Friday, March 29, 2013

Kicking Fear In the Booty

We did it!

Yesterday I took the training wheels off Joy's bike for the first time.  She was ready to try riding a 2-wheeler because I had promised we would buy her a new bike as soon as she learned because her current bike is too small.  She got on the seat, put her feet on the peddles, I held onto her shirt to catch her if she fell, and she took off.  She rode her bike all by herself for about 50 yards and then she stopped and promptly broke out into tears.  

"I can't do this!  I'm too afraid!"  

"Joy, you ARE doing this.  You just rode your bike all by yourself.  You don't need to be afraid because I will catch you if you fall."  

Eventually she mustered up the courage to try again, but the whole time I was helping her, she was crying because she was scared.  Once we were back in the house, I told her how proud I was of her for trying even though she was scared.  

And then I told her, "You know, Joy.  A year ago I wouldn't have taken you kids to the cottage all by myself because I was too scared.  But I really wanted to take you to see the frozen lake so I told myself, 'Self, you are going to take the kids on vacation and there is nothing to be afraid of.'  And I did it!  Sometimes we have to do things even though we're afraid.  You just have to tell your fear to take a hike."

The kids thought that was hilarious and started yelling, "Fear, I'm going to kick you in the booty!"  And many other variations.  

Collecting rocks at Lake Michigan

Which brings me to our grand adventure this week.  I took the kids to the cottage for three days all by myself.  For most people, this would not be a very big accomplishment.  For me, this was monumental.  Up until two years ago I had never, ever, stayed home alone by myself.  Whenever Hubby had to be gone overnight, I always took the kids to my Grandma's house.  And then two years ago Hubby ended up with cellulitis and had to spend a week in the hospital.  At the same time my Grandma was in Colorado visiting family.  Meaning--I had no where to stay other than by myself at home.  

Since then I have no longer gone to Grandma's when Hubby was gone.  But I also hadn't ever purposely stayed home alone, let alone gone on an overnight trip with the kids by myself.  But I really wanted the kids to see the lake frozen over, and the only way that was going to happen was if I took the kids.  So I mustered up my courage and said we were going.  I refused to allow myself to think about all the scary possibilities of what could happen.  We packed up and shipped out on Monday.  

By Monday afternoon we were out on the lake.  The kids thought it was pretty awesome.  "We could walk across the entire lake!"  Yes, we could, if we really wanted to walk 16 miles.  But I was happy with about a half mile out on the lake before turning around.  

Building a snow castle

I took the kids to the beach to collect rocks, but the wind was so strong that the waves were crashing over the beach, not to mention it being down right freezing despite our winter gear.  We went to the park where Joy built a snow castle: "Since I can't build a sand castle, I will build one out of snow!"  Our last goal was to go sledding, but despite all the snow on the ground (about six inches), the hills were bare.  

Nothing like a little broccoli for dinner

I am pretty darn proud of myself for taking the kids on vacation alone.  For actually being able to sleep at night. For refusing to allow myself to worry about ax-murderers and heart attacks.  As my kids would say, I kicked my fear in the booty!

Week 30 in the series of 52 Weeks of New

Week 18--Having too much Christmas fun to blog
Week 19--A Week of Firsts
Week 20--I Passed the Test
Week 21--???  How did I miss this?
Week 22--I Didn't Scream
Week 23--The Reluctant Servant
Week 24--Snow Day!
Week 25--I Hate Change..Even if it Does Present Me With New Opportunities
Week 26--Bribery and Cooking With Kids
Week 27--Best Laid Plans Interrupted
Week 28--Gluten Free Bread Baking

Friday, March 22, 2013

Walking On Water

Four years ago my inlaws bought a cottage near Lake Michigan.  About fifteen minutes away is a beautiful inland lake that has been known to freeze over in the winter.  When we first vacationed at the cottage, we told the kids how much fun it will be when we come up in the winter and can walk across the lake.  The excitement grew and grew as winter loomed closer.

We made our mid-winter trip to the cottage only to discover the lake not frozen.  Sorry, kids.  Maybe next year.  This pattern repeated itself every year since.  We always either went too early or too late.  We tried December, January, February and March.  I honestly would have thought those who said the lake froze over were liars except for the fact that they posted pictures on Facebook of their ice fishing adventures.

The frozen lake

Hubby and I took our annual sans-kids trip last weekend and were joined by two other couples.  It has been a cold winter; others have reported a frozen lake; so I convinced our party to take a trip to the lake so I could finally walk on the frozen lake.

It was beautiful that morning.  It was partly sunny; the air was still and there was a fresh layer of snow covering the ice.  We walked about a half mile out onto the lake before stopping to talk to a local fisherman.  He regaled us with all the best spots to fish, waxed poetic about the good old days when they used to pull out a tub's worth of fish in a few hours in the winter, and pretty much talked our ears off.  But I learned that the ice was 13 inches thick, so I stopped being nervous about falling through.

The not frozen bay outside the cottage

My sister-in-law who went up north with us has recently learned how to crochet.  When I emailed her about food for the weekend, she tagged on to her response that she would be bringing her crocheting along.  Well, drat.  That meant I had to bring my crocheting along--the scarf I have been working on since before Christmas that I promised to Joy.  Hubby bought Lizzy a fluffy scarf at a craft show, which made Joy jealous.  So I let her pick out a ball of yarn and said I would make her one.  Before I left for our trip, I told Joy I was not coming home until the scarf was done.  It took me most of Saturday night to complete, but I finished it.  Joy was very happy to have her new scarf just in time for spring!  But I got it done.

Joy's very own fluffy scarf--completed

But I think the most exciting part of our vacation was when we went to the beach of Lake Michigan and did some rock hunting.  We found a lot of pretty rocks to bring home to the kids, but Hubby made the best find.  One genuine, Michigan made, Petoskey Stone.  All my years of hunting for a Petoskey Stone at the beach have always been fruitless.  But this time, we found one.  We made one Lizzy very excited.

The prized Petoskey Stone

The Hubs and Me at the beach--Hard to imagine
that in a few short months we'll be swimming here

This week also marked the first official delivery day with Meals on Wheels.  The kids were very excited to finally get their chance to see what this thing was all about.  The morning started out a bit less than desirable with lots of snow falling, which made for slippery roads with my sad excuse for tires.  I warned the kids before our first delivery that they would encounter people and things that might seem weird to them--the shirtless man with a PICC line in his arm, the toothless woman who loves to talk but also keeps a stash of candy to offer all her visitors.  I reiterated that it's okay to be curious, but to never say anything rude in front of the person; if they had a question, they needed to wait until we were in the car were they could ask me.

Of course the shirtless man noticed my kids staring at his PICC line right off and explained it to the kids without them even having to ask.  We learned that he is a Vietnam veteran and got a bit messed up in the war--I didn't ask the extent of his injuries and he didn't volunteer the information.  But the little he did share, and my own conclusions drawn based on his tightly wrapped legs (lymphodema) and PICC line, further inspired compassion for his situation.

The toothless lady offered us candy--Really?  We can have some?  Yes, kids.  It'll be like going trick-or-treating twice a month!  Another lady refused to let us leave her front porch without receiving a hug.  I drove away from her house inspired to learn her first name--just as soon as I can find her house without getting lost.  It's fun to knock on the doors of strangers and be able to hand them something they need and receive smiles and conversation in exchange.  Every person we encountered loved seeing the kids and the kids fought over who got to knock on each door (I made them take turns getting out of the car since it was so bitterly cold and snowy).  They can't wait for our next delivery day.

Our post Meals on Wheels lunch--Free frosties.  Delicious.

My final conclusion from our first time out was that I could no longer put off buying new tires for the van.  There were a few moments when I was trying to get up a hill without a running start where I wondered if we'd make it up the hill at all.  Thursday morning we visited our local tire store and got a whole new set of tires.  Just in time for me to take the kids up north for their spring break so they can walk out on the lake for themselves--assuming it doesn't melt before then.

Week 29 in the series of 52 Weeks of New

Week 18--Having too much Christmas fun to blog
Week 19--A Week of Firsts
Week 20--I Passed the Test
Week 21--???  How did I miss this?
Week 22--I Didn't Scream
Week 23--The Reluctant Servant
Week 24--Snow Day!
Week 25--I Hate Change..Even if it Does Present Me With New Opportunities
Week 26--Bribery and Cooking With Kids
Week 27--Best Laid Plans Interrupted
Week 28--Gluten Free Bread Baking

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Jumping Ship

Before making a decision on what to use as our core curriculum this year, I did a lot of research, prayed, did more research, agonized, and then did eenie meenie miney mo before settling on My Father's World Exploring Countries and Cultures.  A month later I was regretting my decision but decided to plow ahead and give it a chance.

By mid-November I knew it was a poor fit for my family.  While the program is excellent, the academics solid, and the values in line with what I would like my kids to learn, the methodology of the program has been a total clunker.

Our biggest challenge is that the program's core method is the "read aloud."  Meaning, Mom reads their daily Bible, history, science, and geography lessons to them while they sit there listening.  Then they fill in worksheets that pertain to the lesson.  Sadly, the only child who is an auditory learner in our family is Joy, the child who was only listening in with no requirements to actually learn.  We would get to the end of the lesson and I would ask them the first question on the worksheet.  I was met with blank stares.

On the days where I thought they'd actually learned something, I'd ask them to share their new-found information with Daddy at the dinner table.  Again, blank stares except from Joy.  After months of this, it dawned on me that this is not the way my children learn.  They do much better with reading things for themselves, doing hands on projects.  Basically any method that does not include Mom reading them their lessons.  I pressed through and kept using it until the end of January when I finally decided enough was enough and set the program aside.

Since then we have reverted back to the Robinson Curriculum way of school.  Every day the kids do a lesson of math, a page of copy work or original writing, spelling, and then lots of reading from real books.  In the last two months David has read through twenty-six of the Tom Swift books plus many other books.  Lizzy is reading through the Arthur Scott Bailey animal books and stacks of informational books that she picks from the library.  Joy is doing math, penmanship, and phonics.  All of the children also have a daily prayer time utilizing Bibles at their individual reading levels.

My original plan was to stick with the simplified schedule until the fall when we would start a new program.  But the more I thought about it, the more it didn't make sense.  Why wait until the "official" start of a school year to begin a new program when I can just sell the old one and buy a new one.

A few weeks ago I ordered all new books, requested a bunch of necessary books from the library, and have been waiting for said books to make their appearance at our door or at our library (Oh Amazon Prime how you have ruined me for all other shipping methods that take a long time to get here--especially considering I bought most of the books used and have to rely on individuals to get them to me versus companies).

Joy started her new program last week and loves it.  I opted for Heart of Dakota's Little Hearts For His Glory, a program I used before with the older kids and really enjoyed.  As part of it, I have been reading The Adventures of Reddy Fox by Thornton Burgess to her and somehow end up with two other kids surrounding us, all trying to answer Joy's comprehension questions for her.  "No, David.  You can't answer.  This is Joy's school." When I forget to cover her non-3 R's work with her, she pulls out the big red book (Teachers Manual for Little Hearts) and plops it on my lap.  "Do this with me, Mom."

The older two will be starting Heart of Dakota's Preparing Hearts For His Glory as soon as one more key book gets here.  I chose this program over a thousand other choices because I like the way they cover every school subject and many of the necessary skills all right there.  I don't have to come up with my own plans as it's all scheduled--which is really nice for this mom who isn't always the most creative teacher.  Plus, the program utilizes living books versus text books, gradually trains students to work independently, and includes projects that help them apply what they've learned.  It is very hands on, has the students do most of the reading independently (or can be made to be independent), and mainly has the parent assist on things rather than doing it all.

I know that some will disagree with me, but my goal for my children's educations is to train them to be self-educators.  By the time they reach high school, my hope is that they will be able to pick up a book and work their way through it independently.  That they will be able to teach themselves anything they want to learn.  With Mom always available for questions and help of course.  But the ultimate goal is for all of them to be completely independent learners.

This goes hand-in-hand with my desire to train my children to be independent, self-supporting adults.  To train them to cook, take care of their home, to be diligent and hard workers, to be self starters and self educators.  I want my children to expect to be handed nothing in life, to expect nothing to come easy, to always be ready to work hard for what they want.  If David wants to win the Pinewood Derby next year, then he can read the books on building a faster car and hone his skills with wood carving and axle filing between then and now.  I won't do the research or make the car for him.

Filing the axles for his car--
And yes, that is the "Mom, what are you doing?!" look.

I have visions of my kids teaching themselves Calculus (the fact that I would struggle through teaching it to him only has a little to do with that dream--Yes, I passed Calculus in college, but that was many moons ago and all that education has since been lost from neglect).  I don't want my children to need me to teach them what they want to learn.  Because they will learn it faster, retain it longer, and understand it better if they teach it to themselves.  The sky is the limit when you are able to pick up a book and teach yourself anything.

When Hubby's company offered him a big promotion if he transferred to the programming department and learned Cobol computer code, he read through a book and taught himself.  In the "real world" being able to self educate can mean the difference between a mediocre job and a promotion.

And this is where My Father's World and I parted ways.  I love being involved in the education of my children, but they are fully capable of reading their own books, learning their own material, and doing their own projects with minimal input from Mom.  My children prefer it as do I.

Monday, March 18, 2013

It Could Have Been A Lot Worse

Hubby and I went away for the weekend on our annual "vacation-sans-kids" trip.  We had a great time and came home much more relaxed.  We stopped off at my parents' house to pick up the kids and arrived home in time to make dinner.  I felt inspired to make chili using up previously cooked and frozen ground beef.  But I lacked the necessary canned tomatoes and beans in my kitchen pantry, so I went down to the basement to get what I needed.

Instead of finding the food, I found this.

"Honey!  We have a flood downstairs!  Come help me!"

Why does it feel like I keep calling Hubby to help me take care of disasters???

My initial thought...a repeat of our last great flood when our sump pump failed.  Our entire basement was under an inch of water and it was a complete disaster.  Thankfully, we caught it early this time.  Hubby came downstairs, grabbed the spare pump we now keep on hand, and went to install it.   (He's already replaced two since we moved in six years ago so he felt it wise to always have a second pump ready to go to prevent late night hardware store runs)

That's when he realized it wasn't a pump failure at all, but that the floating switch that makes the pump flush when the hole gets full was being held down by the power cord.  Hubby lifted the cord off the float and the pump went crazy.  It did a continuous flushing for the next half hour.

I grabbed the broom and started sweeping the water to the floor drain.  The whole time I just kept thinking how fortunate we were that I'd cleaned out the basement this past October.  If this minor flood had happened just five months ago, we would have had a real disaster on our hands.  As it was, it resulted in only a minor inconvenience.  My cleanup efforts included a few empty cardboard boxes that were wet, three soaked stuffed animals, and some soggy paper airplanes.  There were a few random toys on the floor (roller skates, a football, plasma cars), but they were only wet on plastic parts, so no harm done.

While a flooded basement wasn't exactly the welcome home I was hoping for, it could have been a whole lot worse.  One more day and our carpet would have been under water.  One more day away from having to file an insurance claim and call in the restoration experts.  A few months ago and I would have been throwing away a whole lot more than a few empty cardboard boxes and paper airplanes.

Thank you, Lord, that it was just a minor inconvenience that only took a half hour of cleanup instead of a real disaster.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Gluten Free Bread Baking

My first loaf of gluten-free yeast bread

I have had my suspicions for a while that I have a problem with gluten.  I can eat small amounts of wheat-based foods without experiencing any symptoms.  But if I go on a gluten binge, the eczema on my fingers becomes flaming red and ugly.

The main culprits that seem to affect me the most are pizza, bread, pasta, and crackers.  These are also the foods I am the most likely to eat in large quantities in one sitting, which could be why they cause the most problems.

I've cut out gluten at various times in my life--always with good results.  And then I fall off the wagon, so to speak, and eat pizza (one of my most favorite foods) or homemade bread or biscuits (yum!).  Within a few hours my fingers are red and in pain and I can't help but wonder...why do I keep doing this to myself???  You'd think that I'd cut out gluten once and for all since it doesn't agree with me so well.

But I am a carb addict.  I love my carbs in all of its delicious forms.  To give them up is like cutting out chocolate--unthinkable.

Buying gluten-free baked goods is expensive and not something I could do as a regular part of our food budget unless it was absolutely necessary.  So being the bread baker that I am, I decided to try one of the gluten-free bread recipes from my Healthy Bread In 5 Minutes A Day cookbook by Zoe Francois.  I tried their Gluten-Free Olive Oil Bread recipe as my first attempt (mostly because it was the only recipe of which I had all the necessary ingredients already on hand).

I admit I was a little grossed out by the use of 3.5 cups of corn starch.  Really???  Okay.  But I mixed it up anyway figuring if the author thought enough of this recipe, it must be worth a try.  Once the dough was mixed and spent two hours rising, I went to pull a loaf's worth of dough out of the bucket. Being the glutenous bread baker I am, I have never encountered gluten-free yeast dough before.  It was not stretchy or easily shaped like glutenous bread.

It was more of a sloppy mess.  Huh.  What to do with this?  Well, I guess I'll just plop it down onto my already greased french loaf pan sort of like I would with wet biscuit batter and hope for the baking process to magically turn it into a cohesive loaf of delicious french bread.

I baked it just like I would a regular loaf of bread--with a broiler pan filled with 1 cup of boiling water to create a crispy crust.  The only difference in my baking process was to follow the book's recommendation to remove the bread from the pan 2/3rds of the way through the baking process and set it directly on the oven rack for the rest of the baking time.

My first bite into the bread left me surprised.  Up to this point, my only experience with gluten-free baked goods left me with the impression that gluten-free equated gritty texture.  Every other thing I've tried making resulted in a mouthful of what felt like sand.  Yuck.  But this bread was fluffy and smooth.  The crust was crispy just like my regular bread.  The taste was a bit different than what I'm used to, but not unpleasant.  Overall, I was impressed.  It is definitely a bread worth baking again.  And there is even a recipe in the book that uses this dough to make pizza--something I will definitely be trying in the near future.

Now I can eat delicious homemade bread without the yucky side effects.

Week 28 in the series of 52 Weeks of New

Week 18--Having too much Christmas fun to blog
Week 19--A Week of Firsts
Week 20--I Passed the Test
Week 21--???  How did I miss this?
Week 22--I Didn't Scream
Week 23--The Reluctant Servant
Week 24--Snow Day!
Week 25--I Hate Change..Even if it Does Present Me With New Opportunities
Week 26--Bribery and Cooking With Kids
Week 27--Best Laid Plans Interrupted

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A War Is Being Waged

It wasn't until Sunday when I was talking with a friend about how last week turned out that the reality of my life hit me.  I told her about the oven fire, about Hubby's illness, about our ruined dinner plans.  I didn't tell her about my attempts to volunteer with Meals on Wheels and how my orientation was delayed a week due to bad weather, and how I had to reschedule my ride along with an experienced volunteer three times due to illness and a lack of a babysitter, but her comment would apply to this as well.

"It sounds like you're being attacked by Satan."

Well, duh!  Why didn't I realize this sooner???  Of course I am!  All this junk that keeps happening is just God's way of telling me that I'm on the right track.  No need for Satan to get out his flaming arrows unless I'm actually doing something right and good.  A war is being waged right now because Satan doesn't want me to do God's will and serve others.  He wants me to continue sitting on my bum doing nothing.  Of course he's going to try to make it difficult for me and try to get me to give up.

This revelation makes me all the more convinced that it is God's plan for me to serve with Meals on Wheels and to invite people over to my home and that I need to try harder to make it happen.  To take the setbacks as they come and realize they are just setbacks, not reason to quit.  To re-invite my dinner guest soon.  (Once Hubby stops coughing up a lung and laying around on the couch lethargically of course)  To not fret over the details.  To not stress over sickness and four days of missed pay due to said illness and the broken oven and failed plans and the notice that came in the mail informing me our homeowners insurance is about to be cancelled due to non-payment (Thank you mortgage company for failing to pay our bill--I thought that's why we escrowed in the first place, but I digress).

These are just arrows that tell me I'm in God's will.  Attacks that tell me I'm finally, truly getting dangerous.  God's way of saying "You devoted this year to surrendering control.  Here's your chance to prove it."

Yes, Lord.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Back In Business

Fixing the oven is a family project

It is with mixed feelings (because I really wanted a new one) that I announce that Ladybug Farm's oven is back in service.  The new heating element arrived in the mail this afternoon.  The kids and I crowded around the computer to watch a Youtube video to learn how to tackle the project pausing between steps.

Watching Youtube, the great fount of knowledge

The kids helped me as much as they could by helping to unscrew the old coil, holding the flashlight, and generally getting in the way.  Which is just part of the package when my purpose in asking them to help me was so they could learn how to fix an oven should they encounter a similar problem later in their own lives.  All part of my nefarious Unentitlement Project.

Old, broken heating element

I can see it now..."Hey, Lizzy.  Remember the time when we helped Mom replace the heating element in the oven?  Do you remember how she did it?  Mine just caught fire and I need to put in a new one."

I unfortunately ignored the warning from the Youtube sage who warned viewers to DO NOT LET GO OF THE WIRES!  I did not hold securely to one of the wires with the pliers and it ended up pulling back into the oven's great abyss.  The entire project took me a half hour to complete, twenty of those minutes spent trying to fish the stupid wire out of the oven.

But once I got it out, it was a simple "plug the new coil into the wire slot, screw the element back to the oven wall, and you're done."  Easy.  All for just under $25.

New heating element all nice and hot

Too bad it couldn't have been super difficult and expensive thus making the purchase of a new range seem like a logical decision.  (And yes, Grandma, I do realize I need to clean my oven.  But now I'm a little bit scared to heat the oven up so hot--will it catch fire again???  Maybe I'll wait until I'm sure that our homeowners insurance premium has been paid before attempting such a risky endeavor.)

So I am sad to not be getting my coveted gas range at this time, but I am happy to have my oven back.  Enchiladas, fresh baked bread, cookies, roasted asparagus, potatoes.  It was only five days of no oven, but it felt like an eternity.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Cold Frames--A Ladybug Farm Project

The first big project of the year for Ladybug Farm was the construction of a cold frame.  I have been looking at these for years, wishing I had one for cold season vegetables, seed starting, hardening off transplants, and for keeping my herbs growing longer into the colder months.

I finally got around to building one.

My first order of business was to buy glass for the top of the frame.  I didn't want to spend a lot of money, and I had my heart set on double pained glass for the insulating properties.  With these parameters, I opted to check out the Habitat For Humanity ReStore for the first time.  The ReStore is basically a thrift store for building supplies.  I was in a new sort of heaven when I stepped through the doors of the building.

Hubby likes to make fun of me because I love, LOVE going to the hardware store.  I want to buy everything.  All the power tools in our house are mainly for my benefit, not his.  So discovering a thrift store full of cheap hardware was a dream come true.

Anyway, I looked through the window selection and while I found great windows, they were more than I wanted to spend--the cheapest double pained option being about $50.  So I moved onto the doors.  I found a great door that measured 74 x 32, double pained, sturdy, only $25, perfect for my cold frame.  I also found hinges to connect the door to the frame-10 hinges for $5.  I was stoked!

My next stop was the real hardware store to buy the lumber for the actual frame.  I bought 3 - 1x10x10s.  And then I let all of these wonderful selections sit in my garage for the next month until it warmed up enough to work in the garage without freezing my fingers off.

Saturday morning I looked at the thermometer, saw that it was over 40 degrees outside and knew it was time.

I had a rough pattern from a book that I used for my project.  But in general, I approach woodworking much like I do sewing--use the pattern as a guide, but pretty much do it my own way.  Which could be why my projects don't always turn out exactly the way I want them to, but this time I got lucky.

In less than two hours, I had a completed cold frame ready to be moved into the garden--for a total cost of about $45.  I bought a remote thermometer to keep in the box so I can keep an eye on the temperature from in the house.  Once the temperature stays above 40 degrees overnight, I'm going to start planting my cold season vegetables--radishes, spinach, and lettuce.  Yum!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Best Laid Plans Interrupted

Image source

The stars, moon, sun, and planets all aligned just right so that I could finally go on my ride along as my last step in learning how to do Meals on Wheels.  We had illness, Grandparent vacations, mission trips, and meetings that left me with no babysitters, and life that kept getting in the way.  But on Tuesday GiGi graciously watched the kiddos and I met up with a nice lady who showed me the ropes.

I met all the people that we will be delivering to and pretended like I would remember the route and would be able to get myself around without extensive GPS help as my driver explained street names and identifying features of each house.  Yeah, right!  Thank God they send you with a very detailed map.

I learned all about various headaches, was offered candy, and had my first exposure to one of Michigan's newer laws at work--medicinal marijuana.  I definitely got an education.  But the people we delivered to were so nice and appreciative.  I received more "Have a blessed day"s than I've gotten in a long time.  All in all, it took just under an hour to pick up and deliver food to eleven people.  Not bad.  My kids can't wait for our official start so that they can come along this time.  (I'll just be sure to have them stand WAY back from the door when we deliver to that one house)

I almost had someone over for dinner this week.  She was invited, the food was purchased, and I was ready to start this new journey in having people over who are a bit outside my comfort zone (as in anyone who isn't a really good friend).  But then Hubby got pneumonia.  Boo.  But it ended up being a good thing that I had to reschedule because that night as I was preheating the oven to make dinner, I noticed the oven light was on.  I looked closer and saw, no, the light is not on.  So why is the oven glowing?  I opened the door and realized the heating element coil was on fire!!!



It was rather pretty--it burnt like a sparkler moving around the coil until Hubby pulled the oven away from the wall, unplugged it and smothered it with a wet rag.  Then the coil broke into two.  A very dead coil.  And as it was burning, I was doing a happy dance, ecstatic that my oven had finally died.

Until Grandma informed me I could buy a new heating element for cheap and just replace it.  Double boo.

I ordered the new part for $25 including shipping and will install it when it gets here.  Because I am smart, I am brave, I will conquer the stove, and I have Youtube which will tell me everything I need to know on replacing heating elements.

And for the record, if you are keeping count, this is the third appliance in my kitchen to catch on fire or start smoking since we've moved in almost six years ago.  (First the fridge fire, then the dishwasher smoking, and finally the stove fire)  We've been incredibly blessed that all of the fires happened when one of us was right there in the kitchen when it started and could react immediately and that there has yet to be any damage beyond a broken appliance.

That was my week.  I got out of my comfort zone, met lots of new people, watched my stove burn, was excited about getting a new stove, and then had my dream crushed into oblivion upon learning it wasn't really that broken.  All in all, another lovely week.

Week 27 in the series of 52 Weeks of New

Week 18--Having too much Christmas fun to blog
Week 19--A Week of Firsts
Week 20--I Passed the Test
Week 21--???  How did I miss this?
Week 22--I Didn't Scream
Week 23--The Reluctant Servant
Week 24--Snow Day!
Week 25--I Hate Change..Even if it Does Present Me With New Opportunities
Week 26--Bribery and Cooking With Kids

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Letting Them Fail Is Really Hard

Yesterday as it was nearing 9:00 am and the bedrooms were not yet clean, I started sweating on the inside.  Should I remind them?  Should I just let the time pass and take their money for the day?  Should I drop subtle hints and see if they pick up on them?

Because I don't want to take their money.  I want them to succeed.  I want to remind them to clean their rooms so they can take the three minutes necessary to make their beds and pick up the few random toys left out on the floor.

But is that enabling them?  Is my reminding them a help or a hindrance?  If I remind them to clean their rooms, is that defeating the entire process of them learning to take ownership for maintaining their living space?  Ugh!  This thing is not as clear cut as I thought it'd be.  Because I am too nice and want to give them chances.

I may have made hints that they might want to clean their rooms.  To David and Joy anyway.  When I made hints to Joy, Lizzy informed me that she'd already taken care of Joy's mess.  Again???  I looked at Lizzy and told her, "You know.  If your stuff is all cleaned up and your bed made, I won't take your money even if Joy's stuff is a mess.  I know whose mess is whose."

"Oh.  I just really want all my money so I can buy something at the end of the month."

I took the kids grocery shopping with me this week because our co-op is on spring break.  I let them bring the $5 that they got from GiGi for Valentine's Day.  David and Joy were quick to make a selection, but Lizzy only had eyes for a toy that cost $20.  I pointed out that if she kept her room clean, she would have $15 to add to her $5 come April 1, so she could go buy that $20 toy.

So back to enabling.  Yesterday I dropped hints.  I gave in to enabling.  But from now on I am not going to remind them.  They all know the rules--room clean by 9:00 am when I will inspect it.  If it's not clean, you lose that day's money.  I need to learn to play hard ball if I want this experiment to be successful.

Over a year ago I read this book about learning to respect your husband.  In it the author said that the wife needed to stop reminding her husband of things.  As in, when you notice that your Hubby is on his way to being late for work because he's dawdling, keep your mouth shut.  He is a grown man and capable of keeping time.  Or when he is driving your family somewhere and you notice he's about to miss a turn, keep your mouth shut.  He is a grown man; he will figure it out for himself.  It took a whole lot of tongue biting for me to stop nagging reminding Hubby that he needed to leave for work, how to drive, etc.  But I succeeded.  And Hubby learned to watch the clock all by himself without my help interference.

Much like that little experiment, I need to take the same stance with my children.  No more reminding them.  They are fully capable kids who can all tell time (even Joy).  Even if it means losing their money a few times, eventually they will learn to take responsibility for their rooms.  And isn't that the ultimate goal?  Not for my kids to earn money, but to learn to take care of their things without my help?

Today it's just their rooms.  But eventually it will be an entire home.  Cars.  Their own bank accounts and bills.  Families.  Far better for them to learn the lessons of personal responsibility now when it is safe and the consequences are minimal rather than when the stakes are high.

So no more reminders.  They will succeed or fail all on their own.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Life Without Screen Time

Saturday morning jam session

We're almost half way through our Lenten screen time fast.  Going into the fast I had a few preconceived ideas about how it would go.  I figured the kids would fight me every step of the way.  I assumed, while challenging, that I would do fine with it.  I was wrong.  Here are a few of the things that I have learned over the past three weeks as a result of our fast.

1. My children are perfectly capable of coming up with alternatives to screen time.  In the last three weeks David has read around twenty books.  He is always disappearing for hours in his room absorbed in reading on the Kindle (He's working his way through the Tom Swift series that's free on Amazon for the Kindle).  Lizzy has discovered a love for nonfiction books.  Every week at the library she tests the capacity of her arms by checking out huge stacks of books.  She is also constantly disappearing into her room to read one of her books.  Joy...well, Joy is still working on entertaining herself when her siblings are busy reading.  She is much more likely to be found glued to my side helping me with chores, cooking, or just sitting next to me on the couch.  But the kids have come up with so many creative games and projects.  Every time I turn around they're doing something new like using every pot and bowl in the house as drums for a jam session.

2. The "Witching Hour" is not a problem when I give the kids KP duty.  I purchased two new vegetable peelers a few weeks ago so that I could set all of my kids to work prepping dinner veggies.  They now fight over who gets to peel the most when the numbers don't split evenly.  They are becoming experts in chopping and prepping produce for dinner.  I am becoming an expert at letting them.  More times than not you will find us all crowded into the kitchen cooking dinner as a family.  (We really need a larger kitchen)

Peeling potatoes for dinner

3. My kids can't handle TV during the day time.  On Monday we had the carpets cleaned in our two main rooms--the living and dining rooms.  Our kitchen is overrun with both our kitchen and dining room table.  Basically, there was no where for us to go except our bedrooms or the basement.  I took pity on my children and let them watch a movie Monday morning.  That was a mistake.  The whining and complaining that ensued that day.  "I'm bored."  "There's nothing to do."  "Can we watch another movie?"  At bedtime Lizzy summed it up with, "Today was not a good day.  The things that I normally like didn't seem very fun."  When we've watched a movie in the evening as a family, we've had no such issues.  It is clear to me that TV is the problem around here.

4. Computer games are not the problem.  Two weeks ago Hubby was home sick from work.  He also found out that day that his old boss passed away from complications with cancer.  He was very upset and in need of a distraction.  I told the kids to go play Minecraft with him.  They all spent the afternoon playing on the computer.  Despite that, they were perfect angels the rest of the day and showed no ill effects from it.  They found things to do after dinner that did not involve whining or following me around the house declaring their boredom.  Interesting.

5. The whining for screen time only lasted the first week.  Once we got past the first week, the kids stopped whining and complaining about the lack of screen time.  They found things to do all on their own.  They've come up with new games to play, have designed many things out of blocks and legos, have played for hours in the storage room with their plasma cars and roller skates, and have done a ton of reading.

1. I am not perfectly able to come up with alternatives to screen time.  What does one do when they can't jump on the computer and check their email or waste time on Facebook???  I have a half hour while dinner bakes--I want to use the computer, not read a book or clean something.  I'm eating lunch--I just want to check my email or the weather or the news or Facebook.  Even after three weeks, I still have a hard time with this.

2. The "Witching Hour" is a problem when I can't check my email or Facebook.  See above comment.

3. TV is a non-issue for me.  I could care less if I never watched another TV show again.  I never turn it on during the day unless I'm sick (I still like watching the occasional episode of The Price is Right).  I would rather read in the evenings than watch TV.  Basically, my TV usage is limited to one or two movies a month even without the screen time fast.

4. Computer usage IS the problem.  I have not been very good at sticking to my one hour a day limit.  I am the queen of excuses for justifying going over my time limit.  I like my computer and I like the internet; my computer and phone call to me with their siren song.  Limiting my computer time is WAY more difficult for me than last month's food fast.

5. The whining for screen time hasn't stopped yet.  I just whine on the inside where no one but God can hear me.  I don't want to go fold laundry; I want to waste time online.  I don't want to read yet another book to my kids; I want to check my email.  You get the idea.  While on the outside I may look serene, my inside self is kicking and screaming and waging a very ugly battle against itself.

As you can see, some of us are doing better than others with our screen fast.  It's a lot easier to stick with the fast when you have an enforcer standing over you saying, "No computer for you."  Clearly I am a good enforcer when it involves anyone but me.  Going into this I knew that limiting my computer time would be a challenge, I just didn't realize how much of a challenge it would be.  I wouldn't go so far as to say that I get the shakes without it, but it might be close.

All of the changes resulting from the fast have been good.  I love the positive relating that has been the direct result of coming up with creative solutions to boredom.  I enjoy the family cooking sessions.  I like that my kids are no longer begging for screen time with their every waking breath.  Going forward after this fast is over, I plan to keep most of the changes.  TV usage will continue to be significantly reduced viewed only on weekends in limited amounts (a family movie or one episode of Myth Busters for David).  Computer usage will be allowed but also in limited amounts--once or twice a week they can do a Minecraft session with Daddy, but that's it.  No more daily computer time.

As for me...I am still thinking and praying about that.  Computer usage is obviously a much bigger issue for me that I need to address beyond this fast.  My response to it has not been the best.  I just haven't decided the best way to go about fixing the problem--continue trying to self-enforce limitations on time, install a timer program that locks the computer after a certain time frame, relocate the laptop that is conveniently sitting on the coffee table next to my usual spot on the couch, keep my cell phone in my purse and turn off the "cheeps" it makes when I get a new email so I don't get that adrenaline rush that says "Must check email now."  Something I will be praying about for the rest of the fast so I have a plan of action going forward.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Entitle Them Not

All clean with beds made

I've pretty consistently gone out of my way to not do things for my kids that they can do for themselves.  I try very hard to ensure my children will grow up self sufficient, educated on the finer arts of running a home and caring for a family, and have the skills necessary to survive in the big, bad world.

Despite my efforts, I was made aware of a few glaring missteps in my children's education upon reading the book Cleaning House: A Mom's 12-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement by Kay Wills Wyma.  The story goes like this:

Once upon a time there was a girl who was a slob.  Whenever her family went to visit her grandparents, her Grandpa would affectionately call her his little tornado.  Whatever the girl was playing with would be discarded as she moved on to better pastures.  Her mother liked to joke how you could always figure out where the girl was by following the trail of her mess.  When she was getting ready for bed, her clothes were dropped wherever she was standing.

Her mother took especial glee in chanting the words I hope you end up with a child just like you.  

And so she did.  

(In an effort to protect the guilty, names will not be used for this portion of my story.)

I have one child who I have bequeathed with my old title of "the little tornado."  She leaves a trail of mess wherever she goes.  She is like a honeybee intent on pollinating the entire house with her clutter.  She flits to the living room where she leaves her stuffed animal collection.  She moves onto the dining room to make a project out of scraps of paper, yarn and glue.  She leaves the table strewn with her creativity as she dances to the kitchen for a snack.  As she heads for her bedroom, she disregards the dishes, cracker box, and crumbs she leaves in her wake.  This is her life-every day, all day.  I am constantly calling her back to a room to pick up her mess.  I am tripping over her clutter all. the. time.  

Unfortunately, while she is the worst culprit in my home, she is definitely not the only one.  Up to this point I have dealt with the messes in alternating ways: Ignoring them, picking them up myself, and ordering the kids to take care of them when they get to the point that I can no longer tolerate looking at them.

One day the author of Cleaning House, Wyma, was having a conversation with her son when it hit her just how entitled her children were.  When she asked her children to strip their beds so she could wash their sheets, several of them had no clue what she meant.  When her husband punished a child by ordering them to pull up twenty weeds from the yard, he had no idea what a weed was.  Wyma decided to take the bull by the horns and make a list entitled: The top twelve things that a kid should know before flying the coop.  I found her ideas brilliant and plan to do my own experiment going through her list of twelve things.  For the month of March, I went with our biggest issue:

How to make a bed and maintain an orderly room

Their response was immediate.

"Oh, mom!  Do we have to???"

"I cleaned up all my mess.  The rest of it is hers."  The normal blame game in my house.

"It's all clean!"  Um, did you miss this gigantic pile of stuff over here, dear child of mine???

Look at this treasure I found!

I helped the girls sort through their disaster of a bedroom and we culled out 3 grocery bags of trash and treasures they no longer wanted.  My hoarder fought me tooth and nail over saving every last scrap of paper, but I prevailed by saying that we could put them into the donation bag (which was really the trash).  She was fine with giving her things away, just not with throwing them away.

He dumped every container on his floor.  Not my method, but whatever works for him.

Once the girls were on their way to a clean room, I moved onto David's room.  David is a funny kid when it comes to stuff.  He never plays with 90% of his things, yet it would never occur to him to get rid of something.  He had a bin that was one cubic foot big full of cars.  I dumped the bin on the floor and asked him to go through them and purge the cars he no longer wanted.  He saved six.  Out of all those cars, he only actually plays and likes six.  (Insert head slap smiley here)  But I forged ahead, helped him purge his room, and get it all organized.

Once the kids were done with their rooms, I told them that this was the beginning of a month long effort to keep their rooms clean and their beds tidy.  We went to the bank where I gave the teller a chuckle when I requested $45.00 in half-dollar coins.  Each child was given a jar containing 30 half-dollars and the instructions that every morning at 9:00 am I would be inspecting their rooms.  If I found their rooms to be completely tidy with their beds made, I would leave their coin in the jar.  If, however, I found their room messy or their bed unmade, I would take a coin out of their jar.  At the end of the month all of the money left in their jar is theirs to spend as they wish.

The first day I would start my inspecting was on Sunday.  Around 8:30 am I was laying in bed and turned to Hubby and said, "So, do you think they'll remember to clean their rooms and make their beds?"  We both agreed the likelihood was low seeing as it was a Sunday.

I got out of bed and went looking for the kids.  I glanced in David's room.  Spotless.  I glanced in the girls' room.  Also spotless.  I almost fell down in shock right there.  My girls' room???  Clean???  Wow!  I LOVE this idea!

Monday morning I told David to get started on his school work.  "Just a minute, Mom.  I need to make my bed first."  I wasn't about to deny him, so I sent him off.  Lizzy announced she needed to make her bed.  Then Joy said she needed to make hers as well.  To which Lizzy replied, "That's alright, Joy.  I will make your bed."  This was the point that I thought it might be a good idea to get my hearing checked.  Did Lizzy just offer to do Joy's chore???  My girl who is the queen of "It's not my mess, it's Joys.  So I don't need to clean it up."

This morning when I checked the girls' room, I noticed two little things on the floor.  I called Joy in to clean them up and her distress was clear.  "You're not going to take a coin out of my jar, are you???"  No, not for two little things.

Once again, I LOVE this idea!!!  Why did I not think of this sooner?!  All this time of promising an allowance for work done was misguided.  Giving them a FULL jar of money with the threat of losing it has proven so much more motivating to them than an EMPTY jar with the promise of being filled.  And their rooms are clean for the fourth day in a row--with no reminders from me.

I could almost cry.