't.  

We wanted to sound legit. 
And we wanted our name to be scripture based.


Harvest Christian Academy

Leeland likes that when he is asked where he goes to school, he now has a fun official answer.  

We were inspired by one of my favorite verses, and kind of my Motherhood mantra, Galatians 6:9.

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."

Super excited about this little school of ours and the harvest that we have ahead of us!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Sweet Summer Time

It's no secret that of the 4 seasons, Summer is not my favorite.  In fact, it's probably rated 4th for my last 29 years, but I have to confess that this special season is beginning to grow on me!

Maybe it's the extra time?

While I LOVE my women's Bible study and we adore our homeschool co-op, they both take breaks for the Summer so we have a lot of time and freedom since we aren't running around from place to place each week.  Just church on Sunday's and the rest of the week, we decide what we want to do.

Maybe it's less school?

Just reading, spelling and math.  That's what we've committed to for the Summer.  The boys really do enjoy school and I don't mind teaching them, but I have to confess that 1 hour of school with the rest of the day free is really spoiling me.  Sweet Summer time!

Maybe it's spontaneity? 

With less items on the calendar, we have the freedom to be spontaneous!  Some mornings, we wake up and just want to have a movie and popcorn lounge day.  Some days we head to the splash park to cool off.  Some days we just decide to drive an hour and a half to Ikea because Mommy loves Swedish meatballs and we're craving an adventure.  (In reality the purpose of the Ikea trip was getting the baby's 1st birthday present.)

OR maybe it's the surprise in a child's eyes?

Maybe it's just taking it all in and being able to see it all through my children.  Summer only comes around once a year, so there's a lot that the boys don't remember from last year, and then there's some new things that we are able to do now that they are getting older.  There's an element of surprise and Summer time is such a fun time to be a parent because I get to enjoy and watch the days unfold right before my eyes!  There's water fun, vacation Bible school, fireworks, lots of library trips, $1 Summer movies, an occasional ice cream cone for dinner, AND (gasp) we've even skipped nap/rest time and broken bed time quite a bit!  

Summer is spoiling us!  
Summer is growing on me.
Summer is freedom!
Summer is pretty sweet...

10 Month Shenanigans!

Joel is 10 months old today!

.... And we have our first TWO teeth...

.... And we are WALKING!  He's wobbling, and he's still much faster at crawling, but he really gets excited about taking steps too!

And Daddy Kroh taught him how to give hugs on command.  It's pretty sweet!

Last year at this time we were celebrating the third trimester, and this year, we are taking photos of the munchkin for first birthday invitations!  The third time around has definitely gone by the fastest.
33 weeks pregnant with baby Joel
Sneak peek of our shoot for party invitations
Joel had his 9 month check up on the 10th of June and was 22 pounds, 12 ounces and almost 30 inches tall.  Still holding strong in size 18 months clothes which I'm hoping we'll wear through the Summer because consignment season starts in August and we all know that I love a good deal! 

Happy 10 months baby boy!