Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Learning Through Life

As you are aware, my family recently bought a house that happens to have a few established fruit trees.  One of those trees is a banana tree.  The day we moved our camper onto the property we noticed that part of the banana tree had fallen over, so we cut off the bananas and brought them inside to ripen.

Over the weekend the kids and I shared a banana to see what we thought.  It was pretty good.  The fact that we had another 8 small bananas left that were close to ripe necessitated that yesterday was the day I decided to make them into banana bread (Our family loves banana bread but we're not big fans of eating bananas in their natural form).

When my son saw me getting out all the supplies, he decided he wanted to do it "all by himself."  He let his little sister help with a few things but he did everything else by himself.  He read the directions,

measured the ingredients, mixed everything together, and put everything in the pan.  I was the one to get the pan into and out of the oven but the rest was him.  I watched to make sure the measurements weren't off but I never once had to correct him.

You see, I made sure to give him a measuring cup that was smaller than what was called for.  When it called for 2 Cups, I gave him 1/2 Cup and he had to figure out that he needed 4 of them to make 2 Cups.  After all, what better way to learn fractions than to actually DO something with fractions?

I know my teaching method right now is not at all typical, but days like yesterday help prove (to me anyway), that what I'm doing is working just fine.

To all those people who've asked:
  • Does he do math worksheets?  
  • Do you have him practice writing?  
  • Do you have him read much?
The answers are: not often, he types more than uses a pencil, and on occasion.

But you know what, my goal with teaching my son is to make sure he will be a contributing member of society who can take care of himself.  I can't think of a better way to do that, than to use everyday life as a learning opportunity.

Is my son a math wiz?  Not right now, but he's certainly on his way (the math he can do in his head astonishes me some times).  But you know what?  I think that when he finds what he wants to do, nothing will stop him from achieving that goal, even if it means doing math worksheets, writing with a pencil, or reading copious amounts of information about said subject.   We just haven't found the topic that interests him like that.... yet.  But as we explore everything there is out there, a little at a time, I'm sure we will get there.

The fact that he's volunteering to do things where he knows he has to do reading and math makes me think we will get there pretty soon.  He's even asked to use my computer for research a bit more often these days.

Rome wasn't built in a day, and my son doesn't need to learn everything in a day, a week, a month, or even a year either.  Hey, I'M not done learning!  In fact, my son teaches me new stuff all the time.

Oh, and the banana bread, is GREAT!  I think I'm going to go have another piece right now.  For the record, I'm kind of hoping his niche doesn't end up being baking.  I don't think my waist-line can handle it.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Keeping A Promise

As a child I was taught that lying was wrong very wrong.  And making a promise that you didn't keep was a form of lying.  Needless to say, I want my kids to realize the importance of honesty so I try to do my best to emulate the behavior. 

A few weeks ago the kids and I were at the library picking up some books.   At the checkout counter they had a log sheet to keep track of the books being read over a one month period.  If a child brought it back filled out, they would get a free ticket to the Florida International Airshow (which is held 15 minutes from our house).  Needless to say, my kids thought that would be cool, so we grabbed 2 forms and I told them we would try to go.

A little closer to the show date, I looked up the ticket prices and realized that hubby and I would be $20 each.... ouch!  After all, we just bought a house and we have flooring and paint as well as some furniture to buy.  I then told the kids that rather than go on grounds we would try to drive close and see if we could see anything. 

Well, today was the final day of the airshow and my kids reminded me of that fact shortly after we got home from church.  I had a lot of things I wanted to do (can I just tell you, that living between two houses complicates life) so I was a bit happy when it started to rain as we were cleaning up from lunch.  In typical Florida fashion, the rain didn't last long, so the kids asked again if we could go see the airshow.  So with only 2 hours left for the scheduled show time, I piled the kids in the car and we went in search of a good place to park the car.

I had scoped out the runways using Google maps so I had an idea of which side of the airport I wanted to be on.   As I was driving, I noticed a bunch of cars parked in a parking lot with quite a few people sitting in lawn chairs, so I pulled in.  We got out of the car and wandered around and ended up talking to someone who lived a couple blocks away.  I asked why he didn't just stay home and he said it was because although the planes fly right over his house, there were too many trees in the way.  He was also kind enough to let the kids sit in the bed of his pickup truck.

Needless to say, we were pleasantly surprised when 10 minutes after parking, the Navy's Blue Angels started their performance.  We were even happier when we discovered we were in their flight path NUMEROUS times.

So exciting and close!

As reluctant as I was to go on this excursion today, I am VERY glad I did.  Not only was I able to keep a promise to my kids, but we had a good great time.  Considering the funding issues for our military these days, I'm wondering if this could be the first and last time my kids get to see something like this.  I certainly hope not.  Because seeing something like below, shouldn't be missed.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Bad Mommy Day

Have you ever had one of those days where you felt like you were being a bad parent?  If not, I want to know your secret.  For the rest of us, I'm guessing you can relate to my day yesterday.

I've been wanting to address an issue with my kids for a while now and yesterday it all came to a head.  In order to address the issue, I took a tact that I've never tried before.  Needless to say my kids were not pleased.  I didn't do anything particularly harsh or dramatic, but it was different, so it threw them for a bit of a loop.

During the process I heard my daughter say to my son, "She's learned how to be mean."  You see, last weekend I took a workshop titled "Raising Kids You Can Be Proud Of."  It's the first part of a series called "5 Steps to the Kid You Always Wanted."  During the workshop, my kids are being watched with a few other kids.  Of course, my kids would rather be home playing but with my hubby's sleep/work schedule it's just not practical.  I told my kids the goal of the class was to help me be a better Mommy so they decided staying in child care would be ok. 

Needless to say, hearing my daughter say I had learned to be mean kinda hurt.  It didn't help that I was already thinking I was a bit of a failure as a Mom because I hadn't addressed the issue sooner.

So what did this mean Mommy do?  I turned on a movie for the kids and went into my room with the materials from the workshop and my Bible.  I had a good cry, then I prayed and looked up Bible verses that would help me explain the issue we were facing as well as my children's proper response to the situation in question.

At the end of the day, I can honestly say that although my children think I was being mean, I was actually showing more caring than I've done in a while.  You see, I have not always been consistent in my discipline with my kids.  Yesterday, I made a promise to myself (and them) that it is going to change.  Mommy is going to make a more concerted effort to be the best Mommy I can be.  I'm going to discipline them in such a way that they will be better equipped to be a  man and woman of God when they are adults.  And I think that makes me a great Mommy (whether they agree right now or not)!

Hebrews 12:11
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Rising Stars

Be honest... have you ever thought it would be cool to be able to say "I knew ____ before they became famous"?  Have you ever daydreamed about who you know that might "make it big" one day?  I have.  And I can say, I know some rising stars.

Years ago, I babysat for a family who's oldest son is now the lead singer of a band that is considered to be up and coming.  His band has been on Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Early Show, and Rachel Ray among a few others.  They have also been the opening act for Switchfoot (a rock band for those of you who don't know).  I will be honest, rock music is not my thing so I don't listen to them, but hey, to each his own.

That said, the rising stars I am most proud to know are some women I met shortly after moving to Florida.  They are the co-founders of the group where my children take their Lego class.  They also have a heart for children and families and are in the process of writing a book on the topic.  This morning, I attended the first part of a five part workshop they are hosting and I am so happy I went.  Not only did I take away some very useful techniques (which I've already started to implement), but I got to watch them in action.  I can guarantee you, these two ladies will be impacting families and children in a HUGE way!  If you want to follow them they have a blog at

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sinking In

What. did. we. just. do?

Yep.  It's starting to sink in that we just bought a house that needs some work.  Don't get me wrong, I like doing the work.  It's a bit of bonding time for hubby and me, and I'm finding that our kids like it too.  In fact, I had trouble finding things for them to do today while we were there (it was our first trip there since buying it and we still don't have many tools and such there).

I think what I'm finally realizing is the enormity of all we have to do.  I've worked up a list of things we want to get done (some before we move in and some at some point in the future).  I'm also realizing all that we have to do to get out of the house we're in too.

I'm definitely realizing how important it will be to spend the night on occasion.  That's why I just ordered our Internet service.  What computer guy can spend time away from the Internet for very long?  Doesn't hurt that it's FIOS (For those of you who know my hubby, you know how excited he was when he found out we could get FIOS).  We've also bit the bullet and gotten cable TV.  Among other things, we will be getting local channels (for me), Animal Planet (for daughter), and Science channel (for hubby and son). 

This is the first time we've paid for TV service in almost 2 years so it's definitely a treat.  What's amazing is that FAST Internet, cable, and phone at our new house is cheaper than just moderately fast Internet at our current house.  Gotta love competition's effect on pricing.  Now all we need is a good TV  :-)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

It's a Beautiful Night

Tonight we are homeowners (again)!  Except for the speed bump we encountered over the weekend, closing went off without a hitch.  In fact it was very smooth.  Our agent was even impressed with how smoothly it went.

We also got to enjoy a restaurant in our "new hometown."  For the record... a delicious Mexican restaurant and probably a place we will frequent often.

The next thing on our to do list is to move our camper from storage to the house so that we can stop paying to store it.  It will also give us a place to sleep if we want to stay at the house overnight since we also want to replace the carpet in all the bedrooms.  We have a few other things to do before we can really move in, but the big thing is going to be the flooring and painting (at least we hope the other stuff doesn't turn out to be bigger).  The previous owner also left a bunch of things behind (some useful and some, not so much) so we will be doing lots of sorting, trashing, and donating as well.

It's been a long and exciting day, so I'm off to work on my to do list for the new house (yes, I'm type A and I have a feeling it's going to come in handy over the next couple months).

And for those of you who've asked... a few pictures of the inside.  For pics of the outside go here.

Closed in carport we are going to make a play room.
Enclosed pool
Lanai (screened in porch attached to pool area)
Living room / Dining room
Guest bedroom
Kid's bathroom

Master bedroom
Master bathroom
Son's bedroom
Daughter's bedroom
Guest bathroom

Monday, March 12, 2012

Nerves on Edge - No More

I don't know about you, but when my patience is being tried in one area, it puts the rest of me on edge.  Friday, I got a message from the bank saying they were putting a contingency on our loan approval for the house.  Unfortunately, we found out too late to get them the documentation before they all left for the day.  That meant we knew we would be waiting till at least Monday some time.

I am an extreme planner.  I make lists with sub-lists, and I like to plan trips at least a week in advance.  It gives me control and allows me to make sure I don't forget any of the little details.  I would have liked to have known a week ago that our loan had gone through underwriting and we'd been approved for the loan;  that all we were waiting for was signing all those stacks, and stacks, and stacks of papers. 

In order for my husband to get uninterrupted work, he tends to work at night and sleep during the day.  The current house is not arranged particularly well for this.  His bedroom shares a wall with one of the kids bedrooms and our bedroom happens to be at the end of a hall with tile floors (can you say echos and acoustics).  The new house however, will be perfect.  Perhaps that's part of my I'm so on edge.  I see how the new house will make our my life so much easier.  The last two days however, the kids seem to be getting on every last nerve.  They've been loud and have woken up their father on multiple occasions. Unhappy Daddy = Mommy feeling like a failure = Mommy unhappy and on edge.

When I feel particularly on edge, I remind myself of Jeremiah 29:11:
     "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to 
     harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Praise God, He is on my side!  No matter what happens, it's in my families best interest
Don't you feel that?  Peace.  Sweet peace.


The wait is over.  Just heard back from the bank and we've been approved!  Closing is set for tomorrow at 4PM.  God is good and faithful, even to little ol' me.

Friday, March 9, 2012

A Day of Gratitude

Today, the kids and I went to Legoland.  This is our second trip to Legoland and it also happened to be a trip that I coordinated for 160+ people.  The day gave me many things to be grateful for.  My list in handy bullet form:

Lined up to enter the park
  • The drive time to the park went perfectly and I was able to get there a few minutes before I intended.
  • I had a few helpers holding signs, helping sign people in, and getting everyone lined up to enter the park while I was dealing with other last minute things.  Thank you everyone for your help.  It was invaluable!
  • We entered the park only 5 minutes late and not even due to anything we did (I'd heard of another group that got in 1 hour late).
  • My kids and I had some wonderful friends to hang out with during the day.  Not only did my daughter and her best friend get to spend time together, but I got to know her mom better.  The mom was also kind enough to watch my daughter while I took my son on 2 coasters my daughter didn't want to ride.
  • For the first time, my daughter enjoyed a coaster.  I'm not sure if it was because her best friend wanted to go (her first coaster ride ever, by the way) or if she's just outgrown her fear, but in the month since we went last time, she did a 180 and LOVED the coaster she hated last time.  She even went on it twice!
My son's favorite coaster
  • I'm also thankful that we we able to avoid a wreck on our way home.  Someone cut across our lane and I slammed on the brakes and stopped maybe 2 feet from hitting them.  Small car = fast break time.  If that had happened in our truck I would have hit them.
  • And one thing that brings tears to my eyes as I write it...My husband was supposed to come with us but had to cancel at the last minute (our fridge/ freezer stopped working correctly last night so he stayed behind to work on it).  He was going to take my son on all the rides while I had my daughter.  Although my son and I were able to ride a few coasters, I know he would have liked to do more, but he didn't whine or fuss about it.  He just sucked it up and dealt with it.  It was so awesome to see him acting so mature (yes I talked to him about it - and without tearing up too).

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Baby Steps

My son is what I call a reluctant schooler.  He loves to learn, he just likes to learn things in a way that is not conducive to "schooling."  That is why I decided to unschool.  Unschooling is actually an incorrect label if you ask me.  A more accurate label, is self-directed learning.  With this model, the student decides what they want to learn about and the parent helps them do so in such a way that works with the child's learning style.  For my son, that often means as little writing or reading as possible.

Before I decided to go this route I'd signed up my kids for a Lego class that is held once a week.  The thought was that it would get my son to do some reading and writing and would get my daughter to make some friends (she's a bit shy).  At first I forced the issue of homework, but I realized that was really bothering my son so I stopped.  I ended up asking if he wanted to do it and more often than not he said no.  I found it was because of the writing aspect, so I offered to do the writing for him.

Since then, he's been reading more (he even called me out when we didn't read before bed last night).  He's also been reading more of the homework questions on his own (and let me tell you - some of those words are HARD), and today he even did some research on my computer by himself! 

I'm still trying to figure out the writing issue, but at this point, I'm just glad to see he's reading (pretty much at grade level from what I can tell) and is learning to type well (which in this day and age is probably more important than actually writing).

I've found that my daughter is a bit more like me, in that she likes to actually have worksheets to do.  For a while I wasn't having her do any, figuring she was just content to be more like her brother.  When she came up to me and said, "Mommy, I want to do school." and explained that she meant worksheets, I immediately got out something for her.

Now, she's working on writing her letters and numbers (they aren't perfect by any means but she's working on it) as well as sounding out and spelling words.  We've even been doing sight word flash cards.  Today she told me she wanted to write a story, so we got out a composition book and she drew a picture and then wrote a few "words" about it.

Days like today help prove to me that we're heading in the right direction, even if it does seem a bit slow at times.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Devil’s In the Detail

As my readers know by now, my son is a bit of an engineer.  He loves to make things.  In fact, he will build with K’Nex all day if left to himself.  I don’t know if it’s a recent occurrence or if it’s just something that I’ve noticed recently, but when he’s in the process of building things, he takes a break and comes and tells me what he’s done, what he’s about to do, as well as why he’s doing it that way.

You can tell he is passionate about what he is doing and saying, and I want to support my son, but the details are KILLING me.  I don’t care why he’s building something a certain way.  I don’t want a play-by-play as he builds it.  I just want to see it completed and be able to tell him that he’s build yet another cool thing.  At that point, if I like it enough, I’ll ask for those details.  After all, it’s easier to understand when I can see what he’s done, rather than guess at what he’s trying to explain.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Back to Normal - But for How Long?

Today my parents started their journey back to Virginia.  It's hard to believe they stayed with us for 4 of the last 5 weeks.  It certainly doesn't seem that long, until I realized some of the things I've been neglecting because they were around the house.

The poor hamsters were in need of a SERIOUS cage cleaning.  Yes, I've cleaned it while my parents were here, but I didn't do the serious scrubbing that was needed (till today).  Boy does it smell so much better now!

I also realized how long it's been since the whole house has been vacuumed at one time.  When you have visitors, there are lots of bodies who have very different schedules and it makes it hard to get that sort of thing done all at once.

I will say that having my parents around helped forced me to focus less on the to-do list and more on the let's find something fun to-do list.  I've visited a beach I've not visited before and took them to another that the kids and I enjoyed.  I live near lots of beaches now and the though of visiting them regularly just doesn't enter my mind because of all the "stuff" I need want to get done.  Hopefully, the last few weeks will change that.  At a minimum, I think I need to schedule one trip to the beach each month (starting after Spring break of course).

Now that my parent's have left, I am finding myself looking forward to getting back to some sort of routine again.  Then I wonder how long that routine will last.  After all, we are about to close on a house that we're going to need to fix up some before we move in.  That's going to involve some driving (an hour each way) as well as time spent working on  it, all mushed into the middle of our "routine."

But the routine we will have once we are in the new house will be sheer bliss.  At least till we have our first visitor(s).

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Something Big's Afoot...

in our household.   As you are all aware, we left Virginia a while back searching for a warmer place to live.  We were intending to move to Texas, but after a rather lengthy visit in Florida and the realization that prices in Florida were cheaper, we decided to stay in Florida for a year.  That way we could regroup after living in the camper for 3 months.  After that, we would then look into where we wanted to move after that.

Well, after only 4 months we made our decision, but earlier this week we found out that it looks like things are moving forward.  We've put an offer in on this house....

Love the shade (important in FL), but we're going to need to trim the trees back a bit.
in Sarasota, Florida and we have a closing date in less than 2 weeks (details on that below).

The decision process went a bit like I was thinking hoping it would.  I was hoping that Jon would change his mind and decide to stay in Florida after seeing just how warm the winter's are here compared to Texas.  We both realize that this winter has been unseasonably warm but when you take that into account, the temps in Florida are much more consistent.  The lows aren't as low, and the highs aren't as high.

Being that 1.  Jon loves to tinker and 2. we have a lease on the house we are in through August, we went in search of a short sale or a foreclosure.  That way we would have time to close, but also time to fix it up while we had somewhere else to live.  We were told that once we put in an offer it would take 3 - 4 months minimum for the bank to agree to the price (usually it involves a counter offer or two so that can add even more time as well) , and then another month or two after that for the appraisal and inspections.

If we close on our currently scheduled date (which looks like it should happen), the whole process will have taken less than 75 days.  We are surprised to say the least and so was our Realtor!  We do have a few things we want to do to the house before we move in (replacing the carpets and painting being at the top of the list) so we probably won't be living there full time for a couple months or so.

Banana Tree

Orange Tree
 All I know is that I am SO excited to be able to have a place that is "ours."  I will be able to decorate it and organize it the way I want (the downside to a furnished house... you can get stuck with some really strange stuff).  And the 1.38 acres will mean I can have a REAL garden (there are already orange and banana trees on the property) and the kids will have space to run around. 

And for those of you who are wondering... yes we have 1.38 acres, privacy, and we will still be within 5 minutes of everything Sarasota has to offer as well as 20 minutes from the number one beach in the US (Siesta Key).  Guess where we will be going as often as possible?

We made sure that we will have a spare room for those of you wanting to come down this way.  Call in advance though, we are already taking reservations.  :-)