Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Letter

I wasn't sure what to post, and one of the blogs that I follow did a Christmas letter. It gave a quick rundown of what the family had been doing. Here is my version.

Let's start with the big girl. What a joy she is! People that are not Christians have asked how I know there is a God, and I point to her. Every now and then, I have to straighten her halo when I point, but still. She is a great friend. She has many friends that love her and want to spend time with her. One of them started private school this year, and that has left a little empty spot in her heart. She doesn't get to see her very often, yet she makes the most of it when she does. The big girl is empathetic and has such a lovely heart and soul. This year with dance she is doing hip hop, again. She wants to take two classes next year, if finances cooperate, and take ballet. That's a huge leap for her. This year, she has officially become youth at our church. Middle school and up is considered youth and she is no longer part of the children's program. My heart hurts with that one. She has integrated well, and has made some really good friends in the program. She was able to go to Rock the Universe, which is a Chrsitian rock festival, at a local theme park. Of course, her mama and papa were chaperones because we like to rock, too. I stepped back and let her be herself and tried not to "mother" her half to death. The big girl was also confirmed this year. We did the program and went to a wonderfully moving confirmation weekend. She stepped out of her comfort zone again and again, and was rewarded greatly. We are so proud of her. Friends and family were asked to send letters and emails of support, and she received many. It was fantastic to be held up with love and support during this time. She was confirmed into our church and accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. She is an amazing big sister, loving her role of authority. She is my best helper, always there when I call. We have spent more time together in the kitchen, trying to get her over her fear of the hot stove and oven. She is making amazing strides since being burned and is so brave and strong. And she makes brownies from scratch that are so, so lovely to eat.

The boy. That should be all I need to say. It's not all I'm going to say, but it should be all I need to say. He is loud and obnoxious and sweet and caring. He is one of the smartest kids I have ever known. He's not just book smart, he is world smart, too. It has often been said that he will either be the president or a preacher. He wants to be a preaching president. He listens to the world around him, so watch what you say. He knows how to take the information that he hears, process it, and make correct assumptions. It's the way that that information comes back that is the amazing part. The boy is also dancing this year. He is taking ballet and loving it. His dance teacher is amazed at his natural talent and loves having not one, but two, boys in her class. The boy has to share the stage this year with another and is actually OK with it. He thinks that next year he may want to take martial arts as opposed to dance, but I'm the one having a hard time with that decision. He is a great little brother, but still working on his big brother skills. He is home with us so much while hubby is at work, he tends to think that he is the man of the house. By the same token, he is the first to defend his sister, either one, when there is a threat. Nobody hurts his sisters.

The baby, once again, brings up the rear. And what a pain in it she is. We love her so much. She is always trailing if you let go of her hand. I think it's so you she will always get your hand or you will pick her up. If she doesn't have to do the work, if somebody will do it for her, she's good. She uses those big green eyes and her natural charm, and the world falls at her feet. Lucky thing. This year she learned how to read. She will read anything she can get her hands on, so be careful what you leave laying around. She is reading on an upper first grade level, and frequently chooses, and reads, chapter books. She wants to read like her brother and sister. She is doing fantastically with her math and I am very amazed and impressed with her academic progress. This is her second year of dance. She takes a class called half and half. It's a half hour of tap and a half hour of ballet. This year she did a few extra performances with the dance company and got rave reviews. I always love seeing my kids on stage, dancing their little hearts out. Her eyes have made amazing progress this year. She is more conscious of the floating and has made great strides in correcting it herself. Her right eye will still float, but not nearly as much as before. It doesn't always float when she's tired. She doesn't like it and has really worked hard to get it to cooperate. She still won't clean her room without help. And the whining has got to stop. She drives me crazy and I love her.

Hubby and I have decided that in 2011, we are going to Hawaii. I want my kids to meet their relatives and learn more about that side of their heritage. I can't do that for them. I wasn't raised around it, I don't speak the language, I don't know where to begin. We have started a vacation fund. My dad and stepmom are going with us. I don't know if I would do the family thing without him. I don't know my relatives either, so this will be good. And my kids get to spend time with Mamaw and Papaw. Bonus! We would like to go for two weeks and are working hard towards that goal. We were blessed with an abundance of overtime this year and used the money to pay off some credit cards. We are striving to become debt free. We still have a long way to go, but we are getting closer and closer. We have started volunteering with the youth at church. It's one way to keep an eye on the big girl, but there are also kids that need to know what a stable family looks like. They don't have that and we would like them to know that love is out in the world, just waiting for them, despite their backgrounds and upbringing. It will be a bit of a struggle earning their trust and respect, but we're working on it. I am still leading the JAM Crew, but we have started focusing on special events. We did a trunk or treat at Halloween, and a Santa's workshop for Christmas. Already visions of Easter egg hunts and grilled hot dogs are dancing in my head. School has been wonderful. We love homeschooling. It has made our family stronger and more solid. We are blessed to be able to spend so much time together, learning together. What a great way to spend our time. You know me, though. I'm thinking about curriculum for next year already. Help, I'm addicted to curriculum.

That's about it for this year. I'm sure there's more, but getting things focused and my mind to slow down isn't easy. My prayer and wish for the new year, for you and yours and mine, is loads of love, ginormous amounts of joy, and adundance and prosperity galore. May God keep His hand in your life and guide you to greatness. May Jesus always keep His healing and comforting arms around you, holding you, loving you.

Have a great day!

Monday, December 21, 2009

It's Over!

This was our busiest weekend of the year. I cannot believe we made it through. It was touch and go there for a minute or two, but here we are. Here's the rundown, starting from Friday.



Friday was our home school party. We had an impromptu party at my house with the families that we go to the park with. Not everybody was able to come, but we did have a great time. There was food, and food, and food, everything from fried chicken to cookies. One of our moms brought these Ritz Bits crackers that were out of this world. Homemade cookies and brownies were present, but not for long. As good as the food was, the company was better. All the kids were outside playing, while we moms were inside talking. At one point the kids came in and asked to watch a movie. Sure, I say, because I'm crazy that way. The TV got louder because we were talking too loud, then we got louder because the TV was too loud. It just escalated. I finally went to turn the TV down and it was up to 48! No wonder nobody can hear.



It rained at one point. All the kids were outside playing nicely, the windows were open letting in a nice cool breeze. Then the bottom fell out. I had wet, smelly kids pouring through the back door. It was fantastic. I just handed out towels as they came in. I love wet kids that smell like wet dogs. That is the smell of a good time playing outside. As soon as the rain stopped, they went back out. Good times, good times.



Saturday was our Christmas workshop at church. For several years, the workshop was one where the kids would get dropped off, eat a pancake breakfast, do some crafts, hear some Christmas stories, and the parents were able to do some Christmas shopping. It was close this year, we just didn't do breakfast. That would have been too much. We only had the workshop for two hours this year. The theme was a little different.

When we planned this event I wanted a Santa's workshop. I wanted the kids to be able to come make great crafts that they could give as gifts to their parents or siblings or other members of their family. No foam crafts. Nothing against them, but they fall apart before you walk out the door. This was their chance to be an elf. We had awesome crafts. They got to make their own wrapping paper, snow globes, decorate the inside of a glass ornament, decorate hats and shoelaces, paint sun catchers, put together snowman soup, and decorate their picture with Santa. Santa showed up to tell them what a great job they did in his workshop. We had a Santa's bag toss (bean bag toss) and a pin the beard on Santa game. They took cotton balls with a piece of double sided tape on it, got blindfolded and spun once or twice, then had to get the cotton ball on Santa's beard. Too much fun! Everybody got a prize, whether they made the beard or the bean bag.

We also played the Christmas Carol game. You set up about eight different carols, with activities that represent that carol. You divide into teams and play as a relay. When one person is done, they go back to the beginning and tag their teammate who begins the process all over again. For example, the first one is Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly. They sing that as they decorate a branch from an evergreen with a couple of ornaments and a little tinsel. They move on to Hark the Herald Angels Sing as they place a halo of tinsel on their head and open a hymnal. You work your way through the songs and it is too funny to watch. The kids love it.

The story this year was The Real 12 days of Christmas. The story relayed the true meaning behind the song. Each item in that song has a meaning based in Christ. While they ate their cookies and drank their milk, they got a dose of Jesus. How great is that? I didn't know the story, so I got to learn great things, too.

We had lots of help setting up and tearing down. I had been allowed to speak at a church council meeting and they really came through for us. We had more volunteers than we had kids. That made it nice, too. More there to help corral. Even the adults had a great time. Some made crafts. I loved it. Already I'm thinking about Easter. Good grief.

After that, our babysitter came home with us and watched the kids while hubby and I went Christmas shopping. We had to go on the busiest shopping day of the year. We are so lucky. This year, though, we went with a plan and a list. We were able to do a little birthday shopping for our two youngest, who have bdays in January and February. We even got to have dinner and sit next to each other. We held hands. We were in no hurry and didn't let the crowds get to us. I get to wrap the rest of it tonight.

Sunday I got to greet at our contemporary service. I love that. It is so much fun. Sunday night was the youth Christmas party. I made two lasagnas and put together a nice salad. There weren't many youth there, and I brought home a whole lasagna. The good thing is that I don't have to cook tonight. It's lasagna again! We also had cookies and cake and ice cream and jello jigglers and yummy treats. We ate together and had great conversations. The kids went back to the youth house and watched a movie, but we took our brood home. It has been a long weekend and we were ready for bed.

That was our weekend. There was days and days of prep beforehand for events that were over within a couple of hours. But it was worth all of that to see happy faces, young and not so young. I had great conversations and was able to spend time with my favorite people, young and not so young. I am exhausted and exhilarated all at the same time. I am not doing anything strenuous today.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Random Pictures

This is the boy on our field trip to learn about Indians. They had this great pioner village set up that we got to tour on our own. There was this little United Methodist church that had been moved on to the property from some little town. The boy couldn't help but go right to the pulpit and start to preach. It has been said many times that he will either be a president or a preacher. His response was,"Why can't I be a preaching president?" I love him.
This is my pumpkin seed experiment. I was really happy with how they turned out and ate quite a few. I love sunflower seeds and these were just as good. I did decide there were a couple of things that I would do differently, so I marked them on the recipe. They were golden brown and toasty and yummy.


This is the group of kids we went on the Indian field trip with. They had a train station set up, with a miniature train that traced a route close to the area where we live. On this train car, they had lots of information about trains and paper hats for the kids to wear. We picked up a ton of info and coloring books. It was fun and we would like to go back to see the pioneer part. Apparently you get to churn butter. That could be cool.
Have a great day!

Changes

I found my camera yesterday (I am always losing it), so I hope to get some pictures posted from our parade that we were in. You would think that I would try to keep better track of my camera since it's new, I just keep forgetting where I put it once we get back to the van or the house. You would think I would always put it in the same place, like my keys and my iPod, but no. On with the show.

Several weeks ago, while the kids were watching TV, I heard some things I really didn't like. If it had come from the TV, I would have turned the channel. No, it was coming out of the mouths of babes. I heard "I want that!" and " I want two of those!" and "I want...", "I want...", "I want...". Are you serious? When did my kids turn into greedy little monsters?

I give part of the responsibility to the advertisers. They make some of these products look like the best thing ever. We know half of them don't work, or don't work like the commercial says they do. But would you let someone advertise your product that didn't make it look wonderful? The kids, however, don't quite understand that. The big girl is starting to see that things are not always like TV says they are. The other two still aren't there yet.

The bulk of the responsibilty lies with the parents. Yes, I know that's me and hubby. Part of the problem is allowing the kids to watch TV, the other part is buying things that are advertised. The kids don't understand about the money part. My kids see the credit card symbols and say we could just charge it. The big girl has started replying for us that you still have to pay the bill. Thank goodness. It almost seems more real coming from her. Coming from us, it seems more like an excuse. If money grew on trees, we would have an orchard, or a grove, or a farm even. So to combat their growing obsession with things, we have a plan.

The kid are no longer allowed to say "I want". We have changed it to "I would like to have". It sounds nicer, and not so greedy. It drives me crazy to hear about all the things they think they have to have. We have told them they can no longer sit through the commercials announcing to the world what they want. If they want something they see on TV, they have to keep it to themselves. If we ask, they may tell us.

As we wander the aisles, and especially the checkout lane, they are allowed to look, but not touch. The boy has to keep his hands in his pockets or behind his back. It has started to trickle down to the baby. She, too, is supposed to keep hands off. And they are not allowed to say anything about what they want, unless prompted. But then again, they say "I would like to have...". I actually had a busy body say I was a bad mommy for not letting the kids play with the toys in the checkout. I took that well, or not. I told him that when the kids got sick from playing with the toys all the sick kids played with, he could come take care of them. And when the credit card bill came in from buying them all the things they wanted from the checkout aisle, I would send him the bill. That shut him up.

We have also made the kids clean their rooms and get rid of toys. We take them down to the thrift store or find a family that would be blessed to have them. All the broken ones get thrown away. All the ones with missing pieces go the way of the land fill. It makes their rooms easier to clean every time and the amount of junk has decreased.

Then there's Christmas. This will be a light Christmas. Not only for the monetary reasons, but for the want of things. Things do not make the world go around. It shouldn't anyway. We are trying to get that across to the kids. Love, respect, and honor should be the things that make the world a better place.

And finally the vacation fund. The boy is exceptional at finding change. I wish he would find mama a couple of hundred dollar bills, but no. He can find pennies and nickels and dimes and quarters like nobodies business. When the kids find change, they get this gleam in their eye like they cannot wait to spend it. I look at them and say those two sweet words. Vacation Fund. At first, they look a little heartbroken. Then I ask them how bad they want to go to Hawaii. The boy is funny. "We're one quarter closer to going." Keep it up, big boy, keep it up.

We are hoping that these changes will help the kids realize that the love of money is the root of all evil. We tell them money is not bad. But the wanting of more and more and more is not good, for you or your soul. We are also working on ourselves. We, too, are not allowed to say "I want". We, too, are not allowed to look at or touch those impulse items in the checkout aisle. We, too, have to put our money in the vacation fund at the end of the day. We are trying to lead by example.

Have a great day!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Technical Difficulties

My computer crashed. It seems to be going around. I have several friends that had the same thing happen to them. Hubby took the tower to a computer shop not too far from where he works and they were able to salvage a great deal of my documents, pictures, and music. The hard part is getting it all back on my desk top. It probably would have been easier to replace it, better even, but we didn't. Now I'm trying to get all my stuff back on. I still don't have my Word, PowerPoint, Excel, etc. If any of you can help me out, I would love that. I would also be very appreciative.

Tonight was decorate for Christmas night. We got all the trees up and the decorations. We have three trees that we put up. One is our 6' tree that is our main tree. We also have a 2' and a 3' tree. I love them. I am actually going to our church's thrift store to look for one more. I'm going to use them as a bribe for the kids to keep their rooms clean. If they can keep them clean, they can each have a tree in their room. The big girl has been wanting to do that for awhile, like years. I can really work a deal with her.

This year was a little different. We normally listen to Christmas music, which we did. Then we pop corn and watch a Charlie Brown Christmas. It was pretty late this year when we got done, so hubby and I nixed the movie and popcorn part. We may do it tomorrow night instead. I want to go do a little shopping when hubby gets home from work tomorrow. I'm not sure what's going to happen though. We also have a birthday party and a trip to the grocery store. I may have to wait for shopping.

Today we had our Nature Nuts program at the park. We learned about how important trees are. The ranger had 17 things laid out on the table. She had us work in teams and look at each item. We had to decide if trees were used in any way to make each product. The Almond Joy was funny. I heard one kid say, "It's a candy bar. You don't use wood to make a candy bar." Well, no, but you use trees. Cocoa trees, almond trees, and coconut trees are all part of that. After we were done guessing, the ranger read a couple of different passages about trees and their uses. She gave us three opportunities to change our answers. I ended up changing all of our no's to yes's. I was right. My friend CP and I were the only ones to get it right. Whoot, whoot for us!

It was freezing at the park today. I don't want to hear how cold it was at your house. Blah, blah, blah. It's always warm where we live, so anything below 70 is cold. That and we had a wicked wind blowing off the lake that just dropped the temperature even more. The clouds blocking the sun didn't help any either. We ended up coming home and bringing two families with us. The kids all played and we moms talked. I had such a good time. The two moms that came home with us are very funny, smart, crazy women. They crack me up. The kids played and played. Mine were filthy by the end of the day. They went straight into the shower when everyone left.

The baby was supposed to do two more performances with the dance company. I just couldn't do it. It was too much. She wasn't very upset either, so that was good. It has been crazy busy and we all needed a break. I've tried not to let the stress get to me, but after a while, you just have to drop something. That was what we dropped. We did do the parade. The boy had a melt down before the parade started, the baby had a melt down after the parade started, and the big girl, as usual, was golden. Thank you, God, for the big girl. I'll post the pictures as soon as I can get that working again. I tried once before, but I'll be darned if my computer works the same way. I'll try from the lap top later.

I have offered our house for a Christmas party for our park families. Some people missed today, and we missed them. I really like having company. I like filling my house with the joyous sound of friends and family. It makes me happy. I hope we get a good response. So far, I've had three say yes. That's about 8 kids and 4 moms, including me. They'll come.

Christmas will be on our own this year. My FIL just had open heart surgery and my MIL doesn't want to stress him out. I don't know how he would be stressed if we did all the work, but whatever. One of my BILs and his family will be out of town for Christmas. So it's just us. That's alright with me. A nice quiet Christmas without waiting for anyone, hopefully no drama, and great company. We may just pick up some food so I don't have to cook and we can snack all night and open presents.

Christmas Eve will be the last service for our Associate Pastor. She has come to mean so much to our family as a mentor, pastor, and more importantly, a friend. I know that I can be myself with her and the other way around. She helps enlighten and lighten my world. We will miss her terribly. The good news is that she is going to a church in the little town that hubby works in. It's actually across the street from where hubby and I had our first apartment. The way life just circles around and around. We are going to make it to the service to support her, hear about Jesus, and say good bye to a great source of joy in our church. PC, we love you!

That is pretty much the update as it stands. I will try to get pictures up as soon as I can. I know there are those of you out there champing at the bit, waiting for them. I'm working on it, I'm working on it!

Have a great day!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Updates, updates, updates

I have not felt like blogging on here. My other one, yes, but not this one. I just felt like it was always the same. But I guess it's time. And there have been a couple of things happening, so here we go.

Thanksgiving was good. My FIL was able to do turkey and stuffing. I love his stuffing. I had always had dressing, which is out of the bird. He makes stuffing, which is in the bird. I have been after the man for at least 10 years to come off the recipe. He finally emailed it to me. I lost it. Isn't that my way? I had to ask him for it again. Now I have it saved about a million places and printed out to boot. I filed it in my recipe box. I have it in a file in my file cabinet. I am not losing that thing again, darn it. I am exicted about trying and tweaking it. You know I cannot leave a recipe alone.

The kids had a dentist appointment Monday. They have healthy teeth and crowded mouths. Great. The dentist metioned orthodontia again for the big girl. I told her again it wasn't happening. We cannot afford it. I know, with all the overtime hubby is working we could. No, we can't. Our orthodontia benefits are next to nothing. And there's no guarantee of overtime. I don't want to get in the middle of paying for something and then it dries up and we are stuck with yet another bill. I cannot do that to our family. The only new thing is that the big girl has to have her 12 year molars sealed. That's being done before Christmas and before our benefits change.

We just got through open enrollment. I don't like that part of the year. Trying to gauge what our health situation may be for the next year is hard. It's one of those things you have to guess at. We have gone with the cheaper of the two plans. It seems like it will work for us. It is such a crazy process. Nobody understands their insurance. I'm glad I have a background that helps me wade through all the hullabaloo.

We finished Roald Dahl's The BFG. He is such an amazing writer. The only thing I don't like is that the two books we have read by him had a rather gruesome start. They got better, but sometimes the beginning doesn't sit well with us. This story is about a big friendly giant that kidnaps a little girl named Sophie. He takes her so she can't tell others about him. He takes her to giant land and keeps her hidden from the other giants, who are not so friendly to humans. They take off every night and eat "human beans." The story is about Sophie and BFG's plans to make the other giants, who are quite mean to BFG, stop eating people. It was cute and funny and we enjoyed it. Our next book on CD will probably be Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I'm still not sure. Our new after dinner book is The Incredible Journey. We started tonight, so we'll see how it goes.

Hubby and I have started volunteering at youth. We did it to be able to spend time watching what goes on at youth while the big girl is there. We had a Thanksgiving dinner with them the Sunday before the actual turkey day. We had turkey meatballs with cranberry BBQ sauce, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, rolls, banana pudding, fruit cocktail, pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, and ice cream sundaes. It was fantastic. I enjoyed being able to spend time with the kids. Many of them do not have a church family or much of a family life at all, so it was nice to provide a family atmosphere, even if it was just for a couple of hours. So far, we have had a really good time with it. We hope to get to the point that the youth trust us enough to really let us into their lives.

We have the opportunity to purchase 50 pounds of grass fed, non hormone or steroid injected beef for a fantastic price. This came about from our organic co-op. We will get the meat after Christmas. Very excited we are. We're not real sure where we're going to keep it, but we have a couple of ideas. We are also getting venison from some friends. My friend's hubby went hunting and brought back two deer. She has offered to share and we accepted. She is going to give us ground venison, which I have never had before. Now I need to look up new recipes. We are also getting some stew meat and a couple of roasts. Love it! And last, but certainly not least, we are getting a turkey from my BIL. He gets one every year from his company, but he doesn't use it. It sits in the freezer at my in laws taking up space. I just made one yesterday, so we won't need it for awhile, but nice to know we have one.

The kids are particpating in some extra dance activities this season. The baby has been performing with the dance company from their dance school. The first performance was last Friday and she was wonderful. She has a couple more performances before Christmas, so all my local friends need to come see her. The kids are all going to be in the Christmas parade of our neighboring town. The big girl will be dancing and the boy and the baby will be riding on the float. The boy wants to dance so bad he can't stand it. Alas, one more year, big boy, one more year.

That's about all for now. I know there's more, but right now is not the time. This has been long enough. Thanks for letting me empty my brain. My prayer for you tonight is one of joy and grace.

Have a great day!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Giving Thanks

I am not one to do a thankful post, like a lot of people. Just me. I am thankful every day for my family and friends and my life and I make the time to tell God that. But there have been some really great points since my last post.

The kids are doing an amazing job with their school work. The baby is adding like a fiend. I have started to reinforce the basic facts, starting with 0, 1, and 2. She knows that any number added to 0 is that number. She has gotten the fact that adding 1 goes one number up. She has even started skip counting by 5s. We are going to work on skip counting by 2s and 3s. She reads amazingly. She sits with us through bible, history, and science. We do shared reading, which is where everybody reads a little. She struggles with some really big words, but some she just reels off like she's been reading them for years.

The big girl is starting to have more confidence in her math skills. She is very good at math, but has not had the best self confidence. The thing I like about her math curriculum this year is that it explains things very simply. She needs that. She doesn't need to be bogged down in complexities that will undermine her. There is a book that I have requested from the library for her that hopefully will help her as well. She has started reading her next book for her language arts. She will start that after our Thanksgiving break. She loves to read, but doesn't really like her grammar workbook. Me, too. Grammar seems to me to be a waste of time. Most of it is so convulted and hard to follow, but we do it anyway.

The boy. That should be all I need to say about him. He loves his curriculum. I realized I hadn't been doing the spelling test like I needed to. So now he takes a practice test, practices his words in cursive, and then he has a spelling test on Fridays. Like many boys I know, he is a great reader, but a not so great speller. I don't understand how you can read a word, but not know how to spell it, but that's me. I was the sixth grade spelling champ. I know, that was me, this is him. His math skills have improved so much. He has even started doing three digit addition in his head. Hubby said something to him the other day and he added 360+360 and got 720. I was so proud.

Hubby and I were supposed to have a date the other night. The girls had a birthday party, the boy was going to my in laws. Long story short, the boy ended up not going. So I got to go out with two handsome men. We went to see Planet 51, and went to dinner. It was nice to be able to spend quality time with my men. My kids don't get much one on one time with us, so this was a huge blessing to us all. Now the girls want their turn. I think they just want dinner and a movie, but I'll take that excuse for a date night with them.

Hubby got his missing paycheck. That was fantastic. We were able to pay some bills that had been waiting, and got to them in the nick of time. It still irritates me that it took so long, but it was a lesson in patience and humility. I don't really like those lessons, but sometimes they are necessary. It has still thrown us off our schedule, but we'll get back to it.

God has still been blessing us with overtime and extra shifts or oncalls. He has been faithful and true to us and we are doing our best to honor him. We are continuing to pay off debt that has been haunting us, and have been able to do some little projects around the house that needed to be done. We have been able to lower some of our utility bills as well, which has helped with the financial situation. He has led and guided us through every step. There were some things that I wasn't sure we were doing the right way, but He has shown us that we are following the right path for our family. I am thankful for that.

That is just a quick run down on how we're doing. I know, you want more kid info and what we've been doing lately. I'll get to that later. For now, that's what you get and you need to be thankful.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Catchin' Up

Last week was a busy week. I wasn't sure we were going to make it, but here we are, thank goodness. Here's the skinny.

We have a new dinner book. We are reading Roald Dahl's BFG. We had read his James and the Giant Peach and loved it. We love his creativity and imagery. He creates these fantastic worlds that make you want to be there. We love the way he puts his characters together. We love pretty much everything about him. And we are really enjoying this book. He makes us laugh, and think, and get a little teary. I'll give you the full run down when we're done.

Today was co-op. Love co-op. We had a little change in venue due to a back injury. My friend C was trying to open a window to enjoy our beautiful weather and there it went. I know exactly how she felt. So today was countries. I picked up C's daughter and off we went. Germany was on the agenda. We talked about food, and geography, and the culture and customs. During our co-op, we try to stay away from anything that may be too political. We feel like it's something that should be left up to the parents to discuss, so Hitler was left out. I am very OK with that. That is a topic that I will discuss with my kids when the time comes, when we study history that is a little more current. I did order a free K-12 history curriculum today. I could have sworn I already downloaded it, but I'll be darned if I can find it on my computer.

Friday was a spectacular day at the park. We talk about so many things. One of the things we talked about in depth was health and wellness. There are so many things that are horrible for us, yet we continue to use or do whatever it is. My advice is to find one thing that is important to you and work from there. One of the moms was feeling a little overwhelmed with all the information that is out there, but mostly the information that came out of our mouths. The most important phrase: baby steps. One thing at a time.

The park ranger came by last week. You could feel the tension level at the table shoot straight thru the roof. We do not have the best relationship with her and felt like she was going to yell at us about something else. She didn't and that wasn't the purpose of her visit. She was wondering if we would be interested in some nature classes. Well, yeah. Any opportunity to learn that is outside of the home or the class room is alright with me. It is yet another avenue to widening our horizons. The classes will be every two weeks and cover some really cool topics. We get to build a terrarium, talk about trees and what products are made from trees, and look at life from the view point of a shrew. Very cool stuff. We are at the park anyway, so why not take advantage.

Hubby and I started volunteering with the youth. Our associate pastor is leaving and she was the youth leader. Although we are not "leading" the group, we will have pretty heavy involvement with it. We do have child care for our other two, so the big girl and none of the other teens has to worry about them. They don't really like having their time and space infiltrated by youngsters. I don't blame them, and they shouldn't have to. It has been interesting to say the least. I know I have enjoyed the times I have spent with them and I hope hubby is too.

This Saturday is jampacked with activity. It started out with just two things, but we had to add an extra. The kids are going to be in the Christmas parade of a nearby town with their dance school. There is practice this weekend for the dancers, which includes the big girl. If I know the boy, he will finagle his way in there somehow. Spot light hog, he is. We also had planned to go to a farm not too far from the house Saturday morning. They are having a free day with pony rides, hay rides, tours, animals, food and lots of fun. Another thing that will look good in the portfolio. We are also going to a get together at the house of some friends that we go to church with. It's a small group for the ministry that has come in to help our church. That is a topic for the other blog. There is something we could also do Sunday, but church is it for us. We're going to need the down time. Not really down time, though, since there is so much work to do around the house.

I have finally incorporated Spanish into our day. I knew if I didn't add it to the lesson plan, we would never get to it. We only started Monday, but so far, so good. We have been working on the numbers and can count to thirty. The kids are really enjoying it so far, but it's only been a couple of days. I just need to keep it up. I also need to figure out when the heck I am going to add the typing curriculum in. What was that phrase from earlier? Baby steps.

The crockpot is my favorite thing right now. There has been some really good food in our home and we love it. I made a dish called College Crockpot Favorite. 1-2 pounds of stew meat, 1 can cream of chicken, 1 can cream of mushroom and garlic, 1 packet of Lipton Onion Soup Mix. I used some beef I had and cubed it up. I didn't have the mushroom and garlic soup, but I had the mushroom soup. I cut up four cloves of garlic and added that. I also sliced some onion and added a pound of fresh green beans that I had. I let it cook for about 7 hours on low, made a pot of rice before we left and dinner was ready when we got home. It was so yummy. There are so many easy recipes on the web, it makes things easy.

I guess that's enough to keep you interested and caught up. I'm sure there are a couple of other things that I'm missing. I'll just blog again later.

Have a great day!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Seminole Indians


This is more pictures from our field trip. I love field trips. The top picture is the kids listening to the storyteller. She told stories about how the red fox got his color and why the raccoon's tail looks like it does. She had skins of foxes and coyotes and rabbits and a couple more. They all had heads and feet still attached. It was a little creepy, but the kids liked it.


We also learned about how they made their clothes and sewed to make a living. As the settlers pushed the Indians farther and farther south, the Indians realized that they could sell and trade with the settlers. At one point, they even got pedal sewing machines. My grandmother had one. It is definitely not as easy as it looks.



This is the baby holding a cup of corn mush stuff. The Indians would keep this on the fire all day to eat. The sophisticated taste buds of my 21st century kids didn't really care for it. Neither did mine. But it was fun to watch them take a bite.




Another stop was pottery. We learned that the Indians would go to the St. Johns River and gather clay to make pots with. They would also gather shells, leaves, and whatever else they could find to decorate their pots with. I though that was neat. The kids got to make their own pinch pots and decorate them.





The kids got to pick a clan. The Seminole Indians are actually many tribes that came together. The word "seminole" means running. They were running from settlers, and pioneers, and were kidnapped and sold as slaves. You can actually find artifacts in Cuba from some tribes of the Seminole Nation from the time that they were shipped as slaves to work the sugar cane plantations. It wasn't until 1957 or so that the Seminole Tribe came into existence on paper. When I told hubby, he said he alredy knew all that. Smarty pants. The big girl was a member of the bear clan, the boy and I were snakes, and the baby was a panther. The symbols that are being glued to the purple paper are the symbols of the respective clans.

The kids had a really great time. It was very interesting to see the way of life of a people that helped form this state and this nation. We also roamed all over the property and got to see the animals at the farm and the pioneer settlement that they have built. Most of the building have been moved from a different area and put together as a town. There were 16 people in our group that drove together, but 76 in the entire home school group. Quite impressive if you ask me. I'll let you know what happens on our next field trip.

Have a great day!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Seminole Indian Field Trip









Just some picture of our happy group at the field trip. I'll post a few more of the activities the kids participated in and a great group picture by the train. Most of our co-op was there, as well as a large number of homeschoolers from our chat group. There were 76 participants all together. Pretty good showing if you ask me. I'll give you the details later.
Have a great day!


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Trick or Treat











Here are the kids in all their Halloween glory. The big girl looks happy, doesn't she? Not real sure what her problem was, but I have an idea. Her cousin, who is a year older, didn't trick or treat last year or this year. He even brought his best friend over this year. They stayed at the house and handed out candy. The big girl asked if she could stay and I told her yes. She's growing up too fast.
We did hit a couple of the grocery stores we said we were going to. The kids had a great time and so did we. The first store had stations set up and you went from station to station. The second store was a little more fun. You had to look for the employees that had the candy baskets. It was like treasure hunt trick or treating. I had to run into the mall really quick to use a free coupon at Bath and Body Works. They were trick or treating in the mall. I called hubby and told him. He took a vote with the kids to see if they wanted to come in. They did. So we went through most of the mall and had to boogie to hubby's parent's house.
At least half of the houses were dark this year. They were either empty, or not participating. Even the number of candy seekers was low this year. Normally the streets are pretty crowded. Not this year. There were also more fall festivals going on on Halloween in this area. That also cut the number of candy seekers. I had one of our church members ask why we didn't do our trunk or treat on Halloween. I told him we held it on a date when the four volunteers could be there. He said we need more volunteers. Honey, that's why we cancelled JAM. You work on that and get back to me.
Monday, I woke up with a headache and a stuffy nose. So during my stuffy headed day of trying to get the kids schooled and everything else, I forgot about the dentist. We were going to exchange our candy for money and an entry into a drawing for an iPod nano. What are we going to do? Give away as much candy as I can is what I'm going to do. We sure don't need all that we got.
Have a great day!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Busy, AGAIN!

This was not the best week when I was making plans. Apparently, I decided that we weren't going to be running crazy enough and needed something to spice up our life. I don't always make the best decisions. We do have cool stuff happening, though.

Today is our only down day. The big girl has dance, but other than that, nothing. I do have several errands to run on our way. Mostly they add up to about five minute stops, but you get too many of those and an hour has gone by. I almost planned a "play date" for this morning, but hubby was the voice of reason. I didn't necessarily want to hear what he said, but he made too much sense to ignore him. Thanks, Hubby.

Tomorrow is co-op. No need to say more, really. We are going to be learning about differences in people. Some we can see and some we can't. It should be quite interesting really. I am looking forward to the lesson. I do know that we are going to be spending quite a bit of time outside. Tennis shoes for everyone, the email said. OK.

Pizza soup is in the crockpot. I sat down this weekend and got the menu put together. We also have some old favorites on the menu as well. With all the new stuff, I think the kids need something familiar. I included a little something for everyone. One of the activities that goes with our history is to make a monk's dinner, which consists of lentils. I have a great recipe for a lentil stew. So that will go in the crockpot bright and early on Wednesday.

Bright and early because we have a field trip Wednesay. We are going to learn about the Seminole Indians. We are caravanning and carpooling with some people from our co-op and we get to see some friends we haven't seen in a while. We are really looking forward to it, but I will miss my dance class. I'm not sure about the boy and the baby. It will depend on when we get back and how tired they are if they miss theirs. We're taking a lunch, but will be ready for lentil stew when we get home. If it comes out well, I'll post the recipe. If it doesn't, I'll let you know that, too.

Thursday we have a birthday party in the morning. Yet another great advantage to homechooling. Parties whenever you want. We have another birthday party on Saturday for a friend of the big girl. Her friend recently started going to private school, and they haven't seen each other in quite some time. It will be good to see my friend, too. Her mom is super funny and I love being around her.

That's all for now, but isn't that enough? So much for unsocialized homeschoolers. This is an unusual week, and we will get through it. I'm going to go take a nap for just a little while. That always helps during a busy week, too.

Have a great day!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Pumpkin Carving

My favorite part of carving is scooping all the guts out. Hubby does the carving and does a bang up job. The kids normally help and we make it a family fun event. This year was a little different.

Hubby actually did most of the scooping. I'm not real sure how that happened. The boy sat outside with me while I did my part. He also helped me separate the seeds from the strings. I had grand plans of roasting the seeds this year. The big girl came out holding her nose, being a general pain in the butt. I sent her back in and told her not to come out until her attitude was better. You would think that was a good thing for her. She could sit inside and do what she wanted and not be sweating with us. No, not her. She sat at the windows watching for awhile. I told her if she could come out without the dramatics, she was welcome. She didn't come out.

I couldn't help but sing "Great big globs of greasy, grimy, pumpkin guts" while I played. It was kind of freaking out the boy, so I had to quit. A couple of minutes later, he said, "Mama! Thanks". He had it stuck in his head. I couldn't help it. Then we sang it together for awhile. He's so cute.

Hubby took the pumpkins out front to carve. It was shady out front. We should have scooped them out there, too. I was inside washing seeds and trying to remove excess pumpkin. That was not as big a chore as I thought it was going to be. It took a little while, but it wasn't bad. We put the seeds on to soak in salty water while we went trick or treating. I got them cooked last night and hubby and I snacked away. They were really good. I did make some notations on the recipe as to what I will do differently next year. For great recipes I like to go here. That's where I get some of my crockpot recipes as well. Very handy.

We didn't realize until we were snacking and playing Wii that I didn't get pictures of hubby carving. I was washing seeds while he was hacking away and I missed it all. Oh, well. We do have pics of the final product. We took them over to where we trick or treat and lit them. They looked really cool. Hubby was a little worried you wouldn't be able to tell what they were when they were lit. I'll post those pics, too. But later. It took two rounds of We Love Golf to get the last two posts done. 9 pictures is alot for my computer on a dial up line. I'll also post pics of the kids in their costumes.

Have a great day!

Pumpkin Carving, In Pictures, Part 2











Thursday, October 29, 2009

Just Stuff

We finished Huck Finn and then read a Geronimo Stilton book. That was our after dinner book. We had actually started it last Saturday while we were waiting for two new tires to get put on the van. I'll get to that in a minute. I have started taking a book with us when we go places. It keeps all of us occupied and out of trouble, for the most part. It's better than having everyone with their head stuck in a video game, or iPod, or whatever electronic piece of equipment we have. I had checked the GS book out from our local library and we hadn't started it yet. That presented the perfect opportunity. And we just carried it over to the after dinner book when Huck Finn ended. Geronimo Stilton books are so very cute. We also like to listen to them as books on CD. They read very quickly and keep everyone entertained.

I have decided that if I am going to do any extras in our school, then Monday is our day. After we are done with our core subjects, we are going to start learning Spanish. I have a great curriculum that I bought and it's time to start using it. We are going to start a little slow and do some review. My kids know a little bit, but not much past "How are you?" Monday is the only day we aren't busy with something else. If I don't just start, I never will. I think the kids are going to like it. We started with Spanish over the summer, but quit, because that's how I get sometimes. I also wanted to do some art, but the book I downloaded doesn't really show you how to start drawing. I got it for free from one of my homeschooling websites and thought it would make a good art curriculum. There's a website out there, I'm sure, I just need to look.

I want an external hard drive. I have so much on the computer that I really need to move. It slows it down and I could use more storage space. I've got stuff on the computer and on two flash drives. It just isn't enough. So if you're wondering what to get me for Christmas, there you go. I need more disk space. 500GB should do it. I have to go through periodically and figure out what we really need and what we don't. I delete and delete, but it just doesn't seem like enough. Off the computer entirely it needs to go.

The kids' dentist office is having a candy exchange. You turn in your candy and get a $1/pound and an entry into a drawing for one of two iPod nanos. I want one. The big girl got one for Christmas last year. I was so tempted to take it from her and give her mine. She would have hated me for the rest of her life, so I decided not to. I'm thinking about participating in that. What I might do instead, is have the kids make their own candy pizza at our next co-op. Or maybe our co-op Christmas party. I could be in so much trouble. But I could get rid of a ton of candy. We'll see how brave I am.

The baby has an opportunity to do some dancing with the company dance team from our dance school. To be in company you have to have taken, and be actively taking, ballet, tap, and jazz. You have to have multiple years of each and be at least 11. It is a lot of work and money and time. More than we have of either time or money. I think the baby will enjoy it. Her dance class is the highlight of her week. All the kids have the opportunity to be in a Christmas parade as well. We couldn't last year because of a conflict, but the kids love being in a parade. We usually help with the 4th of July float with our church. Loads of fun. I need to make up my mind tonight so I can have hubby drop off the forms.

That's what's going on here. Some little changes happening. Thanks for letting me empty the brain.

Have a great day!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Trunk or Treat





Sunday was our Trunk or Treat at church. What a great time! We didn't really have much time to put it together, but it was wonderful.
We had at least 16 cars participating. That was our main worry. How can you have a trunk or Treat without trunks? You can't. We thought we would only have about 10. Cars started showing up and almost filled our parking lot. Loved it! We also had a bounce house/slide combo for the big kids and a bounce house/slide for the little kids. That way parents didn't have to worry about their little ones in with the big ones. The little one was actually from our preschool. It had been donated to them and they were gracious enough to share.
We gave out free sno cones and popcorn and juice boxes and bottled water. That's my hubby in the black tshirt. He was on sno cone duty and had a great time. He said it was better for him to be there, making kids happy, than chasing ours around making them miserable. Go hubby! That's our friend C behind him working the popcorn machine. Love that machine. It doesn't pop a bad batch, let me tell you what. Fantastic every time, and super easy to use. When you're done, you just wipe everything down with paper towels and call it good.
The top picture is Earline and Floyd, not their real names. They had great costumes. I wish I had gotten the full shot of them. Too funny! They were the best rednecks I had seen in a long time. Earline kept walking around saying, "This ain't Wal Mart! I wanted to go to Wal Mart!" We laughed so hard we had tears coming from our eyes. They had the best time playing off each other all night. We did, too, just watching them.
And what were my kids doing? Going around and around and around to every car at least fourteen times. At one point, the boy was literally dragging his bag around it had so much candy in it. The big girl recycled a witch costume she had from a few Halloweens ago. It was a little short, so I made her wear leggings under it. Much better, thank you. The boy was a soldier. We bought him a pair of camo pants to wear for the cooler weather, he already had a shirt, and we bought a play grenade and a hat, each just $1. The baby was a ballerina. She wore her recital costume. She got so many compliments. I thought it was great. Overall, we only spent about $15 on costumes since we had so much. We were given a belt for the boy that happens to be a camo pattern, so we will add that to his costume.
I did take some of the candy and recycle it. We got treat bags from the dollar store, for a dollar, and I filled them with some of our candy to give out at dance class for the boy and the baby. I didn't think about it until I was at the big girl's dance class, so they missed out this year. We have plans to TorT at a local grocery store chain on our way to our TorT destination. There is also a fall festival that we might stop at. That means even more candy. I think this year we are going to participate in a candy exchange at the kids' dentist. You get $1 for every pound of candy, up to five pounds. And for every pound you get an entry into a drawing for an iPod nano. That could be cool. And I don't have all that candy just tempting me.
I handed out popcorn and candy until I couldn't anymore. I ran out of candy. But I was also working two vehicles. Hubby brought his truck so we did candy out of the van and the truck. The big girl handed out candy for awhile for us, since we were busy elsewhere, but she got a break and got to hang out with her friends. I saw a bunch of them piled into the back of hubby's truck eating candy out of their bags. The boy saw a friend of his from K and 1st grade. They exchanged phone numbers. The baby ran around and ran around until she just almost dropped. They slept good and so did I.
The next couple of days I'll be hunting thrift stores for white sheets. I'm going to cut a bunch of holes in it and be Charlie Brown from "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown". We watched last night and the kids thought it was funny. That's kind of a tradition for us. We sit and watch when it comes on TV. Poor Charlie Brown with his bag of rocks. I always feel bad for him.
That's the skinny. It was a great event and is always my favorite. I like it better than our Christmas or Easter programs. Go figure. We need to start working on Christmas, but I'm waiting until November. It's only next week, but gives us some time to relax. I'm thinking a Santa's Workshop where kids can make their own toys or gifts. We'll see what happens.
Have a great day!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Candy,candy, candy



We had our Trunk or Treat last night and it was a blast! I had so much fun, and so did the kids. I'll do the full blog on that as soon as I can. I'm waiting to get permission to post a picture of two friends that had the best redneck costumes I have ever seen. They were way too funny. Here are the pictures of what my kids brought home. And we still get to Trick or Treat on Saturday. We are going to stop at a chain of grocery stores in our area before we head to our annual TorT destination. There are three stores between here and there. That should be enough candy to last us until next Halloween.

The kids want me to point out the eyeball in the middle of the candy pile.

Have a great day!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Huck Finn

We finished Huck Finn tonight. That was our family book, and has been for what seems like forever. It was quite a long book and had 43 chapters. I read this when I was in school, but I can't remember if it was high school or middle school. I do know that I don't remember the book being that hard to read. I figure we got the edited version in school. Hubby had suggested it and I said OK. I didn't remember the controversial subjects in it either, so I'm wondering what kind of impression it made then. Apparently not a favorable one.

It definitely led to some interesting topice I didn't think I would have to talk about with my 11, 8, and 5 year old. The baby doesn't understand most of it. I don't think she has any knowledge or understanding of what a slave is. I don't think she has the concept of slavery. The other two on the other hand, asked so many great, wise questions that I found myself having a hard time answering. I give Mark Twain props for that.

I had to change some of the language. I definitely do not remember the main word I had to change. When the book was written, and for many years after, and to some extent even today, the N word was prevalent and had a myriad of uses and meanings. The problem is that none of them are good. That opened up discussions that could have taken days to finish had I not finally called an end to it.

The story itself shuffled through a plethora of emotions. We would laugh out loud, be angry, shake our heads in disgust. It was a cute story about a very precocious boy, a slave who wasn't, and eventually Huck's best friend, Tom Sawyer. There were times we just could not believe some of the things that Huck did or said. A lie could roll off his tongue with ease. If he told the truth at any point we were more amazed than if he told a lie. He definitely had many grand adventures and met some interesting characters.

We very much enjoyed this book, for many different reasons. I will say that I think it was way too old for my kids. By the time I had finally made that decision, because I'm slow sometimes, we were too far into it to stop. If I had pulled the plug on it, the kids would have revolted. I decided to keep the peace and keep the discussions flowing. We return it tomorrow to the church library and pick out another book. This time, though, I will make sure that it is a little more appropriate for us. And Tom Sawyer is just going to have to wait several years before he gets dragged out.

Have a great day!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Oceans







I forgot to post these cute guys. These are the fish we made at co-op a couple weeks ago. You take 2 CDs, and cute out a template for the fins and mouth. Glue the fins and mouth on one CD, then glue the other CD to the first one. Decorate the outside and add googly eyes. So very, very cute and easy.
Have a great day!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Changes

I've done some rearranging on my blog. Can you tell? I was getting a little bored with the plain Jane look. I added some gadgets, changed the format, and finally got to one of those websites that offers different backgrounds. I tried to match colors with the new backgrounds and think it looks really good. See what happens when I get bored? I also changed the other one, too. I hope you like it. I do.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Up, up and away: Pictures







I meant to post pictures, but forgot. Here they are, from the bottom to the top.
You hook a rubber band around the little lip at the bottom of the plane and pull the plane back, stretching the rubber band. You let go of the plane and off it goes. The kids are lined up and ready. To get all of them in the picture, I had to stand pretty far back. I felt like I was standing in front of a firing squad. We are missing one boy who didn't want to participate until he saw how much fun every one else had. I only got one plane flying, darn it, and it wasn't even one of the good ones. The kids got them to go pretty far. They did have a good time. So did I.
Have a great day!

Up, up and away

Today was co-op at our house. I really love our co-op, but you can read about that in different posts. It was our house today. We are doing the inventors lap book and loving it. The other moms have never done a lapbook and were a little intimidated when we started. It does get easier the more you do and I have been trying to encourage them to do some on their own. The one we are doing is huge and is actually three folders glued together. When you start big like that, it can throw you for a loop. I just tell them slow and steady wins the race. Today we talked about John Deere, Orville and Wilbur Wright, and Louis Braille.

John Deere didn't really take that long to talk about. It was pretty interesting to see how his company went from making 75 plows a year to 10,000 plows fourteen years later. The size and scope of the company today is quite intimidating. We talked about how the company has the trademark for the green color of his tractors. My friend C has a friend that has a riding John Deere for his yard. It has cruise control. I thought that was too funny. Our riding lawnmower has a headlight and a cup holder, but no cruise control. We also talked about what the different machines are for and how they work. I got some really interesting books at the library that had great information. That is a shameless plug for your local library system that needs lots of support during these economic times.

Orville and Wilbur Wright were pretty cool. We talked about their failures and their successes. We talked about how air travel has changed over the years and the highs and lows. We talked about planes and how cool they can be. I didn't realize that they started in Ohio. I had always heard Kitty Hawk and wondered why the Ohio state quarter says "First in Flight". Now we all know. They transported one of their planes to France and flew it for 2 hours at 110m. That was a record back then. Pretty cool stuff.

Louis Braille has just fascinated the boy. When we picked up our books at the library yesterday, the boy picked one about Louis Braille and read it cover to cover. The whole time he was reading I heard "Mama, did you know...", "Mama, guess what...". I loved every second of it. It kept him engaged and talking and sharing. I didn't know that Braille was blinded in an accident when he was three. He was playing with his dad's tools and actually blinded himself in one eye. He developed an infection that spread to the other eye and that was how he became blind. The boy was interested in the fact that he was a teacher. He didn't think blind people could be teachers. What a great discussion that opened up about disabilty and how blindness shouldn't hold you back from your dreams. We talked about different professions blind people have including doctors, lawyers, teachers, and all kinds of things.

Our activity after we finished our mini books was an airplane race. I found these little glider planes at the dollar store that the kids used. At first the kids were a little sceptical. They put the planes together and we took them outside to practice. They loved it. I let them practice for awhile and then we lined them up. We did two races and the winner of each got to pick a prize from the prize box. It was fun. The kids were happy they got to keep their planes. I told my kids to bring theirs tomorrow and when we meet hubby for lunch at the park, we can have our own races or just fly planes.

It was a great day. I ended up making pork chops, mashed potatoes, and broccoli for dinner. Hubby made it home in time to eat with us, so that was a bonus. We had wonderful friends to spend the day with. The weather was so nice, I even opened the windows for awhile. The kids played and played. Mine are exhausted and sleeping, thank goodness. I am not far behind.

Have a great day!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Wednesday...

is the longest day of the week. When we got home last night, my legs were so tired, they didn't know I had actually sat down. The boy said his were numb. And by the time hubby got home last night, the kids were crashed and snoring. They had only been in bed about twenty minutes.

Since we are no longer doing our afterschool program, I had the bright idea that it would be nice to rechedule the boy's dance class to Wednesday. The baby and I were already dancing that day, and it would be one less day driving to town. It actually has been a good idea, we just need to tweak a couple of things to make it better.

We still school in the morning, but we start a little earlier. It is so nice to get the work done and not worry about it. If I have to leave some for later, it's alright because we have a big chunk of time between the boy's class and the baby's. The only draw back to that is how tired the kids are at that point. It makes it hard to get and keep their attention. Yesterday, we had to do a little shopping and the baby laid down in the cart. She even went to sleep for a little bit. I laid our shopping bags down in the bottom of the cart and she laid on them like a pallet. I had to get socks for the girls and she used the packages like pillows. She looked so comfortable, I wanted to lay down and nap with her.

The good thing about our day, or really the great thing, is that we get to have lunch with hubby. I pack a lunch for me and the kids, like we are going to park day. Everybody has a water bottle and I take extra in case we drink all of ours. Hubby takes his own lunch just in case he can't meet us. If he can't meet us, he still has his lunch. We have met the last two weeks at different parks and were able to share a meal and really great company and conversation. By the time hubby is done with his lunch hour, it's time to pack up and head for the boy's class. I try to pack snacks for the time our last two classes.

When we get home, dinner is usually ready. I get it started in the crockpot and it's ready and smelling good when we get home. Last night was fajitas. It wasn't as good as the ones you get still sizzling on the cast iron skillet, but they were still good. The kids eyes actually rolled back in their kids it was so good. I didn't have everything to make the ones I wanted to, but after looking at a few recipes I decided to make my own. Tasty, tasty. I crockpot three days a week, and it has helped to have menu. It helps me be more accountable for our meals and our money.

It's a long day, but we enjoy it. We look forward to dancing and getting to see hubby. We go to the library and read books to each other. We get to spend time together, enjoying the company. Most of the time. There is still some tweaking we need to do to our day, but slow and steady wins the race.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Crockpotting

Is that a word? Like Facebooking, only about food. Blogging is another new verb, but one close to my heart. My dad said I should take my blog and publish a book. You find me a publisher and an agent and I am there. The frustrated writer in me would love it. But, again, I digress.

We have reduced our evenings out of the house to two. That is such a huge improvement over last year. Four days almost killed me. The kids would drag; I would drag. The days we didn't have to go anywhere were treasured and cherished. The longer we could stay in our pajamas was one more minute we were in heaven. The crockpot has been fantastic.

It has been interesting to say the least. I can definitely say I am out of my cooking rut. It seemed like we always had the same things over and over and over. It seemed like it because we were. We were all bored with dinner and every chance to go out was taken. We have had some really good things and some I will never make this again dishes. I have realized that a stew recipe is a stew recipe and there isn't much difference. I also do not like Lipton Soup Mixes of any kind in a crockpot. Live and learn.

I have a couple of different web sites that I go to for recipes. One is Crockpot365.blogspot.com. It is awesome. A woman crockpotted every day for a year. She has her recipes listed by type, what went right and wrong, what she would change, and a picture of all the ingedients. She was even on GMA this morning promoting the cookbook that she wrote. She has gluten free and vegetarian recipes. I have been looking at some of the vegetarian recipes and trying to decide which ones I want to try and which ones I think my family will eat.

You can also go to About.com. On their search feature type in crockpot or recipes. My friend sent me the link, but I'll be darned if I can remember it now. I also use that website for some of our homeschooling subjects to supplement info. It's pretty good and has a huge list of recipes. I'm going to try the one for crockpot tamales. I love tamales, and this recipe is super simple.

The couple of recipes I want to share are BBQ chicken and Taco Soup. The BBQ chicken is easy, easy, easy. I didn't use a recipe for this one, I just adapted the one I already use. Normally, I make my chicken in a pan on the stove. I took the basic principles and made it crockpot friendly.
You take chicken pieces, any that you like, and put them in a greased or oiled crockpot. Add one bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce. Fill the sauce bottle about 1/3 - 1/2 to the top with water and put the lid back on. Shake, and pour over the chicken. Set on low for 8-9 hours, or high for 5-6. The water keeps the sauce from getting super sticky. You can add veggies if you like them covered in BBQ sauce. You can use any pieces of chicken that you like. I used breasts because that's what I had. You could just as easily use a whole, cut up chicken. It was fall off the bone (literally) delicious. I would suggest you either use fresh or thawed completely chicken. If you use frozen, it adds too much water as the chicken thaws and leaves your sauce very runny. You could just as well use a pork loin and do pulled pork. Or any type of beef if that's what you prefer.

The Taco Soup looks funky, but tastes really good. It got eaten for three days at my house and there was none left. Here's what you do and what you need:

1 lb ground beef, cooked
1 16oz can corn
1 16oz can diced tomatoes
1 large can chili/red beans
1 8oz can tomato sauce
1 packet taco seasoning
1 lb Velveeta, cubed

Dump contents of cans into crockpot. Add beef, cheese, and taco seasoning.Cook on low for 3-4 hours or until cheese melts. Add half a can of water if too thick. Serve with tortilla chips or cornbread. DO NOT cook on high. The cheese will seperate. This can be done in as little as an hour.

I left out the beans. I don't like them and neither does anyone in my family. It was very thick and reminded me more of dip than soup, but it was super-d-delicious. Everybody loved it. I served it with Fritos and warmed, flour tortillas. As is, it would make a great dip for a large party. I used extra beef because my container holds more than 1 lb. I would say cook this on a day that you won't be gone more than a couple of hours because it does cook quick.

I have started stocking some things in my pantry and freezer. Diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and cream soups being the leaders. They come in very handy. If you have a recipe that calls for whole tomatoes, or stewed, or whatever and you don't have it, substitute the diced. I have started making my own chicken broth as well. It adds more flavor than a canned or boxed kind and I control the ingredients. That is huge since the US will soon be importing chickens from China, but that's my other blog.

I'll post some more about the wonders of the crockpot. I use it three days a week and have gotten better at following our menu. The kids look at the menu now instead of asking 14 times what's for dinner. They have gotten adventurous with dinner as well. They look, take a bite, and usually like it. On the nights we don't like it, cereal or sandwiches are a great substitute. I hope some of this helps my fellow busy families. Enjoy every bite. If you have recipes to share, please do. I'm always looking for good ones.

Have a great day!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Update to Spankings

Hubby said I need to be careful about what I post. He doesn't want some dogooder reading this and calling the authorities because we spank our kids. Fine. Note to dogooder: Get a life. If you have nothing better to do than nit pick other people's lives, you need to get one yourself. That should do it.

I have taken a page from my friend, D. She has noticed that the behavior of her children, specifically between two of them, which is part my problem, is not the best. She and her husband prayed about it, asking for guidance, because they were at the end of their rope. What they came up with will help my kids, so I am borrowing parts of it. Here goes with the discipline plan.

For the first offense, the child, whichever one it happens to be, will have to right a bible verse relating to the correct behavior. The number of times will depend on the child. The big girl loves to write, so the number of times would have to be a lot for her to get tired of writing. The boy can't stand to even have a pencil in his hand so he will have to write them fewer for him to be punished. The baby, well we'll just have to see.

If it is a personality conflict, if one is picking on or irritating the other, not only will they have to write the bible verse, but they will have to also help whoever they are irritating, without snarking about it. If they snark, they must write the verses again, and then model it. Again, minus the snarking. They must serve with loving hearts and open minds.

If it is a fighting issue, verbal because they know what happens when it gets physical, they will have to write the bible verse and not speak for a predetermined amount of time. They may not speak or use sign language, but be totally quiet. They will also have all electronic equipment revoked until future notice. They will not be able to pick a TV show to watch.

Do not think for one second that spankings have been revoked. If these measures do not produce appropriate behavior, they will be spanked. Appropriate behavior includes not fighting with or irritating each other just because, listening and doing because it's the right thing to do, and doing what they are supposed to do when they are supposed to do it with no back talking. There will also be a discussion about why they are behaving the way they are. If there is an issue we need to discuss, we will. I like the fact that my kids will talk to me about anything. I try to listen, not always easy for me. I would rather offer solutions than leave it to someone else. But I am trying to get better myself.

Have a great day!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Whoop That Tail

When I first became a parent, I swore there were things that my parents had done or said that I was not going to. When reality sets in, I realized that I was doing and saying exactly what had been done to me. This is not a post against my parents. You do what you know until you know better. I have always said that the reason the big girl loved to go to school and dance was to get away from me. People may not believe it, but I think it's true, and you can't convince me otherwise, so don't even try.

For quite awhile, our discipline was spanking. I don't mean a little tap. Sometimes it was a tap. Mostly, it was a good swat. I took a page from my childhood. If it didn't hurt, it wasn't hard enough. My poor big girl got the message that she had to perfect or else. I wonder to this day how she turned out to be so good when I was such a horrible mother.

When hubby was working out of town, I was all alone with my kids. My sister called me almost every day to check on me and make sure I was OK. I needed that. My mom called almost as often. It was fantastic to have the support. I sure wasn't getting it here. My SIL, who did not agree with our decision for hubby to work out of town, dropped me like a hot rock. I was no longer worthy of being her friend. She rarely called and when she did it was for me to comfort her about something. I would ask my MIL if she would watch the kids for a couple of hours and I would get huffed at. You know, that big deep heavy sigh that says "I don't want to, but I know I better". At that point, my response would be, "No, thanks. I'll figure something else out." Guilt would set in, I guess, and she would call and offer to keep the kids. I'd rather you kissed my butt, but no thank you to that, too. I am as stubborn as the day is long.

The point of all this rambling which seems more suited to my other blog is this: when hubby was away, I realized that I could break that cycle. My kids were kids and they were going to do those things that kids do. Duh. It was at that point that I stopped spanking. Not all together, but not for every offense. I started to take away privileges instead. Time out actually worked for us. The only problem was, and still is, that my kids are so good in time out that I forget they are there.

I started to notice a change in my kids when I started to be less uptight. My kids actually did listen to what I was saying. They would do what I said and what I asked. It's amazing what please and thank you can accomplish. In turn, they started using it more without being prompted. We actually started to have a home filled with love and respect and hugs and kisses.

It took hubby awhile to get accustomed to it. When he would come home, he was so happy to see his family that he started to mellow. He also took cues from our new behavior and became less uptight about things. We would get compliments on our kids. We still do. We have great kids. We are very good at follow through. If we say to one, or all, of the kids, that something is going to happen because of a certain behavior, it happens. Whether it's time out, taking a privilege away, or a spanking, the kids know it will happen. I have seen too many parents say they are going to do something, then it doesn't happen. Get real and respect yourself and your kids. You are not doing them any favors.

It seems that our kids are starting to take advantage of our limited spanking. It seems that the taking away of privileges and time out are not as effective as they used to be. The kids freely hand over their electronic toys and don't complain about no TV. They stand in time out with no complaints. Great. There have been some attitude problems lately. The boy and the big girl have been making excuses for not getting school work done and don't seem to be bothered by the consequences. The baby has started to mess and play when she shouldn't be and is not responding to the normal.

Tonight the decision was taken out of their hands. We have reinstated spanking as a main means of punishment. For those that comment, this is not up for debate. I'm not asking you to agree or support our decision. I am just informing you. The big girl and the boy got them for not completing school work that should have been done. The baby got it for not listening. Three times she got told to get toothpaste on her toothbrush and she played instead. It feels like they are starting to take advantage and we will not have that. We still have great kids. We are just tired of having to repeat ourselves with nothing to show for it but frustration.

If you see us and the kids are getting a swat, turn the other way if you don't want to see it. If you see us and the kids are very well behaved, it's probably because they know a swat is coming. Or just because they are really good kids. We'll see how things go over the next couple of weeks and reevaluate things. Maybe this won't last long. I hope not.

Have a great day!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Confirmation, In Pictures

This was a cross that floats in the lake just off shore. It was beautiful lit up at night, and even more so as the sun comes up. It was nice to just sit on the dock and listen for His words.






This was a great activity in team work. The big girl was the first to be lifted by the team and moved through the hole in the wall. She could not touch any part of the opening or they would have to start all over. She wasn't going to participate, but she over came her fear and did it anyway. She ended up loving it and being quite instrumental in getting the rest of the kids through the hole.




All of the kids started on a large wooden platform and had to swing on the rope to get to another platform. They did it, but were not so happy to see the facilitator change their landing pad to a much smaller platform. They all had to swing again. The big girl was the last one to go and she made it. It took them several tries to get all of the kids on the other side to the smaller platform, but they accomplished their goal.
There were a two more activities that the kids had to do together, but these had the most interesting pictures. They learned that with support from God and their community of faith, they could accomplish many goals and could strive for more. It was so awesome to see these kids working together to solve their problems. We were all so proud of them.
Have a great day!