Thursday, September 17, 2009

Workbox planning

I know for a fact that I have never spent as much concentrated time on planning as I have in the past 2 weeks, getting ready for our new workbox system. I also know, because I know my kids, that this should be by far the most fun we've had with schoolwork so far. They are actually excited, waiting to get their hands on these boxes--though that could be because they have become aware that there might be a "have a treat!" workbox or a "you may have 30 minutes of video-game time" workbox in amongst the regular subjects from time to time.
I've taken the time to make the numbers for the boxes attractive to each of them, using flowers and butterflies for the girl child and characters and weapons from the "Zelda" games for the boy child, and they really like those, as well. I had some misgivings at the beginning, because I had intended to use "Velcro" type stuff to stick the numbers both to the workboxes and then to the card, as each box was finished. But, because of the laminated surface on both the numbers and the cards, the Velcro kept coming off of one or the other and sticking to itself. I was a bit stymied, but decided to try poster putty, and that is working perfectly. I'll just have to replace the little bits from time to time as they collect cat and dog hair, etc.
As I get nearer my finish here, I will be posting pictures of my boxes and also my cards, etc.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Praying for grace, praying for wisdom.

Gabe is scheduled for surgery tomorrow--just a minor procedure to repair a hernia. I am praying for wisdom here, more than usual, because the past few weeks have been difficult. Apparently, it's normal protocol with surgeons to simply blurt out, in front of the child, that they are going to have to have surgery. Gabe has been laboring under this knowledge now for several weeks, and originally the surgery was scheduled for April 16th.

This past weekend, I realized that we simply couldn't do this anymore--Gabe was miserable, dreaming about this, talking about it, getting naughty all over the place and then bursting into tears, wishing he was a baby, etc. All of this could have been prevented by the surgeon simply talking to me first, and allowing Jim and I the right (which we should already have) to bring up the topic with Gabe at the appropriate time. Anyway, yesterday, I called the surgeon's office and said that we had to get this done ASAP, and explained why. They were very helpful and sympathetic, and we were able to get in tomorrow. We even managed to get a pre-op physical today with our regular doctor, which was a small miracle in itself.

I need wisdom now, and in the days to come, as I have in the past few weeks, because it's so important to follow our routine, to be "normal", and yet I need to know when to take a line on discipline and when to give grace because he's beyond coping. God has been good to us, and I think that Jim and I both have made wise decisions about how to handle various situations that have come up with Gabe, and we have primarily been just trying to keep him extra busy so that he can't think too much about his "stitches", as he calls it.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Sometimes it's a drag....

The face you see before you is the face of my darling daughter, confronted once again, with her daily math assignment. It's a terrible, onerous thing, as you can see by the expression. It's all of 30 minutes of her day....
I don't know how she stands it. Sometimes I don't know how I stand it. I spend quite a of time devising new and exciting ways to approach topics. But, there always remains the fact that certain subjects just have to be done, like math and English. Sometimes I get a bit disheartened (or a lot disheartened) by the reaction I get to my plans. At that point I really have to remember that my desire to give my kids an excellent education really has very little to do with their feelings about it. Sure, it's great when everyone loves the project we're doing. But, if they don't, it still builds character to plug on and finish it. I am trying to do my work as unto the Lord, and if the kids don't like it, that's secondary.
We are working together on the concept of doing "all for the glory of God". It's a tough one to see in day to day things, I think, especially for an 11 year old who's faith is so new, and more even for someone who's 5 and really just getting a grasp on the basics of the Gospel. I know that both of my kids are getting the information they need, academically. That's the easy part. It's the character things that go along with the parenting/homeschooling package that make it tough.
Of all of the things I teach, the Christian worldview has to be the most important and the hardest, especially in our noisy culture. It has to be a constant, day by hour by minute thing. We can't shelter them from everything, and as Stella gets older, we allow more and more things to creep into her awareness, so that we can teach what the Bible says about "X " issue.
We definitely keep mainstream "tween" culture--TV, movies, clothes, bands, etc, out of our lives. That garbage is so highly sexualized and so shallowly based, there's just no reason for it. But big issues--abortion, war, the economy, etc--those topics are bit by bit entering our discussion. A friend at our homeschool group made a comment (it may have been a quote, but I don't know how to attribute it) that "Christianity isn't about what we are against--it is simply what we are about". God is the author of everything, He holds it all together and keeps it moving by His command, so all topics must come back to Him.
I've only been a Christian for 6 years or so, and my worldview has long been colored by the culture I was raised in, so it's very challenging for me to look at issues and try to view them through the lense of Scripture. Of course, the more I study the Word, the easier it gets.

So, anyway, the point is that although Stella abhors her math, I know that I am doing the right thing both by making her do it, and by explaining how even math is an example of the greatness of God. Math and science are actually some of the best examples, I think, of God's glory--the precision and perfection of the Universe, of the Earth, of our bodies, of a single cell, can be best explained through mathematical and scientific means. God is a God of mathematics and science and logic. Even if it's no fun teaching it to someone who doesn't yet appreciate it, God is good, and I have faith that it will work in the end. I just have to keep going.

The Ocarina of Gabe

Today was one of those days with so many errands to run, it was unbelievable. After our schoolwork, chores and lunch, we set out, at about 2 pm. Between 2 pm and 5 pm, we went to Groth Music so Gabe could buy an ocarina, the bank to deposit money to fund our expedition, Great Clips for Gabe's haircut, Caribou to refresh ourselves, the library so Stella didn't go mad without anything to read, Sam's Club for chicken for soup tomorrow, the gas station, Chuck and Don's for a few cans of Tiki Cat for Master Orange Pants, and Papa Murphy's, because by that time I wasn't about to go home and start cooking. Nine stops in three hours, in three different cities, essentially. It went so smoothly, though. Obviously, as we already know, the hype about Friday the 13th is a joke.

The highlight, for Gabe, was the purchase of the ocarina. He loves to watch me play the "Zelda" Nintendo games, and has played just a bit himself, and he really fancies himself a Link-type hero. In recent weeks, we have made a sheath for his dagger, a bow that shoots Tinker Toys and a quiver for said Tinker Toys (both the sheath and the quiver strap to his body with one of my patent-pending knotted string affairs). He already had (before the Link thing) a wealth of manly weapons to go a-slaying, and the final thing he needed to really feel like Link was the ocarina. It was $3.95, which was a sizable chunk of the $7.00 he's saved, but he was thrilled with it. It's a really nice, solid little thing, and it's a real instrument, rather than a toy, which is nice. He's a very music-oriented guy, which I think he gets from Jim, because I used to think I liked music until I had kids, and now I like quiet. Anyway, he puffed around on it all afternoon, and regaled us with various tunes, including "Happy Birthday", "He Shall Feed His Flock Like a Shepherd", and "Hungry Like the Wolf" (yes, the Duran Duran song. I don't know where that came from). At bedtime, he played a lullaby, which he requested that I sing along to, and that was nice. I think he'll really enjoy his purchase, especially as it's starting to warm up and he'll be able to go outside with his gear and dash around in the trees and sneak up and villains, etc, and he has to have an ocarina to do all of that properly. However, in the interest of self-preservation, I will be placing the ocarina in a secret spot tonight before I go to bed, and I will reveal it's location tomorrow morning after I've had a cup of coffee.Add Image

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Low-cost, healthy meat--maybe a dream, these days...

Once again, I find myself in the position of having paid the bills, and looking at a very small amount of money left for groceries and general living. I headed out this afternoon, with high hopes, to our local Cub Foods grocery store, and found absolutely no meat on sale for anything like a reasonable price.
With six people to feed, four of them adults, a pound of anything doesn't go very far, let alone a pound of the various pathetic, fatty looking cuts of beef and pork I saw today for nearly $4 per pound. There was no chicken on sale at all--I can't imagine paying $12 for a package of chicken wings--the dregs of edible flesh society. They should be giving those away, really, for the amount of actual meat involved.
I am a big fan of the boneless/skinless chicken breasts for many recipes, but I was fully prepared to buy whole chickens to save money today, but no dice.
So, I actually came back home with no meat at all. My mom and I will sit down and do some planning, and we'll divide up some of the cost and share some cooking, and that will help. But I am really bummed out by my experience. I'm all for meatless-meals, but I do not want to be a vegetarian.
I did, however, thaw my last bag of chicken leg quarters today, and I made a massive stock-pot full of soup, with all of the fading carrots, pale celery, random potatoes, and bits of veg from the freezer. It is delicious, absolutely the ticket on a cold night, and everyone loves it. Plus, there's enough for at least 2 more meals left after dinner tonight, and I also have a couple of cups of chicken leftover (it was a 10lb bag) for a casserole. I served it with a loaf of homemade bread, and everyone is fat-tummied and happy and warm now.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Things on my mind...

Lots of miscellaneous things have been tossing around in my mind the past week or so, kind of a thought-salad, and I have just started to realize that there is a bit of cohesiveness to the mixture.

The big issue this week has been the gastro-illness of the family pug, Bijou. She was very very sick for a week, apparently after swallowing some non-food items whole. But, this morning, just before her scheduled sugery, she experienced what appears to be a complete turn-around, and is herself again, eating and eliminating and playing, etc.

Another ingredient of the salad in my brain has been our finances. I have again been anxious and thinking too much about where we'll get the money for the things we need.

Yet another issue has been time-management. I still struggle against my newborn schedule, though I know that it has amazing benefits.

There are other things, too. Child-management, discipline, for myself and the kids, honoring my husband, meal planning, housework, world affairs, etc.

I have allowed my mind (again) to become this nightmarish maelstrom of cares and worries and anxieties, and I kind of drift through them, seemingly anchorless.

But here's the connection--if I am consciously trusting God, relying on Him, running to Him with these things, as I am supposed to be doing, the thought-salad never even gets started. All of these things should be brought to the throne and left there. I'm not the captain of this ship.

Frequently in our church, we sing the hymn "Come, Thou Font of Every Blessing", and I am invariably brought to tears by this verse--

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

The wandering part--what's the matter with us that we do this? I know, we're sinners, and that's why, but when we consider the magnificence of Christ, how can we do it, day after day?
As precious as this life is to me, with all of the joys God has given me, my heart doesn't pass a day without yearning for the end of this age.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Easy, Healthy Breakfasts

I really hate cooking breakfast. I really do. Once in a while, I get a little bit of an urge to do it, and I go all out with omelettes or waffles or something, but generally I'm a peanut-butter toast on whole grain type of person. It's easy and nutritious. We also often have leftovers from dinner--really, there's nothing like a big bowl of home-made chicken soup for breakfast. Jim works overnights, so I like to make sure he gets something to eat before he goes to bed.
I myself have a really hard time eating in the morning--I can do coffee, but my stomach is always a bit unsettled for some hours after I get up. I have noticed, though, on the days I do manage to choke something down, my metabolism really gets revved-up--I'm starving all day, and can keep it under control with a bit of cheese, fruit, or some nuts. When I don't eat breakfast, I wait until I feel ill, eat lunch, and then have unhealthy cravings all day, culminating in probably eating too much at dinner. So, I need to find something that I can manage to eat right away in the morning. I need something I can prepare ahead, something that I can face in the morning, something that everyone will like, and something that is packed with nutrition.
I tried this oatmeal muffin recipe today, as is, just to see how it holds up. I am planning to alter it a bit to beef up the nutrition with whole wheat flour, a bit of milled flax seed and oat bran, and perhaps once in a while some chopped nuts or fruit. My friend Jeannette gave me a delightful jar of organic apple butter, and it's just the ticket for these muffins. I found the recipe at

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup quick cooking oats
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (220 degrees C). Grease muffin cups or line with paper muffin liners.
  1. In a small bowl, combine milk and oats; let soak for 15 minutes.
  2. In a separate bowl, beat together egg and oil; stir in oatmeal mixture. In a third bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir flour mixture into wet ingredients, just until combined. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups until cups are 2/3 full.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Nice and simple. The appearance of the muffin is wholesome and milky on the top, and the flavor is mild and slightly nutty. If you are into big, sweet, cake-y muffins, this is not for you. But if you enjoy the subtlety of a good buttermilk scone or a shortbread cookie, these will be very satifying. I am very pleased with the results.

Once of the few things I can eat in the morning (beside steak, oddly enough) is a baked good. Most muffins at the store are SOOO expensive and SOOOO sugary. Not a good option for a health-conscious family on a budget. With the additions I plan to make, the fiber and protein levels in these will go way up, and hopefully these will hold everyone for a bit.

One thing we really like here is butter--not huge amounts, but real butter on things that use a spread of some type. No yucked-out oil-based garbage to wreck our food (and undoubtedly our bodies). I like to buy the tubs of whipped butter--it's inexpensive, and has about 1/2 the fat and calories of regular butter, yet it's still just butter. The texture is delightful, too.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Finally, a peace, and new things

I realized over the summer that I was very busy, in an unhealthy way. I was trying to keep up with too many things around the house and the garden, as well as my more primary duties to the Lord, my husband, and my kids.
As fall approached, I began to settle into a bit of a depression, which culminated in what I fondly think of as my "freak out". The girl child is now in 5th grade, and the boy child in Kindergarten, and I realized that if I was going to do any justice by these children this year, I was going to have to get more organized, and make (horrors!) a schedule.
I have always kept a rudimentary calendar, and I have always had a lesson plan of sorts, but I realized that I needed more. So, in bizarre fits of motivation, I made a daily schedule for the whole family, lesson plans, curriculum arrangements, etc.
I also went through every room in the house and gutted them. I got rid of so much junk, I am embarrassed to look our garbage men in the eye. I gave my self a goal--September 19th. This was 2 days before my birthday, and the Friday before we started our official school year. It was a mess. A huge mess. I made some very unfortunate discoveries, such as the fact that I actually owned over 60 bath towels. How shameful is that?! I didn't actually buy more than 3 or 4 of them. People know that I really enjoy my baths, and so bath towels seem like the perfect gift. But four people definitely don't require 60 towels. And most of them were on their last legs, or threads, or whatever. That explained why my linen cabinet was so hard to keep tidy, I guess.
The towel thing actually co-relates to the schedule thing, though. I went with a color-coded idea. In the past, Jim and I have always purchased the same 2 colors of toothbrushes--his is always purple and mine is always pink. So I started there. I gave a bunch of those towels to my mom for dog towels, which she uses a lot of, and I gave a bunch of the nice ones to my friend Tami, who for some reason did not have 60 bath towels. I saved about a half dozen for emergencies, and for the YMCA and the pool. Then my little troops and I went over to Wal-Mart, and purchased 8 new bath towels--2 for each of us. Jim is purple, I'm pink, Stella is orange, and Gabe is green. Everyone got to pick out what they liked, color wise, and everyone got 3 new matching wash cloths. Thus, my linen cabinet became manageable.
But I took the color thing further, as well. These same colors are the ones that I now use to delineate everything related to that person. Our daily schedule is color coded, and things are labeled in these colors.
So far, the organization thing has really helped. We have such a small house, and any little mess looks awfully big in here, so we really had to minimize the amount of "stuff" we had, and make sure everything has an actual home. The kitchen is still a hot spot, because we do everything there. All the cooking, school work, projects, etc. It also serves as my "office", and the computer is there.
But, we have successfully completed our first really good unit study, on Agriculture, from Christian Cottage Unit Studies, and I have to say that if I hadn't organized all of my school things so completely, I would have found the activities daunting. The kids really enjoyed the things we did, and I am excited about the next unit on the Constitution which seems appropriate in an election year.
The schedule has also made a difference in how the kids respond to school work and chores, etc. I've always known that Gabe was a more schedule-y person, but I thought Stella was more of a free spirit, and I have always been somewhat dismayed at her reaction to schoolwork, because I felt like I was approaching it in a way that would appeal to her, kind of off the cuff. With a clear plan of expectations, though, she is thriving. Recently, Jim and I had a bunch of things to do outside during school time. I thought I would come in to find Stella dawdling around, perhaps weeping gently over her math book. To my delight, she had followed the lesson plan and was just finishing up her Mavis Beacon typing, which was her last task that day.
I should have listened to my mother when she said "those kids need more of a schedule"....

Praise God for wisdom gained while it can still be applied!