Monday, January 26, 2015

Captain America Shield (with printable star template)

One of Jude's favorite super heroes is Captain America.  I think he'd wear his Halloween Costume every day if I let him.  Instead he has a pseudo-costume hoodie.

Everyone knows Captain America needs his shield, but this Captain didn't have one.  We had to fix that!


Large cardboard box
4 round objects to trace - each should be about 1-2" smaller in diameter.  We used:
12" pot lid
10" dinner plate
9" paper plate
8" mixing bowl
red, white, and blue paint
7" star template
chenille stems ("pipe cleaners")
duct tape (or other heavy-duty tape)


Begin by tracing your largest circle onto the box.

 Cut it out.  (This is probably a job for an adult.  A utility knife works much more efficiently than scissors.)

Using the remaining round objects, draw concentric circles on the cutout.

Begin painting the circles.  Paint the outside-most (1st) and third circles red. (Glitter paint optional.)

Depending on your paint, it may take a few coats to get it dark enough.  (Acrylic paint will be more vibrant with the first coat.  We use poster paint since it comes in washable versions, but it doesn't have the same coverage.) A blast with a hairdryer will help speed things along.

Print the star template.  Cut it out, place it in the center of the shield, and trace.

Paint the remaining outer circle and the star white.

Allow to dry (or use the hairdryer again).

Paint the outside of the star blue.

Bend a chenille stem into a handle, and tape the ends to the back of the shield.  (You may want to twist two stems together, and then shape the handle, to give kiddo a little more to hang on to.)

Now, go lead the Avengers and save the world!

©2012- 2015 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Friday, January 23, 2015

A Dream Come True

If you keep on believing, the dream that you wish will come true.

Oh, so true.

We're three years into our homeschooling journey, and so much has happened.  When Jude began homeschooling, the idea was maybe he'd go "back" to school in first grade.  Didn't happen.  Returning in second grade hasn't happened, either - he's in second grade now at home, and definitely not capable of being in a regular classroom.  However, he's grown so much, and it's weeks like this week that I'm reassured we made the right decision.

I try not to focus on the hard stuff with Jude, and all of the things holding him back from being "average."  While the focus of Adventures with Jude has been to share what we're up to, sometimes what we're up to is crying.  I've written about our down times, but they're part of our journey.  Our adventure hasn't been just field trips and cupcakes and lots of shiny new things to try out.  Sometimes, it's tears because a venue was overwhelming, or somebody ate the last cookie, or we've tried so many programs that we can't even decide if one more is even worth trying. (It was - sixth time lucky!)

I'm highly doubtful that Jude will ever go to a "regular" school again, but by now, I'm ok with that. We have our good days and our not-so-good days, but overall, he's thriving.  He'll get to where he should be at his own pace, and with our high school situation, I don't see any reason to push him into a classroom (where he really doesn't want to be - the thought of going to school even with Celia petrifies him) just to bring him back home again.  Since we began,  Luke's high school closed, and he began learning with us.  Matthew is now home, too.  In part, it's because we don't have a high school option for him for this coming fall, but we brought him home for 8th grade instead of waiting until 9th because we were convinced it was the better thing for him.  I never thought I'd be doing high school before most of elementary, and I'm not sure how we'll survive third grade, but when Jude gets to 8th or 10th grade, we've got plenty of great ideas! Damien is now beginning to transition to full-time school as well, and I think the most excited to do schoolwork, bugging and begging until he gets a turn.  One benefit of trying to reinvent so many wheels with Jude is that if nothing else, I have about twelve different curricula for him to try out -- plus any new ones we are blessed to review.  After three years, homeschooling isn't so "new" or "weird" anymore.

Remember how I said in the beginning homeschooling was an idea, not a plan, because plans never seem to turn out how you expect them to go?  I'd say now that it's many "ideas" that we're working out as we go.   It's OK, though -- because even though the journey has been bumpy, it's been one I wouldn't change.  Looking forward is still daunting, but stopping for a moment to look at how far we've come and how many friends we've made has been amazing.  I'm amazed at how much I've learned - not just from the books and videos I've taught from, but from Jude, too.

When we started out three years ago, my heart was grieving for Jude.  He seemed to have so much to overcome, and that first year just kept heaping on.   My heart knew that maybe what the doctors and therapists were saying was true about him then, but we refused to believe that that was the best he'd do.  One of the dreams I wished for him has come true.  Three years later, Jude is finally a reader.  I'm so proud of him. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Coconut Chocolate Pudding

Coconut Chocolate Pudding dairyfree

Who doesn't love chocolate pudding?  I admit, I'm a sucker for the "instant" variety.  I know it's probably not the most "wholesome" thing out there, but once I discovered the "shaker" way to make it (milk + pudding mix into a Tupperware-type container, shake until you count to 30, and fridge for half an hour),  it became my go-to dessert.  I have memories of Luke making the pudding when he was only two or three.  He didn't know how to count to 30 yet, but he could count to 10 three times!

After Matthew was diagnosed with a dairy allergy, we got away from pudding.  The instant stuff does not easily work with alternative milks (you can kind of coax it to work, but it's temperamental and iffy).   Plus, we have always had a gas cooktop.  Instead of kiddo making pudding, it was Mom stirring until it was done.  We started baking desserts instead - cookies and cupcakes were still kid-friendly to make but involved less open-flame-contact potential with high-energy toddlers.

This thick, rich version is almost as easy as the instant - there's no hovering and stirring while the milk heats, but it's still reliable with coconut milk.  (Younger children may still need a helping hand with the heating and pouring, but it's not all on Mom to prepare.)  This recipe will work with either coconut milk from a can (this is how we make it for Celia and Damien) or the coconut milk beverage that comes in a carton.  If you are using the canned version, make sure it's coconut milk and not "cream of coconut." 

Coconut Chocolate Pudding

1 13.5 oz can full-fat coconut milk (or 1 3/4 cups coconut milk beverage, ie So Delicious)
1 1/2 tsp unflavored gelatin (half a packet)
15 oz Enjoy Life chocolate chips (approx. 2 1/2 cups)
1/4 tsp salt

Shake coconut milk vigorously for 10 seconds.  

Pour milk into a small saucepan.  

Remove 2 Tbsp milk to a mixing bowl. 

   Turn on burner and heat milk until steaming.
Add gelatin into the coconut milk in the mixing bowl. Whisk until combined. 

bloom gelatin in 2 Tbsp coconut milk

Add hot milk to gelatin mixture and whisk until smooth.

Add chocolate and allow to sit 2-3 minutes (until chocolate softens and begins to melt). Whisk the mixture until smooth.

Whisk in the salt. Be careful to add it fairly evenly, rather than in one big pile.  (Tip: Pour the salt into your hand so you have better control over it.)

Cover and refrigerate until firm - about 2 hours. If you don't care for the "skin" that forms over cooked pudding, place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the mixture.

While you wait, tidy up. There's usually somebody willing to lick the whisk. 

Once the pudding is set, spoon into dessert glasses and enjoy.  Optional: top with shredded coconut.

©2012- 2015 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Salt Lava Experiment

Salt Lava #Experiment #science #homeschool

Celia came home from school and was bursting to share her science lab with everyone.  I have to admit, this was pretty cool.  Plus, she had awesome timing -  Jude and I have been working on a volcano unit study, so making lava sounded like fun to him. 

How it works: The dry salt is denser than the water and vegetable oil, which allows it to sink to the bottom. As it passes through the oil, the oil coats the salt.  Because oil is less dense than water, the oil-coated salt rises to the top.   The salt dissolves in the water, and the oil carried down by the salt rises back to the top.

Materials Needed:

towel, plate, or cutting board
250 mL glass container (beaker or drinking glass)
125 mL water (about 1/2 c.)
25 ml vegetable oil (about 1/3 c.)
1-3 drops food coloring
2-3 Tbsp salt
dishwashing detergent


1. Measure water into the beaker.  Place it on the towel.  (This makes cleaning up spilled salt easier.)

2.  Add vegetable oil and food coloring.

3. Sprinkle pinches of salt on top of the oil.  (Larger pinches will create larger bubbles, but if you put too much in at one time, it won't work.)

adding salt

watching the bubbles rise back to the top

4.  When you're done, clean up by pouring the oil/water into the sink.  Rinse the sink well, and wash your beaker with the soap.  (We used Dawn because it works very well to remove oil.)  Rinse and dry the beaker.  Carefully pick up your towel and shake the spilled salt into the trash, and put your other materials away.


You don't want to drink this!  It's not poisonous, but it tastes pretty bad and may make you feel nauseous. 

©2012- 2015 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

34 Weeks of Clean - Week 2 - The Pantry

34 Weeks of Clean - Week 2: The Pantry

Michele assigned "Organize the pantry" for Week 2.   Yes, I groaned.  This soon??  I was hoping we'd get another easy task.  But she's right - holiday cooking means "just stuff it in!" and my cupboards and freezer looked it.  I know we have more space -- but you'd never know it when you look in there because you have to quick put your hands up so nothing lands on your head or breaks your foot. <sigh>  Pantry it is.  I roped Luke into helping with this week's task.  I decided it was going to be a Home Ec project for him.  After all, even if Real Men Eat Quiche, it helps to be able to find the ingredients for said dish.


above counter before
 The cupboard above the counter

The bottom pantry
(I forgot to get a picture of the top pantry) 

They aren't too terrible.   But yeah, still a mess.  One day, the boys will learn that if they don't throw out empty cookie boxes, I will not know we need more.  (Thankfully I did this BEFORE I went to the store, otherwise, they'd be cookie-less for another week.)


Yes, I vacuumed my shelves.  That's an awesome little hand-held Dyson and it sucks up crumbs and spilled flour like nobody's business. 


 Above cupboard

 Top Pantry

 Bottom Pantry

Notice that there is one loaf of bread in the bottom pantry, and one up top.  We always buy bread two loaves at a time, but then the boys eat it two loaves at a time.  What the bread shelf usually looks like is this: 

The twist-tie is barely hanging on, and both loaves have bread missing.  What you can't see is the two- or three-slice remnants of both a third AND a fourth loaf hidden underneath the mess. New rule:  ONE loaf goes down where shorter people can reach it (around here, everyone makes his own toast), and the spare loaf goes "grown-up high" until the other loaf is eaten. 

I also rearranged things to make more sense. I used to keep the pasta and extra baking flour lower, where it was easier to reach.  However, that seems to be prime real estate for cookies.  That now has been moved to the top pantry - I can still easily reach it/take inventory when I'm planning dinner, but there is more space for grab-and-go snacks.  We rearranged a couple of other cabinets, so a few other things got re-homed.  Is it wrong that instead of trying to make room for the Bisquick, I decided to make a big batch of pancakes for the freezer and use it up?

I admit there is still one cabinet I haven't gotten to, but I will!  I need to bring in a ladder to work on that - it's above the fridge, and a chair isn't tall enough to reach the back of it.  I need to wait until I feel better, though - Luke went took a bag of trash out the back door as we were cleaning the pantry, and we didn't realize the house alarm had been set.  As I lunged to turn off the siren (of course that's the door that doesn't have a 10-second grace period), I caught my pants pocket on the arm of the chair I was climbing on and then topped myself over the trashcan.  Mostly it's my pride is bruised, but so is my shoulder and butt. I also figure if I wait a couple more days, we'll have eaten most of the chips in the cabinet, so that will be less to go through.  We ate two of the bags of tortilla chips for dinner the other night when I made nachos, plus the already-open bag of potato chips, so that helps!

And yes, I know that's a lot of chocolate. It's the only brand everyone can eat, so we stock up when we find it on sale.  I think we need a basket or something to keep it better corralled, though.

As I rearranged things, I realized that particular day was exactly 8 years from when Celia got her feeding tube placed.  At the time, she was 19 months old and had zero foods to eat. In fact, that day, the doctor put a moratorium on trying ANYTHING until she was at least three years old. It's taken her  long to find four foods that don't make her ill, I've lost track of how many fails we've had.  (Ok, maybe I haven't.  The current "no because she's tried and gotten sick from them" count stands at 22.)  She can now have pork, strawberries, chocolate and sweet potatoes. (Cane sugar is safe, but it doesn't "count" as a food - it's pure carbohydrate and she reacts to food proteins.) 

That is ALL Celia-safe food.  Earlier that day, I felt like we've been at this forever, and she's never going to get rid of the tube. In theory, I'm ok with that - it's just a tool.  But looking at a cabinet crammed with "her" food (and knowing there were a few of items - bacon and fresh strawberries in the fridge, more chocolate (even if the cabinet isn't tidy yet), and even the lard in the long pantry) brought me to grateful tears. 

Tidy up along with us!  I won't tell you what Week 3's task is...but I will say that it's something that definitely needs doing in my house!  Head over to Family, Faith, and Fridays Blog to find your marching orders.

©2012- 2015 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Favorites of 2014: Top 5 Luke's American Adventures

Can I just toot my kid's horn for a moment?

Luke has worked really, really hard this year on his series, Luke's American Adventures.  He has explored different writing styles and spent countless hours writing...and rewriting...and rewriting...  This series also has taught him how to write HTML code and make Picmonkey collages that are Pinterest-friendly.   He's turning into a blogger - his phone is at the ready to take pictures, or he'll say to me "Hey!  That would be perfect for a blog about ... ! Can we use the good camera to get a shot of ... ?"

This week's "Top 5" focus is going to be on his series.  I'm choosing my five favorite posts that Luke wrote in 2014.   After reading his thoughts on the 1700s and 1800s, I can't wait to see his insight on the 20th and 21st Centuries.

1.    Review of Five 4ths of July

In this post, Luke explored a popular style for Adventures with Jude - book review writing!  He carefully read the book, and researched and contacted author Pat Raccio Hughes for input.

2. Explorers of the Americas: Lewis and Clark

The return of the Corps of Discovery in 1806 is chronicled in a newspaper-style writing.

3. 19th Century Innovators: Catholic Educators

The 19th Century is awash with scientific and business innovators, but these three - including the first native-born American saint - founded and shaped the American Catholic school system.

4. Antebellum Words of Change

Luke explores biographies of antebellum figures Emily Dickinson, Noah Webster, and Sojourner Truth, each of whom used the power of words to effect change and have a lasting impact on American thinking and language.

5.   Abraham Lincoln Speaks

This miniseries rounds out the list, but it is by no means the "least favorite."  When I assigned "Abraham Lincoln"  to be his US History I "term paper," of course I got eye rolls and groans.  However, I'm proud of him for how he came up with a topic (Lincoln's speeches) and divided it into a logical mini-series. He had everything well-organized, until we realized that the anniversary of the Gettysburg Address would occur sooner than he had that section planned, but he buckled down and worked extra hard to get it ready a week ahead of schedule and posted on the 151st anniversary of President Lincoln's speech.  We both have a renewed appreciation for Abraham Lincoln and are hoping that this summer we will be able to visit his birthplace and see for ourselves where this extraordinary man came from.

©2012- 2014 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.
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