Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Baby steps to homeschool organization

Baby Lu loves trying to fill her sister's shoes, but I get a little discouraged sometimes when I see how organized all you other homeschool moms are. So, I've been trying to take some baby steps toward getting our homeschool stuff organized.

I didn't do much, but it was definitely a step in the right direction. Hopefully it will translate into our days being leaps and bounds ahead in in terms efficiency.

Below is my old system. Basically our current year Sonlight shelf is organized and all other books and workbooks ended up being crammed into every cabinet, nook, and cranny available. We were running out of space and I had just ordered another half dozen books. I knew I had to do something.

So I moved this little plastic storage chest next to my big homeschool breakfront. I'm hoping it's not too terribly noticeable as it doesn't exactly go with the decor, but it is exactly what I was looking for.

Each of my homeschool age kids gets a drawer and it's packed with all their workbooks including their CBS homework spirals, which I'm sorry to say one of my kids recently lost due to our disorganization. This is my loose interpretation of "work boxes". It's really very little work and great in that it helps each kid keep track of all their books.

The two younger girls (9 and almost 7) also have folders in the tops of their drawers that contain their assigned work for the day in the left hand pocket. When they complete their work (which lately they've been doing at funny times like 9:30 pm and 6:30 am) they move it to the right hand pocket for me to check at my convenience. Monk (10) doesn't have a folder, but just knows his assignments for the day.
Am I the only one that starts the school year organized only to realize toward the end of the year that we've been reduced to chaos? Well, I'm hoping these small changes translate into big results for us. My girls love having the freedom to work on their school work anytime. Invariably, as soon as I put the worksheets for the next day into their folders, they start asking me if they can get to work on them. I love their enthusiasm so I'm allowing for a little leniency in our schedule right now. I'm actually very excited about what we accomplished in school this year, it just wasn't pretty in terms of organization. I want to change that, though, thus my baby steps.
How do you get organized for your homeschool and how do you keep it that way? Do you let your kids organize their own time and do their work when they want or do you stick to a strict schedule? We're still doing our together school time according to a rigid schedule since it revolves around Baby Lu's nap time. Do you encourage your kids to work ahead or do you try to keep them on a steady pace to finish the year on time? Do you give your kids more than one day's assignment at a time? I've been toying with the idea of a week at a time, but I'm afraid they'd work hard for two days and finish their work by Wednesday. I can't wait to learn from all of you!

Where's my scooter?

Yesterday I bought the 3 older kids new scooters. As I unpacked each scooter from the box and unfolded it Baby Lu cried, "Mine, mine, mine!" Then when she looked around and realized that the 3 scooters had all been taken by the big kids and that there were no more scooters to unpack from boxes, she became inconsolable. I hadn't realized until that point that she really thought she was going to get a scooter. Silly me, I was thinking 18 months was a little young for a scooter. One of the kids had the idea to let her try Twinkle Toes' old one, so I adjusted the height of the handle bars for her and let her have it. I was surprised when I saw this...

Look at the concentration! She knows how to assume the proper position from watching her big brothers and sisters. She was quite apprehensive about actually scooting, though. I had to put down the camera and help her along. She's certainly not one to be left out of the fun. I don't think she knows she's only 1.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Who says nothing's free?

I've already shared with you some of the not-so-fun part of our trip to Abilene, so I thought it only fair to share some of the perks of the trip with you, as well.

On our way out of town I drove through a local coffee shop (the same one that has so graciously put up with me on the numerous times I've ordered before realizing I didn't have my purse). Anyway, this time I had my purse with me, but when I got to the window to pay for our two large fraps the guy said since it was me there was no charge. When I asked him why he said that he remembered the last time he waited on me that they had made a mistake in my order and he had determined that the next time he saw me it would be on the house. Can you believe that? I thought it was very sweet and just another reason I'll remain their loyal customer for life!

Then 5 hours later after checking into our hotel I took Monk, American Boy, and Baby Lu to Outback steakhouse for a special treat. (We almost never eat out and certainly NEVER eat out at places that cost as much as Outback.) Since I only had 3 kids with me and we had to do something for supper I thought I'd splurge. Obviously we don't get out much because I wasn't thinking about it being the Friday night rush. It took them forever to seat us and then when we finally got our meals they served me a hockey puck instead of a steak. The waiter felt very bad about it and offered to send it back but by that time it was already 8:30 and I needed to get Baby Lu to bed ASAP. I told them not to worry about it to just bring me the check and the manager came by and said our meal was on the house. Not bad for one day, huh?

As we were leaving Monk was complaining that he didn't like places like that, "dark, dirty, with greasy food" in his words. I said, "But Monk they gave us a $50 meal for free." His reply: "Oh, well for being free that was pretty good."

And finally, Monk left the swim meet with 3 big moonpie "medals" around his neck. I guess they weren't exactly free since he had to swim fast for them, but they were free to me. Who says nothing's free in life?

This picture has nothing to do with anything except I thought it was cute. Baby Lu looked around at the meet and noticed all the other girls had swim caps on so she insisted on wearing one, too.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Coming soon to a location near you...whether you like it or not!

I drove Monk to a swim meet in southwest Texas this weekend and was very saddened by what I saw. I know many of you, like Big D, will be quick to remind me that Texas is not a beautiful state. I'm sure the beaurocrats in Washington don't care if my state fills up with wind farms. But, I do. Texas is my state and I love it. What little beauty we have is now being ruined.

And it's all in the name of progress. Wind energy has gained the reputation of being "green" or environmentally friendly. I'm so glad the federal government has my best interests at heart, and the best interests of the planet. I could really rest safely knowing I'm in their honest, competent hands, except that the facts declare otherwise.
Did you know that wind turbines kill bats? Birds, too, but mainly bats because bats rely on echolocation. They die of something called barotrauma, which means a sudden change in air pressure. In other words, they don't have to actually make contact with the wind turbines for their close encounter to prove fatal. Oh well, other than the book Stellaluna, I've never been partial to bats. Who cares if we rid our state of bats? Unfortunately, the nasty little creatures eat things like mosquitos that we'd rather not be overrun by. I guess we'll just have to up our insecticide spraying efforts. (I'm sorry, but I just conjured up an image of a bunch of environmentalist protestors carrying signs of cute, fuzzy little bats like Stellaluna. Sounds just adorable, doesn't it? Hey, where are they when you need them? The protestors, I mean, not the bats.)

If you don't live in ugly windy portions of the state (or soon country as the plan is to eventually turn the midwest from Texas up to Canada into a giant wind farm), you may be able to avoid having your view polluted by wind turbines, but don't think you've escaped unscathed. These lovely little power lines (note the teeny tiny person for perspective) are necessary to carry the electricity from the wind turbines to the power plant substations. And by the way, the electricity generated by wind turbines is "dirty" electricity. This means its radio wave forms are electrically polluting. Overexposure to high frequencies has been shown to cause all kinds of sicknesses from headaches to increased risk of cancer to decreased milk production in dairy cows.
Does wind energy still seem "green"? The Canadian researchers did suggest that it's possible for wind energy to be less environmentally polluting if the following measures are carefully observed. "In order to eliminate the electrical pollution problem wreaking havoc on the health of people living in proximity to wind farms, the inverters need to be properly filtered at each wind turbine and all collection lines from the wind turbines to the substation should be buried. At the substation the electricity must also be filtered before being allowed on the power grid. There also needs to be a proper neutral system installed to handle the high frequency return current." (from the above link entitled "Modern wind turbines generate dangerously "dirty" electricity.") I also read that bat death by wind turbines can be reduced by up to 60%. You know how? I find this funny. By turning off the wind turbines when they aren't generating electricity, anyway. You know, on the non-windy days. As my 9 year old daughter would say, like duh. Am I the only one wondering why they weren't already doing that? So basically, as long as the wind turbines are off, they pose no risk to bats. Gotta love that it took research to establish that.
Oh, and guess what? You don't get to vote on the placement of these power lines. A public utility company with a federal contract is going to take these power lines across our ranch in Palo Duro Canyon. Way to trash one of our only jewels in the state of Texas, not to mention our personal property. That's sad, isn't it? It doesn't sound like the Texas I've known and loved my whole life. It doesn't sound like the "land of the free" either, come to think of it.
I agree that wind energy is all about going green, but not the kind of green they'd have you think. Somebody's getting a lot of green in the form of federal incentives. I found the Department of Energy wind and hydro fact sheet quite informative. So far I've uncovered the following incentives for wind power, all of them green, as in greenbacks.
1. $2.3 billion in advanced energy manufacturing tax credits-
2. Department of Energy loan guarantee program- "Successful applicants receive government guarantee on their project loans."
3. $500 million Department of Labor funds for "reseach, labor exchange, and job training projects that prepare workers for careers in energy efficiency and renewable energy"-
4. Deparment of Energy small business innovation research grants- "past solicitation have included topics related to wind equipment manufacturing processes and improvements"-
5. Expansion of industrial development bonds-
The party line for wind energy advocates is that "Support for wind enhances national energy independence, promotes rural economic development, contributes to energy price stability, and helps address global climate change." (
If it's all about energy independence, economic development, price stability, and the environment, then what's wrong with clean coal technology? What about natural gas? What about drilling for oil- here in our country and off our coasts? Call me cynical, but this stinks of good old fashioned greed and politicking to me.
What have all these incentives bought us? Is wind energy solving our energy problems? The most recent stat I've seen is that wind farms in Texas provide for ~5% of our energy usage in Texas. Miles and miles of wind farms for 5% of our energy. Can turning the midwest into a wind farm provide 10% of the energy for our country? It doesn't sound like it to me. So, if we have to continue using the other methods (like evil oil and gas and toxic coal), anyway, is all this money really an investment in our future? Why not invest in clean coal technology? Or natural gas which is clean and abundant?
We have a saying here in Texas that we use to spur one another on to fight the battles worth fighting, even when doing so requires great sacrifice. "Remember the Alamo." Those were the days of a few good men who were willing to die for the cause of freedom. Where are those men today? Have they all sold out? My dad hasn't. He's willing to fight, even though he realizes he's playing the roll of David against the Goliath of our government. I'm proud that he's willing to spend his hard-earned money fighting against this injustice brought about by self-serving politicians and back-room business deals. I only wish there were more men out there like my dad. If I have to stand on the edge of the canyon someday with my grandchildren and explain to them why we can't hike in the vicinity of the mammoth power lines, I'm glad I can also tell them about their great grandfather and that he didn't just stand idly by and watch the canyon polluted without putting up a fight. That will at least be some consolation.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Summer Goals

My husband received this slingshot as a gift from our church a year or two ago and Monk has only recently become taken with it. He spent the last two afternoons looking for anything he could shoot out of it. Whatever it is that falls from our Sycamore tree works well, the kids have always called them "chickens". He's also been eating plums then launching the pits. He called me out earlier to show me how he can shoot these various objects over the house. I said, "That's great, Monk, but what if someone is walking by out front and you hit them?" He just looked at me blankly. Obviously he hadn't thought of that. Or hopefully he hadn't thought of it! Anyway I thought this picture appropriate for my post on summer goals. We want to aim high this summer, just like Monk with his slingshot.
Amy at Raising Arrows recently posted about homeschooling year round. That doesn't sound too fun to me (more power to her), but I do have some educational goals for the kids over the summer. I definitely don't want to waste time in the fall trying to clear the cobwebs from the kids' brains. But I also want them to have a more fun and relaxed schedule this summer. Here's what I've been thinking in terms of. I'd love your suggestions.

Monk (10)- I've often regretted introducing Monk to video games. He was 5 and we were going to a family reunion in Florida. I was concerned that I'd be busy with his younger sisters on the plane and that I needed something to help keep him occupied. So, we bought him his first Gameboy. I should have known what I was starting. I played lots of video games as a kid, and even in college I was playing computer games when I should have been studying. I remember even having a watch with a space shuttle video game built-in. My dad and I still reminisce about The Incredible Wizzard, though I can't recall which game system it was for. I'm sure my dad still has it in his attic. Anyway, the point is with my video game issues (so glad I've outgrown them :) I should have known Monk was going to get addicted. The system we use during the school year is no plug-in (tv, video games, computer, etc.) until the weekend and that time is very limited on Sunday. So, basically he has Saturdays to play video games when we're not at a swim meet or busy with something else. Last summer we just sort of let it go and it got out of hand. So this summer we're going to try something different.
1. 1 hr of reading pre-selected books earns Monk 1 hr of gaming (maximum of 2 hrs/ day).

2. This is the summer for Monk to learn to type. I thought a computer typing game might serve as adequate motivation.

3. We used Summer Bridge workbooks last summer and I was thrilled to find a Christian version of these books through BJU press. They're called Vacation Stations and I bought one for each of my homeschooled kids. They only work through 2 pages per day over a period of 10 weeks.

Twinkle Toes (9)- I don't do a very good job of helping Twinkle Toes hone her skills. The problem is she's extremely artistic and creative and well, I'm not. I'm determined that Twinkle Toes learn to crochet or knit this summer. She's left-handed so my Granny had a hard time teaching her. Maybe I can find a youtube on crocheting for lefties or something. She'll also work through her Vacation Stations workbook.

Measle (6)- Since Measle was too young for the Sonlight core we did this year I struggled with juggling her reading time with that of the older kids. I'm hopeful she'll be reading chapter books with confidence by summer's end. I've ordered several new books to encourage her in this capacity. She'll also complete two pages per day of Vacation Stations. (She's actually begging me to let her start now, so I'm having to hold her off.)

American Boy (4)- Time for the big boy to learn to swim. He spends many hours around a swimming pool and he's very excited to start swimming himself. I like to put them on the swim team at 6 so this is the summer to begin lessons. I'm also going to start working through Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons with American Boy this summer. I don't know why I started so early with Monk and not with the girls. Oh yeah, I was working full-time when the girls were 4. American Boy knows all his letters and is so stinkin' smart. I know he's ready. Every few days he reminds me, "Mom, remember you're going to teach me to read this summer?" It's very cute.

Baby Lu (18 mos.)- Dare I hope to get Miss Lu potty trained by the end of the summer? New Baby is coming the first week of October, so that would be nice.

Me- I'm gearing up to read the Bible in 90 days again starting June 1. I'll blog more about this as we get closer to summer.

Big D- I'm sure Big D would appreciate my not making any goals for him this summer. So I won't. But if I were, finishing the dollhouse would be nice. Yes, the one we gave Twinkle Toes for CHRISTMAS! My dining room/homeschool room for Monk has been turned into a workshop pending further notice. I'll have to post new update pics on the dollhouse- it now has electric lights!
Whew! What are your summer goals?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Almost as good as Nana's

"Almost as good as Nana's." That's what Monk said about my homemade bread. I was so proud of myself, too. I tried a new recipe and used the dough cycle on my family-size bread machine before transferring the bread to two loaf pans, letting it rise again, and then finally baking it. It even sliced nicely for sandwhiches. I just knew everyone was going to love my bread, and they did. Just not as much as Nana's.

When I protested to Monk, "ALMOST as good?" He tactfully replied, "Well, you know she's been at this forever and you've only been at it 3 or 4 days, Mom." Big D said the same thing, can you believe it? He said hers is more airy. Oh well, it's definitley progress. And I bet there are lots of people in the world who can't bake bread as well as Nana.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Rainy days and recitals

We don't get much rain around here and 3 days of rain in a row is almost unheard of. My kids wanted to be out in it every second. Here are Twinkle Toes (9), American Boy (4), and Measle (6) posing outside with their shades. I think they had some kind of club going and glasses were required for membership.

Never one to be left out, though I don't see her glasses. Perhaps Baby Lu was made an honorary member of their club.

Is it just me or is she really cute?

Now on to the real reason for this post. Twinkle Toes played the piano in the mall yesterday. She played two pieces and did them both beautifully! She recently won a gold medal for her performance on the Primary World of Music Quiz.
Yesterday was also Measle's first violin recital. Here she is posing with her American Girl "Me" Doll. Measle spent a year growing her bangs out only to decide she really wanted to match her doll again. So here they are wearing the same dress and sporting the same haricut.
And here's Mealse playing "Pop, Pop, Shush, Bang" or something like that. She played with feeling!

Poor Baby Lu was relieved when the recitals were over. She didn't get down for her afternoon nap until after 3:30! We're blessed that she's so flexible.

I should also mention the boys were good as gold and never once complained about spending the afternoon at their sisters' recitals. I complimented Monk (10) on this later and he acted surprised and said he thought they were fun (especially the refreshments after Measle's recital.)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Becoming a producer in the kitchen

I don't consider myself much of a cook, but we do eat 3 meals per day at home most days of the week. My sweet mother, who is a great cook, haves us to lunch after church on Sundays and our church eats together on Wednesday nights, but other than that it's up to me most days. I've posted before about the kind of cook I am so I won't bore you again with that. Let's just say I enjoy eating the food a whole lot more than I enjoy preparing it so I try to keep things as simple as possible.

Recently as Big D and I have been attempting to transition from the realm of helpless consumers to competent producers, I've been experimenting with a few things. I use the term "experimenting" literally. While earning my doctorate in Cancer Biology I had to learn all kinds of cellular and molecular protocols and I needed them to work the first time (though they rarely did). If I can do a cell migration assay then I can do anything, or so I reasoned. I decided my first grand experiment in the kitchen was to be whole wheat flour tortillas. You might wonder why I picked tortillas. Well, for one thing we eat lots of them and for another I've been noticing the long list of ingredients for what seems to me a very simple recipe. I thougt if we could avoid the additives and preservatives then all the better. So I bought all the ingredients (yes I had to buy wheat flour and crisco) and excitedly copied down an amalgamation of several recipes I found online.

As soon as we finished morning read aloud I got to work. The mixing part was easy enough then came the simple instructions to knead the dough until smooth. Knead? I thought back to a youtube video on making bread that I saw once and hoped kneading would come naturally to me. All seemed to be going well until it was time to roll the tortillas. My housekeeper had watched all this with great interest (she would regret this later), having informed me early in the process that she had never made flour tortillas. Then came my disappointment. My tortillas were not turning out round. Big D even tried his hand at it to no avail. They were irregularly shaped at best. My housekeeper, feeling sorry for me I'm sure as I'd already botched a batch of bread that morning, stepped in and started helping me roll. Ok, she took over the rolling. We settled into a kind of routine with me wetting the dough (our theory being my dough was too dry), her rolling it out, and me frying the tortillas. After about 30 minutes of this my housekeeper says to me, "You know where you can buy these?" She looked at me kind of funny when I said, "I know, I know I can buy them for $1.33 at Walmart." She's thinking to herself then why in the world are we doing this?! Because darn it, I want to learn to make tortillas. So there.

When my Bible study friends came that night they asked me how my tortillas tasted. (I had chronicled the project on facebook.) "Healthy and authentic" was my rehearsed reply. In other words, they didn't taste all that great, but hey they really were healthy. We ate carnitas for dinner and breakfast burritos the next morning and poof they were gone. (Not one member of my family asked for the back-up tortillas I had bought just in case- though a few may have sneaked them behind my back.) All that work and they didn't even make it 24 hours. Will I make them again? Maybe. Did I save money? No, not even before having my housekeeper help out which ended up making them the most expensive tortillas ever.

Back to the point in my previous blog post on production versus consumption. Sometimes the bottom line is more than just dollars and cents. I may not be to the saving money phase of production yet, but I still enjoy the final product. My mom and dad are going to a seminar on becoming ranchers next weekend in Austin. Go figure. My parents want to be ranchers, my husband wants to be a farmer, and me? I'm still trying to figure out how to bake bread with my $60 family-size bread machine. It may not be cheaper, but it feels good knowing exactly what's in the food we eat. And who knows? I may learn to love the process as well.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Production versus consumption: when the bottom line's more than just dollars and cents

I followed a link the other day to the blog frugal hacks. I don't consider myself the most frugal person, but the article on sacramental frugality really struck a chord with me. It mentioned this idea of being a producer rather than a consumer and this is something my husband and I have been discussing for a couple of years now.

Our American economy produces very little. We are predominantly consumers. Oh and we provide services. You know when they talk about "goods and services" in Economics 101, what we lack in the "goods" department, we make up for in services. Hey, I don't have anything against the service industry. My husband is a pastor. My dad is a lawyer. I was a teacher. My father-in-law sold insurance. My mother-in-law was a realtor. My mom has been many things, but none of us has ever produced anything. This is in stark contrast with my grandparents' generation. My nearly 86 year old granny sews, embroiders, knits, and crochets. She has in the past designed and made purses, kept her grandchildren in pajamas, provided my mother with beautiful window treatments and table cloths, and at one time had her own kiln and turned out ceramics like nobody's business. She gave up the kiln a few years ago. What can I say? She's slowing down now that she's entered her 9th decade! My grandpa was no different. He was a skilled wood worker, though not by trade. He made me a beautiful hope chest and for his other granddaughters bunk beds and even an outdoor playhouse. I remember when my grandparents visited, my mom would always have a list of projects ready for my grandpa to get to work on. He made large wood planter boxes to flank her front door and a pair of beautiful benches to go on her front porch. He made table toppers and end tables and went around the house fixing everything that was broken. My grandpa has been dead nearly a decade, but his labors of love live on bearing testimony to his dying generation of producers.

So it was a couple of years ago that Big D and I realized that although we have diplomas from expensive private universities, we basically have no survival skills- you know pertaining to food and clothing. This is not to say Big D's without skills. Just the other day he completely rebuilt one of our toilets for $12 in parts. It took him about 30 minutes. This is an example of where being a producer can save you big money compared to the poor sucker who has to pay a plumber. I called a plumber one time early in our marriage. Two hundred dollars later my husband made me promise that I would NEVER, EVER do that again. How was I to know? My mom was married to a Harvard educated attorney who wanted her to call the plumber. It never occurred to me that people actually fixed things themselves, well other than my grandparents. So, yes, Big D has skills that save us money, but he was concerned that should we ever need to actually grow our own food we'd be in trouble. You can probably guess what came next. Big D decided to take up gardening.

I resisted at first, thinking about the bottom line in terms of dollars and cents. When he rented a tiller for a day I protested that his garden wasn't going to save us money. When I saw the receipt from Home Depot that showed how much he spent on seeds, plants, soil, and fertilizer, I protested again. Big D took it all in stride. It became a sort of a joke. I'd bring home produce from Walmart and he'd ask how much I paid for it then proceed to moan and groan over the futility of his labors for a bit until he rallied to the next task. ("You got 4 ears of corn for a dollar?!! I can't even grow one and if I did I'd want a whole lot more than a quarter for it!") Oh, and he cut down an apple tree in our side yard in order to plant his garden. I had a hard time getting over this irony. The fact that we didn't want to mess with the rotten apples accumulating in our yard should show what kind of farmers we make:) Anyway, Big D experimented with this and that and the result was we ate fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers, butternut squash, beets, and red cabbage for months. It was really a lot of fun. My favorite garden ancedote is when I took my 3 youngest children with me to the UPS store last summer and was surprised to look up and see my 3 yr old pull a green onion out of his pocket and begin munching on it- like it was a carrot or something that you're supposed to much on. Strange, but funny.

The long and the short of it is, Big D and I decided that his garden experiment was a huge success, even though it didn't save us any money. Perhaps the problem was merely one of economy of scale. Or maybe not. This year Big D is planting a bigger garden, but he also decided to buy a tiller. I'm pretty sure the shiny red tiller that now resides in our garage means our garden will not turn a profit for, well, ever. But you know what? I'm still glad Big D is gardening. Sometimes there's more to the bottom line than just dollars and cents.

To be continued... (Wait til you hear about my attempts at gaining survival skills:)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

We enjoy our trees one at a time.

We've been really enjoying our Crabapple tree lately, which reminds me of a story.

I'm a 5th generation West Texan. I love my home, even though we don't have many trees. My grandmother was no different. She grew up on the Great Plains and even lived the first few years of her life in a dug out. My poor husband on the other hand has had a hard time adjusting to a home without trees. (Well, with small trees that have to be tenderly cared for:) It was the same with my mother who was an Air Force brat and grew up all over the place. She and my dad met in high school and married shortly thereafter. My mom always longed for trees. When my parents were newly married my dad was in the Army and one time they were stationed in Maryland. My mom loved all the trees and when her mother-in-law, my Granny, came to visit she wanted to show her all the big, beautiful trees. She said, "Mom Bell, can you believe the trees? Aren't they just beautiful?" My Granny turned to her and said, "You know Tave. To tell you the truth, I prefer to enjoy my trees one at a time, silhouetted against the horizon." My mom was speechless, but we still tell that story today in our family. So, there you have it. We West Texans like to enjoy our trees one at a time.
Isn't it beautiful? We planted this little guy about 5 years ago and finally this year we didn't have a late freeze. Or maybe I should say we haven't, yet.

In other news, our All American Boy turned 4 this week and here he is blowing some of his birthday bubbles.

Baby Lu (18 mos.) loves going down the slide, but she has learned that it's best when there's someone there to catch her at the bottom. When the other kids have come inside and she wants to slide, she just sits at the top and calls for one of her siblings to come rescue her.
By the way, thanks for all the helpful advice about our math situation. We're in the process of solving this dilemma and I'll post about it when we get it all figured out. Thanks again.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Considering making the switch- from Saxon to Singapore Math

I've never been crazy about Saxon Math, but I do like that it forces the kids to continually review what they've learned in previous lessons. I'm not a visual learner, so when I first heard about Singapore math I was not too tempted by it. I am a mental math person, though, and the more I hear about Singapore, the more drawn to it I've become. I just don't know if we can make the change at this point. I'm not one to change course mid-journey. I feel like we have to stick with Saxon, although they've just renamed all their courses and I am a bit confused. Monk just finished up 7/6 and we were going to move to 8/7, but I see now that they've renamed the middle grades to 1, 2, and 3. So, maybe this is a good time to make the switch.

The main drawback to switching at this point is that my 10 year old, who is almost 2 years ahead in math, will have to back up about 4 years. I've heard that you can't just start Singapore at level 3 or 4, but that you have to start with level 2 (3rd grade). On the up side, since he is so far ahead, maybe we could take the remaining two months of this year and the summer to work through level 2 and see how we like it. I've also heard that kids really enjoy Singapore math. That would be worth a little backtracking, for sure.

What do you think? Anyone out there made the switch from Saxon to Singapore? Was it painful? Are you glad you did it? I'm not sure Monk needs to switch, I mean, he does well in math. I just thought he might like it better and that it might better prepare him for Algebra and Geometry. It would be a much easier switch for my girls since they wouldn't have to backtrack so far. And my girls struggle more with the mental math. Maybe Monk doesn't need Singapore, but maybe my girls would really benefit from it. I just can't decide. I think I need to let Monk try it and see what he thinks, although I hate to make major educational decisions based on the whim of a 10 year old. I need your input. Please. Help. I have analysis paralysis.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A day without morning sickness analyzed

Like most pregnant women I suffer morning sickness, or afternoon/evening sickness, as it usually turns out for me. I suppose some days are marginally better than others, but I've never had a sick-free day during the first trimester, ever, until recently. I've gone over that day again and again in my mind trying to recreate it, but to no avail. It just isn't going to happen. Thankfully, this week is the last of my first trimester and I should be feeling better in a few days. But for posterity's sake I want to record the perfect, morning sickness-free first trimester day.

6 am: Wake up and eat small bowl of raisin bran (this is earlier than I usually wake-up).

7-9 am: Sit in car while mom drives and kids rest or watch movies (ok, this never happens in everyday life).

9 am: McDonalds break- I eat an Egg McMuffin, my first in about 25 years.

9-12: Sit in car while mom drives and kids watch movies (come to think of it, traveling is quite relaxing).

12 pm: Restroom stop at Wal-Mart and picnic in grassy area of Wal-Mart parking lot. I ate a pre-packaged tuna and cracker snack for lunch. Another first. (I hate tuna.)

12-2 pm: Sit in car while mom drives us the rest of the way to Dallas.

2 pm: Check into hotel, walk around outside a little.

3-5 pm: Walk around Galleria, snack on a piece of English Toffee from Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and a Caramel Frap at Starbucks.

7 pm: Ate a chicken breast smothered in cheese and a bunch of other good stuff at Magic Time Machine.

9 pm: Walked 2 miles around the Cooper Guest Lodge and then went to bed.

OK- This was definitely NOT a typical day out of my life, but it was a day that I never experienced nausea, not once.

Some observations: I RESTED, A LOT. This kind of rest is simply not possible at home with 5 kids. I ate FREQUENTLY. And I ate more PROTEIN than I usually do.

I know this sounds right out of a pregnancy magazine on what to do to avoid morning sickness. But, as I said before, I've tried and failed to recreate this day. I've learned that just because I know something works, doesn't mean I can actually accomplish it most of the time, or any of the time:)

Monday, April 5, 2010

An Ultimatum has been Issued

Big D has been making noises about wanting an RV for sometime now. We bought a travel trailer direct from the factory in 2005 that we've only used 2 or 3 times. But Big D is convinced what we really need for our roadtrips is a motorhome. Personally, I kind of like having the kids strapped into their little seats in my GMC Yukon XL. There's a place for everyone (barely) and everyone stays in his place. But Big D loves the idea of having a bathroom and kitchen on board so we can stop less often. We have had a few interesting potty experiences on the road, but that's part of what makes those trips so memorable. Anyway, I've been reluctant because I just can't see spending the money on one. I'd like to spend that money on something else, you know? So, this has been our dilemma.

Recently I asked Big D if he didn't want to go to the Ligonier conference in Orlando this June. He didn't. I asked him several times over the next few weeks, but he wouldn't budge. Big D lived in Florida and refuses to go back there between April and September. He's gotten used to our cool, arid climate and doesn't want to find himself standing in lines at Disney World in 85% humidity. I completely understand since we've done this before. So, then a few days ago I asked him if he would consider going to the Baby Conference in San Antonio this July. I thought he would refuse outright since San Antonio in July is no better heat and humidity-wise than Orlando in June, but amazingly enough he didn't say no. What he said is that if I find us a motorhome then we'll go. So, the ultimatum has been issued.

He knew what he was doing. Big D is no dummie. He knows I hate to spend money, but he also knows I like "nice". Of course all the motorhomes in our predetermined price-range are not to my liking. Big D knows he's either going to get a very nice motorhome out of this, or that I'll fold and he won't have to go to San Antonio. Which will it be? Not even I know, so you'll have to stay tuned to find out. My girls really want to go to that tea with Michelle Duggar, though. I think it's so sweet that meeting Michelle Duggar is right up there with Disney to them. It would be a lot cheaper, too:) (If we didn't have to buy a motorhome, that is.)

Still at it!

I've decided I need a new category for blog posts entitled The Adventures of Baby Lu. I haven't been good about grabbing the camera lately, but believe me, she's still at it. A few days ago she climbed the ladder to the fort out back and went down the slide on her own. I'm pretty sure the other kids were closer to 2 when they did that for the first time. Today when I caught her in the girls bathroom getting into mischief I just had to capture the moment.

I picked her up, closed the bathroom drawers and carried her outside the bathroom before setting her down. Then I walked away to upload the picture. A few minutes later I found her right back at it again.

She's looking at me like, "What?" I suppose in her mind it's perfectly natural to sit on the bathroom counter in order to brush your teeth.

Testing out the water. Yep, it's just right for brushing my teeth.

Looking quite pleased with herself, as usual. And I'm so glad she decided to wash that marker off her feet while she was up there.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Whirlwind trip to Dallas and the Best Laid Plans

My mom has been bribing Twinkle Toes to practice her piano. Amazingly enough, it's working. Twinkle Toes is playing beautifully and earned enough points for a quick trip to the American Girl Store in Dallas this weekend. It was a whirlwind of a trip, but packed with fun and memories. My mom, 5 kids and I stayed at the Cooper Guest Lodge (part of the Cooper Aerobics complex in what used-to-be-called North Dallas, but now has become just Dallas.) It's always beautiful, but was especially so this time of year. You'll just have to take my word for it since, as usual, I didn't take a camera. (I included someone else's picture below so you can get the idea.) The kids swam in the pool where I used to swim on a Master's team and give swim lessons, myself. A duck even joined them for a swim.

The girls wanted to ice skate at the Galleria and while they were doing that Monk, Baby Lu and I searched the Galleria for a bookstore. I'm sorry to inform you that there is not one bookstore in the entire mall! Fortunately for Monk, we were able to stop at a nice big Barnes and Noble on the way to dinner. Then we met some friends for dinner at The Magic Time Machine, a character dining experience. Our waiter was Jack Sparrow, and unfortunately he smelled the part. We don't let our kids watch the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, but the older kids knew who he was. I was a little surprised our American Boy (3) agreed to pose with our scary waiter for a picture. I think seeing his friend Zach up there with the Pirate gave him courage. It was fun catching up in real life with my friend (she blogs about her adorable children at Triplesmiles). I'm sorry Big D couldn't go with us since he would have had a good time with his old roommate (my friend's husband). We all met at church in Dallas years ago pre-marriage and kids. Anyway, we finished off our evening with a two mile loop around the Cooper Fitness Center.
Saturday morning, after cleaning out the Guest Lodge's complimentary breakfast room, and then walking off breakfast, we hit the American Girl store when it opened at 9. It was quite an experience. I've never seen a doll store quite like this before. Your dolls can even have their hair done and ears pierced. We had brunch at 10, with dolls. (They even served the dolls brunch.) Then it was back in the car for the long drive home.

The best laid plans I was referring to has to do with the kids Easter outfits. I didn't do Easter dresses at all last year, but at the last minute this year I decided I would get the kids Easter outfits. It's not easy finding 3 dresses and 2 shirts that coordinate, but don't match, and Twinkle Toes is not into matching. So, I did it, I found cute dresses and shirts that all had purple and looked good together, but were unique. Of course, Twinkle Toes hated her dress. So, I took it back and got my money back. We decided she would just wear her flower girl dress, which was the original plan, anyway. Then this morning Measle, who loved her dress when I brought it home to her, starts complaining that the dress is itchy. Then Baby Lu has a major blow-out all over her tights and dress. I think I'll go back to no Easter dresses next year. I will say, though, that my boys were such troppers. They didn't complain one bit about having to wear purple shirts! Also, Baby Lu refused to cooperate for pictures until I stuck a cookie in her hand. I did manage to get a few shots off, but now you know the story behind the pictures. It helps me appreciate them all the more.


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I'm an on-the-run mom to 6 kids who studied and taught exercise science in a previous life. I love all things running, nutrition, and health-related. I usually run at zero dark thirty in the morning and am often quite hungry before, during, and after my run, but I live a rich, full, blessed life with my children, family, and friends. My faith in God is my anchor, and looking to Him and His promises allows me to live fully even when life circumstances are difficult. While running gives me an appetite, my desire is to hunger and thirst for righteousness more than for physical food.