Sunday, December 30, 2007

Simple things excite me . . .

Ok, I know this sounds silly, but I'm easily amused.

For awhile now, I've been getting the daily reminders from Menus4Moms but, as I've "tweaked" my cleaning schedule, I've set up zones that are different from the ones on Menus4Moms and was basically continuing to get the reminders to remind me to then check my own zone cleaning list to see what I was supposed to do today. But, for the most part up until now, I've spent my "zone cleaning" time decluttering anyway, so the specifics of what other cleaning might be being done that day haven't mattered. BUT this week is, on my zone cleaning chart, the family room & thanks to getting ready for Christmas and having kept the girls on track to pick up toys each evening, it's decluttered (other than needing to take the Christmas stuff down, which will be part of the zone cleaning time this week). So, it suddenly occurred to me that I could set google calendars up to send me daily reminders instead of the M4M ones, and that way I could set them to send reminders specific to the zones/tasks that *I* plan to actually do.

I spent awhile this evening setting up the first 3 weeks (though the one week is "basement" and at this point, the only possible cleaning I can do down there is decluttering, so I haven't bothered figuring out what cleaning chores I'll do down there if/when I ever get it fully decluttered. Anyway I'm excited. If you're totally bored and want to see how I have it set up, you can see it here.

Homeschool for the next couple weeks

We're taking a "break" of sorts. We've officially ended the Water in Our World Unit (although there are a few odds & ends we may do over the next couple of weeks), but we're going to wait another week or 2 (I don't have my calendar in front of me, but I think we start it week after next) to start our next unit, which is on Sound, so we'll start the unit off by going to a Kinder Konzert the first week. Since the girls haven't been very interested in "school" lately anyway, for the most part I think we're just going to take a break, but there are random art projects, handwork projects and nature projects that we've skipped in previous units, that we can do if they're interested. I also found, when cleaning, a preschool "communication" curriculum that I got in a trade a couple years ago, I may pick and choose some things from it (I disagree with some of the stuff "taught" (for example, emphasis is placed on always talking to a grown up who speaks to you, this can be confusing (and therefore DANGEROUS) to a child who is also being taught "don't talk to strangers" because it essentially tells them they don't have the right to follow their instinct to not talk to those they don't know or aren't comfortable with) so it will be a pick and choose kind of thing, but there are a few games and such that I think the girls will enjoy & benefit from).

So, other then the weekly memory verse I probably won't have much on the "this week in homeschool" list for the next couple weeks, and that's why :)

The sound unit moves back to painting type stuff (watercolor pencils, to be exact) for art, which I think will help the girls be more excited about "school" again, these last couple units have been more textile arts type stuff that they aren't as into.

A couple quick things . . .

Hearing L tell Daddy about our day yesterday reminded me, as we went through the "desert" part of the greenhouse, L pointed to a Saguaro (I think it is) cactus & said "look, that would make a good desert hotel!" Last year when my parents took a vacation to Arizona they brought back about a Saguaro cactus (follows it through from a seed till it falls down) and calls it a desert hotel because so many animals live in it at various points in it's life cycle. I have to say, I had to look at the little plaque thingy that says what each plant is, to know that she was right. I was rather impressed (in my defense, I've never actually read that book, since it lives at my parents' house so they're always the ones to read it to the girls, but since this cactus was too young to have an "arm" I didn't recognize it as a Saguaro.

And this morning as the girls were watching Magic Schoolbus about swamps, they were talking about swamp gas & A suddenly said "Maybe that was the bubbles we saw at Grandma & Grandpa's house" I was at a total loss as to what she was talking about, but then she clarified that she was talking about Grandma & Grandpa H (dh's grandparents who we visited this fall) and said something about "when there weren't any fish" and I vaguely remember that we were out on their dock trying to find fish in the water & we saw some bubbles that came up, but no fish. I'm guessing it wasn't swamp gas (then again, what do I know) but it was a logical conclusion from a 4 yr old perspective, and if nothing else, a good memory for remembering something so inconsequential (at least to me LOL) from several months ago.

Today

First, an amusing anecdote from Sabbath School. The craft today was coloring a bookmark w/ today's memory verse (Children are a gift from the Lord.) and pictures of several kids' faces, and then gluing it onto cardstock & putting a ribbon through it. L & A chose to go to different tables so I ended up supervising A (and actually spent more of my time helping/supervising another little girl at our table who can't be more than 3 (kids are supposed to be 4 to be in this class, but some move over early for whatever reason) and whose parents/caregivers don't come to class with her, she was rather fascinated w/ having access to scissors & a glue stick with minimal supervision LOL) while dh was supervising L. When L was done, she brought her bookmark over to me & I commented on it being "all pink" (pink ribbon & cardstock, as would be expected, but also at first glance I thought she'd colored the entire picture pink as well). But when I commented on it, L said, "all pink except for the ears, they're brown" and sure enough, she'd colored the ears brown, but the rest of it is pink. When I asked her why the ears were brown she said "like the brown stuff in my ears" (ie. ear wax). I about died LOL.

This afternoon my parents & I took the girls down to the National Cathedral to see their Creche exibit. The girls had been so excited about the toy ones we unpacked w/ the Christmas decorations and equally thrilled to set up our ceramic nativity, so I figured they'd enjoy it. But before we got to the exhibit, they were SOOO enthralled with the Cathedral in general. L was absolutely amazed and couldn't get over the fact that "everything is made out of rocks!" (walls, ceilings, benches, floor . . .) We also went up to the 7th floor observation area and they loved that the "people look like toys" looking down from the windows.

There was a book in the nativity exhibit for people to leave comments about which nativity they liked best and such, so I asked the girls if they wanted to leave a note. A decided she liked the "igloo" one the best (from Alaska, eskimo-looking figures with an igloo in the background). L said "the clay one" which pretty much told me NOTHING since there were a LOT of pottery/terra cotta/clay ones (and to simplify I'd called all 3 of those materials clay when we were going through looking at them) so when I started taking her back through to see if she could show me WHICH clay one she liked, she said "I just like them all the same" so that's what we wrote for her note LOL. After that we spent a little while letting them burn off steam running around outside the cathedral.

Then we went on downtown & went to the National Greenhouse to see their train exhibit & such. I think the girls' favorite part was being able to read the map of the greenhouse and decide where to go to get to the next exhibit they wanted to see. Oh and A also needed my dad to show her where the sprinklers were that watered the plants (she is definitely my dad's granddaughter LOL). And the rest of the pictures are included in this album.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

This week's homeschool wrap-up

Needless to say, not alot of "school" went on this week. We did make cookies, and the girls otherwise helped me get ready for Christmas (I think I already mentioned my brainstorm of making place cards & having the girls put them on the table, so that there weren't the usual fights about who sits next to, or not next to, them). They were also good helpers after Christmas in getting the house straightened back up, and the general day-to-day chores. In cleaning up for Christmas I found A's feather duster (that had been lost) and I think she's dusted every day since we re-found it. The biggest "problem" with cleaning the kitchen floor is there's only one kid-sized mop (I need to dig, I think the other one might be behind the sofa, or in the basement, it got put away when brooms were being used in non-broom-like fashion that was far from safe) and they fight over it (I also discovered that the day after Christmas (or any big family gathering) is a lovely day to mop because the kitchen chairs were already out of the way, we hadn't moved them back in from the dining room yet LOL).

We did sit down one day to try to finish L's reading workbook (A still has a ways to go), but we'd had too long of a break and she didn't remember the names of the people (which makes reading their names & pasting their names under their pictures) kind of difficult. So we set it aside for the moment. I think, since that was the very last page, and it wasn't a lack of reading, skills that was tripping her up, we'll just call it done. I looked at the teacher's edition for A Time to Play (the next book in the series) and I'm not sure I want to get into that with them quite yet. There's also enough "Classroom discussion" that if we do it, it would be much easier to do it together, so at the very least I think we'll use other resources to "review" with Lexie until A finishes her "In the Beginning" workbook. At the moment, L seems happy with being able to sound out some words, so I might try not suggesting moving forward with it, and see if we can give her abit more time.

Yesterday the story we read in circle time was The Quiltmaker's Gift which I'll admit, I hadn't bothered to read until the end of the unit because quiltmaking was a "handwork" element of this unit that I had chosen to skip (somehow since it would have meant ME learning how to quilt, and only involved the girls in the "layout & design" element of it, it didn't strike me as an effective use of time while we got ready for Christmas, given my rudimentary (at best) sewing skills) anyway, so I left off the "quilt" books from the book list until the end. This book is AWESOME!!! In a nutshell, there's an old woman who makes amazing quilts but refuses to sell them, she'll only give them to those who need them, not sell them to "rich people". The king, who spends all his time collecting beautiful things, decides he MUST have one of her quilts. She tells him the only way she will give him one of he quilts is if he gives all his things away to the poor. At first he resists but eventually he does, and realizes how much happier it makes him to give things away than to just hoard them. This led to a long drawn out discussion about poor people and what we can do to help (of course, my attempts to suggest that they could give THEIR toys to kids who don't have any toys, was met with the logical suggestion that we just buy new toys to give to poor kids LOL, but at least it's starting to get through to them abit . . . LOL).

We also read Sun Bread this week and the girls are excited to make the sun bread, I told them we'd do that this week (at the time we read the book we had almost a full loaf of bread already made, no need to make bread when we have bread LOL. Plus I think the sun bread recipe calls for eggs which means I need to go to Sam's before we can make it).

The girls have been creating their own art projects this week, A spent a very long time yesterday making a "kite" she cut paper into a kite shape, then glued many long strips of paper to be the "string" and some other pieces of paper to be a tail . . .

ETA (edited to add, for those not familiar with all the online acronyms): You might notice I removed the memory work from the "This week in homeschool" list. The girls did really well with the memory work, while they can't quote the passage on their own, they can say most of it along with me while I read it. They weren't enjoying that aspect of circle time though, so I'm going to hold off on that for now, and perhaps introduce another passage at a later date.

It makes me sad . . .

This is a post that's been "brewing" for awhile now and I decided a Sat. night when the kids are in bed & dh is at work until who knows when, is as good a time to get it down as any . . .

Over the last several months (& off an on before that) I've been focusing on growing spiritually. And as a part of that growth, there are some conservative Christian (not necessarily SDA) sites, blogs, and forums that I've read as time allows. It's made me question many things and grow in many way, but one thing that pops up from time to time makes me sad . . . and that is how unforgiving and "holier than thou" people can be. There's also perhaps a tiny part of me that can't decide whether to be relieved or saddened to learn that it's not just an SDA thing (relieved because it's not just a flaw in my own church, saddened to know that it's more wide-spread than I thought). I'm saddened to "hear" people who, in many ways, I admire the closeness of their Christian walk, even if I don't always agree with their theology, say things like "how can I even read this book on Christian parenting when the author believes differently than I do on women in the pulpit". Now no, I probably wouldn't sit down and read an entire book on the rapture, because I feel strongly in my own end time beliefs which do not include the rapture. But to say I don't feel that I might learn something from a Christian mother of 5, about parenting, because she feels differently than I do about women speakers, seems limiting to me . . .

Perhaps the comments that sadden me the most are those directed at individuals who have made bad choices. Christians who are angered by people of other religions asking them to pray for family members, etc. And only being willing to pray for those peoples' salvation, but not their safety, etc. Christians advising other Christians to keep their children away from the children of broken homes because it can be difficult to explain to a toddler why their friend's daddy doesn't live with them, "should you be associating with people like that anyway?" . . . I have some close friends who had a child out of wedlock when very young and, I believe, because of the love, support (not of their choices, but of them as people) and fellowship of their church families, now are happily married and active in the church. I don't know of any (not saying there aren't any, just that I don't know of any) women who have gotten pregnant out of wedlock, and been shunned by their church family, lectured about how horrible their sin was, and told "you made your bed, you'll have to lie in it" who are still in the church.

Why would a Christian not be willing to pray for ALL people? Perhaps our prayers will help God to speak to them and draw them to Him. Perhaps our prayers for that person's safety will keep him safe long enough to become right with God. Perhaps we should pray for him & love him because he is a fellow human being, no matter what . . .

There's a small church that we pass on our way to church and they have one of those signs that you can change to say whatever you want sitting where it can be seen from the road. I haven't noticed it as much recently, but for a long time, most weeks the "message" on the sign struck me as something that would cause a struggling person to run far far away from that church, not be drawn in. Should we dilute the message in order to "win souls"? No. But sending messages that will offend the sinner doesn't seem to be in keeping with God's command to go unto all nations either.

So, I'm not sure who all reads this, and I'm not sure what your religious affiliation (if any) is, but regardless of that, I challenge you to remember always, to think about what Jesus would do and remember that Jesus told us, above all, to Love our Neighbors!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Just wanted to say . . .

I think I'm addicted to this blog. It's always great, but right now her husband is in ghana working on the paperwork to adopt 2 little boys, and she's posting his daily (give or take) updates and it's amazing the glimpse into a culture so different from our own. Just thought I'd share.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

More odds & ends

Tonight during bedtime prayers, L included in her prayer, "please help Daddy sell as many tires as he needs to tomorrow". The girls also always ask Daddy, during their bedtime talk, how many tires, cars, and "toys' (the ATVs and Go Carts), the shop sold that day.

We were playing Jr Monopoly today and A did something that gave her more money (collected rent from me or somesuch) and she looked toward Daddy's favorite chair & started started to say "Daddy" then realized he wasn't here and said 'oh, Daddy's at work, but he'd be proud of me!" LOL.

I'd recorded a Christmas Ice Skating show over the weekend, and was watching it today, the girls LOVED it and kept being amazed at the "tricks" the skaters could do. They also wanted to know if Daddy could lift me up in the air like the pairs skaters, those of you who know us can stop laughing now :)

A couple cute things I forgot to mention last night . . .

My brother made some smart remark to me & I retaliated by throwing tissue paper at him, after the girls gleefully joined in an all out paper fight, L told me that I should be nice. I replied with "but he was mean to me!" to which she replied "Mommy, don't you remember the Golden Rule?" ummm . . . yes dear. . . LOL.

Uncle Dan had entirely too much fun ribbing dh about the recent Ravens/Dolphins football game with the help of the girls' new (or almost new) Raven & Dolphin (the animals, not the football teams) puppets.

The girls generally have abit of drama over who sits next to them, or doesn't sit next to them at big family dinners. I found a LOVELY solution to that drama. I printed out Christmas place cards that I found online, wrote everyone's names on them, and had the girls put them on the table however they wanted before people got here. It worked beautifully, and kept the kids entertained for a few minutes while we were waiting for people to get here. And the girls even managed to put all the married couples together (except my parents, since Mama must ALWAYS sit between the girls, but Papa was on the other side of Ashlyn, so at least close by), which doesn't always happen when everyone just sits where they want because the last few people to the table just kind of fill in the blanks LOL. AND totally on accident, they put all 3 lefties together on one side of the table, again something, people rarely think to do, but makes elbows much less troublesome. Especially since 10 at our table is the max we can fit, even with all the leaves in.K

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Good Time Was Had By All


At least I think so . . . LOL.

Last night was nice, we ate our pizza, the girls were soo excited about their Christmas PJs, it was really cute, you'd have thought we'd given them the moon. Also cute/interesting observation, they (I think it was L, but can't swear to it) asked "how did you buy these without us seeing them? I told them (truthfully) that I'd found them on sale last year & saved them :) We enjoyed playing the new Christmas game, then the neighbor brought gifts for the girls, so they opened them as well. Then off to bed in their new jammies, and we read their new book as one of their bedtime stories.



Christmas morning, A was in our bed by 6:22, though she was good & just crawled into bed w/ us. Of course she wiggled non-stop until I gave up on her OR me getting any more sleep and we got up. Of course, while I was in the bathroom she went running & woke L up, so we went downstairs and opened stockings.




Then we ate breakfast, and the girls got dressed and such and we waited for the grandparents to get here.

And then the chaos began, and lasted the rest of the day LOL. The girls were hyper pretty much all day, alternated between being too busy for presents & wanting to tear through them as fast as they could.


After dinner/lunch (whatever you call a meal at 2pm LOL), the girls talked Papa, and later Mama, into taking them outside to play for awhile.

This evening Aunt Lynette & Uncle Dave stopped by and the girls had great fun torturing Uncle Dave.

And now, they're peacefully sleeping, my nice clean house is trashed once again . . . and I'm exhausted LOL. But no major mishaps, so we'll call it a success :)

If you want to see the rest of the pictures (mine anyway, will have to bug Dad to give me any he took), they're here.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!!

The pizza's in the oven, when it's done we'll eat supper, then enjoy an evening with the girls, they'll open their Christmas PJs, a Christmas book, and a Christmas game so we can play games & read stories & such this evening, then tomorrow our parents & my grandparents & brother are coming over, and possibly SIL & BIL (dh's sister & her husband) later in the day, though last I heard they aren't.

Here's wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas!!!

Save Money, Save Your Health, Save the Earth

I realize the irony of writing a post about health/ecology while my children eat ramen noodles for lunch LOL. But it's quick, easy, they like it, it makes very few dishes, and . . . I found the ramen noodles on the shelf & they needed using LOL.

Today, my advice could be summed up in one word (but you know me well enough to know, that I can't write short posts, so of course, I'll elaborate): Simplify!

I think today, as most of us are probably working through long to do lists to get ready for tonight &/or tomorrow, it's especially important to remember to slow down & simplify, and focus on what's important to you! Look at your to do list, does it all have to be done? Will anyone even notice if it doesn't? My to do list includes/included making 2 types of cookies, plus fudge today. We've already made one batch, L was excited at the thought of making more, so IF she's still excited about that thought when it's time, we'll make more, if not, I'm thinking the 2 kinds of cookies, plus the "cake" cookies will be sufficient. The fudge will probably not happen, unless I get in the mood to make them sometime today.

Monday is generally bathroom cleaning day here, but today, only the powder room's going to be cleaned, the upstairs bathrooms can wait till later in the week. . .

Take time to read some extra stories to your kids today, or watch a Christmas show (we're watching Elmo's Christmas Countdown, that I recorded off the tv yesterday right now).

Last year our tree had pink ribbon tangled through the branches on the lowest 3 ft or so, courtesy of two 3 yr olds. Wasn't exactly something you'd see in Better Homes & Gardens, but the girls were SOO proud of themselves for thinking of it all on their own, so it stayed. This year one corner of the family room includes a rolled up yoga mat w/ a elastic head band around it & random toys, and a piece of tin foil stuck into it . . . again, not real picturesque from my point of view, but A insists that it's her Christmas tree, so it'll stay, as will the tree blocks, wrapped in playsilks, that surround it (gifts for A's "children"). Take a step back, look at things through your children's eyes, and consider the spirit of Christmas, rather than the "perfection" we all seem to strive for. Then take a deep breath, let some things go, and enjoy a simple, meaningful, Christmas.

And then, on Wednesday, think about other areas of your life, where you stress about things that really don't matter, and work on simplifying other areas of your life . . . do you love the knick knacks on your mantel or do you grumble every time you dust, about having to dust around them? If you love them, keep them, if they're just there because you think they SHOULD be there (because great aunt Mabel gave it to you, or because Suzy Homemaker told you that it needs to be there or the mantel will look bare or . . . whatever reason you might have), give them away, or at least pack them away & just pull them out when Great Aunt Mabel comes over. And heave a sigh of relief next time you dust w/o having to move stuff. Watch your kids playing & if there are toys that they seem to never play with, try packing them away & see if they even notice (or, depending on your kid, ask them if they'd like to give some of their toys to kids who don't have toys, and let them weed down their toys. L would be more than happy to do that, but A has a very hard time with change of ANY kind, including giving away toys/clothes (she was horrified when I gave away the exersaucer), so I generally pack things up when they're not around)fewer toys means less mess, less yelling at the kids to put stuff away . . .

So, in a word . . . simplify!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Today's new skill

When I was hanging up laundry in the girls' room this morning I noticed the jacket that goes w/ the pants A was wearing, and asked A if she wanted to wear it this afternoon (they're going to Grandmom's house when dh gets home from work) she said yes, but then got angry because she couldn't zip it herself, tried having me start the zipper & then pulling the jacket on over her head, but of course the zip came undone. So I suggested that she might be old enough to learn to start the zipper by herself if she'd let me show her how. She did (that alone is an accomplishment for her, normally she just gets more & more angry/frustrated but won't let someone show her how to do something new)and pretty much got it right away, granted a sweatshirt jacket is easier to zip than say a heavy winter coat. She's so proud of herself, had to come show Precious (the dog) that she could do it (Precious, while a quiet/attentive audience, wasn't overly excited about the accomplishment) and she's done it many more times over the course of the morning.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Wrapping up this week

L has slowed down on the reading this week, we did a few more pages of the workbook, but not nearly as much as in previous weeks, and only read Bob books a couple nights. Since A was pretty much just following L's lead, she hasn't done much with it either.

We did pretty much finish up the "water" unit of the preschool curriculum. A couple things to finish up once we get past Christmas (the Sun Bread book includes making bread in the shape of the sun, sounds fun, but NOT the same week that I'm trying to finish up Christmas preparations LOL). One comment, the book "Hermit & the Well" has too much buddhist influence for me to be comfortable with it, I was fine with it till the last page, but it's not one we'll be reading again.

We cleared off the water themed nature table (which is how the shells ended up in a basket on the toyshelf so they could use them for yesterday's beach scene) and set up the nativity set on the nature table (after Christmas we'll switch to a winter theme).

We made Daddy's Christmas presents from the girls. A decided to write "to (dh's name)" on her card instead of "to Daddy" because she doesn't like writing D's and there's only one in dh's name, but 3 in Daddy LOL.

Oh and speaking of crafty stuff & dh, at the babywearing meeting, one of the other moms had brought paper gingerbread men for the kids to decorate (& stuff to glue on them as decorations), A made 2, a "girl" and a "boy" and after she'd finished the boy, she told me "look, I left a hole in his hair, like Daddy's hair" (bald spot, for those who can't interpret kid-speak &/or don't know dh), it took all my self control not to burst out laughing. DH didn't find it quite so funny when I shared with him, hee hee.

Kindermusik this week was abit of a fiasco, I think it was just a bunch of stuff all added together, as much as kids love Christmas, all the changes in routine & alot of times too much running around, stressed out moms, stressed out kids . . . I think that had the kids abit on edge. Additionally, class was early this week, started at 11:45 instead of 12:30, so I'm wondering if some kids were hungry (for my kids, it worked out ok, I'm normally challenged to get them to eat SOMETHING beforehand so they're not too hungry by the end of class, but they're not really hungry enough to eat lunch before class, since it's early & we generally eat breakfast late). And who knows what else, but the kids were all just "fussy"in various ways. On Thursday my girls had spent quite awhile playing with their "music cards" (cards w/the "notes" they're learning, that they could arrange in different patterns to "write music") but in class on Friday, after a few minutes they (all the kids, not just mine) were just DONE w/ even trying to work with the cards. . . So, I think it's just as well that we have a couple weeks break now because of the holidays. By the time we go back to class in January, I would guess everyone will be rested and more back to normal.

I think that's about it for this week. I already mentioned making cookies, hopefully we'll still make a couple more kinds between now & Tuesday LOL.

Santa . . .huh?

I had to laugh, we went to the B&O train museum today (actually both of them, Baltimore & Ellicott City), and when we got to the one in Ellicott City, there was a Santa sitting in a little house outside handing out candycanes & such, the girls were shy about it, but willing to drag us up w/ them to get their candy canes (nobody else around so no waiting around). But then I was soooo amused to listen/watch as Santa tried to "be Santa" and the girls just looked at him kind of blankly. "Have you been good? I've been watching you . . ." (blank look, huh?) "What do you want for Christmas?" (shrug shoulders & give mommy a look that says "why's he asking me this?" . . . he tried a few other questions too. Santa's a fun, pretend, part of the holidays, but the concept of him actually bringing the presents or "watching to see if we're good" and such is not one we've ever taught them, so they were just rather puzzled by this "dressed up character" asking questions and such as if he were going to bring them presents. I found it highly amusing, both to watch their faces & also to watch him be abit baffled as to how to proceed w/ essentially no response from them :)

Just had to share

My friend, Bree took this picture at the babywearing meeting this week.



L had forgotten her babies at home, so she was being Miss Diva with the sunglasses and cell phone. To add to the "look" what you can't see is that she's wearing pink (a lighter shade than the skirt) leggings & still another shade of pink fake crocs to complete the outfit.

A is wearing all 3 of the babies she brought (normally she brings 5, but we've been hitting again, so we've lost a couple and hadn't earned them back yet). Melissa (doll I made) is in the ring sling (plaid), Jeanie (MY first doll, that A has declared hers) is in the carebear Mei Tai, and Sweetie (waldorf doll I had made to her specifications last winter) is in the green rebozo (otherwise known as a scarf LOL) And she put the babies in the carriers all by herself except for tying the MT, which she asked me to do last, not the preferred order for multiple babywearing this combo IMO, but she didn't ask for my opinion LOL.

And yes, after the meeting we walked down the mall that way since we'd parked by the food court & eaten lunch before the meeting.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Book Review: Power of a Praying Parent

First, I should probably confess, that I didn't actually read the whole book. But that in itself says something huh . . . it wasn't horrible, and it could very well be that someone struggling w/ an out-of-control teenager, would find it very helpful. One thing that I found hard to overlook was at least the implication of, if not directly "advising" the need for punitive punishment and a rather dictatorial parenting style. At the very least, anyone reading this book, IMO should first (or concurrently) ready Biblical Parenting. I may also have had too high of expectations for this book since I found The Power of a Praying Wife, to be so powerful for me. And this is why I think it might be partially an ages & stages issue. Somehow praying that God help my children understand the seriousness of lying (and avoid it) when my children are at a stage where I don't feel they're developmentally able to comprehend the concept of lying, (the bottom half of this page, explains it better than I can). I certainly feel it's important to pray for our children, but whereas in praying for our husbands, there are global "areas of life" that I think can/do apply to all stages of a marriage, with children, I feel, after reading the first half (give or take) of the book, that ages/stages plays too much into how/what we should be praying for, even within a general category (yes, I pray for their safety now & I will pray for their safety when they get their drivers' license, but if I'm going to get more specific than "please keep them safe in all they do" the specifics are quite different now than when they're driving). So, other then the vague discipline issues, I don't have anything against it, I just didn't find that it was helpful to me at this time. I found myself struggling to get through it, each evening instead of finding each chapter a short & easy read and I found myself reading the included prayer and feeling "why am I praying this, this isn't relevant to my kids at this time" whereas when I was going through the wife book, even the chapters that I initially thought, well this isn't an issue dh/we struggle with, as I read the prayer, while yes, there were some areas that didn't apply, there seemed to always be at least a part of the prayer that I really felt was something relevant to where we're at right now, often something I never would have thought of on my own, but once it was in front of me, oh yeah, there's that!

Oh the confidence

My children have such confidence in me, sigh . . . this afternoon we made cookies, as we were making them, the girls asked me if THESE were going to turn out right, or if they were going to be batter instead of dough like the "cupcakes" we made earlier this week. When I said something along the lines of "I hope these turn out ok" (another new recipe, though they ended up pretty similar to some I've had, don't remember if it was mom's recipe or someone else's) to which A told me, "well, if they don't, maybe we should just make some chocolate chip cookies or something that you KNOW how to make" ROFL.

These turned out fine, although the recipe gave dire warnings about leaving plenty of room for them to spread out and mine didn't really spread, but they taste good and like I said, are similar to others I've had, so we'll go with that. And now at least I have SOMETHING to serve people for dessert on Christmas. Although when I commented that we'd just eat the "cupcakes" (they're cupcakes because I cut them into individual squares, rather than leaving them as one big cake, in case the center was too gooey to be edible, so the girls insist that they're cupcakes, it's not worth arguing with them about it LOL) ourselves instead of having them for Christmas L was horrified & said that she'd already promised Mama & Papa they could have some on Christmas so we HAVE to save some. So guess I'll go ahead & throw the rest of that in the freezer for Christmas too LOL.

Imagination

I've managed to snap some pictures of the girls' imaginary play in the last few weeks. A week or two ago, they went "camping", using one of their silkscapes (that I never got around to dying, so it's still white) over the stools as a "tent" and setting up blocks in a circle for a campfire, and then proceeded to roast marshmallows (used the stick from one of the shadow puppets we made last unit).


Today they are at the beach, I think it's pretty self explanatory:


They're still working on the beach, adding a bucket, drawing & cutting out a sea gull, and a crab (or at least they were talking about one), etc.

If you want to see the rest of the pictures, you can see all the Nov & Dec pictures here.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Daddy's right . . .

Today the girls were playing outside when the neighbor kids got home from daycare/preschool . . . wherever they go LOL. The girls had taken the wagon, filled w/ snacks, soccer ball, another ball, and their hopper balls and who knows what else, to the other side of the cul de sac, spread out a playsilk/picnic blanket, and were having a picnic. When the neighbors got home, both the 5 yr old boy & the 4 yr old girl went over to where my girls were & the girls invited them to join in. It worked well for a little while but then M (5 yr old boy) started doing everything he could to annoy them. Part of the problem was the girls ran screaming every time he threatened anything (to chase them or whatever) so of COURSE he kept doing it . . . must work on the concept of "if you don't react, it's no fun, so they stop" but I'm not sure you can convince a 4 yr old of that LOL. Anyway . . . they finally decided that they (all 3 girls) were going to go play in our backyard, but I told them they needed to pick up/put away their toys from the 'picnic" first, and while I was helping them gather that stuff up, neighbor dad came out & called his kids to go somewhere.

As we were putting the toys back in the garage, the girls were saying they wished they could have just played w/ M2 (4yr old girl) w/o M bothering them, and then L said "Daddy was right!" I asked her what she meant, and she said 'boys ARE bad!!" I was too busy trying not to laugh to think to point out that A&J are boys, and some of her best friends (she insists she's going to marry one of them because they have the same last name as her & that way she won't have to change her name LOL). But I'm sure Daddy will be glad to hear that L thinks he's right . . . :)

Confessions . . .

A just "confessed" that they told each what they were giving each other for Christmas. When I said "now you won't be surprise" they informed me "we can act surprise" Ummm . . . for who's benefit? LOL

Dinah's working on the railroad . . .

Today when I asked the girls to clean up their art area so I could mop, they started singing while they worked, their song . . . "Dinah's working the railroad, aaa-aaa-ll day lo-ooo-oong!" It was sung at the top of their lungs ad nauseum the ENTIRE time they were picking up their toys, but they continued singing it & also moved their table & chairs, and all the kitchen chairs & bar stools into the family room w/o me even asking (still singing the song at the TOP of their lungs). And then sang it again while cheerfully moving all the chairs/stools & their table & bench back into the kitchen after I was done, and the only squabble was who got to carry the last thing. And I was informed that my help (putting things back) was NOT needed, so guess I'll take the loud singing . . .

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I think I invented a new cake . . .

Yesterday I needed to make Christmas cookies (or some type of "goody") to take to the babywearing meeting we went to today. I was planning on doing my grocery shopping today & since most Christmas cookies call for things I don't generally keep on hand, that somewhat limited my choices. But I had everything for a sugar cookie recipe that someone on a message board had sworn was a wonderful, easy to use sugar cookie recipe, so that sounded good, we were just going to roll them in colored sugar (rather than rolling them out & all), so it all sounded relatively easy. Girls were helping me, it was late in the day, as I measured stuff out for them to pour in I thought it seemed like alot of oil, but I seriously haven't made cookies anything like sugar cookies since last Christmas, and did I mention I was in a hurry, and the girls don't take well to mommy stopping mid-cookie making & going hunting for another recipe to see if the one she has seems reasonable . . . and it was a split second as they were pouring it in anyway . . . so whatever . . . we got everything added and ummm . .. we had batter! Seriously, I added some more flour, but it still was nowhere near "roll it into balls & roll them in colored sugar" consistency. So I grabbed a couple 8x8 pans, and poured it into them & put them into the oven, checked them periodically, started at the temp the recipe called for, but when the top seemed to be browning too fast, I turned it not as hot, kept checking it. No idea how long I baked it at, and it was a range of temperatures as I kept trying to get the middle done before the top burned, but somehow or other, I was successful. I ended up with cake. I cut it all into pieces since I was actually expecting the center of each one to be gooey, and figured I'd just throw those pieces out & use what was usable, but it was baked all the way to the center, and people seemed to like it today (and there were other cookies & such there to choose from LOL). And actually, I'm not a huge cake fan (ok, I pretty much eat the cake for the frosting, and I didn't put frosting on this, just the colored sugar) but I have to say, this has enough cookie taste to it, that I like it better than most cake LOL. Doubt I'll ever attempt to recreate it, but it's not half bad . . .

Marketers amuse me . . .

One of the things that was on sale from Frontier this year was Sinol and someone was asking me about it. I didn't know anything about it, so I was reading on their website about it & found it odd that while they offer 2 (apparently) separate products, one for headaches & one for allergy/sinus, there was only one description & ingredient list on their website. So, when (different) people ordered both "types" in this month's Frontier order, I was curious to see how/if they differed. And the answer is . . . they're exactly the same!!! Ingredients list is IDENTICAL! And yet, if you JUST read the box, it would appear that the one bottle is only for use w/ headaches & the other is only for use for allergy/sinus stuff.

I'm always amused at the "spin" marketers put on stuff. I'd love to know how many people have both of these in their medicine cabinets, and are careful to use the "right" one for the right symptoms, hee hee.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Little things tickle me . . .

Yesterday when we were getting ready to vacuum I grabbed a big squishy basket thing (hard to describe) that used to be in the girls' room but is now empty (& was waiting for me to carry it to the basement) and put all the toy nativity pieces (we have 2, a cloth one & a Veggie Tales one) into it so they'd be off the floor for vacuuming.

So a few minutes A brought the basket over (still w/ the nativity pieces in it) and asked me to help her put it on her head, "like they did in the olden days to carry water" (hey, to a 4 yr old, it's rather inconceivable that there are cultures that STILL carry water from a stream & such, so close enough . . .) it's quite amusing to watch her try to balance the basket which doesn't have a rigid bottom, and is filled w/ a wide variety of sizes & weights of objects (so seriously I don't think anyone could balance it, as soon as the toys inside shifted the center of gravity would shift).

She's also asking how they (the people who carry water on their heads) do it, and if they sometimes spill and such, funny how I couldn't tell you the last time we read the book we have that has a picture of that (AWESOME book, btw), I'm always amazed at the things they pull out of their memories.

Monday, December 17, 2007

My car's in the garage!!!

Ok, I realize that doesn't sound overly exciting, but trust me, it is! No matter how cluttered other areas were, the one thing I always made sure of was that I could park my car in the garage, when the girls were younger it was absolutely essential since I would come home, they'd be asleep, I'd close the garage door, open the car windows, leave the door between house & garage open, and go get stuff done while they napped. And well, I'm just spoiled that way, it means the steering wheel doesn't burn my hands in the summer, I don't have to scrape windows in the winter . . . etc.

But then last summer, dh bought a new riding lawn mower. A REALLY LARGE riding lawn mower & "temporarily" parked it where my car was supposed to be. I sorted through as much as I could, told dh, I needed his help carrying stuff & going through HIS stuff, to make room for the lawn mower in the "storage" side of the garage. He never had time . . . ALL SUMMER I dealt with so hot it burned my fingers steering wheel, and kids needing me to buckle seat belts so they didn't burn themselves on the metal part and having to run the a/c at full blast to get all that heat gone . . . and as we came into fall/winter, I said PLEASE go through stuff w/ me, so I can park in the garage before it snows, and then it snowed . . . and I was dealing w/ frosty windows, and the girls' water bottles being frozen solid and . . . finally dh said he'd help me clear stuff out on our anniversary weekend. And then it rained, and I just couldn't find the . . . something, to try to arrange things w/o being able to pull it out into the driveway & sort things out. But I DID point out his pile (that he ignored LOL), and ask him to help me carry a couple really big boxes to the basement (which he did). And we filled the back of his minivan with stuff he needed to take to the shop. So then I started working through stuff on nice-ish days, and I freecycled some stuff, and gave some more stuff to friends, and added to the "dh needs to go through this stuff" pile, and last weekend I sent some stuff to my parents' house, and yesterday he was actually home in the afternoon and I said PLEASE go through your pile, and he went through part of it, and took another load up to the shop, and moved the lawn mower into the corner I'd cleared for it. Today I went through the stuff that was hiding behind the lawn mower, and moved some other stuff around and got it to the point where the ONLY thing keeping me from parking in the garage was the still rather large pile of "stuff for dh to go through". And it was just SO close . . . so I squeezed things together where the girls' bikes are, and piled dh's boxes there, at this point, w/ those boxes where they are, it's hard for me to open the driver door, but it is IN the garage! Dh has assured me that he'll go through more stuff tonight, which I won't totally believe until the girls are asleep & he's still awake (he has this tendency to fall asleep before they do on the nights I've asked him to help me w/ something), but hopefully he will, and then I can easily park in the garage.

The trash can is the closest it's ever been to overflowing (thankfully it goes out tonight) and one of the recycle bins IS overflowing (and those were just emptied this morning, so they have another week before they go out, but the way the wind blows, we seem to collect recycle bins (and they're not marked so we have no way to return them to their owners) so we have THREE of them, so we'll survive. And I've got more stuff listed on freecycle that people will hopefully take. And there's still some stuff that a friend is going to take when she's here on Wednesday, but we have definite progress :)

What can I say, little things excite me :)

Of course, on the other hand, as soon as I parked in the garage A told me "I don't want you to park in here!" Little Miss "I Hate Change" strikes again . . . she told me it was because she likes how cold her water gets when she leaves it in the car, but I assured her it will still get cold, it just won't FREEZE. She's the same kid who was very upset when Daddy parked his lawn mower "where our car goes" last spring LOL.

Plastics Fact Sheet

I got this in an e-mail:

Plastics: A Fact Sheet
Plastics are everywhere. Since 1976, plastic has been the most widely
used material in the United
States. In 2001, the US disposed of over 25 million tons of plastic.
Plastics are the fourth largest
category of municipal solid waste. Some plastics are safer than
others to use. Below is a list of
different types of plastics, which ones to avoid, and which ones are
safer to use. Also provided
are suggested alternatives to common plastic products.

Types of Plastics
Plastic containers are usually numbered on the bottom, indicating the
type of resin used in their
manufacture.
#1 – polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE)
Products: Soft drink bottles, medicine containers
#2 – high density polyethylene (HDPE)
Products: Toys; bottles for milk, water, detergent, shampoo and motor
oil
#3 polyvinyl chloride (V or PVC)
Products: Pipe, meat wrap, cooking oil bottles, toys
#4 low density polyethylene (LDPE)
Products: Wrapping films, grocery bags
#5 polypropylene (PP)
Products: Syrup bottles, yogurt tubs, diapers
#6 polystyrene (PS)
Products: Coffee cups, clam-shell take-out containers
#7 other (usually polycarbonate)
Products: Medical storage containers, baby bottles, lining in food
cans, some water bottles.

Plastics to Avoid
· PVC: Avoid PVC (#3). The manufacturing and incineration of PVC
vinyl releases cancercausing
dioxins into the environment. Dioxins are then ingested by cattle,
poultry, sea
creatures, and other animals, thus entering the food chain. PVC also
often contains lead and
toxic plasticizers such as phthalates that migrate into food, water,
air, and our mouths (e.g.,
when infants mouth PVC toys). Furthermore, most recycling programs do
not accept PVC.

.Leaching plastics: Avoid PVC (#3), polystyrene (#6), and other
plastics (#7). All of these are
known to leach harmful chemicals such as bisphenol A into the foods
they contain. These
chemicals can disrupt proper hormone functioning, leading to a
variety of reproductive and
neurological health problems.
Safer Plastics

· Choose plastics that are accepted for recycling in your area. Many
people believe that the
simple presence of a code on the bottom of a container means that it
is recyclable. The
numbers indicate the type of resin used, but not all types are
accepted for recycling. The most
commonly recycled plastics are #1 (PETE) or #2 (HDPE).

· Choose non-PVC cling wrap such as Glad Wrap. Also, Saran Premium
Wrap and Saran
Cling-Plus Wrap do not contain PVC or bisphenol A.

· Choose #1 (PETE), #2 (HDPE), #4 (LDPE) and #5 (PP) plastics—these
are safer choices
since most research has not shown leaching of carcinogens or hormone-
disrupting chemicals
from these. However, #4 and #5 are not as widely recyclable. Some
bread and frozen-food
bags and squeezable bottles are made of #4 plastic. Some ketchup
bottles and yogurt and
margarine containers are made of #5 plastic. Medela and Evenflo baby
bottles are generally
made of safer plastics.

· Choose biodegradable plastics. The use of a corn-based
biodegradable plastic called
polylactide (PLA) is growing. For example, Wild Oats supermarket
chain replaced its bulkfood containers with PLA. Biodegradable
garbage bags and disposable dinnerware are now available for home use
(see www.simplybiodegradable.com). Look for the Biodegradable
Products Institute's "Compostable" label on certified products, which
indicates that the product rapidly breaks down and can support plant
growth after decomposing. Look for innovative companies who are using
Green Chemistry in manufacturing processes.

Alternatives to Plastics

· Glass, ceramic and stoneware do not leach chemicals into foods.
Glass recycling is also more environmentally friendly than plastics
recycling.

· Stainless steel containers are 100% recyclable, inexpensive, and
will not react with foods during cooking.

· Wax paper sandwich bags are an alternative to plastic sandwich bags.

· Wood cutting boards instead of plastic are preferable. Spray your
cutting board with a mist of vinegar, then a mix of hydrogen peroxide
and water, then rinse, to kill bacteria.

Sources: The Green Guide (www.thegreenguide.com)
Co-op America (www.coopamerica.org)

Save Money, Save Your Health, Save the Earth

First, while only saving your health in the global sense of, a healthier earth = healthier inhabitants of the earth, I'd like to challenge you to consider reusable options for wrapping gifts this year. I think I already mentioned, my super economical way of doing that has been to re-use gift bags I already had from previous years. If you sew at ALL (as in, a straight seam), you can make simple fabric gift bags just cut 2 piece of fabric the same size, hem the "top" edge of each (or cut w/ pinking shears or something to make it look like you meant to leave it un-hemmed) lay the 2 pieces against each other inside out, sew around the 3 sides, and turn it right side out. Place gift inside the bag & then tie the top closed w/ a piece of ribbon (or fold it over & pin it, or sew a piece of velcro onto it . . . or use your imagination & come up with another solution). Even if you don't sew, you can cut a piece of fabric w/ pinking shears & "wrap the package" in the piece of fabric, then tie ribbon (use real ribbons, tie them so they can be untied w/o cutting them, and leave them long enough that they can be used other years for other shaped packages). I did that using playsilks last year for the girls' birthday gifts & it turned out great :) (Ha! And looking at those pictures, now I know why, when I was making votives recently, I found a bunch of cut lengths of white ribbon in my ribbon drawer). If you'd rather just buy some cloth bags, I have a few wrap sacks and they have the neat feature of each bag having a number in it so that you can track, where the bag has been & where it will go (if you keep the number of your bag) as people use & reuse it. And they're nicely made drawstring bags. If you're creative you an make the wrapping part of the gift too, use a baby blanket for a baby's gift (or an expectant mom's gift), dish towels for a gift that's a kitchen theme, etc.

I also thought a week before Christmas would be a good time to do a "wish list" for a healthier kitchen . . . So, if you have parents or husband asking "what do you want for Christmas" and you're drawing a blank, here are some things to consider asking for (if you don't have them).

Cast iron cookware: teflon/non-stick at the very least uses carcinogens in the manufacturing process, and it flakes off w/ use, which is scary to me. Additionally, once I learned to keep the heat at medium or less for most things, especially eggs, I LOVE how cast iron skillets cook! Even if you could prove with 100% certainty that non-stick was safe I wouldn't be going back! My pots & pans were already stainless steel, so I stuck with those, if they had been non-stick or aluminum (linked to alzheimer's)I'd probably have replaced them with cast iron as well, though most sources say stainless steel is safe as well.

Stoneware muffin pan &/or "pizza stones": Many muffin tins & baking sheets are aluminum (&/or non-stick), again, same issues as above. A "pizza stone" can be used for anything a baking sheet can be used for (that said, at Christmas time when we might make large batches of cookies, I use parchment paper on my old baking sheets because I don't have that many pizza stones). And they're so wonderful! I want a stoneware muffin pan(s) in the worst way, but haven't gotten one yet. For now I do have a coated stoneware muffin pan (that makes heart shaped muffins) & a cast iron muffin pan (that makes mickey mouse head muffins) so I use those instead of the aluminum non-stick muffin pans I had (though again, another alternative is to use paper liners).

Pyrex (or equivalent) baking dishes: again to replace aluminum/non-stick ones for cakes, casseroles, etc.

Glass storage containers: I'd love to get some of these, in a variety of sizes, but for now I'm making do with ones more like this (be aware though that both pyrex & anchor hocking brand containers like this use one of the "known to leach" plastics for their lids, I use the lids for storage but try to never fill the containers so that food is touching the lids, and don't ever use the lids in the microwave (drastic temperature changes are the most likely time for plastic leaching (so microwaving, freezing, etc). Plastic (leaching) and food is one of those issues that everyone has a different answer about, awhile ago I got an e-mail forward (I know, not always the most reliable source of information) that seemed to lay it out in an easy to understand (& check) format, I'll paste that list into a separate post when I finish this one. IMO it's impossible to 100% eliminate plastic, but I've found it relatively easy to reduce it in areas such as storage containers (cheapest glass storage containers, save your glass jars from spaghetti sauce & such, wash them, and re-use!)

If you have young children, dishes is another area where the plastic dilemma can be a big one. Afterall, plastic can leach, but glass can break . . . what to do? I got lucky in this one, in that I already had Corelle (not that pattern) for my everyday dishes, it's quite break resistant, though if you have a tile or slate floor you might want to put a towel down under your child's seat if they might drop their dishes, to cushion it abit. But I can tell you with certainty (and I think more from ME dropping them than the girls) that they rarely break when dropped on vinyl floors LOL) and I've occasionally seen my children STAND on the plates or bowls on the family room (carpeted) floor & they've never broken that way either (not something I'd recommend by the way LOL). Perhaps the bigger issue is a non-break cup. I'd always used the glasses that I got to match my Corelle dishes and they are most definitely NOT unbreakable (again, I know this from personal experience that has nothing to do w/ my children . . . why yes, I *am* abit of a klutz) but then it occurred to me that I had a whole set of the Corelle mugs that came with my dishes that I pretty much never used because they're smaller than I like for my mugs. These are made out of the same stuff as the dishes & again, can take MUCH abuse! I also use jelly jars as glasses for the girls & haven't had any break yet. If you need extra bowls, or only bowls, we also have some of these and again, they will take much abuse (and I can say for a fact that at least a couple of ours are capable of being turned upside down on carpet & will hold 40lbs w/o breaking (again, children standing on them, sigh . . . and again, I don't recommend it, but do think it's a good indicator of the abuse they can take). If you truly want to stay away from both plastic and glass, check camping stores for enamel dishes.

Or just think about other things you'd like to make from scratch, look up online how to do it, and determine if there is any special equipment you might need (food processor, blender, food dehydrator, bread maker, candy thermometer (this is useful for things like making yogurt too) etc).

Sunday, December 16, 2007

So simple, and yet so profound

My dad sent me this link & I had to pass it along.

Link

Homeschools wrap-up for this week

L's about done with the "In the Beginning" workbook. And I think we only have 3 books left in the set of Bob books we have. I'm really hoping we can find the next set(s) at the library, don't want to spend money on them as fast as she goes through them, but they are really working well to keep her moving forward. An online friend mentioned that her dd learned to sound out words but took awhile to move beyond sounding out every.single.word every time she came to it & I'm definitely seeing that w/ L too. Words that she knew as sight words before she decided she needed to learn to read, she now sounds out. Not sure how to move beyond that, so just giving it time at this point, though when she sounds out words she previously knew, I do point out that she knows that word.

We made pinecone birdfeeders this week (rolled pinecones in peanut butter, then birdseed, and hung them in trees). I haven't seen any birds on them yet, but hopefully we'll see some at some point (&/or see obvious evidence that they've eaten the birdseed, even that would satisfy the girls LOL.

We also made gifts for the grandparents, etc. and got them under the trees. The girls are very excited about this, and were also thrilled to be able to get their gifts for each other under the tree yesterday (when Daddy was home to keep one kid entertained while I helped the other one "wrap" their gift).

I'd hoped to get some Christmassy fabric and make all cloth "wrapping paper" this year, but that didn't happen, so decided instead to re-use gift bags I already have (and some cloth bags I got to use on the trips we took this fall, and I have some Christmas fabric in my "stash" that I can use if I need to). I'm hoping to not use any wrapping paper because of the environmental impact, so far so good LOL. And so far the girls haven't complained that "wrapping" gifts hasn't involved lots of tape & such LOL.

Kindermusik continues to go well. At this point I think the girls would be fine with letting me leave the room if I had a good "excuse" but it's kind of fun to watch what the kids do, and I'm not sure they'd react well to me going out to sit in the hall "just because" so I've stayed. It occurred to me yesterday that during Kindermusik would be a time to check the various classrooms to see if they happened to have the top 2/3 of my Christmas tree, so I might do that next week, at least for the unlocked rooms, not sure if L (the teacher) would let me borrow her key to check the locked rooms. And I hate to bother the church secretary, though if it's only one or two rooms that are locked, I might ask her.

The girls were telling Miss M (their SS teacher) about our tree not going together and such yesterday, so I think they'd consider it a valid "excuse" for me to go hunting for the tree (though they might think they need to help me look LOL).

Speaking of SS, not sure what flipped the switch, but the girls were super chatty this week, at least for the first half. They've been more comfortable around Miss M, since the week that we were the first ones to class & she asked them to help her set up the craft, and when we got there this week it was just Miss M, and the girls' friends, A&J, so that helped, but then even once more people had come, they kept on being chatty & participating and such. One of the other moms commented that she'd never heard them talk before LOL. Then halfway through we went to the nursing home next door to sing a couple songs, and that popped the girls back into their shells, sigh . . . they sat on our laps when we got back, and generally didn't participate except for craft. The WERE ok with me leaving for a little while during craft (and dh had disappeared at that point too) when I told them I needed to take something to Miss K in the Beginner's room.

The Advent calendar we're doing is starting to teach simple subtraction. The girls insist on counting how many days are left each time we do that day's book & sticker. But then they revisit "how many days till Christmas" 1001 times each day (more or less LOL). When they ask BEFORE we've done the calendar for that day, I ask them how many days it was yesterday & then point out that today would be one less. It still takes some figuring, but they can usually get to the right answer. One of them (I don't remember which) was counting backwards from 10 yesterday too, not sure where she learned that, but she was doing it flawlessly LOL.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Logic and Other Happenings

This afternoon my parents came down and took the girls & I out to eat & to drive through the lights at Seneca Park on our way down, Dad stopped for gas and since it was in our town (which is known for being confusing to get around in), as we were leaving the gas station he asked "how do I get out of here?" or something along those lines. To which A piped up from the backseat "just go back the way we came" I had to laugh at that! Though in actuality, there WAS a more direct route back to the interstate, but still, it struck me a pretty good logic for a 4 yr old LOL.

As we drove through the Winter Lights, A spent more time trying to figure out how they got the lights to "move" (alot of the displays used a series of lights synchronized to blink on & off just right to make it look like a fish was jumping over the road, or a snowman was throwing a snowball or whatever) I told my dad she's definitely his granddaughter, wanting to know how everything works . . .

The girls were also pretty proud of themselves that they could figure out that the fish on one of the animated light things must be a salmon since it was jumping up a waterfall :) (that would be thanks to Magic School Bus)

When we left winter lights we thought it was late enough that we'd miss rush hour traffic, but there'd been an accident (and we didn't have the radio on, so didn't know about it) that had the interstate pretty much stopped. this of course raised tons of questions from the girls, and got Ashlyn all worried about such things. Once we were passed it, she said "just seeing the accident and hearing about it, makes me feel like *I* was in the accident" poor kid. . . I have a feeling she'll end up in our bed tonight with a bad dream, but we talked about how the people must not have been hurt too badly since we saw the ambulances leaving w/o their lights on, and such (the girls didn't bring up the possibility that the people had died, and I certainly wasn't going to plant that idea in their heads, but MD law requires them to totally close the road if there's a fatality, so we know that wasn't the case either) and I'm not sure what else we could've done to make it less scary. . .

The girls were exhausted by the time we got home (since waiting through the accident put us getting home quite abit later than expected) which made bedtime more difficult, at least the "getting them upstairs" part of bedtime. A laid down on her bed while L was choosing a story & by the time L had chosen the story, A was asleep. L did stay awake for her two stories, though I convinced her that since it had been a long day & she was so tired it was ok to let me read her stories instead of her reading the Bob books for her stories. She's doing really well with them & moving through them pretty quickly, but it's still a time consuming process to read them, and when she's tired she gets impatient and that makes it that much harder. I convinced her that she's not "giving up" to skip reading them for one night, and that she can read them more tomorrow if she wants. After stories, she realized that she'd never finished eating the cookie I'd given her before we went upstairs, so I told her to finish it & then she needed to go to sleep. She laid down on her bed to eat the cookie, and MIGHT have taken 2 bites before she fell sleep, I took the rest of it out of her hand, turned the light out, and left :)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Odds & Ends

L continues to enjoy the Bob books at bedtime, and I think if I hadn't been sick today, she'd probably have finished the "In the Beginning" workbook today, she did one page, but didn't like having to run back & forth to the sofa at the end of each page (prefers it when I do the running from whatever I'm doing to her LOL). It's interesting to listen to her thought processes as she sounds words out. The Bob books at this point are mostly very phonetic words, but they do use the. She struggles with that, but knew (from memory) that the last page of each book says The End, so I pointed out that it was the same word. So then whenever she got to "the" as she read, she'd mutter "the end" under her breath & THEN she'd know the word was the.

Tuesday night we started a book that included the short i sound (and emphasized it) and for whatever reason, she has a hard time remembering that one (for one thing, she seems to confuse the lower case i with the lower case t). Anyway, then yesterday one of the workbook pages we did was on the letter i, so last night when she came to her first i & asked me what it said, I asked her "what animal was on the i page you did today?" it only took her a few seconds (faster than I could remember, actually LOL) to remember insect, so then if she got to a word & couldn't remember the i sound, she'd mutter insect under her breath & that would remind her. I'm more excited about that then the rest of it, since I really feel the most important thing I learned in school was how to figure things out for myself, so I like that she's working out ways to remember things she struggles with.

The girls didn't see dh at all from Sunday night until we met him for lunch on Wed. (he worked late both Mon & Tues nights & went in early on Tues & Wed mornings (& I think they slept in a little later than usual on Mon, so they didn't see him then either). Anyway . . . L didn't seem to mind, just mentioning it once on Tues night as I was tucking them in (when dh is home he stays in their room while they fall asleep & they have "talk time" with him before they go to sleep, so she was upset at missing out on talk time for a 2nd night in a row), but A mentioned it a few times over the two days. Tues morning when she woke up she did a quick "tour" through the whole house to try to find him (he'd already left, I was still in bed), and then when he was gone when she woke up Wed morning, she was none too happy. Anyway, at lunch on Wed, we got there first & were getting our food & such when dh got there, she took off across the restaurant and gave him a big hug, and pretty much didn't let go of him the whole meal :) both girls were very good to have him home on time last night as well, and made up for lost time by having a longer than usual talk.

We have progress on getting rid of stuff we no longer use!! I'd really like to get the garage such that I can park in the garage this winter (we'd always had it so that I could, but then last summer dh got a new (very large) lawnmower and I tried a couple times to get through stuff & make room for it on the "junk" side, but always ended up running into too much stuff that he needed to make the call on, and he's never home, and if he is, he has more important things to do than go through random stuff in the garage. So, he went through a few things w/ me when he stayed home the Sunday of our anniversary weekend (but we didn't do as much as we'd hoped because it was rainy, and so much easier to sort stuff if you can spread it out in the driveway). Yesterday the girls were asleep when I got home so I left them in the car & I started working in the garage. Based on what we'd done last weekend, I'd already offered some of the outgrown toys to my friend, Kim, and she was coming over later in the day yesterday, so I pulled out the stuff for her, and rearranged the other stuff (so that we're back to "ok, now i need dh to go through stuff" LOL) well, I was figuring we could load the stuff into Kim's car while the girls played w/ her older dd, Hannah (who they adore) but Hannah'd fallen asleep so the girls were there w/ me when I was showing Kim what I had & loading what she wanted into her car. And the girls even helped load it w/o complaint. A did mention wanting to keep one of the riding toys, and it was the one that I'd decided could move up to my parents' house (they have a long, slightly hilly driveway and the girls are still nervous on their bikes there, so we generally leave their bikes home & let them ride the smaller riding toys when we're there, but the 2 that are currently there, one is faster then the other, which causes issues), so that worked out well. Granted we were getting rid of stuff they were WELL past using, but in the past that hasn't mattered, they were upset when I gave the exersaucers asway, and they were 3!!! So, that's a step in the right direction LOL.

We did abit of "school" this week besides the reading stuff. They've wanted to do art, so we made pinecone bird feeders and hung them in the backyard. And did another project to make grandparent gifts (since grandparents read this blog, no more details on that LOL).

Probably would have done more today but I ended up w/ a stomach bug of somesort and pretty much slept (or as close to sleeping as you can do while keeping half an eye on 2 four yr olds) all day, the girls did ok w/ that overall, alternated playing and watching more tv than we normally do. I did read them a story & play a couple games with them, and we did the advent calendars, they're really enjoying being able to count how many days are left until Christmas that way :)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Cute Kid Stuff . . .

In decluttering/cleaning, I recently found a photo album of pictures when Precious (our 9 yr old dog) was a puppy & pulled it out for the girls to look at. L was just going through it again, and said, "Mommy, I think Precious is on the kitchen floor in this picture, but the fridge is white, instead of black" this of course led to a long discussion about us moving (before the girls were born) from the townhouse to this house.

When A woke me up this morning (she tried to lay quietly in my bed until I was ready to wake up, really she did, but laying still is not her forte (even when she's asleep, much less when she's awake)). Anyway . . . she told me "when I woke up this morning the sun was rising." I asked if it was pretty & she said "I think so, but I didn't really watch it, I just kept right on going" I think part of what made it so cute/funny was the voice inflections, that I can't capture here, but it was hillarious :) This (indirectly) led to a discussion about Daddy (because she'd "kept on going" in a hunt to see if Daddy was in the house, he wasn't, he'd gone in early this morning, after working late last night, so she hadn't seen him since yesterday morning) and she said she hoped he'd be home tonight because she likes him to stay in their room while they fall asleep. I asked why they always choose Daddy instead of me. And she said "because we see you all MORNING, so when it's bedtime POP! You're done!" LOL ok, works for me!!!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Something I realized today . . .

Someone posted on a message board I'm on, asking (in a nutshell) "how do you choose what religion to believe in?" (question was much longer & more involved then that, but that was the underlying concept) and as I started to try to answer, I realized something. I realized that I 100% canNOT fathom not believing in God. I certainly understand that people don't. But I can't fathom it. I can't wrap my mind around the idea of thinking "I need some religion in my life, let me see which one has the same political views as I do". I know plenty of people who have gone "church shopping" based on political views, social views, etc. and when I hear them talking that way, I always think, "that's backwards, religion isn't an ala carte menu!" (or at least it shouldn't be). But this particular question really somehow brought it all home to me, how fully & completely I can't fathom not believing in God. Because, while my answer to "how did you choose your religion" is, I was raised in it. If you were to ask me how I thought a person who didn't have a religion SHOULD choose their religion, I'd say . . . developed a relationship with God and study His word, seek His guidance, and find a church whose doctorines seem to be in line with your understanding of His word. It's not what sounds the most fun, or the most in keeping w/ your views on politics, or whatever, it's about building a relationship with God and then doing His will.

I have friends who have left a church because of how people there treat them. Now, yes, in this particular part of the country, there are enough SDA churches that it's possible to "church shop" a bit, and there are certainly SDA churches that I prefer to other SDA churches, and an aspect (the main aspect) of that is generally the people. There are people in all churches who do things & say things & act in ways that are not in keeping with God's will. If a person is basing their religion on PEOPLE, they're never going to be satisfied, and frankly, since going to church most definitely is NOT going to get you to heaven, if you're just looking at the people, and not forming a relationship with God, what's the point? Yes, I realize that the point is, they might be led to develop that relationship with God, by coming to church, but that's not likely to happen if they're being turned off on religion by the people who are at that church.

Someone posted on a blog I read, about the fact that earlier this year she gave her nephew a Bible as a gift & he didn't even know that the Bible was a real book. I can't wrap my mind around that. In THIS country! A country that has "In God We Trust" on our money & that (used to) pledge allegiance . . . one nation under God! There are teenagers who don't realize the Bible is a real book! That's sad. That's something I don't understand. I know plenty of people who have left churches/Christianity. I know people who choose to believe that God doesn't exist. But to not even realize the Bible is real book, boggles my mind.

Now, obviously the solution to teenagers not knowing what the Bible is, is to give Bibles as gifts, even if you think they'll just throw it in a corner & never look at it, even if they might say "why did you give me THIS?" they just might do like the young man mentioned above, and be excited to realize the Bible exists and want to start reading it!

The solution to people thinking that religion is about social consciousness and political views and whether the church I'm considering has rules that I like, or leave a church because someone told them they were sinners for doing xyz . . . I don't know. I don't know how one gets through to people who sit in the pews every week, or even those sitting in the pews for the first time, that first & foremost you must get to know GOD! Not the God the pastor presents, or the God that you decide you know because one of the elders tells you that you'll never make it to heaven wearing THAT outfit! But God. All by yourself, alone, with prayer & Bible study! Yes, ask the pastor, or a trusted church member, questions when things don't make sense. Yes, go to group Bible studies and church and prayer groups, but going through the motions of all of those things w/o first building a relationship with God is just . . . going through the motions. If you start by building a relationship with God, the rest just kind of falls into place. How do you choose a church? You choose one that's beliefs are from the Bible. If you don't like that a certain church allows or doesn't allow women to preach or whatever, study it. Pray and ask God to guide you as you study the Bible to see what IT says about women preaching, ask someone from that denomination WHY they teach the way they do, then take the texts they give you and study them. Perhaps find another religion that teaches differently about that topic and ask them as well, why they teach the way they do, and study those texts. I believe that, while it might not always be comfortable answers, if you prayerfully study any topic, God will lead you to an answer. But it bothers me, how many people are choosing churches or leaving churches based on the people, and not God. . .

Save Money, Save Your Health, Save the Earth

Today's tip, do more cooking from scratch. When you use prepared foods, they are more expensive, filled with sodium, preservatives, artificial colors, sugar (in many forms, all unhealthy LOL), etc. AND all the extra packaging ends up in the landfills (or even if you recycle, it still requires resources to process the recycled stuff).

Some easy, healthy, meals from scratch that we enjoy:

Rice & Beans. I use dry black beans, depending on what else I'm doing that day, and how organized I am, I sometimes use the crock pot (need to remember to do this more often, it's the easiest option LOL), sometimes cook on the stove. I pretty much open my spice cupboard & add whatever strikes my fancy. About an hour before suppertime I start cooking the brown rice (brown rice is healthier (a whole grain) than white rice, and IMO tastes better (dh prefers white, but will eat brown), but does take longer to cook. I've heard you can soak it all day & then cook it for a shorter amount of time, but I haven't tried it. Then just serve it, people put rice on their plates, add beans on top, dh adds hot sauce, the girls & I eat it plain. It's filling, very inexpensive (if you shop around you can generally find both beans & rice for around $1/lb (or less) and our family of 4 probably eats roughly 1/2 lb of each, with some leftovers (I cook a full lb of beans, but freeze some for those days when I want black beans but don't take time to cook them) so, around $1 for a meal for 4, assuming you have spices on hand.

And a great lunch (or supper, but in our case, dh isn't a fan, so we make it for lunch while he's at work) the next day, assuming you have leftover rice, is fried rice.

If you have a bread machine, homemade bread is a snap, throw the ingredients in, push the button, and take it out when you're done. And again, cuts down on the plastic bags you use (since store bought bread pretty much all comes in plastic bags) and you avoid all the preservatives & such that are in storebought bread. Like with the rice, whole wheat is much healthier than white flour (but I'm not sure but what homemade white bread would be healthier than (most) store bought wheat bread since very little of it is truly whole wheat (it just has SOME whole wheat in it, but still has white flour too) and it still has the preservatives & such in it). Ideally, you should buy wheat & grind your own whole wheat flour. That gives you the highest concentration of nutrients from the wheat (when the flour is ground and left to sit for awhile it loses some nutrients over time), but I have no advice on the mechanics of doing this, I'm totally spoiled, my grandma has a grain mill (well, I think technically it's Mom's but currently resides at Grandma's house), so I just have to plan ahead enough to let Mom know a couple days ahead of seeing her, that I'll need flour, and she gets it from Grandma & gives it to me.

Along the same lines, we make homemade ww pizza, using the bread machine. Ideally, you can grow (or get at the farmer's market, or from neighbors & co-workers who have too much) tomatoes in the summer & freeze or can spaghetti sauce (or pizza sauce, I use spaghetti sauce for both) to use all year, but I'll admit that I haven't been that ambitious/organized yet (maybe next summer LOL), I generally buy jarred spaghetti sauce, but I read the labels to make sure there's no added sugar or corn syrup. You can also make your own sauce (adding spices & such) from canned tomatoes/tomato paste/tomato sauce, there are numerous online recipes.

In the winter, we generally have soup for supper at least once a week, and often I'll make a different kind (that dh doesn't like) early in the week and use it for a couple lunches during the week. This winter I'm hoping to try other kinds of soup & maybe even find some other ones dh likes, he makes it difficult by not liking tomatoes, and I try to limit the cream based soups because they're not as healthy (and milk and cheese are more expensive than tomatoes LOL).

A simple vegetable stir-fry is great when you don't have much time. In the winter I generally use frozen vegetables, in the summer, I use whatever is in season. I'm not very scientific about it, put a little olive oil in a skillet, add garlic &/or onions, then whatever other veggies you want. I've also been including soy curls recently. We're vegetarian, so this kind of replaces the "meat" soy curls are just dehydrated soybeans, so they don't have the preservatives & such that other "fake meat" products have. I just soak them in chicken flavored broth (I just recently made my own, haven't tried it yet to see how it tastes) for a few minutes, then brown them in the skillet. We serve the stir fry over brown rice (though on a night when I don't have an hour, I sometimes use Jasmine rice, which only takes 15 minutes). Lately we've been eating however much rice I make (since I make fried rice for lunch the next day & the girls can eat an amazing amount of that!) but when I can, I freeze rice to have for quicker meals.

Snacks, at home, one of our favorites is popcorn. BUT instead of microwave popcorn that is coated in who knows what chemicals to approximate the taste of butter & salt, and then having a plastic outer wrap, plus the paper (w/ a metal-ish something or other in one side of it) bag, to add to the landfills, we pop up a nice big kettle of good old fashioned popcorn on the stove, add a little salt (dh likes to add Old Bay seasoning) and chow down. No artificial anything, no waste (well, very little, a bag of popcorn last as LONG time LOL) and it literally costs pennies for a nice big kettle full. To be really decadent, make kettle corn once in awhile :) (& on a related note, I've always used white sugar for kettle corn, but having read this recipe for it, I'm going to try it with sucanet, so even healthier, and loving the idea of a carmel-corn-like flavor :)

Fresh fruit (I try to always keep SOMETHING in a fruit bowl (I use a pretty metal colander, it lets the fruit breath, and means I can always find a colander when I need one LOL) apples, oranges, or in the summer, whatever's in season.

Raw veggies, cucumbers are a favorite around here, the girls go in phases where they really like the baby carrots.

When we're out, we like the banana oatmeal cookies I've mentioned a couple times, they're healthier than alot of pre-packaged snacks even if they are called cookies. I also get just tomatoes (www.justtomatoes.com) freeze dried fruit (I run a co-op for them every few months so I don't have to pay retail LOL) to take with us in the car & such. It's JUST the fruit, no added anything. Nuts are a healthy, filling, snack as well, right now I have a big tub of cashews in the car that we've been snacking on for the last few weeks.

Breakfast is a big one. If you're like me, you just always kind of assumed that breakfast = cold cereal. But even the "healthy" cereals have preservatives and stuff in them, and are expensive. Lately we've been eating oatmeal alot. I prefer it made overnight in the crock pot (2 cups old fashioned oats, 6 cups water, a dash of salt, cook on low overnight) I've seen the suggestion of adding fruit & such to this, and it sounds YUMMY but dh doesn't like fruit (too sweet) and DOES really like oatmeal so since we only have one crockpot, I haven't been mean enough to cook a pot of it that he can't eat. Muffins are nice too. Cornmeal mush, cream of wheat and grits are other breakfast cereal options. Pancakes can be made ahead & frozen for quick meals.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

BYOB

To follow up on my comments last week about the free reusable bags & using reusable shopping bags in general, take the carbon conscious consumer pledge to bring your own bag, and you also get a chance to win fun prizes.

Just a few fun (or not so fun) facts:

  • 12 million barrels of oil & 14 million trees are wasted EACH YEAR to make plastic & paper bags!
  • Most plastic bags are made from nonrenewable resources
  • As I write this post over 469,000,000,000 plastic bags have been consumed this year!
  • Hundreds of thousands of sea turtles, whales and other marine animals die every year from eating discarded plastic bags (they think they're jellyfish)
  • An estimated 8 billion pounds of plastic bags, wraps and sacks enter the waste stream each year in the US alone!
  • While recycling the bags is better than throwing them in the trash, it is not cost effective to recycle them. Many bags collected for recycling are shipped to third world countries instead of recycling them.
So, take the pledge to start carrying reusable shopping bags!

There's also a link on the page with the pledge to print out a wallet buddy to keep your credit card (or cash) in, to remind you to stop and think twice before spending money.

Weekly Homeschool wrap-up

This week has ignored the preschool curriculum and focused on "learning to read" at L's request. We've worked through 60+ lessons of the "In the Beginning" workbook from the Life Series reading curriculum. Most of it has been review, colors, shapes, relationships (above/below, and such), and now we're working through the various letters learning/reviewing their sounds & how to write the letters. Some of it is new, or at least stuff they need to review more (they mix up some of the lower case letters, and don't always remember what some letters say, and can use the practice on writing the letters), but still all stuff that they can move through pretty quickly.

I also pulled out the Bob books again and L started reading them for her bedtime stories, actually sounding the words out instead of just memorizing the pages based on pictures.

That's pretty much the only thing we did this week, little to no interest in circle time or "school" in the sense of the stuff in the preschool curriculum so I'm not going to try to move forward with it for now, I'm going to kind of "stall" it at the week we're currently at, and if/when they show an interest we'll pick up where we left off. I think we WILL make it a priority to make the pinecone bird feeders this week, since our kindermusik homework for this week is to watch for birds in our yard, so that ties together nicely, and will get the "stuff" for making those out of my otherwise mostly straightened up dining room LOL. L also said something about making gingerbread on Friday, so I may try to find an easy gingerbread cookie recipe and make that this week (though we also have some bananas that need using, so I'll be making banana oatmeal cookies on Monday with or w/o the kids LOL). The gingerbread cookies we'll probably freeze most of to have for Christmas dinner anyway so 2 batches of cookies in one week isn't a big deal.

Kindermusik this week went well, better than I expected honestly, between the girls being incredibly excited about the sleepover at Mama & Papa's this weekend (dh & I celebrated our 10th anniversary this weekend, so the girls got to have a sleepover at Mama & Papa's. L heard me talking to mom about "reserving the date" for our anniversary/sleepover MONTHS ago, and has been looking forward to our anniversary ever since LOL), and the fact that we'd ended up not having class for two weeks in a row (skipped one week because it was the day after Thanksgiving & then the teacher cancelled the next class last minute when her dh ended up flying out that day, instead of when originally scheduled, so she had to take him to the airport), I was afraid that long of a "break" would lead to problems, but they slipped right back into the groove w/ any problem, and did well throughout the class. They're continuing to learn to "read music" (ta ta tee tee ta type stuff) and doing really well at it. the teacher told us that the class at a whole seems to be picking up the concept of split measures and such better than some of her adult music students have.

The class ended up being 5 girls this week (normally it's 5 girls & 1 boy, I'm not sure if he was sick this week or what) and there was some "issues" with the 3 girls who know each other outside of class (my 2 and the teacher's dd, since we all go to the same church) sticking closer together and leaving out the other two, but at this point, I don't feel that the behavior was inappropriate on the part of the 3 girls, though one of the other girls made it known that she felt left out. I'll see how I feel by next week, and possibly talk about including everyone on our way to class next week, but at the moment I'm leaning toward more of a "wait and see" attitude. For one thing, the "left out" girl has kind of latched on to teacher's dd, and I've observed in previous weeks that teacher's dd tends to be annoyed by this (and frankly, I don't blame her, I've always found "clingy" friends annoying as well), another aspect of it was "left out girl" being more sensitive to things than my girls are, or than my girls are used to. So, whereas to my girls it was all in good fun to declare this girl the "monster" and run from her, and I would guess they fully expected her to react as they would have by "turning into a monster", she took it as them not wanting to play with her because they ran away. . . so we'll see how that whole dynamic plays out next week, and potentially, if it seems to continue to be an issue, I might try to talk to the teacher about it (I have more knowledge of this than the other moms because the girls prefer that I sit IN the room rather than in the hall, so I get to observe the class, whereas the other moms are only in there for the last few minutes of class) and see if she thinks it's something I should address further with the girls.