Thursday, June 28, 2012

Job Jar

The kids finished school yesterday and our summer "vacation" has begun.  It will look quite a bit different for us since we'll be staying in BC instead of spending it with my parents in Manitoba.  As much as I love our new acreage, I think I'm going to miss the prairie summer.  Part of the reason it was so nice was because I had the extra help from my mom every day.  Erik worked l-o-o-ng days and it was great to have someone to share the burden of childcare with me on a day-to-day basis.

So looking ahead to this coming summer I knew I needed to have a game plan.  It's not just about planning some activities to keep us busy, but it's about having my parenting game-face on.  First I decided that we need to set expectations and have a routine - including a 2-hour/day limit on screen time, eating our meals together at the table, and some definite cleaning up after ourselves.  Not only that, but I know that I need to increase my consistency and firmness with discipline.  It's easy to let things slide when the kids are only home a few hours a day.  But with 2 months sprawling ahead of us of being together all day, every day, I think it's time to really hunker down.  And even as I'm typing this, I fully realize that the gung-ho feeling I have right now might just taper off to exhausted-mommy-survival-mode by mid-July, but hey, I always say, when the motivation strikes you just gotta run with it.

One of my biggest hang-ups with discipline is figuring out what the best consequences should be.  Taking away screen time might be devastating for Micah but wouldn't cause Keziah to bat an eye.  But take away her favourite blanket, stuffy, or - heaven forbid - her kitten, and you've really hit the nail on the head.  And Silas (who admittedly gets babied far too much) usually ends up with a firm warning :p 

But one idea I came across was a Job Jar.  This consequence will be best used when the kids are bored, whiny and fighty; when my mom radar says these kids need something to do!

I included the kids in brainstorming appropriate jobs to put in the jar.  Then I printed them out on cardstock (I wanted them to be sturdy since I'm planning to use them a lot!) and cut them into strips.  I repeated some of them more than once so there would be a higher probability of picking them out of the jar.  My favourite was "pick up and put away 10 things" since that is something that always needs to be done around here...

Some other ideas were dusting the TV cabinet, helping Mom in the kitchen (I figured this could cover all sorts of odd jobs that I could come up with on the spot), and putting away everyone's laundry (another job that seems to need doing on a daily basis!).

And somewhere I got the idea to include a "free pass" coupon in the jar.  This can be an opportunity to teach kids about grace and how we don't get what our sins deserve.

I wanted to "black-out" the jar so they couldn't see what they were picking, so I rolled up some pretty scrap-book paper inside the jar.  It might as well look nice if it's going to be hanging around our house for awhile.

Today the kids were pretty eager to pull our their first jobs.  It seemed like more of a game than a consequence.  In fact, Keziah got the free pass on her first pick, then decided to trade it in for a real job.  And then after that was done she asked for one more :)

I'm pretty sure the novelty will wear off, but even if it doesn't, it should hopefully be a great boredom buster for the summer!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


It's official.  Berry season has begun in BC.  We missed out on it the last couple of years, being in Manitoba, so we were keen to get picking on the weekend when someone told us that the strawberry season was going to be short this year.  Really, it's a wonder anything can grow when the weather has been as cool as it has.

The best part of picking yourself is getting to taste test :)  The berries are huge, but sweet through and through...

For the longest time Keziah referred to this fruit as "straw-ba-berries" and I never corrected her.  It's always so sad when your kids say something so cute and then eventually learn to say it properly.

Sigh.  They're growing up.

Between us and Grandma we had 7 full buckets in a short amount of time.

Then it was time to chop up the berries for future smoothies and pies and other strawberry-ish desserts.  As well as freezer jam (a first for me...) I'm thinking with all the BC berries, the huge garden and the beef we'll be getting, more freezer space is going to be a necessity!

 Now I can't wait for raspberry season!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Daddy's Day

On Sunday we celebrated the Daddy in our house. 

Silas (aka "grumpy-bear") is averse to participating in photos these days.

I am blessed with a husband who plays with his children almost every single day when he gets home from work - whether it's street hockey, baseball, creating crazy trampoline games or going for bike rides - he always makes time for these kids. 

I think this last picture sums it up!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Saturday Morning Menu: Skinny Pancakes

When I grew up we loved it when our mom made pancakes for breakfast.  It wasn't until I was older that I realized that what we called "pancakes" were actually what other people referred to as crepes or german pancakes.

Now that I have kids of my own, we refer to them as "skinny" pancakes.  And the kids love 'em.

(This recipe definitely needs to be doubled for our family to get one meal out of it)

Basic Crepes

3 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 water
3 tbsp butter or margarine, melted (I don't usually use the full amount)
3/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients in a blender (I usually use my hand mixer).  Pour into frying pan and cook on both sides.

We usually eat our pancakes with syrup, but we also enjoy them with vanilla yogurt and fresh berries.  Once you choose your topping, roll up the crepe and enjoy!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Cat Came Back

We thought he was a goner, but the cat came back.

He just couldn't stay away...

Maybe because he knew he needed to get back to celebrate his first birthday :)

("I love you Moses!  And thank you for catching the moles, mice and barn swallows!" - from Micah)

When I thought our cats were both gone for good I promised the kids a couple of new kittens.  In the end we settled on one new kitten who we named Milo.

 It looks like we are no longer at a loss for animals around here...

Monday, June 11, 2012

Patches the Calf

Apparently we've been missing the presence of animals around here because on Saturday we introduced a new member to the Toews farm.

Meet Patches, our 2-week-old Jersey calf.

The truth is, we learned that the income from our 3 other calves may not be enough to qualify us for farm status this year, so we needed a little something to bump it up.  Apparently dairy bull calves are not highly valued and can be purchased for pretty cheap.  So... enter baby Patches.

Unlike Russell, Willy and Kevin, Patches is perfectly tame.

He is also completely reliant on us for his sustenance.

Enter me...  Nursemaid Jamie.

I didn't really expect I would spend my summer mixing up formula and washing baby bottles - particularly giant ones the size of 2 litre milk jugs...

But so far it's been an enjoyable task.

Everyone got in on helping with the first couple of feedings...

He's a scrawny little thing - so much smaller than our Angus-Simmental calves.  We think he looks like a baby deer.

It appears he's already learning who the milk-bringer is...

As fun as feeding him is, it's a bit time-consuming and somewhat hazardous as he bumps and prods quite aggressively as he's drinking.  So Dad Toews constructed this handy little bottle holder and it works pretty slick!

Despite the obvious cuteness of this little guy, he will unfortunately meet the same fate as the other 3 about a year from now - as in t-bone, top sirloin, pot roast... you name it.

But for now, he's a pretty fun pet.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Saturday Morning Menu: Waffles & White Sauce

For 6 days of the week our breakfasts are random and rushed.  We never sit down at the table (especially since it's in a separate room from the kitchen) and Erik is often long gone at work.  Even Sunday is a rushed morning with church starting at 9 am - and often either Erik or I leaving quite a bit earlier for music practice.

But Saturday is different.  It's the only morning that we can sit down and eat a special family breakfast together.  Our menu rotates between "skinny" pancakes (crepes) or "fat" pancakes, french toast or - my personal favourite - waffles with white sauce.  Waffles are a bit more work, but Erik and I have become a well-oiled machine when it comes to waffle-making.

And you cannot have waffles without white sauce.  The white sauce (which is really just homemade vanilla pudding) is something I grew up with, but I know that not everyone is familiar with this delicious (and necessary) addition to homemade waffles!

I've tried a few different waffle sauce recipes over the years but I often found that they didn't thicken well and that I had to be standing by the stove stirring for-ever.  But I found a recipe a few years ago that works well in the microwave and it has been our go-to sauce recipe ever since.

So here is our recipe for waffles and white waffle sauce...  We usually double both recipes to make enough for Sunday brunch leftovers so I included the double recipe portion beside each ingredient (you can thank me for doing the math for you :)


1 2/3 cups sifted flour - (3 1/3 cups)        
4 tsp baking powder - (2 1/2 tbsp)
1/2 tsp salt - (1 tsp)
2 egg yolks, beaten - (4 eggs)
1 2/3 cups milk - (3 1/3 cups)
6 tbsp (or 1/4 cup) melted butter or margarine - (1/2 cup)
2 egg whites, beaten - (4 eggs)

Sift dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.  In a separate large bowl, beat egg yolks (be sure to save the egg whites in another bowl!!), add milk and melted butter.  Add to sifted ingredients and beat until smooth.  In another bowl, beat egg whites until stiff (this is a great job for one of the kids).  Fold stiff egg whites into the waffle batter.  Cook in waffle maker.

White Waffle Sauce: 

1 beaten egg - (2 eggs)
dash of salt - (a double dash :)
1/3 cup sugar - (2/3 cup)
3 tbsp flour - (1/4 cup)
1 cup milk - (2 cups)
1 tsp vanilla - (2 tsp)
1 tbsp butter or margarine - (2 tbsp)

In a microwave-safe bowl mix egg, salt, sugar and flour.  Gradually whisk in the milk and microwave for 30-60 seconds between each addition.  Continue microwaving in short increments and whisking in between until the sauce thickens.  Add vanilla and butter after cooking.

You can also cook up some fruit to complement the vanilla sauce.  Mmmm.  So yummy.

Now... the other Saturday tradition that I'm trying to implement is Saturday morning chores.  This tradition hasn't quite caught on with the same excitement by the younger generation in the house, but I have no immediate plans on giving up on that dream...

Wednesday, June 06, 2012


I'm laying pretty low these days after suffering an outbreak of cold sores on my mouth.  It started with a big one last week.  One blistering mass on your mouth is humbling enough, but I pushed through it and tried not to let it get to me too much.  But just when I thought it was kind of winding down, I got hit with more.  Let me tell you, it ain't pretty.  And unfortunately there's not much you can do to hide your face (though yesterday I briefly considered those white mouth masks - as in H1N1-scare garb...)

But thankfully, other than school drop-off and shopping for the necessities, I don't really have any place  that I need to be this week, so I'm enjoying the comfort zone of my home.

And lucky for me, home is a pretty great place to be.

Our garden is coming along nicely.  The rain might be a bit dismal for us humans, but the plants seem to be loving it...

We've already been enjoying the fruit of the land: fresh lettuce and spinach for salads and fresh cilantro for salsa.

It looks like the strawberries won't be too far behind.

A little perspective shot - this fence separates our land from the neighbours.  If we hadn't had cows munching away in our pasture, our grass would be just as tall.

And when it comes to my comfort zone, this little dude is right at the centre of it.

Kids can be brutally honest (like when Micah greeted me with, "Hey Cold-Sore Face!" the other day)...

But they're also the first to look past your flaws and love you... just because.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Animal Farm

The cows and their calves have grown braver over the past few weeks.  Most mornings we find them by the fence and we patiently coax the curious calves over to check us out.

Little Willy is the biggest and bravest of the 3 and usually the first to come over.

Mama Cocoa was a little curious too.  She was eyeing up that handful of long grass in Keziah's hand.

Stretching as far as possible without taking another step forward - because these two cow feeders look far too dangerous, I guess.

Finally, Russell comes close enough to sniff out Micah's hand.

And Micah gets a few strokes of the calf's nose before he scampers away.

All the while there were some other friends in the pasture - 3 deer hanging out by the back fence.  The cows didn't seem too bothered by the visitors.

Unfortunately, this lot of cattle was moved out of here yesterday.  Dad Toews made an agreement with a neighbour down the road to keep them in his pasture for a couple of months.  This will allow our pasture to heal and the grass to fill in, plus our cows will be living with a bull who will (hopefully) impregnate them the old-fashioned way.

And the cows aren't the only ones who've left the farm.  Our 2 cats have both disappeared in the last several weeks.  First the old farm-cat Mindy (who "came" with the farm) and then our new cat Moses who wasn't even a year yet.  With our small house space it just wasn't working well for us to have them inside at night.  So as soon as the weather turned nice we made them go outside at night.  This is what probably led to their demise what with all the coyotes in the area.

So our farm animal count has gone from 8 to 0.  A little sad for the kids.  We're already planning on getting another cat or 2.  And there has even been some talk about getting a puppy...

Meanwhile, we'll be missing our 3 handsome boys.