Friday, January 28, 2011

The Joys of Parenthood

As most of you know, I am a mother of 2. I have loved being a mom and feel it is what I was made to do. Of course, this is made easier with having 2 of the best kids in the world (I know we all say that, but it is true in my case). :-)

But having kids comes with challenges. Yesterday was one of those challenges!!

It started off good. Sierra is homeschooled and the homeschool group we are a part of had a field trip to the museum to go to the Planetarium, the Pirates Exhibit, and than to all other parts of the museum. This was made even more exciting by the group rate of $8.50/person. It was TOO GOOD to pass up....so good, that I decided to pull Daniel out of school (he is in public school) so he could participate as well.

Everything went really well. We loved the Planetarium, though Sierra had an annoying boy sitting next to her (I think he was trying to impress her). The Pirate exhibit was really neat (and it was good to know we did not pay full price for the tickets because it wasn't THAT good). The kids and I had fun going through the museum...pushing buttons...ooing and aaing at pirate treasure and tiny dinosaurs and lots and lots of pretty gems.

Towards the end of the trip to the museum, Daniel began to say that his stomach wasn't feeling great. He was still bouncing around, laughing, having a ball, but he said he wasn't going to be able to eat for the rest of the day. Seeing how it was around 3:30ish, I didn't think much of it. When we got home, he started playing with his friends...riding bikes and running around looking for pirate treasure and such. All normal. At dinner, he ate some chips and guacamole, but declared his tummy wasn't good to eat the rest of dinner. I was concerned until he declared he wanted either a popsicle or an ice crem cone. I told him, eat some chicken and he could have a popsicle.

The thing about Daniel, versus my hypochondriac daughter, is he doesn't make things up to get out of eating. When he said his stomach wasn't right, I should've listened. But, alas, I didn't. After his bath, he came wobbling into my room telling me his stomach was worse. I took him into my bathroom so he could be closer to the toilet. He assured me he would not puke...and than proceeded to puke all over the floor, walls, and himself. Poor guy!!!

It was back in the bath for him while Matt began to clean up the mess (which he declared he did not know where to start). With teeth chattering, I quickly cleaned up my boy, got him in some warm pjs and tucked him in my bed. That would not be the end, of course!! He, then, managed to puke again (this time in a little bucket) and than the other end...well....you know. So, another washing and set of pjs later, he was tucked in my bed again, snug with his stuffed duck. And I was left to watch him sleep....bucket at my side. All night long, I would grab the bucket at the slightest twitch, turn, snore, sigh, etc. All the while, visions of a stomach bug dance in my head....who would get it next?? My stomach would turn and I would say...is it me??

Now it is a new day. My son woke up declaring that he was MUCH better. I am keeping him home from school (where he is firmly planted on the couch playing Mario Galaxy 2 on the Wii). I have LOADS of things to wash. I am watching everyone like a hawk for any signs of stomach issues. I am dreaming of a nap!! AND, I am hoping beyond hope that this can be a lesson to the kids and my husband that McDonald's really is evil (Daniel had a happy meal for lunch before the museum.....).

99.999999999999999% of being a parent is JOY, LOVE, moments of PRIDE, WARMTH, COMFORT, LOVE!!!! That miniscule % that is not fun, for us anyway, tends to be those times of our kids being sick (lucky us, they are rarely sick). It is so hard to see them suffer. GOD WILLING, the pukey stuff was NOT a bug that we ALL will get.

I love being a mom!!!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Searching in VAIN!!!

I have been searching in vain for WEEKS for what curriculum to use for Sierra for 7th grade. So much of what she is doing I like, but not enough to keep. Like many things in life, it is hard to find a perfect match...there is no such thing as a perfect church...there is no such thing as a perfect house, car, life, etc. I know I will not find the perfect curriculum, but I have to try to find what is the best for my daughter....and it is amazing the amount of pressure I feel in accomplishing just THAT.

Good news is, I am a natural researcher. I have people coming to me all the time to ask me to research things for them because they know I will explore all avenues at my fingertips and give them what advice I gleaned from what I found. Homeschool Curriculum is a VAST and very POLARIZING field to research, though. SO MANY PUBLISHERS....SO MANY REVIEWERS....SO MUCH MONEY!!!! lol

I recently had a mom recommend to me the curriculum her kids use...so I did what I do and I researched it. I went to their website and I watched videos, I read information, I read testimonials...................and than I saw the COST!!! WHOA!!! The concepts were OUTSTANDING, but the cost was through the roof. Time to get realistic with time, Sierra and BUDGET!!!

Each day I have spent significant time looking up different publishers. I spend most of my time reading users reviews of the product...wanting to learn from others mistakes or achievements. This can be VERY discouraging and can also be VERY enlightening. I was able to cross many publishers off my list.

Teaching Textbooks, the math program Sierra uses now, ALWAYS gets the highest of ratings and if I were to put my review out there, I would agree. Sierra is excelling at it...going at her own pace....and it slows things down and breaks them up so much that Sierra is GETTING the concepts. She has a straight A average in math now. Today, she finished a week's worth of assignments in one morning. I am fairly certain she will be done with 6th Grade math by mid-February and we will move on to 7th Grade math.

Science, History, and Language Arts are the more nail biting subjects, mainly because I have a program for Math that I am MORE than happy with and have no plans to discontinue. All these other subjects I am on the fence on. Though....

I think I did it....I think I have found what we will do for 7th Grade in all the remaining subjects INCLUDING a foreign language. Switched On Schoolhouse.

I had read a LOT of negative things about the curriculum and had automatically crossed it off the list...something told me today to look into it. I read the same bad reviews, but I became aware of something as I continued my research..........most of the bad reviews came from OLDER versions of the program. Most reviews of the 2010 version have been stellar. I am so jazzed, I have decided we will buy History/Geography, Science, Language Arts, French, and Texas History ALL in this curriculum form.

One of the biggest selling points for this curriculum is it is like 95% computer based for Sierra. I sat down with her tonight so she could watch some demo videos with me and she got SO excited by what she saw. Everything contained on her computer!!! This makes it easy for her to move around with...if she needs to go somewhere (she will accompany to church on Thursday for bible study so we can zoom out after and pick Daniel up for a field trip to the museum) she can have it all handy on her laptop. No books...no papers.... Let's face it, the world we live in IS computer based. Matt's company is working towards being paper free. This is awesome for her.

It is awesome for me, too. I love technology. It will be so nice to set up her plans (the program keeps track of what she does and does not do) and let her go. I am so excited for her and I am so excited that she is excited.

Tonight, I can lay my head down and not think about what in the world am I going to do next year. Ah heck, who're we kidding?? I will check, double check, triple check and beyond...making sure I am making the best decision I can for my daughter.

Friday, January 21, 2011

My Kindle and Me

Why did I fight so long and so hard AGAINST getting a Kindle?? What could have I been against??

I grew up with a love of books. My dad had me reading before Kindergarten and I devoured books ever since. I remember that by the time I was in 3rd grade, I had read every Nancy Drew book, every Beverly Cleary book, EVERY Laura Ingalls Wilder book...I was reading nurse romance novels from the 50s (not ANYTHING dirty....simple books about a simpler times)....I was getting my step-sister (in high school) to smuggle me Janette Oaks books and had read all of her books (at the time). In middle school years, I read more scandolous books...most of which I should never have read. I had a friend in Jr. High who wanted to read a trashy novel (Jackie Collins...you know the type), but she hated to read and so she wanted me to read it and give her all the juicy details. I was, of course, too embarrassed to relate any of those. My step-mother would load up on Harlequin romances at the library and I would sneak peeks in them. Not the best for my young mind, but I would read anything I can read. In HS, it evolved to horror novels by Dean Koontz and Stephen King.

In my adult years, my tastes have gone towards Christian fiction novels. In fact, this is all I really read now. I have enjoyed great books by Jan Karon, Dee Henderson, Terri Blackstock, Francine Rivers and many more. But with age has come some side effects that I never anticipated would come to me and was a BIG downer. My hands and arms do not like me to read...it causes me great distress. I will read a book and have the most awful pain shooting up my hands and arms. I have found I will not read very much...I think it is a mental block because of the pain. When I get a good book, I am SO excited....but by the end of the book, I am SO HAPPY to let my arms and hands heal (and it takes a couple days to heal). It is hard to pick up a new book and put myself through the agony.

So, when Amazon created the kindle, you would think that I would be FIRST on board!! A device that I can download books and have my hands free from holding it. But, I love the smell of a book....the feel of it (until it starts to hurt). I tried everything to keep my books going...getting a carpal tunnel glove and everything. I rallied against this device that was trying to make an end to my lovely books.

In the end, though, I bowed down to pressure (and my hands screaming at me to stop the madness). I began to desire a Kindle...and at Christmas I received one!!! WOW!!! What a difference this has made to me. Since I received the Kindle, I have read "The Pawn", by Steven James..."Boneman's Daughter" by Ted Dekker (a paperback because Sierra begged me to read it after she had read it)...."Deeper Water" by Robert Whitlow (a free e-book that I loved...and got sucked into and thus had to BUY the 2nd and 3rd books)...."Higher Hope" by Robert Whitlow (2nd book)....am currently a quarter done with "Greater Love" by Robert Whitlow (3rd and final book)....and also have "The Rook" by Steven James (2nd in that book series)waiting for me to get to when I finish the other book.

The Kindle has opened up the reading world to me and I have had no pain. I LOVE it!! Now, it can get expensive. I cannot just go to the library for these books...which I rarely did anyway (hand issues and all). There are some free e-books on amazon, but it is limiting. But, it is worth it to do what I have loved since I was just a wee little lass!!!

So...thanks to Kindle and your wonderful product (and as stated in a previous post, the customer service is GRAND and sent my daughter and I each lighted kindle covers which we are LOVING!!!).

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Homeschooling Update

So, as many know, I have entered the world of Homeschooling (well, Sierra has more than me). It is funny how many think of homeschooling and they automatically think of.....The Duggars.
I have known my own fair share of homeschoolers. Living in the state of Texas, it is hard NOT to know at least one family that home schools. I am fortunate to know several. I remember when Sierra was just 3 and 4 years old, she was in a ballet company that was Christian run. Almost every girl in these classes were homeschooled and I remember thinking, "wow, these girls are SO respectful and kind and mature". I have always been impressed with kids who were homeschooled...for the most part. As with anything, there is a right way and a wrong way to homeschool your kids. I just hope I fall in the right way....or even just the on the right track way.

We have been homeschooling since late October/early November. I was fortunate enough to pick a couple brains on curriculum as well as lean on my gift of research. There is a lot of pressure involved in picking the curriculum you are going to have your child learn from...especially when said child is in 6th grade. School is serious business at this age. I know in the earlier years, as long as you get some basic reading, writing and math skills in, your fine. When you are in these "later" years, there is much more to think about.

We have done some tweaking with the curriculum as we have moved forward. Let me lay it out by subject:

For Math, Sierra is doing a program called, Teaching Textbooks. This is all on cd and it is WONDERFUL!! There is not ONE thing I would change about her using this curriculum. It is so awesome. She has a textbook (which she rarely uses) and everything is done on the computer. She watches as problems are explained and than she does work on the problems. She is BLAZING through the program (she has almost completed Math 6 and will likely start Math 7 in March) and is averaging a high A. I would LOVE to have Teaching Textbooks do science or social studies. Sierra really enjoys it. (click on the picture to go that website)

For Social Studies she is doing a combo work. She is doing some World History and is using Bob Jones University's curriculum and she is also doing some Geography which is just a Usborne book. The World History has been pretty good. She has learned about early Samaria, Egypt, and she is just finishing up on Israel. Each chapter studies a different region. She finds it a bit dry and I am looking into different publishers for 7th grade. For Geography, she hates it, but I think it's good. What I do is she studies a chapter in her Social Studies book...Egypt, for instance. She then gets a "break" from history and studies a particular part of the world map. She has covered Canada, the US, and Central America. Next week she will study South America. She learns the different Provinces, States, Capitals, and Countries. After she is done with South America, she will go back to Social Studies and learn about India.

For Science, she is currently using Apologia. She is learning about under water creatures. She has not liked this at all and has asked to cease studying science. This is, of course, a NO. She finds it boring. I sympathize...I did too. She has learned about Whales and jellyfish and manatees and sea turtles and such. I am looking into different material for 7th grade...but may just move on to Life Science in the Apologia curriculum.

Language Arts has been a bit of a hurdle for me. I was using this curriculum that uses works of literature and pulls lessons for it...but I noticed that Sierra was weaker than I thought here. Oh, she can read better than many and can spell really well, but her knowledge of facts are fairly weak. I ceased the curriculum we were using and am making my own up a we go along. I pull a lot from some books I bought and the internet. We are currently looking at parts of speech...dissecting until she has it down cold...than moving on to the next part of speech.

And that's about it, as far as the curriculum goes. We have had ups and downs here and there. Sierra is lazy....plain and simple. I do not think she realized how much was involved in self study. She loves it, but she also hates it. She wants to continue, but she wants to be able to have more fun doing it. lol I am working on that.

She is desperate for socialization. I recently joined a homeschool group but was pretty disappointed with their lack of activities for Sierra's age group. I am searching in other avenues....other groups....anything. She needs involvement and to quote Anne Shirly (Anne of Green Gables), she needs a bosom friend. She has one, but she is currently living in Alaska....kinda makes it hard to get together with her. lol So...that has become priority numero uno, now that we have the swing of everything going.

Other than that, this was a great decision for Sierra. I have no doubts and neither does she. She did have a concern that she would miss out on dances, but I researched it and there are several dances for homeschoolers in the area...whew.

And no, Daniel does not want to be homeschooled. lol He would like to be able to stay home and cuddle with me all day, but he absolutely does not want to do schooling at home (I think he wants to be home, not to cuddle with me, but to play his video games...).

So...that's my story and I'm sticking to it!!

Monday, January 17, 2011

AMAZON

Oh Amazon, how can I praise you?? You are the most awesome of all websites.

We always loved Amazon. I remember when we got our first amazon.com package. It was back in 2000 or 2001. I remember being curious about what this could be (it came from my brother-in-law). We had only just heard about amazon.com, but didn't think much of it at the time. We were intrigued and when we opened the box (this was at Christmas time), the gift was wrapped all nice and pretty in the box. We soon discovered that we had a new digital camera (back when digital cameras were barely on the market...it was a bit bulky...low megapixels (like 1.2)...and we LOVED it!!

We never gave amazon.com much attention, though. Several year ago, though, we started hearing about how great the prices were on items through amazon.com and how amazon.com was taking over the world. A friend of mine who was living in Africa was using it all the time. We figured we would check out what all the hub bub was about and boy were we shocked. Movies on blu-ray and dvd were cheaper here than in any store as were books (two passions for this side of the Kozlowski family). Added to that, no tax and if you spend $25, no shipping?? WOW!!! Than we discovered that mp3 songs and albums were MUCH cheaper on amazon.com!! I downloaded many albums that I actually LOVED for under $2...at Christmas time each year, I will end up downloading close to 20 Christmas songs for FREE. In 2009, I downloaded a free Christmas song by Rosie Thomas that ended up being our FAVORITE Christmas song and our own Christmas Theme song.

So, the reason for my post! The Kindle. A friend of mine had one and I really didn't see the point in it. I grew up devouring books. By the time I was in 3rd grade, I had read all of the Nancy Drew books, Beverly Cleary books, Laura Ingalls Wilder books, along with several others and I was getting my step-sister, who was in high school, to check out books from that library for me to read. There is just something about the feel of a book in your hands...it just doesn't get any better.

Well, that is not entirely true. For the past few years, I have had a fairly severe case of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. If I type on my computer too much, my hands cramp up and reading a book causes me INTENSE pain in my hands and arms. I would find myself reading a book and than having to take a break from reading to let my hands and arms heal. I finally reached the point where I said...I need to try this Kindle thing out. To my GREAT delight, my husband bought me one for Christmas and it has been a GOD-send. I can prop it up and read and push a button to change pages. I thought it would be hard to get used to, but it was easy (the pain of holding books fresh in my mind). In fact, after I read my first Kindle book (The Pawn, by Steven Collins), Sierra had a book she wanted me to read. This was a paper back book...one of those short thick books. I read it, all the while thinking about how much pain I was in. I was so happy to get back to my kindle.

Imagine my shock and sadness when my Kindle started acting up...losing my place in the book I was reading....shutting down while I was reading....not turning on. AND, Sierra's Kindle was doing the SAME THING (she got one for Christmas, too)!! So, I called Customer Service at Amazon....cringing the whole time. Who likes to call Customer Service??

But, I was greeted by a very nice woman who was kind and spoke clear english!! I rambled off my kindle problems and she listened and expressed sorrow at my problems. I told her that not only was mine not working right, but my daughter's was too. She asked me if I had ordered a leather case for my Kindle, and I said that yes, my daughter and I had bought the leather case. Would you believe that she admitted that they had had issues with covers causing Kindle issues?? She said that she would put the amount on my account to purchase the more expensive, lighted cover for each of us (totalling $120). WHAT?!!! Yep, she said to just throw away our covers and to order the lighted cover...we could even order the covers to go overnight and Amazon would cover that!! I got off the phone delighted in their awesome customer service!!!! And so, I am telling the world...there is at least one company that is not out to just make an almight dollar (though I am sure that is a primary for them), but also to providing good experiences for it's customers!!!

I LOVE AMAZON.COM!!

Daniel's Birthday Party

Here are a string of videos from and about Daniel's fun at Pump It Up! He had SO MUCH FUN....and no school today means he can play with all of his cooooooool new toys!!
The pictures of his party
video

Sierra and Daniel sliding together!
video

Daniel and some kids sliding together
video

Air Hockey Fun
video

Singing Happy Birthday
video

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Facebook Fast


I had considered it for a while...taking a break from social networking. I love it so much...keeping up with family and friends has never been easier.

But, I have thought, recently, about taking a "break". Maybe a week...maybe a day... Imagine my surprise when the pastor at our church called the church to fast from facebook for 21 days. My first thought was...well, there you go. I need to take this time off. My second thought...WHAT!!! 21 DAYS!!!! REALLY!!! I thought a week was a lot, but THREE???


But, I did it. I have been off of facebook since yesterday morning. I even went so far to take the app off my phone, so I wouldn't have the temptation or the constant updates. I have such a routine of everytime I get on my iphone, I check my email and I check my facebook. Now, I check my email and I check the weather (which has been VERY cold lately).

So, how is it going? Pretty good. I find myself reading more...interacting with the family more...really, not missing anything. Weird, right??

I do find myself mentally thinking of status update posts!! Like:

Good grief, there are 2 christmas trees that have been dumped on the side of the road on the way to my son's school. Garbage men DO pick these things up!! Couldn't these people have dumped them closer to a forest of trees and not on the side of the road?

or

I got honked at today while I was innocently driving in my own lane and another car almost side swiped me trying to move into my lane. He got mad that I did not just let him in. HELLO!!!

OR

Waiting in the waiting room at my sons doctor's office trying to not get irritated that people who got her WAY after me are getting called back while I am stuck in the waiting room.

AND

Now waiting in the exam room for 30 minutes waiting for the doctor to come in. We're just here for a 6-year check-up!! ARGH!!

lol...that feels good. Nice to get that out. Now, Sunday will be painful...my son's birthday party where I will likely take a million and one pictures and will be unable to post until January 30th!! BOO!!!!

Honestly, it has only been a little over a day. We'll see how it goes in a few days....or a week....

In the meantime, I have books to read, life to lead, and curiousity to keep me busy (what is going on out there??).