Friday, July 29, 2011

The Right Track

When I gave birth to my oldest almost 12 years ago, I had no experience with children.  None.  I never babysat, I 'd never changed a diaper, I'd never fixed a bottle.  And I had no desire to.

But I knew laying there on that delivery table, despite the fact that I had lost the use of my legs and was shaking uncontrollably, that if a wild cougar entered the room I was fully capable of hurling myself on it (albeit with my elbows) and tearing its throat out with my teeth if it even LOOKED at my son.  (Future daughter-in-law...take note.)  The same thing was true with my daughter.

And the older they get, that feeling never subsides.  Even though my son is almost 12...steps away from manhood...and my daughter is 9...if anything were to hurt or harm them I would do whatever I could to protect them or die trying.

So one of my deepest wishes as a mother is that my children forge a close bond.  One that lasts long after I am gone.  That they look out for each other when I'm not around.  That they are truly friends as well as siblings.

Last night my kids went to a birthday party at a local fun center.  Both kids got an armband and game tokens.  My son plowed through his tokens immediately.  My daughter was too busy riding rides to bother using hers. 

Closing time was drawing near and I knew my daughter wouldn't use her tokens, so I gave them to my son.  And of course five seconds after I did so, she came asking for them.   I apologized and told her what I had done and offered to buy her more.  "'s okay,"  she said.  "Will likes video games more than me.  He can have them."   And she was fine. 

Meanwhile, my son had won several tickets at the skee-ball game.  "Lauren can have these tickets to pick out a prize, since they were her tokens that won them," he said.  My heart warmed. 

They both ran to the counter, tickets in hand.   Then I heard my daughter say to my son excitedly, "Why don't I get something for you too?"  So they traded in their tickets for two Silly Bandz and two lollipops.  Which they shared. 

My heart melted.

I think they are on the right track.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Our First Week of School

Ah...the first week of school.  We are so full of enthusiasm and eagerness.  Wonder how long it will last?

Anyhoo, this is pretty much how our first week of school went:

Daddy decided to be sick this week, so as you all know, this is a big monkey wrench in our progress.  Is Daddy a big distraction in your house when he is home?  Although, he was not sick enough that he couldn't grade math work for me.  Maybe that's why he went back to work today. lol.

Math:  Worked from our Saxon books, which my daughter exclaimed that she loved, and did a hands on project building 3D figures from modeling clay and toothpicks, then submerging in bubble solution to see what kinds of 'panes' develop. Very cool!

Language Arts:  Spelling and grammar...what can I say?  Boring stuff, but you gotta learn it.  Love our writing curriculum though! (The Wordsmith series)

Science:  Talked about energy.  How energy is in everything and how every living thing gets energy in different ways.  Did a cool experiment with iodine and starches.  A fun time was had by all.

History:  Discussed the Spanish Empire and how they came to South America for gold.  Made Easy Paella (or as my daughter called it...Spanish Jambalaya).  Labeled and colored a map of Spain, Portugual and their surroundings.  Read aloud "Don Quixote", which is really a cute story! No, I have never read it.

Art:  Studied Salvador Dali, since he is a Spanish artist.  Blew their minds with some trippy Dali paintings.  Tried our own collages in the style of Dali. 

Music:  Practiced piano.  Lessons start next week.  EVERYTHING starts next week.  I need a paper bag to hyperventilate into.

And, for inspiration, I read this:

Did I forget anything?  Probably.   But it is our first week, and I am impressed if we just get into a routine.

How about you?  Are you starting school yet?  If you have, how long did it take you to get into a routine?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Hop On Over to my Lunchroom

My new blog, focusing on healthy and easy lunch ideas!  Go over and check it out!  Well, in a few days I will have recipes there, but the blog *is* up and running!

Frugal 101

Now that the US government is on the verge of financial ruin, let's discuss being frugal, shall we?

I was frugal back when frugal was called 'tightwad'.  Or 'cheapskate'.  And I married a man who was even a tighter wad than me.  You could practically hear the squeaking when our collective tightness got together.  But I digress...

There are some things I do on a regular basis that help our family save money.  Here are a few:

1.  Never use a credit card.  We don't even own one.  We do have a bank debit card for transactions online or booking hotel rooms.  And for those of you who may live under a rock, the bank debit cards withdraw funds directly from your checking account. There is no interest.  And all God's people said "Amen".

2.  Buy used whenever you can.  I frequent the local used bookstore for curriculum.  I shop at Goodwill frequently for clothes.  (Get over yourself-once you buy brand new clothes and put them on they are USED too.  Although I will admit I don't buy anything I can't wash in hot water when I get it home.)

3.  Use a clothesline to dry laundry.  Yes, it's inconvenient.  But so is forgetting about the dried clothes in the dryer and pulling the whole wrinkled mess out of the dryer and then running it through AGAIN to get the wrinkles out.  Or forgetting to turn ON the dryer and having to wash the whole load again because they smell like a locker room.  I know I am not the only one who has done this!

4.  Plan menus and grocery shop from the menus.   This avoids unnecessary purchases-you only get what you need for those menus and that's it.  It also helps you remember why you bought those green peppers in the first place.  OH- and frozen chopped onions and bell peppers are awesome!  They cost a fraction of what fresh costs and when used in a soup or sauce, no one is the wiser.

5.  Cook at home.  You get healthier meals and it is SO MUCH CHEAPER.  Plus you save on gas driving to restaurants.  And it's a great opportunity to include your kids in the cooking process.

6.  Did you know you can set up your mortgage to pay one extra payment a month that goes directly to the principle of the loan? You can.

What about you?  What are some of your money saving tips? I'd love to hear them!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Can You Tell I Love Food?

Can you tell I love food?  And I love to eat?  Last night we went grocery shopping and during the check-out process my daughter exclaimed, "Wow. We sure do buy a lot of food."  To which I replied..."I know.  You guys eat, like, EVERY DAY. "  To which the bag boy snickered.

Here are some of our plans for dinners for the coming days:

Taco Pizza.  (If I put lettuce on top, does that count as healthy? I do add corn and beans to my taco meat if that makes it any better...)

Stuffed Baked Potatoes with Spinach, Broccoli, Chopped Ham and Cheese.

Chicken Pot Pie (homemade, of course.)

Grilled Steak and Onion Sandwiches on Hoagie Rolls with Swiss Cheese, fresh fruit

Easy Paella ( made with packaged yellow rice, kielbasa, shrimp and frozen peas.)  We will make this our first week of school, as our first history lesson focuses on Spain.  Cause I'm kooky like that.

Saturday is my birthday, so my folks are cooking me dinner-Steak, Salad and my favorite Black Forest Cherry Cake!

I'm considering starting another blog devoted to fun lunch ideas for stay at home moms....what say you?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Now Hiring: One Lunch Lady

Okay-first of all, Yay!  I have had over *2000* views on this thing I call a blog. Wow.  I can't believe anyone reads any of this stuff. But I sure am glad you do!  (And if you leave a comment I will love you forever.)

After posting about the 'confessions' of a homeschool mom, a friend of mine couldn't get the idea out of her head about hiring a lunch lady.  Seems she is as sick of fixing lunches as I am.  I think she prefers that her Lunch Lady do clean up duty as well, but I digress...

I actually don't mind fixing the lunch.  I HATE planning the lunch.  My kids rarely eat sandwiches,so finding quick healthy meals is a bit of a challenge. 

I decided to post some ideas of the 'different' lunch ideas that we have, in hopes that you will comment with some of your ideas.  We can be like the Lunch Lady Village.  No hair nets required.

Some of my lunch ideas are:

Stuffed Baked Potatoes (filled with chopped ham, chopped broccoli, chopped spinach, cheese, bacon bits.  Or what ever veggie and meat your kids like.)

Pasta Alfredo with Chicken and veggies.  (I use the Knorr Pasta Sides and the Tyson pre-grilled chicken, then add Steamfresh veggies like the zucchini, carrot and cauliflower blend.)

Subway day.  Okay-this *is* a sandwich, but I buy sub rolls and lay out all the cold cuts and cheeses, shredded lettuce, and different sauces like BBQ, honey mustard, Italian dressing, and let them build their own. 

Wraps.  Cook breaded chicken tenders, wrap in a flour tortilla with fresh spinach, cheese, choice of dressing.

Okay-your turn!  Share your lunch ideas in the comments section!  I can't wait to see what you all come up with...

OOPS, I Did it Again

Ahhh, late summer, when a homeschool mom's thoughts return to school....

...and extracurricular activities. 

Don't you hate when you hear about all this fantastic stuff that's going on for homeschoolers and you sign your kids up for all this stuff and then you can't fall asleep at night because you lie there hyperventilating, wondering "How am I going to do this??  When will we have school?  My kids need the socialization, the hands-on, the experience...." yet the next day something ELSE comes up and OH MY GOSH sign me up sign me up SIGN!ME!UP!

Or is that just me?  Oh. Ok.

Anyone who thinks that homeschool kids just sit at home all the time has no idea what they are talking about.  My kids have been known to ask, with slumped, exhausted shoulders and glazed, twitching eyes..."Do we HAVE to GO anywhere today?" 

But there are just so many wonderful opportunities for them!  And so many are free or almost free.  And we truly enjoy them.  So we do them.  It's one of the reasons I wanted to get my kids out into the world so they can experience LIFE in it's purest form.  So I put on my roller skates and jet pack and off we go.

I just wish I could do it all with out feeling like I am being squeezed.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Confessions of a Homeschool Mom

I confess: makes me laugh when I tell you I homeschool and your first concern is how do we schedule PE into our lessons.

...I sometimes watch the school bus drive by my house and consider flagging it down.

...I love my curriculum choices until I read a blog or article about something ELSE and then I get all 'Oh-no-maybe-I-should-have-gotten-that-my-kids-will-never-be-educated-enough-without-it-aaarrgh!'

...I miss back-to-school shopping.  Especially picking out a lunch box.

...I look at all my other homeschooling friends and wonder why they have their act so together when I feel like I am scrambling all the time.

...I wonder if my kids miss school and just aren't telling me.

....I wonder if I will ever feel like I have done enough.

....that fixing lunches gets old.  I want to hire a Lunch Lady.

...that, no, sometimes I DON'T have patience with my children every day. 

...I have considered sending my kids door-to-door with a can collecting donations for our 'music program'.  Piano lessons are expensive, people! 

Can any of you relate?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The History of the World, Part 1

And no...I'm not talking about a campy Mel Brooks film, which, by the way, still makes me laugh.

I'm talking about one of the more popular subjects in this house.....HISTORY.

We love us some history.  This is why....

 Story of the World was written by homeschoolers for homeschoolers.  It's written as if the history were an adventure story,  not just a dry list of dates and names.  My kids love this curriculum!  We've used it since the beginning, when my kids were 4th and 1st grades, respectively.  Story of the World (or SOTW) also comes with a fantastic activity book which includes a map for each chapter of study, so you get a healthy dose of geography as well.  Personally, I feel the maps help you visualize how historical events developed.  I mean,if you can see the relationships between countries, empires, etc, you gain a better understanding of why or how something happened.  Now,  the older my kids have gotten, I will say the other activity pages are not 'enough' for them.  I almost abandoned the SOTW ship this year because I knew I wanted hands on activities...just at a slightly higher caliber. 

Then I met History Odyssey....
 It was just what I was looking for!  History Odyssey is more or less an outline, helping you use different resources to teach with.  It also has a list of historical fiction works to coincide with the periods studied.  And lucky me, the used book store in town had 90 percent of the books needed!  It also includes maps for each chapter studied and copies of famous documents studied.  It took a little 'fanangling' on my part to make up lesson plans using this with SOTW simply because, although they teach the same period in history, some things are taught at different times.  But there was such a wealth of information here I couldn't say no.  My only concern was that I got Level 2 instead of Level 1.  Level 1 just seemed a little too 'young' for my kids, and Level 2 at times seems a little advanced...but the beauty of homeschooling is that I can tailor it to fit their abilities.  And I'd much rather teach 'up' than 'down'.

Another perk from History Odyssey was their timeline.  As you study, you can add events and people to the timeline and get a greater understanding of the sequence of events.  It was sold separately but I splurged anyway. 

One of the resources heavily used througout History Odyssey was the Kingfisher History Encyclopedia....
Great reference tool!  Has an illustrated, two-page spread for each topic throughout history AND it's written in chronological order.  My kids scooped it up as soon as it came in the mail and read it like a story book.

What about you?  Do you have a history curriculum that you love? 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Heart of the Home

Yesterday evening, as we pulled into our driveway, we noticed an inordinate amount of cars in the neighbor's driveway.  Neighbors we have lived next door to since 1998.  Neighbors, come to think of it,...we haven't really seen in a few weeks.

Something deep down told me this was no barbeque, no birthday party.

I sent the kids in and went on over to their house, dread in my heart.  I prayed, "Lord, let me know what to say."  He replied, "It's better just to listen."

Our neighbor's wife died suddenly that day. 

Mrs. Judy was a vibrant woman, a babysitter for a few small children, raised her granddaughter as her own.  She had the biggest heart for animals, taking in strays at every chance she had.  When a group of us went Christmas caroling last Christmas, she was so excited she came out and sat on the front steps just beaming, loudly applauding, enjoying every second of it.

I walked into the kitchen and saw her husband sitting at the table.  If you ever wondered if it is possible to be in a house packed with people and yet be utterly's true.  He was utterly alone.

I held his hand and listened as he told me in agonizing detail of his wifes passing.  I was embarrassed to know such sacred information.  And I couldn't help but note that, although the house was so full of living, breathing people...the heart was gone.  It felt some what stifled and empty and lonesome.

As I walked back into my home later that evening,  I couldn't get the thought out of my mind....women: wives, mothers...we are all the heart beat of our home.  We are the nuturers, the comforters.  Even the little things like decorating for holidays and birthdays, cleaning the floors, cooking our meals...all of these things we do with love for the family we are blessed to live with.  And when the one who does all those little Love Things is can feel it.

So this week, when you might be tempted to gripe about the laundry or having to cook a meal, just remember this-  do these things with love.  It doesn't go unnoticed.  And when we are gone, we will be missed for it.

Be the heart of your home.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Pity Party

I know...the posts have been so upbeat lately, haven't they? (*she said with sarcasm*) 

I have been sick since Monday.  Not a 'just give me a Tylenol Cold tablet and let me plow through' kind of sick, but a 'shivering one minute burning up the next all I want to do is sleep and my body hurts all over' kind of sick. 

I have to say, Monday and Tuesday were okay.  I laid in bed literally all day long.  I didn't eat.  All I could manage was to stay awake for an hour or so then...nighty night.

Wednesday I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.

Thursday was exactly like Wednesday.

Friday I dragged myself to Target in the rain and bought a birthday gift for my kids' friend across the street.  Annnnd I came home and got back in bed.

Now it's Saturday.  I still have a fever.

It's getting a little ridiculous around here.  And NO, I didn't go to the doctor.  Frankly I figured I would fine by now.

I think my kids are taking applications for a new mom-one who cooks for them and washes clothes and cleans the house.   Any takers?
*sigh*  At least there is always Nyquil. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Another Reason I am Glad Not to Live in California

Okay-before I get branded as a homophobe, let me just say right now, I am NOT. 

There, that should suffice.

Now California wants to mandate that all school children in the state study gay history. Never mind that the US is lagging behind in mathematics, science, and reading...yet, it's gay history that is the pressing issue. 

I have to ask...why?  What difference does it make who someone in history slept with?  What about Polygamist History?  Pedophiles?  Sex addicts?  Won't they feel left out and demand that THEIR cause be supported also? 

And what makes it the state's job to expose children to ANY sexuality...unless teaching biology and reproduction? 

What people do in their bedrooms should be kept in their bedrooms. 

In MY school, we teach that we are to love one another, just as Christ loved us, and we try our best.  I think that's all my kids need to know at this age.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

What's Wrong With That?

There's been a lot of buzz about a restaurant that has a policy which states "No kids allowed under the age of 6".  My first reaction was, what's the big deal?

My son was a model baby.  He would sit so patiently and quietly in a restaurant high chair, never make a peep and smile at everyone around him.  Patrons would pass by our table on their way out and commend me on my sweet child.  I would pat myself on the back and consider myself the MOST AWESOME MOM EVER. 

Then I had my daughter.

Oh my stars.  Let me say, while I love that child to the ends of the Earth...she was quite the different child than my son.  She was LOUD.  She was FUSSY.  She hated to sit in the restaurant high chairs.  All of my delusions of Perfect Mom flew out the window.  One day, when she was about 18 months old, she took off running around the Back Yard Burger.  And I could NOT catch her.  I was flustered, embarrassed and yes...angry.  I swore then that I would not take them to a restaurant again until she was old enough to sit and behave.

That was a two year restaurant hiatus.  When she hit the age of about 3 or 4, she was reasonable and logical.  And knew she would get disciplined if she acted inappropriately.

I don't see why people think that everyone loves their precious little snowflakes so much that we all want to hear crying, whining, yelling.  What would they do if an adult acted that way in a restaurant? 

I don't see anything wrong with a restaurant's decision to cater to adults.  Sometimes adults want to have an enjoyable evening out without the stress of children misbehaving.

What about you?  Which stance do you take on this issue?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Seventy-Seven Times

"I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times."  Jesus Christ

Who knows the question that is the answer to?  Anyone?  Bueller?  Bueller? Bueller?

It's how many times we are supposed to forgive someone.

Any of you who follow this thing I call a blog might have read about the kids up the street treating my son like garbage.  Boys who were once friends -two of whom were considered his BEST friends- decided to tell him he was worthless. 

Here's an update.

My son has had nothing to do with any of them.  Cold turkey.  He has had a great summer enjoying his homeschool group of friends and really hasn't missed these other kids.

Now certain kids have been banned from playing at neighbor's houses.  One has moved away.  Now some of them want to be friends with my son again.

At first, the momma bear inside me want to growl and tell him to never speak to those turkeys again. 

But, alas, what does Jesus tell us?  Seventy seven times.  I can't argue with that.

So he went and played some backyard baseball with them and had a great time.

However...if he comes home again feeling like a huge ZERO, I might have to dig up the Biblical quote about not being anyone's 'punching bag' either.

But for feels good to forgive.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Art, Art, Bo-Bart

If I were left to my own devices, I would only teach art, grammar, creative writing and Latin.  Maybe geography.  As a kid, the only class in school that I truly loved and couldn't get enough of was art.  Many homeschool moms (and public school for that matter) may view art as 'fluff', unimportant to education.  I disagree.  It's the one subject where there is NO WRONG ANSWER.  You can express your thoughts, feelings and emotions in a way that is safe.  I also love to mix in art history as well, focusing on the great artists and their lives and great works.  To me, that is all part of a well rounded education.  So, even if my kids end up with jobs where they have to ask "Do you want fries with that?" they will still be able to tell you who painted 'Washington Crossing the Delaware'  and 'Sunflowers'.

 I LOVE THIS BOOK.  It not only provides a brief biography of each artist, but includes an art project 'in the style' of that artist.  My kids love to do the projects.  It is so convenient to have all of that together in one place.  (Something else I have planned are cultural art project coinciding with our history/geography lessons...for example, when studying Japan in history, we will use a Japanese artist and ther technique.)

 This one is a new one for us.  It is more of a technical curriculum, focusing on things such as line, shape, value, balance, etc.  It too includes bios and examples of great artists and their work AND tells a bit about what was going on in that time in history.  Very cool.

Okay, so I know this isn't art, it's music,  but it's another subject viewed as 'fluff'.  You get lessons on each great composer AND a cd with selections of their music.  Which I plan on playing as we do our art lessons.  Because I am kooky like that.

So, there you have it for my 'fluff' stuff!  How about you?  Are these subjects important to you?  What approach do you take with your kids?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Praise, Not Flattery

Perhaps once in a hundred years a person may be ruined by excessive praise, but surely once in every minute someone dies inside for lack of it.Cecil G. Osborne

Sometimes it is hard being with your kids all day long.  Okay- A LOT of times it is hard.  And sometimes it seems all you can see is what everyone is NOT doing. 

Let me just preface this by saying that I don't espouse the notion that 'every child is a WINNER!' if they don't earn it.  Too many free trophies are handed out to this generation of kids that they may or may not have earned.  BUT, I believe everyone has something worth praising.  Sometimes it may only be "I am so glad to see you put the cap back on the toothpaste tube!"...but it is still something.

Today, my challenge is this- to praise my children more than I scold them.  Don't get me wrong...praise and flattery are two different things.  Praise is earned through actually doing something.  Flattery are words just used to make someone feel good.  Today I will try to find things to praise my kids for. 

As I read in Michelle Duggar' book, and I am paraphrasing careful what you praise your children for, they will want to do more of it.  Be careful what you criticize your children for, they will never want to do it again.

So...who's up for this challenge?  I know I am.