Saturday, December 31, 2011

The End of One Year and the Beginning of Another

Well, as I sit and type, 2011 is coming to an end and 2012 is knocking on the door...or is it exploding at the door (neighbors are blasting it in). I jest. I'm all for the fun and excitement that the changing of years seems to bring.

As many people seem to be stating about this past year, 2011, it was quite the rough year for us. We have had, through our almost 14 years of marriage, some highs and lows and 2011 was one of the lower years for us...though not quite as low as some of our other lows. We are definitely looking forward to some high waves we can ride...preferably on a sunny day and NOT in shark infested waters.

I am not referring to our marriage. I should point that out. Oh, sure, we have had highs and lows in that respect...but we persevere.

I remember, a couple years ago, we were in church and the Pastor was talking about something called a "recession". Now me, my naive self, leaned over to Matt inquisitively. What recession?? Matt gave me the cliffs note version of the status of the country and how bad things were getting. I asked if we were ok and he patted my knee reassuredly and said we were better than ok. I sighed in relief and got back safely in my bubble.

Over the last few years, I have heard story after story of job loss. I know people who have been out of work for years. Houses are foreclosed on. Families are splitting up. Every once in a while, my worry feathers rise and I inquire on Matt's stability. Thank God, he has been stable at his work.

But, 2011 became one of our hardest years. The economy has definitely taken it's toll on us...expenses go up but salaries don't. Often, I have worried that we would not make it. God, of course, always provides. We have yet to go without.

By the time I finishe this blog, I can safely say we survived another year. It was hard...but I know we are stronger for it. And there are promises for a new year with it's hopes and challenges. I have come to understand that while some financial security does provide you with less stress and, yes, happiness (I am not talking wealth, I am talking security), it is not everything. And security needs to be put in perspective. I have a house with central air and heat. I have appliances to cook my family dinners on and a bunch of other equipment that allows me to cook new and different things. I have my health and the health of my family. I live in a great state...and in the best part of this great state. I have my freedom.

I have never been one who cares much for the turning of a new year. January 1st is much the same as any other day. But, after a year that caused quite a bit of stress (and yes, equally or more good), I felt that 2012 should be allowed some possibilities. I do not tend to make resolutions, but decided to this year...and I have asked my family to, as well. Just 5 goals for the coming year. I plan on printing them and posting them on our fridge as a reminder. Daniel will likely say he wants to be crazier and play more. Sierra's will likely have to do with clothes and make-up. I won't even begin to wonder about Matt's.

As for my goals, they are simple: 1) To be a better wife. 2) To study my bible more. 3) To be better about our finances. 4) To lose 10-15 pounds and maintain it (isn't that a version of everyone's goals). and 5) To write...a book.

So, now it is 2012....fireworks are going crazy....cheers are ringing out...and I say "HOORAY" to the end of what was and to the beginning of what could be!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Merry Christmas, From Our House To Yours

We had a lot of fun with our Christmas cards this year. We decided last year to stray away from the serious, posed picture and to, instead, have fun. Here is the card I made:

And here are the poses we came up was SO MUCH fun. We intended on using only 2 pictures, but loved them all so much we ended up using more...

And than there is the POPCORN battle!!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The End of the World

What is it with humans and our obsession with the end of the world? It seems to be a topic that is talked about like crazy on many levels. So many Christians are obsessed with the "end times" fiction fanatics are fixated on alien attacks...germaphobes fear some super bug...environmentalists and global warming with melting ice caps. Are we all so afraid of our own doom?? I suppose there is something there that can warrant this obsession...the loss of humanity.

I mention this because of some of the movies and shows I have watched recently. I started thinking about how many of these depict some sort of world tragedy on one level or another.

A couple months ago, Matt and I saw the movie "Contagion". Ok, not quite a world ending movie, but it was certainly an epidemic that was world altering with an incredibly contagious disease that killed millions and caused chaos world-wide. Yesterday, I watched the first episode in a British made television series calld "Survivors" which had a basic premise like Contagion...except this disease was more of a killer than the one in Contagion, leaving much of the population dead. By the end of the first episode, there were only, seemingly, around 6-10 survivors.

Then there are the movies and shows that millions of viewers watch about Zombies. This one is, for some reason, fascinating to so many. The premise is always the same...a disease that kills people and than causes them to come back to life as mindless beings that seek live flesh to eat....get bitten and you will get the disease as well. Utterly ridiculous....and yet loved by so many. Personally, for some unknown reason, this genre really gives me nightmares. I mean...come on. Zombies!?! You can't get much more fictional than this, but I still have problems. No "Resident Evil" for me, please!! Course, I did recently watch the entire first season of "The Walking Dead". I will admit to getting sucked into this series about the world having this disease and the living trying to survive. Upon completing season 1, I thought how much I would like to start season 2....and promptly had a nightmare than caused me to sleep with a light on.

Of course, one must not forget the apocalyptic movies like "The Book of Eli" or "The Postman". This ending seems more logical...a nuclear attack that causes many to die and those who live to have to learn to live in a much different, harder world. If there is any that I would fear, it would be this. I would rather not live through a nuclear winter that would last years (decades).

And what about those natural disasters like "The Day After Tomorrow" where we get another ice age or "2012" where the Mayans predict our end?? The instability of our planet which has survived so well for many thousands of years would all of the sudden...without warning, turn on itself and, once again, only the hero plus a few more survive .... maybe even evolving with the changes ("Waterworld" -- Kevin Costner and his gills). Yeah, I don't think so either.

Of course, those of the know...know how it will all end. God has laid it out. That, of course, leads to movies like "The Seventh Sign" or any of the many anti-christ movies. Of course, these are laughable...much like the recent doomsday predictions. No one can truly know when the day of judgement, tribulation, armageddon will really take place. That's the point, right??

So, just some thoughts rolling around in my head this Tuesday afternoon. Odd?? Yeah, I guess. It's weird that I have been watching this type of movie or show recently...and I have not done it on purpose. I am not seeking dooomsday genres, they are just what I am unwittingly watching. Am I entertained? Sometimes. I view it as I would any fiction work...entertaining for entertainment purposes. I just find it odd how much we watch this type of genre. What is so fascinating about humanity's demise?? I'm not sure....but I think I might have to stay away from Zombies. That is just one facet of the end of humanity that I just cannot do.

Now, to see if Middle Earth can avoid doomsday...time for another Lord of the Rings Marathon.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Catching Up!

It has been a while since I have last posted anything. A lot has been going on, but not much that is really worth mentioning. We are a typical American family with busy schedules. Well, that is not entirely true. For the first time in a long time, our schedule has not been so busy with too many things like sports or school activities and more with just family time activities. It has really been wonderful.

I thought, though, that I would share a couple things that have been a part of my last several weeks.


It has been a while since I told you about some books that I have read, so I thought I would now.

These are a few of the books I have read in the last couple weeks. I have enjoyed reading books that have made me think, made my heart race, and made me cry. I would easily recommend any of these books to my friends.

If you are looking for a book series that will have your heart pumping almost from beginning of book one to end of book three, than the Hunger Games series is for you. I would not even begin to try to tell you about the is best left to the surprises within. I will, however, forewarn you that the third book is a pretty bad disappointment. It is definitely worth reading, but I question the author's direction with her characters. Definitely fell short of the first two books.

If you are looking for a book that makes you maybe pause and think that maybe your viewpoint on some of the world you would rather forget should not be overlooked, than The Santa Shop is for you. It is written from the perspective of a homeless man. It brought tears to my eyes on a couple of occassions. I do have to say, though, that I was disappointed in the end. It just abruptly ended....and was a fairly short book. Still worth the read.

Over the Edge was a good book based on a medical condition that the author herself has suffered through. Brandilyn Collins, the author, is one of my favorite authors and it was exciting to find out about this new book. It was unlike most of her books, though. It was a mystery both in medicine and crime and it had a bit of a surprise ending.

Where Mercy Flows is a good book I received as a gift. It was such a good book about a woman who was lost....much like the prodigal son. It was not a preachy book as many Christian fiction books can be. It had a slight cheese factor, but I really enjoyed the book. It was easy to relate to the main character of the book as she dealt with familial issues as well as some health issues. You could not help but love the family.

I am currently reading a book that is a free download currently on Kindle... I have not gotten very far into it, but am enjoying it. It takes place in the 50s or 60s. It is interesting, but I do not tend to read Christmas books at Christmas time, but this is my third this season. Of course, this is the first Christmas I have had my Kindle, which makes it so much easier to read books!! It truly was a favorite among Christmas presents EVER!!

I have read a couple other books here and there in these past few between these...but these have had the best impact on me.

Other than reading, life has been normal. We are finishing up homeschooling for 2011 and will begin gearing up for 2012 soon. Christmas is going along smoothly this year with the joy of Amazon (and the ease). Should be finishing up Christmas shopping this week.

Our church is pushing for a "Simple Christmas" for all of it's members and we have had a rather simple one. I decided this year to hide the presents until Christmas Eve the kids won't focus on what's under the tree and will focus elsewhere. No counting daily to see who has more or whose weighs more. It has been quite nice, actually.

I promised to post my dad's bean recipe...and I will, soon. I was going to attach it to this blog, but I think it deserves it's own post. So, I guess this post is more geared towards books and less towards other things. But, it's Chritmas. Put on some Christmas music, brew some tea, curl up in your favorite spot....and read a book. That's what I find myself doing lately and it has been wonderful!!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner

It is time to admit's taken 37 years, but I have to just say it.......I do NOT like Thanksgiving food!! I know, I is un-american of me to say, but it is what it is!!

Every year I have a turkey, convinced that this is the year it will taste good....and every year I end up throwing most of it away. I do not like the way it tastes. I was discussing this dilemma with Matt yesterday (on Thanksgiving day) and he had a brilliant idea.

From Thanksgiving 2012 on, we will be doing an international Thanksgiving meal. The idea: We put different nationalities on pieces of paper, put the names in a bag, and pull out a name and that will be our dinner. In fact, we will plan out the next several Thanksgivings this way....put them in my phone calendar.

So, here it is:

Thanksgiving 2012: Greek
Thanksgiving 2013: Mexican
Thanksgiving 2014: English (not American)
Thanksgiving 2015: Italian
Thanksgiving 2016: Chinese
Thanksgiving 2017: Irish
Thanksgiving 2018: German
Thanksgiving 2019: French
Thanksgiving 2020: Russian

I am REALLY excited and a bit bummed. I wish we had thought of this a couple weeks ago!! How fun it would have been to start now!! Oh well, it's something to look forward to.

No changes will be done for Christmas dinner. We do a southern style meal that I LOVE (as does Matt): honey glazed ham, homemade southern style green beans, homemade macaroni and cheese, rolls and a homemade cheesecake!! YUM-O!!

So, no more turkey for me, thank you very much (well, I must admit, I love the turkey legs at Disney World....and the yummy turkey sold at bbq restaurants.....).

Friday, November 4, 2011

It's been a YEAR!!

Well, to be honest, it's been a bit over a year. What can I say, life gets nuts and the next thing you know, you realize that the year mark passed and you missed it. Recently, I realized that it had been a year and a half since we got our dog, Rocky. A couple days ago, I realized it had been a little over a year since Sierra decided that she wanted to be homeschooled. I will not rehash the whole story behind her desire to be can read about it here.

So, here we are now, a year later. Sierra is now in Jr. In this year, there has not even been one moment of thought with either of us that this was a wrong decision. Matt would, at times, ask if we should put her back in school...we had some ups and downs in our adjustment period. But, even in the lowest lows, I never questioned whether or not this was the best choice for her.

I would not, in any way, call her 6th grade year a successful year. It was rather crazy as we learned the ins and outs of curriculum that works and curriculum that doesn't. Much of the curriculum I bought did not suit her...which I understand is an advantage to homeschooling, you can tailor make their education to one that suits their needs. It was a hard lesson because as great as that sounds, the wallet may argue with it.

Time management was another hurdle to be jumped. She had gone to school for so many years and was used to an order that was given to her without her input...and now she was able to tailor her schedule to fit her needs and it threw her off. She would take advantage of the freedom and make poor choices in her schooling. She learned, though, that this was NOT going to go over well with her new principal. :-D

The other big issue we had to deal with was socialization. It wasn't too long after she left school that she decided she wanted to have a clean break from her friends from public school...I had nothing to do with that decision. She felt that they were dragging her down and she wanted to be with like-minded friends...finding such friends would prove difficult.

First off, we could not join any support groups until a couple months later because of the holidays and such. Once we joined, we found the resoures limiting. We signed up for a couple field trips, but never was there one that provided a possible friend for her. One of the groups we joined had a tween group, but the meetings were at an impossible time. AND, Sierra did not like the way her age group at church was handled and stopped going to it...opting, instead, to go with us. That #2 on our list of homeschooling rules was quickly not being fulfilled. I felt strongly that something must change.

Lucky for us, something did change. We went to one of our support group's ice skating party and a girl came forward and started talking to Sierra...a girl Sierra's exact age and this girl was a lot like Sierra. Sierra was feeling so awkward that day as she had just gotten her braces as well as an expander in her mouth and could not talk well...but this girl didn't mind (why would she). In that last hour of the party, I saw my daughter come to life and I LITERALLY had tears of JOY and was silently praising Jesus for this girl...though I had NO idea if anything would happen beyond that day. Well, here we are at the beginning of November, and Sierra and that girl are the best of friends...they are currently having a double sleepover (tonight her house, tomorrow night ours) and Sierra is H-A-P-P-Y!!

Added to that, Sierra moved on to the bigger age group at church (Student Ministries) where she has found a place she LOVES and belongs. She has also gained a couple other girlfriends.

This school year marked her 7th grade year. It is a much more organized and regimented year than her previous year. She is doing Bible, Social Studies, Texas History, Language Arts, Science and French with Switched On Schoolhouse which is a computer based curriculum that keeps all her records as well as schedules out her work for her. She LOVES it. She completed 6th grade math with Teaching Textbooks halfway through 6th grade and began 7th grade math after that. She is on track to finish 7th grade Math in Teaching Textbooks and start Pre-Algebra at the beginning of 2012.

In public school, she pulled in a couple As and some good, strong Bs. This year, 7th Grade, she is pulling in straight As. It is not a weak is quite advanced from what I can tell. She has had to write about 7 reports and has several projects to do. She has an upcoming astronomy project involving charting constellations. To say I am proud of my daughter would be a severe understatement. I am an UBERproud mama. She is more confident in herself and her abilities. She went from shaking in terror at the thought of a test, to easily sitting and taking tests without fear.....and making high As every time. She is excelling in every way and tells me ALL the time how HAPPY she is being homeschooled.

And at the end of that original blog highlighted above, "A Cry for Help", I mentioned Daniel's love of school and his excelling at school.....and how, for now, he would stay in school. Well, he finished Kindergarten and started 1st grade....but I am pleased beyond pleased that he is now being homeschooled and LOVING it. He asked for it because school was just too slow for him. He was not interested in coloring. He was interested in learning. He loves to write and he loves geography...and he loves to now be home.

I lost my "me time", but I gained multiple hugs from my kids...and the sound of laughter all day long....the shouts of joy when a quiz is complete with a score of 98 or above....the thumping of excitement as my son runs into his sister's room to share what he just learned. It has been a bit over a year and the only, ONLY regret I have about any of this homeschooling stuff is........I wish I had started earlier with Sierra. But, it is not the past, but the present and future that we look to, and the present and future are goooooooooooooooooood!!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Homosexuality in TV and Movies

Hate the sin, love the sinner. If you are a Christian, you have likely heard this phrase uttered repeatedly from the pulpit, in Sunday School class and in simple conversation with other Christians. I think this is an important statement as I do believe that that is what we are called to do. God obviously loves all people and longs for all to come to Him. He also obviously hates sin in all forms and considers homosexuality a sin.

There are so many movies and tv shows that glorify the homosexual lifestyle. To name a prominent one, Glee is one of those shows that has homosexuality strewn throughout it. It is one of the most popular shows on tv (though, I understand it has "jumped the shark")...viewed by all ranges of people including many Christians. How can we as Christians hate the sin and enjoy a show like this? I don't know. I think the enemy can put the sin in a pretty package making it seem "not so bad" to the Christian eye.

Tonight Matt and I watched a is a BBC production of Sherlock Holmes...Matt says it stuck pretty close to the book series except it is set in today's time. He wasn't sure that he would like it. Sherlock Holmes is one of those things that he has enjoyed throughout the years and he is a bit of a purest when it comes to how it is made. He was surprised to enjoy the show...and I thought it was great (though I do not know anything about the history of the characters).

HOWEVER, there was a scene that has us quite uncomfortable. Dr. Watson, who just met Sherlock, was asking him about any girlfriends. Sherlock replied, matter of factly, that this was of no interest to him (or something like that). Dr. Watson raises his eyebrows and says...a boyfriend, then. Sherlock simply says no...but then clarifies that he is married to his work. The exchange left Matt and I Sherlock GAY?? Research is forthcoming.

But, what if he is? Is this grounds to stop wathing the show?? I think the answers by many Christians would be split...some would say YES, stop watching immediately...others would say NO, it's just a show. But that's just it. As a Christian society we are becoming too accepting of bad behavior. We watch shows that have strong immoral beliefs and say we can look past it. But, can we?? Or do we become numb to it?? I do not want to become numb to it. I won't watch Dexter because the main character is a serial killer. Oh, well he only kills bad guys "who deserve what is coming to them"...but it is wrong. I won't watch Glee because there is a large level of acceptance of homosexual behavior in, of all things, our youth. The list could go on.

If I, or Matt, find out that the Sherlock Holmes character is meant to be gay would we stop watching it?? YES, we would!! I do not want to become desensitized to this behavior. We hear that term being used with children watching violent movies, but what about Christians being desensitized to homesexual behavior, or any other sexual immorality? I heard a LOT about the show Grey's Anatomy from friends who are Christian and so I decided to try it and was appalled at the sexual immorality that ran rampant on the show. When did this become "ok"?

On a lighter note, we have done the research on good ole Sherlock and discovered that it is kind of poked fun at a lot in the show, but it is not the intent of the producers to make Sherlock gay. Apparently, this is a running gag among many Sherlock enthusiasts. So..... *whew*

This is the opinion of one. Maybe I am wrong. Maybe God would see me watching a show that has outrageous sinful behavior and think it ok. I am not sure I want to take that chance. I am not perfect in what I watch. Some of my favorite movies and tv shows have their moments of uncomfortable lewdness...and I often decide later that this was not a good idea to watch and will cease and dissist. BUT, if the main theme or character shows this behavior, I must put a stop to it!!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Public "Thank You God"

Yesterday in our Wednesday night Prayer Service at our church, Woodsedge Community Church, Pastor Jeff Wells called us to come forward and make public declarations of thankfulness to God for something in our lives. It was a powerful time as person after person stood in front of the mic declaring thankfulness for restored marriages, restored relationships between parent and child, healing, promises of healing, etc. It was incredibly moving and I felt, strongly, that I should go forward and declare my thankfulness for a life that has been blessed...but if you know me, you know I'm a chicken!! I sat still and just let myself fill up on these public declarations. It was truly inspiring.

But, it has bugged me all day long that I did not go forward and declare a "Thank you, God" in front of my whole congregation to hear. This is not the same, but I wanted to do one here and now. If you know me, you know my voice is often heard loudest here, in written form.

So, I want to thank God for the opportunity he has given me to be a wife and mom. I was a wandering soul, without purpose or a clear path of what I was supposed to do. Marriage felt like a right step, but not quite right. Having a baby was incredible and filled a bit more of the puzzle in...but there was a piece missing. Than I turned my heart over to Jesus and all the puzzle pieces just fit. Through Him, I have had a great healing in my heart and have found my purpose. 12 years later (it has almost been 12 years to the day), I am still living out this purpose. I am still married to my wonderful, supportive husband and am now a mother of two. Without God, none of this would be. Oh, I might still be married and have my 2 children, but I would be broken and, likely, not living my life like I was meant to.

There is no doubt in my mind that my place is here, as helpmate to my husband and as mother to my children. God has further expanded my purpose by adding teacher to my resume and I am more blessed because of it. I have never felt more joy than I do now, in my present state. There is nothing so thrilling as homeschooling my kids and watching their joy and accomplishments from my front row seat. My children have never been happier than they are now, as homeschoolers. God has blessed us with so many new friends and contacts that make this journey so much better than life has ever been before.

It would be great to say that 12 years later that it has been as smooth as a nice drive in the country on a newly paved road, but it hasn't. We have had sharp turns and some deep, deep holes that have busted our tires on this drive of ours. At times, I question what I am doing...what we are doing. Why is it so hard? But, I am learning to praise Him through the rocky times and the easy times. We had a deep hole in the road these last couple days that I thought would knock our tires off and our wheels out of alignment, but He came through and the road, while still not smooth, is certainly a lot easier to drive through.

Through all the smooth patches and the rough patches, I do Thank God for bringing me to the place I am. I would not trade ANY of it for ANY amount of money or luxury. He has chosen me and I will gladly receive all He chooses to give me.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Pavlov's Dogs

If you have spent anytime in school, you have likely heard of the scientist called Pavlov and his experiment with dogs. He rings a his dogs a treat. He repeats this over and over until all he has to do is ring a bell, and the dogs would automatically drool. What is to be learned from this, who knows? I am, though, using these techniques with my kids...though not so much on the drooling. I am training my kids with sounds from my iPhone and it works BEAUTIFULLY!

If you happen to possess an iPhone, or, I presume, any smart phone, than you likely have a feature to set alarms. You can set multiple alarms and assign each alarm with any number of sounds. I have gotten to where I have set several alarms on my phone daily and each one has a specific sound and the kids know what the sound means. It's great!!!

For instance, bed time. Bed time would be a chore (not a hard chore, but a chore none the less). Maybe we would get into a movie or something and next thing you know it's after 9:00 which is a bit too late for my son on a school night. Or, maybe we would get started on bedtime routines too early and be left with time to spare. Now, I have an alarm set for 8:15 on my phone. The sound for this alarm is crickets. When Daniel hears this sound, he knows he has 15 minutes to get ready for bed...and be in bed by 8:30. I have one set for Sierra for 9:15. Daniel will often complain, but he knows there is no argument. The time is the same each night.

I also find myself forgetting to have Daniel wear his patch everyday. I am VERY forgetful about a great many things, but Daniel's eyes are very important to me. I have a "boing" sound that goes off every afternoon at 1:00. Daniel hears the sound and instantly begins to groan (he hates the patch), but at least he knows it's coming.

For Sierra, I have an alarm set for her to wear her headgear during the's a duck quacking. lol I am not sure why I chose that sound, but I know when the duck quacks, it's time to put on the gear (she wears it at night, but often it does not make it through the night and she needs to supplement her night wear with day wear).

Daniel likes to take breaks during the day and so I will often set a timer for him (he loves it....he gets crouched down and we do the "on your mark, get set, GO") for him. When he hears the trill, he knows break time is over.

Sierra has started setting alarms on her iPhone that alert her to things like, putting in her braces bands or break times or start working on a report, etc. She could be in another room, but when she hears a particular sound she registers it as time for this specific thing.

It's great!! I love that my kids can hear a sound and know what it means and their response to it. They might not like it (bedtime alarms), but the do not dispute it. They may not drool when they hear the tone, but they do respond.

Saturday, October 1, 2011


I had it set in my phone when Daniel's progress report from his school would be sent home and it's right about now. That got me would I evaluate these last several weeks of school in the Kozlowski home??

Well, Sierra had a rocky start to the school year and beat herself up pretty bad at first. Unlike regular school where the teachers spend a fair amount of time testing and seeing if all the kids are caught up after a summer, her curriculum just jumped right into the review. She was faced with learning a program (her curriculum is ALL computer based) AND learning her material. As predicted (by me), within days/a week or so, she had mastered it all and is now pulling in straight A's. It is hard to manage her schedule. She is taking Language Arts, Bible, History, Texas History, Science, Math, and French. She has already had to write 3 essays and has a couple more due in a couple weeks. She also has had several major tests (her lowest grade on a major test was a mid A). Pretty soon, she will have science projects to do like charting star systems, using a microscope to look at her own cheek cells and several others. Learning another language is proving to be more difficult than she imagined, but she is kind of teaching Daniel as she is teaching herself. So far, I would give Sierra an A+++ in her first year in Jr. High.

Daniel, of course, started off his school year in public school. I am glad we got him out when we did. I had a lot of anxiety with his going to school...and not just because I love him so much and want him with me (though that was a factor). I don't know why I had anxiety...his school was a good school. I was not fond of his teacher, though I am sure she was adequate. I was not concerned with him socially...he's a good kid. None-the-less, homeschooling finally happened and I am at peace. We had a rocky start as we ordered his curriculum and it took FOR-EVER for it to come in. Now, he's a smart kid and I knew a week or so without school wouldn't cause damage, but Daniel was more than ready for some challenging work. His work load (now with full curriculum) is challenging, but in a good way. His subjects are: History, Geography, Science, Poetry, Phonics, Math, Reading, and Handwriting. I try to do Science and History only a couple days of the week. His favorite subjects are Math, Poetry, and Geography. His absolute LEAST favorite is handwriting. He HATES it. He LOVES of his favorite assignments is writing stories and he often writes stories on his own. But teaching him the PROPER way to write the letter n is torture for him. lol I thought of skipping 1st grade phonics and going right into 2nd grade, but the phonics program I bought is REALLY good and I am glad I kept it. He has not been too challenged yet, but will soon. His math program is GREAT (Singapore math)...though just when I think I have a lesson that will challenge him, he busts out with all the answers on his own. I would definitely give him an A+++.

Sierra comes in often while I am teaching Daniel and says that she wishes I had started homeschooling her earlier. Daniel is learning SO MUCH more than she did in 1st and doing so many projects that are fun ( INCREDIBLE resource). With each day I spend with Daniel doing the fun things we do, I feel more and more regret at not having pulled her out sooner!! Even Matt, who had reservations about homeschooling Daniel, has seen the rewards.

So, our progress reports are in tip top shape. My kids are accomplishing more at home than in school. I am at peace.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Do I have anything more to say?

I am beginning to wonder if I have anything else to talk about besides homeschooling? It has, seemingly, consumed most of my communication with other people and with myself (yes, I communicate with myself...and if you are a woman reading this, you likely do the same whether you admit it or not). Just yesterday Matt said to me, what are you thinking about? He could tell by the look on my face that my mind was consumed. I took a deep breath and let it all out...everything that had passed through my mind in that 20-30 second window of time. Matt shook his head and said "I am so glad NOT to be a woman". 99% of the long list of things that had passed through my mind were homeschooling related.

I think I am consumed. Shouldn't I be, though? If I were a teacher in a classroom with 30 kids, I would teach them all day long...bring their work home for me to grade...prepare for the next day to come...etc. As a teacher to my kids, shouldn't I be constantly thinking about how to teach them. I am more invested in my own kids than I would be in a classroom of kids. So maybe I don't have more to say because there is simply nothing more important right now than that.

Oh, but there are other things going on in life outside of homeschooling...really there are. For instance, Star Wars came out on blu-ray yesterday. My husband is one of the masses that saw Star Wars when he was but a small boy and he quickly became obsessed with the franchise. This is a big event in our house, one that equaled Matt staying home from work and the kids not having to do school. Of course, I did sit in my recliner and plan out the next week of school work for my son. I read and re-read his science work (he is beginning the free *incredible* curriculum that was developed to go alongside the upcoming movie "A Dolphin Tale"). I researched lap-books and began planning how and for what subjects he would be using these great learning tools. I obsessed over when the mail would arrive as I have not received the rest of his curriculum I ordered a week ago. Um, I am back on the homeschooling topic.

Well......Matt took 2 other days off this week and we took advantage of him being home and took the kids to a skatepark to have fun. Matt rode my bike around and the kids had a blast!! There was a man there with his son and the man was uber friendly. His son and daughter are also homeschooled...have been for years. His son was a couple years older than Daniel and could skateboard really well. He is enthusiastic with his skateboarding and not at all what you would picture as a homeschooler. His family often go to Africa on mission trips and they go to our church (small world). Yep, homeschooling pops it's *pretty* head.

Ok, so church last week was great. Our pastor, Jeff Wells, is doing an incredible series on Romans 8 dealing heavily in the holy spirit...don't be scared. lol It has been VERY insiteful and I just love his passion. I was especially excited for this last Sunday as many of the small groups at our church had tables set-up for members to come by and get information on. My own group On Thee Edge had a pretty table set-up and I perused around the tables with great excitement and anticipation. Our church has a BOOK CLUB....who KNEW!! But, I also found out that there was a we go again ........ HOMESCHOOL GROUP. Yes, there it goes again. Homeschooling pops up. I, rather obsessively, went from table to table...looking for this group. How cool to connect with other Homeschoolers that are a part of my own church. I went from table to table several times only to discover....the group didn't show up. It was a great disappointment to me.

It seems little happens, at least now, that does not somehow reverse back to homeschooling. It is what it is, I suppose. I do not think it is a bad thing. It is a family focused is a Christ centered topic. On the other hand, if I can have maybe an hour where I do not think or talk about homeschooling, I just might do my very first cartwheel. I am going to see Lion King 3D today...hmmm, a unit on African wildlife for Daniel...the circle of much would Daniel LOVE that........... uh oh ........ *sigh* ....... here we go again.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Homeschooling Daniel

You could have knocked me over with a feather when Daniel started expressing an interest in being homeschooled. He is a very social boy who loves school and was excited about going to school. He told me that he would let me homeschool him around 4th grade. After the first week of school, he became pretty adamant, though, that he wanted to be homeschooled.

There were a couple factors that came in to play with him being homeschooled...and some of these were typical 6-year old boy things. He didn't want to have to wake up at 6:30 and rush out the door at 7:10. Who does? He wanted to be done with school earlier. He wanted to be able to go on morning bike rides with Mommy. And, he was frustrated about the pace at school. As a 6 year old, his needs were far different from Sierra's needs when she wanted out, but I already had the desire to homeschool him so any reason was good for me.

Matt had his reservations. Daniel was bored with school, but it was only a couple weeks would get more challenging. He was concerned with cost (Sierra's curriculum cost us over $500 and that did not include Math which we will buy towards the end of the year and will cost over $100). He was concerned that Daniel will regret being pulled out. I did not want to badger Matt into submission, but I began pointing out things like going at a more Daniel pace with his schooling (faster)...and being able to do more hands on things....and I perused curriculum and found I could get his curriculum for under $150....and the gas used to take him to and from school...etc. Last week, after much prayer, he relented.

Since Daniel has been home, he hasn't done a LOT of organized learning. I have gotten a LOT of advice from fellow homeschoolers and I am taking a lot of it in. I ordered his curriculum and am waiting for it to come in. A friend so KINDLY offered me some geography curriculum for FREE where Daniel will learn all about each state of the United States one by one. Daniel is SUPER excited about this. We got a large map today and he LOVES it. I was also able to download free 1st grade Spelling curriculum which Daniel is ZOOMING through already (I doubt he really needs these first several sections). A friend suggested poetry...he copies the poem and works on memorizing it. I wasn't sure how this would go, but he memorized the first poem within minutes on Thursday of last week and can recite it on command. Great idea....and FREE. I am waiting for his Phonics and Reading (Horizons), History (Our Christian Heritage), Math (Singapore Math), Handwriting (A Reason for Handwriting). I got a Science book at our local Homeschool store...used with projects in it for $3!! One of his favorite things to do is to write. He is currently writing a chapter book 100% on his own...he has written many stories. I am incorporating topical ideas for him to write stories on.

We are part of 2 Homeschool groups...each of which have park days on different days and times. He has participated in one park day and will participate in another this week. Also, due to Matt being home today, we were able to take both kids to a skate park this morning to ride their bikes and Daniel also rode his scooter. While there, he collected leaves for a science project AND I also got some green chile seeds that we will be planting...he can keep on his desk and observe it's growth for science!! He even has his elective down....he takes bi-weekly piano lessons that he LOVES!!

He is quite smart and I think he will breeze through many 1st grade subjects (possibly by Christmas)....I anticipate Phonics and Reading, Spelling and Math will be done by then...the rest we will likely stretch throughout the year. We are having a BLAST even though we just got started. The possibilities are ENDLESS!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

We've Done the Research...Now It's Decision Time

As you know, or maybe you don't know, we have been shopping around for a new way to save money and one of the most obvious ways is to get rid of cable, but we have found ourselves in quite the pickle as we try to figure out what is the best way to do this and I will tell you why....but I will break it down by categories: Netflix (dvd and instant streaming), Hulu (and Hulu+), Amazon Prime, Digital Antenna with Tivo.

Netflix (dvd and instant streaming): Despite the recent hoop-la over the hike in prices, the benefits of Netflix abound. You can pick the plan according to your wants/needs/budget. We have 2-3 accounts (depends on how our budget is going). It is easier for us to keep track this way: I have an account where we have our instant streaming and I receive unlimited 2 discs a month. This works well for me because I like watching TV on dvd, so I, on my free time, will watch different series of shows like Little House on the Prairie or White Collar. Sierra has an account where she does not get instant streaming, but she does get 1 disc at a time with unlimited discs. This works well for her because she has things she likes to watch and the cost is minimal. Matt also has an account that is the same as Sierra's except he can get blu-rays. With his account, he can watch those obscure movies that I/we have no interest in AND/OR he will get any family movies we want to get. With instant streaming, there is a growing library of movies and tv shows that benefit the whole family...Matt has been watching Bond movies as well as old Star Trek shows, Daniel has Spongebob, Sierra...well, now that you mention it she doesn't watch anything personally, though she DOES benefit the most on our favorite family show, The Cosby Show, and I watch several tv shows with Netflix and several movies. The benefit to Netflix Streaming is all you need is a device that has Netflix Streaming like a Wii, blu-ray player, Playstation, tv, etc. The negative to instant streaming is most of the shows are older shows. We, as a family, have certain tv shows we look forward to each season like Amazing Race and Survivor plus other shows like Fringe, NCIS, Criminal Minds, etc. With Netflix ONLY we would be forced to wait for dvd sets to come out, which none come out for Amazing Race or Survivor (never mind that we would likely hear WHO won via the internet). So, for our purposes, Netflix does not work on it's own. We need something that can keep us up to date on our favorite shows. So, then there is--

Hulu (and Hulu+): Ah, Hulu. It is a great program, in theory. They play many of the more recent episodes of many of your favorite shows (sounds like their byline, huh). There are certain restrictions, though. First of all, there is Hulu and Hulu+. Hulu is FREE, but can only be viewed on your computer (gather around kids, we are going to watch our show on mommy's laptop). Now, for a small monthly fee you can get Hulu+ that is broadcast over the tv, but you have to have a device to hook up to the tv to view...a blu-ray player or a tv with hulu+. The monthly fee is low (something like $7/month) and they have a fair variety of shows. So, easy choice, yes?? Well, not so. Reviews on blu-ray players that have interfaces with Netflix or Hulu+ are less than stellar. I read many, many reviews that said the same thing, you are better off with a Roku device than the blu-ray player., let's do that. A Roku box is about $70 and has the best reviews. BUT, hold on....what shows ARE on Hulu+?? Not as many as you would think!! First of all, CBS will not stream ANY of their recent shows. They feel that they are the number one network so WHY would they give a consumer a break? So, that cuts off a lot of what WE like to watch...most of our shows ARE CBS. Also, amazingly so, many shows signed contracts with Hulu, not Hulu +. So, there are a number of shows that are ONLY available through Hulu and NOT Hulu+. So why not just Hulu?? Well, Hulu is for the COMPUTER only. There are a number of shows that you can only watch on the computer. Well, we are back to the original issue....Hey kids, let's gather around Mommy's computer to watch Castle (only show I could think of). That's not cool. So then we hear about a little thing called:

Amazon Prime: Amazon Prime. I am a big fan of Amazon. They rock...they have everything available. I do a lot of my consumer fact checking via reviews on Amazon. I LOVE AMAZON. With Amazon Prime, you pay a one time, $79/year. You can pay this and be good for a year of Amazon Video on Demand shows and movies at your fingertips plus free 2-day shipping on any item, no matter how big or small. Sounds GREAT, right. Yeah, I thought so too. But then you realize not ALL Amazon Instant Video shows are FREE....just some select titles. You can imagine what is free. Comparing these titles to the Netflix titles is just sad. So, how much could an episode cost? Well, most of what I saw was $1.99 per episode. A typical TV series has 24 episodes in a season. If you don't have cable and you would pay about $25 a season per show you were watching. If we were doing Cosby and Castle, and any number of shows, you are getting into MAJOR dough AND you still run into the CBS problem. WHY!!! Then there is:

A Digital Antenna paired with Tivo: It was one of those "a-ha" moments last night. I started thinking aloud....what about getting a digital antenna?? Well, then we run into the problem of having to be tied down to when shows aired versus watching at our own pace. With a digital antenna, you can pull in a variety of channels, but how does one record them?? Then I thought, what about Tivo?? So, here is the deal on Tivo. You can get a Tivo for about $85 on amazon. It is a "smart" dvr that can be hooked to a digital antenna. With Tivo, you can also stream Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu+ and whatever, so you have a dvr and the other things. There is a fee, of course, for using the Tivo service...$20/month. When you are paying close to $100 in cable, that $20/month is still a savings...a significant one. But where do you get the shows without cable?? Why, a digital antenna, of course!! Who would've thunk?? Such a concept as this. Gone are the rabbit ears. Gone are the sketchy receptions (I think). To get a good quality antenna, you need dole out some money, but than you have your local channels and a number of other channels broadcast over the monthly fees....and it interfaces with Tivo.

There is, of course, the other thoughts: Continue paying the exorbitant cable fees with the current plan. Sign up with a new service from a new provider with lower cable fees (to start), but know that in a year, you'll be about where you started. And, of course, get rid of it ALL...rely solely on dvds/blu-rays and spend more time on family time. The first is just not an option...neither is the second. The third was a front runner last night...we thought, why not just get rid of it all. We can beef up our dvd collections and spend more time outside or having game nights or what have you.

But, let's get real. TV is not ALL it's cracked up to be, but there are certain things that bring us joy as a family. We like watching Amazing is a great show to watch together. The best option, for now, seems to be the digital antenna and Tivo route. It is not eliminating costs, but it is still bringing those costs way down. We still dvr, but we dvr only local stations and we do not pay a service fee for DVR AND Cable AND Local Stations. You eliminate 2 of those factors. The output cost at first is kind of high with getting the Tivo and the digital antenna, but in the end, you will save tons. And IF Hulu+ or Amazon Instant Video updates with more of our favorite shows, with the Tivo we can explore that.

Are we 100% sure this is the way we want to go?? NO!! But, I think we have gathered SO much information that we can go no further. It is time to pick it apart and make our decision. Hopefully, you can benefit from our research too!!

Addendum!! We have done it. We have made our changes and are fairly certain that we made the best choices. The fact is, there are several shows that we really enjoy throughout the fall and spring season. So, we called out cable company, AT&T Uverse, and talked to them. We ended up going down to Basic Cable (which gives us local channels and WGN) and we are saving $50/month. With this, our internet price will not go up (internet without a tv package would have raised our cost $10 more). We still have dvr. We do, however, lose the ability to watch our favorite USA and TNT shows (mainly Psych and The Closer), but next month we will buy a Roku box and decide then whether to use Amazon Prime for these shows or Hulu.

So, there you have it. Our decision is final, our channel line up is is simpler...we are happier. We are not saving the $90 we originally were looking to save, but $50 is nothing to sneeze about.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A bike, a boy, and his mom

As a mother, I like to make my kids happy. I will do just about anything to make them happy...anything within reason. I love the look of joy on their faces. It makes my heart pitter and, yes, patter.

So, when this past Saturday, I decided to break in my new bike, little did I know what joy it would bring my son to invite him along for a ride around the block. Sierra was asleep (she had a late night sleepover) and Matt was doing yard work. Daniel was messing around outside and all I said was "hey, Daniel, would you like to go around the block with me on our bikes?"

Oh my!! The look of joy on his face brought tears to my eyes. He excitedly said YES and got on his bike. We went around the street and every time I looked back at my boy on his Spiderman bike, his face was gleaming with happiness. Oh my...something seemingly so small was huge.

The rest of the day, he kept talking about that little trip around the block. He said that he thought that every weekend he and mommy should go on bike rides together. I told him when it was cooler (at least not in the triple digits we currently have) that I would gladly go with him after school, too.

It's those small things. Much like our weekly game nights that both my kids just love so much, time spent together doing something meaningful can be better than any monetary thing.

Tomorrow, I will start daily bike rides with Sierra to get in some "PE" time. Sierra is just as excited for this dedicated mommy time....just her and I on our bikes!! Who knew??

Friday, August 26, 2011

Money Saving Madness

We only recently stumbled upon a recent find that will save us close to $100/month and we are excited. This plus a couple other savings here and there save us short term and long term. I love to save money, but I am just not an "Extreme Couponer" nor can I do much in the way of budget eating (a fact that Sierra more than anyone appreciates....she told me yesterday that when she has kids, she is going to be like me and cook good food).

So, about a week or so ago, Matt was talking about a guy at work who just cancelled his cable (I think he had U-Verse like us) and is now doing Hulu+. Hulu+ is a service you can pay $7/month for and acts a lot like Netflix Instant Watch. Now, we do Netflix Instant Watch a LOT now. We can watch NIW through our Wii and with it we can watch some current shows and a lot of older shows plus a fair variety of movies. A favorite for the family is The Cosby Show. My kids love it and of course we do too.

We did not know much about Hulu+, so Matt researched it. While it is a lot like NIW, Hulu+ offers more in the way of currently on air shows. A show might air a new episode on Tuesday and be available on Hulu+ that day or mere days later. He got REALLY excited about this. The only issue is you either need to use a Roku box (sold in stores for about $80) or a blu-ray player that can play Hulu+...and Amazon Prime and You Tube and Pandora and many other apps. This excited him more because our blu-ray player has issues and he would like a new one anyway. HOWEVER, we discovered that CBS will NOT stream their current shows and CBS is the bulk of the current shows we like to watch (Survivor, Amazing Race, NCIS, Criminal Minds, etc). All the other networks allow streaming, but CBS refuses (don't get me started). So, Matt decided maybe the thing to do is to find a different cable/sattelite system (we have had our Uverse issues).

THEN he heard of another that excited him more. It is called Amazon Prime. It works a lot like Hulu, but the selection of current shows and movies is much greater (still no CBS...we can just watch these via website and hooking laptop to tv) and the benefits of it far outweigh Hulu! You pay a flat $80 for the year which averages to $6.50/month (according to Matt) AND being an Amazon Prime member, you get FREE 2 day shipping on any order you make on their matter how little you spend. AND, he will get his new blu-ray player. AND, we will stay current on our shows (except CBS...don't get me started) WITHOUT commercials. AND, best of all, we will cut out the $86+ a month we currently pay for cable!! Am I excited?? You BET!!! We haven't started this yet. We have to first buy a new blu-ray player....which will cost a chunk (and we have to buy Sierra's curriculum)...and will also have to pay that $80 amazon prime fee. We hope to in the next 2 weeks.

Another money saving tip we got is at Matt's work. His work has a clinic in it. Matt thought they only handled precriptions (if we have a generic prescription, we can order it through the clinic and get it for free). He just found out that they have a PA there and Matt can go to the clinic for FREE. Well, he had a dermatology appointment set for next week ($40 co-pay) where he needed to get a new prescription for his skin meds ($50). He thought to himself...I wonder if I could see this PA for free and get a prescription. So, he made an appt....saw the PA. The PA informed him that his skin meds come in generic form and though Matt had been told that the generic was not as good as the "real", it was, in fact, exactly the same...AND they gave him a physical. SO, Matt got an exam (free) and, due to the generic, got his meds (free)....all in his office building!! SUPER YAY!!!

And a final money goodie...this one is more future savings. As you know, I homeschool Sierra, but Daniel is still in public school. It is my ultimate goal to homeschool Daniel, too, but Matt is resistant. I think a big part of it is the cost of homeschooling....Sierra's curriculum is costing us close to $500 and it is HARD to pay for.....REALLY hard. Well, the other day a lady in my homeschool group posted that she was giving away curriculum sets for 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 11th. I saw that someone already claimed 7th & 11th, but I emailed asking for the 4th-6th. Today, I got an answer...I got it!!! Now, it is not 100% certain that I will be homeschooling him at that time and if I don't I will pass the freebies on to someone else. I plan on keeping her curriculum from here on out, so it will be there for Daniel. The best part is this curriculum I just scored is the same program that I am buying for Sierra now!! So, it will be consistent!! I am SO excited!! (Now to afford Sierra's curriculum without having to stand in the soup line)!!

Other added savings we have had....we now have 2 cars so Matt takes the gas guzzling van to and from work every day and I drive the far less gas eater sedan on my little errands. It is AMAZING how much LESS gas we use each pay period!!! Due to having 2 cars, it is FAR easier for me to COOK each night which equals healthier eating (no last minute drives out to McDonald's for dinner)and money saved in meals that often can be served twice in one week (added benefit to this is Matt is FINALLY on a that I am confident will be showing rewards soon). Summer is over (not officially, but movie wise) less outings to the movie theater. Sadly, our heat wave is causing incredible spikes in our electric bill....we are unplugging all the devices we possibly can, but with Sierra and I home so much of the day, it is hard not to have multiple electrical things going at once.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Jane Eyre

I remember when I was in High School. I walked into my 12th Grade English class...a class I abhorred (Macbeth....*shudder*), and the teacher, Mrs. House, had a pile of books on one table and another pile of books on another table. She informed us that the girls were to pick one of the books on the "girls" table and the boys on the "boys" table. I was greatly offended! I was a versatile reader and did not believe that books should be categorized as boy books or girl books. For rebellion's sake, I eyed the books like "Catcher in the Rye" from the boys table with great longing and instantly despised the books on the girls table. It made me mad to have to choose one.

But, being the obedient child I was, I dutifully picked one...not caring which it would be. I could not even tell you what the so called girl titles were. I just picked one up and pre-detemined that I would not like it. That book was "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte.

I began the book intending to skim it and gain only the details I thought necessary for any test or report I would have to do to prove I had read it......and I became lost in the story of a young girl who is thrown from one bad situation to another....and ending in an unlikely romance. I absolutely LOVED this book. It was just incredible and I found myself engrossed in the story.

I never read the book again, even though it was so great. I do, though, think often of it. I watched an old black and white movie made of this book starring Orson Welles, but I do not recall it being that great....but not that bad, either.

Tonight, I watched the latest Jane Eyre movie, 2011. I was rather pessimistic about it...movies today can be disappointing. The reviews of the movie were incredible, but that doesn't mean a whole lot anymore. I was so pleasantly surprised. I was touched by it so much that I think I must go back and read the book again (I had already downloaded it on my Kindle).

If you are looking for a movie to watch that is classic in presentation and in storytelling, I highly recommend this movie. If you are looking for a good classic read, I highly recommend this book. It is uncoventional in it's romance and I cannot recommend it enough.

37 Years of Wisdom

Today I turn 37. Yay me!! ;-)

Last night, as I lay in bed, I began reflecting on what wisdom I have gained in these long 37 years. That's the good thing about life, right? It is a constant learning experience. The older you get, the wiser you become (or should become). You begin to view life with perspective, drawing on your past experiences and future promises. Here are some things I have learned in my 37 years:

-- Though I was told from a very young age that I would not amount to anything, I can safely assert that YES I CAN. I have broken many of those weighted down chains that could have pulled me down and left me drowning in sorrow and I have accomplished more in my life than I could ever have dreamed....and I am only 37!! There is more to come!!

-- Though I was told from a very young age that I was ugly, I can look in the mirror and see beauty.

-- Though I was told that I would never be a good mother because I never had a mother to guide me and teach me, I can stand before you and say that I am an excellent mother. The proof is in the pudding.

-- Though I was told that no one would love me, I can tell you that I am loved by many.

-- Though I was told I was worthless, I can say that I am worth more than all the treasures of the world. If I were the last person left on this Earth, my Savior would still die on the cross for me!

It took most of my life to reach the point where I can walk in confidence and squash the lies beneath my feet...and the battle is far from over, but that is life and I will persevere.

So, on this, the first day of my 37th year, I say bring it on...all of life's great highs and low lows (let's be skimpy on the lows). My resolution...I will surround myself with those people who are like-minded. No more being around people who, to coin a phrase, break my mojo. lol I love where my life is currently. We struggle financially, who doesn't, but I am surrounded by loving, caring people and I have God to hold me up when I am down. Life couldn't be better!!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

My Son, Daniel

God knows far more than we do about life, love, everything. He created everything out of nothing...why is there any question on his ways being not our ways and faith and all of that.

God instructed me to have my son. He spoke to me directly telling me that I needed to have a son. I never wanted a boy. I thought they would come with all sorts of problems.

God knows more than I do, though, and thank God for it. My son brings me such great joy. He is an incredible kid. He wakes up every morning and comes into my room to cuddle with me. He nuzzles in and tells me how I am the best mom a boy could ever have. He is so loveable. He is so incredibly sweet...and just about the cutest thing EVER!! Each night, we all take turns tucking him in. First I nuzzle him, lots of kisses and loves. Next Sierra has a turn where she gives him butterfly kisses and tells him how much she loves him. Last, but not least, is Daddy who does the daddy thing with growls and funny stuff, but still hugs and kisses and love. What a lucky kid he is!!

It pains me greatly to see him growing up so fast. He just lost his fifth tooth. He is getting taller and taller and smarter and smarter. He tells me everyday that he will always be my teddy bear, but I know this is not true. It hurts me greatly to see and hear how other kids talk and behave. I do not want him to be influenced...for his sweet, innocent nature to be ruined. I know most would say you can't shelter them, but I want to. He is very sweet and innocent.

*sigh* I guess I write this because 1st grade looms in just days. He is beyond excited about it...seeing his old friends, making new ones. I just want to wrap my arms around him and keep him at my side. I pray a hedge of protection around him, sure, but.....

So, my baby teddy bear...will be leaving me soon for another year of school. I know how fast these years speed daughter enters Jr. High on Monday (at least she will be home with me through these treacherous years). I would like to say it is easier with the baby, but it isn't. If anything, it's harder. This is my last child....this is my sweet cuddle monster....this is the light of my life (of course they both are) is very, very hard.

Ok...I am done wallowing. Don't get me wrong. I am proud of who he is and I trust God to keep him safe. He is an amazing kid...a gift from God. He will crush 1st Grade, without a doubt. Watch me on facebook...bragging to be continued in my many status updates!!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A New Book

I love when friends suggest a book or an author that they have been reading and really think I will like as well. I LOVE finding new books and authors...there is nothing quite as thrilling as reading a good book, as I have stated in SO MANY of my other posts. I LOVE to read. Sometimes a friend will suggest a book that just holds no interest for me and I will trudge through the book out of respect for that friend's thought that I might like it.

I came across that very issue these last few weeks. An author was suggested in a friend's post on facebook and that friend recommended I start with this one book (that is the first in a series). I saw it was a bit much to download (I have a Kindle that I LOVE), so I got it at the library.

It started off as a bit of a yawn. A girl with a bad mom and a loving dad. It took me a couple weeks to get through the first 1/4 or more of the book...I had no desire to read it (but I kept renewing it hoping something would click).

As the book went on, something happened that rarely happens. I was reading, in a sense, my own story. The girl in this story was me and I felt her pain, her depression, her blind searching for meaning to life. It was quite amazing.

I, like this character, was abandoned by my mother (well, not initially...long custody left and I saw her twice from age 3 now she is no longer living, so all opportunity is gone). My father tried his hardest to make a good life for me....though many things stood in his way. Like the character in this book, I was an outcast in school with little purpose or direction. She had a best friend she loved, a boy who lived close by, who, in a sense, abandoned her when he went to college and fell in love with a girl there. I had a best friend who was my only friend, whose family moved away. I was robbed of any chance of regaining that friendship...she died just before turning 16.

This character decided to shake the dust off of herself and went to college determined to be exactly the opposite of who she had been...trying to fit in the best she knew how.....though she found social life hard and thought so very little of herself. This was so much like when I arrived at college. I took off for college alone and watched as so many families dropped off their daughters (I was in a girl's dorm) with tears and hugs. I walked into the common area and began chatting with the only other girl that was there. It was so hard and exhausting to be that open, friendly girl and not that shy, awkward girl I had been (especially hard since I had just had jaw surgery and my teeth were wired together....not the best first impression).

The character in this book went on a path I did not, though I could still relate to her feelings and awkwardness. I had friends who cheered for me when the wires got cut and my jaws were free. We ordered pizza and had the first real conversations I had had. We laughed and talked and it was wonderful.

It is interesting to read a book with a girl who has raw feelings and emotions...a girl I can more than relate to, I can feel. It has had a real impact on me. I am not even sure why I am writing about it. I just felt the need to!! The book "After the Leaves Fall" by Nicole Baart is not a great book, in my opinion, but I am anxiuos to see how she deals with what life has before her. She is seeking God, though she is not sure how or why or what to do when she finds Him. It is so surreal to have such a parralel life to this fictional character.

The second book starts off with this dedication "For Mom: Because Janice is entirely a work of fiction. You are everything she is not and more." Janice is the mom who abandons the main character, Julia. This sent a jolt of electricity because I did not have a mom...or at least not one that was there for me and it has been my everpresent goal in life to break the cycle, to "be everything she (my own mother) was not and more."

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Summer End + School Year Beginning = SCREAM!!!

Like any other summer, this summer seems to have been a flurry of activity that caused the end of summer to come much faster than the year before. School starts two weeks from tomorrow!! Where did the summer go? And where will the school year take us??

Sierra: Sierra has had quite the summer. She started the summer with her birthday...she turned 12 and is very excited that her next birthday will be her entry into the teens. Her birthday this year was overriden, though, by the trip she took to Alaska for 2 1/2 weeks. She could not believe she was getting to travel, by herself, to the incredible state of Alaska. She would be able to go to camp with her best friend and be able to hang out in the cooler, more beautiful area of Anchorage Alaska. She came to think of it as fact, she announced to me before she came home that she would be returning to Alaska in December. I can assure you she will not.

July was a slow month for her. A couple sleepovers, trips to Splashtown, and other odd things here and there. She finally, after years of us trying to perssuade her, finally learned to ride a bike and she realized that she really, REALLY loves it. But, lucky girl that she is, she got to experience another summer vacation in the form of a beach. A friend of mine who turned 40 wanted to go to the beach for her birthday and wanted us to come along...and so we did. Sierra had a fantastic time, basking in the sun and riding on her boogie board.

And now, we are getting ready ba bummmmm...7th grade. Jr. High!! It lacks the drama one would normally anticipate with their child going to Jr. High...seeing how she will be homeschooled. I have never been more convinced that this is the right choice than now. We are both very excited about the new curriculum she will be using this year. Boy, curriculum is EXPENSIVE!! We have her curriculum on layaway is costing us close to $500...I doubt we will get it out in time to start on August 22, but we will get it out. We have a backup plan... The main thing is, it will be a GREAT year. Among other things, she will begin to learn French!!

Also, we were going to get a membership at an athletic club for her to get some PE in...but now that she can ride a bike, I am going to buy one for myself and we will bike for PE. She LOVES it so much...and so do I!

Daniel: His summer was not as action packed for him as it was for Sierra. No big trips across the country for him. He did get to go to a great VBS while Sierra was gone and he has gotten to spend a LOT of time with his mommy. I so enjoy my son and would give anything to hold on to him and his innocence for that much longer. He is just such a great and sweet boy. He thoroughly enjoyed his trip to the beach, too. He would play in the waves and than dig in the sand, and play in the waves some more. He never wanted to leave to eat lunch or dinner. Both kids loved the beach so much, I decided that it was of vital importance that we plan a family beach vacation soon!! I am anti-sun, so I enjoyed staying out of it under a nice big umbrella....just watching my kids frolic in the salty ocean.

Daniel also learned to ride his bike. In fact, he learned before Sierra and took great pride in knowing how to when Sierra did not....I think this is what boosted her into learning how to. Daniel loves his bike and takes any and all opportunities to ride it.

Daniel starts 1st grade this year. It is so funny to me to say that. First grade!?! To me, he still seems so small...but at the same time, he is so smart and far more advanced than the average 1st grader. He is still attending public school...though I do want to wrap my arms around him and keep him at home. Matt believes he should remain in public school for the time being. He said if we come into loads of money, than we will talk. lol Daniel is a special kid who has come to realize just how much he LOVES the piano over the summer. The piano has always been his favorite instrument, but when he first started lessons, he decided he hated them (the lessons, not the piano). Over this summer, though, a switch turned on and now he LOVES his lessons. His teacher has remarked at how great he is doing and she can tell he is really getting it. He says that the next instrument he wants to learn is drums (heaven help me). He enjoys reading and is reading through a series of books right now called The Magic Treehouse...a book series about a couple of kids who travel in their treehouse to different adventures...many historical. He is so excited about the series. I can't wait to see what this upcoming school year will be like for him.

So, school starts 2 weeks from tomorrow. I still need to finish up Daniel's school him some clothes and shoes...and get Sierra's curriculum out of layaway. The level of stress is high, but the faith in God is also high. He will provide, as he always does. It will be a momentous year.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Skin Cancer Scare

I am a red head...truer than true...I come complete with freckles galore. In my almost 37 years of life, I have suffered many sunburns complete with horribly red skin, hot skin....many with gigantic blisters. I remember several where I had to wear my bathing suit for days and would get little to no sleep as I tried to find that cool spot in my sheets at night. I have always been prepared for myself to get some form of skin cancer.

A couple weeks ago, I had a weird sort of blemish appear on my forehead. It was unlike any pimple I have ever had and was not a burn. I thought it looked strange, but I was suffering from a sinus infection at the time that was causing me a lot of pain. I ignored the sore that appeared on my forehead. When the sinus infection cleared, I realized that the sore was still there and as weird as ever. I had a friend look at it and she confirmed that it was very unusual looking, which only furthered my thought that something wasn't right.

So, I did a search online...what does skin cancer look like. I knew that any new moles should be looked at...especially any exposed to sun. I had had a couple moles removed and tested as a cancer. I, also, knew that some forms can look really and oozy. But could any look like mine.

Well, Basal Cell Carcinoma can take on many forms and my little sore on my head looked an awful lot like one of these forms. I compared the images on the computer with what had taken residence on my forehead (I was looking on the skin cancer website...not some webmd site). The sore had been on my forehead for over a week and showed no signs of leaving and I pretty much decided that this must be skin cancer.

Now, if you are going to get skin cancer, this is the one to get. It rarely spreads anywhere...not on to the rest of your skin or to your soft tissue. It is easily removed and rarely reappears. I was never very nervous about HAVING I said, I have been burned BAD so many times in my life and I am a red head with green eyes. I was, though, very anxious to know what it was.

I made an appointment with a dermatologist...they cannot see me for 3 weeks. I thought, oh my...I have to sit on this for that long. BUT, an amazing thing happened. It started to heal!!! It is, at this point, almost gone. This is exciting news...I think it must be a wacky sore and not skin cancer...I can deal with a wacky sore.

I am not willing to do cartwheels (not that I know how to). I am not completely out of the woods. It is not uncommon for the sore to appear to be healing only to come back. I am not cancelling my doc appt yet (I have time) and I am being cautiously optimistic that I was being ubersensitive to my skin. I take skin care VERY seriously now, as an adult. I coat myself and the kids with sunscreen (I can't get Matt to wear it) and I try to limit my exposure to the sun.

So, am I out of the woods, yet?? Not quite. I am 89% sure I do not have skin cancer. I will feel better when this thing is completely gone and stays gone for a period of time. But, for now I am breathing big sighs of relief. Hey, it is fading daily!!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Homeschooling.....Bart Simpson??

My kids love The Simpsons. Some of you may shudder at hearing that and, believe me, I shudder, too. We dvr it, though, and Matt carefully chooses which ones are "clean" and which ones are just raunchy. For the most part, they are clean fun...not much different than Spongebob.

The other day, Daniel was watching one where Bart was up to his usual nonsense ways at school and seemed to finally go to far. The Principal immediately expelled Bart. This gave Bart great joy as he felt that this was a release from school and he could lounge on the couch daily watching cartoons. Marge, his mother, quickly let him know that she would take over his schooling at home.

I rolled my eyes as this unfolded, waiting for the writers of the show to take this opportunity to make fun of homeschooling. However, the opposite was true. She set up a classroom in the garage, complete with blackboard, desk for herself and desk for Bart. She got him to actually READ a one scene, his favorite tv show was on and he sat on the couch, completely engrossed in the book. She had a guest speaker come to talk about the war and took him on a field trip. Homeschooling Bart made him, well, smart.

By the end of the episode, the Principal was impressed with the new Bart and welcomed him back to the school....and, of course, future episodes show Bart being back to his old ways. But, I thought it was an interesting episode.

Since homeschooling Sierra, I have seen many changes in her. She makes better grades. She has a better understanding of her subjects. Math has become her best subject. Her self confidence is higher. And, possibly more important, she has more time to concentrate on areas of her life that she wants to pursue for her future like sewing and art.

Homeschooling is definitely the best way to go with schooling, if you ask me. The education is tailor made for the individual kid and can go at a pace better suited to that kid. If your kid needs to slow down a bit, so be it. If he/she needs to spend more time on one subject and less on be it. If he/she is accelerated, than that is good, too. I am SO TOTALLY sold on homeschooling.

So, why not homeschool Daniel? Well, I guess it just isn't the time yet. The time is coming, there is no doubt about it. Whether it be this year...or the next....or even the is coming. I sat with Daniel today to do some reading and math and it is all to clear how easy it would be to school him.

If Marge can homeschool Bart, than anything is possible, right?

**If only it were cheaper!!**

Monday, July 4, 2011

Whose fault is it anyway?

For the past several weeks, we have been doing a fascinating series on Gideon in our Sunday Morning class. One of the things I love best about this particular teacher, he always pulls out the unexpected. Gideon...a favorite story of mine from youth, but never have I had such a rich understanding of his life as I have these past few weeks.

Without going into the backstory, though, our teacher, Frank, posed the question: Is it the parent's fault when our kids (grown up) go astray? Now there is a brain tickler!! He quoted to us from 1 Timothy, 3:1-5: Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer,[a] he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)
Now, this has been used in many leadership meetings I have been a part of in church settings and I agree to what most of it says. We discussed that sometimes this is taken too literally (if a pastor's son is grown up and has a dwi and kills someone, should the pastor be expected to step down).

As a parent, this fascinates me. I have a lot of control over my kids now, but when they are grown, my control ends. I know it is my job to shape them as best as I can (with God, of course, guiding my hands) so that when they are released, they will be who God wants them to be. In the here and now, I would say that it does fall on our shoulders if our kids do not behave as they should. Under our guidance, they should show respect for their family, others and the Lord. But what about when they are grown? Am I to be held accountable for their poor choices?

Many times, you can look at the upbringing of one who shows a complete lack of morality or is going down a terrible path and see that yes, they lacked that man and/or woman of faith that is to sit at the potter's wheel and shape them into a man or woman who loves the Lord, loves their fellow man, and has respect for those around them. I know parents who did try their best to raise up good Christian men and/or women, but something just seemed to go terribly wrong.

Of course, in today's society, it is easy for us to look outside of ourselves to find out who caused us to go down the wrong path. It couldn't be of our own choosing. So many of us look for answers and dig into our past (painful or not) searching for someone to place the blame on for their own screwed up life. Maybe we, as parents, do play a role, sometimes, into the failure of our children....but is it our fault? Or do we, as adults, need to have some ownership in our own choices? The truth is out there, and we should pursue it, not run from it.

I am guilty, myself, for looking to the past and saying...if only this hadn't happened in my life, I would be a better person. Matt brought it up in class...maybe God meant for this to happen in your life so that when you overcame it, you would be a testimony to your parents and the world that is hurting. This is true. How many of us have a relatable story that, when someone we love who feels that it is hopeless to believe God could love them can turn around and share their story and show the grace God provides and thus be a shining example. How else do we bring hope to the hopeless??

Someone else brought up freewill. Is it our fault if our kids express freewill in their decision making process? I know that I stress all the time the need to be honest with my kids...but one of my kids will often choose to lie rather than be honest. I have spoken in love and tried to hammer it in that dishonesty is unacceptable in our eyes and in the eyes of God, but the child still lies (not often...but once is often enough). So, am I not doing my job? Or is freewill an everpresent force.

And lest we forget the enemy who is against good, Christian parenting. He wants us to fail and he wants our offspring to fail. He does not make it easy on us to make that choice between right and wrong a clear choice. He often muddles the lines between the two making the decision very unclear. Of course, our job as parents is to try and open the eyes of our kids so that they can make that discernable choice...will learn to lean on God to guide us in even the most mundane of decisions, but if our children grow up and choose the wrong choice, who gets the blame.

Of course, God doesn't need to play the blame game. He does not care who is to blame. He cares for the heart of us and our children. His desire is that our children will turn from those ways and back into His arms and our arms.

So, who is to blame? It is so much in life, this is not a black and white subject. But, we as parents are tasked with one of the greatest responsibilities of life. We are raising up a generation of people who may or may not follow the path we have laid before them. As Frank said, we can put up the guardrails for their path, making it clear, but as soon as they are old enough, the guardrails are gone and we must release them to possibly crash or turn off the road, pursuing a road that they should not be on. While our kids are on the road with the guardrails in place, we MUST love them, guide them, teach them, and, yes, LOVE them (yes, I repeated love twice). In our unconditional love of our children, we mimic God's unconditional love for them.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Transformers Franchise!

As a kid, I remember coming home and watching the animated Transformers series. I loved it. I was really excited when the new Transformers movie came out a few years ago.

My thoughts on the first installment...WOW!! I mean, sure, there were a few scenes that I thought were a bit ridiculous and made me uncomfortable. The mother's interaction with Sam was VERY inappropriate and Megan Fox was overly sexualized, but the movie itself was so great, I thought I could over look the rest.

Then the second installment came out and I wished I could not only take back the couple hours of my own life, but those hours in my kids life. It, too, was oversexualized and added to it were gangster robots who were annoying AND very inappropriate in their use of language. I found myself flinching throughout the movie and Sierra was made to feel very uncomfortable (Daniel saw only robots and action). It was just awful!!! We had been warned, but did not heed the warnings and came away feeling disturbed...not to mention how AWFUL the story and movie were.

So, it was a no-brainer to say we would be skipping the 3rd installment. I read article after article about how the director, Michael Bay, likes to cater to the overly-hormoned teenage boy by presenting sexy women for their fantasy pleasure, and lots of violence.

But, we also read lots of articles that said that the people who made the 2nd installment admitted that they made a mistake with the movie and were going to totally revamp the franchise. I was optimistic, though I became more and more concerned...especially to find out the new female lead was a Victoria's Secret model. The idea was to wait for reviews and than make our decision. The reviews have been read and the decision is clear....we are officially giving up on the franchise.

Here are some excerpts:

"Director Michael Bay may possess the sensibility of an over-caffeinated twelve-year-old, but he really shouldn't be making movies for kids - who, let's not forget, are the intended audience for the TRANSFORMERS films. While kids will obviously love every destructive second of the film, the film opens with the panty-clad butt of Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), the most punch-worthy protagonist in American cinema since Andrew McCarthy's oozed his way through the WEEKEND AT BERNIE'S films. The first punishing hour of setup nonsense would be fine if dispensed with quickly, but Director Bay has fiendishly decided that Sam's job woes are the hilariously surreal stuff of a Coen Bros. movie. So we get John Malkovich dishing out bizarro line readings as Sam's tyrannical boss, and Ken Jeong scurrying about as a nutjob coworker with wild conspiracy theories literally stuffed down his trousers - and you better believe there's a zany men's-room confrontation that results in Malkovich believing he's interrupting a rough bout of toilet-stall sex between LaBeouf and Jeong.

And then there's Bay's treatment of women, which is yet another reason to keep the young ones away. It's one thing for Bay to shoot the girlfriend as the lingerie model she is in real life, but quite another to have Sam's mom blurt out "What a nice box!" the minute her son lays eyes on his true love for the first time (this really happens). There's a nasty misogynistic streak running through all of Bay's films. Like those 80's-era films, Bay views women as either trophies or impediments. Sometimes they're both. Rarely are they useful. When I saw TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN theatrically two years ago, the audience roared with delight when Bumblebee slammed a woman's face into his dashboard (this was before they learned she was a Decepticon). At least in his R-rated efforts, Bay amplifies this hatred/fear to the point where you're laughing at him; when he smuggles it into a family movie, it's just flat-out repugnant.

As I walked out of TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON, a friend asked me "Where does Michael Bay go from here?" Six years ago, I thought he was ready to become the next James Cameron. That didn't work. Then he tried to become the next Spielberg. That really didn't work. BAD BOYS 3....that's where he's headed."

And by Plugged In Online:

An early scene features lingering, exceedingly close-up shots of Carly's backside as she's clad in skimpy bikini underwear and one of Sam's shirts. We watch as she climbs on top of him and straddles him in bed. Though we never see the pair in bed together after that, a sexual relationship is clearly implied between the couple. And even though they're apparently living together, both agree that they're not yet ready to say "I love you."

Carly's physique, including her long legs and cleavage-baring outfits, get regular attention throughout the film, though never quite as obviously as in the scene described above. Dylan has eyes for her, and he compares her curvaceous figure to the sensual curves of a vintage automobile in his collection. Someone makes a joke about wanting to frisk Carly, and a scene with her involving licorice is played suggestively.

Sam's mother offers him an explicitly titled book about female orgasm and says he won't be able to land another beautiful girlfriend unless he's well endowed and knows how to pleasure a woman. A male colleague corners Sam in a restroom to give him secret information, but a scuffle breaks out between them instead. Their melee (played for laughs), ends up with the man straddling Sam with his pants down in a men's room stall—something that looks like a violent homosexual tryst to Sam's boss, who happens to walk in as they stumble out. (His boss later mentions the encounter again, stressing that he doesn't care about what his employees do with others in a bathroom stall.)

Women frequently wear revealing tops, while skirts and dresses display a lot of leg. An office worker dubs a colleague a "hoochie mama" because she wears a very skimpy outfit. Sam and Carly kiss twice, as do one other couple. One character fondly recalls a secret tryst with a woman and makes a suggestive comment about her backside.

The massive worldwide success of the Transformers franchise, despite the critical drubbing of the two previous installments, has apparently given director Michael Bay license to do whatever he wants. Because of that, Transformers: Dark of the Moon clocks in at a staggeringly indulgent 154 minutes—that's 2 hours and 34 minutes for those keeping score at home.

The last hour delivers a nonstop apocalyptic conflagration so unremittingly intense that my CGI-numbed mind struggled to process the chaotic carnage onscreen. And I'm not the only one who felt that way. Bill Goodykoontz, of the Arizona Republic, wrote, "As if realizing he's spent all this money on such spectacular effects, Bay pulls out all the stops in the last act in an orgy of cacophony, pitting shrieking, grinding metal against metal in one incoherent battle after another. By the time it's over you'll be beaten down, pummeled into submission."

Precisely. And let's place extra emphasis on the word "incoherent." When cars speedily morph into clashing robots, for example, it's often difficult to differentiate between the scrapping metal personalities enough to tell who's who.

Just as Plugged In reviewer Paul Asay mused after viewing Revenge of the Fallen in 2009, it dawned on me as I sat through this installment's unceasing explosions (not to mention Bay's shameless objectification of Carly, played plastically by newcomer and former Victoria's Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) that this is what Hollywood believes people want to watch.

And given the billion-and-a-half dollar box office tally of the first two films, this probably won't be the last Transformers film to assault our senses and sensibilities. As Goodykoontz concluded, "Bay's hammering technique works, in a commercial sense. Executive producer Steven Spielberg is the richer for it."

Unfortunately, audiences won't be.

So, that is that. I will not support a movie like this.