Wordless Wednesday: A Saturday Night in the South

The boys clean their guns, of course. Cork ones and real ones!

Monkey loves being like Daddy in the tree house,



Tasty Tuesday: Surprise, Surprise, Surprise

You have to say the title in your best Gomer Pyle impersonation:

Anyway…when I was in college, I ate lunch at my Grandma’s one weekend, and she had made her fried chicken. I LOVED her fried chicken! I just had to know how she did it. How much grease? What kind of breading? What seasonings? Imagine my shock when she informs me that she doesn’t pan fry or deep fry her chicken…she oven fries it! Recently I was thinking about that conversation and decided to go for it. Of course, my grandmother doesn’t have a recipe for anything, so I mixed, mingled, and played with breading, seasoning, grease, temperature, and time.
Here is what you need to make Claudine’s Oven Fried Chicken:

Enough pieces of bone-in chicken to feed your family and/or guests (you can use  boneless, skinless chicken breasts, but the cooking time has to lowered)
Baking mix
Seasoned salt
Canola oil
2 eggs, beaten

First, pour enough oil on a baking sheet to just coat the bottom.

 Next, sprinkle chicken liberally with seasoned salt and black pepper.

Pour quite a bit of baking mix in a bowl (about two cups?). Place beaten eggs in a bowl. Do a thin coat of baking mix on the pieces of chicken.

 Dip coated chicken in egg.

Now dip the chicken back in the baking mix and coat really well.

Place chicken on baking sheet.

Bake for thirty minutes at 350 degrees. (For boneless, skinless chicken breasts bake for 20 minutes.)

Turn chicken over and bake for another thirty minutes. (Another 20 minutes for BSCB.)

The result is perfectly cooked chicken with a crispy, flavorful crust.

In my happy world, this chicken has less calories and fat, than regular fried chicken. I don’t know if that’s true, but it makes me feel better when I have a piece because it’s just so, so good.

Feel free to play with seasonings and breading, plain old salt, pepper, and regular flour would work great.

Named this one in honor of my grandmother who’s one of the best cooks I’ve ever known in the tree house,



...The Stick...

Last week I talked about the carrot part of discipline or the rewarding of good behavior, and I explained how we do that in our house. This week I’m going to talk about the punishment part of discipline, because, let’s face it, my children are not perfect!

A couple of years ago, I found myself in a discipline rut. It seemed like I kept using the same method over and over, for everything that the kids did wrong. The consequences didn’t necessarily fit the crime, but it was a quick, easy consequence, so I kept doing it. However, I knew that the punishment part of discipline was to be a tool to train, not an easy out for parents to check off their list. So I thought, I read, I pondered, and once I found my rules that I mentioned last week, the consequences just seemed obvious. Now I don’t have to invent something to do, I just consult my chart.

 On the right side of my bulletin board is my consequence chart. You will notice that the title is Make the Choice; Choose the Consequence.

 One of the things that I’m constantly pointing out to my girls (and will be soon to Monkey!) is that you always have a choice, but that choice results in consequences. If you make a good choice, the consequences will ultimately be good ones. If you make a bad choice, the consequences will not be good. Thus the inspiration for my title, when you choose the choice, you are also choosing whatever consequences result from that choice.

Now for a quick look at some of my consequences (and an up close look at my chart!):

  •            Extra chores are perfect for punishment, especially for not obeying immediately. Why do kids not obey when you need or want them to? Usually because they are busy doing something they want to do. So when you have to wait and ask four times for their attention, then they get to pay you back by doing a chore for you to make up for all that time you lost waiting for them.
  •            Loss of privileges means that you miss out on story time participation, playing with a friend, park dates, sleepovers, etc. While the rest of the family may go, you will not be allowed to participate. I only use this for severe offenses. On my chart, this is only used for lying. I WILL NOT (to the best of my ability) raise children who lie, which is why I love our sticker chart for positive behaviors. The kids know that they might get punished for breaking one of the other rules, but if they tell me the truth, they at least get to put a sticker on the chart for being honest. If they lie, then they get punished for the lie and the offense they are trying to cover up.
  •      Kind acts for others is a great way to remind children to follow the Golden Rule. If you are rude, selfish, cruel, or hateful to someone and I catch you, then you will do three kind things for the other person. The kind things are decided upon by me and the person offended, if they are available.
  •      I also take away screen time as a punishment. Now if you don’t limit screen time, then this isn’t the punishment for you, but I try to limit the kid’s exposure to a screen to only one hour each day. Trust me, they do not want to lose their chance to play the Wii, watch Netflix, watch a movie, or play on the computer.
  •            I discovered with Chipette that there is no punishment that an extrovert hates more than to be sent off by themselves for a timeout. Luckily, so far, both of the girls love to be around the family, and hate to be alone in their rooms. This punishment is my fall back if I need a moment to calm down before talking to them about their behavior. Sometimes the timeout is for the parents as much as the kids!
  •            I really loathe hearing the girls fight over something, food, toys, clothes, etc. They know if I hear a fight and an object is the center of the feud, then Mom will just take it away and set it on top of the refrigerator for the rest of the day.  If something is that controversial that it causes arguments, then no one needs.
  •            Sometimes in life, we all just need a redo. When I know that my kids are rushing through something, usually school work or chores, just to finish, then I make them redo their work to the best of their ability. I don’t expect perfection, but I do expect them to work hard. As my grandmother used to say, “If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.”

I didn’t include spanking in my list even though my family does use this discipline method. We don’t use it very often, and we don’t use it past about the age of six, but I didn’t want to put it on my list because opinions vary wildly and intensely on using it as a form of punishment.
  •      The money jar (which is on my list of consequences) will be discussed in the next Mama Monday post.
    You can download a blank version of my consequence chart so you can add in your family's consequences:

Are there any tried and true consequences that work in your house? Share them below in the comments. 

Trying to teach the biggest lesson of all about choice and consequence daily in the tree house,



Summary Saturday: No TV=Togetherness

We started easing back into our usual routine this week. While we homeschool year round, I had really slacked off this summer on enforcing my screen time rules. Normally, the kids have no screens until school is finished for the day and only if they had good attitudes during school. The first couple of days were rough, but before the week was out things had gotten into a good groove when it comes to screen time in the house. However, the result was that my review post this week wound up being very full of learning and playing together pictures. To be honest, I loved seeing the kids enjoying each other without the constant sound of Mario Kart in the background!

For some reason I didn’t take a lot of pictures of Chipette’s work this week. She did finish her Apples and Pears Spelling Book A which means that she is finally up to grade level in spelling. Her being behind was nobody’s fault, but mine since I couldn’t find a spelling program that was what I wanted…until Apples and Pears.

We also finished our ballet unit study (FINALLY!!!) this week. Her notebook turned out beautifully and as our last “project” we made sugar plum cookies and watched Ballet Shoes, starring Emma Watson, on DVD.

The sugar plum cookies were disgusting! Hands-down one of the grossest things I’ve ever eaten. We made them, we tried them, we threw them away!

Magpie started learning about King David this week using Little Hands to Heaven by Heart of Dakota. She made a picture of David’s sheep in the fields to show that David was actually a humble shepherd boy when God chose him to be the next king of Israel.

Of course, we had to count the sheep by twos since she just recently learned how to do that!

We started a new art program this week. It is actually a drawing program by Mark Kistler. We tried out the free Mini-Marshmallow Lesson on how to draw Ninja Eggs. I say “we” because I even wanted to learn to draw along with the girls.

We really loved the lessons! Mark was quite entertaining and we produced some pretty good drawings if I do say so myself.

We will definitely be purchasing a subscription to his website in the future.

The girls still love our Math Mavens time. Basically we use the Cuisenaire rods to discover and discuss math concepts. This week we had an honorary member in our club…

Monkey woke up before we were finished so he joined in our block party.

Finally, while the girls were on a break between lessons, I caught them having some puzzle fun with Monkey. Chipette had Magpie put the alphabet train puzzle in order, and then Monkey got to push the pieces down.

Just one of the many reasons I can totally see Chipette being an awesome pre-K teacher one day. 

She’s good at delegating authority and getting everyone involved.

This is what Monkey looks like most days spending his time with three women all day. I think we stress him out!

And that’s what I felt like after my “realistic”week last week when he stressed me out!

Togetherness is terrific in the tree house,



Thrifty Thursday: HGTV to the Rescue!

Recently my parents made another trip to see us before the school year starts back. While my mom was here she wanted my sister and I to pick out some wallpaper at the local Sherwin-Williams for a feature wall in our old bedrooms at home. While we were there, I noticed a stack of about 20 wallpaper sample books on a table. As we were leaving I asked the guy behind the counter if they were getting rid of them. He said, yes, that we could take as many as we wanted. We walked out of there with at least half of the wallpaper books…and a plan.

I’ve been trying to find something to hang above our bed in the master bedroom for almost a year now. The yellow color on our quilt is very strange, and I wanted to bring in some blue color for an extra accent color. My mom mentioned that recently on HGTV she’d noticed where they were using framed wallpaper as art. We sat down later that night, picked out some possibilities, and then narrowed them down to ten. The next day I went to The Dollar Tree bought ten frames of different designs and sizes, spray painted the ones that weren’t silver, and then carefully cut the wallpaper to fit in the frames.

The finished result was exactly what I wanted.

And for $10 plus tax, the price was right!

This was my favorite piece we created by combining two different wallpaper samples in this funky frame. It was actually a mirror, not a picture frame, but the mirror was held in the same way glass is in a picture frame so the mirror was easily removed.

Don’t get used to crafty, home improvement posts because Martha Stewart I am not in the tree house,



Wordless Wednesday: Summer Showers

After a year of drought last year, this summer has been positively wet! I know in most parts of the country this wasn’t true, but, thankfully, it was here. I don’t know if the farmers could have survived two years of drought in a row.

To celebrate a summer of liquid blessings some photos of the Tree Dwellers playing in a summer shower this past week:

Filling up cups and bowls makes the soaking process quicker!

Wet slide=quick ride!

Blessed by green lawns, green trees, and beautiful flowers this summer in the tree house,



Tasty Tuesday: X Marks the Spot

Sometimes I’m like a dog with a bone when it comes to recipes and for years I’ve been on the hunt for a homemade macaroni and cheese recipe that 1) wasn’t dry, 2) wasn’t bland, 3) didn’t have Velveeta as one of the ingredients.  In the past few months, I found it. Not “it” really, but “them” because I combined two recipes to make one awesome homemade macaroni and cheese! My sister and Preacher Man both said it was as good as or better than Cracker Barrel’s mac and cheese. High praise indeed!

Here is what you need to make Classic Baked Macaroni and Cheese:

1 (8 oz) package of macaroni, cooked
4 Tbsp. butter
4 Tbsp. flour
1 cup milk
1 cup cream
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. onion powder
½ tsp. ground mustard
½ tsp. black pepper
Few dashes of Worcestershire sauce
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese and a little extra for sprinkling on top
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

First, melt the butter in a large saucepan.

Add flour and stir until well blended.

Pour milk and cream in gradually; stirring constantly.

Add salt, onion powder, ground mustard, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce. 

Boil for two minutes or until thickened.

Reduce heat and add cheeses. 

Stir until melted. The cheese sauce is usually really stretchy from the mozzarella at this point so I just add some extra milk to bring back the creaminess.

Remove from heat. Add macaroni to saucepan and stir to coat with cheese sauce.

Transfer macaroni to a buttered baking dish. Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees.

Take out of oven and sprinkle top with extra cheddar cheese. 

Bake for 10 more minutes.

 So, so yummy and cheesy. It is a meal by itself.

Cracker Barrel good? You be the judge. J

Happy to have found my treasure after years of searching in the tree house,



Mama Monday: The Carrot . . .

The next three weeks for Mama Monday, I will be talking about how discipline and child training work in our home. Anyone who has read very many of my blog posts knows that I love a good chart (there will be a few of those), making something fun (a bit of that as well), and simplicity (a lot of that!).

Today’s post is about the “carrot” part of discipline in our home, or in other words, the positive, teaching aspect. Many times we think of discipline as punishment, but the true meaning of the word is more correctly thought of as training, which involves both rewards and punishments. Any discipline system you use, needs to have both parts to be effective in my opinion. One without the other leads to an imbalance that makes children frustrated.

I love a good list. In fact, one of the nicknames Preacher Man calls me is “Suzy List-Maker.” I had been on the hunt for some time for a nice, concise list of rules, which would be easy for my children to memorize. I found a list that the Duggar family uses, but it was long, like twenty something of those things! I found the If/Then chart from Doorposts which didn’t have enough rules or rules that I didn’t like. At the end of February, I came across a list from Charlotte Mason Help, which was perfect. It was for six year olds, but was a list of ten basic rules that covered all the things I wanted in a nice, short way. I changed the wording on a few of them and added in Bible verses to support the rules. I did like that approach from the If/Then chart! The result was:
Our Family Rules

I printed my list on some bright, fun paper and have it on a small bulletin board that sits in our dining room window.

I spent five weeks during Circle Time introducing the rules, two at a time. We even made up a fun chant so the girls could memorize them. I tried to give examples of behaviors from our family that showed how to follow the rule and examples that broke the rule. For these five weeks I also implemented the reward part, only focusing on the rules we had learned so far.

When I catch them following one of the rules, then I say, “Go put a sticker on the chart for being kind to your brother.” Or “You obeyed Mommy so well and with a good attitude. Go put two stickers on the chart.” What’s the chart? I cut out a shape to represent the month we started this reward. 

Once we have fifty stickers on the chart, then the girls get to pick a family outing from an approved list.

We started our current reward chart in March (hence the shamrock) and once we get fifty stickers on our chart, then we get our family fun day. We are very close to our goal. The girls are so excited and are already poring over the list deciding what to do!

There are two possible flaws in my reward system both of which can be overcome with some diligence and candor. First, you have to remember to catch them. For about a month, things got crazy around here, and I totally forgot to be doing my job as the good behavior police. One day I noticed that the kids weren’t being as nice to each other as they had been and that’s when I realized I’d dropped the ball! If you do it, keep on track, and if you forget, then apologize to your kids and dive back in the next day.

The second flaw is that my children wanted to tell me about the good things they had done. This could very quickly escalate into a contest that would have me putting stickers on the chart every two seconds just so they could get the reward, so I told them that unless I catch them being good, then the sticker will not count. They can come and brag to me (I always praise them and hug them), but no sticker.

Of course my children are not angels, and the rules do get broken. Next week, we’ll look at the punishment part of discipline.

Looking out for do-gooders in the tree house,



Summary Saturday: The Reality of Homschooling

Many times as mothers and especially homeschoolers, we see what other families do and think to ourselves, “Wow! They get so much done and have such fun with cool projects and inventive teaching. I can never do all that because of X child or Y situation. I’m just not a very good homeschooler.” This is especially true when you are just beginning your home school journey. It can be overwhelming and frustrating when things don’t work out the way you envisioned.

When I started this blog, I promised myself that I would be transparent with our lives. Not everything in our home is rainbows and unicorns, especially when it comes to school time. I lose my temper, there are tears and whining, and sometimes when we are all busy…there is Monkey destruction. I had already decided this week to do a “Week in the Life” type of post to show the real side of homeschooling, but apparently someone told Monkey to be in rare form this week!

So without further ado, here is a real week at Live Oak Christian Academy (our school name).


Chipette started working on division this week and our math book, Math in Focus, had some fun activities in this chapter to have students divide blocks into equal groups, and then write out the division equation they just demonstrated.

Next, she did the same thing with craft sticks to make shapes. For example how many pentagons can you make out of 20 sticks?

Chipette loves these kinds of hands-on problems. They stick in her head better than anything else.

Meanwhile…Monkey got into the pantry and dumped half of a bag of rice on my keyboard and on the floor:

My period, e, and s keys still do not work correctly! When this happened I just told them all to get out of the room. First, I didn’t want them to step in the rice and get it everywhere. Second, because I was afraid I might lose my cool. I needed to count to ten in peace.

Back to Chipette, she made a chest vest to learn how the lungs, ribs, and diaphragm all work together so you can breathe.

We have really been enjoying our quick study of the human body and are looking forward to diving into it more thoroughly at a future date.

Chipette has one grammar activity that is her absolute favorite…playing teacher. This week she was checking her students’ homework (I wrote sentences with capitalization errors on the white board) with a red marker. She had to fix their errors and then she gives them a grade based on how many they get wrong.

She has great fun with this game and don’t tell her, but she learns a lot too!

Meanwhile…Monkey got into the master bedroom which is supposed to be kept locked (Right, Chipette?), then got into my fingernail polish, decorated himself, and ruined the quilt on our bed. Which wouldn’t be a big deal (just get a new quilt right) except I designed the entire master bedroom around the quilt and it is not longer sold at Target.

I hate to admit it, but I lost my temper on this one. I screamed and cried. Not one of my finer parenting moments, but I was unbelievably frustrated since I had just figured out what to put above our bed, and, of course, it matched the quilt. But like any good mom should, I apologized to them later for not acting like a Christian should, and I read them James 1:19-20 that I hadn’t shown the righteousness of God. Ugh!


Magpie started her Explode the Code Primer books this week with great enthusiasm. She is a workbook loving child!

Even though, Magpie has excellent fine motor skills, I still try to make Explode the Code a little less writing intensive (there is plenty of practice writing the letters!) by letting her use Do-A-Dot markers instead of circling or coloring.

It makes it more fun and keeps her hand fresh so she can make her letters correctly instead of sloppy because she’s getting tired.


Dear, sweet Monkey, who tried Mommy’s patience this week like any two-year old boy should, but we did get in one learning moment between the mischief. He sat at the table and colored a picture…

for about 30 seconds before he was off on another adventure!

So this is a real, normal homeschooling week for our family. If yours never has these problems, then don’t tell me! I like to believe that we all go through this, so don’t ruin my fantasy. J

Offering a large reward for anyone who knows how to get fingernail polish out of fabric in the tree house,