Friday, September 24, 2010

The Science of Cleaning out the Pantry

As someone who is about to move for the 4th time in 2 years I have come to realize that there are certain areas of the house that you can't just pack up at the last minute.  The primary one being the kitchen.  You would think that because you will be using the kitchen pretty much till the last minute that you would need to pack it up almost last.  Most think it's the equivalent of packing your toiletries for a trip right after you've used them for the last time before your trip.  However, there should be more planning involved that that.

The first move we made was only 10 miles, but it was down a mountain and we were moving into a short-term rental that was furnished.  My biggest concern with that move was making sure nothing broke on the bumpy roads and that I had enough food to last for a couple days once we got to the new house so I didn't have to shop right away.  That meant that I tried to make sure we consumed anything in a bottle before the move.  Anything that needed to be kept cold was taken in a cooler and at the last minute.

The second move was about 50 miles and we were moving stuff from storage into an unfurnished house while we were still living in the furnished rental house.  This allowed me to unpack pots and pans and such before we actually moved in.  Very convenient I must say.  Again, I tried to make sure we consumed as many bottled items as possible, but I also tried to finish off anything that was in large packaging.  The idea there was just to take up as little space as possible.

Move three was 300 miles.  In this case, I tried to clear out everything but staple goods (flour, salt, pepper, etc.).  How you ask?  About 8 weeks before the move I stopped shopping for bulk items.  That meant no shopping trips to Costco and it also meant that unless I KNEW I would use it all, I wouldn't even buy large quantities of meat from the local grocery store.  About 4 weeks before the move I started making menus based on what I had in the pantry and less on what I wanted to eat.  It meant we all ate things we weren't too fond of on occasion (just because of the way the canned goods were paired with other things) but I must admit that we didn't have much to move.

Move four is going to be 300 miles again but there is a bit of a twist.  This time we will be moving into an RV when we get to the other end rather than a house.  That means that I need to plan on limited storage space.  In addition to using up just about everything I can, I need to reduce the size (and maybe number) of staple goods I'm bringing. 

It is certainly not something that can be done at the last minute unless of course you want to throw a bunch of things away (including your hard earned money).

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Teaching everyday

Now that I am officially a homeschooler I've realized something very important.  Just about everything done in a day can be an opportunity for instruction.  I guess I knew it before, but it's been made more obvious to me in the last couple of weeks.  For example, we've gone to various zoos over the summer and even though I tried to use each trip as a learning opportunity for my kids, the last trip we took I was even more focused on the learning aspect and less on the viewing and photography of all the animals. 

The other day the kids and I had a picnic in the yard.  I ended up lying out on the picnic blanket and looked up at the tree I was under and saw it a a teaching opportunity.  I ended up giving my kids an impromptu lesson on wind, pollination, and why leaves fall off trees (we had a few land on us while lying there).

Yesterday, I took the kids to the Cincinnati Museum Center.  It has a Natural Science and History Museum, a History Museum, and a Children's Museum all in the same complex.  I decided to see them in that order so we could get in the education part of the day first and then I could let them "play" in the Children's Museum.  Guess what?   Even in the Children's Museum we learned about different things.  We learned how to make our own kite (we are waiting for wind to test it out), we learned about water pressure, and we learned about pulleys.

My 6 year old has in no uncertain terms told me that just sitting down at the table and doing worksheets is not enjoyable, so I'm adapting.  I guarantee you this... he would not have learned about how the heart operates if we had learned it from a book but to see it in a hands-on way he has retained the information. 

I'm learning that while opportunities for teaching our children are all around us, it only works if we get on their level and teach them in a way they understand and enjoy or else it will be totally lost on them.  I guess more field trips are in my future and to be honest that's fine with me.  We learn and get to have fun all at the same time.  What more could I ask for?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

An Oldie But a Goodie

Over the last 3 months I have taken my children to 5 different zoos (and have plans to do another in the next couple of weeks).  What have I learned? 

1.  Make sure you bring a stroller (or get one from the zoo).  Even if your child is used to walking, they will inevitably get tired of walking.
2.  Get a membership to the zoo most local to you because you will get discounts at other zoos.  Don't forget to mention it everywhere you buy something inside the zoo.  You'll be surprised what you can get at a discount.
3.  Check before going to make sure you can bring in your own food.  If not, plan on going to the car to eat or plan your trip so that you are arriving or leaving around lunch.  Most food inside the zoo is overpriced and doesn't taste that good either.  If you can, make sure to pack not only a lunch, but snacks and lots of drinks too (20oz drinks cost an average of $2 ea).
4.  Be prepared to say "No" to the MANY requests for things from the gift shop.  I tried to avoid the gift shop entirely but marketing being what it is, they always seem to put it in a place where kids see it.  My solution for this was to get my kids started on collecting elongated pennies.  We wander around the zoo in search of the 1 design they like best.  This not only gives them something to look at later to remember the trip, but it doesn't take up much space and costs between $.51 - $1.01 each.  Many postcards aren't even that cheap.
5.  Before going to the zoo, find out what animals are there and let your child(ren) know.  Ask them which one they want to make sure they see and plan accordingly (very important in some of the larger zoos where it is hard to see everything in one day). 
6.  Be prepared for disappointment (theirs and even yours).  One zoo I took the kids to, didn't have the standard animals (elephant, giraffe, zebra, etc) and my kids were a bit disappointed but because we knew some of the animals that were there I was able to distract them with what we were going to be able to see.  I must admit it was our least favorite of the 5 so far, so there is something to be said for the old standbys. 

More zoo information to come after we visit zoo #6 (one of the top 10 in the USA).

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Blogging Newbie

This is my first official blog so forgive me if I seem rough around the edges. 

I have decided to do this blog because I have been traveling a lot over the last month and it looks like there will be more to come.  You see, my husband has been offered a job in Australia.  We have lived on the East coast of the United States for our 11 years of married life and both of our children were born on the East coast as well.  This will be quite a change for all of us but it is one we are looking forward to.  Of course we will miss our friends and family, but we are looking forward to all the adventures we will get to have.  What an opportunity for our children to experience a different culture (and I don't even have to learn a different language)!

We are not sure when the move to Australia will happen.  Unfortunately, we are waiting for our paperwork to be processed and it doesn't seem to be any faster there than in the US.  While we wait, we've decided to embark on another adventure of sorts. 

In October, we are planning on getting an RV and setting it up so that we can not only live in it, but so that my husband can still contact his new employer in Australia.  Then we are heading South for the winter.  Our plan is to start out in Florida (near Disney) so that we can take the kids to all the attractions there.  Then we will move West.  If the paperwork takes long enough, we hope to be able to see the Grand Canyon and maybe even Old Faithful. 

I just started homeschooling my 1st grader in preparation for all of our travels.  It has been quite an adventure in and of itself, but it is one I'm enjoying.  I hope I enjoy the rest of my upcoming adventures just as much.  I hope you will too.