Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Chinese lunch

We've been studying China for the last week and so today we finally made the meal we planned last week.

Vicky's Chicken Oriental (from family cookbook)
Chicken and Vegetable Egg Rolls (from freezer section at grocer)
Long Grain White Rice (my kid's favorite)
Chocolate Milk (just a treat)

Grace, Lee and I prepared the meal while Lou cleared away all the A.M. school papers from the dining table. Grace helped Lou set the table. Ray "shoveled" snow. Trying to be as traditional as possible, we even ate with chopsticks. None of us traded for a fork; we decided this would be the perfect way to loose weight and an even more perfect way to eat during Lent. It's a true sacrifice to see steaming hot rice and perfectly stir-fried chicken and not be able to dive in. Slowly, while using chopsticks, we enjoyed all the flavors of the meal. Lee did get a little frustrated at his first attempt to life the eggroll from the platter to his plate. He finally stabbed it with one chopstick and said, "Chinese toothpicks". When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

Bar Graph Humor

after collecting all the info for our Saxon Math bar graph

Me: This info we collected can also be called data.

Lee: Why dada and not mama?


directed to his parents (who were having a glass of wine) at the supper table

Lee: Will you two just be quiet!

Funny how the little ones think parents should be seen and not heard

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day Again

This morning started out early with DH attending mass at 7:30 am. This way we could skip taking the two littles to 6:30 pm mass. The rest of us home bodies ran through the basic morning routine. Lee checked his traps by 4-wheeler; Lou rode along. Grace went for a quick 4-wheeler ride as well. Ray and I picked up scattered toys and such. Grace and Lee settled in by 8:45 am to do some silent reading. I prepared lunch in advance and rounded up items for the errands. DH came home and we moved some bedroom furniture to facilitate painting tonight and then I and kids left at 9:30 am. We stopped at the Post Office and Goodwill. Then I dropped Grace off at her violin lesson. Lou went along to listen. We headed to the library to pick up our holds for the upcoming China Unit. Back home for lunch and then off to a Valentine's Day sledding party. No treats for me and boy did they look yummy. Afternoon chores were done. Supper made. Off to church for three of us. It's too late to make sense of it, but I need to paint.

Well and Good

Tonight while I tucked Lee into bed, I spent a couple extra minutes rubbing Vanicream into his chapped wrists. He said they were doing really good. A quick explanation of when to use the word well and when to use the word good was had. Then he wondered out loud what he should say when he's not well....Should I sing Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel born is the King......There's that wit again.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Lenten Preparations

Lent, a time of sacrifice. Do we sacrifice to symbolize Jesus' sacrifice? Do we sacrifice because Lent is a dreary time on the liturgical calendar? My husband and I talk about this. He approaches Lent with misery. Here in Central Wisconsin the weather tends to be damp and dreary in February and March. Years when he doesn't have surgery, the work this time of year is monotonous. Everyday brings loading dumptrucks with sand and spreading it on the cranberry beds. Day in and day out this is tiresome and boring. Fasting is difficult. His parents were raised pre Vatican II. If it was fun or tasted good, it was bad for you. He was pressed to give something up, and it better be something fun or tasty.

I was not raised Catholic, but still Christian. Lent was a time of giving something up, but more for your own sake. Do you have the willpower? Can you make it through til Easter? It was almost a game, talked about, bragged about. In recent years though, I approach Lent with a different attitude. I believe the Lenten season should be a time of growth. I don't want to give up chocolate or TV just to see if I can make it. What good does that do? I want to give up something in order to make room for something else, some kind of growth. The best Lenten season I ever had was two years ago. I had decided to give up yelling at my children in order to make room for peace. The first 2 or 3 weeks were dreadful. We were late, no one remembered mittens, their bedrooms were a disaster, morning jobs didn't always get done, we rarely read because the toys never were picked up. I was miserable. No one listened when I spoke. Many times I had to remove myself from the situation for fear of giving in and not allowing peace to enter my home. But slowly the kids noticed how they couldn't find anything, how mom only said it was time to go once, how much they missed bedtime stories. I was able to find peace in my home not because I went searching for it, but because I made room for it to come on its own. This is the sort of growth Lent should bring.

This year I asked myself again what did I want to give up in order to make room for something new. As a family we decided that TV viewing will come to a screeching halt tomorrow morning. No morning news in bed, no babysitter videos so DH and I can you know what, no Grey's Anatomy on Thursday nights, no I don't know what else to do so maybe I'll watch a movie TV. What will this make room for? I can't wait to find out. As well as depriving myself I will be adding more prayer time. We use the Little Black Book Lenten Devotional. 6 minutes a day is all that's suggested; it began Sunday and so far it's not real deep, but it is nice to know that after the lunch mess is cleaned up I can sit in the rocker, eyes closed and mind open to God and his Word.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Impromptu Spelling Bee

Supplies don't always get put away before bed at night. Needless to say we often eat breakfast with a pile in the middle of the table. Yesterday it was a drawer of crayons on top of a pile of coloring pages printed from various sites. Just so happens Grace pulled out a blue crayon. Lee piped up with, "I can spell that". And so it began, a Crayola crayon spelling bee. Colors that came up: Tumbleweed, Scarlet, Red, Orange, Mauvelous, Violet, Gold. The kids wondered if this could count for their day's reading. I simply said, no this is just for pure fun.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Is More Always Better?

Lee made his First Reconciliation tonight.

Yesterday as we drove to town I mentioned to Grace and Lee that since tomorrow we'd be making a confession they might want to take some time to examine their conscience. Within a second you could hear a pin drop on carpet. After, what felt like an eternity of silence, Lee piped in with, "How many do I need?" Well, for your first Reconciliation you should have at least one sin to confess. Sometimes I have five sins. Lee reported back that he had four and Grace added she had six. I had a little chuckle. For a moment it seemed they were trying to outdo each other. I was thinking I wish I had none, then I'd really feel I had outdone everyone.

Back to today. I watched those five 8 year olds run out of the confessional with smiles on their faces and fall down on their knees to do penance. Then it hit me that more is better. I really think the more sins we confess the tighter the hug from Jesus and what could be better than a great big bear hug from Jesus our Savior. After all confessions were said, Father reminded us that Reconciliation should be a time of celebration and by watching the children we can see the celebration happening in their hearts.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Money Instructor

Instead of spending $5.00 at Staples for play money, I went to Money Instructor and printed off 3 pages of 1's, 10's and 100's for free.

Politically Correct Gone Wrong

Living a rural life allows us plenty of conversational time in the van. A typical ride into town lasts about 30 minutes, so if I don't turn on Relevant Radio or Dave Ramsey, I can be found answering lots of questions. Yesterday's question, "Do you think people would look at me funny if I was in a store with my friend, Haley, because she's blackish brown?", had to be tackled delicately. First off, I approached it from the angle of, would people look at you funny if you were in a store with someone taller than you?, would people look at you funny if you were in the store with someone who had longer hair than you? Of course, the answer I got was "no". This brought us to talking about all the different colors of people. Being African can mean one's skin is very dark brown/black or very light brown/tan. Being white can mean one's skin is slightly yellow or more pink. Then I said it, ......some people even have a more olive tone to their skin. Grace responded (very seriously and curiously), "Is that blackish olive or greenish olive?"

I curtly said greenish olive and turned on the radio. I had done enough talking for one day.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Books, Books, Books

Here's a list of books read yesterday, to the kids.

Five Little Monkeys with Nothing to Do by Eileen Christelow
Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Caterpillar Numbers by Gill Davies
Little Police Car and Little Bus by Peter Haddock Publishing
Sammy the Seal by Syd Hoff
Miss Suzy 40th Anniversary Edition by Miriam Young

For Babies Only

I came across a toll free number for requesting Huggies diaper coupons. Call the number, press 1 and request coupons for all products. In about a week you'll receive an envelope chock full of useful coupons. And if you shop at Walgreens, watch the rebates. This month if you purchase $20 in Huggies products you'll receive a $10 Walgreens giftcard by mail. I waited for the diapers to go on sale and then used the $1.00 off Walgreens coupon and $1.00 off manufacturer's coupon. After the rebate, I'll get $22.98 worth of diapers for only $8.98. Now that's a bargain even Walmart can't beat.


Brain Overload

heard from one of the girls yesterday

My brain is going to fall out from all this schoolwork.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Appropriate Warning

Lee received $50.00 in Fleet Farm gift cards for Christmas and his birthday. On his list, raccoon live trap, folding camp saw (he already has a hatchet) and camo backpack. He went with dad to Fleet Farm today and came back with all three plus a mini tractor. He had quite a bit of money saved as well. Lee was very proud to show us girls the extremely sharp, serrated saw blade. Realizing the magnitude of danger and responsibility involved with owning such a saw, Lou (age 5) warned, "Just make sure you don't cut your sisters' heads off."

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Burn-out Blasters

Years ago when I first started reading about homeschooling, I noticed a common theme in each book. Usually Chapter 8 or Chapter 9 would be titled something like, February Burn-out or Burn-out Blues. Although, I don't remember much about those chapters, I do know I am definitely aware of the doom lurking around the corners come this time of year. Why February? Maybe after all the excitement of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year we feel let down by the monotonous days that late January and February bring. Maybe it's the light factor; simply put, we are sick and tired of short days and looooong nights. Maybe the curriculum bought in August isn't working out as planned. Maybe we've been focusing on too much seat work and not enough real learning. Maybe the perfect lesson plans have been put on hold due to a husband's surgery or birth of a new baby. Whatever it is, there's no need to let those things get you down. This is one of the top five reasons why we homeschool; flexibility, allowing life to happen and to be a part of it.

Over the years, I have found that when I feel myself slipping into the February Burn-out, I make time for fun. I pull out the art project books and Family Fun magazines; we sit down and choose two projects to complete. One memorable day, we went "to the beach". We packed mini sandwiches, laid out a blanket for a boat, took along the magnetic fishing set, cut out a huge sun to decorate the room and "warm" us as well. The boat took us to an island where we rubbed on tanning lotion, had a picnic and a shorelunch with the fish we caught. Long after my interest in this outing waned, the kids continued to hid shells for each other to find and search the island for treasures. Did I mention we wore our swimsuits?

We ease up on the seatwork. We've been studying basic physics principles for the last couple of weeks, so as a treat I checked out Bill Nye, the Science Guy: Powerful Forces All Pumped Up. We had some popcorn and when the movie was over I heard from Lee, "Momentum is so cool!" and from Grace, "Bill Nye the science guy is awesome."

Cooking and baking is a hit with my family. For the beginner cookie baker, cake mix cookies are as easy as 1,2,3. Here's the recipe: 1 cake mix (any flavor), 1/3 cup oil, 2 eggs. Mix well. Place on ungreased baking sheet. Flatten slightly with bottom of glass. Bake 6-8 minutes at 375 F. Frost, if desired. Before baking, sprinkle on a few colored sugars, if desired. Lou, my 5 year old has made these and according to her they are best with "three helpings of sprinkles" on each cookie.

Get outside, it's amazing how much time and energy it takes to get everyone in snow clothes, but the rewards are great. Fresh air has a way of lifting the spirit and tired children at nap time has an even better way of lifting the spirit. Recently, I was walking with Grace outside and she was in awe of the dry crystals of snow. Peering into the handful of snow she commented, "snow is so cool up close". We looked at the crystals and noticed how each "flake" has edges.

Most importantly, I believe the best way to fight the homeschooling blues is to take time to do something you love. I love to quilt, bake, play games, blog. Yes, the work of homeschooling, preparing dinners, writing bills, laundry will still be there, but with a refreshed spirit it's so much easier tackle.

Thermometer Tells All

What I saw on the thermometer this morning.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Today's Details

Kids woke at around 6:00 a.m. and played in living room until they couldn't stand each other any longer.

DH and I got up around 7:00 a.m. and did the usual. Made coffee and blueberry tea, started a load of laundry, put away clean dishes in dishwasher, fed the children cereal and toast, dressed, primped, fed the dog (who is now inside due to extreme cold), started a wood fire, checked the thermometer.

Kids did their morning routine. Lou claimed to be feeling sick, so she laid on the couch for awhile instead of doing her morning routine. She ended up doing it later before she could have a snack.

I made a few calls about a computer class I was interested in, ended up not being what I wanted. DH started in on desk work, since it's -20 F and he's still on light duty from his December surgery.

Around 8:15 a.m. Grace started in on her seat work, map skills and spelling list practice. I dressed the little guy, lit a fire under Lou and gave Lee his spelling test. 15/15!

9:00 a.m. Lee finished up his seat work, map skills and reading silently. I gave Grace her spelling test, 10/15 today.

Peanut butter on crackers for a snack. Grace and Lee did Saxon 3 Math, which included multiplying by 2's and eating crackers in the process. Lou did a page from her CHC numbers book and then played horses and American Girl Dolls with Ray.

Grace read two stories to Lou and Ray when she finished with math. I read over the CHC Behold and See 3 section on friction. Together we all tested different blankets from the living room floor (fake fur, berber fleece, satin, microfiber, nylon shell of sleeping bag). Grace wrote the answers.

Lee and Ray played dinosaurs while I made lunch. We ate a little early today, 12:10 p.m. we sat down. Chili, shredded cheese, sour cream, bread, crackers, butter, cottage cheese, applesauce, milk, corn chips.

Ray went down for a nap. I drove Grace down to grandpa's to vacuum, sweep and wash his floors. I checked emails and made a blog post. Lee went outside to cut wood with his hatchet. Lou played in her room.

Grandpa brought Grace home. Since school was cancelled we picked up one of her friends for the afternoon. They had a tea party, played dress-up, played SET (card game). Everyone played well together. Lee played with his race track with Ray when he woke up. I read 3 chapters in A Thousand Tomorrows by Karen Kingsbury, chatted with DH.

Around 4:30 I started making supper, blueberry pancakes, syrup, canned pears, sausage links, milk and juice. The kids went back downstairs to play hide and seek and ping pong. DH and I cleaned kitchen, he painted, I blogged.

It's 6:12 p.m. and time to change a diaper, take Grace's friend home and then do a lesson with Lee for his First Reconciliation (coming up this next weekend).

Hopefully DH and I will watch a rented movie tonight and then get in bed by 9:45 p.m.

Things My Children Will Never Know

They will never know the discomfort of writing math facts with wet clothes on because of getting wet with snow during recess. If snow soaks through their snowpants, I allow them to change into dry clothes.

They will never know the misery of sustained silent reading with sweaty feet because reading is after gym class. In our school, if your feet are hot, feel free to take off your socks.

They will never know the severe thirst that a bubbler just can't quench. We drink water and juice and tea and hot chocolate anytime we want.

They will never know the time consuming task of completing homework. We can work at our own pace and finish during the day before the afternoon activities begin.

What won't your children ever know?

Sunday, February 4, 2007

St. Vincent de Paul

Excited to get a new book, Grace quickly found the saint assigned to the day closest to her birthday in First Book of Saints by Rev. Lawrence G. Lovasik, S.V.D. and read it. September 27 is the feast day for St. Vincent de Paul. After she announced she had finished, I asked her why the store, St. Vincent de Paul thrift store, might have been named after him. She responded that he gave to the needy and the thrift store provides cheap clothes for the poor. I then added that extremely poor folks can actually get free clothes, food and some health care at the St. Vincent de Paul thrift stores. Grace wondered just how poor you have to be and Lee quickly piped in, (pointing to his holey socks) "So poor that they have holes in their socks, (pointing to his patched knees) patches on their pants and (pointing to his underarm) tears in their clothing?" He's witty, yes, but is he trying to tell me something?

Friday, February 2, 2007

Always Hungry

Anyone with children knows that they can eat all day. It's nothing for my kids to eat lunch, go to grandpa's (1/4 mile away) and ask if he has any cookies or popcorn. I had to make somewhat of a rule that we have a snack at 10:00 and 3:00, otherwise it seemed at any given moment someone was hungry and wanting to snack. Kids also come up with all sorts of unusual ways to let us know just how hungry they are, but this was a new one.

Lou: Lookin' at all this play food is kinda makin' me hungry, mom.

On Being the Littlest

Being an only child, I don't have sibling dynamics with which to compare my children. There was a family with four daughters next door; we were close, but still not sisters. However, I did witness a lot of sibling dynamics going on in that family. I remember how unfairly they treated their little sister and as a teenager I would threaten to leave if they didn't stop picking on her. Many summer afternoons were spent lying on the silver tanning blanket alone because of their fighting. Today, I am the mother of four children, one of which is (of course) the youngest. He is 2 1/2 with blonde hair that stands straight up with two swirls on the back of his head which make the hair come to the middle. As a baby, people referred to the hair "style" as a shark fin. He says "mama" in the sweetest way and always asks to sit on my lop (lap). He's definitely my baby; he sucks and chews my hair and always kisses me when he pulls it a little too hard. Sure makes it hard to treat him poorly. Not so, says the older kids. He's always into their stuff: their gum, their trinkets, their jewelry, their remote control boats. Just like what I witnessed as a kid, the older siblings can sure be mean to the littlest. It's not that they mean to, they just don't want to share their precious stuff. Lou took away the binocular case from Ray, of couse he was MAD. He tackled her, he pulled her hair, Lou held on tight, but still he got the binocular case back. After this I took Lou aside and explained that Ray's the littlest and learns how to behave by watching her and it's important to respect him and not take his toys. She was once the littlest and Grace and Lee were expected to share and treat her nicely. I said, "Let's make things fun for the littlest." Lou seemed to understand; she walked over to Ray and in the sweetest way asked him if when he was done with the binocular case if he would please give it to her. With a big grin and sweet little voice, he responded, "No way!" and continued filling the case with plastic broccoli. We all got a good laugh from this one.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Gym Teacher Hero

Teacher Jason is awesome! The YMCA just started a homeschool gym class; today was week two, basketball. Next week, swimming. The kids come out beaming with delight that Teacher Jason beats them at everything. He can jump farther. He can jump on one foot longer. He can run faster. He can shoot more baskets. He can shoot baskets in the high hoop. He can get the most bowling pins knocked down. It appears to me that he is in the running for "hero-hood". My kids are winning at losing. Life is good.

Simple Happiness

Sometimes it's the simplest things that make me happy. I'm practical and the best thing happened today. DH bought a beautiful thermometer and installed it right outside the kitchen window. Just in time for the cold snap. Today's high was around 20 F. Tomorrow the high is expected to be 10 F in the morning and drop from there with weekend lows around -15 F. DH picked up a pile of movies and we plan on reading and working on Family Formation which has been on the back burner the last couple weeks.