My how time flies!

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Tuesday, January 01, 2013


Well, here I am almost a year later.  Too busy to keep up with even the cooking and dishes most days, and yet thinking I should really try to post something every day.  Something positive.  Or inspiring.  Something worth remembering.  Even if only for me.

So here goes.  Day 1 of a new year...

It is such a privilege to watch these kids grow into who they will turn out to be.  Tonight I was especially struck by the little bit of one-on-one time I got to spend with my middle as he was falling asleep.  This kid may be even more of a social butterfly than his mama.  He loves snuggling and talking at night as he drifts off.  He has such deep questions for an almost-4-year-old.  I have very fond memories of doing the same thing myself as a kid, with my MawMaw, on the frequent occasions when I would sleep over at her house.  I hope when he grows up and has kids of his own, he will have similar fond memories of us doing this.

Friday, March 16, 2012

I finally feel like a semi-successful homeschooling mom.

I posted on Facebook the other day:

"Been at it for what, like 4 years now? ...and I'm finally starting to get the hang of this homeschool teacher role."

A friend asked me to share some advice, and I since I have lots of thoughts on the topic, I decided this might be a better venue for those thoughts than a FB comment.

So, here goes. Over the last 4 years, here's what I've learned about how I* can be successful in homeschooling my kids:

  • Let go of the idea of homeschooling in a spotless house.  I didn't even realize this was an expectation of mine.  In fact, since I've NEVER had a spotless house (except for that one week when the housekeeper came while we were on vacation), in retrospect it seems absurd that it was even in the back of my mind.  But it was.  I can't tell you how many hours/mornings/days of our lives I wasted with me being less than loving to the kids while they slowly and distractedly cleaned up, needing to be brought back to task at least every 4.3 seconds.  Once I realized this mental hangup, I made the conscious (tough!) decision that after morning routine we were going to start school no matter how much of a disaster the school room was.  Somehow, just getting the ball rolling, and breaking up cleaning with schoolwork, we have learned how to do both, in less time than it used to take us to just clean up.
  • Let go of pre-concieved notions of a successful day.  I used to think that we were only successful if we got through Faith, Math, Reading, Writing, Science, Social Studies, Art, Foreign Language, read-aloud time, read-to-yourself time, play time, meals on time, nap time, etc. every day.  Even though I don't think we had more than 1 or 2 days where we ever even got to all this (and it was after dinner by the time we got through it all!), it took me a long time to realize how unrealistic this goal was.  Once I finally thought to ask myself "How would I advise another mom with young school aged kids on how to consider it a successful day?" I was able to let all that go.  My school-aged kids are in K & 1st this year.  KISS!  (Keep it simple, Smartie!)  If we make it through the 3 Rs, some Bible/prayer time, and read at least 1 book/kid, it is a good school day!  Anything else we get to (and we usually do get to lots of other things - but not that whole list above!) is icing on the cake.
  • Start each class day with Bible time.  About the same time as I embraced KISS, I asked myself, if we could only do one subject today, what would it be?  For me, that is Faith.  So I decided every day would start with Bible.  We like to switch up the order of subjects from day to day.  (I usually let the helper of the day pick what subject comes next.)  But now, everyone knows, when we start school, Bible is first.  That way, if we get interrupted or change our plans for any reason, the most important thing always gets done.  (An unexpected but very welcome side effect from implementing this plan, is that our days go so much more smoothly now.  The kids argue less and listen more. Thank you, God!)
  • Have a thorough plan for the day, but let it be my tool and not my master.  By nature I am one of those spontaneous, go-with-the-flow type of people who usually runs screaming at the mere mention of anything resembling a schedule.  However, in all of my mommy research, and a little bit of trial and error (mostly error), I have discovered that raising and teaching kids goes much more smoothly if things are predictable.  Even knowing this, I found it difficult to implement a schedule, because I had very little experience with a successful one.  It wasn't until I read Managers of Their Homes (MOTH) that I finally figured out the 3 key things that were keeping me from being successful at scheduling:

    1) The schedule is a tool I can use to help me achieve the kind of day that I want, not a slave driver I need to run away screaming from.  I started mentally calling it our "Success Plan for the Day."  Wow!  Just that change in perspective helped me embrace it.  (A lot like Dave Ramsey's book helped me think of a budget as a financial success plan instead of the other tyrant I'd always assumed it was.)

    2) Start with what is already working, not what is "ideal."  Once I plugged in things that were already working in our day (cooking, meal, and snack times, Bible and Math, nap for the little one, bed & wake times), I found that our day was already half full.

    3) Add in what is the most "broken."  There were things in my day that I desperately wanted to get to that I never seemed to.  Time to open and deal with the mail several times a week, instead of frantically dealing with a 3' pile once a quarter.  Time to read to the kids for fun, instead of just reading school assignments.  Time to load the dishwasher at night so I didn't start my day facing a mountain of dirty dishes.  Once I plugged these types of things into our schedule, there was MAYBE half an hour left in each day.  And then I still had at least a dozen more "ideal" things I had previously started building my schedule with, that I had nowhere to fit.  No wonder my schedules were always stressing me out so much!  (KISS!)
  • Plan for interruptions.  Along with the above, I had to remember to put lots of padding into my plan, because there is always something trying to thwart it.  A diaper or pullup that needs to be changed, a baby (or mom!) that needs a nap earlier than expected, a sick kid (or mom!), a phone call from a friend in need, a mess the toddler snuck into while the school kids and I were engrossed in some fascinating schoolwork, various household emergencies... If there wasn't pad time in my schedule, I would get off track before I even got started most days, become discouraged, and give up entirely.
  • Strengthen my weaknesses. There are several (lots) of things about raising and teaching kids that I have trouble with.  Luckily, I'm not the only one, and there are lots of great tools out there to help me overcome my troubles.  Like the MOTH book, which helped me with scheduling.  And timers and electronic reminders, to keep me on task, or help me remember not to burn lunch while we are finishing up Math.  When I was having trouble being organized enough to remember, find, and incorporate our fun but forgotten activities into preschool, Sue Patrick's Workbox System was a life saver for me.  I think my biggest helper by far, though, is the awesome Homeschool Tracker Plus software. It takes attendance for me (as long as I put in an assignment for the day).  It helps me keep track of what we did each day.  If I want it to, it helps me plan out days, weeks, or months in advance what we are going to be doing.  It helps me keep track of all of our homeschooling resources.  It is a pretty powerful piece of (Windows) software, designed by a homeschooling family, for homeschoolers.  They have also recently come out with an online version that can be accessed via smartphone or MAC.  (But I love the computer-based one so much, I can't imagine ever wanting to switch!)
  • Go with the flow.  To me this was the most appealing thing about homeschooling from the get-go.  (Did I mention I balk at routine?)  About a week ago, when we had our first great-weather afternoon, I let the kids out for recess and purposely forgot to call them back in.  The poor public-school kids get snow days, but we homeschooling families get to take sunshine days!  Some days, attention spans are low.  Those are good days to put away the boxed curriculum and pull out the art supplies, building blocks, etc.  If we get behind, I can extend the school year.  Or finish up next year.  If we get ahead, woo-hoo.  If my Kindergartener hates Hooked on Phonics and getting her to work through one page is worse than pulling teeth, I can put it away until next year.  If mid-year she starts asking to do it again, I can pull it back out and marvel at her plowing through 5-6 pages at a time, and quickly catching up to where she would have been, if we had continued to fight over the one page per day earlier in the year.  In the end, when it's time for them to graduate, if my kids know all they need to know, I have done my job.  Does it really matter if they learned to write in K or 2nd grade, or learned to multiply in 2nd or 5th?  Nope!**   
So, those are some of the gems I've been able to polish over the last few years.  What are some of your gems?

** Unless you live in one of those unfortunate states who makes you test every year, and watches the results closely.  Then it would matter.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Gratitude Journal 3/27/11

Today I am thankful for:

1) My neti pot
2) Quick recovery from the cold that knocked me out yesterday
3) That my big boy is such a fabulous helper. Even when he doesn't want to be. Even when the other kids are running around like little monkeys instead of helping.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

March Artwork

by Benny
Yellow Giraffe
by Benny
Katie's Beauty 2
by Katie
Ice Cream Good
by Sammy
4 Cannon
by Sammy
Katie's Beauty
by Katie

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Gratitude Journal, Day 23

Today I am thankful for:

1) A kind referral to an awesome midwife (Thanks, Cathy!)
2) Outback Steakhouse. For some reason I was craving their steak, and it and the Caesar salad made the BEST meal I've had in months! And for the friend who came over and watched my kids so I could duck out and pick up dinner for all of us.
3) That my hubby made it safely back to his regular work location, after being stuck at his conference location waiting for a flight. (And my hubby in general. Miss him terribly!)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Gratitude Journal, Day 18

Today I am thankful for:

1) That the big kids wore their new glasses all day long
2) That none of my kids have developed a lazy eye (apparently 2 are in danger of it)
3) That we were able to get out of the house today. I had some serious cabin fever!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Gratitude Journal, Day 17

Today I am thankful for:

1) That my FIL's stent surgery was successful
2) My housekeeper
3) My phone

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Gratitude Journal, Day 16

Today I am thankful for:

1) No more fever in the little guy
2) Half a decent night's sleep, and everyone sleeping in
3) The lasagna I found in the back of the freezer when I was hungry, but too lazy to cook.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Gratitude Journal, Day 15

Today I am thankful for:

1) That my baby is coughing less and is less feverish tonight than he was the rest of the day
2) That my big boy can entertain himself almost all day long if need be
3) That the 2nd desk is out of the office. One step closer to making it into a girl's room.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Gratitude Journal, Day 14

Today I am thankful for:

1) That the sickness this week is only a cold, and nobody is throwing up
2) A clean, organized bathroom
3) That my husband did not get blown up by rockets

Growing weeds!

The kids are getting BIG! 33", 41", & 48" tall, and 25.5 , 35.5, & 47 lbs. Wow!

posted from Bloggeroid

Adventures in Organizing, Part 4

Master bathroom. Once a messy jumble of forgotten toiletries, carpeted with dirty clothes who couldn't find their basket. Today, a retreat haven. (If you can ignore the messy master bedroom in the mirror.)

(this was actually a pretty good day, compared to how it looked before the recent purge)


Hubby's cabinet. Not much stuff in it since he's not currently here. Actually, that's not true. Even when he's here, almost all of his bathroom stuff fits neatly inside his dock kit. Now, this cabinet is housing the bathroom tissues (we always need a tissue box within reach in this house!), space heater (which we use on cold nights), and a box of his bathroom things to go through/purge when he gets home.

My cabinet. Pretty uncluttered before, really, (probably because everything lived on top of the cabinet!) but now virtually empty. Houses extra towels (we pared down to 2 towels per person long ago), kid bath stuff, and my makeup/travel bag.

The drawer. I had it organized, once upon a time, but curious little fingers worked hard to undo that. ;) But it's all fixed, now! (Empty basket for kids' tooth flossers when I find them again.)

One of the big drawbacks of this bathroom is there is no high-up storage. Not really a problem for two kidless people, which we were when we bough this house. Big problem for attachment-parents of a two year old who will help himself to the flavored toothpaste every chance he gets. The cheap solution - hang a suction cup basket up high.

Towels currently being used (typically the same ones over and over) live on hooks. (No change, here.) The kids' towels live in our bathroom because their bathroom is too small for me to get into to bathe them. And our bathtub is big enough to fit all 3 at once.

My personal shower stuff lives in another suction-cup basket at the back of the shower. Since I've switched to natural/homemade toiletries, this basket is a lot less cluttered! Hubby's things live along the window ledge and/or in the built-in cubby at the front of the shower. (Sorry, no photo.)

The "Toilet room." I have a love/hate relationship with this room. I've mentioned before that I have claustrophobic tendencies. So I rarely close the door when I'm in here. But sometimes (like when I'm sick) it is nice to be able to close the door and have a little privacy.

Unlike the closet, I mostly really love my bathroom. My biggest complaint about it is its lack of appropriate storage for feminine hygiene products. (Well that and the brownish-pink accent tiles in the shower.) There is no place for storage in the toilet room, which is where I think they need to be kept. And remembering to grab something from the cabinet under the sink BEFORE I sat down was always difficult for me. The solution I came up with was another pocket organizer (like the one in the coat closet) for the back of the toilet room door. There is also a basket of rarely-used but still-wanted bathroom things (e.g. curling irons, nail polish, hair spray) which used to live under the cabinet or in the hall closet, but will soon live in the high pockets of the same organizer.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Gratitude Journal, Day 13

Hmmm. I realized that somewhere along the way, I lost track of keeping up with this. Drat!

Anyway, today I am thankful for:

1) That God made us all different
2) People who are willing to share their time and talent in order to help me out (today especially Kerry, Mike, & Christine)
3) That we are relatively healthy, and the bugs we have caught this season have all been pretty minor, and nobody has anything chronic.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Adventures in Organizing, Part 3

This closet didn't look too bad before, or so I thought. But it is much neater now, and reorganized to be more kid-unfriendly (for the things like cleaners and medicines which need to be kid-unfriendly, I mean).

Top row: medicines, first-aid, bandages, etc.
2nd row: cleaning supplies & hair trimmer
3rd row: "Bathroom Store" - Extra things for when we run out (toothpaste, tissues, cotton swabs, ...)
4th row: "Baby" row - Basket of baby-care stuff. (Temporarily home to 2 bags of give-aways, but after that stuff is gone, cloth diapers will go on this shelf.)
5th row: Extra linens
Bottom: Extra blankets, and humidifiers when not in use
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Friday, February 04, 2011

Adventures in Organizing, Part 2

I was probably more scared of this organizing job than any other in the house - the master bedroom closet. Especially since, in it's vast overstuffedness, all the extra jackets/coats got relegated up here as well.
Once again, you will notice I forgot to take before pictures. (You will probably notice this theme quite a bit. I'm so gung-ho to get to the final results, I almost never remember the before pictures!) Suffice it to say that this closet was a big, jumbled mess. Also, my clothes were all on the other side of the door, which meant that to get to them, I had to go into the closet and shut the door. I can get pretty claustrophobic pretty quickly, so this was very frustrating for me. (To the tune of I have hated this closet's guts for the last 6 years.) All my non-pregnancy clothes were in a jumble on the floor waiting to be put into a space bag. There was no space for folded clothes. It was just a big, huge, mess. And that was with half the clothes that *should* be in it, being in baskets or the crib or on the bed or on the floor of the bedroom. Which is another beast for another day.
First view inside the closet: Right side - My clothes on the bottom, hopefully seasonally-appropriate clothes for hubby's visit home on the top, my pants and hanging dresses (read dress, because I hate them) on the left. On top of those, some shelves (which I can't reach, but will get a stepstool expressly for the closet/upstairs use) for me to put my folded casual pants/jeans. Extra purses on top of this shelf.

Straight-on view of this same area. Jewelry organizer (funny if you know me), summer pants, and my shoes organizers just to the left of that. Plus the couple of pairs of footwear I own that wouldn't fit in the organizer, on the floor under the hanging clothes.

Inside the closet, you have to shut the door to access the rest of it. Hubby's stuff in this area - belts, sweats, & hats. Lots and lots and lots of hats. (To be honest, I think about 1/3 of them still haven't made it back in here.) To the right of that, his hanging clothes and shoes. (I would never have thought to put shoes up high like that. But he is plenty tall enough to reach them!) And there was no room for them on the floor for all his boots. Which didn't make it into any of the pictures. But believe me when I tell you they take up the floor space of half the closet's perimeter!

Between my shoes and the wall are the dressy things we don't use very often, and all the coats that got brought up from the coat closet downstairs.

I have to admit I am pretty amazed at the results. It is still too overstuffed in my opinion, but it looks 1000x better than it did!
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Thursday, February 03, 2011

Gratitude Journal - Day 3

Today I am thankful for:

1) Music, and being part of a group that makes it
2) The neighbor who watched my kids so I could go to rehearsal
3) That my husband still knows how to melt my heart with sweet words

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Gratitude Journal - Day 2

Today I am thankful for:

1) A decent support network in a city/state so far away from our families
2) No more throwing up
3) The blessing of fertility

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Gratitude Journal - Day 1

Today I am thankful for:

1) A furnace that works (Our high today was -1.)
2) My children
3) My husband's willingness to work so far away to support his family

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Testing Blogaway

Mobile blogging, test 2. This post is from Blogaway.

It has convenient toggles for bold, italics, and underlining. Plus some other buttons I'm not sure about yet.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Testing Bloggeroid

I am looking for a good Android app that will let me make new or edit existing posts. I will let you know how it goes. This post is from Bloggeroid.

posted from Bloggeroid

Monday, January 24, 2011

Adventures in Organizing, Part 1

A friend (who used to be a professional organizer) is helping me get my house organized. The first area we tackled was the coat/jacket/bag/purse storage. I found an old photo of the disorganized hall tree, but I wish I had thought to take before photos of the closet. (Of course, I probably would have been too embarrassed to post them!)

This is our "shoe bench." It used to be home to our jackets (5 people, 5 hooks, made sense to me!), purse, diaper bags, work bags, keys... Anything we needed when we walked out the door. Unfortunately, it also was usually a dumping ground for anything we came inside the door with.


Inside the shoe bench I used to have 5 boxes, one for each person, for hats, scarves, and gloves. The boxes were always overflowing, and it was hard to find matching things in them. Now the inside of the bench is home to our bags - music class, dance class, MOPS, extra pullups and clothes for the boys in case we are out for a long time, plus an extra-large diaper bag I can grab if we're taking a long outing, and a purse for me to use on the rare occasion I get to leave the house without the kids.

The top of the coat closet is mostly the same, but more organized. The plastic drawer that used to hold adult hats is gone. Left on top is our swim bag, beach towels, and couple of tall things (world map for next year's school and roll of drawing paper), because they fit nicely there and are protected from little fingers.

The inside of the closet looks vastly diffferent. Instead of being stuffed full of every adult-sized coat and jacket in the house, it now has room on the left for most-used adult jackets (limit 2 per person), and on the right side we have hooks so the kids can hang/retrieve their own jackets and backpacks. (Big deal when you have multiple kids, and are about to be the sole care provider for a newborn!)

Inside the door we hung a pocket organizer, which is the new home to all of our hats, gloves, and scarves. Each person has his/her own row. Including the baby. (And I have two. Because I'm special that way. ;) These things are so much easier to find/choose from now! I love this!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Year Without - Day 24

Today was a very, very lazy day. According to the weather reports, it was supposed to be a snow day. There wasn't much snow, but it sure was cold!

We went to CarMax today to look at a van that, on paper, looked perfect for our family. 2 years old, low mileage, fully loaded, and with TWO DVD players! I sort of wondered, before going, whether I should wait until I had someone to watch the kids. But I wanted to put their carseats in it, anyway, and they were pretty excited about checking it out. So we all went. I now regret that. It was too cold to get in and out, especially with trying to buckle carseats in an unfamiliar vehicle. Then, to top off the chaos, #1 son had an ill-smelling poop accident in his pants while he was playing in the playroom, and #2 son choked on a piece of apple which didn't all come up, but I didn't know that, so he was super-fussy/screamy for the whole test drive, and then he threw up in the playroom when it was time to leave. (Luckily, I had a quick thought and caught it in his hat.)

I went to that dealership with all my paperwork, ready to come home with the van, but when I drove it, I wasn't super-impressed with how it felt ("Plasticky" is the term that came to my mind. Sort of how I felt 9 years ago before we bought the truck, when we test-drove a Saturn SUV), and I was extremely disappointed to find that even though it has 7 seat belts, there is no way it could be more than a 6 passenger vehicle for us:
Do you see how little room is between the 2 carseats in the back row? I couldn't even fit Benny between them! And they were shoved up against the sides, as far as they could go.

Ugh! I am so freakin' disappointed! Now I don't know what to do!

I researched skinnier carseats when I got home, so perhaps we *could* make this van work. Sunshine Kids makes this carseat which has a much skinnier base than the ones we have. A different company makes a travel vest which, except for the lack of side impact protection, is supposed to be safer than a booster seat. Not ideal for every day, but if we needed that extra seat for another person, it could work in a pinch. (It might also work fabulously if we do end up meeting hubby in Europe in September like he's asked us to do.)

I got asked today if I've given up on this blog. No, I haven't. I'm just behind. (Hopelessly behind...)

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