Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

What is your New Year's Resolution for 2010?

Mine is to take better care of myself. It sounds funny, but I have forgotten how to rest. Not working part time is even better than I imagined, it gives me time to take care of myself. My husband may be doing great in his stroke recovery, but I do not think I ever really started to recovery from the ordeal myself, who had time - Mr. JP was born soon after his strokes and I started looking for part-time work soon after he was weaned.

Moms in general have a hard time taking care of themselves, and when we do, guilt sometimes follow. Rest in the right proportions is as important as exercise and eating right. While we think of others first, you need to take care of yourself too. Besides blogging of course, reading (esp. my Bible) and exercising have been recent ways I have found to relax and recover.

After being sick and tired so often, I have gone to drastic measures and cut out all Diet Coke. While we do have a pretty good diet and I shop at Trader Joe's, my diet could use improvement. Does anyone have a good book about diet (not dieting) for a busy mom? Should I drink whole, skim or soy milk? I hear so many conflicting reports, so I could use a tried and true book recommendations. My main problems are breakfast and lunch.

Please post your New Year resolutions!

Have a Blessed New Year!!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Beast (TV)

Perhaps the "unplugged Christmas" is referring to the unplugging the TV. Why when we get together with our extended family that we can think nothing better to do with each other then sit around the glowing screen? Sure, it is a long day, so watching a movie together would be fine. But does it have to be on ALL day?

In our own house the "beast" (aka the Television) lives locked up in it's cage, it is our only beast. We regular let it out for about an hour or two a day, and feed it Discs and VHS tapes. Occasionally, we will use it's ears to view our good channel. So, how is it that we have not been able to do the same out at family get togethers? It robs us of face to face connection and does not do much in the way of relationship building.

Some times technology brings us closer together, and it improves our lives. Facebook may help me send pictures to my brother in Kazakhstan, my brother-in-law in Japan, my Welsh childhood pen pal and my friend in Bosnia all instantly at the same time. However, it can never replace face to face contact. TV works in the same way. It allows us to go places we may not go other wise, but at the same time it can asourb a whole generation of men.

Do you guys have any ideas? What activities do you do with extended family on holiday gatherings?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Gingerbread Pancakes

Here is a Christmas morning tradition at our house - Gingerbread Pancakes

You can make them round like regular pancake or use a spoon to make them in the shape of gingerbread men.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Non-Consumable Christmas

The thought of the avalanche of toys coming our way during the next few days makes me weak in the knees. Where am I going to put it all?

To off-set this problem, I try to ask for or buy non-consumable presents for my children. My favorite is to ask for memberships. This year for Christmas my children will receive memberships to the Zoo, Children's Museum and Natural Science Museum. It is a gift that gives all year long. Often, the one who gives the membership will join us on the outing at least once. Also, I make it a point to verbally remind the kids that so and so is the reason we get to enjoy our day at the Zoo. Most of the memberships are also national, which means it will say you a lot on vacation. Finally, more children you have, well you can just do that math. There is no way to store or play with all of those toys, and it gets very expensive for your relatives or they end up having to buy something cheap. This idea can be more economical, especially if you can get them to chip in together.

What are other non-consumables that make good presents?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Homeschooling and Government Control

Recently I had a customer ask me (who knew I homeschooled) how it was going for us. When I replied, "Well." She asked if the government comes into my home to make sure everything is to standard, as if home school has some correlations with DYFS. I would like to think the best, and that she was only curious. Since other homeschoolers will probably at some point face this question, I though I would give the points I quickly rattled off, as well as a few more I did not have time to give. As an ambassador of home schooling, it helps to have answers ready. Besides, having answers will make you feel more confident in your choice because you WILL have days where you question your choice to school your children at home.

  • If the government is going to spend the people's money, they should do a great deal of scholastic research on the effects of homeschooling regulations. Some studies have already shown that the IOWA test scores show there is no difference in performance of children under strict home schooling laws verses students under more relaxed laws. There has also been studies done on the effects of the parent's education. However, the most eye-opening statics I have heard about is on race. Can you tell me why there is no race racking apparent in homeschooling, while there is in public schools? HSLDA has a 2009 Homeschool Progress Report with lots of statistics.
  • If you wanted to be a smart mouth, you could verbally rejoice in the fact we do not live in a socialized or communist country where the government has to take care of you because they think you are too stupid to do it yourself. I love America's freedom, it is what makes this country great! Why in the world do people think the government should tell how to raise your own children is bizarre to me (with exception of abuse of course). What America needs to do is improve the character training in their schools, so we create good parents of the future. An involved PARENT is what makes the difference in a child's education.
  • You can point out that there are kids that graduate from public school, who cannot read. What was no child left behind for in the first place? Right, for those kids whom the school system failed, even with their certified teachers and regulations. This one really stumps them.
  • What about the tenured teacher that comes to school everyday and just talks about their personal life? Sure, there are only a few of them, but we have all had them. My parents were both teachers, so this is not a hit against all teachers. Teachers desire more respect than they get in America. My point is there is always a bad apple, despite tons of regulations. Most public, private and home schooling teachers do a good job. The bad ones can easily fake it for a day or a portfolio.
  • Why should homeschoolers need to be certified if private school teachers are not, as in my state. This point depends on your states laws for private schools, they vary from state to state.
  • Here is one I just learned. Finnish schools do not give standardized testing, nor do they give grades/marks until 13 years of age. Yet their students make Finland one of the top ranking countries in the world. So, I am not sure what good it would do to have all homeschoolers forced into IOWA testing, as it has not made American students top of the class by world standards.
Generally, as more and more is being known of the outcome on homeschooled children, these sorts of questions give way to more positive comments. However, there will always be a group of individuals that seek government control over the population. It is a philosophy, a way of thinking. Homeschooling and private schools both bypass complete government control, thus becoming a target to be controlled. Perhaps when homeschoolers prove what good citizens they become, people will realize the senselessness.

The points I made above are given a little more flippant than I would normally speak. Just because someone lacks knowledge about homeschooling is in no way enough of an offense to bite their head off. I am opinionated, but I mean all I say in a friendly form of debate, which can be hard to detect over cyberspace. Also,we have CHOSE to have our children take the IOWA once in second grade, but we use it as a tool, not a master. HSLDA has many more points I am sure, they are experts at defending homschoolers' rights.

What point could you add to the list?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Gift Ideas for your Neighbors

Cannot remember how I rabbit trailed to this blog post, but it has some great ideas for those little gifts for neighbors and such. We always give the children's librarians a small gift, it would be nice to do something different next year. This December I have been sick so much that I have not so much as baked a cookie, but I am going to print these ideas out and put them in my holiday binder. These ideas are not just "cheap,"I hate going cheap with giving. The gifts ideas are very thoughtful, on budget and useful, though there are some I would not give myself. I love when simplicity and goodwill are combined.

30 Neighbor Christmas Gifts Ideas

My favorites ideas are the # 14 chocolate covered pretzels and #25 frozen lasagna.

This year I got Grace's art and dance teacher each an Amaryllis bulb with a pot to brighten up their house this winter. What ideas can you add to the list?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Socialization not a Problem

Washington Times Op-ed—Socialization not a Problem

Follow the link above for an excellent article on socialization and homeschooling. They mentioned a very interesting Canadian study.

The results do not surprise me because I have know a number of homeschooling families whose children are now entering the "real" world. However, it is nice to know that what I see in my circle is generally what is happening else where. Another reason it does not surprise me that homeschooled children are doing well socially is that homeschoolers are so much apart of the community. They are very active, and love to learn. Since most homeschoolers want to build character in their children, they often serve in the community. I also notice from going to large homeschool conventions, that homeschoolers are in general very partriotic, which makes for a good citizen.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Rosie Turn In Your Rivets

This is my last weekend working at CLC Bookcenter. During the past year, I have worked between 10 to 20 hours a week at night and on Saturdays. Now this season has past, and it is time to return to my homely duties. My main job in life is training my children to become God honoring adults (we personally do this through homeschooling) and running a peaceful household. I may not get many pats on the backs, nor any honorary degrees, but those are just things of this world. They are not to be compared to our heavenly reward or even just the joy one receives from serving God. Oh, and by the way, I do have a concentration in Women's Studies, so do not think I am just dumb conservative being suppressed by men. My "main job" mentioned above is one of ways I think is important to impact the world, and I LOVE my job.

The main reason for me getting a part-time job in the first place was not to go on a family vacation, but to pay bills. The company my husband works for as a software engineer cut all overtime, even on red hot projects like my husbands, which are usually have immunity. My husband applied for many part-time jobs, as well as I. Finally, I got a job first. We had enough for paying our monthly bills, but if something extra, like a car repair or health expense, came up, we did not have the cash ready.

Another big reason was our desire to live without debt except for our mortgage. Our long term goal is to be completely debt free. While we have not reached our short-term goal yet, I can see how much more we have each month when you lower your overhead by paying off debt. We have not started any paperwork yet, but we would love to adopt. By paying off our debts, we will be able to make that financially possible.

The plus side to working was that I no longer felt hopeless and anxious about our finances. While the job did add stress, it was actually less stressful working than not. And believe me, homeschooling is hard enough without adding a job. Just google homeschooling burnout mom and see how many hits you get. Surprisingly, I have found lots of home school moms work part-time. Their families just need that little extra paycheck. Additional bonuses were that I learned a lot to help me grow in my faith because I was working in a Christian bookstore. As well as, improving my time management . I am looking forward to using this on my extra time.

When you tag-team work (sharing caring for the kids with your spouse while the other works), it is important to make a extra conscious effort on your marriage. I must say, we probably talked more often with my job because we would chat in the kitchen when I got home from work. Also, I noticed my husband had a greater appreciation for me being home. This was also true for my kids.

Some people told me that the job was good for me because it would give me a break. Working is not a break. It was nice to talk to other adults, be in an adult environment, but if I want a brake I will do something refreshing or at least lock myself in our bedroom. It was not fun to get behind on housework and homeschooling preparations.

When I took the job, we thought Saturday afternoon and evening would not upset our household that much because we usually had outings or did cleaning projects in the morning. However, I soon found out how physical the job in the bookstore would deplete me so, that I would need Saturday morning to recover from working Friday night. The house has suffered a lot too. I just could not do it all.

Another negative side was that working in retail, I would catch so many viruses - no matter how much hand sanitizer I used. Whether this is from a low immune issue or not, the results are troublesome either way. This is the reason I have quit before reaching our goal, my health has really taken a toll for the hard work. Lots of people work hard, some people just do not have a constitution that can handle it. It is just getting to the point where my paycheck is being handed over for doctor visits and medicine. It makes much more financial sense to stay home, and work at stretching our dollars even more. We have had a very strict budget and have paid cash for everything from the start of our debt free goal, there is no cappuccino habit or eating out a lot. However, I can use the additional time to make improvements, many money saving tactics require time.

Now, I am looking forward to supporting my husband in his career. He works a ten hour day now overtime has been reinstated. That means when he is at home, he needs to rest, recuperate and spend time with the kids. I need to take care of the house so he can keep up with the heavy work load. Houses do not clean themselves, nor do kids - or at least not without heavy training. Not that I am saying stay at home moms do not work hard, especially homeschooling moms. I am saying the situations are different.

Looking Forward . . . Excited about my free time. Hoping to improve my health. Glad to have more family time before the kids grow up and have families of their own, and our sweet, little family times are just memories.

Rosie the Riveter
(poster at top-J. Howard Miller's "We Can Do It!", commonly mistaken to be Rosie the Riveter)

Photo is of Ms G. and I at CLC Bookcenter.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Lunch Date

Finding a good time for a date with your husband can be hard. Paying for a baby sitter can get expensive. We have been able to solve these problems by going out on a lunch date.

My mom, who is retried, lives about 1 hour away. She usually tries comes once a week to play with the kids and help with laundry. I know, she is just wonderful. Often she comes because someone in the house has a dentist or doctor's appointment. If it is my husband or I that have the appointment, it is very easy to meet for a lunch date. My mom is already here, so there is no expense of a babysitter. She does not have to come at night either. Lunch is also a less costly meal than dinner.

Sometimes it can be hard to schedule one of these dates, but it works out wonderfully when it does. Besides being important for your marriage, a mom needs that break without the children. One of the best parts is getting to eat my food warm! It is so nice to talk to my husband without being interrupted.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Santa Claus at Our House

When embracing the world, we as Christian are always questioning ourselves - how much world is in the world, but not of it? Santa Claus is one of those puzzles. At least he is based upon an actual Christian, St. Nicholas. The problem comes into play when the secular world hijacks Santa, morphing him into a God like figure. Santa is portrayed as knowing when you are good and bad, as being omnipresent. Celebrating Santa in more on the Happy Holidays side of the season, and fears Christians into viewing him as a distraction from Jesus, the real star of Christmas.

Is having your kids sit on Santa's lap bad? Should you donate all your Santa decorations to Goodwill? Could you proudly pronounce, "We do NOT do Santa." If you want to ban the jolly fat guy, that is completely your choice, but here is what we do at our house. Only you can pray and discern what God would like you to do in this matter. Santa is not a matter of orthodoxy.

All the mythical characters are explained to our children as being make-believe. The Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny and Santa included. We explain make-believe is fun, and anything can happen there. I must admit that Disney World is one of my favorite destinations, it is the ultimate make-believe environment. It oozes magic. However, wishes and magic are make-believe, they do not make things happen (Mr. Rodgers has a great book on this if you can find it). Dreams are great to have, but real is real and make-believe stays in make-believe.

Santa is magical to my children because he lives in their imagination. My five year old told me the Tooth Fairy lives next to Santa Claus. Last year we sprinkled reindeer food on our lawn, the kids loved it. They nervously sit on Santa lap and with a joyful smile, as they whisper their wishes for toys. We enjoy movies like The Polar Express. Every year we think about doing a Santa sighting on Christmas Eve, but the suit never materializes. I feel my children have fully enjoyed the "magic" of Santa, while we have been able to be honest with them. Learning what is real and what is make-believe is an important lesson for a child. It in no way crushes their childhood.

What we have not done is give Santa Claus God like characteristics like I mention above. If they say in a movie that Santa knows when your are naughty or nice, I verbally remind the kids that only God has that power. We also do not tell the kids that Santa brings them presents. If they want to make-believe that Santa does, that is fine. Santa is not used as a leverage for getting good behavior either. Children should focus on honoring God, not pleasing Santa. Decorations depicting Santa are not banned in our home, but I do not think we have any other than a Santa hat. We do try to use decorations that point to Christ in Christmas.

There is a line between being honest with your children and only telling them what they need to know. Personally to me, saying "Santa is real" is a falsehood. I cannot see how a falsehood honors God, in fact I would say it is braking a commandment. The smart kids will figure it out pretty early anyway. You have more of a chance of prolonged magic if you let Santa live in make-believe. It is much easier to answer, "Mommy, how can Santa be in so many places? Anything can happen in make-believe, my sweet."

I would just like to add that it is the way you walk out Christ daily in your life that matters most in raising Godly children. Issues like Barbie dolls, Trick-or-Treating, and Santa are just side shows. Pray. Seek God. Seek wise council. Listen and leave the mommy worries at His feet.

Do you "do" Santa? How do you handle the issue? I like to hear other people's perspective on the matter, even when they are completely against mine.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What Kids Say When You Are Sick

I love when you are throwing up in the kitchen sink and one of your kids asks you for their computer time. Do I look like a person that can go turn on the computer right now? Or the 3 year old asks, "What are you doing Mom?"

It is also cute when you are bend over the sink yet again, coughing your lungs out, and your little guy comes up and hugs you on the legs. Or your 8 year old comes up to you and rubs your back. Children are a blessing even when you are sick! Their cute faces and hugs cheer me up!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Blogs Full of Ideas

Here are some other blogs by home schoolers:

Homeschool Creations
- I love her school room and workbox system ideas. At a later day I will have to post about the workbox system.

Confessions of a Homeschooler - She is a busy bee. Lots of ideas and print outs. Another user of the workbox system.

Both are very creative and have far more ideas I could every read or have time to do. Thought some might find them helpful.

UPDATE ADDITION - Here is a blog about living debt free:
Cent to Get Debt-Free
Love the menu post. I find making a healthy, thrifty, tasteful meal my kids will eat is a challenge. Can use all the help I can get. I find you have to be careful of mixing thriftiness and food planning because the quality (health wise) of food often suffers. For example, Capri Suns are about $1 cheaper than other juice boxes, but they are no better than sugar water and are bad for your teeth.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Finding Great Books on a Favorite Subject

Before I became a mother, I worked in couple of libraries. So, I thought I would pass along my list of ways to find great books to feed your child's interest or supplement their curriculum:
  • Find a book about books - There are lots of books that contain book lists and how to get you child to love to read, check your parent's help section in your library (this may be located in the children's section). Honey for a Child's Heart and How to Get Your Child to Love Reading are two examples. My library has a reference book titled A to Zoo by Carolyn W. Lima and John A. Lima, which divides children's picture books by subject. I have more titles if you need them, I must admit I sort of collect them.
  • Find one at the library and you should find more in the same area (non-fiction ). Quick Catherine, what is the Dewey Decimal number for orca whales? Every subject has it's own number. Ask the librarian, she probably has it memorized.
  • Use Amazon or Barnes and Noble's website. Besides subject, you can narrow it down by age group as well. Then you cut and paste the ISBN # from store to the library's website. This is also very helpful to find what is available in audio books and for music (esp. when studying music of a historical period). Not to mention, when you search a subject, the most popular books come up at the top of the list. Usually, not always, a popular children's book is a good book.
  • PBS Kids has some great websites - Reading Rainbow has a great book list. For example, my son was interested in bats. I knew about the book Stellaluna, thought they probably did an episode on the book and I was right. Reading Rainbow has a book list for each episode and their books are high quality.
  • Your library's search engine should be able to do a search in a specific area of the library, like easy reader non- fiction and easy reader fiction for picture books (including non-fiction videos). It is probably under an advanced search option. If you cannot find that as an option, ask the librarian at the Reference Desk. They love to help you, I know because I have worked at the Reference Desk. We love to help the sane people:)
Please add to the list if you have some more ways to find books by subject.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

New Blog - Priority1Mail


I began a new family blog, and this time Matt is co-authoring with me. It's called Priority1Mail and this is our vision:

"Think of a shoebox full of letters brimming to the top with a lifetime of memories. How priceless and sentimental! Our blog was created with that idea in mind. We want to etch the ever changing moments of our lives into a place where they'll never fade. We want to leave a legacy of faith, and the events that shaped them, for our children and perhaps our childrens' children.

The number "1" in Priority 1 Mail has meaning and significance. It refers to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. We pray that the letters we write will reflect Him, our #1 priority.

Along the way, we hope this humble race we run will be an encouragement to you as we fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-3)."

I'd love it if you hopped over to take a look, and let me know what you think.

In Christ,

What to Do With Little Ones

Just to add to Peace and Preschooler's post that I blogged about yesterday, here are some of my own helpful hints:
  • We did not school during afternoon naps. My kids all stop napping at 2, and my last baby only cat-napped his first year. Also, I need the afternoon for a refreshment time or I become mean mommy/ice wife. Some children learn better in the morning, and some in the afternoon. That is the beauty of home schooling.
  • At one time I had home schooling in the playroom, but now I have home school for the 3rd grader in the dining room, leaving the playroom (downstairs) free for my noisy boys. I also do kindergarten in the playroom, while the 3rd grader is independently working upstairs. My children actually suggested their school spots, by trying their reasonable request I made an improvement to our school day. Everyone's home and children are different, so each mom needs to prayerfully ask God for a creative solution for her own family. Do not forget to ask your husband, God often uses them to solve our problems.
  • When I had an infant, I had a circuit, which went something like this - bouncy seat, baby gym, blanket with toys, different baby gym. This would buy me about 30 minutes, maybe more, I just remember it was long enough to do math and phonics, subjects that required my full attention and two hands. After the circuit, I could easy nurse or hold the baby ( I love to hold my babies a lot!), while helping the older one with their other school work such as handwriting or making a graph like the picture of Ms. G above. There are so many more activities you can add to the circuit, like entertainer, highchair, playpen and swing.
  • Giving the Kindergartner or the Preschooler computer time provides a peaceful time to teach one on one with an older child. As a bonus, the toddler usually likes to watch them play on the computer. Just set the timer, I have accidentally given twice as much computer time as I wanted to.
  • Toys are not just kept in our big playroom downstairs, we have play spaces spread through out the house. While most of the toys are either in the playroom or their bedroom, sometimes I take a stored toy out to the living room. Some educational toys are kept in the dining room (which also functions as our school room). The living room has some Magna Doodles stashed next to the TV, and the kitchen has a drawer of kitchen toys. I must confess, we do have an insane amount of toys, but I do try to create a toy library. Someday I will make pictures for them, like a catalog. Well, maybe I get to do if for my grandkids!
  • Less is more as toys are concerned. Children tend to entertain themselves better when there is empty space. Keeping your home that way is a constant challenge, but it is well worth the effort. Children like a change of scenery, they enjoy playing in different spots during the day. If you have those spaces ready, they choose to change themselves when they start to get board. You may have to teach this skill to some children. When they act up out of boredom, assist them in recognizing that feeling and ask them questions to let them choose for themselves what to do next. Some people find it helpful use a schedule for toys and activities.
  • A Kindergartner can play outside by themselves if you have a fence with a secure lock. I can easily watch my son from the dining room and kitchen windows, while teaching my daughter.
  • There is a dear mom at my home school co-op who has 8 kids and a husband who is a Marine. Once I asked her how she dealt with the little ones, she told me she has special toys for school time kept on a rotating basis. This hint I had heard many times, so I asked how successful was it? How long did it work? She said about 15 minutes. So, keep helpful hints in perspective, do not expect wonders, and remember you are not alone in your struggles!
  • When the older child complains that they want to play like the younger ones, I remind them that they did those things when they were little. Now they are older they have both more privileges and responsibilities. They need to learn now life is hard work. Do not feel bad for them, but you may want to pray for a joyful spirit for them!
  • Remember that this is just a season, older children can be a great help. You will have older children sooner then you can imagine. Just look below how fast my baby grew, my then toddler is now the kindergartner, and my kindergartner is now a 3rd grader!Children are hard work, but they are a BLESSING! What a better way to spend your time, than raising a new generation of strong Believers in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

What Did You Do Before There Were Older Kids to Help

Here is a great post I found on Peace and Preschoolers called What Did You Do Before There Were Older Kids to Help. The more experience moms of larger families have always told me that one of the hardest season of motherhood is when there are many little ones. While I am still in this stage, I can see if the Lord blesses us with more children, it will get easy with older children to help. However, figuring what to do in the meantime without losing my mind would be helpful. Home school conventions often have a workshop about this subject. Every little hint helps, so I hope you find this one useful. Tomorrow I will post some of my own.