Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Homeschooling (a.k.a. Flying by the Seat of my Pants)

This year, I am homeschooling my five year old for the Kindergarten year.  Last year, we did a very laid back year of preschool, but this year, we're stepping up our game a little more and gearing for a very enriching year.    We will be participating in our Catholic community's home school coop on Wednesdays and then on Mondays, we will be participating in a mentoring program called Aquinas Learning. You can learn more about this amazing new homeschool program here. It follows the classical curriculum model with a Catholic twist.  I am very excited about this new program which will encompass every subject except for reading and math.   I will let you know how this program looks when I get it figured out!!

For math this year, we are going to do RightStart Math. I just got the huge kit in the mail and Liam was so excited about it! He ripped open the package and was amazing at all the hands on activities! He's soooo KINDERGARTEN! lol.

Then for reading, we are going to continue our lessons in 100 Easy Lessons and then probably move on to The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading (see side book) and the many little readers I have laying around like the Bob books.

I finished buying a million reading books from Amazon and such, so I will continue my daily task of reading picture books and stories until my voice gets hoarse.  (We just received The Holy Twins and just loved it!)

Just for fun, Liam is also memorizing the Psalms. It was a spur of the moment decision that we started back in April.  He's so good at memorizing, so we decided to capitalize on this gift and have him memorize something worthwhile  The classical curriculum we're going to start in a couple weeks will give a lot of great knowledge to memorize too (like science, history, Latin, parts of speech, etc. ).  So far, he's memorized up to Psalm 18. He enjoys it and gets a special treat every time he has another one down.  It will probably take him three years to memorize them all, at which time we will likely start over again and delve deeper into the meaning of the psalms.  The whole experience has been very enriching for all of us.

My decision to homeschool is a very personal one that I will not get into in this space.  I'm well aware of all the misunderstanding that surrounds homeschooling, but just know that.  Just know, I'm not going to mess up my kids for life and although this will incur more work on my part, it is going to be worth it in the end (so don't try to talk me out of this!)  :)

Lastly, I am not doing this because I have a degree in elementary education and have years of teaching experience.  That fact does not make me any more qualified and I see it as almost irrelevant to what I am doing now.  To be a successful homeschooling family, all one needs are caring parents willing to learn.  I see myself in the same position, if not further behind as most of my other friends who are homeschooling with other bachelor's degrees under their belts.  In fact, now I wish I had received an English literature or History major- that would be really useful right now! 

Wish me luck!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

My "Go To" Lunch and a Story of My Shallowness

Thanks be to God, we are all ok and with power today! The storm wasn't too bad and I am so grateful.

When lunch rolls around, who feels like cooking? Not me. I usually will have a sandwich or leftovers, but if these are not sounding appealing, my all time favorite quick, healthy, easy and cheap lunch is a grilled tortilla with avocado and black beans.  An added bonus of this meal, I recently discovered, is that it's also an easy, healthy, quick and yummy meal for babies- minus the tortilla.

Here's how I roll:
 Drain black beans, heat 'em.
 Grill tortillas like this.  Makes them taste fresh!
Slice up an avo and sprinkle with salt.

Put the avo and black beans in a warmed tortilla and enjoy!  For the baby, I skip the salt on the avo, and mash the warmed black beans with a fork. He loves this meal almost as much as me.

I fell in love with this excellent food combo when I was in Guatemala the first time.  We had this a lot down there. One day we walked up a farmer's hill/mountain to his field. I think his name was Don Filaberto.  Under an avocado tree, his daughters patted out some homemade corn tortillas and grilled them right in front of us.  They took a few ripe avocados from the tree, mashed and salted them.  Then they heated up some black beans they had brought. It was unbelievably good! As we ate this typical Guatemalan food, we heard Don Filaberto's story told through a translator. I know it was a very moving and important story about this poor farmer, but I'm really sorry I don't remember anything but the food!! I'd like to excuse myself from this embarrassing shallowness by saying I was only 17 and it was a long time ago, but really-- it was the homemade tortillas that will take over my brain anytime.  Maybe my dad can fill in the blanks since my mind was lost in homemade tortillas...

What's your 'go to' lunch?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Finding My Style...Again: MOd ReTRo

After turning thirty, waist deep into mommyhood, and being a conservative Christian, it wasn't easy, but I think I've found my style again and some clothes to match. I'd describe my style as mod-retro.

The internet has been great in letting me window shop without strollers and kids running into the streets.  The website I've been frequenting is Modcloth.com.  I'd like to add about 8 inches of fabric to most of the their dresses, but here's some dresses on my wish list that I've found to be cute and modest:
How about you? Where's your favorite site to shop?

Now back to storm watching...

Friday, August 26, 2011

Natural Disasters 1, 2 and Getting Ready for 3

For those of you who don't live on the East Coast, you may be wondering how we are all surviving over here, or you may just be happy to be oblivious and out of the way of a tropical storm. I know I was the latter when I lived further inland!

First of all, let me tell you how terrifying that first earthquake was. I had been in two other very small earthquakes before- one in Guatemala and one in California. I think they were around a 3 on the Richter scale.  They were nothing more than a rumble and it was expected.  This one was a 5.9 and the epicenter was 43 miles from my home, and I didn't know I lived on a fault line!!! 

I was in my basement, on the phone with a friend who was in the park nearby. All of a sudden, I hear a loud noise like thunder and the whole house is shaking- really shaking. Some people say they thought loud truck was passing by.  I don't remember the last time a truck drove by and my house started shaking from the foundation and things started falling off the walls.  Also, when trucks drive by, it's not the sound of ridiculously loud thunder on a clear, blue day.   I think these people must live in a giant jumpy blow up thing or are on some very strong medication. There's no way I could mistake that 5.9 earthquake for a truck.  I was thinking more along the lines of Armageddon.  The world starts shaking and all of a sudden, Jesus comes down from a cloud in the sky to judge the good from the bad.  Seriously, what's more probable: huge earthquake in the middle of Virginia, or the end of the world.   I was thinking: the end of the world.  At any rate, that quake definitely put the fear of God in me!

My friend on the other end of the phone said, "Is that an earthquake? I think that was an earthquake!" I immediately started grabbing kids. I was just getting Analee out of bed from her nap when my husband comes out the bedroom and yells for us all to get under the door frame.  If it hadn't been for his never failing emergency plan, my plan would have just been to hold the kids and scream.  We just barely got under the door frame and it ended.  15 seconds of loud shaking and it was over.  Somethings broke and some things fell, but we were ok.

Then yesterday, we come back from visiting grandparents, and a huge storm hits. It was storm on fast forward, with the volume cranked up.  I completely underestimated it's potency from my window, and did a very silly thing.  Because we had no food in the house and I didn't feel like grocery shopping after a very long day, I asked my husband to pick up sushi.  The storm only lasted about 30 minutes and by the time we had our order figured out, it was over.  I figured it would be safe for him to run out and come back.  He goes and gets stuck in traffic for 45 minutes because of downed trees, no street lights and crazy, crazy amounts of stopped traffic. The sushi place is three miles down the road.  INSANE. I'm just thankful that we didn't lose any power. Most of our neighbors lost power for about three hours.

Now, after stocking up from two different trips to the store, I think I am ready for hurricane Irene. We didn't even have one flashlight in our house, or a bottle of water.  I don't know what to expect, but from what people have said about the last hurricane,  we're probably going to have power outages. I've never been without power for more than a few hours, so I've been going a little crazy trying to plan out what we'd do if there was no power and no water for a few days or even... a week. gulp. I couldn't survive a week.  I definitely would be checking in to Motel 6 if it were a week.  

So now we have flashlights, lanterns, bottled water, water in large basins (in case we need to flush the toilets manually or wash ourselves), baked goods, and a very stocked fridge and freezer with extra ice.  I'm not getting a generator.  Does anyone even know if those things work in an emergency?? My dad, who sells generators, wired a very big, professional one up to his house. It was able to power a couple things in the house when there was no other source of power. A COUPLE THINGS.   like a stove, and some lights. I don't see how these tiny ones that people buy can actually do anything.  I would like some evidence on this subject...

So that's what going on the East Coast for all you who are watching with popcorn in hand from your couches in my old habitats in Minnesota, California and Colorado and Ohio. I know what it's like to be you, but now I'm finding out what it's like to be on the other side of that news story. Keep us in your prayers!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

What's on My Work Desk

Besides reducing, slicing and poking hundreds of beads, I've been putting together a few things...
Sorry for the poor quality of these photos... hubby was messing with the camera and I don't know how to put it back to the original settings.
Personalized rosaries...maybe someday I'll have this option in my shop, but for now, it's just for those special orders and friends.  These names are attached to the centerpiece of the rosary are not actually beads to pray on. I like to keep it that since it's kind of weird to me to be praying on one's own name!

Tree hugger bracelet complete with wooden beads! Tree of Life hugger, that is...

My personal rose necklace got a makeover.  I took it apart and added some pewter beads and made it much longer so now I can wrap it twice like this for a shorter necklace, or leave it a one stranded long necklace. I love the weight of the pewter beads too! This goes with so many of my outfits. This picture doesn't do this necklace any justice!

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Spirituality of a Four Year Old

My paper-wasting-lover four year, decided to make a prayer book today for which I was happy it wasn't going to end up a cut-up, scribbled on, stapled, taped and cut up into many more tiny pieces and left on the floor piece of garbage.  He tells me to write down what he says.  Oh, boy, I thought, this is going to be fun. What is going to come out of this kid's mouth?

He's been hearing a lot of psalms lately, so this one's harsh undertone is no indication that we talk or think this way in our day to day conversations!
God is holy for you are the one that is holy.
Throw the bad into hell
You are the holy one
Blessed God, Blessed God
It's not bad theology, but this next one was just wrong and I had to scratch it out after I realized where he was going with it:
Oh Lord, send the bad out of Hell that are good
We had to have a little talk after that one...

This next one was heavily inspired by today's feast day; the Assumption of Mary into heaven.  It cracks me up.
God, you are the holy, holy one.
You can lift heavy things
You can lift Mary up to heaven
for you are holy
 I'm not sure that Mary was that heavy, but whatever.

This next one I was very happy with after he said some bad stuff the other day, for which he received time-outs.  We talk all the time about how big God is, so he knew it was wrong when he said, This train is bigger than God! I laughed and said, No Liam, you know that's not true. God is bigger than everything. Don't say that again.  TWO seconds later: This train is bigger than God. A short timeout was issued. Afterward, he comes back to play with his very long train and shows his sister. He whispers very softly so I could barely hear: This train is bigger than God. Timeout, round two.

This time, I think he learned his lesson. He dictates to me:

Oh, how big God is.
He's bigger than the house,
He's bigger than the shelves,
He's bigger than the windows...
(many more bigger's were said too fast for me to write down)
He's bigger than a long line of trains
He's bigger than the sun
He's bigger than the clouds...
(many more bigger's I couldn't write down fast enough)
He's bigger than a longer line of trains ever
He's bigger than a pile of trucks.

This last one was just sweet.

Oh, you are nice, nice, nice, nice, nice... (a zillion more nice's that I didn't write down)
 You are nice
You are nice
You are nice... (a hundred more that I didn't write down)
(I'm wondering where this is going and when it's going to end...)
 You are very, very, very nice
(after two more minutes of this:)
Please help me to be nice.

awwww...my heart turned to mush and I finished the last sentence with a tiny tear in my eye.  I said we were going to send prayer book entitled, "Every Person's Prayer Book" to Grandma and Grandpa, but this one's going in the scrapbook. I'm plan on taking it out and reading it 10 years from now when I'm pulling out my hair during his teenage years. I think I'm going to have to make an extra copy for him to read then too!

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Cat Stretch

Jude didn't want to crawl on the spiky grass, so this is what he did:

Tips/Thoughts on Making a Spiritual Communion?

Spiritual communion was not taught to my generation and I only learned of its existence after finding some good prayer books in high school.  But I never did figure out this concept and have forgotten about it until this morning when I really wanted to make one.  Sometimes it would be nice to do make a spiritual communion if I can't go to Mass and receive Jesus in the true communion, or I just really need Him (which I'm experiencing  more and more these days!). 

So, please bestow your thoughts on making spiritual communions- how to do it, what the blessings are- why it's different from other prayers. 

God Bless You!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Secret to Soft, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Soft, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

My mother in law shared this secret with me. It's not in the butter or how much flour you use, or any ingredient. The secret to long lasting chewy chocolate chip cookies is to refrigerate the dough after it's made.  I'm guessing the reason must be that when the butter is re chilled the inside of the cookie doesn't get the same amount of heat and the butter doesn't have a chance to harden the cookie as much. 

You don't need to refrigerate a very long time- this time the dough didn't even have a chance to harden in the fridge, but they still came out a little crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. These are going to be gone by the end of the day, so I to snap a quick picture.  They are made with whole wheat and I could have even went with a little less sugar.  Maybe even substituted some applesauce for some sugar (then they might not have come out quite so perfect!) Here's the tried and true Betty Crocker recipe that I use:

Chocolate Chip Cookies

3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter softened- not melted (margarine is bad)
1 tsp. vanilla (I always use more like a tablespoon of this)
1 large egg
2 1/4 flour (use whole wheat)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 bag semi sweet choc. chips (12 oz. or 2 cups) More is always better!

1. Heat oven to 375
2. Beat sugars, butter, vanilla, and egg. Stir in flour, baking soda, salt. Stir in chocolate chips.
3. *refrigerate dough for at least 45 min*
4. Spoon cooled dough onto cookie sheets and bake for 8-10 min. or until slightly *very, very slightly* browned.
5. Enjoy with tall glass of milk.

Still soft the next day and for days to come- if they last that long (mine never do!)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

My Philosophy of Education

One of the projects I had to complete before I graduated with a bachelor's degree in elementary education, was to make a portfolio with my philosophy of education.  Just for a chuckle, I went back to reread my old thoughts on education.  This is what I  wrote before I was a real teacher in a real classroom, before I started homeschooling, and before I've decided that modern education has failed us and we should reconsider the tried and true classical approach.   I was certain I had done a 180 on my philosophy of education, but to my surprise, this is what I read:
....the essential ingredients for a good education are: a loving a teacher, a parental involvement, hands-one learning, and good classroom management.
I certainly couldn't disagree! These are spot on- even in regards to homeschooling and the Classical approach.  I went on to read and laugh at this:

Everyone knows how important a loving teacher is to education because everyone has had one who has touched his/her life.  There is no substitute for a teacher who has the students' best interest at heart.  It's no wonder why home schooled children are so successful with their own mother as their teacher.  Hand's down, a loving teacher is the most important ingredient to a good education.
How funny is that especially when the very thought of homeschooling my kids made me shudder! I had no plans whatsoever to home school until years after I wrote this. 

I go on to talk about parental involvement, classroom management and hands-on-learning.  All of it, I still agree with.    I conclude with saying: teaching is no doubt- a work of heart.

How true it still is- a parent or teacher who cares, is the best teacher.  Amen to that!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Teenagers Think I'm Old

Today I turned thirty and my sisters (17 and 14) kindly inform me that teenagers, the world over, think I'm old.   While this is true, when I tell people who are older than me that now I am feeling old, they roll their eyes.  I don't care what people say-30 is not the new 20; thirty is the anti-age! I can't say I'm young, I can't say I'm old- I just don't win, so I keep my mouth shut (except when it comes to telling the cyber-world!).  Apparently there are rumors circulating in my homeschooling group that I am 26. haha! I'll keep them guessing.  And just a month ago, in a certain Mexican restaurant, I was carded, then re-carded with a credit card verification because they thought I was lying about my age. I don't have to tell how good that felt! (even though it was only because I was with my little sister who makes me look young).  Afterward, there was much apologizing by the waitress, but I kept saying, "No, really, thank you!"  When I'm with my kids,  or my husband, on the other hand, I rarely get carded.  They don't bother with this old lady!

In the end, after living three fulfilling decades, I can honestly say, I don't feel old.  God has blessed me generously- despite the many ways I failed Him.  I don't deserve my amazing husband and three spectacular kids, and many new friendships blossoming in our new area, but I'll take 'em all! 

Before I was old. (the day of our engagement- my early twenties) Thinking, "30 is really old!"

If the decades to come are as rich in blessings as the first three, I look forward to growing old(er). But today, since I'm not old and not young, I will continue to call my self: The Clay Rosary Girl" and have parties late at night when my kids are asleep. 
Almost 30. Old ladies doing oyster shooters at Old Emmit's with babies in tow. See, people over 30 have lots of fun!