Saturday, December 10, 2011

Finding My Groove

I am one of those people who thinks they have to sit down and write up a massive, year-long, decorated (preferably scrapbooked) PLAN before I can actually clean something.  No, I can't just dust.  I have to have a plan of attack first.  So I sit down with my notebook and my pencil -- I have used Excel to do this too -- and plan my dusting out for the entire year, which rooms I will do on which days (this process usually requires both coffee and chocolate in order to do it right)...

Well, I am beginning to believe that the planning isn't conducive to the cleaning.  Ya think?  (This sounds really familiar.  Did I post this EXACT same blog about 3 years ago?  Or maybe 3 months ago?  Ha!)

So here is my new plan.  When I see that something needs to be done, I will write it down in my planner in the "Weekly Priorities" section.  I will have a set cleaning time every day.  This cleaning time will be non-negotiable.  While my husband is at work, my main responsibilities are taking care of my children and my home, so once I know that the kids have what they need to survive for the next half hour, I will then proceed to spend that half hour cleaning something I have written down.  I will keep a record of what I am cleaning on which days.

This will be much like Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University.  It is hard to make a budget until you know where your money goes.  In the same way, it will be difficult for me to plan a cleaning schedule until I know how often things in this house need to be cleaned.  I have lived here for 9 years; it is time for me to have this figured out!  I have been trying to use others' ideas of what should be cleaned when, and my house is just different than other houses.

We are here all day (homeschool seems to work better for us when we are actually at home, imagine that!), and have 3 children (one of them a newly-crawling baby who needs clean floors), a large hairy shedding dog, a little dog who sometimes mistakes the carpet in the basement for her own personal grass pad, a shedding cat who likes to sleep on anything that looks warm and soft (my piles of unfolded laundry are her favorite. thing. ever.)... are you beginning to see the picture here?   It all adds up to one big hairy mess if I don't keep on top of it.  And I haven't been keeping on top of it.  So what do I have?  A big hairy mess, you're right!

We have been blessed with a gorgeous home that has 5 bedrooms (2 of which are being used as my craft room and Mike's office), 4 bathrooms (!), 3 living areas (living/TV room, reading/fireplace room, and rec room in the basement), a kitchen that has everything I need, lots and lots of beautiful wood - one of the reasons we loved this house from the moment we walked into it, and one of the things I desperately need to take better care of so that it will retain that beauty.

My house will need to be cleaned more often than many others' houses.  No one else's schedule is going to be the same as mine.  I have to make my own schedule.  I know; what an epiphany! 

I'm off to implement the plan!  Wish me luck.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Grandma Cripe

This past month has been a whirlwind.  I never knew that so much emotion could be jam-packed into one little month!

Several recent deaths in our families have affected us.  My Grandma Cripe (Dad's Mom) passed away the week before Thanksgiving, and we attended her burial on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving.  She was cremated, as she requested, and her ashes were taken to Garden City to be buried next to Grandpa.  The boys were well behaved during the short service, which was good since I was crying too much to be able to watch them fully.  Mike only had to take Oliver away once when he was getting squirmy.  The flowers were beautiful, the sun was shining, and I met some people who had known Grandma well and talked to me about what she was like in her younger years.

Grandma attended school in Bucklin, KS.  She went to Wichita Business School, worked at the Air Force Base in Garden City, got married to Grandpa, then worked as a seamstress and homemaker until 1971, when she went to work at Purnell's Fabric Store until 1990.  After she retired, she continued doing alterations for people.  I am reading this from the "In Remembrance" printout that was given to us at the burial.  It has a lovely picture of Grandma wearing her candy-apple-red eyeglasses, and a big red rose on the front.     

Talking with Grandma's old friends and relatives, and reading about Grandma, and also looking through the scrapbooks that she kept -- all of these things have inspired me to revive my sewing skills.  I know they are still lurking inside of me somewhere, possibly just waiting for a few lessons from my mom or Grandma Schwemmer (Mom's Mom), who are both excellent seamstresses as well and have taught me all I know about sewing.  It seems that sewing is a lost art, especially because it is less expensive to buy your clothes off the rack now than it is to make them.

I have a sewing machine that needs a new pressure foot.  I have some bits and pieces of fabric, and a few spools of thread.  Grandma left us some money that she said can be used for Christmas, and Mike told me that I can use it however I see fit.  So here is my plan.  I am going to use the money to buy supplies and sewing equipment, and then I will make some items to sell so that I can raise money for the sewing machine that I really want.  I would love to learn embroidery, so my goal is an embroidery & sewing machine.  I think that developing a skill that Grandma obviously possessed will honor her memory.

Monday, October 31, 2011

NEO November

It's time for another edition of NEO November!  What?  You've never heard of NEO November?  Well, let me tell you all about it.  It stands for No Eating Out November.  I have made a commitment to not eat out for one whole month.  We may have a few exceptions, i.e. Mom's Night Out, family birthday dinners, etc. but for the most part, our family will not eat out this month.  And I totally lied about the "another edition" bit, because this is the first time I have done this.  I'm thinking it will be a good weight loss plan, as well as the beginning of some great new lifelong habits.  Yay!

I have shopped for a month's worth of non-perishables, and have stocked my pantries, cabinets and garage shelves with good, wholesome, filling foods that will last all month.  Mike will be doing the weekly grocery store run for milk/eggs/veggies/fruit/etc. since he is not an impulse shopper like I am.  I should not be in the grocery store every week.  That in itself is not good for our budget!  I did not buy cold cereal, which has been a staple at our house for several months... basically, since Oliver was born.  He is now 7 months old, and I have got my groove back!  I want to make hot, nourishing breakfasts for my starving men in the mornings. 

I love spending time in the kitchen preparing meals for my family.  I am a slow cook, and I will probably never be one of those ultra-speedy choppers you see on the cooking shows.  I will never be Rachael Ray.  30 Minute Meals?  Um, probably not.  I'm more of a Paula Deen or Nigella Lawson.  I have never been accused of being a fast cook.  More than likely, you'll find me puttering around the kitchen, looking for another ingredient to add to an already perfect mixture, while all the men around me are holding their hollow, growling stomachs in misery.

I just need to plan for this, and be prepared to spend several hours in the kitchen every day.  It will be a new concept for me.  For some reason, I still expect to be able to go into the kitchen as soon as people in my house start saying they are hungry and whip something up.  Not. Gonna. Happen.  My husband is amazing at this.  He loves sandwiches.  Deli meat sandwiches, to be precise.  He could eat one every single day for lunch, and be perfectly happy.  Just meat, cheese, and Miracle Whip.  That's all.  He is also great at cooking up a quick, yummy dinner of chicken, rice and peas.  For some reason, my brain is not wired this way.  So I just need to plan on being in the kitchen for a while.    

Here's to many fun days in the kitchen this month!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Homeschool Days

Our little homeschool has gone through some changes since the beginning of the school year, which for us was July 11, 2011.  My plan was to work through an entire year, with a basic schedule of a few weeks of school, then a week off, a few more weeks of school, then another week off, etc.  I had it all mapped out, every week scheduled, with most of our "off weeks" scheduled for holidays, so that the holiday wouldn't interfere with our school week.  Very rigid, my schedule was.

Well.  Plans change, as Sammy likes to remind me.  (One fateful day in 2010, I had to change "the plan" for the way our day would run.  I can't even remember what "the plan" was, or why I had to change it that day, but it obviously made a big impact on my then 4-year-old.  Now, every time he changes his mind, he reminds me that "Plans change sometimes, Mommy!")

So... I had big plans for our curriculum this year.  We would use:

Horizons Math for Kindergarten and 2nd grade.
Horizons Phonics & Reading for Kindergarten and 2nd grade.
Horizons Spelling & Vocabulary for 2nd grade.
Horizons Penmanship for 2nd grade.
Bob Jones University Press (BJUP) History for 2nd grade.
BJUP Bible for 2nd grade.
BJUP Science for 2nd grade.

Seriously.  It only took us about 30 minutes to navigate our way through the annual homeschool conference in April and plop "the list" of curriculum down in front of the two vendors we wanted to purchase our curriculum from and wait for them to write up our order forms and pay for all of the wonderful books we would be receiving.  I had been out of the hospital for 5 days after having Oliver when the homeschool conference occurred, so the shortness of the trip was necessary.  C-sections are not very conducive to long walks. Otherwise we could have been there for hours! 

We were all (Okay, so maybe only *I* was) filled with the most wonderful sense of expectation and excitement for how "The Plan" for this year was coming together -- we would sit every day, and the boys would joyfully complete their worksheets, and we would read from the textbooks, and it would all be flowers and rainbows and sunshine.

Wait a second.  How long have I been a Boy Mom?  7 years?  You would think that by now I would have learned that boys don't do flowers and rainbows and sunshine.  They love dirt (playing in it).  And rain (playing in it).  And worms (playing with them).  At least my boys do.  And they abhor sitting still.  And listening to me read from a textbook/reading from a textbook by themselves?  Torture -- for them AND for me.  So yeah.

Our plans changed.

I went back to Square One.  You know, the place where you don't know anything about anything?  I was there.  I had to re-evaluate my entire educational philosophy.  Plan A had failed miserably.  It had worked last year.  When I had one student in 1st grade.  But this year, with two students in Kindergarten and 2nd grade?  Tears, whining, moaning, moping, arguing, complaining, bickering... oh my goodness.  You thought I had perfect children?  I sure had you fooled!  Ha!

Epic fail.  What was Plan B going to be?

Charlotte Mason?  Unschooling?  Unit Studies?  Classical education?  I studied, researched, and spent hours poring over so many books and websites, all claiming to be the best, have the best, produce the best.  But what was the best for *us*?

I love textbooks.  They are straightforward.  Read this, answer this, test this, repeat (times 12 times the Number of subjects), graduate.  Isn't that how school is supposed to work?  That is how I learned, and I loved school.  Private school, public school, homeschool, college, I loved it all!  Bring on the school.  I loved the methods, the repetition, the organization -- especially the organization!  Office supply stores make my heart go pitter-patter-pumpernickel.

So I am trying to take my love of learning and the *way* I love to learn (and teach), and combine that with the ways my children love to learn (and their learning styles and modalities, but that is the topic of another epic blog post), and turn it into an education.  The method that is emerging is ending up looking like Eclectic Homeschooling, if there is even a definition for that.  Basically, we are going to try things out and use what works for us.

I know, I know... we've been homeschooling for how long?  4 years?  And I am just now catching on to this?  Supposedly, every homeschool family goes through this.  Fear of the unknown.  Fear of doing something different from "everyone else."  Fear of doing something wrong.  I thought that since I had been homeschooled, I would be immune to the fear. I was wrong. 

I am so afraid of doing something "wrong."  Can I just admit that?  But I desperately love my children.  And I *know* my children.  My husband and I know them better than anyone else on this earth.  And that knowledge is what I use to reassure myself that I am truly doing what is best for them.  I am not an ignoramus.  I am a well educated person.  I have my parents to thank for that.  Thanks, Mom and Dad!  And because they loved me enough to spend years of their life (and bucket-loads of their money) on my education, I am confident in my teaching skills.  I just have to figure out what method I want to use!

So this is Plan B.  What works for our school in 2011.

English - Horizons Phonics & Reading (see link above).  And reading.  And more reading.  And maybe a little more reading thrown in there, just for kicks.  He'll start math next year, when he can read better by himself.
Character Training - Lessons in Responsibility for Boys
We also talk about math a lot.  The boys both love numbers, so it just naturally comes up in our everyday conversation.

English - Horizons Phonics & Reading (worksheets: see link above).  He reads a ton.  He hides and reads.  You will usually find Griffin behind a chair reading if he isn't answering when you are calling him.  I don't know this from experience or anything.
Math - Life of Fred: Apples (textbook written by a very passionate mathematician) - We have begun using this, and it seems simplistic for a 2nd grader, but it was written for homeschoolers, so that they can go at their own pace.  The child who can't yet remember every single addition and multiplication fact off the top of their head is supposed to start with the first book in the elementary series.  So that's what we did.  We love the story of Fred.  He is a 5-year-old teacher at Kittens University, with a doll named Kingie (who was a prize in a kids' meal at the King of French Fries restaurant, and goes with Fred everywhere).  Fred and Kingie have to use math to figure out the everyday problems they come across, so there is never any asking "Why do I need to know this?"  I believe that Griffin will have finished this book in just a few months if he works on it for 20-30 minutes a day, and then we'll move on to Butterflies, then Cats, then Dogs, then the soon-to-be-published 8 other books in the elementary series.
History - Story of the World: Volume 1 (Classical)   We love reading this together.  I don't think we'll do all of the coloring pages, and we might look over the maps but we might not color on them as they suggest (can you tell my children are not too big into coloring?), but we love reading the history of the world, written in a conversation-like style the kids love.
Science - E-science with Miss Aurora Lipper

Character Training - Lessons in Responsibility for Boys (see link above)

The boys are also both taking piano lessons from me.  We have begun very slowly.  Okay.  Actually, they have had one "book" lesson, and the rest of the time they have just sat down and fiddled around on the keys, with me asking, "Where is Middle C?"  "Show me all of the sets of two black keys."  "Can you find the rest of the C's on the piano?"

We go to karate every Tuesday morning, which they both love.  They are getting better all the time.  Griffin gets to test for his yellow striped belt in November.  I'll make sure to take some pictures.  :-)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Anniversary Number 9

I love my anniversary presents!  Last year, we began a new tradition.  We go to the Louisburg Cider Mill the weekend before or after our anniversary (number 9 this year!), and I get to pick out my anniversary presents from the bounty that awaits me when I walk through their creaky swinging metal doors.

Only this year, we went during Cider Fest, so I also got to choose from the wonderful handmade goodies in the rows of booths outside the store!  Honestly, we were having so much fun outside the store that we didn't even make it inside.  I chose some hair ribbons, fabric bookmarks, lavender hand lotion, orange lip balm, a cute little fabric credit card holder (I use these for gift cards, coupons, etc. more than credit cards), a soldered charm with the letter C to use on a chain or leather (I can only wear sterling silver or platinum, so I have to be kind of choosy), cinnamon spiced pecans, kettle corn, cider doughnuts, and CIDER, of course!!

The boys were happy, because they got to play in a multitude of colorful, blown-up structures.  And Mike got to talk to two people he knew.  It happens very rarely, when we go out, that he sees someone he knows and I don't see anyone I know.  Apparently I know a lot of people.  Or at least, I know their faces.  Their names... well, let's just say I know their faces.

Mike also spent quite a while gabbing (do men actually gab?  or do they just... converse?) with a man who builds log cabins... oh, the dream of a cozy log cabin on some luscious rolling hills, with a greenhouse, some chickens, a cow named Molly, and a meandering stream that winds its way through sprawling acres of land... and then I woke up and realized that we still live smack-dab in the middle of suburbia.  But we can dream of log cabins, and verbalize (can you tell I went to and looked up "talk" -- because I totally did) with people who actually live the dream.

A couple of weeks ago, when Borders was still in business (what a sad "before" and "after" that is!!), we went to their establishment and I purchased -- oh, the excitement of book-purchasing!!  It should not be called "buying," for that overused word does not convey the depth of what it means to walk out of a store owning a little piece of someone's heart that they have uncovered on paper for the world to read (much like a blog, but I digress) -- I acquired a lovely book called The City Homesteader: Self-Sufficiency on Any Square Footage by Scott Meyer.  Ideas galore!  I can't wait to dive in to the depths of this volume of inspiration.

Okay, I am now closing and am going back to using my regular vocabulary.  I mean dialogue.  I mean words.  I mean... sorry, I couldn't help it.

Here is a random picture from our week, because I can't just type a blog and not post a picture as well.

This beautiful lady took up residence in our home on Wednesday of this past week, which just happened to be our actual anniversary date!  She sounds absolutely charming, and the boys love her as much as I do.  I can't wait to begin their "formal music training," i.e. piano lessons!  Bring on the Alfred books!  I will be re-learning right along with them.  The wonderful family who gifted us with this piano -- they only requested that we have her moved professionally so as to spare her, and our backs, any harm -- also gave us some music that was stored in the bench, so the day after she (I don't have a name for her yet, can you tell?  She is a Winter spinet... any suggestions?) came to our home, I sat down and tinkered around with a lovely little piece called, "Wild Honeysuckle Rag," which appealed to me right up until the word "rag," but that's its name, so I suppose I can't change that unfortunateness.

I know, I know, a rag means something different in music, but it can have so many different meanings... we weren't ever allowed to call a towel -- no matter how old, dirty, stained and torn -- a "rag" when I worked at McDonald's.  Oh, no.  It was always deemed a "towel," right up until its counter-wiping days were over and it was laying in a trash heap somewhere.  I still can't call my towels rags.  Habit, I guess.

Sunday is my school-planning day for the week ahead, and when I sat down at my computer at the dining room table I had every good intention of starting that.  So now I will actually go and do that.  My childrens' brains will thank me -- later, maybe years later, but they will thank me!

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Oliver is 5 months old!  It is hard for me to believe that my littlest guy is so big.  He smiles a TON, which has earned him the nickname "Smiley" at our house.

Sammy loves his little brother!  He will occasionally ask to hold Oliver or feed him, and I just love watching them together.

Oliver loves his Super Yummy Teether from Discovery Toys.  It smells like vanilla, and I use DT's Boomerings to attach it to the high chair or swing or carseat so that it won't get lost.  He likes to play with the Boomerings almost as much as the teether!

As soon as we put Oliver in the Jumparoo and his feet touched the floor, it was destiny.  The sky opened up, the angels sang, and he had a new favorite place to hang out.  He doesn't just want to be held anymore.  Oh, no!!  He wants to jump!  He wants his feet to make contact with a solid surface underneath him so that he can use those chubby springy legs and bounce! He apparently wore himself out in it, and I snapped this picture just before he woke up and smiled at me with those tired blue eyes.

I think he may be a bit concerned with the quality of the food at this establishment.  This was the first bite of one of his first oatmeal feedings.  He wasn't exactly a fan at first, but I think it's growing on him.

I have no idea what he was reacting to in this picture, but the look on his face cracks me up! 

A bunch of other fun pictures.  Griffin is very protective of Oliver!  He will run and get his pacifier to calm him down, and he'll stand there and talk to Oliver for a long time while he coos and giggles and blows bubbles at Griffin.  I think Oliver laughs the loudest for his big brother.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Oliver Henry

This is what we have been up to for the past 4 months!  Oliver is such a happy guy, and we have so much fun entertaining him for one of his wide-open-mouth smiles.  He even smiles in his sleep (last picture).

He loves baths, too.  He's sleeping most nights through, with the occasional 3am feeding.

He has lost all of his dark hair that he was born with, and has blonde-ish hair now, just like Griffin and Sammy.  Speaking of, Oliver loves his big brothers!  That is, when they hold still long enough for him to engage them in "conversation."

I'd have to say, though, that Oliver's favorite toy right now is his Mama.  And I'm okay with that.  :-)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

This morning before school, we played dominoes.  With Eric Carle pictures.  It is a lovely game called Matchominoes, which was a present to Sammy from Aunt Susan.  Thanks, Aunt Susan!  We have a lot of fun with it.

Next up was a craft made with craft sticks we bought last night on a family outing.  It will eventually be pen/pencil/paintbrush holders, and I'll post pictures of the process when they are done.

I think I *might* need to work with Sammy on perseverance.  He kind of gave up after only a few sticks.  Or maybe crafts just aren't his thing!

Griffin breezed through his schoolwork today, and then the boys wanted to play the Wii.  Only it just happened to be lunchtime.  So I told them that if they would make their own lunch when they were done playing, they could play the Wii during lunchtime.  And I sat here at my computer and enjoyed a lovely lunch of California Pizza Kitchen, Sicilian Style.  Fresh from the microwave.

It was heavenly.  Kind of.  And at only 43 grams of carbs, it totally fit into my diet right now!  Much better than the hot fudge covered brownie sundae with nuts and cherries and whipped cream that I wanted.  Well, I could have had the nuts, anyway.

Speaking of nuts, the boys decided that they would venture into the world of peanut-butter-and-jelly-sandwich making today.  Thus far, they have only made deli meat sandwiches.  There was more spreading involved!  And more goo!  And more mess!  And more fun!  Whee!!!  Yeah, I think they'll be doing that again.  Those PB&Js tasted WAY better than the ones Mom makes.   And I got a break, and a quiet lunch with only the sounds of Mario, Luigi and Yoshi in the background.

I need to go figure out what's for dinner.  It has just been a lovely day -- did I mention that it is above 60 degrees outside?  I've had the windows open all day -- and I wanted to write about it.

Monday, February 21, 2011

My Work

I read this poem today over at Women Living Well.

My Work

I have the greatest work in the world;
The job of rocking a baby to sleep,
That of guiding his tottering feet,
A baby's clothes to launder and fold,
A precious life to shape and mold,
A drink to give from a little cup,
At night his toys to gather up,
Hurts to heal and fears to quell,
A baby to keep clean and well,
A stack of diapers to put,
Oh, what a happy worthwhile day!
I am a "Mother."

I have the greatest work in to world;
A husband to encourage when things go wrong,
When he comes from work to greet with a song,
Denims and shirts to wash and mend,
A helping hand, when needed, to lend,
Three times a day is meals to cook,
To strive to be my best to look,
His back to rub at the close of the day,
For his faithfulness to God I pray,
When hubby's in the field I take lemonade,
for all these tasks his love has Paid.
I am a " Wife."

I have the greatest work in the world;
A home to keep happy, clean and bright,
Make things go smooth and strive for the right,
Jams to cook and jellies to make,
Cookies and pies and bread to bake,
Washing, ironing, and sewing to do,
So many tasks, will I ever get though?
Lettuce to wash and peas to pick,
floors to scrub, lost items to seek,
Dishes to wash and windows to shine,
These and many more tasks are mine.
I am a "Homemaker."

Help me, Father, to faithfully work,
Forgive if I unconsciously shirk,
give me the patience and love I pray,
To keep myself in duties way;
With all the hustle that each day brings
May I not neglect the needing things;
Each day to spend time alone with Thee
That Jesus Christ be seen in me.
Thank you for husband, our home, our girls and boys;
Thank you for love which brings me much joy.
Thank you , Lord.

----Mary Lou Burkholder

I was overwhelmed when I read it, at first, just because actually thinking about all of the work that goes into what women do every day is exhausting.  And I can also add "Homeschooler" to that list as well, and it's no wonder that some days the house doesn't look it's best!  ("Some days?"  Who am I kidding?!)

I was talking to a friend today about scheduling, and how having even just a yearly schedule would free up so much brain space.  You know, scheduling things like the animals' yearly vet checks, changing batteries in smoke alarms, preparing the lawn mower for another season of lawn mowing (which was what spurred the conversation in the first place; the neighbor was having his serviced today so that it will be ready when it is warm enough to mow).  

I have tried to schedule my household cleaning chores, and it didn't work for me.  I got so behind, I ended up starting my list over again several times before finally deciding that not having a list would be easier than the mental stress of trying to keep up with the list I had made.  But perhaps I was starting with minutiae, when I should have been looking at the overall picture.  I'm off to make a list of yearly "things to accomplish" and write them on my calendar.  Because it's only February, and I'm not too far into the year yet!  

Maybe I'll even tackle a list of monthly "things to accomplish"... or maybe I'll wait another year to see how things go with this list first!  After all, a new baby will be joining us in about a month, and that can change things.  A little.