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For those of you who asked...Here is the recipe for Ravioli Ratatouille.
First go gather your ingredients.

Ingredients

    1 package frozen cheese ravioli
    a variety of chopped veggies
        we used:
            1 each yellow, red & green bell peppers,
            2 zucchini,
            2 yellow squash,
            1 red onion
            (we couldn't find any eggplant but that would have been tasty too)
    2 jars of medium sized artichoke hearts cut into 1/4 pieces
    1 can of olives
    2 cans of diced tomatoes (Italian)
    Olive Oil

This fed a family of 9 - with leftovers.  If you have a smaller family you may want to 1/2 this recipe.  And really, you can't go wrong with Ratatouille....it's an Italian golash of sorts.  I would think that anything "Italian" goes!  So don't hold back.

Oh, and before I forget....we added two pinches each of:
    dried oregano
    dried basil
     &
    dried parsley
Just so you know...if we can't find fresh we will get our spices/herbs from the Mexican Food aisle at the super market.

Utensils

Casserole Dish      \
Since our batch was rather large we cooked this recipe in a large dish that we have dubbed our "lasagna dish".  But, if you are cutting this recipe, a 9x12 should do fine.  Remember, just have fun with it.  It's slop for goodness sake...a VERY yummy form of slop.  But, slop none the less.

Skillet
This recipe is mainly cooked in a skillet.  So, go grab that too.  We do recommend using cast iron....once you get the hang of seasoning (which is rather quite easy despite the myths) it makes a GREAT non-stick skillet!  Plus it is much more healthier than Teflon (don't EVEN get me started on that). 

Ok, without further ado...let's get started!
 
Based upon plenty of requests to share this idea, I have decided to write a post on it.  Just so you know, in no way do I take any credit for the magic this has created in our home (especially in regards to the good behavior we've experienced).  My only claim is to the colorful way of display - which of course you are free to copy as long as you remember to note where it came from.  Thanks!

The Ladder

This, my friends, is my new bff, "The Ladder".  It has arrived from Karen's blog in Utah, U.S.A but I'm sure it has traveled far and wide across the states and may have possibly visited foreign countries.  Here at our home it has taken on a colorful array of hues to please the eye (and hopefully the mind) towards motivation and inspiration.
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* I will post more on our Morning 5 and Evening 5 in a later post

How it Works

We have adapted the same requirements as Karen's family has in using The Ladder... and not by chance.  I believe we (as parents) all struggle in these same areas of behavior "improvement" across the board when parenting our children.  You may or may not agree.  But, having our children "listen the first time we ask" has always been a dragon to be tamed around here, as well as "doing tasks in a timely manner while still getting the job done well".  Both those and "reporting only good behavior of others" (instead of that infamous dragon, "Mr. Tattle-tale") has also been added to the list.

Whenever our children are displaying the positive behaviors we are working on, the marker (magnet on The Ladder) moves up.  Although, when those evil naughty dragons are allowed to reign free, the marker goes down.

Moving Up
1.  Complete a Task Well & Fast (2 rungs)
2.  Doing something the 1st time asked
3.  Notice someone else being nice (can't ask for self)

Moving Down
1.  Counting to get one's attention
2.  Having Instructions Repeated
3.  Taking too long to complete a Task (2 rungs)

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* pink papers will eventually be removed once this becomes rooted
Oh, and I dare not forget that whenever the marker reaches 200 - regardless if it finds its way down a rung or two by the end of the day - EVERYONE is rewarded!  The reward may come in the form of a special treat or an impromptu visit to a nearby park depending on if we have frozen GoGurts in stock or not.

The Ladder Meets The Bean Jar

Hand in hand these two friends help our children improve their behaviors.  "How?", you may be asking? 

Well, it all started with us following the teachings of Dianne Jeppson (in A Thomas Jefferson Education Home Companion) by implementing a reward system with The Bean Jar.  However, our Bean Jar was being neglected.  And not for purposeful reasons...far from it!  It was just so hard to keep up with its ever so increasing appetite.

You see, The Bean Jar gets fed every time someone does something good.  And when you have a lot of good behavior going on in your home (because everyone wants to go get ice cream once the jar is full), that's a lot of feedings for a WIDE MOUTH Mason jar.  And instead of relying on the children to feed this little friend, I was the one in charge of the beans.  Mind you, it was because I didn't want a bunch of beans ending up all over the floor from an over-zealous 2 year old thinking that The Bean Jar was REALLY hungry.  So thus, The Bean Jar sat, collecting dust and starving on the top of the bookshelf.

Best Friends Forever

Pairing these two together has created an everlasting friendship.  When they have "hung out" we have witnessed a spectacular sight.  As the positive behavior increases, elevating the marker, the amount of beans being fed into the Bean Jar accumulates.  Thus, satisfying our Wide Mouthed friend. And... leaving us at the end of the day - being the "bean counters" we are - tallying up and feeding this hungry vessel. 

But as we all know... friends just don't always get along. 

Some days these two have a difficult time staying on track (or in this case - on the positive numbered rungs).  Which leaves, one in the negative and us no other option but to starve the other ultimately making it difficult to reach our goal.  Which, might I remind you, is not just ANY ice cream... but Cold. Stone. Creamery. ice cream...with a topping of choice (of course).

Synergy or Working Together

As we see our children work together to climb The Ladder to success, The Bean Jar gets fed, our children will get Cold Stone Creamery and we....well, we ultimately get the greatest gift of all....children who are quick to obey.  I mean, really, isn't that what we all want as parents - to see our children feel good about their choices, knowing that what they are doing not only puts a happy smile on their faces but that it also pleases their parents and their Heavenly Father too?

We know that through obedience comes faith.  And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come (D&C 130:19).  And, really, that is what it is all about: the spiritual knowledge we gain here in our temporal lives.  And what better than to do it as a team, together as a family, working together towards one goal:  a trip to Cold Stone Creamery or even grander...Eternal Glory!

We think that hard work, obedience and finding the good in others are all worthy attributes that will help us obtain Celestial Glory.  Don't you?
 
Why this blog post posted twice is still beyond me....

But every time I have attempted to remove it...it removes the original post....ah, Boo!


And so we endure it.
 
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Our little Butter Bean is growing so rapidly.
 
In counting, here are a few highlights of what he has accomplished this last month:
  1. wearing size 12-18mo clothes
  2. wearing size 5 diapers
  3. easily eats 2 jars of baby food 
  4. favorite foods:  Sweet Potatoes & Sweet Peas (however, I think at times he would rather eat the food we are eating)
  5. does the Army - or G.I. Joe - Crawl
  6. says: Mama, Dada, Baba & Ah-boo (& seems to know what they mean)
  7. can pull himself up from sitting to a standing position (just did this today!)
  8. favorite snack: Mum-Mum & Graham Crackers or Cheerios
  9. cut in his bottom 2 teeth last month & is now working on his top 2
  10. loves to play Peek-a-Boo & Patty-cake (& can do the clapping on his own)
  11. loves to clap when he hears his brothers and sisters cheer for him
  12. loves to have his "bink" & be cuddled by his big sister, Dagyn to be put down for nap-time

I'm sure I am forgetting a few more things.  Since he has grown so quickly in these past couple of months, that it won't surprise me if I have.  If I do remember anything afterward, I will just come back and add to the list.

We are so happy to have his little spirit here in our home.  He is such an added blessing to our family and we wouldn't have it any other way!  Thank you for choosing us for your family Daxyn.  We love you little... er, um... I mean, BIG guy!
 
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On Friday, my good friend Sara, let us borrow her children for a playdate here at our house.  The kids had such a great time.  

While some laid train tracks & built cities.
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Others competed to design the best artillery.
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And then there were those who played with a softer approach. But they were too quick and light on their feet.  Because when I came to take a picture of the girls playing all they had left for me to find was this:
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Dolly had said that I had just missed them and that they were all getting ready to sit down for a spot of tea.  She then asked whether I could join her and her striped tiger cub and their other guests while I waited for them to return.  Since I hesitated to answer her, I had secretly hoped to find the girls to have returned to the scene by then, to continue their play but it never happened.  What with so much for them to do, it didn't surprise me that they never came back.  And yet, I politely refused the invitation as I was distracted by a dreadfully sad noise.

That was tragedy calling me out to find this little guy.  Why is it that no true playdate is complete without somebody getting hurt?  This "not so lucky" little guy just had to be the one this time around.  We even captured a tear on his cheek.  I'm not sure but think it may have been a bit crocodilian.  But then again most of them usually are amphibious.  I've always said this little guy has got the best "Boo-Boo" face around. I may just end up having to make a post on only him with a slide show of all his "Boo-Boo" faces.  Wouldn't that be a hoot!?  But that's another story for another day.  And by looking at his face, what Mommy can resist it?  I mean, really?  This one can't.  He is just too darn adorable for this Mommy!
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Soon after we got his finger all wrapped up and kissed, he was back "on-the-go" but only after pausing just a moment to capture his battle wound.  And, I think if you look closely, that might just be his tear that has run down his cheek.  Yep, definitely amphibious. 
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But that's nothing a popsicle won't fix, right?!  At least that's what I always say.  And what's more fun than sharing one with your friends? 
There now...the more, the merrier!
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Oh wait, we wouldn't be complete without mentioning or capturing a moment with this adorable little guy!  I think he must be teething again.
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All better!  Thanks Sara!  We all had a blast!
 
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Wish I knew the original source.  But, when a friend of mine posted this on her Facebook page this morning, I just knew it was worth sharing here... with all of you.

Why Public Schooling is better:

Most parents were educated in the under-funded public school system, and so are not smart enough to homeschool their own children

Children who receive one-on-one homeschooling will learn more than others, giving them an unfair advantage in the marketplace. This is undemocratic.

How can children learn to defend themselves unless they have to fight off bullies on a daily... basis?

Ridicule from other children is important to the socialization process.

Children in public schools can get more practice "Just Saying No" to drugs, cigarettes and alcohol.

Fluorescent lighting may have significant health benefits.

Publicly asking permission to go to the bathroom teaches young people their place in society.

The fashion industry depends upon the peer pressure that only public schools can generate.

Public schools foster cultural literacy, passing on important traditions like the singing of "Jingle Bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg..."

Homeschooled children may not learn important office career skills, like how to sit still for six hours straight.
 
Our Morning Devotional has taken a turn for the best.  We have ironed out the wrinkles and have developed a Routine that works!  Our mornings now consist of magic!
Picture courtesy of Jennifer Polivka
Picture-Mosaic Rock Art by Jennifer Polivka
 
I spent many a Summer with my grandparents growing up.  And I can remember one special tradition my grandparents began for me was that of celebrating my "unbirthday".  As Neologistic a tradition it may have been it has sparked the beginnings of a new tradition we do with our children:  Half Birthdays - or unbirthdays to some.I'm thinking you may remember being 7 (or perhaps as young as 3) and claiming your mark on being at the halfway point yourself.  Meaning you were older than that of the other kids your age at only 7 years old.  You were in fact, 7 AND a half!  And that, my friend, was a BIG deal.

Well, just like when we were 7...or any age thereat...when that 6 month mark rolled around, it meant something.  And with our children it means a little something more.  It means some special one-on-one time with either parent of their choosing...a celebration of sorts.  And tonight marked the night of celebrating Dagyn's 1/2 Birthday!  7 and a HALF, that is to all you 7 year olds out there.

We started off getting dinner at Sonic  Not a regular thing at our house - eating out that is.  So that is special in and of itself.

Once our tummies were full, we headed over to the $2 Theatre for a showing of the 3rd Chronicles of Narnia movie.  Such a good movie...it has inspired me to read the books to the kids soon.

When the movie got out we hit the Double-Decker Carousel inside the mall.
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After Dagyn tamed the Dragon on the DD Carousel...
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There was a quick wish at the fountain to hope for great things
as she finishes the year off right and then we headed home.
But not before we topped things off with an Oreo Shake...
Mmm, Yummy!
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In closing, I shall leave you with the Mad Hatter & March Hare as they sing, A Very Merry Unbirthday. 

Oh, and to all of you out there...a Very Merry Unbirthday to you! 
Yes, you!
 

Cowboy Night!
Dinner, A Movie & a Recipe

What Cowboy Dinner would be complete without some Cowboy Beans, Cowboy Salad, some good ol' Cowboy Cornbread and a Cowboy Flick?
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Tonight we thought we'd rustle up some good ol' grub.  So Cookie (Chris) made up sum of his Cowboy Beans and his pretty lil' missy put together this here Cowboy Salad, finished off by some six-shooter Cornbread.
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Cowboy Salad Recipe:

Ingredients:
(The original recipe called for much smaller amounts of the ingredients.  But, with our rather large Cowboy Posse, I ended up beefing things up a bit.  I also added cilantro.  I suppose you could opt not to put in the cilantro...but, I think that's what made this recipe taste so good.)

1 Head of Chopped Cabbage
5 Seeded & Chopped Green Chilies (I used canned whole chilies)
1/2 of a Large Sweet Onion, Chopped
1 can Diced Tomatoes, Drained
Chopped Cilantro (I used a handful)
Vinegar to Taste (I used Rice Wine Vinegar but I suppose any would do)
Salt & Pepper to Taste

Mix the first 5 ingredients together in a large salad bowl.  Add vinegar, salt & pepper.  Refrigerate.  Will keep for several days.

And there you have it cowpokes...easy peasy.  Serve with some Cowboy Beans and some Cowboy (six-shooter) Cornbread and you have a meal fit for any Rowdy Rustler or Gun Slinger.

Enjoy Cowboys!  It's time for some John Wayne on the movie picture show. G'night Y'all!
 
I came across this great book list for children (and adults alike) on a blog that is amazing!  Karen is definitely a "like-minded" gal and her blog, The Tale of Our Quest, is chuck full of wonderful things.  I read it often to gain inspiration.  You should go check it out...just as soon as you read over these Good Books that we plan on adding to our list of reads...