Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Non-Glossy Parts

Yesterday night I went out with my girlfriends.  It doesn't happen all that often but when it does it is magic!  We went to a seafood restaurant and I ate pad Thai.  It seems weird.  I mean first off who eats seafood in a landlocked state?  Plus who eats pad Thai in a non Thai restaurant.  You know what though, it just wasn't about the food.  It was seriously so nice to be with my ladies.  I needed some adult conversation.  I've been trapped in this house for months.  We are homeschooling.  I can say those things in lowercase letters but I want to scream them in all caps...ALL CAPS!

Here is the thing though in order for this to be possible someone had to watch the kid.  Someone had to take over when they walked in after work.  They had to get dinner on the table, kids feed, teeth brushed, jammies on, stories read and kids into bed.  When I got home that someone said to me, "I don't think I should be allowed to stay home alone with the kids.  I yelled at all of them."

I laughed and laughed at that all day.  Maybe I should never be allowed to be home alone with my children.  I get grouchy and frustrated and my son says my tone is mean.  In fact there isn't a day that goes by that my ten year old doesn't tell me I'm mean and probably every other day he tells me he hates me.  I wish it wasn't this way but I have a kid who gets set off by everything and everything could just be the consequences of his own behavior or maybe even just the fact that I rearranged the pantry.  True story, he freaked on me for doing that.  I have an eight year old who is sweet and kind and then stubborn like a mule.  Oh and by the way she hates church.  I mean just hates it.  Two weeks ago the secretary was trying to bring her out of class and she was literally fighting her in the hall.  My husband had to be called.  When he got her Gigi was a right state.  I saw the secretary later.  She told me, "It's as if she doesn't want to be here."  News flash, she doesn't.  And that's the thing about G, things she loves she is just divine, but if she is frustrated by something or thinks something is dumb, well then you can expect fireworks.  I have a five year old who is deliciously adorable but when she gets tired she is a beast and she also has a tendency to rile up her siblings.  Then she cries.  She cries a lot.  She is very sensitive and the two older kids are besties and the truth is they just don't always want to be around her.  And then she cries.  Then they are yelling and she is crying and I'm a mess.  I have a three year old who we appropriate nicknamed after a wild animal.  Sometimes she actually attacks.  She growls, and pounces and bites you.  She thinks she is a Cheetah.  These children are messy and crazy and exhausting.  Some moments are heavenly but some moments take me to the very edge of reason, the very edge.

My husband has a hard job.  He spends a lot of time away from the family.  He is on his feet a lot.   He is often sleep deprived, hungry and cold.  There is a lot of stress and a lot of pressure.  He literally deals with people who are crazy, people who are at their worst, people who on the brink.  One night at home with the kids broke his spirit.  Who are these little people we created?  Who are they?  My blog is my journal and I want it to be a true reflection of my life.  Children I love you, I don't know if I can ever fully explain to you how much.  I have given up a lot for you and I will continue to give up a lot for you.  You are my heart.  I want you to be happy but gosh darn it sometimes being your parent is difficult.  You are not always easy.  You do not comply to my will readily.  You are not perfect beings and I'm sure this isn't a news flash to you, I'm not perfect either...even if I try and live in the delusion that I am.  I will always love you but I think this is important to remember.

Someday you will have children of your own.  They will start out adorable, the best smelling, softest little mass of deliciousness.  You will bring them home and think I will never be mad at you, you will always be perfect.  I will be the perfect parent to you.  I will do this so much better than my parents did.  Then they won't sleep.  You will be exhausted.  You will have to step away from the crib sometimes and just let them cry because you're worried about you'll do if you have to pick them up.  They'll keep growing.  They will be covered in chub and will smile big smiles.  They will steal your breath away with their beauty but then they will start to cry and scream at you when they don't get what they want.  They will throw things, bite you, pull your hair.  Someday when they are potty training they will pee on the floor right in front of the toilet after refusing for the last twenty five minutes to get on.  They will hit you.  They will lie to you.  They will yell at you.  They might refuse to go to church.  They may embarrass you in a store or in front of your friends.  Someday they may tell you they don't love you.  It isn't true.  They do but trying to become yourself to separate from your parents when they have so much control over you, well it is trying for them.  Sometimes you'll keep your cool, sometimes you will have a "tone".  Sometimes you'll be proud of how you handled it and sometimes you'll be ashamed.  I just want you to know in those moments that I'm with you.  I love you.  We went through this together and we both survived.  You are beautiful and lovely and you are my heart but gosh darn it when you were a kid sometimes you were just a pill.  It is ok to feel that way.  Parenthood is not easy.  Childhood is not easy.  I understand.  Send them to Queenie's house.  I will take care of them for the afternoon.  After all I love them because they are a part of you.  Plus it has been a long while since someone's peed on my floor.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

My Personal Must Have Supply List For Homeschooling

So we are homeschooling, I think I've mentioned this a few times.  Yesterday I spent the day putting together homeschooling lessons, you know because it seemed like a fun way to spend my Saturday.  While I was cutting and printing I got to thinking about the things that we have at our house that make homeschooling just a little easier. Here is My List of My Must Haves for Homeschooling

1) A computer, internet, and a printer/copier.  Could you homeschooling without them...I guess yes it would be possible but why would you want to.  I use pinterest to pin all kinds of great homeschooling resources.  My kids have tons of access to educational tools online.  I am constantly printing games, free worksheets, and activities.  I'd also suggest having a printer that works as a copier as well.  Some of the books I've bought rather then having to buy three sets I just copy the worksheets or activities right out of the book.  It saves me money and time.

2) An electric Pencil sharpener.  With three kids in school and one little one playing school we go through a lot of pencils, and we sharpen a lot of pencils.  Sure I could make each kid use a little plastic sharpener.  But an electric one is so fast, it saves me time and aggravation.

3) A three hole punch.  I punch a lot of paper.  I have a notebook where I keep all of my curriculum, our notes, attendance, and what we did for the day.  We also keep a science notebook where we add in any cool experiments we've done.  Anything on notebook paper is already prepunched but stuff I printed off from the computer needs to be.  I bought this years ago and am grateful to have it.

Universal Dry Erase Board Melamine 36W x 24H Satin-Finished Aluminum Frame
4) Dry Erase Board/Chalk Board.  We actually have two big white boards up in our kitchen.  They are nice for writing out information I want all the kids to write down, for teaching actual concepts, for making diagrams, for working out problems, or just a good place to put information I want up for a couple of days.  We also have two little white boards that the kids can have at their seat to work problems out if they need.  The ones I like the best are magnetized!

5) Basic school supplies.  I've always been a school supply hoarder and this year homeschooling it really paid off.  It is so nice to be able to just go to my stash and find what I need as opposed to having to run out to the store for every little thing.  A great time to stock up on school supplies is during the back to school sales in July in August.  Stores will often sell things at a loss to get you in there.  I'm telling you, you will not find glue sticks, scissors, crayons, or pencils at a cheaper time all year.  Stock up then and you'll be glad you did all year.  Here are things I've used just this week that I was glad I already had on hand.

  • scissors- You need a least a pair for every kid and a nicer pair for yourself.  You will be cutting. Have extras on hand to avoid fights.  
  • note cards - We use these all the time.  Just this week Peach was playing a memory game with sight words on note cards and we were writing out facts about America to put on our American History Time line.
  • adhesives- I like glue sticks because they are less messy, but I also keep Elmer's glue on hand and tape, lots of tape, a stapler, and staples.  
  • Three Hole Punch Note Books - I use one to keep roll and curriculum, the kids each have one to hold all their science papers, Cheetah has one that holds her preschool curriculum.  They are nice to have around.  You can find 1 inch ones at the dollar store or stock up during back to school sales.
  • Notebooks/Composition Books/Paper - School work takes up a lot of paper.  My kids write in a composition journal book every day.  They use paper for scratch or for writing or craft assignments.  We keep a Social Studies notebook.  You are going to get your best price on this during back to school sales but you can also find composition books at the dollar store for $1 year round.  
  • Page protectors - I used page protectors as an easy way of laminating papers in my preschool notebook.  Then Cheetah can write on them with dry erase markers and I can just wipe them off.  I buy my page protectors at the dollar store when they carry them.  You can get 16 for $1. 
  • Contact paper - I use clear contact paper as my poor person laminate.  Scotch has a laminator you can buy for like $30 but then you have to continue to buy pouches which can get a little pricey and it doesn't worth with stuff that is wider than the laminator.  So instead I just use clear contact paper.  Yesterday I "laminated" a few of the pages I was putting in Cheetahs book that I wanted to be a little more sturdy.  I just laid out the contact paper after pulling off the back side, put my page face down on it.  Put another piece of contact paper on the back and then cut it out.  I also had Gigi "laminate" some pieces of a shapes game that I wanted to stay a little bit more sturdy.  You can find contact paper at Walmart or the dollar store.
  • Hole punch/loose leaf rings - Often times if I'm making a study guide the kids will write things down on note cards and then we will single hole punch them and put them on a loose leaf ring.  An example of this would be the sight words Peach has or the multiplication cards Captain E has.  It is nice to have the rings on hand for when you need them.  I've bought them at Walmart and at the dollar store.  
  • Art supplies- We just have these on hand, construction paper, water colors, crayons, markers, colored pencils, pastels, pompoms, googly eyes, Popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners.  I buy them in August and they last me all year.  They also have quite a few art supplies at the dollar store.  I'd advice any new homeschooling family to go to your local dollar store and walk the aisles.  That way you know what is available, and if you ever see any supplies cheaper you know you should snatch them up.  
  • Writing supplies - Pens, pencils, pencil top erasers, dry erase markers, chalk.  My kids go through a lot of erasers...mainly because Cheetah is always biting them off.  It helps to have erasers I can just pop on the top of the pencils.  
  • Calculator/Ruler/Pencil compass/dice - these come in handy for some of the math things the kids do.  I bought a couple at the beginning of year a few years ago and we still occasionally pull them out.  
  • Supply holders - We are using one shelf to house all our homeschooling supplies right now.  We have four milk crates, two plastic bins, and a clementine box.  It isn't pretty but it gets the job done.  I also have a lot of pencil boxes, and pencil pouches holding all our art and writing supplies.  I buy these at the beginning of the school year when Walmart has them at great prices.  You can also get pencil boxes and pencil pouches at the dollar store year round but I don't think the quality is as good.  
So there you have it.  These are the things I keep in my house to keep our little school going.  Is there anything I missed?  Let me know if you have a must have that makes homeschooling or just plain parenting easier in your house.  

That Meddling Woman

I love detective shows.  I just finished two seasons of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries.  It is an Australian detective show based on a series of novels by Kerry Greenwood.  Phryne Fisher comes back from World War I Europe where she spent her time driving ambulances to Melborne where she has come to inherit quite a bit of money after many male family members have died in the war.  She quickly fills her life with a menagerie of misfitted friends, starts solving crimes, and spends her time bucking the trends of the time.  She wears pants, drives cars fast, flies planes, drinks, dances, carries a gun, she is fast and loose with her love life, and solves crimes.  Ok she is a little bit of a bad girl but she is super fun to watch.  I was making list of meddling woman detectives when I first started watching this show.  There is Miss Marple, Jessica Fletcher, Rosemary and Thyme, Veronica Mars, Lisbeth Salander, The Bletchly Circle, Bones, The Mentalist, and Crossing Jordan.  There are also some fun men meddlers, Psyche, Monk, Magnum PI, The Finder (why didn't that show make it more than one season), Sherlock.  Wow I'm realizing now I've watched a lot of mystery shows because this doesn't even include my cop list.

You have CSI, CSI New York, Law in Order, Law in Order SVU, Law in Order Major Crimes, Cold Case, Ripper, Broadchurch, Criminal Minds, The First 48, Foyle's War,  Inspector George Gentry, Inspector Morse, Inspector Lewis, Major Crimes,  The X-Files...I'm starting to realize that almost everything I watch is a murder mystery.  This might explain why I don't sleep well at night.  Well regardless Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries was super fun to watch.  Can't wait for season three to come out.  I will definitely enjoy it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

You're Missing It

Driving home from Utah this November we stumbled across the most gorgeous view.  We were almost in some tiny town in Illinois, we'd just passed over a river, was it the Mississippi, the sun was dropping.  The three line was dark, the entire sky where the sun was setting over the river pink and orange, lines of even lighter pink streaked the sky where earlier jets had left streams behind.  It was the most beautiful sight I'd ever seen.  I frantically started searching the car looking a phone or a camera.  "You're missing it," J told me.  "No, no, I have to get this on film," I replied.  "C, you're missing it, and it's not like a picture is even going to do it justice, just look up and photograph it on your mind."  He was right you know.  Within seconds we were off the bridge and the sight had changed ever so slightly to make is just a nice sunset, where moments before it had been a true masterpiece.  Had I continued to search for my camera I would have missed the end entirely.  I was extremely flustered, why couldn't I have had my phone at the ready on my lap, why didn't I own a better camera, what didn't I have a proper warning that I was about to witness something spectacular.  As I sat in my disappointment I contemplated on what my husband had said.  His offhand remark was probably one of the most profound things I've ever heard him utter.  

So often in life the beauty springs up before us, unexpected and surprising.  It often only last for a second before the view changes ever so slightly.  In our digital age it is tempting to try and capture all these moments but even the best pictures are often a poor substitute for the actually moment.  We had friends this summer who made a trek to hike Kilimanjaro.  We followed along on their hike via Facebook and we were pretty amazed by their feat.  Later though they came over for breakfast to give us all the highlights of the trip.  They were so animated and I realized that their pictures were not even able to capture a tenth of their experience.  The stories they told were so much more vivid, so much more real.

Our digital lives have given us the opportunity to be constantly documenting ourselves.  We take pictures, we add captions, we post and share them with all our friends and family and yet in a lot of ways those constant attempts to document our existence pull our eyes away from what is happening right before our face and what we are left with is a poor two dimensional representation that is like that moment when the view changed just slightly and lost it's magic.  It isn't to say that I don't love photography, that I don't love instagram, and facebook, chat books, and blogs but I think we need to be careful to actually live in the moment, to memorize the magic and to not miss the beauty because are so busy trying to find a way to capture it.

Living on the edge

The thing about being a mom is you are there in sickness in health on good days and bad.  Have you ever had one of those days where you burst into tears because someone ate all the blueberries you were planning on eating with your yogurt?  I settled for blackberries but I wasn't exactly happy about it.  Life is a funny thing.  I've seen people handle with grace and dignity the most trying of circumstances and I've seen people break down over nothing.  Yesterday captain E had an anxiety attack over me reorganizing the pantry.  I guess we all have our moments.  May I be blessed with some strength to make it through fruitgate 2015.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Cleaning Up My Laundry

Laundry is the bane of my existence.  I have periodic success with getting my kids to help out but for the most part all the washing, drying, folding, ironing, and putting away are on me.  It is a daunting task.  There are six people in my family, four girls.  One daughter changes her outfits about five times a day.  One wears new pajamas every day.  One cleans her room by indiscriminately throwing everything in the laundry.  I have a husband who wears shirts and ties to work and then changes into home wear (luckily he re-wears that stuff) but it builds up.  He also wears scrubs on the weekends and pajamas every night.  For your TMI information I sleep in my underwear...mostly for comfort but the more I think about laundry the more I realize I'm doing myself a favor.  I have six sets of towels, six sets of sheets, I have dish towels, dish rags, hoodies, coats, a newly potty trained toddler and occasionally I try to cloth diaper.  What am I THINKING?  So this is my life.  Laundry exhaust me.  Today I spent the whole working on laundry.  I was ironing shirts, switching loads, matching socks (that took about an hour on it's own) and it was sometime in the moment when I trying to shove another pair of pants into my daughters overstuffed drawers that I realized I'm just making my life harder for myself.  There are some things I have no control over, like what my husband wears to shirts but my kids having these over stuffed drawers, these I could take control of.  So I had my girls come in and we purged the drawers.  I just couldn't imagine any situation in which they needed 25 t-shirts.  And so I made them cut down, 12 shirts a piece top.  Pants you only need six pairs.  Skirts you can have four.  I mean really why do my kids need all these clothes.  So I unloaded the drawers.  I'm hoping this will help me out.  It will for sure make putting laundry away easier.  I will probably still have to wash just as much laundry but hopefully with less clothes I'll have to wash more often and maybe my laundry day will take only half the day as oppose to the whole day of torture I had today.  Why do I buy so much clothing.  I want to be a minimalist....and maybe a nudist.  I honestly can see the plus in that.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Homeschooling Highlight - Just one more homeschooling family

Displaying IMG_20150114_152043573.jpgThis happened today.  I tried to tell myself I looked like my cool Swedish friend Catrin, walking with my four kids and my gigantic buggy of a stroller in the freezing cold to drop off library books but the more people that drove by the more obvious it became that really I just looked like the homeschooling, broken down car, stir crazy, have to get out of the house and get some exercise mother of four that I am.  It was when I was at the library that I really took stock of what we looked like.  Gigi's hair was a wreak.  It was hard for me to decide if it was just the coat or if she hadn't actually brushed her hair today at all.  She was wearing jeans under an orange skirt.  Peach was wearing one of my t-shirts that I'd very sloppily turned into a pajama shirt...when I say sloppily I mean I couldn't even be bothered to change out the thread so all my alterations where as glaringly obvious as white thread standing out on black fabric...oh wait that's actually what it looked like.  Cheetah was wearing a coat four sizes too big because as I walked out the door I realized I couldn't find any of her stuff and just grabbed what was on hand.  She also had fleece pants to go with her dress.  Captain E looked fairly normal until he took off his coat and then you could see we haven't brushed his hair in days.  There were two other homeschooling families there.  I could just tell, the mismatched clothing, the crazy hair, the humongous stack of non-fiction children's books the mother was slumping around.  The fact that they too were at the library during the middle of school hours with their 4+ healthy looking school age kids.  I'm ashamed to say the very uncharitable thought of 'oh my we've really turned into a homeschooling family now and everyone can tell," did cross my mind.  

Our walk was pretty uneventful, with the exception of a dead frozen rat we saw and the still partially frozen sidewalks in the neighborhood.  We made it to the library without incident, we got new books without incident, we made it home without incident.  There was no fighting, no temper tantrums, no complaints, there was minimal loud screaming. There is a tractor in the middle of the children's section and I'm yet to convince Cheetah that you aren't suppose to scream when you are on that thing, but really it was one of the best library trips I've had in a long while.

While I was walking home I pondered on that thought.  What the heck was wrong with me?  My children were happy, they were getting exercise (I kicked Peach and Aylin out of the stroller on the way home so that they could get a good walk), they were warm and healthy, dressed in clean clothing that for the most part was their choice and they felt comfortable in.  These homeschooling mom's actually have something.  They don't worry about how the world sees them.  They are comfortable in their quirkiness.  They didn't fight with any kids about what is appropriate attire or spend a half hour trashing around the house looking for a missing item.  They came as they were when they were ready to come and if their children's faces were any indication they were better for it.    I am definitely a type A personality.  I don't have to write a to do list because I always have a mental one running and sometimes I want to run my life like that, but this year has given me some flexibility and I need to embrace that.  I have the opportunity to let go of time, to let go of fashion, and to let go of my overly my ridiculously competitive mommy drama.  I can just enjoy a walk to the library in the freezing cold.  It was sunny out and frankly my family will probably be better for the exercise, so what if I can't capture that hip European vibe.

New Place, New Name

I never liked my name.  My mother would tease me as a child that I was named after a country western singer.  My father can't give me a good reason for why or how they picked my name.  I know that if I'd been a boy I would have been named Jonathan.  Four tries later when he finally got a son that is the name he used.  My next sister down has a beautiful name. It is a combination of my father's parents names.  Most of her life we called her by the nickname Joli which means pretty in French.  She is beautiful so it is sort of appropriate.  We also sometimes call her Jo and if you've seen her rock a James Dean shirt you'd understand why that name also totally fits her.  My second sister down is named after my father's dead sister and my dead grandfather.  Her name is also beautiful and sad.  My grandmother lost two daughters to childhood illnesses.  My sister's only annoyance is the fact that people are always trying to add an e to her nickname.  No e please.  My third sister down is named after our Nana and my aunt.  She has a love hate relationship with her name.  My Grandmother was the most awesome lady around.  I mean she was just great.  She was loud and soft, full of hugs and great stories.  She had an adventurous spirit and pushed the boundaries of what was expected of her.  I miss her everyday and while her name is truly sort of ear sore...think one of those thirties names that no one really mourned when they lost popularity...like Gertrude, she is an amazing woman to be named after.  My first brother is named after his father and grandfather.  My next brother is named after this kid I had a crush on in high school...which to be honest, I'm sorry Danny that is kind of a lame story so you're sort of in the same boat I'm in.  I'm named after my mother, at least in my middle name, but my first name is just this anomaly.  I've asked my father about it repeatedly and he claims he has no idea why he choose it.  It ticks me off to know end.  I personally think if you have to be saddled with a name that makes every top stripper name's list that you should at least have a good story to go along with your name.  I don't have a story.  I just have a father who picked a name that he and no one in his family can even say properly (it's just not a name that transfers over to Spanish well) So every time we get ready to move I start having this debate on the leaving the name behind.

When I was in my early twenties I took this very seriously and actually had a list that I slept with for about a month trying to narrow down my choices.  Now in my mid thirties I just think about moving to my mother's name (my own middle name)...or at least the nick-name associated with this.  I realize there is sort of a ridiculous futile nature to this.  When I was a young teen my aunt Gay asked to start being called Laurie and just recently I told my mom that Laurie wanted to see me while I was home and she asked who I was talking about and then when I said "Gay," she was like, "Oh yeah that would be fun".  A similar thing happened with my sister in law.  About twelve years ago she informed the family that she was no longer going to go by Kiera, but instead wanted to be called Marie.  The change was relatively easy for me because I hadn't been a member of the family that long, but it took my husband and father in law years to call her Marie and even now her grandmother refuses.

I don't know that I'd be as serious about it.  I mean if someone still called me by given name I'd answer but in six months I'm leaving this state. I'll be signing up for a new bank account, getting a new license, meeting a new church, a new gym, making a new friend group and so the chance is here, possibly the last one I'm going to have in my life to change what I introduce myself as and what I'm called by all the new people we meet.  So once again I'm seriously considering just showing up in our new town and introducing myself as....Beth.  What do you think?  Better or Worse?

Friday, January 9, 2015

Homeschool Highlight - Math Slicer Product Review

Displaying IMG_20150108_150052777.jpgSo one of the things my kids struggle with wanting to do is just basic math facts.  I have this nifty little bucket full of activities to practice add/sub/multiplication/division math facts.  It has different games and memory devices but sometimes they just get board.  It is sort of a constant battle for me to get them practicing these skills.  I try to explain this to my kids there are really important and fun math things you are going to learn but you have to have these things down rote.  I need to say 9x5 and you need to immediately know 45.  It's critical to have this foundation down so you don't have to worry about it as you move on to algebra and calculus but it is also pretty much the only math I use almost daily.  I haven't had to figure the area under a curve in like six years but just yesterday I used division at the store when trying to figure out how much my rice was per ounce and to figure the tax I had on a bill.  So they need to practice.  We've played some multiplication games online, I particularly like Ghost Blasters, and if you go to www.multiplication.com there are other some fun multiplication games.  That being said one of our children has really been struggling to memorize and so I've been on the search for a game that would entice them, help them gain speed, and also present answers in a way that would help with memorization because they don't know most of the answers.  Then I found the game Math Slicers.  It is free at both googleplay and itunes but I actually bought the pro game for 99 cents because I was sick to death of having to deal with the ads.  It was worth it.  All my kids love this game including Cheetah.  It does multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction.  The game works like fruit ninjas in that you use a slicing motion to cut the correct answer in half.  A problem is placed on the screen, two numbers fly up and you have to slice the correct answer.  Every so many right answers you get to slice an egg.  You can use eggs to buy power ups, new slicing colors, or new backgrounds.  It is pretty fast paced, and you have the option to make it faster to make the game a little more challenging.  I also appreciate that they only throw two numbers up.  That way my child that is really struggling only has to guess between two.  I'm hoping that with repetition those correct answers will finally weasel into this child's brain.  My only problem now is they fight over whose turn it is to play.


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