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Monday, November 29, 2010

Peace on Earth

Courtney at Women Living Well is hosting another challenge this month, and I'm going to get in on it.  I participated in her fall challenge, which really did work wonders for my attitude.  I was actually just thinking about the peace candle she had suggested, thinking, I really need to do that again.  Lo and behold, here it is!  Hooray!

This week I have to write a Bible verse on my calendar: Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you (I Peter 5:7).  I actually think that I will put this on my calendar and on a sticky note on my computer.  I really need this reminder right now.

The second half of the challenge this week is to light a candle, just like during the fall challenge.  Every time I see it, I am reminded to pray for peace for my home.  I noticed a big difference in the tone of our home when I did this a couple months ago and am looking forward to doing it again.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Scheduling & Time Management

I have always struggled with time management.  I excel at procrastination.  I am pretty laid-back.  I like to enjoy life and leave the work for whenever.  I am the grasshopper, and come winter, I am begging the ants for food.

I have been thinking for a few months about schedules, routines, and structure.  Structure, especially, is a scary word to me.  Rigid.  Boring.  Structure.  Blah.  I guess I am beginning to have a change of heart, because, my friends, I have a schedule now.  And I like it.

The schedule itself is from a number of sources I've read and explored over the years.  There's some FlyLady.  There's some Managers of their Homes.  There's fun and games, and school, and rest.  It's really been working for us.

I made an actual schedule with half-hour time blocks (as per MOTH), but I am way less structured than is recommended in that book.  For example, it suggests that child 1 play Legos with child 2 from 2:30 to 3:00.  We're not that regimented.  I learned two big lessons from MOTH.
1.  When making a schedule, build it around the things you already do.  I have 3 different schedules:  day at home, evening away (dance, AWANA nights), and morning away (MOPS mornings).  I plugged these events and our meals into the schedule, and then built the rest of it around those things.  This is the first time I've done it that way, and I have stuck to this schedule better than any other.  There was too much behavior and routine modification with prior schedules.  This works so much better.
2.  I am wasting too much time.  I looked at all the sample schedules and was amazed at the amount of work these women were accomplishing in a day.  How were they doing it?  I tried to not be hateful and jealous about it, but rather, to try to figure it out.  I realized that, because of the schedule, they have their times for errands, computer, phone calls, etc. and the rest of the time they are doing work in the home.  I have made a conscious effort to improve in this area.  I can't spend an hour on FB every day!

Like FlyLady dictates, I have different rooms I sort of deep clean each day of the week (she calls them "zones").  For example, once a week I will pull out the couch (it's light) and sweep under it, but only twice a year will I move the TV stand.  I know what means "clean" to me.  Each day, twice a day, we do a 15 minute clean up.  The kids and I both have a morning routine and a before bed routine.  The kids do a job each morning, and another after lunch.  I have certain jobs I do every day, as well.

So, here are some examples, because I know you like to see something concrete:

Kids' Morning Routine (completed by breakfast at 8:00):
get dressed
make bed
brush teeth
wash face
brush hair

Kids' Morning Jobs (completed after breakfast, but before school):
Scrappy -- sweep dining room
Funny -- clean upstairs hall and vacuum
Goofy -- food and water for cat
Silly -- wipe breakfast table (and chairs, because she likes it)
Each of these jobs takes less than 5 minutes.

Kids' Afternoon Jobs (completed after lunch):
Scrappy -- dust bookshelves (just the fronts, nothing has to be moved) and vacuum attic bedrooms
Funny -- sweep living room, clean TV stand (putting movies away)
Goofy -- dust dresser tops, sort laundry
Silly -- wipe cabinet fronts, sort plastic containers
These jobs take about 5-10 minutes.

Kids' Before Bed Routine (completed 1/2 hour before bedtime):
pick out tomorrow's clothes
wash face
brush teeth

You may notice that most of these jobs are not terribly difficult.  That's because I am working more to foster a sense of responsibility.  I want them to understand that we are a unit.  We all live in this home, and so we all work to care for it.  I took the time to teach them how to do these things.  They are going to keep these jobs for the entire school year, and then train the next kid down in how to do their job.  Everyone will move up, and the jobs will get tougher as they get older.

What do I do?

exercise (if I'm up early enough)
shower & dress
make bed
unload dishwasher
empty hamper
start laundry
check email/FB
make breakfast so it's done at 8:00

dishes, clean kitchen
hang out with family
supervise kids' before bed routine
read stories
kids to bed
fold laundry (I don't fold anything until after the kids go to bed)
free time

The afternoon is not quite running according to schedule right now.  That is something else I picked up from MOTH.  Instead of trying to do the whole schedule at once, work on chunks of it, then add more.  So I started with the morning, then have added in the evening.

There it is.  It's a schedule, but it isn't rigid or boring at all.  In fact, it's been liberating.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Weeks in Review - 13 & 14

So things here have been freakishly lovely.  Seriously.  My faithful readers know that I am not even one iota of the perfect homeschooling mom.  Of course, she's a myth, and I hate her.  She's so nervy with her perfect kids, and perfect life.  Good thing she's made up.  But I digress...

I have finally settled into this homeschooling life.  I had a few posts in the late summer/early fall dealing with my acceptance of the differentness that comes with homeschooling.  I have finally embraced it, and better yet, I have........


Okay, more like a routine.

I am going to post in more detail soon about the awesomeness of our new pseudo-scheduled life.  So check back early next week for that.  I know, baited breath, right?

Some books read these past two weeks:  Ed Emberley's Jumbo Color Drawing BookThe Wall (Reading Rainbow Books)Daniel Boone's Great EscapeGerms Make Me Sick! (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science 2) (Reading Rainbow book)Kat's Mystery Gift (Trucktown Ready-to-Roll)Merry-Go-Round (World of Language)Saving the Liberty BellNim and the War Effort (Sunburst Book)

Some videos/DVDS:  Mouse on the Mayflower [VHS]Peanuts - This Is America, Charlie Brown

I know we cooked, too, but I forgot what we made!

Goofy found an Ed Emberley book at the library book sale.
He's been churning out some nice drawings!  This is a witch.

A work sample from Lamb's Book of Art.  I seriously LOVE this book.

Funny plotted the wake up times of over 30 of my friends on Facebook.
Social media isn't all bad!

Silly spins at the playground.  We had a few nice
days and went to play after our work was done.

Goofy on a slide.

Scrappy.  He's a happy kid.  I like that.

Need to know how others are doing it?  Check out Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Thanksgiving -- Yes, I do want cranberries with that

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  I mean, I like Easter and Christmas.  But Thanksgiving is my favorite.

I noticed today that my local town has hung up their Christmas decorations.  Each light pole has a tacky light-up angel or a wreath stuck to it.  My kids said, "Mom!  Is it almost Christmas?"  You'd think so.  I was at Lowe's before Halloween, and they had Christmas decorations out already.  It was frightening.

Poor Thanksgiving.  It's like nobody cares.

I love Thanksgiving because it is a great day to remember God's blessings on my life.  I love that I get to see my dearest friends and family.  I love that there are no presents.  No lights.  No tree.  No stress.  I love that there's a  great feast to remind us how rich we truly are.

And so I stubbornly refuse to pull out any Christmas decorations.  I don't want to hear Bing Crosby or Andy Williams or Nat King Cole crooning to me about the wonders of the season.  I don't want to think about whether I remembered to buy ornament hooks last year.  I don't want to bake cookies.  I don't want to wrap gifts (ever).  I don't want to watch It's a Wonderful Life.  Yet.

For now, I just want to slow down and be thankful.  And eat some pumpkin pie.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Week in Review--Week 12

We had a normal-ish week this week.  Whatever that means!

Scrappy is still working on grammar.  He has to take a standardized test this year, so just like the public schools, we are teaching to the test.  I hate that.  But I want to make sure he knows it.  Blech.  I'm glad my funding doesn't rely on him getting high scores.  Whew!  He did some reading and some math.

Funny did some grammar work too, because why not?  She is seriously obsessed with all the Fly Guy books.  We were at the library yesterday and she wanted to take all of them.  I had to limit her to two.  I hope that after she reads all of these that she can find something else that excites her!  I welcome your suggestions.

For the first time, Funny asked if she could take a book to bed because she wanted to read it before she fell asleep.  She's taken many, many books to bed, but only because she wanted to look at pictures, or put off going to sleep.  I was so excited.

Goofy also worked on reading and math.  He also lost his first tooth!  He's getting quite big.

We all read a book about Scotland, just because we could.  There was a lot of art this week, and some discussion of nutrition as I HAVE to put away some of their Halloween candy!  It was election week, so we discussed the voting process.  Everyone came with me to vote.  Field trip!  All of the kids drew pictures of what they saw, and Funny's was definitely, well, funniest.

This week they also had Homeschool Happenings at the local library, where they learned about Pennsylvania American Indian tribes, parts of speech, letter writing, and migration.  I really love Homeschool Happenings, because I love the time I get to spend with all the other moms!  It is so wonderful to be somewhere where people understand and support our decision to homeschool.

Some books read this week:  Scotland (Enchantment of the World. Second Series)Fox in SocksThere Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed Fly GuyVoting and Elections (Let's See Library - Our Nation series)Mayors (Community Workers)

Sadly, the kids and I didn't cook anything together this week.

Also, I finally found some drawers on sale that will work for our workbox system.  When it's all set up, I'll tell you all about it.  The kids are all super excited about it.  They said that they like that they'll know how much work they have in a day and that there's going to be a drawer for snacks.

Want to see how other people are homeschooling?  Check out Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

I've Got a Friend in Jesus

This is the talk I gave at my MOPS group this morning.  It turns out, after I re-read it, that this pretty much sums up everything I have learned through my 7 year tenure in MOPS.  It has truly been a blessing to me and my family.  If you are looking for information on your local MOPS group, click here.

I was asked to talk to you about friendship. The steering team asked me to speak because I've made some good friends here at MOPS. I don't really have a magic formula for friend-making. I don't have a step-by-step plan for you.

All I can do is tell you the few things I know on the topic, and hope that it helps you.

My dad was in the Navy for 20 years. I went to 4 schools in the 4th grade. From that, I learned how to make a friend in 5 minutes. I'll go right up to you, and I probably have, and say, “Hi, I'm Carrie” and most likely follow it up with too much personal information too soon. Because, you see, I didn't have time for slow-growing friendships when I was little. I had to make a friend, and quickly, before I moved away. I made a decision at an early age to just trust people.

My sister, on the other hand, took the opposite approach. She thought, I'm only here for 6 months so why bother? She didn't even bother trying, but then lamented her lack of friends.

Unlike my sister, I had faith that I could make a friend everywhere I went. I continually put myself out there, and had faith and trust that it would work out.

I did an informal poll on what stops us from making friends—from putting ourselves out there.

One thing I found that can stop us, and definitely has stopped me in the past, is perfectionism. Maybe my kids aren't always angels. Maybe my kids aren't even the same ages as your's and so why would you want to talk to me? Maybe my house wasn't as fancy as someone else's. I might say the wrong thing. I wouldn't invite people over because I didn't want them to see how I lived.

Who do I think I'm kidding here? If you come to my house, are you really checking my bathtub for mold? I doubt it. I realized if I kept waiting until things were just so, then no one would ever come over. I learned that true hospitality isn't about how things appear, but how comfortable a person feels. I can be sitting in a cluttered home where there are kids yelling (only because that's a kid's normal volume) and be completely at ease. That is hospitality.

Honestly, this is a constant struggle for me. I guarantee that the next time I have a gathering of people over that I will still burst into tears about an hour before people arrive because things aren't going according to my plans. I want it to be just so. I know it's wrong. I know that nearly everyone doesn't care about the state of my house, and that those that do can just bite me. I know that. But it's hard to overcome. I have to keep reminding myself that my best is good enough. That my best isn't your best. We don't all have the same circumstances or skills. We don't even have the same standards of what “clean” means. No matter what we do, we are never going to make “perfect.” I'm never going to be “perfect” on this earth.

According to my highly scientific poll, the main reason we have a hard time making friends is because of fear. We're afraid. I'm afraid too. I might appear confident, but it's an act. I'm horribly insecure.

Every time I meet someone new, or stand here talking to you, or even after knowing someone for months or years, I am afraid. I am full of fear. Fear of saying the wrong thing. Fear of rejection. What if this person figures out I'm not really laid-back, cool & confident? What if they see the real me? I mean the core of who I am. Not who I put on everyday, but the real me. The me who thinks I'm a fool. I'm unlovable. I'm ugly. I'm a slob. I'm mean. I'm judgmental. I'm impatient. I'm inappropriate. I'm a filthy mess?

What if you find out I'm not perfect?

Would you still be my friend?

We all struggle with the same things. We just want to be known, and loved. I don't care how together you might appear to be, you're a mess. We should not sit here and think, “oh that so-and-so, she has it all together. Things look peachy for her!” Yeah right!

Why are we all so afraid? Why do we let fear dictate our behaviors? Do you know what the opposite of fear is?


I don't have all the answers here. I can say that as my faith has grown, I've been less controlled by perfectionism and fear. I still struggle with them, but they don't consume me like they used to. I still want to be liked, but I know now who I really need to please. It isn't you or my family or even myself.

Think about your closest friend for a second. It might be a friend, sister or your husband. I suspect that person knows you pretty well. That person has probably seen you all blotchy and puffy after an ugly cry. That person knows you think some ignorant thoughts. That person knows you are not perfect. Yet that person chooses to love you. In fact, that person probably gets upset if you say something negative about yourself! This person doesn't see those ugly things. That person just loves you.

Every single one of us, at our core, thinks we're a mess. We wouldn't need Jesus without it! But the truth is, even though I have all those negative thoughts about myself, they are not the truth. Because I have faith, what I really am is strong, confident, loving and lovable, and becoming perfect in Christ.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Egg Scramble

I'm quite fond of the egg scramble.  Veggies plus eggs.  If I'm lucky, there's cheese.  Yes, it's easy.  Oh-so-easy.  And delicious.  And cheap!  So get to making it already, okay?

This is today's scramble, but I vary it based on the types of veggies we have about.  Peppers, onions, broccoli, mushrooms, tomatoes, greens, asparagus--YES!  Whatever.

Egg Scramble with Potatoes, Greens & Cheese
an original recipe

1/4-1/2 stick butter
2 large-ish potatoes, chopped into small cubes
1 small green pepper, chopped finely
1/4 onion (mine was gigantic), chopped finely
1 c. chopped greens (Whatever kind you have or you could leave them out.  But seriously, this is a good introduction to greens, if you need one.  I used kale.)
1-2 cloves garlic, minced OR 1-2 tsp. garlic powder
1-2 tsp. curry powder (optional, but I am on a curry kick)
salt & pepper to taste
6 eggs, beaten
1/2 c. shredded parmesan

Melt butter in skillet over medium high heat.  Add potatoes, peppers and onions.  Add garlic if using fresh. Saute a little bit then leave them to sit for about 5 minutes or so.  Season with garlic powder (if using), salt & pepper and curry powder.  Stir around again, and let them sit again for about 5 minutes.  I won't judge you if you want to add more butter.  No one is looking.

These potatoes are resting.  See how no one is stirring them?
That's what I'm talkin' about.

Taste a little potato and see how they are.  If they are just a little crunchy, that's okay, because they still have some time to cook.  If they are a lot crunchy, please note that I did say "chopped into small cubes."  I wasn't kidding.  Add greens.  Maybe you want to add more butter?  I don't know.  Just throwin' it out there.

Let the greens cook about 5 minutes, then push the veggies to the edges of the pan and add the beaten eggs.  Scramble, people!  They'll cook up very quickly.  You can throw the cheese in now, too.  The scrambling should only take about a minute or two.  Take a taste.  You can adjust the salt & pepper if you want.  My kids ate this with hot sauce.  I thought it was perfect without.

Note:  I went to get seconds of this only to discover, to my horror, that Scrappy had eaten 3 servings and had left nothing but tumbleweeds behind.

Make Your Home a Haven Weeks 4 & 5

I'm combining two challenges with this post.

Week 4's challenge was to treat the family with tenderness.  I am so glad the focus on peace and gentleness preceded this one!  It felt natural and easy.  Hooray!  Courtney suggested I rub everyone's back, and I admit I didn't do that.  But we've had some nice family snuggles and been doing a lot of family fun activities.  I think that, in general, showing tenderness might be a bit unnatural to me at times, but it is something I have been working to change for a few years now.  I already see a huge difference, so I know it will only get better.

Week 5's challenge is to cook something tasty.  I feel like I already have a pretty good attitude about cooking.  For me, it's a very comfortable, easy way to show my family how much I love them.  We are challenged to make something special this week, so I might break out the Martha Stewart hot chocolate recipe or some homemade pretzels (I like this recipe from String Theory).  Oh, maybe I'll just do both!

The other element of this challenge is to practice giving thanks.  What a great reminder, because it's so easy to forget how bountiful things are here.  I mean, I can buy something alleging to be a tomato in February!  Okay, not the finest example, as they're gross.  But you get my point.  Thanksgiving is coming, anyway, which is my favorite holiday.  It's all coming together, people!

I have really enjoyed this challenge.  It has helped me be more intentional at home, which I really needed.  Nothing like a gentle kick in the pants to motivate.  Well, besides a swift kick.

Happy homemaking!