Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Book review: Grace-Based Parenting

A couple years ago, at a women's Bible study, one woman said, "My sister always had a great way of teaching her kids about grace. She would punish them -- maybe by saying they couldn't go to the park like they planned -- and then an hour later she would say, 'Get your shoes on so we can go to the park.' And when the kids acted surprised, she would say, 'God shows us grace, so I'm showing you grace.' "

Then she kind of chuckled and said, "She usually did it when she realized the punishment was a bad idea, like when she told them they couldn't go to the park, but then they were all driving her crazy by staying inside."

The other women in the Bible Study all said, "Oh, wow! That's so great! What a great way of teaching grace to your children!"

Now if you know me at all, you know I'm very Skeptical and Difficult, especially in Bible Study Settings, and something didn't seem quite right about it to me. I pondered it for a while and thought:

1) If you, as a parent, make a bad decision about something, you should just admit it was a bad decision, or that you changed your mind. Don't pretend to make it a lesson about something just so that you can save face.

2) The whole point of grace is that it is freely bestowed out of generosity and kindness. To say, "Eh, never mind, I guess I'll show you grace because my original plan won't work" seems to miss the whole point.

3) The concept of grace must be something bigger and more meaningful than simply, "I can and should punish you, but I've decided not to."

4) What would, in fact, be a better way to truly show our kids grace?

Well, I recently am finding out some answers to #3 from a book I'm reading called Grace-Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel.

It's strength is also what makes it slightly aggravating. This is not your typical parenting book of "here's what to do when you kid does this, and here's how to handle when your kid does that." Rather, it talks about what grace is, with plenty of scripture, as well as quotes from people like Philip Yancey and CS Lewis, and talks about what that might look like in the relationship with your parents.

A large portion of the book discussed the fact that all humans, even before The Fall, were created with three needs:

1) A need for love and security
2) A need for purpose
3) A need for hope

and then addresses what a parent meeting those needs might look like.

Or maybe what it definitely would not look like.

It's very thought-provoking; the type of book that's best when you read it slowly, think about it, then re-read parts again. It's the kind of book I wish I had a group I could discuss a chapter or two with every week. I think it would make a great study for an adult Sunday School class.

Chapter Three

[Guest writer Rachael was fully sedated for an MRI this morning, but she was still able to contribute her latest installment. The vomiting has finally stopped around here, so hopefully I'll be back tomorrow.]

The Mystery Princess
by Rachael, age 7

Chapter Three: Inside the Castle

When Mother and Father's car had droven away, Anna gave one good look at the castle. Mother was right: it was royal. It was pink, with shiny blue jewels everywhere on it. And at the very top, there was a balcony. It pointed upward. And hanging from the bars, there was a jewel and the words "ROYAL BALL." This was good. Now Anna knew that she was at the right castle.

She went inside and discovered that the inside was better than the outside. There was a beautiful red carpet with jewels on it. It went across the whole room. The banister was decorated with pink hearts. And there was a clock that almost touched the roof. There was a shiny black piano, and someone one was playing it. He was in handsome clothes and playing "Here Comes the Bride."

It was supposed to be nice and royal, but every lady was anxious to have it be their turn, so it wasn't a lovely picture to the king and queen, who were sitting on high thrones.

She saw that on the red rug there was a line of really pretty women, and she considered her the nicest one of all. At the end of the line, there was a Prince, and he was in very handsome clothes.
He had black shoes, black pants, a white shirt, and a red tie. From top to bottom, Anna thought he was the handsomest person in the whole ballroom. She saw the whenever a woman came up to him, the woman would curtsy, but the Prince always shook his head, and the woman would walk sorrowfully away.

When it was Anna's turn, she remembered that she was pretending to be a princess. So when the Prince asked her name, she said, "Anna. I'm a princess."

The Prince couldn't say anything else. He was too surprised. He thought Anna was really a real princess, so he said to Anna, "You're the one! I'll find a room for you to stay in with me til the marriage." And he ran off.

Anna shouted, "But I'm not a real princess! I'm just pretending to be a princess!" She couldn't spread the news that she wasn't a real princess to another woman, because there were no other women. They had all left.

And then she soon found herself in the most beautifullest, softest, silkiest bed she had ever been in. She thought of home. She thought of her cat. Even though she didn't like Grace, she still missed her.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Our guest writer continues ...

[The blog is continuing to be run by seven year old Rachael until the rest of us all get well.]

The Mystery Princess
by Rachael, age 7

Chapter Two -- Going to the Ball

The next day, Anna woke up. She knew she was excited for something, but she didn't know what. She got up and wandered around the room, but when she got to the trash can, she saw her Decision Chart and remembered that today was the day of the ball. She had used that chart to make the decision of the ball, and that's how she had thought of the ball when she saw the chart in the trash. She had thrown it in the trash, because what' the use of a Decision Chart when she had already made the decision?

She dressed up extra pretty and thought of something. "I know! I'll pretend I'm a princess! So I'll look extra pretty!" And then she looked for her very best ring, her very best dress, and her tiara.

When mother was driving her and Grace to the ball, Anna thought of the Royal Time she would have, and the pretty dresses she would see.

"I want to go with Anna!" said Grace.

"You're too little," Mother said. "Anyway, four year olds can't marry."

"They're too small," added Anna, trying to act like she was a real, live princess.

Grace started to cry.

"Oh, stop it!" said Anna, forgetting that she was trying to act like a princess.

When she got there, she couldn't see much because the car was little and there wasn't much windows. Only the windshield and the two windows for Mom and Dad. She could have looked out the windshield, but there was too much stuff piled between Mom and Dad.

But they could see, and they thought it was a beautiful sight. "Look at that royal castle!" said Mother to Anna.

"I can't see a thing!" said Anna, who was trying to hear and talk over Grace's crying.

When she got out, Grace was done crying. "Bye, Anna!" said Mother and Father.

"Bye-bye, Anna!" said Grace, half talking and half wiping the tears still remaining on her face.

Our guest writer for today

[As we are still not completely healthy in this household, I have called on seven year old Rachael, who is not currently ill, to take over the blog until we all recover.]

The Mystery Princess
by Rachael
(a book for teenagers)

Chapter One -- News of the Ball

Anna was frustrated and was tied from the ball that she had been invited to and the ice skating she had practiced really hard on. They were both on the same date.

At this particular moment, Anna was walking up and down the hall of her house. Her hands were folded and she was thinking hard. But then she suddenly thought to herself, "Ice skating is nothing. But a ball would be really fun and fancy." She made up her mind to go to the ball instead of her ice skating class.

Later on she was cross-stitching and thinking of the great decision she had made. She had told the people in charge of the ball that she was going to the ball. The king and queen were delighted. They were always happy whenever they got new customers for the ball.

Just at that moment, Anna's little sister Grace walked in and said, "What are you doing?"

"Shush, Grace. I have a problem on my cross-stitch."

Grace said, "You're always cross-stitching! I want you to play Follow the Leader with me."

Anna said, "And you're always playing Follow the Leader. Anyway, I'm almost finished. Seventeen year olds always enjoy doing cross-stitch."

Anna was seventeen years old, but acting like she was twenty. Grace was four years old, and as Anna always says, she's always playing Follow the Leader.

"No!" Grace said. "I want you to play NOW!"

"Stop complaining!" said Anna. "Look, you made me do a mistake."

Grace came over to see.

"I don't mean that kind of see. I mean 'see' because I want you to be sorry."

"I'm never sorry for you," said Grace, as Anna shouted, "Mother! Grace is bothering me!"

Mother came in and said to Grace, "Grace, Anna's busy. You can play Follow the Leader with me."

As Grace ran over to play Follow the Leader, Anna's cat came into the room to be petted. "I have no time, Sooty. I have to do my cross-stitching."

Sooty looked up and did a sorrowfully meow and Anna gave Sooty a pat. "I know you feel bad. But you'll just have to wait."

[Stay tuned for Chapter Two - Going to the Ball]

Monday, December 22, 2008

So it's come to this: A clip-show post

[The title is a reference to this Simpson's episode.]

Here, for your reading pleasure, is some of my favorite past posts to entertain you until we all feel better:


This post is significant because it generated the only real negative comment I've ever received. I was anonymously told I "sound very narrow-minded."

I kinda like this one because it's a nice blend of my own personal interests and what my kids are into.

If you missed this short anecdote the first time, a lot of people thought it was hilarious.

If Rebecca S. or Kim or anyone else from USC is reading, these musings about eighth grade would be very interesting.

Here's a conversation from some public school teachers about why homeschooled kids have no social skills.

And finally, some one I know e-mailed me saying I should submit my rant against John Rosemond to the local paper. (I didn't, although I was very flattered.) I expected it to get some negative comments, but it didn't. I guess not enough people are readers here to care! :)

Another one bites the dust!

Well, I guess it was inevitable. Rachael woke up at 3:00 am vomiting.

Cleaning up sheets and mopping the floor in the middle of the night has got to be one of the looooow points of parenting.

I seriously have about six loads of laundry to do today, between soiled sheets and blankets and stuffed animals, and soiled towels and rags used for clean-up, and just the clothes from vacation we still haven't washed.

So now all five of us have been hit.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Where I've been

I read recently, "My biggest blog pet peeve is people blogging about why they haven't been blogging lately."

Good point, but in this case I think it's okay.

We were in Disney World for a week. I thought we'd have WiFi there, but you had to pay ten dollars a day for it. Everything cost an absolute fortune there, and yes, I know it's silly that it should surprise me. We were going to have our laundry sent out, but then saw the price list and quickly calculated that it would cost over a hundred dollars to do about 3 days' worth of laundry! So instead I used the coin-operated machines, which was still pretty pricey -- $4.50 a load!

How was the trip, you ask?

Well ... four out of five of us (including me) got a stomach virus. Rachael was the only one unscathed.

Now we are home.

And I'm going back to bed.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A stay-at-home day

Sadly, we don't have too many stay-at-home days.

Actually, the sad part is not that we don't have them more often, but that we don't have the option for them very often. The girls have weekly dance classes, and we all attend a weekly Bible study. Add to that things like grocery shopping, our Endless Doctor Visits, and occasional rehearsals for me, and we're all running around more than I would like to.

But today it was was raining, and we stayed home, and it was nice.

This morning we made cut-out Christmas cookies. Benjamin got his own wad of dough and had fun playing with the cutters as well.

Rachael did her ETC (phonics) and is supposedly doing her math right now.

I washed the sheets and did a load of laundry and we cleaned up the playroom, which was a disaster area. Is there anyone else who often has a room go from Perfectly Tidy to Disaster Area in less than thirty minutes?

We ate mac and cheese for lunch (yuck, not my first choice, but we have practically no food in the house) while watching Little House on the Prairie. We had read a few of the books together and then got Season One of the show, and we really like it.

Our "book study" for this week is Jan Brett's The Wild Christmas Reindeer. We already read it today, and hopefully in a little while I will muster up some energy to make Reindeer Cookies with pretzel sticks for antlers and M&Ms for nose and eyes.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Sometimes it doesn't pay to do things early

I tend to make Christmas cookies and give them as gifts. I like to bake, and to me homemade cookies is a really nice gift that people don't need to find shelf space for.

I made several batches of cookies a couple weeks ago and put them all in the freezer with the idea that, ta-da, I was ahead of schedule on something!

The problem with that, if you haven't guessed already, is thatby now many of the cookies have been eaten.

Rebecca saw me take a cookie out of the freezer yesterday and she said, "Why do you keep those cookies in the freezer?"

I said, "Well, the idea is that I won't eat them, but it doesn't seem to work, does it?"

Tomorrow will be a baking day for us.

Monday, December 8, 2008

So, how's that experiment going, Jen?

Some of you may be wondering if I've stayed successful in keeping off the computer between breakfast and 3:00 pm, as I wrote about here.

The answer is: Yes!

And it's been great. Things have more peaceful and calmer. I'm more focused on whatever I'm doing, whether it involves the kids are not.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Unconscious Mutterings

  1. Love affair :: cheesy movie
  2. Bubble :: bath
  3. Pimple :: pop
  4. Knocks :: on wood
  5. Persistent :: annoying
  6. Infected :: cut
  7. Yay! :: Aw, that's the end! (from Schoolhouse Rock)
  8. Repaint :: the house
  9. Daily :: Nightly (the title of a Monkees song)
  10. Quickly! :: rabbit

From Luna Nina

Friday, December 5, 2008

By popular request -- the songs I remember

Kim, my buddy from Johnston elementary (who I danced with in the fourth grade talent show to "Stayin Alive"!) asked me what songs I remembered singing in chorus, as I mentioned in my Christmas MEME.

There were so many I decided to make it a separate post:

Sung to the "American Bandstand" tune, although I did not know it at the time:
Come on and boogie ... Come on and boogie with me ... come on and boogie around the Christmas tree ...
and, later:
Let's get together, and sing a carol or two ... we'll build a snowman, and decorate him like you ...

(some sort of song about Pablo, a Mexican reindeer)
Without him ... Santa would not know where he's going ... ay-yi-yi-yi,
Without him ... he would not know if it was snowing ... South of the Border?
Pablo can do the cha-cha-cha,
He makes the children laugh, ha-ha
All the muchachos shout, "Ole!"
"Pablo, please hurry back!" they say.

In fifth grade I was in "Special Chorus" (which was an audition-only group, but it sounds like we're retarded or something) and we did a very simple song and dance routine to "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" with batons wrapped in red and white paper to look like Christmas canes.

I also remember the entire cast of the chorus's version of Alice in Wonderland in fifth grade. (Kim and I were cards, which is a nice way of saying we failed the audition.)

And, of course, who could forget going to King's for ice cream after a concert? I still have a Pavlovian desire to go get ice cream after I perform.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Further proof that I'm cheap ... er, I mean, a tightwad

Yesterday I went to the doctor.

First, I parked in a nearly office complex so I wouldn't have to pay for parking (which saved me at least $3). Then, I asked the doctor if he had any samples of my medications (which saved me at least $60).

Heck, I don't know about you, but I call it smart.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Christmas MEME

Ah, MEMEs are great: the thinking is done for you. I found this one at Stephanie's site (although I deleted some of the questions due to laziness).

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?
Egg nog, but only about 2-3 sips

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
Wrap presents

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?
The few lights on our front window are white, but I'm thankful that there are people to take the time to hang up colored lights

4. Do you hang Mistletoe?

5. When do you put your decorations up?
The weekend right after Thanksgiving

6. Favorite memory as a child?
Oh my gosh! If you know me well, you know not to get me started on childhood memories or we'll be here all week! Here are some things that pop into mind:

- Sledding down the big hill in our backyard in Pittsburgh
- Making a Christmas tree with my mom that's basically a big, conical popcorn ball decorated with gumdrops on toothpicks
- The Christmas chorus concerts at Johnston Elementary (yes, I can even still sing of the songs; how weird is that?)

7. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree?
Most of our ornaments are ones the kids made, gifts from my students, or handmade presents over the years from my old college roommate, Anne

8. Snow! Love it or Dread it?
Love it, miss it, wish the kids could have more of it

9. Can you ice skate?
Yes, but I prefer roller skating

10. Do you remember your favorite gift?
Yeah, my kid not dying when she was in ICU during Christmas 2005, hey, how's that for a gift?

11. What tops your tree?
It's Rebecca's job to put the star on top

12. What is your favorite Christmas song?
I like them all, but a couple favorites are Little Drummer Boy and Do You Hear What I Hear (which we sang at the fourth grade chorus concert at Johnston Elementary)

13. Candy canes, yuck or yum?

14. Favorite Holiday Movie?
A Christmas Story, but unfortunately I'm the only person in the family who likes it
I also really like Charlie Brown Christmas. and Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, if anyone remembers that one

Car unkee down!!

Very often, these days, we hear, very earnestly, "Car unkee down!" (Car wants to get down.)

It means that Benjamin saw a car on the back of a truck, or on a tow truck.

Or he's thinking about the time he saw a car on top of a truck. Or he's playing with his cars and put one on top of a bus or truck.

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Monday, December 1, 2008

How to take pictures like a professional

Back when Rachael was three and Rebecca was one, the three of us were featured in a local newspaper article about doing sign language with your babies.

A photographer came to the house to do a photo shoot, which I thought was really fun.

The way he took the pictures really stuck with me, as it's so different from how schmucks like you and me probably do it.

For example, first he had the three of us sit in the living room, with me holding a book and a girl on each side of me, and he asked me read to them. Then -- click click click click click click! He probably took at least fifteen pictures of us in that position.

Then he had us sitting so that Rachael and I were both signing "more" for Rebecca. Same thing -- click click click click click click click!

And so on.

I'm guessing he had taken at least 40 or 50 pictures when he left here.

And guess how many photos were in the paper? One. And it was a really good picture.

I think we schmucks should take a lesson from that. I love looking at people's pictures, but always get mildly annoyed when I see an album (or a pile of pictures, or a blog) that have eight or ten pictures of almost the exact same thing.

Or when people say, "Here's pictures of my trip/baby/whatever" and give you fifty pictures. Don't make me wade through everything! Pick out the best key shots and then show them to people.

Or the worst is when some of the pictures are fuzzy, off-center, or capture people with a weird facial expression.

will not go to hell for throwing away photos that came out badly.

Thanksgiving photos

We spent Thanksgiving with Rob's family in North Carolina. It's exactly three hours away, which is the perfect distance -- long enough to make it interesting, but short enough that we usually get there just before the kids start to fall apart.

Benjamin had a great time with Aunt Carol's boyfriend, John. (My FIL is in the background).

This is Robert's mother, father, and sister, Carol.

For dessert we went to Grandma Glo's house, where Robert's cousins were visiting from Kansas. This is DeeDee, her daughter Camille, who is twelve, and nine year old twin boys named Garrett and Schyler. Their youngest child, Quentin, was probably running around somewhere and isn't in the picture.

Here's a sweet picture of my Rachael and Rebecca. Rachael is getting so old, isn't she?
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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Do ya think we look alike?

Here's a picture of me and my oldest daughter, Rachael, taken over Thanksgiving.

Maybe it's just me, but to me we look so alike it's almost freaky. Anyone else think so?

It is a Good Thing, to look like Rachael.
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Oh! Rob's Costume!

This photo ended up in a different batch and I just found it now.

This is Robert! (and Becca)

Apparently he made this costume when he was a teenager and updated it somewhat this year. He's not home right now, so I can't ask for any more details.

It was a total hit. When he got off work and joined the rest of us, who had already started TOT, a murmur swept the crowd ... "Who is that?"

A neighbor that we met while TOT (who we did not know) nicknamed him, "Freakishly Tall Dude."
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National Blog Posting Month

If you want to sound hip, it's called:


I've decided to participate -- if I sent in my html code correctly, ha!

The idea is to post every day during the month of December.

Here's the link.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Official Position of a Little Boy Playing

Robert took these pictures of Benjamin a month or two again. The truck was free -- Robert got the kit at Home Depot on Craft Day.

This is what position Benjamin spends most of the day in. I think it's a boy thing.

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Every now and then I do something Smart

Today, as always, we did our Thanksgiving Weekend Tradition, which looks like this:

We get all the Christmas ornaments, decorations, and tree (yes, I've never had a Real Tree in my life) down from the attic, and set it all up while we listen to the Charlie Brown Christmas CD. Although not part of the Official Tradition, it's a good idea to put some Thanksgiving leftovers in the oven while we do it, and then when we get hungry we stop and eat.

Here's the part about me being Smart:

On Christmas 2006, Santa (with the help of my friend Julie) brought us the Leap Frog Phonics Railroad, set up around the tree on Christmas morning. When we packed up all the Christmas stuff weeks later, I packed up the train set with all the Christmas stuff in the attic so we only break it out when we take down the tree.

Clever, huh?

This is the first year Benjamin was old enough to really be aware of it, and of course he assumed the Official Position of a Little Boy Playing and stayed there for quite a while.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Today's Great Experiment

A few weeks ago I saw an Oprah show about "A wake-up call to slow down" -- especially for mothers. To make the point, they featured a women who, one morning, forgot that her one year was in the car when she drove to work one day in August, and found the child dead in the car several hours later.

A Zen Master (whatever that is) was on and said that multi-tasking is a fallacy. Everybody thinks it's so great to multi-task, this Zen Master said, but in reality there is no such thing. The brain can only focus on one thing at a time, period. So when it feels like you're multi-tasking, all you're really doing is quickly bouncing around from one "one thing at a time" to another "one thing at a time."


I thought about this a lot.

It occured to me that a lot of times, around here, I feel very frantic, and snap at the kids, because I feel like there are a hundred things going on here at once. I feel like I can never focus on anything, and I hate that. I always chalked it up to having three young kids and wanting to get a lot done, and to some extent that is probably true. But I began to wonder if I was contributing to the problem a lot myself.

I have a terrible habit of constantly getting on the computer, all in the name of multi-tasking. (And, admittedly, some amount of laziness.)

Mostly it stems from thinking, "Oh, okay, the kids don't need me right now, let me run really quickly and do something while I have the chance, and since someone will probably need me any second I can't get engrossed in anything important so let me quickly check my e-mail, at least I can do that."

This might be fine, and have some truth to it, if I did it once or twice a day for less than five minutes, but that's never what happens.

Anyway, today I vowed to do an experiment of sorts.

The Experiment:
After checking my messages briefly at breakfast time, I would not get on the computer again, for any reason, until after 3:00 pm (when Benjamin naps and the girls have "room time.")

I told myself that if I thought of something important I needed to post or write to someone about, I would jot a note about it on the refrigerator so I wouldn't forget. (This did not happen, by the way.)

The Results:
In a way it was difficult. There were about 6-7 times where I had to make a conscious effort not to get on the computer. The most noticeable time was went I went downstairs to transfer the laundry. The computer is in the room next to the laundry, and I always had the feeling of, "Well, while I'm down here, I'd better check if there's any messages."

Here's what I accomplished before 3:00 pm today, and I didn't even wake up until after 8:00 am:
* Baked two batches of cookies
* Made a carrot souffle to take on Thanksgiving trip
* Cleaned out and vacuumed mini-van
* Did two loads of laundry (although not all of it was completely put away)
* Helped the girls wrap gifts they made and package cookies to bring on Thanksgiving trip
* Read a chapter of Pippi Longstocking to the girls
* Made a few "business" phone calls
* Brought the trash out to the curb and got (and processed!) the mail
* Ironed about ten fuse bead ornaments the girls had made yesterday

What's even better than the list of things I accomplished is the fact that I had a really nice, calm day. I hardly ever felt like I was pulled in different directions. I didn't snap at the kids.

I am torn between feeling happy about this, and feeling ashamed. Even though I think this makes a very interesting post, I'm embarrassed to write about it.

What could be more obvious, really? Don't do two things at once. Focus on your kids when you're with your kids. Leave out non-essentials like cruising the Internet twenty times a day.

We're going out of town tomorrow, but I would like to continue this experiment, one day at a time, when we get back. I will write about it again next week. That will help me keep motivated.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Our Daily Goals (usually)

I've started settling into a list of goals that we accomplish each day, Homeschool-Wise. It's sort of like a template that I drop things into.

It's nice because it allows for a lot of flexibility, yet I'm not starting from scratch every day to figure out what to do. Also, it makes me feel less stressed, because the key point is that we get it done; not when we get it done, or in what order.

** Here is my Great List of Daily Goals: **

For Rachael, age 7:
1) Two or three pages in Explode the Code (a phonics workbook)

2) I dictate two sentences from Explode the Code for Rachael to write into a journal. (It seems like a good idea to write the same words you're learning to read.)

3) One or two pages in a math workbook. For example, today Rachael did one where you add two-digit numbers in boxes, then color the boxes different colors depending on what the sums are.

4) Rachael reads out loud to me. Right now she is reading two stories a day, twice each, for one of the Nora Gaydos readers. Probably in a month or two we'll progress to something else, although I'm not sure what.

For both girls together (Rachael, age 7, and Rebecca, age 5):
1) Play at least one math game

2) Play at least one phonics/reading game

3) Read a book from our current HSS or FIAR unit and do at least one activity with it

4) Read at least one chapter out loud to them (right now we are working through the Little House books)

On Friday we actually got all eight things done, but that is somewhat rare. For example, on Wednesdays we all go to a Bible Study, so we might do two or three things from the list after we get home. If we're short on time, we might skip the math and just play a phonics game, or vice-versa.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Some Monkees trivia that everybody already knows

Remember that Seinfeld episode where they're talking about someone who was a Civil War buff?

George: I'd love to be a buff. How do you get to be a buff?

Jerry: Well ... Biff wants to be a buff! I think sleeping less than twelve hours a day might help.

Well, I guess you could call me a Monkees Buff.

The girls, especially Rachael, are just getting to the age where they can start to appreciate it. We were listening to some of the Greatest Hits (ie, not their best songs) in the car yesterday, and it made my mind think about all the Monkees Enjoyment I've had over the years.

Here's some trivia that might be fun if you know very little about the Monkees, or just if you've forgotten this stuf because you actually have a life. Maybe tomorrow I'll post more hard-core stuff. Please note that I'm not cut-and-pasting or looking this stuff up. It's all in my head.

Monkees Trivia That Everybody Already Knows:

1. Michael's Nesmith's mother, Bette Nesmith, invented Liquid Paper, and he inherited the fortune. (Yes, I know, literally everybody knows this, but I wanted to start small.)

2. Jimi Hendrix opened for the Monkees on one of their tours. (Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz enjoyed hearing him at the Monterey Pop Festival.) He understandably got tired of fans chanting, "We want Davy!" while he was playing, so eventually one night he gave everybody the finger, walked offstage, and quit the tour.

3. David Bowie changed his name (his real name is David Jones) to avoid confusion with Davy.

4. People have been saying for years that Charles Manson auditioned for the Monkees, but this is not true. I think Snopes even has something about that.

5. Stephen Stills, however, did audition. The word is that he was turned down "because he had bad teeth," but it's debatable whether that was actually the reason. He was the one who told his buddy Peter Tork about the auditions.

6. Yes, the Monkees made a movie, called "Head," in 1968. It was Terri Garr's first movie role, and also Annette Funicello was also in it. Jack Nicholson helped write and produce it. It is a very dark, strange, and surreal film. If you ever have the chance to rent it, do not show it to your kids, especially if they are Monkees fans, thinking that it will be fun and cute for them. It's more like Pink Floyd's The Wall than it is like a Monkees episode.

7. Michael Nesmith played for Linda Ronstadt's band and wrote the song "Different Drum." (Well, I guess not everybody knows that one.)

8. Neil Diamond wrote three Monkees songs, including I'm a Believer. (No, it was not originally written for Shrek.)

9. Carole King wrote at least four Monkees songs, with her then-husband Gerry Goffin. The most popular was Pleasant Valley Sunday.

Oh how I love Trader Joe's ...

I remember saying, months ago, that every time I went to a social gathering (which is not too terrible often!) people always end up talking about their favorite thing at Trader Joe's.

I just went there this morning with Rebecca and Benjamin (Rachael was at a friend's house). Each kid had their own kiddie shopping cart, which was, uh, interesting. But, actually, Rebecca is quite helpful and even put several groceries away without my asking her to.

Here are just a few things I got that are Good:

1) Pumpkin Bread Mix and Pumpkin Butter (sold separately) -- I made this for company a couple weeks ago and it was completely scarfed up.

2) Chocolate Decadence cereal -- yes, that's right, a healthy chocolate cereal. It is yum!

3) Any of their frozen pizzas are good, and reasonably priced. We get the plain cheese ones just because that's the only kind the other people in my family will eat.

4) Dried Strawberries -- The only problem with these is that my kids will all gobble up about $7 worth of them in less than 10 hours.

5) Frozen Mandarin Orange Chicken -- which I've already mentioned before, if you are a faithful reader

I didn't buy them today, but their chocolate croissants are really good, too.

Mmm, in fact I'm getting hungry just typing this ....

Monday, November 17, 2008

I never buy my kids clothes!

Most of you who know me know that I am Cheap Cheap Cheap.

Actually, I probably shouldn't say that. It makes me sound like a jerk. I would hopefully never screw over someone to save a buck.

But let's just say I get very excited when I can find a deal.

Maybe you could call me a Tightwad?

Anyway, one thing that makes me deliriously happy is that I almost never buy clothes for my children. I have two women that give me hand-me-downs that make up about 80% of my kids' wardrobes, then about 15% (or more) of their remaining clothes are random hand-me-downs and gifts.

I have three kids, all younger than eight. In the past three years I have bought less than ten articles of kids' clothing, total. One of them was a premie outfit for Benjam just because he was too big to fit into any of the baby clothes we had. I also bought a few bathing suits.

And yes, we do use hand-me-downs for socks and underwear and shoes too.

There are many reasons why this is great:

1) The obvious one is money. To illustrate my opening sentence, one time when we got a few bags of hand-me-downs for the girls, I actually did rough calculations in my head of how much all of it would have cost if bought new. Since it was a lot of Carter's and other good brands, the total came to a few hundred. Even if I bought everything at consignment sales, three years of clothes for three kids would cost quite a bit.

2) Shopping for clothes is not a "fun sport" for me, and I certainly have no desire to drag three kids to stores every season, or line up a babysitter every time Benjamin needs a new size.

3) I am maybe more wasteful than I should be in some areas -- for example, we use paper plates and cups at times, and I don't re-use baggies. This kind of makes up for it in my mind.

4) The clothes are more special when we know the people who had them before us.

When it's time to "change out the closets," usually due to weather, we haul the stuff we need down from the attic and pack up the old stuff.

Then, I do something kind of fun: because we are lucky enough to get so much great used stuff, I segregate them into piles: pants, shirts, dresses, jackets, etc. Then I tell the girls to "come into the store and go shopping." I might tell them to pick out five pairs of pants each, etc. What they don't pick, I pass on to someone else.

I know at some point we won't be able to do this as much when the kids get older. But for now, it is a byooooo-tiful thing!

I am just loving HomeSchool Share!

Some of you know that we used to be unschoolers, but now we're not. I don't want to belabor those details of how or why things changed, except to say that what we did then was good for Then, and what we're doing now is good for Now.

I would like to think, however, that we've stepped just a few steps to the right of unschooling, instead of doing something wildly different. And one thing that has really really helped has been a website called Homeschool Share.

I used to dislike the idea of unit studies for two reasons:

1) I heard people who tried it said that it was a lot of work. And this seems easy to believe. For example, if I wanted to do a unit on whales, I'd have to do a lot of research to get books, videos, think of activities, and for that matter, learn more about whales myself.

2) It seemed awfully contrived. For example, I read about someone doing a unit study curriculum called KONOS and the unit was on Attentiveness. So first they studied the biology of the eyes, because you need to use your eyes to be attentive, and then they studied some famous person (I forget who) who was attentive, and so on. Okay ... but that connection seems so tenuous, why even bother? Why not just study eyes?

Anyway, we are moving more and more into unit studies ourselves, thanks to Ami and the other folks at HSS. And the more I get into it, the more I really really like it.

The two things that make it really great is that:

1) There is so much to choose from. You can never do all the units listed there, even if you have several children. There is a ton of variety and flexibility. Oh, and I should mention that there are many many lapbooks, if you're into that. (We are, but we're taking a brief break from them at the moment.)

2) All the work is done for you. For example, a couple weeks ago we finished this unit on chocolate. We made bar graphs of M&Ms, watched an on-line tour of a chocolate factory, drew pictures of cacoa trees, colored maps of where cacoa trees grow, read about the rainforest, etc.

Did I come up with all this stuff myself? Heck, no!! It was all right there. Some of it I modified very slightly. Much of it I left out, because there was more than enough.

Then we started doing "book units." If any of you are familiar with a curriculum called Five in a Row, it's based on that concept: You read a picture book once every day for a week, then have a different lesson afterwards. The original FIAR idea (although I'm sure some people modify it) is, LA one day, math the next day, etc.

For example, we did HSS's week-long unit about the book Popcorn at the Palace. After reading it on Monday, we made a story disc and put it on our wall map on Illinois, where the main character lived. We talked about pioneers and the state of Illinois.

Another day we read the story, then talked about how their trip took "three weeks." How many days is that? We made a chart of seven times tables and used a hundred chart to figure it out. (Yes, I do realize that is still a bit contrived, but it seems to work.)

One thing I like about this idea, which I discovered by reading an article by Jane Claire Lambert, the author of FIAR, is that every day, just reading the book again is a review of the previous day's "lesson."

For example, the second day while we read Popcorn at the Palace, my girls might have been thinking, "Oh yeah, Illinois. I remember where that was on the map. It's sometimes called the Corn State, or Prarie State." (Of course, it's just as possible that they were thinking about their favorite Hannah Montana episode, or what piece of Halloween candy they would like to eat later that day, but you get the point.)

For someone like me, who has always loved BooksBooksBooksBooksBooks, it's a very nice fit. The idea is that kids will really enjoy the books you do a unit on, because you read them so often and explore so many details about them. I hope that proves to be true. We have always read tons, but before we just read Whatever, and we read it and that was it. And that was fun too. But I like the idea of doing something with some of the things we read, and hopefully making it more memorable.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Another story about looking old

Nicole (who is so funny and clever she should start her own blog) wrote a funny comment here that made me think of something else:

A couple months ago I was getting my hair done. Now my hairdresser graduated from high school the same year my husband did, so that makes him about 42 years old.

I am 39 years old.

As I was sitting in the chair getting my hair done, another hair dresser who works there walked up and said to my guy, "Oh, how fun! You're doing your mom's hair for her!"

Now, really ...

Many of you know I have some Darned Good Reasons for feeling horrible about how I look recently, and I surely did not need that.

My hairdresser assured me that his mother was another fair-skinned redhead, and that the other person just wasn't looking at me closely.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Who is homeschooling -- Or -- Do I look old enough to be a grandmother?

Several months ago I was in Barnes and Noble with Rachael and ended up buying a book for her; I can't even remember what. I very rarely buy things at bookstores anymore because I either use Amazon or the library.

At the register I said suddenly, "Oh! My daughter homeschools. Is there some sort of discount or something we get?"

The woman gave the discount, and then started explaining that my daughter needed to come in some time and fill out an Educator Card or something. She added, "You could use it too, if you continue to buy books for your granddaughter."

Now, I was 38 at the time, and I certainly hope -- although lately I am not sure -- that I don't look old enough to have a school-age grandchild.

When I told my own mother this story, she said, "Well, you said it wrong. You're the adult. You're the one who homeschools, not Rachael."

I never like it, though, when I hear women say, "I homeschool my children" or even things like "I taught my children how to read."

Yes, you're probably thinking this is very strange of me to be splitting hairs like this, and that I should get up and go do something useful, and that with posts like these I'll certainly never be nominated for any blog awards ..... but to me there is something arrogant-sounding about saying it that way.

I don't "homeschool Rachael." It's not something I do to her. She is the one who homeschools. She is the one who is learning. She is the one who is homeschooling as opposed to attending school.

Yes, I know: Shut up and go get a life. I think I'll go eat a cookie now.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Halloween pictures, finally

Hm, maybe the reason I'm not getting nominated for any Blog Awards is because it takes me two weeks to get our Halloween pictures posted. Ya think?

Anyway, here's my three Beans. Rebecca is a Barbie Princess, Rachael is Hannah Montana, and Benjamin is Tigger. I don't think he has the slightest idea who Tigger is. It was Rebecca's costume three years ago.

Every year we have a Very Cool Tradition of getting together at a neighbor's house around the corner, having pizza, and then going trick-or-treating together. One of the things I like about it is that we rarely see many of the neighbors, so it's nice to always count on at least this one time every year when we know we will see everybody.

Rachael took this picture of the adults who wore costumes. That's me in the Dorothy outfit. Rebecca let me borrow Woofie!
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Me and Woofie

Rebecca wanted to take a picture of me and Woofie, and here it is.

I need to change my profile picture one of these days. I love that picture, but it is, um, quite old, and I need something more recent. I don't think this one is quite good enough, although as some of you know, I look a less disgusting these days then I was for quite a while.

I'll keep working on it. I'm sure Rebecca would love to take more pictures of me.
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The Myth of "Me Time"?

I was reading on a homeschool forum a discussion about an article from a magazine called The Old Schoolhouse called "The Me-Time Myth."

I don't get that magazine and haven't read the article, but I've always thought the concept of "Me Time" is interesting. I've heard at least one female speaker say that it was a selfish concept. Most people seem to think it's necessary. But how much? What is too much? At what point, if ever, does it become selfish? Is a weekend away from young children too much? How about a week? Is there something wrong with a woman who wants lots of Me Time?

I've never heard anyone else address this, but to me the whole fact that it's called "Me Time" is perhaps central to these types of questions.

I mean, think about it. If my husband wants to go in the basement and watch Star Trek, or go out with a guy friend, or even run an errand alone, he doesn't announce, "I need some Me Time! I haven't had enough Me Time lately! I deserve some Me Time!"

No. He just says, "I'm going to go watch Star Trek," or maybe, "Is it a problem if I go out with Mike tomorrow evening?"

I know, you could argue it's different for a man. But is it? He works at least 40 hours a week, sometimes much more than that, plus another few hours in transportation time. He sometimes picks up something at the store on the way home. So he could just as easily announce, when he gets home, that he's "ready for Me time now!" But not only does he never say that, but it would sound absurd if he did.

Anyway, I guess my point is that maybe it's better for we women to think more like men in that area. Maybe it would better for our own mind-set, and even for those around us, if we just said, "You know, I'd really like to go to the scrapbooking get-together this Saturday," and then made plans to have it happen, instead of demanding and whining about "Me Time" and how much we need or get, or should get.

Maybe it would be smarter to say, even just to ourselves, "I need to be alone and quiet for a little while" instead of saying, "I need some Me Time!"

I don't know. It seemed like an interesting thought to me.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Camera-Woman Rebecca

Rebecca took off with my camera (with my permission) and I found these photos in it a few days later.
I thought they were pretty good, especially for a five year old:

This is Julie, Rachael's American Girl doll.

And this is Mia, Rebecca's American Girl doll.

This is a pumpkin that a neighbor gave Benjamin for Halloween.

This is Rebecca's best friend, Woofie.
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Waaah, I'm such a nobody!!

I just found out that the Homeschool Blog Award Nominees have been announced here.

Now, I didn't even remotely think I would be nominated.

But somehow seeing that these many many women bloggers have a following enough to be nominated for an award ... well, it was discouraging.

You see, ever since I was nine, I was sure I going to write a book. Well, I'm not dead yet, I guess it still might happen. But to think I'm not even in the running for having a well-liked blog ... well, come on! Get your freaking act together, Jennifer!

I wonder how much is marketing and how much is content? What I mean, do the nominees have a following simply because they are so good, or is it mainly because they've somehow gotten the word out?

Either way, I've got some improving to do around here. I'm sure posting more than three times a month would be a good start ....

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Cleaning out the fridge with The Smiths

I just completely cleaned out our fridge again.

I must really live a sad and dull life, because I always really enjoy doing that. My guess is that it doesn't take too terribly long and actually has a productive and finished quality, whereas picking up the living room and doing the laundry does not.

I have no idea why, but for some reason the whole time I was working, I was singing a song by The Smiths ... yeah, hey, anyone else remember them? It was some song off The Queen is Dead, I think:

And if a ten-ton truck kills the both of us,
To die by your side is such a heavenly way to die ...

Come to think of it, a few days ago (and I also have no idea why) I was singing something from Louder Than Bombs:

Don't blame the sweet and tender hooligan, hooligan,
Because he'll never never never never never never do it again,
Oh, not until the next time!

Oh yeah, you gotta love those Smiths lyrics ...

And a clean fridge.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Successful Meal #5

Wow, this was a really good one! And it was actually a real dinner, and not a breakfast meal. :)

My MIL gave me a terrific cookbook several years ago called
America's Best-Loved Community Recipes

For those of you who have been reading about my "successful meals," that's where I got the macaroni and cheese recipe. It's also where I got the recipe for my "famous noodle kugel," which I always bring to potlucks.

One thing that makes the cookbook fantastic is that it has a full-page photo for every recipe.

Anyway, tonight I made Dixie Baked Chicken and Yams. Basically, here's the recipe:

1) Peel and slice sweet potatoes and put in bottom of baking dish. Pour melted butter over them.

2) Dip pieces of bone-in chicken in an egg and water mixture, then in a plate of breadcrumbs. Lay chicken pieces over sweet potatoes slices, then pour more melted butter over it. Bake at 350 for an hour.


Yum yum yum.

And what's better, everybody seemed to like it, even my somewhat anti-chicken husband (who doesn't usually eat with us during the week, but did tonight).

Monday, October 27, 2008

My rant against John Rosemond

I used to like "parenting expert" John Rosemond a lot, before I had children -- HA!!

I still sometimes read his stuff, for a few reasons:

1) I think he's a good writer and speaker;

2) It keeps me on my toes;

3) I do agree with him, at least partiall, about some things

I was checking into his website the other day and saw this column, which basically states that the number one problem facing today's families is that parents are too involved with their kids.

Yes, you read that write. I almost couldn't type it without laughing. Is he serious??

Here's an excerpt:

Symptomatic of this ubiquitous state of bad mental health is mother-to-mother conversation, which will almost invariably be all about their children: what they’re doing for their children, their children’s latest magnificent accomplishments, and so on. That today’s mothers cannot seem to think of anything else to talk about is rather, well, sad. My mother once told me that when mothers got together in the 1950s, they talked about everything but their children. “We talked about interesting things,” was the way she put it.

I have a few thoughts about this:

1) If a group of teachers got together and talked about their students, their classroom activities, and so on, would that also be "sad" and "not interesting"? What about a group of college professors discussing their job and their students?

2) Rosemond always talks about how women in the 50's, and earlier, always did this, or that. Really? How could he possibly know what "most women" did over fifty years ago? How could that possibly be the same for almost everybody? Anyone have clues about this one, based on conversations with your grandmothers or something? Is this really accurate?

3) Why in the world would you bother to have children if you don't want to be involved with them or spend time with them? Oh wait .... maybe these wonderful women from the 50's didn't choose to have children.

4) Is it really "sad" that I find my children and my life with my children interesting? I would think it's sad if you didn't! We have interesting conversations. They have interesting observations. We read interesting books, watch interesting TV shows, play and sing and listen to interesting music together, go to interesting plays together, hang out with other interesting people, do interesting projects, and go to interesting places together.

The more I think about it, the more this is a perfect example of the totally condescending, "What you do doesn't matter because you only stay home with kids. We, on the other hand, are intelligent and interesting people."

I guess a lot of people questioned this article, because he has a follow-up to it here.

Yes, you read my audacity correctly: I am the contrarian of parent involvement. I think it’s bad for parents, bad for children, bad for families (obviously), and for all those reasons, bad for America.

Wow. Don't even know what to say to that.

Parenting is a form of leadership. In order for a leader, in any context, to be effective, he or she must command (as opposed to demand) the respect of the people being led. This requires a boundary between the leader and the led, the permeability of which is controlled by the former. “Get involved with your children” puts relationship before leadership, the cart before the horse.

This made me think of Jesus, the Ultimate and Perfect Leader. Did he get involved with his disciples? Didn't he spend plenty of time with them on a regular basis?? Please do chime in on this if you can, because I really would like to learn something here and not just be critical.

... the child’s primary challenge was to keep his parents from getting involved.

Bwaa-ha-haa!! Well, maybe if he liked his parents more, he wouldn't desperately want them to stay the hell away from him! Give me a break!! I'm supposed to feel like a terrible parent because my kids like my company?

[I should point out here than you can never win a "Rosemond" argument, because he always says that if this ideas sound crazy, or cruel, it's just proof of how upside-down our society and current culture is. Okay.]

It's interesting that I know from other writings that Rosemond thinks that having an at-home parent -- as well as homeschooling -- are good things.

He said in one book that "a mother should be home for her children, in case they need her, but not be home with her children."

Uh-huh. In other words, she should quit her job and hang around at home all the time, just in case her kid breaks a bone or something, I guess, but stay away from all her kids. Just be home doing "interesting" things (whatever they would be) in another room while her kids basically fend for themselves -- because, apparently, they don't want to be around her either!

And how in the hell does that work with homeschooling? Yes, homeschooling is good, but you shouldn't actually be around your children, or involved in what they're doing, or talking about it with other parents?? Huh? What, is his idea of homeschooling to stick the kids in another room with "assignments" and then go in another room and do your own [interesting] thing?

I guess so.

It bothers me that this bothers me. It makes me feel like he must have hit a nerve. But, really, I find it very insulting. I am an intelligent, well-educated, yes, interesting person (even though I kid that I'm not), and the fact that I spend time with my children and do things with them, and know them well, does not make me less so.

Successful Meal #4

On the weekends, the five of us usually do eat together, thankfully. And this is one of the few meals that all five of us truly like.

It's Trader Joe's frozen Mandarin Orange Chicken. And rice, cooked separately. And broccoli, if we have it in the house, which we did not this weekend.

Successful Meal #3

Hmm, this meal is suspiciously similar to Successful Meal #1.

But it is different.

I had read on a homeschool forum about how Coco Wheats was a really good hot breakfast that their kids loved. I couldn't find it at the store, so I took a chance and ordered a case off the website!

Everyone seems to like it. Rachael, our Oatmeal Girl, seems to like it the best, but she said she would like me to put less sugar in it.

So anyway, here's our meal. We probably don't need every single component every time:

1) Bowl of Coco Wheats
2) Morning Star "fake bacon"
3) Bagels and cream cheese (mostly to satisfy Rebecca)
4) Cheddar cheese omelets

Hm, I just noticed there are no fruits and vegetables in this one. Eh, we can have it with orange juice.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

We got a note sent home from Rebecca's teacher

The girls played school for a few hours the other day. Rachael is always the teacher and she writes a daily schedule and everything.

Later Rachael brought me a sealed envelope that said "to Rebecca's parins"

Inside a letter said:

Rebecca brok a rool at nap time. first genuvev asct hr a qeshchin. the rool is don't tok at nap time. then Rebecca tokt bake.

That darn Rebecca! :)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Successful Meal #2

This one won't win any awards in the Healthy Department, but it worked.

I remember reading years ago that the secret to not stressing out over planning a meal is to remember that, really, you just need two things. For example, spaghetti and a salad.

(Unfortunately, none of my kids like spaghetti or salad.)

Anyway, in that spirit, we had:

1) Aunt Ella's macaroni and cheese.

No, it's not a frozen meal; it's the name of the recipe. It is goood. I think what makes it extra good and a little unique is that it has onions, nutmeg, an egg, and dry mustard in it. I think next time I will put in some extra noodles, to stretch it out and make it a little less rich.

2) Canned peas.

I'm not crazy about peas myself, but usually two out of three kids will enjoy them. I think I'm going to start getting frozen peas instead, though. Is frozen supposed to be better than canned? Anyone? Anyone?

[Note: The next day I served the leftover macaroni and cheese and found a can of chickpeas in the pantry. I heated them up and served them on the side. Rachael and Benjamin loved them, and Rebecca ate a few as well, so I definitely have to remember to keep some of them on hand.

Of course, knowing my kids, I'll buy several cans, and then everybody will decide they don't like them anymore.]

Monday, October 20, 2008

New trucks and cool

The above assortment (not including the child) cost $5.

The truck on the left was free at Home Depot craft day.

The other three were purchased at a garage sale for a total of $5,
batteries not included. The "cool" actually will lift stuff up by the shovel and dump it into the truck.

Benjamin needs to be tucked into bed with all of them.
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Pony rides and trains

We visited Robert's family in North Carolina this weekend.

There was some sort of fair in town, and as you can see they had trains.

They also had pony rides:

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Anniversary Pic

Can it be a true anniversary picture if only one person is in it?

Our fourteenth anniversay was this week. We went to North Carolina to visit Robert's family this weekend. They baby-sat and we went to a fancy restaurant in Sylva. We had chocolate martinis and filet mignon while listening to live music -- woo-hoo!

Anyway, here's a picture of me in front of the restaurant.
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Thanks, Julie!

You might have noticed I hadn't blogged very much for the past couple months. Then recently I got an e-mail from my buddy Julie, which said (among other things):

Keep on blogging.
Your writing is always refreshing and insightful. I still think you
to submit your writing to mags. Get a little paying gig on the side.

Well how nice! :)

Actually, years ago I did get paid for my writing several times, and hopefully will again someday. The problem, though, is that researching the market takes more time and energy than the actual writing, and at the moment I'm not up to doing that.

But, Julie has inspired me to catch up and write some stuff here!

Thanks for the encouragement!

Lego Creation

Fortunately I have a husband who will see something like this and take the picture.

If you can't tell, it says "Rachael," with a penguin next to it.

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Successful Meal #1

Okay, tonight's dinner was pretty good. Easy, healthy, and fairly well-appreciated, although Rachael, that crazy kid, refuses to eat the chocolate-chip pancakes.

Here it is:

1) Cocoa Chocolate-Chip Pancakes from The Sneaky Chef.

This is much healthier than it sounds. It's sweetened with honey instead of sugar or (God forbid!) corn syrup, and has wheat germ, whole wheat flour, and baby food jars of apple/blueberry combo. It's real good, too! (unless your name is Rachael) The two younger kids will eat it cold like a brownie for a snack too.

2) Morningside Farms "fake bacon."

I think it's soy bacon or something. I actually like it more than real bacon because it's not so greasy. Benjamin calls it "ca-cogs" (hot dogs).

3) Raspberries.

All the kids devour raspberries. Of course their favorite fruit has to be the one that costs a fortune.

Benjamin's Carz

Here are some cute pictures Robert took of Benjamin and his "Carz!"

I'm pretty sure Robert built this car from a model kit he bought at HobbyTown.

Benjamin just loves cars, trucks, and "cool" (construction equipment).
Are all little boys like this? It's so funny, especially after having two girls.

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Getting a handle on this meal thing

Okay, I'm determined to do better with handling meals around here. I don't know about you -- maybe there's just something wrong with me -- but between trying to find something that's fairly healthy, fairly quick and easy, and that at least some of the five of us will like, feeding everybody always seems like quite a challenge.

Breakfast is easy. Rachael eats oatmeal with wheat germ, every day, forever and ever, amen. Rebecca has a waffle, or possibly pancakes or a bagel and cream cheese. Benjamin has one or more of the things the girls are having.

But it seems like every day at lunchtime and dinnertime I stand around saying, "Hmm, now what are we going to eat ...?"

And then I think, "Um, haven't we eaten before? What do we normally do at mealtime?"

And the answer, of course, is: Stand around saying, "Hmm, now what are we going to eat ...?"

I should point out that my husband doesn't eat dinner with us, so that makes it more tricky, somehow. Of course, maybe if he did eat with us, it would be even harder, because I'd have one more person and their opinion to worry about.

So ...

Whenever we eat a meal that seems like a success, in some sense of the word, I'm going to post it here, for a few reasons:

1) So that I can remember it;
2) Because someone else may want to try it;
3) To prove that I'm not a totally horrible mother and we do have a decent meal around here every once and a while

Recent Read-Alouds

I've always kinda said that the reason I had kids was so that I'd have an excuse to play with their toys, watch their TV shows, and read their books.

Lately I've been reading more chapter books to the girls (who are ages five and seven).

You already know we read Ramona the Pest a month or two ago. Since then, we've read:

The Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series (except for Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's Farm, which we quit halfway through. It had a different illustrator and a completely different feel, and we all thought it was pretty boring.)

Mr. Popper Penguins (which I had never read before)

Charlotte's Web (which we just started yesterday. Of course we will have to watch the movie which means that of course I will cry.)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Ramona the Pest

We recently finished reading Ramona the Pest, which was particularly fun because my mother read it to me when I was young. Plus, it's a good book.

One thing struck me as particularly interesting. In the last chapter, the mother has to go somewhere with Ramona's older sister in the morning. She leaves Ramona in the house alone and tells her, "At quarter past eight, you need to leave for school." But Ramona gets confused about what "quarter past" means and ends up being late for school.

Can you imagine?

In the first place, where we live it would take at least a full half hour to walk to the local elementary school, and you would have to walk down a high-traffic street (although it does have a sidewalk.) I can't imagine a five year old taking a walk like that all alone.

In the second place, today you'd be probably be arrested if people found out you left your five year old home alone, even briefly.

The meaning of "Cool" at our house

Two year old Benjamin (formerly known as "Baby Ben") loves any kind of construction vehicles -- tractors, bulldozers, etc.

He calls them "cool." I don't mean that he thinks they are cool. I mean, he thinks they are called "Cool." Cool, in this case, is a noun.

What's funny is that now our family calls them "Cool." We went to the library and Rebecca got a video about fire trucks and said, "Look, Mom, I got cool for Ben!"

Or when we drive past construction, one of us will say, "Look, Ben, there's a Cool!"

He'll hand me the TV remote and say, "Cool!" when he wants to watch the video "There Goes a Bulldozer."

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Rachael won a writing contest!

I'm so excited!

Rachael won an essay contest at Trader Joe's (a sort of organic/healthy grocery store) called "Why I Love Trader Joe.'s."

They called yesterday to tell us. She won a five dollar gift certificate, a pack of cookies, a juice box, and a tote bag.

I won my first writing contest when I was thirteen, so it brought back a lot of memories.

Unfortunately (and stupidly) I did not copy the essay before I sent it in, so I can't print it here, but if you're local, you can go to the TJ's on Johnson Ferry Road and see it yourself. :)

Monday, September 8, 2008

Playing with dolls

I'm always particularly touched when I see the girls playing with dolls or stuffed animals.

It's probably because I like the assurance that they actually get played with occassionally, instead of just sitting in a heap all over the shelves and floor!

A little while ago they were out back, playing Duck Duck Goose with a stuffed duck and their American Girl dolls. Now they're inside dressed up in Princess costumes and playing with their Barbies (just two, a "Giselle" and a "Sleeping Beauty."

Some day people won't be running around here dressed like Princesses and playing with dolls...

Friday, September 5, 2008

Comparing homeschooling with school

There was a thread on a Yahoo group where a parent was wondering if their kids were "missing out" by not being in school. I thought this response was interesting, and I hope I'm not breaking any laws by copying it here.

This woman had several kids who had been in public school and a "top-notch" private school after being homeschooled.

My middle child started private school as a 4th grader. Her life long
dream has been to be a teacher and somewhere through the years
homeschooling she had decided that it was inferior. One day she came
home from school and announced that homeschool had been a good thing
after all and that she wasn't behind and hadn't missed anything like
maybe she thought. I had known that was the case but glad to hear it
from her.

My second observation is that on the standardized tests the kids were
required to take each year at the private school my kids scored the
hightest the first year they were there. Their scores dropped steadily
each year.

I too thought my kids would benefit from professional teachers and
professional lesson plans. I definitely noticed that they lacked from
the one on one attention. If they didn't get a concept, too bad, class
moved on. If a concept was too easy, too bad they had to wait and
basically not learn anything until the curric. moved on.

This time we have only been homeschooling 2 weeks, but the girls are
much older. The other day my 2 oldest got into a conversation about
why the homeschool classes go so much faster. They started listing the
classes they had last year and how much time was actually spent on the
lessons. They both agreed that the longest any class was taught was
only 20 to 30 minutes, some classes maybe 10 minutes. This was on a
good day, with no interruptions etc. If you translate that into a
homeschool situation 6 high school subjects could be finished in about
3 hours. An elementary child much faster. They reported that the class
time was spent taking roll, settling everyone down, chasing rabbit
trails (off topic), grading homework etc. (I remember lots of teachers
grading homework in class. It was never your own paper, so you never
learned anything from it. According to my kids this practice is alive
and well.)

Finally the big S -- socialization. My kids had far fewer friends and
social opprotunities at the private school. They were well liked
there, there just weren't opportunities to meet more people. My
youngest who started Kindergarten at the private school is the one who
is least likely to want to be around a new group of people. I told her
she HAD to go to the homeschool co op that starts next week. My oldest
has always been a very quiet kid, she never has a lot to say. She
loves to meet new people and join new activities. She might not talk
much when she gets there, but she is confident, enjoys herself and has
a close circle of friends.

One last side note, since we have been homeschooling again, our family
is much less stressed and the girls are getting along much better.

What I've been up

Nothing riveting, that's for sure!

My friend Mary said that she liked reading my blog, because it was sort of like reading People magazine, but about someone she knew. That inspires me to write a little something even though my life is so boring.

I've been watching All in the Family reruns lately and enjoying them very much. I've also been working my way through the last season of Friends, and have about three episodes to go.

Interestingly, I don't watch anything current on TV. I barely even know what's on, and getting two channels doesn't really help. Oh wait, I did see The Office a couple weeks ago, but that was rare.

I've been doing a lot of math and reading games with the girls, mostly from Peggy Kaye's books.

We just finished another lapbook unit, about zoo animals. We also did one on ice cream. (I'm too lazy to take pictures. Maybe someday.)

We all went to Bruster's a couple weekends ago and ate ice cream while the girls showed their lapbooks to their dad, so that was fun. Rebecca says that every time we do another lapbook, we should go to Bruster's, but I don't think we can afford that! Interestingly, the girls declined an offer to go to the zoo.

Tonight is "Wingo Bingo" (chicken wings and BINGO fundraiser) at our church, so I'm looking forward to that. I don't get out much, can you tell? One of my best friends, Ali, will be there, and it's always a treat to go to something where I know I'll get to see her.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Arrgh ... neglecting my blog!

Ugh, I haven't posted in a month and have probably lost at least half of my ten regular readers.

It's one of those things where, the more time passes, the more I feel like I have to come with a really good post, and that never happens, then more time passes ...

We went back to Vogel State Park a couple weekends ago. I think it will turn into a yearly trip.

I did the pool calculations, and it came out to $14/visit, which I'm pretty happy with.

Well, this is a pretty lame post, but it's better than nothing, so I guess I'll go ahead and post it ... and then I'll try to come up with something brilliant ...

Thursday, August 7, 2008

No matter how hard I try ...

This morning we went to a "Homeschooling Open House" at the home of someone who was gracious enough to invite people over and show them how their HomeSchool works, and then have us stay and swim in the pool.

I tried to be good. I printed the directions the night before, did my usual "morning routine," wrote down my plan to make cookie dough in the morning before we left so that it could chill (which did not happen). But by the time I got myself and everybody ready, packed a lunch, and got all the swimgear together, we were just barely on time. To be fair, I should also throw in that I snapped at the girls for Something Stupid.

We were on the road for five or ten minutes (unfortunately, it was about a half hour away) when I suddenly realized that when I grabbed all the bathing suits, I forgot mine. So I had to turn around, and was furious at myself for screwing up and making us all late.

When we got there, I explained what happened, and then said, "It seems like no matter how hard I try, no matter what I do, I just cannot get everything to work right."

It struck me as a somewhat poignant statement.

I imagine it's something a lot of females feel. We strive, strive, strive. Try, try, try. A different schedule. Planning our menus. Laying out clothes the night before. And does it ever feel like we're successful? Does it ever feel like it's enough? Do we ever feel like we've accomplished anything?

I don't know what the answer is. Maybe it's not even a "problem" so much as just a fact. Or maybe nobody else feels the same way.

Mm, well there's an essay with no ending for you. Hey -- something else that I didn't accomplish!

What a drag ...

Robert's been working late almost every night for the past two weeks.

When I say late, I mean he's been coming home between around 11:00 pm and 2:00 am.

He's had about enough of it, and so have I.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

My beautiful Becca

Rebecca got some special "Daddy Time" last weekend. The two of them went up to North Carolina to visit Robert's parents (his mother had fractures in both legs!)

She had a good time picking blackberries. Here's a couple pictures Robert took.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Heaven help us, we're lapbooking ...

I kind of can't believe we're making lapbooks. It seems like such a stereotypical homeschooling thing to do. What's next, am I going to start wearing denim jumpers and baking my own bread?

Anyway, I discovered www.homeschoolshare.com and printed off the templates for the Phonics Chart Lapbook, which Rachael is holding below. She also did an addition lapbook from the same website. She really likes it. I was actually surprised how much she likes it, because when I first heard the idea, I thought it seemed awfully ... canned.

If you're not familiar with lapbook, I'll explain this a bit: Every "minit book" deals with a different consonant blend. For instance, the airplane has several "PL" words and is folded up accordian style. Each "BL" block has a different "BL" word written inside. For the Stop sign book, you cut and paste different endings to a "ST" on each page to make different words.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Bathing Beauties

We joined a pool for the first time this summer!

Being the strange person I am, I am keeping a mental tab of how many times we go to see if we're getting our money's worth. So far we've been ten times, so it's cost us thirty-six dollars per visit. Hm, I guess we need to go more!

Rachael loves the pool more than anybody.

Some of you may remember that, from babyhood until she was four and a half, she would scream hysterically and without stopping if she even saw a pool. Then it just disappeared on its own, as if it had never happened.

There's a lesson there somewhere, I think.

Here's Rebecca!

They wanted these bathing caps, but stopped wearing them after about five minutes. Too bad, because they sure looked cute in them!

I will not be posting any pictures of myself in a bathing suit.
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