About Me

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Like all of you, I'm a number of things to a number of people...Navy wife, homeschooling mama, educated woman and aspiring writer. Read my thoughts on all of it here. Please feel free to leave your thoughts on all of it too!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Weekend of Indoor Fun

I've never really suffered from allergies. Until Georgia. I'm not suffering as much as my children, but my eyes are dry and itchy and every so often my throat feels a little raw. The kids, however, have been learning fun phrases like "do you have a frog in your throat?" and "you sound like you're hacking up a lung!" Since you could see the pollen in the air the last few days of last week, I decided to stay in this weekend.

We stayed in our jammies and enjoyed all sorts of fun and relaxation inside. Jace and Gracie were pretty understanding about this, but Tyler...he wanted one thing. "Ow...ow..." That sound could be because he racked his head on the wall (which he did tonight), you're holding him and he wants to get down (although he's been saying "walk" more than "down" lately), out, or car. This weekend it surely meant out. Poor little guy went to every door, pointing in his cute, new jammies, with boogers running down his face, begging, "Ow...ow..." He never got to go out.

Hopefully this week the allergens won't be so bad and we can have tons of outdoor fun!

Grandma asked if I'd taken a picture of my little beggar. I didn't get one with whining and boogers, but here he is saying, "cheese" for the camera!

So, since I was being a mean mama (or thoughtful, depending on how you look at it) and keeping the kids inside, what did we do? Well, we watched movies, some cartoons, baked cookies and ate them, painted, colored, read, and napped. It was a wonderful weekend.

The kids have already drawn a dozen pictures for Dada. He's been gone for two days. They're enjoying themselves, though. And if it helps them to draw Dada in Army camo when they miss him, far be it from me to mention that he's actually in the Navy. Besides, there was enough correction going on. Gracie, as the teacher, suggested that Jace draw his Army picture on purple paper.

"I don't think so. Purple is not an army color." He drew his on orange instead.

The kids did most of their coloring at their new lap desks. Since we're going to be on the road for approximately 80 hours of driving, not including stops, over the next few months I thought it might be nice for the kids to have an easy way to work in workbooks, draw pictures, read. they love them and have been using them at home a ton!

Jace even hid his CRCT (assessment test) practice at his the other day! These are going to be great not only for the road but also for homeschooling! woo hoo!

I mentioned that we read too. Jace got yet another book from the library that is probably too old for him. It's called Good Bye, Billy Radish by Gloria Skurzynski. I googled it and read a few reviews. It's called a young adult novel. It's a 5.8 level book, meaning it's almost 6th grade reading level. I decided we'd read it together. We've read two chapters now and he's learned lots of new words. Today's chapter was a little sad. Hank, Billy's friend, had to take his brother a dinner pail at the steel mill. (The book takes place during WWI in Pennsylvania.) While he's there a ladle of molten steel breaks and a man melts into the liquid steel. Thankfully we didn't read this right before bed. (whew!) We talked about it a little and if Jace ends up having nightmares then we'll put the book back on the shelf and leave it to read another day...a few years from now. But if he's OK with it, we'll continue reading.

And don't worry, we read lots of other books too. All the kids piled on Mama and I tried to read about trucks, animals, and Fancy Nancy amidst the elbows in my kidneys and the hands in my face.

Let's hope for some clean, fresh air this week, though! We also played hide and seek and there are so many more places to hide outside!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Gebel Family Homeschool Mission Statement

So, I mentioned a few days ago that I had decided one of my early steps in planning next year's homeschool would be to create a mission statement. I first read idea in an article written by Brenda (her personal site) at Curriculum Choice. Thankfully she gave me permission to add or delete from her list of suggested topics. And I did just that. I wrote it the night that Scott was out fixing things long after bed time. He got a chance to read it today and commented. And here's the final result:

Gebel Family Homeschool Mission Statement

I. School’s duration
a. We’re agreeing to one year of homeschooling. Mama will be focusing on Jace and Gracie, but admits that Tyler will probably learn something in the process.
b. Our Family School will begin in late summer/early fall (depending more on when Mama feels settled after moving than anything else). We’d like to flow into a relaxed year round schooling experience, being able to take breaks (or loosen our schedule) when Dada has leave or family visits.

II. Extracurriculars
a. If Tyler still needs some one on one regarding speech, we’ll do our best to incorporate that into our homeschool. It would be great for that to be an in-home process again, but if we need to take him someplace we can do that as well.
b. Jace and Gracie will be allowed to choose one thing to join to begin with. Depending on finances and life we may allow more later on, but we’ll start with one.
c. We’ll find a support group or co-op that jives with our style of schooling.

III. What we’ll teach
a. Our academic goals will be based around the Core Knowledge Sequence. We’ll start with Kindergarten and 2nd grade ideas but will likely overlap with 1st grade and 3rd grade ideals as well.
b. We hope to teach practical skills as well as academic knowledge. Things like sewing, cooking, and woodworking will be included with various units.
c. Fitness and health are also important topics that the Gebel Family Homeschool will enjoy learning about and engaging in.
d. Responsibility and independence will be high on the list of traits we’ll encourage during our schooling and the rest of our lives as well.

IV. How we’ll teach
a. Mama will be the primary teacher. However, if friends or family have any talents we can tap into…we will.
b. Mama plans to use mostly unit studies, working as many subjects (writing, reading, art, music, math, history) into one theme (butterflies, presidents, dinosaurs) as possible. Some will be purchased curriculum but most will be homemade, integrating the things from III on the outline.
c. Mama plans to do lots of hands-on activities and go-sees.
d. We’ll utilize the library, the internet, our game closet, anything and everything we can to learn, learn, learn!
e. Jace and Gracie will both have opportunities to “teach” the other.

V. Money matters
a. Since we’re not purchasing a particular curriculum it’s hard to say how much we’ll spend on homeschooling. We hope to use the library for most of our books and our pretty well stocked art closet for crafts and activities. There will, however, be items that need to be purchased. At this point I’m budgeting $20 a month for materials.
b. As often as we can, day trips and activities will be free. We may invest in yearly passes, though, to the zoo or a museum or some other really cool place to learn!
c. Extracurriculars will need to be less than $30 a month.
d. $100 a year is set aside for Mama’s continuing education.
e. Money may be set aside for babysitting as well, unless some sort of sitting exchange can be found.

VI. Continuing education
a. To begin mama’s continuing education, she’s investing in a few books that she’s previewed and learned a lot from.
b. Mama is attending an online expo this year and hopes to attend a conference or convention at some point over the next year, especially if it looks like we’ll be keeping our Family Homeschool open for another year.
c. Mama will continue to read books and blogs on the subject of homeschooling. She’ll also write frequent posts on her own blog sharing and learning what works for us and what doesn’t.

VII. Record Keeping
a. We have binders for progress reports and select art work/projects/awards already. We’ll continue to pull out things we really want to keep for looking back on.
b. Goals will be assessed in a free style “how are we doing” write up each six months, in November and May.

VIII. Tid bits
a. Mama will take time to herself.
i. This may be as simple as an hour of quiet on the weekend where the kids have to be in their rooms, outside, or watching a movie so she can write, take a bath, or sip wine.
ii. She will also take time away from the house and the kids. Massages will be had!
b. Tyler will be allowed to wander to and fro, but will also have a set of toys that are specifically for homeschooling times. He may get to join in art projects.

So, what do you think? Are you ready to put your family goals in print?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Driving To and Fro

I'm not sure if I'm mentioned it on here, but I drive a lot. I basically have an hour commute each way to my living room. As a stay at home mom I have put more miles on vehicles than I did going to school or working a "regular" job. Most of the time I'm fine with it, though. After all, I chose to have this commute, twice.

See, the year we moved to Georgia was the year Jace started preschool. I found out before moving that Georgia has free, full-day pre-k and I was thrilled for Jace that he'd get so much academic attention...he was ready! In fact, we'd talked it up as part of the excitement of our cross-country relocation. So, when I found out that we'd missed the lottery for his chance to get into the local program I was bummed and so was he. Then someone told us that some day cares also had the same state sponsored pre-k as well. We found one, the closest one, half an hour away and - almost without hesitation - signed him up!

This year we faced a similar situation with Gracie. We didn't miss the lottery, but I didn't have an actual birth certificate for her...who knew? The day care Jace went to was full, but we got Gracie into a pre-k class at a different day care, also thirty minutes away.

I have felt that both times the decision was a good one. But, it does put me on the road a lot. And I see some crazy things out there. I've seen Superman walking his dog and a dog standing on the top of a truck cab...maybe he thought he was superman. (I know, I shouldn't joke about someone letting a dog ride on his vehicle like that, but...this is Georgia. At least he was going slow...around 20 MPH in a 55 MPH zone!)

Today I didn't see anything too insane as far as costumed pedestrians or anything like that. Maybe because it's unusual to have such a slow day for antics I was especially noticing the expressions of the people all around me. I found myself annoyed at the guy behind me who looked annoyed with me that I was waiting for a break in traffic before turning. I wondered what was going on in the car where the boy in the passenger's seat was looking out the window and the mom (?) driving looked determined to keep her hands on the steering wheel and her eyes facing forward. I felt a little bad for the woman looking left and right, waiting to turn left onto a very busy road at a very busy time of day. I was glad for her, though, that she didn't have anyone staring her down through her back window; she seemed tense enough without that!

While I was creating little stories in my head about the lives of the people I was driving past during my commute today I decided to smile. I'm sure I mostly have a rather relaxed, blank face when I'm going here and there. But today, if anyone was sneaking a peek into my mama taxi van they might wonder a little about me.

I was trying to look calm and content. Did anyone see me? Did I succeed?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Will They Learn Enough?

Scott (and others) had three main points he wanted to discuss in depth when the subject of homeschooling became something I wouldn't let him shrug off. He wanted to be sure they wouldn't turn out weird. He was worried I might go crazy. And he wanted to know how we'd be assured that they were actually learning what I was teaching.

I laughed at the first point. They're all a little odd in their own right already, but there's not a thing wrong with that. Everyone has quirks. Where they are educated doesn't say much about how eccentric they'll be in adulthood. And we'll keep them involved with other kids so they won't be sheltered and only exposed to me all day, every day. Now that would be scary, and not only for them. I might just go crazy if i were sheltered and only exposed to my three adorable, wonderful monkeys all day, every day. But since that won't be the case...maybe we'll all grow and learn, and not lose our marbles in the process. One can hope.

Now the third item was something that I wondered about too. I know there are two ways to keep progress in check in Washington, giving the kids a standardized achievement test or having their academic skills evaluated by someone certified in the field of education. That's according to the Washington Homeschool Organization. I get what that means, but I still don't know what that looks like. If the same person assesses the kids progress year after year then they'll see what academic growth has occurred. However, I don't know how they gage that the first year, but I'm guessing they'll simply be compared to others their age.

OK. So...what's that mean for me? Do I need to keep detailed records of everything we do? Do I need to assign grades to work? Do I need to have a portfolio of their lap books and art work and whatever else? In black and white...what do I need to do to assure the state that my kids are learning enough of the right stuff? This had become my biggest concern. Even so, I still wasn't super stressed about it. I figured once I got to Washington I'd connect with others and hear how they go about record keeping and academic evaluation.

Then, last night, I read something that took even the little weight from these questions, off my shoulders. Here's an excerpt from The Homeschooling Handbook, by Mary Griffith:

Consider, though, the matter of physical health: How do you tell when your kids are sick if you're not a doctor? It's easy to recognize a healthy kid, and most parents have little trouble determining when their kids are sick. At some point, parents may need professional help for a a diagnosis and treatment, but noticing that there is a problem in the first place is not something most of us have trouble with.
The matter of learning is pretty much the same. It's obvious when kids are learning, and it's a rare parent indeed who cannot tell whether kids are learning as they should be.

I read this and a big ol' light went on! Why, of course, I know when my kids aren't feeling well. And, better yet, I know when they are and aren't learning. I know when they're interested and how they show that they're not getting anything out of whatever is going on. Who can't read that glazed over look? In fact, our interest in how and what our monkeys are learning is the very reason we're going to be homeschooling.

Cool, huh? Nothing to worry about at all. Later in the chapter homeschooling parents give examples of how they keep records and why. I found something middle of the road that I think will work for us and tucked it into our mission statement (still a work in progress, but coming along!).

Another reassuring thing regarding learning...Jace read me a book in Spanish on the way home from school today. He doesn't know Spanish and I haven't spoken it in a decade, but it seems that he did OK, I guess. Why did he read me a book in Spanish? Well, he has a plan to be a commando or special forces agent, something in the military elite. He figures he'll probably end up in Iraq or someplace and need to talk to the enemy in their own language so that he can trick them and, therefore, he'll need to know a lot of different languages. He decided to get a book in Spanish from the library today so that he could start practicing.

Are you worried they won't learn enough?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Dear God, What Are You Saying?

I've been known to say that life would be easier if God communicated with neon signs. Well, I think he might be doing something similar these days...but I still don't understand the message.

Scott is supposed to leave tomorrow to head North for a short visit with family in New York and then school in Connecticut. He might still try for it, but he might have to put it off for a day. Yesterday the heat pump/air conditioning unit...whatever it is we have...broke. He was going to fix it but the part needed to be ordered. So he set it up for it to be delivered to a company that has done a little maintenance on that particular item before and they'll call me and come fix it once it's in.

This morning we both noticed that our showers were only lukewarm. I don't even know what was wrong with the water heater, but he figured it out and fixed that. Then, while I was at the library with the two oldest kids, Scott heard water running and saw Tyler pointing at the shed saying, "Uh...uh..." The water pump from the well to the aerator was spilling water out all over the place. When I got home he ran and got some new piping and fixed that but now the pump won't work at all. So, he just kissed me and headed to Brunswick for a new pump.

This is all on top of all the issues he's had with his truck over the last several months.

God...you have our attention. But we're merely human...and dense. What are you trying to tell us?

Please feel free to interpret for yourselves and chime in...God knows we aren't getting the message. (He really does!)

Wait...I Should Have Goals?

I mentioned a day or two ago that one of the homeschooling starting points I've read about is writing a family mission statement.

I think this is a great idea. We tend to be planners anyway but don't often set actual goals to meet, or at least I don't. This is a great time to start. We are talking educating our children, right? So, Scott and I talked briefly last night. Being that he's packing today and leaving Georgia in his dust tomorrow we probably won't be discussing it too much more for the time being. But it's on my mind. What we agreed on doing, which we've done successfully with other topics, is think about it separately and use email and phone calls to to come together about what we'd like to accomplish this coming year with homeschooling.

Some of the topics that can be included in a family mission statement we've already talked about and agreed on. For example, our time frame. When we first agreed to homeschool this next year we agreed we'd do it for a year and see where to go from there. We also agree that the kids will be enrolled in something outside the home, whether it be a co-op class or something fitness related, but Scott's leaving it up to me what, when, and where. And I'm waiting until we move to make those decisions.

In fact, Scott's leaving a lot of it to me, in regards to homeschooling and life in general. He has told me before that he thinks so much at work he appreciates not having to do it too much at home. Don't worry, though, if I head in a direction that he's not OK with, he'll let me know. With that in mind, this family mission statement will probably be written by me and approved by him.

I'm not sure if that's a cop out or if I'm just that good!

I have been doing the research and will be doing most of the schooling, so I guess it makes sense that I answer the questions regarding what I'm going to teach and how. I'm planning on teaching the kids together using unit studies. Scott just wants assurance that they'll be learning what they need to according to someone's standards. That's something I worry about too, but I've found a few places where standards have been written and they will be figured into our studies.

We'll use a combination of reading, hands-on, and field trip studying to accomplish our goals. I'm going to attempt to use units that appeal to both Jace and Gracie. I would like to have some things that Gracie is more interested in, though, so that she can "teach" Jace a little bit. He is a little cocky about knowing more than her, coloring better than her, etc. I'd love Gracie to feel some pride and joy in telling him about something.

Scott and I have always tried to allow the kids to follow their natural interests, but we also want them to be well rounded. Boy or girl, our kids will know how to cook, clean, sew, change a tire, use a hammer, and put things together. This will be kept in mind throughout all our studies. Even though I'll be doing most of the teaching, I plan on using Scott when he's available. When he's in off-crew I'll plan a study where the kids can do a little wood working with him, or something fun like that. I'm also not opposed to getting extended family and friends into the mix too. If I happen to know that someone has a special talent and they come close enough to tap that talent for a lesson or two with my students...well, then we will.

That's what I've thought about the past few days. I would like to create a formal statement but still have a few more areas to think about. But I guess I've got a good start.

Hmmm...maybe I am that good.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Four Year Olds Don't Gargle

It's allergy season here in Georgia. A few days ago Scott had a sore throat and no other symptoms. We figured it was due to all the pollen in the air. He gargled with warm salt water and that helped him quite a bit. He also took Nyquil to sleep and something over the counter during the day to continue easing the soreness of his throat.

Yesterday, when we picked Gracie up from school she'd been complaining of a sore throat, made worse by "singing the whole song, so I just sang half the song. My teachers knew I wanted to sing but that it made my throat hurt." Such a strong little girl. When she got home she asked what Dada had used for his sore throat. Strong and smart. However, we couldn't very well drug her up. And spitting the toothpaste out is still a bit tricky, so I don't think I'll be getting her to gargle anytime soon.

What we did do for her is this: I read her lots of stories last night. I figured if I was reading she wasn't talking (as much) and her poor little throat could rest. She got plenty to drink and I even warmed some honey and stirred it in a few glasses to help soothe her throat. This morning before school I did give her some children's allergy medication and clear instructions to try not to talk too much today. We'll see how that goes.

If her throat keeps hurting we'll have some cool, easy to swallow pudding later tonight. Or maybe just chocolate milk. Special treats are always nice when little ones aren't feeling up to par.

Do you have any special tricks to ease the discomfort your little ones go through with allergies, colds, growing pains?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Should I Jump In?

Why not? I'm not going to jump in to homeschooling the kids next week, but I am jumping into my planning for next year. Yay!

I considered waiting until we get settled in Washington, but for a few reasons I've decided not to. First of all, I'm going to have plenty of unpacking and setting up our home to do. I don't really want to tackle that and figuring out what, when, where, how, and why I'm going to teach the kids for the year. Secondly, we aren't likely to get into a place there until July. I know that school doesn't start in the Pacific Northwest until September, but I'm eager to get started a little earlier than that. We're putting a lot of miles on the ol' minivan this summer and the kids are going to be ripe with fresh knowledge and excitement after traveling up the East coast and across the Northern US. I want to capture that momentum. Besides (and thirdly) I've got plenty of momentum of my own right now.

A year ago when the thought of homeschooling crossed my mind I felt extremely overwhelmed with the thought of staying with my kids 24/7 and being solely responsible for their academic upbringing along with every other aspect of it. But now I don't worry about that so much. Now I don't worry about that so much. In fact, since considering the option of homeschooling seriously I haven't felt overwhelmed at all. I've felt excited, but not in over my head.

Until now...but just a little bit.

I just found myself with papers scattered around me on the couch and six different pages open, all to try to figure out where to start and what to write on all these papers!

I've looked at so many websites and read a few books, flipped through others. I've learned a few things. One thing that I was happy to read early on is that I can't teach the kids everything. I think that's great news! They'll learn a lot in the Gebel Family Homeschool but they'll also learn in any number of other ways and they'll still never know everything. No one can. Good to know.

I also learned that when looking at the abundance of information out there about homeschooling take what appeals to you and leave the rest. That's the reason I've only flipped through a few of the books I've gotten from the library. Not everything seems like a good fit for me, as teacher, or for my kids, as learners.

So, with these two things in mind,here I sit with six fantastic sites and blank planning pages to fill out...

1. Our Busy Homeschool has become one of my daily reads. I'm inspired by most everything I read there. Tristan uses a year round school year and unit studies to educate her five kids.
2. Donna Young has a ton of planning tools (forms, lists, articles) to help you get organized and stay that way. She has a great step by step approach to planning for beginners. And that's me!
3. The Homeschool Classroom also has lots of information about getting ready for a new school year. The specific article I linked you to assumes that you're preparing for the new school year as your finishing the current homeschooling year. Since I'm not in that situation, I've tweaked some of the suggestions to fit our lives. For example, with our upcoming move, I'll be missing homeschool conventions here in Georgia and there in Washington. Attending convention is a common suggestion and one that I think would be a great way to really immerse myself in the homeschooling world. Lucky for me The Old Schoolhouse is having an Online Expo. I'm registered and excited!
4. Curriculum Choice has a "New to homeschooling" button that provides you with a wealth on info, including how not to feel overwhelmed and how to write a family mission statement. I don't know if we'll get a mission statement in print before Scott leaves for his school in two days, but it's surely something I'll be working on over the next few weeks. I'll be working continually on not feeling overwhelmed.
5. and 6. There are two homeschooling methods that intrigue me. I'll probably lean toward using unit studies but with a dash of Charlotte Mason Education thrown in (if it's possible to toss in such a wonderful and in depth learning program).

So, here I am...jumping in feet first. Now that I've outlined my online resources for you I feel ready to start writing something. But, that will have to wait until tomorrow...it's past my bed time.

Good night for now. I'll keep you posted on the planning of our family school soon enough...sweet dreams!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Good, Clean Fun

In a little over a month I'm going to be moving out of this house. The kids and I will be staying someplace else in Georgia for a few weeks and then weaving our way up the coast, eventually landing in New York for a while. After visiting there we'll be convoying cross-country with my husband until we make it to Washington state where we'll be moving into someone else's home and making it our own.

I know most of you think I'm crazy, but I'm excited about this! I think it's going to be a wonderful trip...a great way to see a lot of different people and places.

And tonight I found something new to be excited about. Wilderness Childe posted this week about spring cleaning. Normally this isn't something I'm giddy about, but since it's in conjunction with all the other fun we'll be having over the next few months...I'm ready for it. And now, with Wilderness Childe's suggestions, I really am ready. She's got some great ideas to clean the gunk and grime from all the nooks and crannies of your house with products you probably have or can buy cheaply.

Here's one of my favorites:
"Dislodge gunk from your can opener by mixing 2 tablespoons of baking soda and
1 teaspoon of water. Scrub with an old toothbrush."

Old toothbrushes are so helpful. I also like the motorized toothbrushes. I don't mean the expensive ones, but the under $10 ones that you're supposed to get rid of when they wear out. My kids got some from Santa a couple years ago and when they got replacements 6 months later I kept the motorized ones to save myself some elbow grease. They're great. My favorite place to use them is in the shower. We have a stand alone shower with a glass door. The toothbrush gets into the texture on the bottom of the shower and into the grungy spots where the screw heads are...everywhere and really gets the schtuff out.

So, take our ideas and add your own (feel free to add them in the comments section) and go have some good, clean fun cleaning your home this spring!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

This and That

We have family in town. We're having a great visit and taking advantage of all the help we have. Scott's had his dad moving boxes all day long. Plus, my in-laws brought some venison with them and Tom (father-in-law) grilled it up for dinner. And Jane (mother-in-law) watched Tyler for the better part of the day so the guys could work and I could run errands and get a pap smear. I know, not the most exciting way to spend a morning child free...but so much easier to do without a two year old hanging close by.

They're here for a few more days and we have plans to go mini-golfing, should the weather cooperate, and maybe even take a bike ride on the beach. And, Scott and I are going out Saturday night. It's so nice to have family to help out.

Aside from that, today we had cake and ice cream for Scott's birthday. Nothing Primal about it, but it did taste good. Hopefully it won't mess with my stomach the way the fries and pop did the other day. Now that I'm eating so cleaning, putting any not-so-clean schtuff into my body doesn't always go over so well. But, i digress...Scott's birthday today! And poor guy has a sore throat. I think it's just all the pollen in the air, but knowing what it might be doesn't help it feel any better. Hopefully it'll improve soon.

One more piece of excitement: I registered for an online homeschool conference. I'm thrilled about it. Thanks to Our Busy Homeschool I found out that The Old Schoolhouse is hosting it's first ever online expo! I know...what great news! I'm especially giddy since I'll be missing the conventions here in Georgia and in Washington while we're on the road (for a month and a half!!!). So, I'm now registered for the Schoolhouse Expo. Once you register you get a virtual goody bag full of e-books, ideas, projects...all sorts of wonderful things. If you're homeschooling or interested in learning more...go check it out.

Have a great end to your week!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Give Away...Don't Enter ;-)

Well, you can enter if you want to. But I'd rather you didn't...that way my chances are better! There's nothing wrong with that, right? And this seems like a very cool give away.

I'm not only excited about the give away, but the site hosting it too. So, even if you don't want free lapbooks, if you're interested in homeschooling (or already do) perhaps you'll enjoy Our Busy Homeschool too.

A brief explanation of a lapbook: it seems to be a concise way of presenting all sorts of information about one subject. So, if you want to teach the kids about farm animals you can have them color pictures, write poems or facts, make flip books, label the parts of a horse's hoof, learn details of farm life, visit a farm and take pictures, whatever seems good to you...and put it on a folder in such a way that your child can sit down and open it up to review all they've learned. I don't know if that makes sense, but if you go check out the give away site you'll see an example and find even more at Hands of a Child, the subject of the give away.

OK, so enough chit chat. Let's get to the give away. Tristan, the author of Our Busy Homeschool, (homeschooling mother of 5), has been a Super Member at Hands of a Child. She's been renewing that super membership yearly, but this year decided to go all in for a lifetime membership...before her yearly membership was up. Sooooo - Hands of a Child is giving away the rest of her super membership to one lucky person! What does that mean? Twelve free lapbooks!

So, if you're interested...go check it out. Even if you're not a homeschooling parent you might find these interesting. They could be a fun vacation project, an educational gift for a crafty niece of nephew...just go look!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

New Hats

People don't wear hats like that used to. Maybe one of these years I'll get an Easter bonnet. I've always secretly loved those pastel, floral hats. But this year I have two new hats to wear...so I'm going to wait on the Easter bonnet.

What new hats?

Landlord and teacher.

That's right...our tenants just left. They came over and signed the papers and will move in May 1st! I'm so excited. I'm so thrilled to be going back to Washington. I miss so many people and things there and have lots of plans already! And, of course, I couldn't be more relieved that we do get to follow Scott. We could have made it for a year apart, or however long it might have lasted, but we didn't want to. We really didn't want to.

And not only did we rent the house out, but we rented it to a couple we like. They seem nice and are family oriented. They have young boys who will love the yard and the woods. Jace took their oldest out to show him where the bridge is to cross the ditch to the neighbors in case there is a fire. I think they'll be happy here.

I know we'll be happy that they're here.

And what about my teacher hat? Well...(drum roll please)...I'm going to homeschool the kids next year. I know some of you are smiling, thinking you've rubbed off on me just a little...and maybe you have. I know some of you think I'm making a big mistake, but we don't believe we are. We've talked about this and I've researched it. I believe that I will be a good teacher for our kids, that I'll always keep in focus their best interests, and that I'll challenge them...God knows they'll challenge me. I'm going tomorrow to get a few books for me to read and learn how to prepare some more. I've got to get me and the kids prepared for this change, which will be an incredible, positive, and exciting time for us.

Hopefully you're excited for us too. These new hats both mean a lot to our family. We're headed in a terrific direction and the journey is gonna be fun, fulfilling, and unforgettable!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

My Successes With Primal Living (So Far)

So, it's been about month since I've been living new according to old practices. Very old. Like paleolithic old! (I'm not even sure when the paleolithic era was!)

I still haven't finished The Primal Blueprint (PB), but I'm making little adjustments to my eating plan, my fitness plan, and wherever else I need to as I come across recommendations that I'm ready to implement. I find suggestions not only in the book but also on the website where there are plenty of ideas to pick from!

I want to keep you all "in the know" about how I'm doing eating and living according to these new principles. I've mentioned a few times about the increased energy. Now I have started losing weight too. (yay!) In January I stored up a little fat, you know...in case times got really lean! Actually it was due to all the comfort eating I was doing, involving chocolate chips and other not-so-healthy options. That whole waiting to see what would happen with the house thing was not good for my self-control. Anyway, I've gotten rid of some of it!

There's another side effect of eating primally that I've noticed but last night stared me glaringly in the face. I am no longer required to eat on a schedule. It's recommended by many weight loss plans to eat breakfast (most important meal of the day?) and to eat several small meals through out the day. PB suggests eating when you're hungry, as often or as infrequently as you need. After all, Grok (our example to follow) didn't stand up after a good night's sleep, stretch and scratch himself on the way to the fridge to see what looked good. It makes sense that he more likely scratched himself on the way to the berry bushes or with the not-pointy end of his hand-made weapon on his way to hunt something yummy. So, eating within an hour of waking is not necessary. Who knew?

I do now. I'm not always hungry then so about half the time I don't eat until I make Tyler's lunch. I'd yell "FREEEEEEDOOOOM!" if it wasn't already one of my favorite lines in Braveheart. I'll just let Mel Gibson keep it...he does it so well! But kicking the carb addiction does keep me from grabbing things in cashier's lane or growling at anyone who might be around if a meal or snack time is interrupted. Like last night...a friend took us out to dinner to say thank you to Scott before he leaves the area. She ended up having to work late and we had to wait at the restaurant. We usually eat by 6:00 at the absolute latest, but usually around 5:15. Last night we didn't even get to order our food until almost 8:00! And I wasn't bothered. I wasn't starving. I was enjoying the conversation and could have done so for many more hours if necessary.

I'm telling you...check this Primal living thing out! Increased energy, not being chained to an eat-every-2-hours plan, and losing weight...I'd totally give Grok a high five if he were around!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Feeling Accomplished

Isn't it wonderful to feel like you've accomplished something? It is for me, at least. I like to write lists, sometimes even small ones, so that I can cross things off and feel like I've made major strides in my day.

You may have noticed that I haven't posted in a while...well, I've been accomplishing things. What, you ask. To begin with, we have renters! I know, totally exciting :-) We haven't signed the contract yet, but I'm confident we will this weekend. Getting together during the week is tricky, for both their family and ours. But they've paid the down payment and we've pulled the sign out of the yard. I think once people give you money that's a pretty good show of intent. So, we're moving ahead with plans to move to Washington this summer. The outline is in the works....and I'll let everyone know of our travel plans as they firm up. But I've been working on the lease agreement and making calls to this and that to be sure the house is ready for tenants and we're ready to move. Yay!

What else have I been up to? Yesterday I finished my deodorant. This may not sound like much, especially compared to the last thing checked off the list, but I feel good about it. It's not like you use up an entire bottle of lotion or dispenser of deodorant all that often. Whenever I do either I really feel like I've done something to be slightly awed by. Now, changing the toilet paper roll...not nearly as exciting. In a house with kids that happens much more frequently and doesn't feel so momentous. Plus, with the deodorant I got to go into the linen closet and pick a new scent. I went with spring breeze. Nice, huh?

Other than that, there isn't a whole lot to check off my list...but it has gotten longer. We're trying to determine the best avenue for educating our kids in Washington. It seems like quite the undertaking and I'll probably be working on this one for a few weeks at least. Luckily school doesn't start there until September so there's no rush. There's also finding a place to live there. Again, though, we won't even cross the state border until the last week of June...so there's time. More pressing matters, like getting the kids to school this AM and going to Navy Legal to get a Power of Attorney for any matters that may come up while Scott's in Connecticut, are being taken care of today. In fact, I'm gonna go get to it...

Friday, March 5, 2010

Blackberry-Balsamic Meatloaf

Who doesn't love meatloaf? The food, that is, not the music guy. Everyone I know does. Well, except my kids. But they're hit or miss on everything, so I don't count them.

When I was planning meals according to conventional wisdom I replaced bread crumbs in my meatloaf recipe with oatmeal. Now that I'm learning about the ill effects of grains on my body I've decided to greatly limit them in our lives. That means meatloaf without breadcrumbs or oatmeal. With trying to eat healthier, no sugars, etc, that also means no BBQ sauce or ketchup. So, here's what I came up with. Sorry...I didn't take pictures.

1 Tbsp bacon grease
2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp blackberry jam (pure, no added sugars)
2 tsp baby bam*

1 1/2 pounds ground meat
chopped red pepper, carrots, onions, whatever other veggies...

1. Cook garlic and onion in bacon grease until tender. Add balsamic vinegar and simmer to reduce. Add Worcestershire sauce and blackberry jam to thicken. Stir in baby bam seasoning.

2. Preheat over to 350 degrees.

3. Mix ground meat and veggies together until completely combined. Smush into an 8 inch square pan (I'm sure a 9 inch would work too, or you could increase the amount of meat and make two loaves) and cover with blackberry-balsamic glaze.

4. Make for about 30 minutes, or until desired doneness.


*Baby bam is a seasoning that I saw Emeril Lagasse use at one point. It's not as spicy as some other mixes I've tried and my kids enjoy it. Use it on veggies, meats, and in sauces...enjoy!

Baby Bam Seasoning Mix:
3 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons dried parsley
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
Mix together and store in airtight container for up to 3 months.

So, go ahead and whip up some old favorites in new and healthier ways! It's worth it!

Catching Lightning In a Jar

Do you remember chasing lightning bugs when you were little? Trying to cup the little bright flying bugs in your hands and then store them in a glass jar that you'd prepared with holes poked through the metal screw on top? And later, when mom and dad yelled out that it was time to come in for the night, you'd open the jar and let them all go out into the night?

Well, Jace is up to something...something less youthful and joyful. He's building a girl trapping machine.

Every day he comes home from school and tells me about his "team's" progress in trapping girls. It started with just chasing them, but those pesky girls kept getting away. After that Jace wore sand colored camo shirts (he has two, one with a firetruck on the front) so that he could blend with the sand on the playground and jump out to get them. (Of course, he'd lay on his stomach to cover the firetruck.) He even started tucking his shirts in so that he wouldn't get sand in his clothes.

When that didn't work they started planning some sort of machine. He wanted straws so they could bury themselves in the sand and still breath fresh air. He wanted rubber bands for some reason too, but I never clearly understood that. They were going to tie purple bows to the straws so the girls would see them and be intrigued.

"They'll be like, 'Oh, how pretty,' and come over to see them and we'll grab them!" he excitedly explained to me.

"What are you going to do with them once you catch them?"

"Hmmmm. I don't know. I'll call a meeting of my team to talk about it." That was a few days ago. I asked again yesterday and he said they'd decided to tie them to poles. Oh goodness.

And on Tuesday he was pretty bummed because it was raining in the morning. I asked why he was so upset about the rain and he explained how they wouldn't be able to go outside at school and then they'd be behind in the goal they'd set for themselves with the number of girls they wanted to catch. I considered teaching him the word 'quota' but decided against it.

What ever happened to lightning bugs? Seriously!?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Pizza...The Primal Way

Which pizza do you want a big ol' bite of?

They all look quite delicious, don't they? Equally yummy I might even say. But, let me tell you...the one on the top rack is totally superior. The toppings are similar on all of them, except the kids have no veggies and mine has lots. The crust on the top pizza contains no flour, though. It's a Primal-esque crust.

There are other versions out there containing zucchini or cauliflower, but I'm pretty sure that's not the place to start with my family. When I came across Oopsie Pizza I decided to give it a try. Gracie wanted to make pizza for her meal this week and there's no time like the present to get started with something new and better for you...so we made Oopsie Pizza too!

Here's the recipe (the above link takes you there too, but I know some of you don't venture too far into the world wide web) direct from Diana Renata's blog:

3 eggs, separated
3 ounces cream cheese
1/4 cup dry, grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
Your favorite pizza toppings.

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
2. Separate your eggs into two bowls. Add to your whites the cream of tartar, and whip until stiff peaks are formed.
3. Add to your yolks the cream cheese (do not soften,) Parmesan cheese, garlic powder and onion powder.
4. Beat until thoroughly blended. Fold your yolk mixture into your whites carefully. If you're using the same mixer, whip your whites first.
5. When all ingredients are folded together, spread mixture evenly onto a greased pizza pan. Bake for 20-30 minutes until firm and lightly golden.
6. Now, add your pizza sauce and toppings. Return to the oven and set to broil until all of your toppings are toasty and the cheese is melted.

This is what the crust looked like before the initial baking.

After the 20-30 minutes of baking just the crust I took it out and turned the oven up to 400 degrees for my other pizzas. I put my toppings on the Oopsie Pizza and then stuck it back in to bake with the others, rather than broiling it. It worked well and everything was done at the same time.

My crust was a little thicker than I expected, but my pan is only a 12 inch pan. Next time I'm going to try making it thinner. It came out of the pan well, but didn't stay together when picked up. Diana said that hers did and when I asked her pan is larger, so I think thinner is the way to go.

As for taste...delicious! I think I prefer it to a doughy crust. And I know my insides do. And how did the family like it? Well, Scott politely declined trying it. Tyler ate it. Gracie didn't like it. And Jace asked for seconds...of Oopsie Pizza not the flour crust old version!

Give it a try...you'll be pleasantly surprised. I promise.

Kids Say (And Do) The Darnedest Things

I haven't blogged about my adorable, if not occasionally frustrating, monkeys in a while. Don't worry, though, they're still as funny as ever!

Tyler is doing incredibly well in speech therapy. A month or so ago his therapist and I decided he needed to focus and not get rewarded when he wasn't paying attention. He'd gotten in the habit of just walking away when he didn't want to talk to her. Even so, she'd still give him stamps at the end of each session. So one day he didn't get his stamps. Ever since he's buckled down. He's mimicking everyone, including Jace and Gracie, and using a lot more words and sounds to identify things. Good job, littlest monkey!

Gracie is a riot! She currently thinks she'll be a mom for a while when she grows up. Then she'd like to be a vet and work on her soon-to-be-Aunt Kate's horses during the week and be on Food Network on the weekends. Either that or she might want to be a singer. She's also quite the little dancer...some of her moves are a bit much for a 4 year old, but mostly she likes to just jump around! She's still my acting trainer and we work out together about once a week. She also let me do her hair this morning. I was really excited when she asked. She never lets me do her hair!

When I said, "Really? You want me to do your hair?"

She answered, "Yeah. It's crazy hair day. I don't want it to look pretty, just crazy."

I didn't let the fact that she might have been saying I don't make her hair look pretty effect me and I enjoyed giving her a crazy hair day do!

And Jace...he's such a practical child sometimes. My sister Mary and her son Lucian stayed a few days with us. Yesterday we had to take them back to the airport after picking the kids up from school. Yesterday was Tuesday. Wednesday is our normal day to go to the library. However, after Jace got up in the morning yesterday he asked, "Can you take Aunt Mary to the airport after you drop us off this morning so we can go to the library after school?" Can you feel the love? Of books?

Well, those are them...the kids. I'll try to get some new pictures up soon...along with more antics!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Why, Oh Why?

When I'm in the shower it a good time to think. Most of the time I'm by myself, although Tyler occasionally sneaks in if I haven't shut the door securely. Other times he knocks on the door yelling, "Mama! Mama!" But I've really been trying to shower before the kids even get out of bed, for a little peace and quiet.

So, what do I think about? Sometimes heavy issues like what life will be like if the kids and I stay in Georgia after Scott moves to Washington state. Other times I ponder slightly less-weighty things like why the Yellow Trucking Company has it's name written in an orange oval.

This morning I wondered why the word holistic doesn't have a w in it? If it's definition is all-inclusive isn't that like "whole"? Just wondering...