Saturday, April 28, 2012

Fast Food Blockout

Fast food. You can find it just about anywhere. Within a mile of my home, there are at least 6 fast food establishments and that does not include the pizza places. They are becoming so convenient that 2 of those fast food places are attached to gas station convenient stores. You can get over price gas and under priced food (are they really under priced...see below) all in one place....and they even have drive thrus. Let's face are out running errands and spending time with the family and it's lunch time. You do not want to spend the time or money to go to a nice, sit down restaurant, so you decide to drive thru Wendy's and get a couple burgers, french fries and some soda. You can sit in your car and eat as you go to your next destination. The problem is the sacrifices you make in doing that. Oh sure, it's cheap if you stick to the dollar menu (which is one of the reasons obesity is such a problem today). But, what're you doing when you grab that oily, salty, perservative heavy lunch and sit in a car to eat? What about that sugar filled, bubbly soda (and don't think it is all that much better when there is a diet soda in that cup, cause it isn't)? What is that doing to your body? Your kid's body? Now, don't get me wrong...this is a trap we (our own family) falls into just about every weekend. Here's the thing...I HATE fast food. The THOUGHT of eating a McDonald's burger or a Wendy's chicken sandwich fills me with dread and makes my stomach turn...I am not much of a soda drinker...I don't like fries. Even kids and husband LOVE this food which aches my heart (well, Sierra is beginning to not like it much). But, we are, more often than not, out most of Saturday and Sunday and we fall into the trap. Recently, we decided to be proactive with our Sundays...have a plan in place for lunch for after church...a lunch we would make at home. This was all well and good, but then Matt and Daniel will go grocery shopping on Sunday me HOURS of quiet time (Sierra will spend the afternoon in her room getting caught up on school)...but then they would need to pick something up for dinner because they are gone so long(TRAP). Last weekend we went to a fast food place we hate the MOST...because Matt heard about something they had and wanted to try, we went to Burger King. First of all, for just a few dollars more, we could eat much better somewhere else. We figured it out...we could have gone to Subway for about $3 more or even Jason's Deli (salad bar...YUM) for just $5-7 more. It is not as cheap as one would think. Secondly, we all came away feeling kind of gross. Sierra and I had tummy aches from onion rings and chicken strips. Ok...well, Matt didn't hurt (he has grown up on this junk) and Daniel loves it and is on the same path as Matt. BUT, I reiterate the heart issue. Matt and I were pretty disgusted, though, with how much money we spent and what we got for the money we spent. As much as Matt likes fast food, he recognizes quality food and prefers to pay what things are worth and that meal was NOT worth what we paid for it. I think fast food places have brain washed us into believing they are cheap. Sure, they have dollar menus, but the choices are limited, the dollar menus are shrinking in variety or are rising in prices making them value menus instead of dollar menus. They slowly bring us in and than when we are addicted, we don't realize that we are eating this incredibly bad food at the expense of our bodies and wallets. Even the salads at these places are ridiculous. It has been shown that their caloric count is higher than one would think and their prices are OUTRAGEOUS. I recently found out that most spray their veggies with this preservative to make them look better and last longer...gross. For about the same price, you can go to Jason's your own salad from their salad bar which has organic veggies on it as well as a wide varieties of toppings. Matt and I sat and compared our bill from Burger King with our recent bills from other establishments and we were astonished. That same day, I started to formulate a plan...Operation Fast Food Blockout. First of all, no more of this being caught out doing things and feeling like our only option is a drive-thru. From now on, we would have breakfast and lunch at home and than leave to do our fun things. Today, for instance, I have all the makings for us to have yummy, deli style turkey sandwiches (which we will also have after church tomorrow) and than we are going to head down to Downtown Houston to sight see with the kids. Secondly, none of's getting too late to cook on the weekends. This morning, since we are not rushing out early, Matt is grilling chicken for dinner. When we get home, I just boil some pasta, prepare the sauce, and add the chicken. Easy, no excuses. Same with tomorrow. I have planned the meal and gotten the supplies ahead of time. Will we have a complete blackout of fast's first. My ultimate goal is NO MORE FAST FOOD, but it has to be done in steps. By next weekend, we will have had 2 weeks without fast food...however, next weekend is a VERY busy weekend that may make it unavoidable. Or maybe it is just a new to avoid it on even the busiest of weekends. Fact is, today I can say with certainty that there will be NO fast food and that makes me happy. I may have to endure some grumbles from a certain 7 year old, but that's ok. And, here is a graphic chart that shows how many calories you get per dollar spent at some of these fast food establishment.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Reading and Daniel

When Daniel finished Kindergarten, I was on cloud 9 telling the world of all his accomplishments. His teacher had tested his reading level past what the principal allowed (the principal only wanted students tested to one grade level above their current grade and no further...weird, right). His teacher knew I wanted to know where he was at. She had to do this while doing her other many duties, and I am not sure she tested him as far as he could go or as far as time allowed, but he landed at reading at a starting 3rd grader. My chest was puffed and I made sure everyone knew where my son was at.

Pride cometh before the fall, though. I began homeschooling Daniel at the beginning of 1st grade after he begged to come home because he was not challenged enough (I explained to his teacher that he was smart and needed to be challenged...she had obviously heard the "my child is special" speech before and promptly ignored it). So, it became my job to begin to challenge my son. With reading, it proved to be difficult.

I started out the year with having him read Magic Treehouse books, something that seemed to make sense to incorporates some history and some fun reading. Daniel did enjoy reading the books and I was pretty content, but halfway through the year I started doubting myself.

You see, it's hard to know what to have your kid read when he is only 6/7 years old but can read at a much higher level. Just because he has the mechanics, does he have the comprehension. Am I dumbing him down with these books and would I be expecting too much if I went to a higher level? I had a feeling I was dumbing him down...holding him back.

Lucky me, I am part of a great homeschool support group and at a park day I aired my concerns about him reading the Magic Treehouse books. I explained how Daniel could read really well, but how I was not sure what to have him read. For example, I tried reading aloud to him "The Hobbit", which went right over his head....he got the general idea, but with a book like this, you want him to get more than the general idea.

One of the moms, very animatedly, said, "stop reading him that Magic Treehouse garbage right now". I was taken aback for a second or two, but then leaned in to soak in her advice...and was it grand. She told me to look on the websites of some of the more literature based curriculum and see what books they recommend for his grade. Another mom (whose son is a lot like Daniel...can read above level and struggles with WHAT to have him read) had gotten advice to not have her kids read anything written after 1960. I chuckled at this, but found most of the books on the sites I visited were, indeed, written before 1960.

I went to Charlotte Mason (Simply Charlotte Mason) and got the book list from there, Sonlight Curriculum, Heart of Dakota, etc. It was amazing to see what they recommended for his grade and comparing it to Magic Treehouse. Night and Day. So, we started working on these books.

I decided we would do two books at a time...he would read one to himself and I would read one aloud.

His first book was "Cricket in Times Square". He read this one to himself. He is almost finished with it and I was so nervous about how he would like it. It fit all the qualifications of those who advised me. It showed up on multiple literature reading lists for his age group. It just met the "only books written before 1960" rule. I was very nervous. It was definitely not the norm for reading for him...definitely not like Magic Treehouse. It is a cute story of a cricket who accidentally takes a ride in a picnic basket from his home in Connecticut to the train station in NYC. He becomes a pet to a boy whose family owns a newsstand and he becomes friends with a mouse and a cat. Most importantly, Daniel has really loved it. After each chapter, he giggles and tells me about some crazy situation the cricket finds himself in.

The book I chose to do as a read aloud, mainly because I thought the language may go a bit over his head was "How To Train Your Dragon". The language is very viking-like. This book is a book I had heard great things about and thought it would be exciting to read though it did not meet ANY of the qualifications. It was written a short time ago and was not on ANY of the lists. We own the movie that was made from this book and, in my opinion, the movie was tons better. Daniel likes the excitement in the book, but as a whole I am not much of a fan of it. It makes me wonder about those rules I had been advised on.

We are nearing the end of both these books and I am looking forward to moving on to two new books. I can breathe easier now that I have a better guide on what I should be having him read. There is a curriculum set I want to buy to go with this new found reading we are is called "Drawn Into the Heart of Reading". I am excited about it...just need to get the money together to buy it. The best part about it is you can use whatever book you are reading for this.

Our next two books we will be reading are Stuart Little (read aloud) and Mr. Popper's Penguins (him to himself). I feel as though we have a good grasp on reading now and I am confident that he is getting what he needs. Now, for free-time reading, I let him read what he wants. He LOVES Calvin and Hobbes and reads and re-reads these books. They really spark his imagination. In the car, he will spend all his time reading and NO TIME playing video games or anything (it is very quiet in the car when it is just him and I).

Here are some examples of what is on our "to read" list:

Charlotte's Web
Chronicles of Narnia
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Peter Pan
The Littles

And much, much more. It is rather exciting to me!!

Reading and Danile