Saturday, December 31, 2011

Setting Goals

The last couple years I have decided not to come up with resolutions.  I rationalized this decision because "I don't need to set goals once a year just because someone else says I should."

This year I am breaking from my tradition of rebellion.  Today, I am going to let my readers know a few  goals I have decided to set recently.  I am not setting these goals because everyone sets goals for the new year.  I am merely sharing goals I've already come up with because I know myself and I know that if I don't put it on paper (and maybe more importantly let others know about it), that I'm less likely to achieve them.  So here goes:

  • I am going to make a concerted effort to read my Bible every day.  I've actually been doing this for a couple months, but like I said, putting it out there for others to see makes me more likely to complete it.  In fact, I'm hoping to finish reading the Bible one year from when I started it.
  • I am going to do a better job of facilitating my children's learning. 
  • I am going to master the art of grocery shopping in such a way that I spend as little as possible.
  • I am going to procrastinate less (especially as it relates to housework). 
  • I am going to be more consistent enforcing the rules with my children. 
  • I am going to exercise more.
Feel free to ask me how I'm doing with my goals on occasion.  Please help me achieve my goals.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Growing Up Too Fast

My kids have been known for their reluctance for going to church.  The last few weeks at church the kids have willingly walked into their class without any complaints.  In fact, my daughter has been eager to go to her class.  Neither of them has made any friends (at least they can't tell me the names of any), but they are enjoying the class and are learning things, so I am happy.

Last week when we went to pick up the kids from their class, the teacher gave us the "I want to talk to you look" as we were walking up.  All parents know that look.  I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.  Uh-oh!  Did one of them have an issue after we left?

We were actually told that our kids separated for a portion of the class (for the first time).  I guess, during part of the class, they separate into different groups based on their grade level.  The teacher asked my son what grade he was in (as the teacher said, "because he is SO smart that he didn't think he should be with the youngest group").  My son told the teacher he was in 3rd grade (for some reason my son remembers me telling him he's in 3rd grade).  If we were to base his grade on the standards the school system would use, he's in 2nd grade.  What I find interesting is that the teacher believed him!  I know he's tall for his age, and I know he's pretty smart, but for someone to believe he's one year older than he is...

It just means he's growing up WAY too fast!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Keeping CHRIST in Christmas

For the last few years, my husband and I have been trying to make sure our kids understand why we celebrate Christmas.  We've found it very difficult when we have to compete with all the gifts.  What we've been wanting to do is keep Christmas rather low-key in the gifts department giving them just a few smaller gifts and then saving the big gifts for what we call "Loot Day" (which we will celebrate on New Year's Day).  The idea behind Loot Day is to celebrate American commercialism (meaning let our kids still get gifts so they don't feel left out) while allowing us to keep Christmas about Jesus' birthday.  It also means we can take advantage of after-Christmas sales.  It's been very hard to pull this idea off because we've always been local to family who wanted to give gifts on Christmas.

Well, this year, we are not going to be near those family members, so we are going to try to separate Christmas and Loot Day.  I've been trying to go through an advent book with the kids to help solidify the Biblical meanings of Christmas and all that surrounds it, but I admit it's not a habit I'm used to so I've missed a few days.  I can happily say though that for the first time ever, my 5 year old daughter tells me that Christmas is about Jesus' birthday and not about getting presents.

We will still be giving gifts on Christmas; after all, Jesus was given gifts.  If you look into why Jesus was given gold, frankincense, and myrrh we learn that these were necessity items.  Therefore, my children will be receiving necessity items (clothes and maybe a couple books, but no toys) on Christmas.  All the fun stuff will be given on Loot Day. (Note to family: Do not call on Christmas expecting them to have opened your "fun" gift.  They will be opening any clothing items from family but no toys on Christmas.)

You may think we are crazy or you may love our idea.  I just wanted to let you all know in advance so that you are not surprised when I don't post pictures till New Years.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Penny Pinching

I'm going to appologize for the length of this posting.  I had no intention of it being this long, but I guess I'm more passionate about the topic than I though.
---------------------

A couple weeks ago, I discovered that I had spent $900 during the month of November on groceries.  That is CRAZY!  Part of it is that we are still re-buying some staple items such as flour, and part of it is that I did some of my early December shopping in the last couple days of November, but still... that's just NUTS! 

I think the largest part of it, is that the price of things are going up and I just figured that all the increase in my weekly bills was because of that.  What I've recently discovered is that the problem is that I've moved.  This created two problems:  1. I was not aware of the coupon policies of my new stores.   I am now aware though  (FYI Virginian's, there is no store down here that double coupons - UGH!)  and 2.  I have not figured out which stores to buy what items from (For example in VA, I would get canned veggies from Wegman's because they were cheapest).  Some items I'm just willing to pay more for because they are better quality.  For example, I pretty much refuse to buy produce from the Wal-Mart.  What that meant is that I would shop at a more expensive store because I wanted their produce but would not think about how much more expensive their other foods are.

I have been shopping the sales flyers the last couple weeks and it's been saving me some money (I'm back around $100 - $125 a week).  I used to make my menu and then would just shop.  Now I make my menu based on what's on sale. 

After I realized how high our grocery bill was, we had a family meeting in which we talked about how we want to buy a house soon, and the more money we save the better the house.  I've also mentioned that we need money in order to be able to go on trips (like a cruise, Disney, etc).  We then discussed ways to save money and the 3 ways they can help is 1. Turning off lights when they leave a room, 2. Help Mommy save money on groceries by understanding when I say no to something or when I ask them to eat leftovers, and 3. By realizing we will be eating out less.

Talking to the kids and letting them know the situation has helped as well because there is now much less complaining when we have leftovers for dinner on occasion.  Not only does this make my life easier but it means we are not wasting money. 

There is one more thing I'm about to try to institute.  I've always thought that the most expensive part of my grocery bill besides meats was produce.  Therefore I didn't purchase them as snack foods.  I've read that fresh produce can actually cost less in the long run and I think I've finally realized exactly how that's true.  For example, my kids typically have a snack in the AM and in the PM.  What's been happening lately is that they have 2 snacks in the AM and 2 in the PM.  Why?  Because they are made of processed foods and aren't as filling.  SO.... after my kids finish off the granola bars, fruit snacks, etc that are in the house, we're going to switch to fruits and veggies as our snacks.  It's healthier, more filling, and I hope will prove to be less expensive. 

I made a local friend almost right after I moved to Florida and she recently went to a farm and came back and asked if I wanted anything from the massive stash she came back with.  I got a HUGE cabbage, 4 red peppers, and 4 tomatoes for $3.  I made cole slaw and barely scratched the surface of the cabbage.  If I don't even use any more of the cabbage, I spent less than if I'd gotten a bag of cole slaw mix.  But you know what?  I have plans for more of that cabbage.

And I also have plans on joining my friend on a future trip (she likes to go every week).  Maybe the next thing I try is to get my family to eat a vegetarian meal on occasion.  Wish me luck on that one.  :-)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ewwww.... Gross!!!

My kids LOVE the library.  As of late, my kids have been particularly interested in these 5" video players that our library has.  The library recently changed their policy on checking them out so they are now due back weekly.  I got my reminder email letting me know that they are due back tomorrow.

After returning from class today, we started to look for them.  After at least an hour without success finding one of the players, Jon started in the search as well.  The kids have been doing lots of things with paper (paper airplanes, paper mache, and creating animals using paper and tape) so we began by cleaning all of that.  We ended up with a kitchen trash bag full of papers that were no longer deemed worthy of keeping.  After that proved unfruitful, we started to look under furniture.

The amount of K'nex under the love seat was astonishing.  We then moved to the couch and found not only K'nex, but dog treats.  Umm... we don't have a dog.  Can you say, ewwww!  Before we moved into the house, the property management company had the house cleaned.  I guess they didn't move the couch.

Oh, about 3 hours after the kids and I began our search, the player was found... on the underside my daughter's mattress.  Not just under it, but between the mattress and the fitted sheet.  Exactly how that happened we don't know.

All I know is that after seeing what was left under that couch, I continued to vacuum the rest of the house (being sure to move as many pieces of furniture as possible).  I'm feeling much less grossed out now.  Tomorrow... bathrooms.   And my house will be completely clean.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Ups and Downs of Amazon

This year seems to be turning out to be an Amazon kind of Christmas, and I don't mean that I've been doing a lot of shopping on Amazon.  Don't get me wrong, I have done some, but I would have to say that 60 - 70 % of the gifts the kids are getting from family members are coming from Amazon.  I've found that to be good and bad:

      Good                                                                                   
  • I used Amazon to send links to family members of some of the things the kids wanted
  • I was able to catch a duplicate order (different family members just happened to order the same thing even though it was not specified - what are the odds?)
      Bad
  • Unless told by family members, I don't know what to expect and when.  Trying to hide incoming packages can be a bit hard under these circumstances.
  • I feel like I've been wrapping for ages and I didn't even buy everything I'm wrapping!  I'm going to have to buy more wrapping paper so that I can finish everything too.
Amazon certainly has a large variety of items at a good price.  I'm seriously thinking of using them a little more next year to purchase gifts for the family.  I may spring for the gift wrap when available though. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Using the Off Switch

I don't know what it is, but today my son just does not seem to stop talking.  Since getting home from church he's been building with his K'nex (of course) and as he's doing so he is talking to the K'nex, giving me a play-by-play of what he's doing, and just filling any empty space with humming and chatter.

I told him that if he expect Mommy to listen to this all day, that I would overload.  He then asked me what that meant.  Being that my husband is an electrical engineer I told him that when an electrical circuit is overloaded, one of two things happen.  1.  It either turns off, or 2.  It explodes.

Being that he hasn't stopped talking since this conversation, I have opted for option 1.  I am now doing my best to tune him out (turning him off) so that I don't end up doing option 2.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Searchin' for a Deal = Quality Family Time

The last couple weekends the entire family has piled into one of our vehicles and gone hunting for deals.  Apparently this time of year, the snowbirds are coming back "home" and are realizing they have things they want to get rid of so there are yard sales EVERYWHERE.  So far we have gotten, 2 adult bicycles, some electronic stuff hubby hopes to repair and sell, a few items for the kitchen, and storage bins (lots of them). 

This last one is particularly important to me.  My regular readers are aware by now that my son is a builder.  His favorite material for building is K'nex.  In fact, there is hardly a day that goes by where he isn't building with K'nex.  Unfortunately, they tend to get all over the house and I step on them all the time (luckily they are not as painful as Legos).  Anyway, I've been trying to figure out a way to organize his K'nex so that 1. He can find the piece he wants without dumping the (large) box on the floor thus making a HUGE mess and 2. He can leave partially completed projects out without me stepping on them.

My solution was two fold.  The first was to rearrange part of the sun room so that there is a building / crafting area.  The second was to sort his K'nex into the drawer storage bins that hubby found at a yard sale.  The day we got the storage units, the kids and I spent a couple hours sorting the K'nex and to say my son is please with the arangement is an understatement.  This Mama is pretty happy too.  No K'Nex under feet for a week now! 

Technically we have more drawers than we need right now, but I know something my son doesn't.  He's getting more for Christmas.  A LOT more.  I found 2 bargains on ebay and my parents found something too, so the boy is going to be swimming in K'Nex soon.  I'm pretty sure he's going to hole himself up for days after opening them.  But you know what, he will have a blast, and he will be learning in the process so I'm cool with it.

Not only that, but we've been able to spend quality family time together the last few weekends and it's been great!  We still have Christmas stuff to find, so there's a good chance we will be back out again soon.  Looking forward to it!

Giving Thanks With a Greatful Heart

Today in the United States we are celebrating Thanksgiving.  It is a day when we reflect on our lives and thank God for our blessings.  A small sampling of what I am thankful for:

  • My family.  This time last year, we were living with my parents (and brother).  Our lease was up and we didn't want to commit to a new lease just yet so they let us stay at their house (for 6 months) while we figured everything out.
  • Opportunities.  Living with my parents helped my kids get to know their grandparents and their uncle better.  It also allowed us to do some other things we would not have been able to do (like purchase a camper and travel across 16 different states over a 4 month period) all while still having a "home base."
  • Modern conveniences and technology.  The kids and I have been studying (online) about the Plimoth settlers and the Wapanaoag Indians.  The trials and tribulations they went through certainly help explain why they felt a 3 day celebration of thanks was in order.  Technology also helps keep family and friends who are living apart in contact much easier than they did back in 17th century (yeah for blogging, Facebook, Google chat, and FaceTime).
  • Homeschooling successes.  Although I have embarked on a method of homeschooling that some would frown upon (and that sometimes I question whether they are learning anything), I have recently been shown that they are in fact learning.  My daughter is reading!  My son's reading is improving as are his computer skills.  And some of the questions others ask that they can answer... just amazing!
  • My husband.  I have a hard working husband who loves me and believes in me enough to trust me to homeschool our children.
  • Homeschooling opportunities.  We moved to an area that has given us so many homeschool opportunities.  The friends the kids and I have made already, as well as the things we've been able to do have been wonderful.
  • Extended family that happens to live nearby and has invited us to Thanksgiving dinner.
  • The freedom I have to sing:
GIVE THANKS
WITH A GRATEFUL HEART
GIVE THANKS
TO THE HOLY ONE
GIVE THANKS
FOR HE'S GIVEN
JESUS CHRIST, HIS SON

AND NOW LET THE WEAK SAY
I AM STRONG
LET THE POOR SAY
I AM RICH
BECAUSE OF WHAT
THE LORD HAS DONE
FOR US
GIVE THANKS...

Monday, November 14, 2011

Fun, Homeschool Style

I recently participated in a homeschool swap (coordinated by The Homeschool Post).  The idea behind the swap is for homeschoolers to connect with other homeschoolers in such a way as to help support them (through prayer and ideas) as well as to send them a small care package that will help them with their homeschooling journey.

My swap partner was Michelle.  She is a homeschool mom of 3 in Arizona.  She happens to have a blog that I am now a religious follower of; she used to be a kindergarten teacher, but then decided to stay at home with her kids.  I have been able to get so many great ideas from her blog (as well as some emails we've exchanged).

When signing up for the swap you are asked a few questions about your homeschooling style, personal style, etc.  In my answers I put that some of our families favorite supplies are construction paper and tape.  Guess what, Michelle sent me construction paper and tape including a nice dispenser that makes it hard for the kids to lose (something they do quite often with disposable tape dispensers).  She also gave me some food goodies (yum!).  See the pic below of what I pulled out of the box. 



One thing you will not see is a gift code she emailed to me so that I could purchase a software package.  It is a digital scrapbooking program. She had mentioned it on her blog and it sounded great to me. I love crafty things and a part of me loves the idea of putting pictures in a scrapbook.  That said, our household doesn't tend to go to print on photos.  Hubby's family had a house fire when he was little and they have a gap in their family photos because of it, so we go digital and store a copy of them off-site.

I figured this software would allow me to arrange the pictures like a scrapbook, while still keeping it digital.  I've decided my first project will be to create a scrapbook of my son's creations.   Here's the beginning (there are lots of pics to sort through so I haven't gotten any further than this).


Thanks Michelle!  You did a great job picking things for me and my family.  I think you've created a monster when it comes to the digital scrapbooking too.  :-)

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Conquering Hero

Today, my son participated in a science fair that was held by a local homeschool group.  I admit, I did the typing, and I was certainly involved with the work on the stove, but the idea was his and he gave me the gist of the text that he wanted typed up.


He was the only person in his age group and science category and there were only 3 who participated overall.  Not a very big showing, but that's OK.  Considering he had to give a presentation, the fewer people there the better (in his mind I'm sure).  Considering it was his first science fair and he's only 7 he did really well.  And I'm not just saying that because I'm his mom.  The mom who was hosting it (whose 15 year old son has already won a scholarship to a 4 year college from a previous science fair award) said he did well. 

My goal with this science fair was to get him interested in the idea.  Maybe get his thoughts flowing so that he can start a project for next year that takes a little more research and experimentation.

For all his efforts he got a few crafting supplies (Again, the 15 year old son of the host family won an award at a science fair of essentially a life-time supply of Elmer's products so they decided to share the love with all the kids there).



He also got ice cream.  You see, the host moms parents owns an ice cream shop nearby so the fair was held there, and once the presentations were done we got some ice cream.  (I had a coconut sorbet that was DELICIOUS!  This shop just found a new customer.)


Anyway, I think this was a great experience for my son.   My daughter even wants to do a project next year!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Back in Time

Today the kids and I went on a field trip with some fellow homeschoolers.  We had to travel almost 2 hours to get there, but I think it was worth it.  I think the kids would tell you the same. 


This field trip involved traveling back in time to Florida in the 1890's.  We took a tour of a "town" that was comprised of period buildings that have been donated and gathered together from around the state of Florida.  The tour lasted 2.5 hours, yet kept the kids attention pretty much the entire time. 

We learned about how Morris Code and the railroads worked, how the schools worked, as well as how they made cane syrup from sugar canes (among other things).  We even got to make a rope, butter, and a bees wax candle (we got to bring the candle home and the kids are dying to use them).



One of my favorite types of books is historical fiction.  I love reading about how things were done years ago, so to get to do some hands-on stuff like this was fun for me.  I also know my kids really enjoy hands-on learning opportunities so it was fun to watch them enjoying themselves. 

Of course the end of the trip involved a trip to the "General Store" where I let the kids each purchase something.  My daughter picked out a doll and my son picked out a whip.  No surprise to me, he became quite proficient very quickly.  Unfortunately, it's already being repaired by Daddy.

On the way home I was wondering if there is a place we could go that would allow us to live like they did years ago to get a better feel for it... you know with the wood burning stove for cooking and no electricity.  Then I thought better of it.  I kind of like my modern conveniences.  Seeing them for a couple hours was good enough for me.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Excitement is in the Air

It's official... we are gardening.  And we are all pretty excited about it.

So far, we have:
  • planted our seeds (into starter greenhouses), 
  • begun the process of cleaning out the area where the garden will be,
  • measured the garden area for the raised planter that needs to be built,
  • and created a layout for where the different things will be planted.
The next thing on the list besides continuing to clean out the garden area is to plant my herb seeds into a pot and to transplant two pineapple plants into bigger pots.  To give you an idea of how monumental prepping the garden area is, the picture below was taken just after hubby took his weed whacker (with a metal cutting blade on it) to the area. 



The kids have been learning about recycling and composting lately so I'm also thinking we may need to do some composting too. I could really get into this whole gardening thing.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow...kind of.

Today, a monumental thing happened.  Today, I sent the final invoice to a customer my husband has had for over 7 years.  This customer allowed me to stay home with my kids.  And this customer, allowed hubby to start working from home.

We knew this was coming.  In fact, 2 years ago we were told they had found a new vendor they were going to use and they would only need our services for another 6 months.  The extra year and a half have been interesting to say the least.  That's part of why the loss of this customer is a bit of a blessing.

At the same time, this is the nail in the coffin for a company my hubby and his brother started together.   It also brings back memories of my son's birth.  You see, hubby went to a meeting with said customer to get their business while I was in labor with our son.

I am thankful for God's provision in our lives and that this customer hung on long enough for us to get another that is continuing to providing for us. God is good!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Giving Props When They are Due

Today I submitted my second Scholastic book club order, but it was the first order I placed where someone besides myself placed an order.  I actually had 2 other people place orders.  It took me close to an hour to figure it all out.  Some of it was because of the way their computer ordering system works and part of it was because I triple checked everything before clicking the "Order" button.

This process has taught me one thing... I have a new-found appreciation for teachers who end up getting orders from 10+ families (as I know my son's kindergarten teacher did).  All I know is that I'm a bit scared that in the next couple month I will probably have people ordering Christmas gifts which means I could end up with more orders.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Overscheduled = Stress and Fun

I think it's safe to say that the last few weeks, my schedule has been WAY. TOO. FULL. 

A few weeks ago the kids and I flew to Virginia to visit with family and friends up there.  We were going to be coming back the day before a presentation for a homeschool group they are in so we completed a project that we needed to bring with us.

 Earth my son made (Western Hemisphere shown)
 Earth daughter & I made (Africa & Europe shown)
Cross section of one to show the layers of the earth.  This was for an earth science unit.

Luckily we got everything done before we left for Virginia.  Unfortunately, my kids did not take a nap on the return flight or drive so we ended up skipping the class where we would have shown these projects.  I just knew that taking the kids to class with them only having 7 hours of sleep was not something I wanted to do.

While in Virginia, we saw my nephew (3 weeks old at the time) and his parents, hubby's grandparents and mother (who was also visiting my nephew - her grandson), my parents, my brother, and some friends.  The kids really liked seeing their cousin.  I think they are both enjoying the idea of having a 1st cousin.






After our whirlwind tour of Virginia we flew back home and two days later went on a field trip to a local zoo.  The kids and I had a blast.  The other homeschoolers we meet there (most for the first time) were wonderful.  This particular zoo didn't have a lot of different animals, but they did have a lot of shows and meet the keeper talks that my kids found really interesting.  In fact, my son stumped a trainer with a couple of his questions.

Note the tie dye shirts we made for field trips (I was wearing one too).  We had multiple comments 
that it was a great idea.  Doesn't hurt that the kids and I had fun making them.

Right after the zoo, the kids and I drove to my cousin's house for a sleep over (he and his family live 30 minutes from the zoo).  While there, the kids carved pumpkins, went swimming (not for long because the water was cold), and played with my cousin's boys (who happen to be only a couple months older than each of my kids).  It was nice seeing them playing together while the adults got to chat with each other.  Now that we live close, I'm hoping we'll see them again soon.



Since returning from Virginia, we've also had doctor's appointments, shopping trips, school, and planting starters for a garden.  Next on our list is a science fair project for my son.  We've also got a few more field trips planned soon.

Those people who think that homeschoolers just sit around the house in their pj's all day have got it ALL wrong.  We are always on the go, but you know what, I really think that all the stress (for me) has created fun learning opportunities for my kids.  Let the crazy continue!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Working Towards a Better Me

While back in Virginia, I visited with a couple of my friends who've inspired me to be a better me.  They inspired me to exercise more, watch what I eat, and be a better mom, wife, and teacher.  To that end, I've:
  • been getting up earlier (to get things done before the kids get up), 
  • been making a concerted effort to watch what I eat,
  • started to exercise again.

Yesterday I joined Nerd Fitness' 6 week challenge for a little added accountability in the exercise and diet areas (http://nerdfitness.com/blog/2011/10/24/six-weeks-to-awesome-are-you-in/).  I am completely stoked and excited to start on this path to a new me.

I'll keep you posted on how things go.

Monday, October 17, 2011

My Little Bit of Random

I have been so busy the last week or so (and I don't see it letting up in the near future), so rather than deprive you of my blogging, I will just give you a few random thoughts that have come to mind lately.

  • Driving into Fort Lauderdale the other day I noticed on those DMV signs that there was a "silver alert."  First thing that came to mind: Do they do that when an older person goes missing?
  • I will not go into details, but after the birth of our daughter, hubby and I decided that it was best if I not have children anymore.  For the longest time, I was completely OK with that.  After holding my nephew the other day, I had a little bit of regret (until I thought of the sleepless nights and the frantic days with the 2 children I already have).
  • I have always loved the changing of the leaves in the fall.  I had forgotten though that they don't like me.  I can't stand fall allergies.
  • Coming back to Virginia in the fall is certainly helping me appreciate the warmer weather in Florida.  It's funny, we're driving around looking at people in VA who are wearing shorts and t-shirts and we think they must be crazy.  After our trip to VA, we're pretty sure we're going to be doing the same thing in Florida in December (because we can) and will probably have people looking at us like we're nuts.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Yep, I'm THAT Mom

At least I'm sure that's what the nurse at my kids new pediatrician is thinking right now.  You see, I've called their office 3 times today trying to find out test results for a sample taken yesterday around lunch.

They would be too if they were dealing with the circumstances that I am right now.
  1. I KNOW my daughter has an infection (she's had 4 of them in the last 6 months so I know the signs).  
  2. We are leaving town soon and I want her to be on the antibiotics for a while before we go.  
  3. My daughter is experiencing excruciating pain and watching her go through that makes me want to cry.  Her screaming from the pain was so bad today at the store that an employee checked on us to make sure we were ok.  (I think she was making sure I wasn't beating my child, but I can appreciate that.)
All I know is that I have conquered.  She does have an infection and they were waiting for the cultures to come back.  Rather than make her wait for those to determine which antibiotic to give her, they are just going to give her something a bit more aggressive which considering she's had the "easy" antibiotic for previous bouts is probably a good thing.

This is one Mom who is happy to be known as the pest.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Living Life

Sorry I have not blogged lately.  Needless to say, I have found it more important to enjoy life than to blog right now.  The kids and I have been doing all kinds of things for school as well as getting ready for our trip to Virginia (which is only a few days away). 

Not only that, but many of the things we've been doing are not the sorts of things that I think people want to read about.  In light of that and how busy I've been, I just decided not to post anything for a while.

The next couple of weeks are going to be busy with all kinds of things, so hopefully I will have some fun and exciting things to share soon.  Till then, I hope you have a chance to enjoy life as well.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Busy Times

The last few days have been a busy time for this Mama (and my house shows it).  The family is going to be visiting my nephew in Virginia soon and before we go, we've had a bunch of things to get done (mostly for school).  We've been creating a paper mache earth for a presentation they will be giving the day after we get back (a multi-day process).  We've also tie dyed some t-shirts that we will use for field trips (as well as in the airport).

A couple nights ago we were also able to use the certificates we got when we got our library cards.  I have always loved sunsets and sunsets on the water are even better so to be able to enjoy a dinner in a restaurant at the end of a pier followed by an hour on Charlotte Harbor was a wonderful thing.  The charter company this was through, also offers other "cruises" that I might just have to try out one time.

 We had visitors
 So happy
 This ones for you Dad.  Jon was drooling too.
 Love how I actually got the bird in the pic (that never happens).
Beautiful.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Got Stalkers? I do.

Yep.  I have people following me.  Today I took my kids out to run some errands.  I noticed lots of people looking our way.   I figured that people were intrigued by our car.  The sales guy from the dealership said to expect people to ask us about it, so I figured whatever.  No one actually said anything, so I figured maybe that part was just hype.



Well, it's not.  Tonight I took my daughter to swim lessons and as I was getting out of the car I was asked (politely) by someone if they could look at my car.  I quickly remember that I had been given a stack of business cards from the sales guy so I grabbed one.  (You see we were told that if someone walks into the dealership with a business card with one of our names on it and ends up buying a car, we would get a $100 check sent to us.  They said that one guy had his car payment covered one month.  So, why not right?)  Luckily, I had given us a little buffer time or we would have gotten to her class late.



On the way home from the swim class, I was sitting at a stop light and looked in the rear view mirror to notice an iPhone staring back at me.  Yep.  Someone was taking a picture or video of the back of my car (not it's finest feature I might add). 



Not only that, but when I turned down the street to get to my house, they followed me.  As they passed me backing into my driveway I watched them crane their neck and slow down to get a better look.  Being that there are lots of houses down my street (and it's a through street),  I have no way of knowing if they turned just to see the car or if they were going to make the turn anyway.

All I know is that I now need to give myself more time when I go places, and I need to make sure I have business cards on hand and easily accessible at all times.  Oh, and a sense of humor with this is going to be a MUST.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Educational Success

In addition to buying a new car yesterday, we went to what was called a "Knowledge Faire."  It was aimed at homeschoolers and was designed to give the kids some fun things to do as well as give parents the opportunity to look at some books, games, and curriculum that could be useful to their family.  It cost a few dollars per person to get in, but I decided if it meant I could look at and touch some of these things it would be worth it.

I loved that my kids could do some of the fun yet educational things.  Among other things, they had a First robot team which my son LOVES and they had some representatives from Busch Gardens there with a few animals which my daughter loves. 

But the main reason I was there was to see if I could find some games that would help me get my son reading as well as something to help my daughter recognize a few numbers and letters she's still having problems with.   I did find a few things that I'm considering, but if anything what I found was that I am not giving myself enough credit.  Some of the ideas that have been made into games are very simple.  If someone else can do it, why can't I?  Give me some time and maybe the kids and I can come up with a game we can sell.

As great as all the game ideas were, the thing that I really enjoyed was watching the surprise on someone's face when my son answered a rather tough question correctly.  To be honest, I didn't think he remembered the answer, but he did.  It feels so good knowing that although the method I've chosen to use to teach my son is what some would consider unconventional, it seems to be working.

It made yesterday go from a good day to a great day.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Keeping in Touch

For some reason, today has been a day of catching up with friends and family.  I have been on video chats and texting chats with multiple people.  Besides feeling in the loop again, it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.  It's nice to feel important enough for someone to carve a little part of their day out just to chat with you. 

I'm also looking forward to it continuing into the weekend.  I've already "scheduled" a video chat with my 1 week old nephew.  Pretty sure he's not going to be doing much talking, but that's ok.  I just want to see his precious little face (and those huge feet too)!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Slow and Steady

My son is what I would call a reluctant reader and writer.  I'm not sure if it started because of how much of it his kindergarten teacher had him do or if it's just in his DNA (his Dad was the same way till he was 8 or 9).  Whatever the case, this is one of the primary reasons I have decided to homeschool this year and it is also the reason I have decided to unschool.

My son loves to learn.  He just loves to watch and hear about things rather than read and write about them.  Luckily our new library has all kinds of resources which have made this easier.  Not only do they have LOADS of educational DVD's they also have these small video sets (think portable DVD player but with the information pre-loaded) that he thinks are SO cool.  My son has also participated in the Dog Tales program and wants to do it again (score one for me!).  Unfortunately we are on the wait list for the next session (first on the list, so I'm hopeful).

Before I decided to unschool, I had signed my kids up for 2 classes with a local homeschool group.  I decided not to pull them out of these classes because I figured it would give them an opportunity to interact with other kids, but would also force a little structure into their schooling in the form of homework.  The fact that the class that has the homework was Lego's was a plus because I figured it would give my son some added incentive. 

It has not worked quite as well as I'd hoped, but we are slowly finding our groove.  I've found that I need to stretch it out over a few days and break it up into chunks within the day as well.  For whatever reason, my son really dislikes to write so I am also allowing him to type rather than write.  Oddly enough this has made it much more bearable for him (and in my opinion is much more useful since most people correspond on a computer anyway).

I have had a little more success with the reading however.  Besides enjoying the Dog Tales program, I have also been able to get him to read to me just about every night before bed for the last 2 weeks.  The only reason it hasn't been every night is usually because it's late and I tell him no.  He's not reading a lot, but it is certainly a start.

Each time I run into a problem, I tell myself "Slow and Steady Wins the Race."  He is a VERY smart kid and I know we will get past this phase.  I just can't wait for him to realize it himself.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Really?

We've been in our house for 2.5 weeks now and today we changed our 8th dead light bulb.  There also appears to be at least 5 more bulbs that are going to need to be replaced in the very near future.

While changing one of the bulbs, I realized that the blades on the fan in the kitchen hadn't been dusted in probably 5+ years.  I kid you not, there was a solid layer of dust and grim on that fan and it's right over where I stand when I cook.  YUCK!  Now, I'm going to dust the rest of the fans in the house. Being in Florida, there are a lot of them so it's going to be a multi-day task (gotta give my allergies a break as well).

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Day of Relaxation

Today, I decided to live by my rule that Sunday is a day of rest.  No, I did not take a nap (although I thought about it).  Rather, today has been a day spent chilling with my kiddos.  We watched a movie and I got in a little cross stitching.  I think the next thing we'll do is to bake something and after that, read them one of the books we got from the library the other day.  For me that is relaxation.  Especially when you sit down and enjoy the fruits of your labors while reading a good book.

I have a lengthy list of things I want / need to get done soon, but it's going to wait till tomorrow.  Today I'm going to rest and relax. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

I'm an Aunt!

I am proud to announce the birth of my nephew Nolan Lewis Beckmann!



He was born on Sept 23 at 3:51am.
He weighed in at 9 lbs 4 oz and is 23 inches long.

Praising the Lord with them for his safe delivery! 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Controlled Chaos

Today, the kids had their homeschool classes.  This is our first time attending what I would call a "normal" day.  That said, there were a lot of people out sick, so the groups were a bit smaller than normal.  You would think that in light of that, things would run smoothly.  Especially for a program that has been in operation for many years.

Unfortunately, that was not the case.  The first class went great!  The second on the other hand just wore. me. out.  From what I gathered, the facilitator was not given her teaching materials till Tuesday night (not her fault), but she didn't even print it and look at it till Wednesday night.  Today is???  Thursday.  So she looked at it the night before the class and based on how organized she was today, she didn't even look over it that well. 

Also, this class was for 4 - 7 year-olds and I get the need to try to change things up frequently to keep them interested, but they actually scheduled too many things.  They went over time by 15 minutes (considering the class is scheduled for 2 hours that's too much) and the class still didn't get everything done.

As a former facilitator, today's experience has made me a little wary of how the rest of the classes are going to go.  I'm hoping it's just because she was not given her materials till the last minute.  All I know is that this level of chaos on a regular basis is going to drive me nuts and maybe even send me to the nut house.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Dodged THAT Bullet - I Think

Today, my son came to me wanting to go into the pool enclosure (Note: Our rule is that an adult MUST be in the pool enclosure with a child).  Apparently, he saw a HUGE lizard hanging onto the screen around the pool.  Upon further investigation, it was actually 2 lizards that were mating.

Being the inquisitive child that he is, he asked me what they were doing.  I then told him, they were making eggs.  After they separated (shortly after we arrived), he asked me where the eggs were.  I told him it takes a while for the girl to make them.  Then he asked me how long it takes for the eggs to hatch.  We then went into the house and looked it up on my computer.  Luckily that changed his focus and he didn't question me further.

That is a conversation I think he is capable of handling, I just want his Daddy to be the one to have it with him.  I'll deal with his sister in a couple years (I'm sure Daddy is OK with that plan).

Monday, September 19, 2011

Here We Go Again!

I have had a hate, hate relationship with health insurance companies for years now.  Around the time my son was born my husband started a business.  At that time, he got a contract that until recently (7 years later) has been covering all our bills.

When I had my son, I was planning on going back to work because we needed my income (and my health insurance).  The income from the contract meant that I didn't need to go back to work though.  Which meant we were on our own when it came to health insurance.

I had a family friend who was a health insurance broker and he was able to help us find the best policy for us.  I am a firm believer that you shouldn't lie.  Ever.  And omission is a lie too (especially on an application).  This is where my hate, hate relationship comes started.  When the underwriting form asked if I'd ever seen a chiropractor, I said yes.  You see, I went to a chiropractor while I was pregnant.  All of you ladies out there who've been pregnant probably understand.  I saw a chiropractor every 2 weeks because I was driving 2 hours each way, 5 days a week.  Do that with 15+ lbs strapped to your stomach in an uncomfortable car and tell me the underwriter wouldn't have done the same thing.  Once I had my son and stopped the commute, I didn't go back.

For the most part, it was a good fit and the pricing was very reasonable (especially after I was able to contest the increased fee after not going to the chiropractor for a year).  After a couple years we decided to switch our plan a bit (but still with the same provider).  That required us to go through underwriting again.  This time I answered yes when it asked if I'd been on a prescription for allergies.  You see, I'd been given a sample that I used for 2 days till I determined that what I thought was allergies was actually a cold.  Well, they increased my insurance premium for that too.

Today, I got a letter in the mail saying that we have been approved for insurance by a company in Florida (our company from VA could not cover us here), but with a stipulation.  My daughter's rate is going to be 150% of the normal amount because she's had multiple UTI's recently (and the increase is permanent).  Well, guess what?  She had them because the doctors at the urgent care clinics (in Florida I might add), were not giving her enough antibiotic to clear the infection so it kept coming back only a few days after being off the RX.

Jon has been doing research and figured that our policy would probably go up 100% or more just because most companies are doing that now.  So, when I called the insurance company to find out what the premium would be (it was not included in the letter, so I was a bit worried), I was prepared for more than double what we were paying in Virginia.

Guess what?  It was $11 per month LESS!  Praise God!  I'm still going to contest their rating of my daughter.  In trying economic times like these, who wouldn't want to try to reduce their rates even more?  God is good!  Let me rephrase.  God. is. great!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Connecting?

One of the things about being a homeschooler and moving to a new area is the fact that you and your kids don't have the opportunities to make friends in the same way that families with kids in school do.  It's only compounded by the fact that our neighborhood is half empty because it's a snow-bird community and very few of the people who are living here have kids (much less kids as young as mine).

We are members of two homeschooling groups, one of which is relatively local.  The second is based one hour away.  So far, I have made better connections with the people who live farther away.  I'm hoping that PE class with the more local group this week will remedy that.

The other way that I've found to make friends is at church.  Unfortunately, since moving to Florida we have not been to church.  Last week, I was sick and this week the kids both had tummy issues and I wasn't willing to chance it.

We've only been here for 10 days so I'm certainly not going to sweat it at this point.  Just an observation that although I've mentioned homeschooling's advantages, it also has some disadvantages.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Library card = Bliss

Today the kids and I got our library cards.  We just happened to go to the regional library and it was HUGE!  We ended up spending 2 hours there and could have spent more time looking around if we weren't getting hungry and antsy (OK, the kids were antsy). 

Since my youngest is now in kindergarten I let her get a library card as well (she was so excited).  Between the three of us we got 32 books and 6 DVD's.  And because this month is national library card sign-up months, we also got 3 certificates for a free sunset cruise in nearby Charlotte Harbor (I'm thinking Jon might need to get a library card, just so he can get the free certificate too).

As I type, the kids are watching one of the DVD's and I'm about to crack open one of the books I got.  Definitely a good day.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Settling In - The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly - Part 3

We have been in Port Charlotte for a week now and guess what?  We are now officially Florida residents!  Today we were able to get our driver's licenses and transfer titles and tags over for the truck and trailers and request our voting registration cards.  We even went to the bank and got a safety deposit box.  The only thing left to do to make me feel more "local" is to get our library cards, which I plan on doing tomorrow.  Yeah!

Being that this will be the last "settling in" post I do, I figured it was time to share some of my thoughts about the house and the area.

I'm loving the inside of the house.  I love the layout, the furniture, and mostly I love that I have a dishwasher and a washer and dryer that I don't have to use quarters to use.  I've also been able to bake using full size pans.  Yippy!  My only complaint about the house is the landscaping.  There is actually too much of it.  The area I was hoping to plant a garden is covered by a trellis with flowering plants on it (and lots of bees), so now I'm wondering if I'm going to be able to have a garden.

Front of the house
Living / dining room
Kitchen

We've been able to use the pool a couple of times already and it's a wonderful thing.  I have always loved to swim so this is a dream come true for me.  It doesn't hurt that it's a great way to have fun with the kids (as well as wear them out). 



And the view from the back of the house is almost as good as you can get (better would be directly over a beach rather than across a canal at the back of other houses).  Here is a picture of a sunset I saw the other night.


We've also done some exploring around the area.  We've found that just about every store and restaurant I could possibly want are within a 10 minute drive.  There are a few exceptions, but I'm pretty sure I will be able to survive.  Now all I need is a babysitter, so we can go out to dinner and a movie (did I mention there is a movie theater in town as well?)

Why exactly did we wait so long to move South?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Settling In - The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly - Part 2

Today the kids and I drove to Sarasota to attend a home school group.  It started at 8:30AM and because it was an hour away, it meant we left the house at 7:15.  Unfortunately, I ended up at the wrong church building and of course no one was answering their phones.  After 20 minutes of trying to figure out where we were supposed to be, I gave up and started to back track to our house.

That's when I spotted it!  The church with the name that I had seen in some of the paperwork... and there were LOTS of cars in the parking lot.  After a little searching inside the building, we were able to find their classrooms.  The kids had a great time.  I mean, who wouldn't considering they both started with a class designed around building with Lego's?  After a quick snack / lunch break my son participated in a science lab that was about fossils, while my daughter got to play instruments and just have a good time with some of her new friends.

My kids now have an incentive to get up early in the mornings on the days of their class, and so do I.  In addition to watching my kids interact with others and helping out as needed, I was able to meet some of the other moms.  There were a few that I was really able to connect with.  Makes me wish we didn't live an hour away from them, because I could really see myself getting together with them outside of the class.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Settling In - The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly - Part 1

The last few days have been rather hectic in our house.  Not because we have had a lot of places to go, but because we've had a lot of things to do.  Don't get me wrong, we have gone out (storage lot where the camper is parked - twice, restaurant, grocery store, hardware store, and a homeschooling function).

But most of the work that we've been doing has been around the house.  We've been unpacking our stuff, making phone calls (LOTS of them), and sorting through the stuff that was already in the house.

The down side to renting a furnished house is that you find things that you would NEVER in a million years have in your house. For example, who needs 8 hammers?  What about an electric hand mixer that is missing one of it's beaters?  How about paint that no longer matches any of the colors currently in or on the house or is crusty and unusable?  And don't get me started on the child-unfriendly decorations.  I guess we shouldn't be surprised since before us, this house was rented seasonally to snow birds (meaning with no kids).

I haven't really had time to think about homeschooling except to think that I really need to get a library card.  But before I can get a library card, I need a driver's license.  Because I want to get my driver's license and my tags done at the same time, I need to get proof of insurance on our truck.  (Can you begin to see all the phone calls that I've been talking about?)

The most interesting thing about this whole process is that at one point I was thinking we might not be able to get insurance for our truck.  You see, it is one of, if not THE biggest non-commercial truck built and as such is in a category unto itself when it comes to insurance through my company.  The good news is that I have been able to confirm they can insure it (and it's not much more than when we were in VA).  The bad news was that I had to wait for them to mail me the proof of insurance because their system would not let them email it because our truck is too big.  It finally showed up today.  Not that I've gotten the contract to sign (again, they can't email it without the system being overridden because of the truck's size).

I also found out the insurance company that was insuring our camper "is not taking applications for waterside communities."  After numerous calls over multiple days, I think that I have found a company to insure it.

Being that hubby is self-employed we are also responsible for our own health insurance.  Our old policy will not cover us in Florida so I've been working on that too.  I found out today that they have lost 2 weeks time because their system said they needed additional information, but we were never contacted to get the information.  I guess it's a good thing our old insurer will give us 2 months to find a new policy down here.

Oh, and tomorrow the kids and I are driving an hour each way to attend two homeschool co-op classes.  Looks like it's going to be another long and busy day tomorrow.  Looking forward to the weekend (you know when I can't make phone calls because everything is closed).

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pet + Age = Responsibility

When we were in Florida in June, my son caught a green anole lizard.  We had a small cage that I'd gotten for such an occurrence.  We tried to catch crickets and other small insects to feed it but were unsuccesful.  My son wanted to keep it so much that he decided he would pay for crickets from the local pet store.  We agreed that he could keep the lizard as long as he could pay for the crickets, but when it was time for us to head back to Virginia, we would have to let it go.

So, what do you think he did the first day we were in Florida?  He caught another anole (this time a brown one).  He has purchased crickets for it and today he spent $10 of his own money on a larger cage (this lizard is bigger than the last).

The last couple months we have not been using our Accountable Kids program.  Last night he requested that it be reinstated so that he can earn money again.  I think it's safe to say that he's learned the lesson that work = money and money allows you to get things you want.  Score 1 for Mommy!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Glutton For Punishment?

Today, the kids and I drove 30 minutes or so to attend a meeting for a homeschooling group.  It just so happens to be the group that is most local to us, so I'm hopeful that we will find many opportunities to interact with this group.

In fact, I think the meeting showed me a couple women I would like to socialize with just because of their sense of humor as well as their homeschooling experience.  The main speaker said just what I needed to hear.  The focus of her talk was on making sure we spend quality time with our children (all the time and not just while homeschooling).  She also said some things that helped confirm my conviction to unschool my children (even though she is not an unschooler) as well as why I and others have trouble with the concept (and in my case beginning to institute it fully).

The goal with unschooling is to allow your child to help direct their schooling.  They do this by helping determine a subject they would like to learn about and then you just DIG IN.  You go to the library and check out books, you go online and do research, and you try to find interesting, hands-on ways to help solidify any abstract concepts.

One of the ways I've decided to do this is by volunteering to be the Scholastic Book Club coordinator for the group I was meeting with today.  I've loved reading as far back as I can remember.  In fact I still stay up till all hours of the night (ok, morning) reading "just a little more."  I want my kids to have that same love.  Unfortunately, one of mine is very reluctant and the other still needs to learn all her letters and their sounds.  So how do I reconcile that with my desire to unschool?

My kids have participated in Scholastic in the past and they LOVED it.  I figured that if it meant that I could allow my kids to be able to order books of their choosing (hoping they will be more likely to read them) while doing so at a discount, a couple hours a month of my time is well worth it.

Besides, this will force me and other Moms to interact.  Maybe I'll make a new friend because of it.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering

It's hard to believe that the September 11th terrorist attacks happened 10 years ago.  I can still remember my day like it was yesterday.  I remember where I was when I heard about it.  I remember vividly what I did that day.  I even remember what I was wearing that day. 

Before you read on, let me warn you:  I am about to do something I don't normally do.  I am going to talk politics and religion.  Why?  Because I have heard something that has riled me so much I MUST say something.

I am a firm believer that the definition of "separation of church and state" has been taken too far.  The way things are handled now are not how the founders of our country intended for things to be.   What is happening now, is the refusal by many politicians to publicly acknowledge the Christian religion.  They are bending over backwards to not offend Muslims and Atheists, but they are doing it at the exclusion of the Christian faith.


Recently, I heard that New York City Mayor Bloomberg has decided that there will be no clergy participation at the 9/11 memorial service.  That means there will be no clergy speaking or even praying at the service. 

I don't know about you, but I think it's safe to say there were a lot of people praying on Sept 11, 2001, and I think that they would completely understand there being a short prayer at the 10 year memorial.  I certainly would like to see it.

All rants aside, today is a day to remember those whose lives were lost.  Those who were in the airplanes, in the buildings, and the first responders.  I weep at the needless loss of life because a fanatical religious group has decided we must be wiped out.  I am thankful for those first responders who showed what true Christian love is (being willing to lay down their life for another - John 15:13). 

I've also heard from a friend that "Due to "lack of room", NYC Police Officers, Port Authority Police Officers and FDNY Firefighters are not "invited" to the 10th anniversary of 9/11 at Ground Zero. Funny - they weren't invited on that day in 2001, either - they just "showed up" and became our heroes."


So what am I going to do today to remember Sept 11, 2001?  I am going to pray...  pray for the families of those lost, thank God for the first responders and that my family was unharmed, and pray for our country to return to her roots. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Random Thoughts

I'm going to steal an idea from a friend of mine who also blogs.  I've been rather busy lately (traveling across the country and all), so I haven't been able to come up with a blog topic.  So here are a few random thoughts that have come to me lately.

  • I can't stand it when my glasses fog up when I open the dishwasher or oven.  It's even more annoying when it happens and I'm wearing contacts.
  • A 98% fat free hot dog = a not dog.  It doesn't taste anything like a hot dog, so do us all a favor and just call it something else all together.
  • The "Giant Superman" in Metorpolis, IL isn't that giant.  We couldn't see it from the highway and we didn't know if we could get the camper to where it was located (we would not have been able to), so we looked it up online.  It was barely larger than 1 story.  We also determined that there is a Lois Lane (a street) in Metropolis, IL.
  • While in Texas, hubby was working with a few people who were from Canada.  One of them had him Google "View of Mt Rushmore from Canada."  Kinda funny.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Right Place At the Right Time

Saturday, Opa had final sermon and Sunday school preparations to do and hubby was getting back from his business trip.  He's had some long, busy days, so I knew Jon would want a nap when he got back.  Being that both of those goals are more easily accomplished with no kids running around the house, the kids and I went to "The Living History Farm" in Des Moines with Oma.

At one point early in our drive there, we encountered so much rain that we considered turning around and trying again on Sunday afternoon.  I'd looked at radar images before we left, so I was pretty confident that we may encounter some rain but that it wouldn't be nearly as bad as what we were driving through.  Luckily I was right.  The fact that I had brought rain jackets and umbrellas made the decision a little easier as well.

For those of you not familiar with The Living History Farm, it is a hands-on experience that takes you through Iowa farming from 1700 through the early 1900's.  They have "actors" who tell you about how life would have been during that time.  We talked to pioneers from the 1850's who were eating lunch prepared over a wood fire using food grown on the farm from their time period (let me just say it smelled so good I wanted to join them).  We saw how they made brooms and RX pills in a "town" set in 1865.  We spent about 3 - 4 hours at the farm learning all kinds of new and interesting things.

About the time I was expecting Jon to be getting to his parents house, I got a call from him.  Unfortunately, he was experiencing car troubles.  You see, our truck was too big to fit in the parking lot at the airport so he had taken his parent's car.  After calling his dad, it was determined that he would just drop it off at the dealership so they could work on it next week (apparently this problem had happened before and it is still under warranty).

Of course I felt kind of bad that this happened to him, but I was glad his mom and I didn't have that car for our trip because then we could have been stranded with the kids somewhere.  Then I got to thinking some more.  He had been able to limp the car for a while, but made the decision not to drive any further once he got to Des Moines.  What's more, he was only 2 blocks from The Living History Farm and 1 mile from the dealership when all this happened.  If we had turned around and decided to come back another day, he would have been stuck there waiting for someone for much longer than he did (he had to wait for us to finish part of the tour).  Talk about being in the right place at the right time. 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Calm Before the Storm

I've been feeling kind of bad the last few days because my in-laws have been doing all kinds of different things with my kids while I've just been sitting around.  My in-laws haven't said anything, so I don't think it's something they mind.  It did get me thinking about why I've just been sitting back doing nothing.  Then it hit me.

We are only a few days away from leaving Iowa for Florida.  The kids love spending time with their grandparents without me.  In fact, yesterday I was recently asked by my daughter to stay in the car while they fed some ducks. 

I also have one other reason.  Once we get to Florida, it's pretty much all going to be on me again;  I won't have a babysitter and I won't have school to send them to.  Not only will I be the primary care provider and teacher for both of my kids, I will also be setting up a "new" house.

So, yes, I'm taking advantage of the situation a bit.  But can you blame me?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Comparisons

A while ago, the kids and I went to a water park with Jon's mom.  I remember a boy coming in alone just after us.  I though it was a bit odd since he was about the same size as my 7.5 YO son.  Turns out, he saw my son and figured they would get along just great so he found us inside the park and asked to play together.  They were the same size so they were the same age right?

WRONG!  Turns out this boy will be turning 11 in just a couple weeks.  I know my son is tall for his age, but is he really THAT big?!?!  Once the boy found out my son's age, he didn't go off and find someone else closer to his age to play with either. 

After watching them interact I could tell there were certainly some age-specific developmental differences, but you know what, they played together for 2 hours and they had a great time.  The other boy, was able to get my son to come out of his shell a bit too.  He even convinced my son to do a rather large and fast water slide.  They were riding in a tube, but the current at the bottom was pretty swift so I was happy and impressed to see him willing to do it (over. and over. and over. and over again). 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Something Good Amongst the Bad

Many of my friends and family have been affected by the earthquakes and hurricane that hit the East coast last week.   Jon's grandparents live about 50 miles from the earthquake's epicenter.  So do my parents (in a different direction).

Hurricane Irene also caused a large tree in the backyard of Jon's grandparents to fall down near their house.  This particular tree was so large that after it fell you could stand in the front yard and see the trunk on one side of the house and the top of the tree on the other.  It landed on one of their cars and just missed the house.  They are still without power like many on the East coast.  The flooding in New
England is just amazing to me.

Then of course there is the economy.  The housing market has still not recovered.  Unemployment is still rather high.  Food and gas prices are on the rise.

But yesterday, a friend of mine won a very long-fought battle.  She won full custody of her 5 year old daughter.  It's nice to know that good things are still happening even though the news is only talking about the bad stuff that's happened lately.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A New Tradition?

I'm not sure if we have started a new tradition or not, but the other day I realized that we've been in Iowa during the end of August and beginning of September for the last two years.  Last year, the kids and I were in Iowa for 2 weeks (and Minnesota for 1 week) while Jon was in Australia on a business trip.  We did all kinds of fun stuff with Jon's parents last year such as going to the Iowa state fair, swimming at a local water park on it's last day open for the season, fishing, golfing, and just doing fun "stuff" with Oma and Opa.

So far this trip, we have gone to the local water park on it's last day open for the season, gone fishing, gone golfing, gone to a science museum, and added a motor to a go cart they built last summer.  Tonight we are going to a local farm where the kids are going to be able to drive their own mini John Deere tractors.  Early this morning Jon left for another business trip (this time 4 days to Texas).  It sure is nice to have others around when Jon is on his business trips.  It makes the time go by more quickly and gives me adult conversation as well.

I'm not sure we'll do this again next summer but it has been nice being able to let the kids spend some quality time with Oma and Opa.  I remember such trips to visit my grandparent's fondly and I'm sure my kids will too.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Family Fun

I have not been a fan of fishing for many years.  I used to fish with my grandparents whenever we would visit them, but I would NEVER touch the worm or the fish.  What ultimately turned me off of fishing (and eating fish for many years after) was watching my grandfather clean a fish that was pregnant.

I still don't like to fish (again touching worms and squirmy fish does not appeal).  I also don't like the idea of fishing for sport.  It seems cruel to hook a fish knowing you will be immediately releasing them (not to mention the poor worms).

Well, last night the golf course community where my in-laws live had a "Fishing Derby."  The goal was to catch the largest fish (we didn't).  They also had a contest to see who could catch the largest frog (again we didn't, but there were some HUGE ones caught).  Then all the frogs that were caught were raced against each other to see whose would win (not us again).



I've already stated my opinion on catching fish for the sake of catching fish.  But I think the poor frogs had it even worse.  They were also caught with hooks (interesting how well it worked I must admit).  But that was not the worst part.  Some of the kids were really rough with their frogs.  I watched kids throw them high into the air toward the finish line (rather than coax them to jump that direction).



I am happy to say that my kids were very gentle with their frogs.  Unfortunately, they both had frogs that once put at the starting line just sat there stunned.  They did eventually move back into the pond but it involved picking them up and moving them to the edge of the water.

As barbaric as this exercise seemed to me (and hubby too), the kids had a great time.  Their fish and frogs did seem fine when we let them go back into the water, so I guess it was a good night.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Revamp or Give Up?

We have been visiting my in-laws and today they were out of the house so I decided it was a good opportunity for the kids to do some school.  The goal was to do a basic review and just get them both used to the idea that school will be starting in-force soon.
My daughter was excited.  She wants to start reading and doing math like her big brother.

Her big brother on the other hand, wanted (and wants) nothing to do with school.  He cried and whined about how much he hates school.  He told me he hates reading and writing and the only thing he likes is math and doing crafts.  I was able to get him to read a little and write even less, but it was like pulling teeth.

I've been reading around and getting advice from different people and I've heard the following:
  • Bribe him (paying him something like $.01 a page or a larger amount like $100 if he does it every day till ____).
  • Force him to do school.
  • Send him to school so someone else is forcing him to do school.
  • Send him to a Montessori school so it's at least a little less formal.
  • Leave him alone.  He'll get with the program when he's ready. 
I have so many things running through my head right now that I just don't know what to do.  Jon was a reluctant learner till he was about 9 (so I have 1.5 more years).  I want to leave him alone and see if he will come around on his own, but I also don't want to get in trouble with the school system.

Any new suggestions our there?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Up Close and Personal

Jon has been friends with T for 20 years.  They have traveled long distances together and even lived together for multiple summers.  It's safe to say that they know each other pretty well.  But it's amazing what you learn about people when you help them pack.

For example, among other things we learned:
  • Their friends LOVE giving gift cards.  We found them all over the house.  Some had been partially used and some had not.  
  • We already knew that they had a love of books, but you don't realize just how much till you have to pack them and lug them around.
  • Their dog is the sheddingist dog I've ever seen.  I mean, it's impossible to keep up with the hair he produces.  I would sweep a room after it had been cleaned of all their luggage and stuff and then someone else would come in behind me and they thought I hadn't done anything.  I do not envy the sweeping that will have to happen in Qatar (where the lows don't go below the 70's - ever).
  • Only offer to help with laundry if you are OK with seeing all their dainties.
  • People change as they get closer and closer to a deadline and there was no exception in this case either.  It's amazing to see how attitudes and priorities change when they realize time is running out and they HAVE to get certain things done in a very short time.
I've helped people move boxes before and in those situations you just learn how much stuff they have.  When you actually help people box up their lives for storage or shipment you really do learn a lot about them.  Be warned.  Only offer to do this if you know you are OK with learning new things about them, because you may find some interesting and strange stuff that could change your opinions about them (for the better or worse). 

Good news T & K... we still love you and would do it again if necessary.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A New Addition

Guess what?  We have a new addition to our household.  We have a "new" cat.  Our friends who just moved to Qatar have been trying to find her a new home for a while.  She's 11 year old and declawed.  We know how hard it can be to find an older cat a home (we did it a year ago).  It's even harder because they want the option of taking her back when they come back stateside.

We have taken care of this cat before.  In fact, she and Jon ended up with a bit of a love-hate relationship from that time together.  You see, while she was with us, we had her declawed (upon the request of her owner).  After I took off her pain patch early one morning, she promptly found Jon and treated him poorly (I won't go into specifics.  Let's just say it was not pretty.). 

Since then, she has been known to run away, vomit, and hiss whenever she sees him.  This time though she has mellowed a bit.  There was no vomiting or hissing and she even lets him hold her.  We realize we have a ways to go before she is comfortable, but at least we are making progress.  And her "owner" is happy that she's with someone who loves cats and has children which will keep her acclimated to such things (since they have a 16 mo old).

Unfortunately, all this change has affected the cat in some less than desirable ways. We have traveled with her before and she did very well that time.  In fact, she curled up in our laps or on our sholders in the car and slept most of the way.

The two days we just finished traveling were very different.  She pooped in the truck minutes after refusing to use the litter box (luckily we had vinyl down to protect the seats from the kids), meowed most of the way, and every time she got nervous she would climb into my lap and invariably scratch me.  I think all of this has determined that while traveling she will be in the camper rather than the truck.  We did that for the last part of the trip yesterday and it seemed to work better for not only us but her as well.

We're excited about our new addition, but can't wait to be in a house so that she can settle into her new life.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Score One for Me

While helping our friends pack to move overseas, we learned something very important.  We learned that it's very expensive to take care of a horse.  We've always known that horses were not cheap, but what we really learned was that it can cost upwards of $20,000 once the horse has been "retired."  What is retired?  That means the horse cannot be ridden anymore. 

One of the things drawing Jon to Texas was land so that we can have a horse or two.  I think the discovery of how much it could cost to care for a horse after it can no longer be ridden has officially deterred Jon from wanting to own a horse now.  That is now one less thing that makes Texas so appealing.  Score one for me and my desire to stay in Florida!