Friday, February 18, 2011

Time to Write

I have no reason for writing my blog except that I can write about whatever I want whenever I want. I read blogs of friends and strangers and I am always amazed at how well-written and clever they are. I'm not. My sentences are grammatically correct and I say what is on my mind, but that's about it.
Often, I find myself writing because I think there is some wrong in the world that could be made right if we all worked together.
My newest saying: The middle class needs to help the middle class. The rich are certainly helping their rich friends and everyone is always talking about helping the poor. In addition, there are programs for helping the poor. The middle class has several problems. We spend most of our efforts and resources acting rich and trying to help the poor. We don't want to take handouts like hand-me-down clothes or toys because we can "afford" to buy them for ourselves. It also helps us feel better to help starving children in Africa or the trailer parks in our own city. My family donates tons of material and monetary resources as well as volunteering countless hours in the community. On the other hand, we are happy to get hand-me-down clothes and toys from our friends. My four-year old son has not had any new clothes except socks, underwear and a pair of Crocs in 2 years. Don't feel sorry for him; he is the best dressed boy in town! One of his big presents at Christmas was a Home Depot tool bench. He has no idea that it was his friend Adam's and neither does Adam. The funniest thing is that Adam plays with it at our house all the time, but hadn't played with it in over a year at home. Carol and I decided we should just trade a few toys every six months or so.
Now I'm off to teach my kids how to read, write and do arithmetic. I'll have to write about that sometime!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas 2010

It's December 27. I feel that sense of accomplishment that only comes from completing lots of projects. My husband is great at getting all the Christmas decorations out the weekend before Thanksgiving. He pretty much single-handedly decorates for Christmas. It may not be exactly what I would do, but then again, I didn't have to do it. We were very deliberate about what we bought for the kids this year. During October and November, I cleaned out and freecycled about half of their toys and other things. I didn't want new toys going into an already over-filled playroom. Michael got a batcave, Scooby Doo figurine set, reversible Lego table, and a Home Depot tool bench. Hannah got a bike, karaoke machine, MP3 player, and clothes. She really wanted a puppy....
We (Frank) made a magnetic chalkboard in the playroom. It took about 3 coats of magnetic paint and 5 coats of chalkboard paint. They can't write on it for a few days so we'll see if all the effort was worth it. Having snow the day after Christmas was great! The kids played outside, had a snowball fight with Dad and made a snowman. The best part of the day for me was getting all the decorations back in the attic.
So I'm wondering what exactly I am teaching my kids about Christmas. We know the reason we celebrate is Jesus' birth. But truly what have we done in our Western culture?
We have an Elf on the Shelf who arrives on Thanksgiving Day, watches the kids all day, flies to the North Pole every night to report to Santa. It is fun watching the kids look for Sugar's new hiding place every morning. (It is one more thing to remember before I go to bed). The last few days before Christmas, Hannah started crying every night because she was so sad that Sugar was going back to the North Pole with Santa.
We don't put any presents under the tree until the kids are asleep on Christmas Eve. Then we wrap the small things, assemble things, and put it all under the tree. This sounds simple, but trust me, it takes a few hours and a couple glasses of wine.
Hannah woke up at 4:00 am Christmas morning. We tried letting her sleep with us for a few hours, but she had already been downstairs and seen the loot. So we let her go downstairs and watch Netflix on the ipad until 7:00. She kept coming into our room so excited that Santa had come and she had a new bike. By 7:30, she woke up Michael. The real torture was that we made them wait until Grandma was up and ready so we could video-skype with her to let her enjoy watching the kids open presents. Mission accomplished! The kids loved all their presents and have pretty much played with everything since Christmas.
Now back to my issue with the whole thing. I love the magic of the Elf and Santa and how creative I have to be in answering their questions about said mythical characters. I just hope that once they realize elves and men in red suits aren't real that they'll still believe in Jesus. Honestly, they are all unseen things. They have evidence that the elf is real because he is a new hiding place each morning. Santa must be real because of all the presents.
What am I worried about? Kids are way more resilient and much smarter than we give them credit for being. They'll be fine. They will be able to discern fact from fiction. So for now, the magic of Christmas with Santa and the gift of eternal life from Jesus will all be celebrated in December.
Happy New Year!!!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Election '10

Did you vote? I haven't voted in every election. In fact, the women who fought for our right to vote probably would be very disappointed at how most of us take that right for granted. But yesterday, I exercised my right.
I voted straight Republican. Watching the election coverage was more exciting than in a Presidential election year. I was very impressed with Rand Paul from my home state of Kentucky. It was a landmark victory for Republicans in NC. For the first time in over a century, Republicans will control the NC legislature.
Now I say to the newly elected: To whom much is given, much is expected.

This is by far not the worst time our country has endured, but Americans are ready for change and if Republicans don't produce that change, well brace yourselves for the '12 election results.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Home Schooling--the first month

We decided to home school Hannah this year. We've almost completed our 4th week and things are going well. We're really getting into our groove even though we are also flexible. On the days Michael goes to pre-school, we usually work from 9:30-12:30. Sometimes we start at 7:30 and are finished by 10:00. Some days we stretch our lessons out throughout the day and take some breaks to ride bikes or walk around the block. It is amazing how quickly our family has settled into our new schedule.
We had school on Labor Day, but we took a 4-day beach trip the following weekend.
Frank pointed out that we get our entire school day finished in the time most parents spend battling homework and in carpool. I was talking to my friend, Marie, today about how much calmer our entire home is this school year. We decided that is partly because there isn't the scramble to get out the door in the morning and the kids aren't tired in the afternoon from a long day at school.
I'm enjoying learning history with Hannah. Admittedly, my own history and geography is very much lacking. The thing I've always worried about is teaching a child how to read, but Hannah seems to be doing fine. My teaching background is math and science so I just have to be careful not to overdo the teaching in those areas.
My proudest moment came last week when we had to take Michael to the pediatrician because he had had a fever for 3 days. Hannah told the nurse that Michael's white blood cells didn't get all the germs so that is why he was still sick.
Of course, sometimes too much knowledge can be embarrassing. The previous week, we studied the food pyramid and the role each food group plays. At Wal-Mart, Hannah pointed to a customer and said, "Look, Mommy, he ate too many carbohydrates and didn't exercise enough to use up the energy. Now he is fat!" She also told her Daddy something similar over the weekend. It may have worked because Frank has been walking every day since!
One day we talked about how adults begin to show signs of aging in their 40's and 50's. Hannah asked how old I was and I told her 41. She said, "But Mommy, you don't show any signs of aging!" I'm telling you, this girl is smart!!!
In all seriousness, I am so glad we made the decision to home school. We have a great public elementary school or I could go back to teaching private school and send my kids for free, but for now home learning suits us well.

Monday, August 23, 2010

One degree below sweat

That's how my husband describes the temperature of our house during the summer.

This post will probably offend the 2 or 3 readers I actually have, but here goes.

Last week there was much debate over whether unemployment benefits should be extended an additional 20 weeks. Many folks have exhausted the 99 weeks already in effect. 99 weeks is a long time. In fact, it is 5 weeks shy of 2 years. That is a long time to not work. I don't want to beat anyone up. It is a tough economy and jobs are scarce. Even teaching and government jobs are being cut.

I've worked a lot of jobs. I grew up on a farm in central Kentucky. That is hard work, but it can feed a family. I worked full time at McDonald's for 5 years during college and graduate school. McDonald's is hard work, but somehow I fed myself and my younger brother for whom I had custody since my dad died when I was eighteen. I taught school for 13 years. That is hard work and it doesn't pay enough (though better than farming and McD's). I've tutored, taught summer school, cleaned friends' houses, and babysat to supplement my income.

The past four years I have had the luxury of being a stay-at-home mom. That's hard work, too, but we'll save that for a later post. Hardly a month goes by that someone doesn't offer me a job. I haven't applied for a job in these four years, but I have positioned myself well by advancing my education and having a strong work ethic. I still do some tutoring only when someone calls me usually because they were referred by someone who knows me.

Here's my point and I do have a point: Position yourself well in the good times. When money is coming in, save some for a rainy day. Even if you're working a "bridge" job, do so with integrity and enthusiasm. You never know who might be on the other side of the phone or counter. The Bible tells us to do all work as if we're working for the Lord.

Back to the post title: My husband has a good job right now, but it doesn't mean we spend everything we make. We drive paid for cars, set a modest budget for food, clothing and household items, conserve energy, and save for retirement and our kids' education.
Oh and if you're wondering, cable TV is not a utility! Neither is a Blackberry or I-phone. It's ok to have them, but just know that they are luxury items, not necessities and if you don't have a job, turn them all off!

So where do I stand on further extending unemployment benefits? I think you know.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Back To School

We are coming up on my absolute favorite time of year: back to school. As a child, I loved school. I grew up on a farm so back to school meant my life got easier. I only had morning and evening chores, but the rest of the day was spent in school and on the bus. I was at the top of my class all through school. It was fun being the smartest kid in class.In 7th grade, my friend Tracey and I taught ourselves to solve the Rubik's cube . In 9th grade, I was the star of the academic team. I was asked to be on the varsity team because of my superior agility in mathematics! Yep, I was a nerd even though I would never have admitted it back then.
College back-to-school time was awesome! The college bookstore with all those new and used textbooks, 5-Star binders, pens, pencils, collegiate apparel, the beginning of new classes, the hustle and bustle of campus life, cooler temperatures: ah, heaven!
Not surprisingly, I became a teacher. While all my colleagues anticipated June with growing enthusiasm, I always had a sense of sadness as the school year came to a close. Don't misunderstand; I love summer break (but that is another post)! The last days of school would always be filled with students coming to my classroom, playing games, helping me clean out my room to get ready for the summer crew. The best days were those teacher workdays in the fall getting ready for a new crop of students. I loved getting my room ready and planning out the year's goals and objectives. Often, my team mate and I would spend hours over the summer writing our own texts because we couldn't find anything published that met all our standards for teaching algebra. I love the first days of school: teaching the students how to set up their binders, going over expectations, having them write about themselves, learning their names, the first test (admittedly, calling parents after the first test wouldn't make my Top 10).
Honestly, for the 13 years I taught school, I barely slept the night before the first day of school.
My oldest child started kindergarten last year. A whole new level of back-to-school excitement! Hannah learned so much in kindergarten, more than I would have thought a kindergartner could learn in one year. It was a good experience.
But my little Hannah has different plans for her education. She wants to be home schooled. I've spent the summer researching, reading, talking, thinking about home schooling. And I have decided it is a great idea for our family at least for now. Frank and I are in agreement that if Hannah wants to be home schooled this badly and I am qualified and available to do it then we should go for it. Yesterday, I sent in my paper work to the NC Dept of Non-Public Instruction to "be a home school". It is really exciting and daunting at the same time.
When people ask Hannah where she goes to school, she immediately and enthusiastically looks them in the eye and says, "At home!" All summer, I have tried to "talk her out of it". Not because I don't want to do it, but because I want to be sure she understands what it entails and what she'll miss out on by not being in a traditional school setting. Hannah totally gets it,probably better than I do at this point. Every day throughout the summer she has asked, "Can we do my home schooling now?"
We are officially starting with the rest of North Carolina on August 25. I'll let you know how our first day goes and how much sleep I get the previous night.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Summer Salads

Have you ever had Taco Bell, Chic Fil A and McDonald's all within a week? One thing eating fast food does for me is that all I want for a month is salad. Not boring, iceberg lettuce with heavy ranch dressing salad, but yummy, let your imagination go wild with fresh flavor salad!
So here are some of the salads I've made in the past week.

1. Tomato, mozzarella salad (caprese?) tomatoes, mozzarella, romaine lettuce, red onion, homemade balsamic dressing (olive oil, balsamic vinegar, oregano, basil, sugar) Serve with sourdough bread dipped in olive oil/vinegar.
2. Cucumber salad: peeled cucumbers, onion, apple cider vinegar, sugar, salt.
3. Pasta salad: veggie pasta, olive oil, italian seasoning, roasted red peppers, sundried tomatoes, fresh grape tomatoes, onion
4. Cobb Salad: This was mostly my friend Megan's creation. Grilled sliced chicken breast, romaine lettuce, corn, black beans, avocado, boiled eggs, bacon, cucumbers, grape tomatoes
5. Random salad #1: lettuce, feta cheese, chopped walnuts, tomatoes, dried cranberries, croutons with vidalia onion dressing.
6. Random salad #2: romaine lettuce, avocado, fresh pineapple, red, yellow and green peppers, bacon, black beans, homemade salsa, light ranch dressing.
7. Not really a salad, but a delicious dinner: brie baked with homemade blackberry jam, angel food cake, strawberries, pepper jelly, homemade tortilla chips, ham roll ups, apple slices. You just have to trust me on this one, it was yummy!

Tomorrow, I'm thinking grilled island salmon over romaine. Simple and delicious, not to mention healthy!