Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Wants

I want this.  I want that.  I don't want that anymore, but I really want this.

Were your holiday's filled with children who couldn't make up their minds?  I finished my holiday shopping before December even started.  It's what I do.  I don't like the end of the year being a burden on the pocketbook.

We have a rule.  October 1st begins "Don't buy anything for yourself" days.  Anything hinted at or looked at longingly beginning on this day is fair game for gift giving.  Dear HUsband screwed up this year about bought something he though was innocuous but I had bought him a better version for his early december birthday.  I made a big deal out of it for 2 reasons.  First, no fair ruining my present idea.  Second, it is a rule for a reason.

A few days later I bought a 4 loaf baking pan for myself.  Apparently the girls paid too much attention because the next week they wanted to spend their money on something they just couldn't live without.  Luckily for me it was not something already purchased and waiting to be given.  So, they also got to break the rule.

Next year:  The Rule is The Rule for a reason.

During this time of marketing nightmares, our children learn the wrong lesson.  I am trying to decrease the "I want" lesson and focus on the "what can I give to someone else" lesson.  It probably did not help that this year they shopped for each other and dad via the computer.

Don't worry, I learned my lesson.  Next year, I will brave the Christmas decorations out in October and Christmas songs blaring through the store speakers in November to try to teach my children that Honoring our Ancestors comes first, then Thankful for our Blessing, and finally Generousity toward our Neighbors.

At no point in our holidays is I must have this because the marketing campaigns said I need it.  Easier said than done, but one day when I teach the real meaning of Christmas and the Santa torch is put away, I will have the Christmas I want.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Room Cleaning and Donating

Often I get tired of the state of my children's rooms.  Just today, I took every toy that Sugar owned that was not in the right place and piled it in the middle of her room.  Ginger and I then helped her sort things to their correct homes. The entire time I stressed that she didn't have to keep it if it was too hard to put away after it was played with.  We made a donation pile for things that she no longer wanted and a trash pile of things that didn't rate high enough for a home.

I have done this on several occasions. My children know what is expected of them and have gotten much better about putting things in their homes.  They still are not 100% accurate and things clutter the closet floor like normal.  But when Ginger sees me gut Sugar's room like we did today she takes it upon herself to straighten up at least a little more.

Ginger has been warned that her room is coming soon.

My children also are used to purging their stuff to make room for incoming holiday gifts.  We talk about who might get the stuff they no longer want and how it is time they let someone else love their dolls and toys for a while.

When I told the girls to come help in Sugar's room, Ginger said, "Oh, yeah, it is time we do this again.  It is almost Christmas."  So we did.  I was unaware it had so easily become a tradition.  I was also pleasantly surprised when it only took 15 mins.

Now one of their rooms is clean enough for cartwheels.  (Ginger tested it out for me. Repeatedly)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Get a Job!

As many of you know, my children have recently started earning money to help pay for a trip they planned for next summer.  They are selling baked goods and art and doing fairly well.

I'm using this as a lesson in money management and the value of time and the dollar.  Yes, as a homeschool teacher I like to get my value out of every activity.

The girls have recently gotten jobs.  Actually, each week they pick a different job.  They have been Chefs, Musicians, and Meteorologists so far.

I do not believe in paying a child for chores.  Chores are something you do because you are a member of the household and need to pull your own weight and help keep clean what you mess up.  So the job idea was a way to pay them an allowance for actually doing something above and beyond contributing to the family sanity.

As a chef, Sugar decorated her own apron.  Ginger decorated an apron and has started her own cook book.  She already helps cook a meal each week.

The week they were meteorologist they compared the weather for the same day but for 5 different years.

Being a musician for a week helped Ginger learning to listen and separate out specific sounds from her favorite songs.  Husband is thinking about buying her a guitar for her birthday, so expect more musician job skills to be learned.

The girls get paid the same day husband does.  They each get their age in dollars twice a month.  They get to put half of their earnings in their piggy banks and the other half they put in the bank.  Ginger fills out her own deposit slips.  We are keeping a bank book at home so they can balance it and see how much they are saving.

I have dreams that my children will never overdraft an account and that they will be pros at saving for that car they are likely to want in the future.

I wonder what career they will try on next week.  I wish it would be museum curators, they need to organize their rooms better.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Learning Patience

Some things take a long time.  That is a fact.  It is a hard one to learn and one of the ones we need to teach children at a young age.  

Sitting and waiting is boring.  Sometimes we have to wait for Nurses, or for a movie to start or for our meal to arrive.

Books take time to read, some more than others.  Games take time to play.  Food takes time to cook.  Some times a very long time.

What better way to teach a lesson like this than with a cool treat at the end to reward our patience?  

We have attempted rock candy several times and never had it work out well because we tried to rush it.  It takes time to stir the sugar into the water.  You have to stir and add more sugar, stir and add more sugar. It seems endless to me and I am no longer a child.  Then you have to boil it for longer still.  And just when you are finished playing with the scalding sugar solution it is time to pour it into a flat dish and wait for DAYS.  It is an excruciating process for a 4 year old.  

Neither child wanted to continue to stir.  The first 5 mins was fine.  After that it was all me.  I almost quit.  I'm not the one who wanted the sugar crystals, after all.

When we were finished on the stove we poured it into flat dishes to let it sit.  Each day the children would break the surface crystals only to find more watery ones.  The children eventually lost interest in breaking the crystals.  I tired of, "Can we eat it yet?"

I wasn't looking forward to the sugar rush in the first place, so we almost gave up again.

Finally, one morning the girls broke the sugar crystals and there was no more water that needed to evaporate.  This was it.  The moment that took us 7 days to get to.  Sugar Rush Day.

The children were ecstatic.  I was surprised they made it that far.  Persistence and a nice payoff at the finish line and all things are possible, even for a 4 year old.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Bored: Just add Kids!

Some things are just more fun with children.  Swingsets, disney movies, spelling.  Even exercising is more fun with the kiddos.

Husband has been doing very basic exercises for about 2 months or so. He starts with sit-ups and push-ups.  Then does squats and jumping jacks.  He does them EVERY morning.  I try but don't.  He also does about 5 times more of each than I can.

But on the weekends, we do them as a family.  I do my sit-ups while laughing at Sugar (4) which makes them harder and more useful.  I do my push-ups mostly on an wall for now. (My upper body strength needs A LOT of work.) My 4 year old is on the wall under me, so she bumps her head on my abs if she goes too slow.  We do squats as partners.  Husband and Ginger (6) are paired, for height and commitment reasons.  I get stuck giggling with Sugar. (I actually think I get the better deal.)

Jumping jacks are done as a group and it is hard to keep count when watching the younger two.  Sugar is not at all coordinated and looks like a flailing, bird first out of the nest.

Now, as much fun as the giggling is, it is equally as sad when my 6 year old does more of everything than I do.  Sugar counts wrong, cheater. Ginger just has way more energy than I do, plus she weighs much less and has fewer years on her.

Do you detest physical exertion?  Grab a kid and try again.  I promise you will laugh.  PS.. The younger they are, the more you will laugh.

The very act of laughing is good for you, so go!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Math-U-See Review

(Not a paid post. Too Bad, So Sad.)

We have been using Math-U-See for 3 years now.  Ginger has used Primer, Alpha, and Beta levels and is currently using Gamma.  Sugar has started Primer level.

The gist is that your child (and you, if you like) watch a 5-10 minute DVD lesson.  Then there are 3 pages of lesson practice and 3 pages of review problems.  Tests start in Alpha level.  In order to See your math there are manipulatives that are color coded for quick recognition.  The child will learn that brown is 8 (chocol-8 if you like.) The blue is 10. The red block is 100. The program is divided into concepts and each is given a latin letter designation.

One point I absolutely LOVE, is that they introduce Algebra at even the Primer level.  Example: B+5=10.  Very simplistic and it lays a foundation for the harder stuff.

We have used 4 levels so far.


I loved the concept when we started 3 years ago.We started when Ginger was 4 with a very simplistic Primer level.  This is the equivalent of a Kindergarten introduction to math.  Nothing is expected to be retained at this stage.  It is just teaching the kids what math looks like and what they will see.  

With Ginger, this was too simplistic for her and she was confident with her concepts.  I think we blew through these 30 lessons in about a month.  Yep, a 6 page lesson each day.  She ate this stuff up.  I was thrilled!

Sugar is taking longer.  This might not be the best program for her learning style.  I find she is less motivated than Ginger.  I do plan for her to work through Alpha and see if she picks it up once we reintroduce it to her in a more concentrated and less tasting menu type of way.


This stage is for all the basic adding and subtracting facts.  (About 15 lessons each.)  This level does a more thorough job of teaching the facts than the intro they had in Primer.  This stage concentrates on mastery.  It still has lesson problems and review problems, but this level adds a test page and an activity page.  Trying to make the math more fun.  Ginger took this at a much slower pace.  (It could have been because Sugar was distracting us both in her toddler phase.)


This level drives home the addition and subtraction facts and shows multi-digit usage.  Roughly 15 lessons each on carrying and borrowing.  The lesson set-up is the same, but there were no more activities in this book.  


Ginger is currently working through Gamma.  She is learning her multiplication facts.  The set-up is the same.  5-10 minutes for a DVD lesson, 3 lesson pages, 3 review pages and a test.  This program was made for Ginger and she is excelling at it. (She is learning multiplication at 6 years old.)


Delta is where we will start division.  I have not purchased this level yet, so I can't give you a run down on it's effectiveness.  

I do plan to continue Math-U-See with Ginger.  I need to evaluate Sugar's learning style before committing to the program with her, but for now we plan to keep using it, since I already have it on a shelf.  If Ginger continues at the rate she currently devours these book, she will be in Algebra at age 12.  As a comparison, I stated Algebra at 13.  She's a year ahead of me.  I better refresh my Calculus skills soon.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

+10 to All Hide Checks

I have a love/hate thing going on with this Creative Playscape at San Gabriel Park in Georgetown.  

I love the theory of kids playing in a labyrinth of castle walls and towers.
I love that most of it is shaded.
I love that it is taken care of and we don't come home with splinters.
I love that it has a fence around it with only 2 exits.

I hate that I have to get in there to find my kids.  I prefer to be able to glance over and see them.  Ginger was in a neon green skirt last time, so it was easier to see her.  Sugar was in muted colors so of course I could never find her.  I should have dressed them both in bright neons or at least Sugar, who at 4, is just a tad bit too young to roam free.

Since that is my only hate, I guess I just need to mom up and remember to dress them like highlighters.

(ps.. I apologize if your kids face appears in this photo.  I try not to post pictures of other people's kids and I just assumed no one was able to see anything in this like I was in real life.)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Magic Bean

Last year before Sugar's MDO program ended she brought home a little plastic cup of dirt.  She has watered that thing almost every day with out fail.  She taught the dirt how to swim, by over watering it. She was very invested in the growth of whatever was in the cup.  I had no idea what was supposed to grow in it and I think she forgot.

Magic Bean it is!  One day when she was preoccupied I pushed a dried bean into the dirt.  I think it was a navy bean, but that is not the important thing.  The important thing is that it has turned into this:

The other important thing is that Sugar has claimed it as the original whatever that was supposed to grow in this little cup. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Economics of Trip Planning

The girls are raising money for a special summer trip that they are planning.  So far they have undertaken 3 endeavors.  They attempted to sell lemonade at our garage sale earlier this month.  They made $2.25.  No, they did not sell 9 cups of lemonade.  It was chilly and their was hardly any traffic this time.  They sold 1 cup of lemonade for $0.25 and a second cup for $2.00.  They are quite cute and a nice older lady didn't resist.

They have also been baking and sending brownies, and cookies to work with their Nana.  They have made $65.65.  At $0.50 an item, they have sold 131 baked treats.

Their third endeavor has been an online art gallery.  They had sold 1 painting so far and a promise to sell at least 2 more before their trip.  They are also thinking about having a gallery show for the family. complete with finger snacks and juice in fluted glasses.

They are doing quite a good job and while they will not be able to raise the money for the entire trip, they are well on their way to raising money for several excursions while away.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

From Child to Kid in 60 seconds

This last week my oldest, Ginger, had a chance to show a compassionate side of herself.

Both Ginger and Sugar are used to my mother-in-law coming over twice a week.  They depend on it and they are both young enough that they don't do well when standing plans change.  Or so I thought.

We received a note that Nana needed to skip the playdate at our house and go check on her dad, who had fallen the day before.  When I told Ginger I was not really expecting anything that came next.  I was thinking she would be sad and disappointed.

Ginger was distraught.  She started to cry immediately.  I thought it was baby tears about Nana not coming over.  I was still expecting selfish child traits in my 6 year old.  I was pleasantly surprised.  She told me she was sad about Nana not coming over, but she was also sad because her Great Grandpa got hurt.

My children are lucky enough to have great grandparents that they will be able to remember when they grow up.  I remember 2 of mine, but just barely.  I don't think my younger sister remembers any.

Anyway, Ginger and I talked about the fact that the older you are the harder it is to heal and sometimes it either takes a really long time or it doesn't heal at all.  (I'm just being practical.  Some day someone in their lives is going to pass and I want a solid foundation for celebrating a life, not mourning a loss.)  They have seen their Great Grandma in the hospital and Great Grandpa not being as spry as he used to be.

Tangents aside. my little girl decided that Nana SHOULD go see her dad but wanted her to stop by our house on her way and pick up some feel better soon cards.

I was so proud.  We wiped away our tears and got out the card making supplies.  That night, instead of playing hard with Nana we celebrated with family night, free pizza and ice cream.

But don't you worry, Sugar is still in the selfish I'd rather have Nana come play stage, so I still have some baby time left.  :P

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Mucking out the junk

After we decided not to buy another house right now, we decided we would upgrade little parts of this one to make us happier with it.  Step 1 is finally complete.  

We spent the last 2 months cleaning out 10 years of accumulated junk one room at a time.  The girls are somewhat used to me doing this as they outgrow clothes and baby toys.  They had NEVER seen me empty a room completely and decide what to keep and what to give away and what to trash.

I think it was good for them.  They saw that I too have a hard time getting rid of stuff.  They helped me take 5 or so loads of donations out of my house.  They noticed how the house was prettier.  Sugar still walks into a room and says how new it looks.  Ginger says, "remember when we couldn't find anything in here?"

I do.  It has been a huge undertaking but it was worth every effort.  Even the garage got a clutter make over.

Step 2 is awaiting delivery.  We created our own sofa and chair at Build-a-Sofa.  I have room to move the current futon to the guest room so my family has a room and a door to use when they visit.  In a house where the children wake up at 6:30 EVERYDAY, a room with a door is a godsend.

I am looking forward to having a chair I can sit in, hopefully alone, and a couch that I can sit in and still touch my feet to the floor.

The next few steps haven't been planned out well yet, but we are wanting new floors and a tree and a sprinkler system.

In the meantime, the children are learning to take care of these cruddy carpets so maybe they will appreciate new wood floors more.  The mean momma that I am made Ginger spot clean the carpet where she spilled pizza, there were orange spots everywhere.  Of course, it kinda back fired.  She liked doing it.  I guess I have someone to scrub my carpets now though.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Thank the monks for meditation!

I have been taking yoga off and on for probably 10 years now.  I am a huge fan of breathing and meditation.  I frequently find myself taking a calming breath during the day.  Alright, maybe 10 times during the day.

One day, after I had enough of trying to calm myself, I decided to try to calm my children.  I wish I had done this sooner.  Sugar has taken to it like a true monk.  Her breaths are deep and pure and I can see her concentrating on the calmness.  Ginger has a hard time with calm.  She has so much energy and if I didn't know better I would think she had my stubborn streak and our ancestors ability to hold a grudge.

I made the entire family sit on the floor one day and I taught them how to breath.  My husband has been doing yoga with me for a few years now, so he helped guide the children as well.  It helped immensely that very first time.  The negativity and snipping coming from the little balls of energy reduced and they could smile and laugh as DH and I told them what happened once upon a lamaze meditation, or at least what we could remember before we fell asleep.

Sugar has been fleshing out her happy place, being careful to make sure it doesn't touch too much on Ginger's happy place or else they wouldn't be happy anymore.

Sometimes I catch Sugar in her meditation pose and I can't help but smile and take a deep breath of the calm she is creating.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Earning Computer Time

My girls recently got their own computer stations.  Their computer are many years old, but they don't notice.  They can watch their math lesson DVD and they play PBS kids games.   Since this is so new to them, they need help not loosing track of how much time they have wasted in front of the screen.  

I am hoping they level out on their own and they do seem to be doing better about not getting sucked in completely.  In the meantime, I typed up a horribly simplistic chart for earning and spending their time.

They can earn time by doing school work, happily.  They can also earn time by cleaning up their spaces.  This one is very simple to catch on to.  I won't even talk to them about computer time unless the toys and games are all put away first.

I set a kitchen timer for them so they are learning what 15 mins feels like.  I doubt I will have to use the chart for long, since today they have not even asked about the computer.  (xbox instead, which is harder to get trapped in for them.)

My 4 year old is learning her way around a computer.  They 6 yr old offers help, albeit loudly (headphones.)  My 4 year old is good with a mouse now and doesn't need too much help.  I think she needs a trackball though.  The corded mouse is a little short for her.

Ginger, my 6 year old, needs to stop being so smart.  She created a login and password for one of her game sites yesterday.  When I noticed, we had a conversation about what information not to tell the computer.  We will likely have this conversation many more times.  Of course, Kevin and I have this conversation with a lot of people.  

Our mantra: "Do not put it on the internet unless you want EVERYONE to know about it." Stalkers, pedophiles, enemies, best friends who might one day become enemies, your neighbors, politicians, clients, grandmothers, the boy you used to date, but then you broke his heart, the first girl you kissed.  If you put it on the internet your future employers will find it. (Seriously, I know a man who searches for you on the internet after he gets your resume but before he calls you for an interview.  This is the new norm.)

Anyway, this is not my soapbox, this is about my cookies.  So far, anything on the internet about my cookies is all my fault and I plan to keep it that way for now.  And I will drill it into their heads for future use.

There had better never be drunk pictures of my kids on the internet, and I WILL be looking for them.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tiny Tails To You (Traveling Petting Zoo)

I am melting.  Texas right now is bloody hot.  The sun in Texas is 4 times as hot as the Mississippi sun I grew up with.  Texas has fewer shade trees and I am generally miserable.  I look for fun indoor activities so we don't feel cooped up.  We recently went to an indoor petting zoo playdate and had a blast.

The turtle was nice.  It had great textures and was slow and friendly.

Ginger said the guinea pig was too heavy.  It was chunky compared to the other animals we cuddled.

Omg, the bunnies.  That blurry flappy thing at the top is a chick.  The chicks were all over the place, brave as they could be.  

Sugar's FAVORITE!  This bunny would have happily come home with her too.

Ginger liked the smaller bunnies the best.

All 3 smaller bunnies.

More daredevil chicks and this duck/goose.  After the hour we were with the petting zoo, I don't think this baby duck/goose will make it too long in life.  Not only was it awkward on it's little legs, falling off of little laps, but it was the most dropped of all the animals. 

Sugar did not like holding this bearded dragon.  It reached out to hold on to her shirt and she jumped a bit.  We did pet it though.

This blur is a chinchilla.  The girls were not impressed with how soft it was, they had bunnies.  At one point this smart creature put itself back in it's cage.  I think it was protecting itself from all the little feet and hands.  Plus it might have seen the duck/goose get dropped a couple of times.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

For the Love of Learning

Ginger is the reason I took on homeschooling.  She wanted to read at 3.  Every school day, when a public school's bell would normally ring she comes to me and says, what are we learning today?  She is the one leading this circus train and she is my motivation.  I never want her to be complacent with what she already knows.  I love that she is always rationalizing things based on one or two pieces she already knows.  Her conclusion may be wrong, but she is at least learning the process.

Sugar is a different story.  She is only 4 and would rather play.  She is still trying, but things don't come as easy for her and I have to try harder to keep her from losing interest.  She needs more one on one time, which Ginger gets jealous of.

It is a juggling act for sure, but would they be better off in a big box school?  I don't think so.  They both like to learn things and they both seek out answers and ask questions.  Sugar, who is soft spoken and internalizes a lot, would likely get lost amongst 24 other kids.  Ginger, being loud and bouncy, would totally end up being a trouble child.  And both of them would learn that they way they want to learn is not the "right" way and then their love of learning would be squashed.

Yes, a lot of this is speculation on my part.  But right now, this is what is best for us.  Plus, I am currently smarter than they are.  For how long?  I don't know.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

House Shopping

We spent the first part of the summer house shopping.  We would take the girls and go explore other people's homes.  I thought the girls would be bored so I created books for them to draw pictures and take notes about what they liked and didn't like about each home.

I didn't need to go to the trouble, it turns out.  The girls had fun running through other people's homes, looking in their closets and garages and going up and down stairs 30 times per house.

We found 1 house that Sugar REALLY wanted us to buy.  It had a short door underneath the stairs and Sugar promptly claimed it as her room.   We found a different house with a princess room that she wanted as well.

The princess room's house even had a great backyard and was almost perfect for us.  We did not buy it, however we learned a lot from the process.

The girls learned how to respect other people's stuff.  They learned that just because you see it and love it does not mean it is right for you.  They learned a bit about style and what they might like to change about their current rooms.

Husband and I learned quite a bit more that the girls did, but we enjoyed seeing what the girls look for in their dream homes and when we try this again, we will know better what we, as a family, should be looking for.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Crafting with Kids

I might be a little high strung but my stress level soars when it comes to crafting with the girls.  My sister can do it.  Most teachers can do it.  I get twitchy.  Turrets twitchy.

We made birthday cards for several family members recently.  We collected our art boxes (markers, crayons, glue sticks, scissors.)  I gathered the shaped hole punches and scrap paper.  I even got out the name stamps that my sister hand carved and the ink pads.  Then I promptly wished that no one had birthdays ever again.

The girls hole punched and glued, and scribbled and folded and stamped and I had to walk away because I was internally neurotic.

OH MY GOODNESS the possible mess.  The ink all over the floor, the glue stick in the hair, the marker all the way up their arms and the teeny scraps of paper everywhere.  I know all this can be cleaned, most of it very easily, with tools even, but I still go nuts thinking about it.

The girls, 6 and 4, did not make a mess.  There is marker on hands, but isn't there always.  There is a name stamped on the table, but it is the kids table and will probably wash right off.  There is maybe 3 tiny scraps of paper on the floor, nothing the vacuum cleaner can't make quick work of.

Why do I get neurotic and twitchy?  Maybe next time I decide to do crafting time with the girls, I should consider medicating.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Grocery Store Parade

Sometimes I get "looks" when my family goes to the grocery store.  The looks vary, between, "Wow, I wish I had thought of that," and "omg, get out of the way already."

But as much as people might not get it right away, our way works for us.

2 Parents, 2 kids, 2 buggies.  That is right, we grocery shop parade style.  We use the small buggies that the girls are tall enough to push and see in front of so they don't run over strangers.  1 parent per buggy, per child.  The girls take turns getting the item we need off the shelf and putting it in their buggy.  If I forget an item 2 rows back, I send 1 kid and her dad back for it.

We used to have 2 bored children on grocery days and most everyone knows that bored children are not well behaved children.  We started using the carts with steering wheels, but they are so rare we would have tears if we couldn't find one.  Then the store got small carts and the new plan was born.

This is a good as it gets until Ginger starts driving and I can send her to the store in my absence.  Ah, the joy of teenagers.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


The girls take gymnastics.  Sugar started in June.  Ginger has been going for almost a year.  This is our first Olympic Season with the gym and I was happily surprised that they get the kids excited about it.

Parents usually are not allowed in the gym, but they did an Olympics Showcase and we were invited to come watch and take photos and enjoy the feats our girls and boys can now accomplish.

We started watching parts of the real Olympics with them at home.  We focus on the gymnastic events because they can compare what they do to what those athletes do.  We see the stick-its and the little hops that take away points.  We see them fall and get right back up.  We see them NOT give up.  We see their straight legs and their presentations.  We see their focus.  We talk about their determination and their accomplishments.

We are inspired by their drive and their skill and we want to do better at our own skills.  We watch great athletes and we are inspired to be great.  I promise I will cheer the loudest for both of my girls each and every time and I will cheer for your girls and boys too, because every kid needs a cheering section.

You can do anything you put your mind to.  

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Short and Sweet

Sugar's height re-check went well.  She is now 39.5 inches tall.  We still have a long way to go before she's able to do all the things Ginger can do, but we are still moving in the right direction!

I feel silly that we had to go to the doctor to confirm she is growing well, but whatever.  I now keep a chart almost like theirs.  Only difference is that mine is free to upkeep.



You can see only a tiny difference in the shape of the blue line, but apparently it is a very important change.  I like the way the lines kind of look like I drew them with 2 markers taped together.  Sugar may always be shorter than Ginger, but it's easier to explain who the "big" sister is that way.  

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Garden Score

We have had some gains and some losses.

These we lost last summer during the drought.  I trimmed them back this year.  I will probably have to remove them and replant with something more tolerant next year.

The girls' carrots are doing good.  We are just waiting for them to be a nickel in diameter at the soil level before pulling.

We get a nice Morning Glory bloom every few days or so.

No Bachelor Buttons. :(

Humungous Sunflowers.  The tall fellow is putting out his seeds.  The girls LOVED this.  This was their major accomplishment.  The pot in the background is empty and they were disappointed that no Blue Bonnets grew.

The birds have loved my tasty tomatoes.  At least I think they were tasty, I haven't gotten one yet.  At least the mockingbirds are happy.

We have done good with cucumbers.  These are #3, #4, and #5.  

My Boxwood Basil did not meet expectations.

I love onions on the window sill.

And this is the first indoor plant I have kept alive.  It is almost 2 years old.

I have used fresh rosemary in many recipes.  Last week I put it in all 3 dishes.  Chicken, potatoes and bread.  It is delightful and I have a lot drying for future use.

I wish I still had zucchini, and I wish I had a couple of tomatoes, but bunnies and birds have to eat too, I guess.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

First Readers, Then and Now

I know I've talked about this before, but this is a true pet peeve of mine with the publishing industry and those that label elementary reading books.

We look at books labeled Step 1, ready to read. The tag on the back of the book says: Does your child know the alphabet? Is your child eager to begin reading? Step 1 is the perfect step.  Now, let's look at how this book is not a legitimate Step 1 book.

Let's take a book that reads:

"Mix and stir.  Sew all day."

I am on board with the first sentence.  The second sentence blows me away.  Sew? a beginning reading soon?  it looks like 'sue' and is pronounced 'so.'  Also, 'day,' a long vowel and a virtually silent y.  

"Lights that glow."

Lights?  Really?  Sugar reads each individual letter and I can see her disappointed when I tell her, yes, that is the sound of all the letters, but it is pronounced 'lites."  Glow, phonetically is not glow.  There is no reason for that o to be long to a beginning reader.  The best reason I came up with… "it just is, sweetie."

"Birthday candles shining bright."

All 2 syllable words, a little challenging but not awful.  I just have to explain away 'day,' the nearly silent e in candles, the 2 different sounds of i in 'shining,' and the 'ight' sound again.

And finally, "goodies to share"

The double o is challenging, but well worth teaching.  'ies' is another one of those sounds that Sugar tries so hard to sound each letter and looks dejected when I correct her.  And as long as I am content with her sounding the e in share, I only had to tell he she was wrong once in 3 words.

I counted up all the words I had to tell Sugar she did wrong in this books.  Ready for the number?  43 out of 87 total words.  Less than half, that's good, I guess, unless you are just learning to read the feel like you are doing it all wrong.

I read something once that says for every time your criticize an employee you have to praise him/her 4 times to make up for the damage and make them feel productive again.  That is for a grown up. Imagine a CHILD, being told that nearly half of every word they just tried to read is WRONG.  No wonder they get discouraged about reading and give up.

Sugar and I moved back to the books I learned to read with 30 years ago.  

She read, "The dog. The dog ran." and "The cat. The mat.  Is the cat on the mat? The cat is on the mat."  After those few words the damage done by the princess book was corrected and she felt like a winner again.  

At least we knew how to teach reading 133 years ago, or I'd have more problems teaching my kids to read. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

One a Day!

We have started a one subject a day school this summer.  Obviously, we don't take the summer off.  We've actually managed to get more done when we concentrate on only one subject at a time.

School starts at 9 am each weekday.  Each day has a subject that both of the girls work on.  History and Science are the same and we work as a group.  Math is leveled differently, but we still all sit down together, my attention divided.  The only days I am having trouble with is the day I do Spelling with Ginger.  I'm slowly trying to figure out how to entertain Sugar since Spelling is NOT something a student can do by herself. 

We have been working on this schedule since mid-May and we are fully in the swing of it.  

1) Prep time is easier on me.  I usually have stuff ready and printed at least 8 lessons in the future for any given subject.  I just pull out what I need for a day and we work on it.
2) The girls know what is expected of them.  Tuesday is History and they know and therefore feel in control.
3) We finish a lesson every day.  Sometimes Math gets carried over because there is just a lot of it.

Cons: (If you can even consider them cons.)
1) Everyday at 8:30 the girls start asking about school that day.  
2) Yeah, I tried to come up with some, but I have none.  I really like one subject a day school!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Closet Rescue

Recently, all the girls in the house decided that we needed fewer clothes.  Crazy, right?  The younger girls were overwhelmed when it came to putting clean clothes away.  Drawers would just not close and the clothing bar was jam packed and hard to see what was what.  So we gathered up perfectly good clothes that still fit and sorted them into 2 areas.

We did each closet as a group.  We started with shorts and alternated keep and donate.  Keep 3, donate 4, keep 2, donate 3, keep 4, donate 2.  It was all really random.  I think we kept roughly 10 of each clothing item, which is still more than they need, but choices are good.  We kept more shirts, but again, sometimes you need choices and my smallest frequently changes her clothes for no real reason.

We did Ginger's closet first and Sugar was allowed to take a few 'can't live without' items to her future clothing boxes.

The girls were better about throwing things in the donate pile that I would have.  I did get upset when they wanted to donate something that they BEGGED me for in the store.  I guess that means I need to disregard more of the begging.  

I would say we removed at least a third of the girls clothing from their closets.  Drawers now close, they can see what pants and shirts they have, and now the same 3 pajamas from the top of the drawer will not be worn over and over and over until I wonder if they have enough.  

I wonder if I will work in my closet or just let it go for now?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

TV as a Commodity

The economics of making things scarce.

I took 2 economics classes YEARS ago.  Some of the lessons actually stuck with me.  Scarcity for example.  Even perceived scarcity.

All the parenting gurus and books and doctors say that you should limit TV time to 2 hours for young children.  I think this is an excellent idea, I just accomplish it very differently that people expect.

Our TV is tuned to PBS nearly every waking hour.  (Mostly educational cartoons.)  Yet, my children watch their 2 hours or less of TV, because it is not a commodity.  Since it is always available, there is nothing special about it.  It is not a reward or a treat.  It is not something they have to work for or beg to get. Instead they beg to turn off the tv and listen to music.  I LOVE that!

TV is not scare, so they don't care about it.  Computer time is a different story right now.  Ginger loves playing games on the computer.  She only has a small windows of opportunity because she does not have her own.  When her chance comes up, she stares and gets obsessed and distracted and nothing else matters.  

Sugar gets no computer time, so she is always wanting to play on the iPad.  She is very good at the touch interface, but the keyboard and mouse are just a tiny bit beyond her.  I'm just not ready to prove that she could figure it out if I allow her a chance.

I am thinking out scheduling computer time in the future, because there are 2 children and not enough computers for everyone.  Some things are just scarce because of having to share with a sister.  Thus my children will learn about scarcity too.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Scrapbooker, I am not

I started a 8x8 scrapbook for my first daughter, Ginger, before she turned one. It was to show her entire 1st year 1 month at a time. I finished it 5 years later.  Last week.  Really.  

I also started and finished Sugar's at the same time.  Only 4 years late.  

I have been good about taking the photos and the footprints to show them how much they have grown.  Making the book, I found, was much more involved.  I drug my husband along to Hobby Lobby to pick out stickers.

I have plans for a second year book done by month.  Maybe I will finish in the next year or so. At least by the time they leave for college. I need somewhere to put all the foot prints we made, after all.  After that large endeavor, the girls will get 1 page a year. All of year 3 boiled down to one 8x8 page.  I think I have the perfect crying shot already picked out for Sugar.  

I learned my limitation and the girls will have a billion photos when they are grown but 8x8 pages with stickers?  They can make their own.  Where would I even store them?  

I love my daughters and I keep a box of sentimental things, but if I were to give them a stack of 18 books when they finally moved out of the house I think they would wonder who I had paid to make them.  I prefer to channel my love different ways, maybe the scars on my feel because of stepping on legos and barbie shoes, or the gray hairs I earn when they hit puberty. For now, they will have to live with cookies on the fly and random attacks of the kiss-y monster. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Baby Birds

We found a bird's nest in our grill when we went to use it last.  I guess we had been neglecting our grill and so a pair of cardinals decided to move in.  Each girl has a bird feeder on their window and Sugar has been watching the mommy eat, while Ginger has been observing the daddy. I should have expected to find eggs, but it was a shock when we opened it up and found this nest with about 6 eggs.

It is grilling season and forgive me for doing it, but I moved the nest, very gently, so that we could continue on with our meal plan.

I found a safe spot, not as sheltered as the inside of my grill.  The next day, after the grill had cooled off, I moved the nest back to the grill and asked mother nature to make sure the pair of cardinals kept looking after their babies.

I kept an eye out for them and watched them happily sing in the tree just over our neighbors fence.  3 days later the neighbors cut down the tree.  It was sad.  Yes, the tree was a volunteer and it was in an awkward location, but it was a part of nature and shelter to a couple of parents and I hurt for the loss.  

I haven't seen the pair but we have a couple of other volunteer trees on different fence lines and I hope they keep coming back for their babies. 

Since cardinal eggs hatch in 10-13 days, I guess we will just wait and see and remember that nature can take care of her own if we just get out of her way, and STOP chopping down her trees and using our grills.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Height Check

Back in April, at Sugar's yearly check-up, the pediatrician told me she was not growing like normal kids grow.  Her percentile was dropping much faster that normal children.  Yes, normal children.  I was not really phased at the time.  I asked if it was because of her self-restrictive diet, the doctor said it was unlikely.  I just took in the info and walked away and we made an appointment for 3 more months just in case it was as simple of her check-ups being just before growth spurts.  

I told her daddy.  I did not tell my mom.  I just was not that worried about it.  Kevin and I joke about it.  It bothered me only a little because you have to be 48 inches tall to ride Space Mountain at Disney World and we are patiently waiting on Sugar to catch up to that arbitrary height so that we can make this generations pilgrimage with the entire family in tow.  

So, I pulled out all the little pieces of paper I get at the pediatricians office and let my geek flow freely.  I graphed both girls heights.  Yes, I did.  I used my excel skills from my career days and made a line graph to show me at least a snip it of what the doctors chart showed.

I feel much better.  Sugar is shorter than Ginger at every turn, but not by much.  I do see where Sugar's line could be in danger of breaking off of its trend, but it is too early to tell.  Overall, I am glad I did not let the doctor worry me and I am glad I had the skills to calm myself.  I still wish Sugar would shoot up on her next growth spurt, mainly so I can take both the girls to Disney World and not be stuck in Kiddie Park Hell.  I'm sure you are all pulling for me.  

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Husband and I have a pretty good schedule going right now.  It took us a while to get it together, but we love it.

He gets one day to go out with his friends and do geek boy stuff.
We take a yoga class together once a week while his mom plays with the girls.
His karate day used to line up with me doing whatever while his mom watches the kids.  Now it has become a date night of sorts.
Once a month I have book club.
Twice a month I have the option of going to an MNO scheduled through my mommy group. (We usually go out the eat and vent about the topic du jour.)

We have started trying to add a KNO to this schedule, once a month.  My kids spend almost all of their time around an adult family member.  Sugar has a little preschool she goes to and Ginger takes a gymnastics class, but besides that they are around one of the same 5 adults, aka referees.  I felt like the girls need to go out sometimes and follow other peoples rules and play with other kids in a safe and fun environment.  Mainly, they need to play in the same space, just not with each other.  Ginger can be bossy and Sugar can be resentful.  They need an occasional night to stay up way past bedtime (which I almost never allow) and a chance to run and jump and bounce on things that are not my furniture.

Which is better?  I would NEVER give up my time with my mommy friends, but honesty, I think the kids night out is better for the girls.  They of course have more fun, but it allows them to break mommy's rules without getting into trouble, since mommy's rules don't pertain to KNO.

We all need a break from the rules sometimes.  That way, the next day the rules don't seem so constricting.  Plus, we love our sister more when we get a break from her!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Yes Ma'am!

I am a huge fan of manners and showing respect to all people, young and old.  I say yes ma'am and no sir to adults older than me, to my peers, and to children. 

One thing this does, other than show the respect everyone deserves, is teaches by example.  I think our children learn best by watching, at least at a young age.  Sugar is very respectful.  I hear yes ma'am from her more often than not. Ginger, being 6, has her swings.  She needs to show a little more respect to me and her dad, but she still has good manners in public.  This is a constant lesson. I will never stop respecting people and my children will see it every day.  They will learn that manners are not just for special occasions.  Manners are for every day and for every one.  I say thank you to my children, to your children, to strangers' children.  I hope that getting a simple thank you will make them want to do more for people in the future.  

If I am polite, my children will learn to be polite.  If I yell, my children will learn to yell.  (Trust me on that one.)  What does your child learn from watching you?  Do you show your children the respect that you want them to show you?  Next time your child does something for you, smile and say thank you, then watch their eyes light up and the smile creep over their faces.  Smiling children are the best children!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Transplanting the Garden

We transplanted the garden to the large 4ft x 4ft x 16in raised bed that my husband and I made. (Mostly me, but I needed his brawn.)

The girls helped layer the newsprint and cardboard to keep the weeds from going up.  They helped me mix the compost and peat moss and sprayed me down repeatedly trying to get the soil moist.  

Most of what we are growing is supposed to do well with tomato cages, so it looks an awful lot like… well, I don't have words for it, which is strange, I LOVE words.

We planted the zucchini, cucumber and tomatoes.  We promptly lost a zucchini, a cucumber and a tomato to some kind of burrowing animal. The beast hasn't come back and it had better not.  I have a feeling it was a despicable cat. Chili powder is supposed to keep out rabbits, maybe it will banish the cat as well. 

Last year my cucumbers got aphids.  This year I planted green onions between plants to keep them out.  I have hopes for crops this year, not just crop.

The girls wanted flowers so we planted petunias.

We also planted several flower seeds.
Sunflowers and Bluebonnets

Morning Glories

Bachelor Buttons

My herbs:
Rosemary, year 2

Boxwood Basil

Chives and Garlic (?)

I don't remember what is in that last pot.  The chive is the middle one, the thing to the top right is probably a garlic.)

This is a lettuce from my farm delivery.  I was surprised it was doing so well.

The peppers and eggplant will finish out the raised bed.  I still have to plant the carrots and romaine lettuce.  I don't know where they will go yet.  The herbs will end up in cans.  I have aspirations of hanging them from the pergola.

I am ready for fresh salsa and vegetables!