Saturday, December 29, 2007

Tips For Successful Homeschooling

With the start of a new semester upon us soon I find myself turning my mind back once again to lesson plans and schedules and routines. Sometimes we just need a reminder about what's really important, especially during the long winter months that lie ahead when burnout tends to happen more easily.

Thanks to a dear friend, Negin, for posting these tips on the Five in a Row message boards. I truly believe and agree with everything listed here and wanted to share this list with everyone. I know I'll be returning to read over this list again and again...

1. Pray with your children every day before you start schooling (or have one of them pray).

2. Try to keep a consistency to your days. If you are not consistent, you will have more whining and complaining.

3. Keep your sense of humor and apply it often during schooling.

4. Remember that this isn't a sprint - it's a marathon. If a child doesn't "get" something right away, don't panic. Sometimes it takes a while - tomorrow is another day. If something just isn't working at all, take a little time off from it, and try again later.

5. Try very hard not to compare yourself to other homeschooling moms . Remember: Comparison is the death of contentment. When you compare, you'll almost always sell yourself short and make yourself feel badly.

6. Delight in your children and remember to really listen to them when they are sharing with you. This is actually very difficult to do sometimes.

7. Although you should take advantage of teachable moments that come up during ordinary life, try not to make everything sound like "school". You don't want your kids rolling their eyes and sighing every time you open your mouth. It's OK to just be Mom sometimes instead of Teacher/Mom.

8. Do not allow your children to treat you with disrespect or to disobey you without consequence. If you are too relaxed about this, you will be hard pressed to keep your schooling from becoming a power struggle and a very stressful experience. From the beginning, establish a firm, loving grip on your kids' behavior and attitudes. It is up to you to train your kids to recognize and respect your authority as their parent and their teacher.

9. Even if you didn't like Math in school, or despised History, do your very best not to let those negative attitudes show in your words, body language or tone of voice. Your kids will surely pick up on it, and might "catch" it from you. Do your best to be positive and enthusiastic about what you are studying.

10. If things are just going badly and everyone is out of sorts - take the day off school and deal with whatever it is that is stressing you or the kids out. Maybe you all just need a park day, or you need to spend some time straightening the house, or going to a good museum. Or just rent a great movie that perhaps has something to do with World history.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas 2007

Well, the presents are opened, the tree is down, and now we look forward to what the new year has in store for us.

We have much to be thankful for and reflect upon as this year comes to a close. This was one of the best Christmases we've ever had, simply because we are still here to watch the light in our children's eyes as they experience the joy that only Christmas morning can bring.

But while this was a very good Christmas and I got many things done very early in the season, before December even got here actually, I still felt rushed at the end and didn't enjoy any time of relaxation and peace. No evenings just sitting with my family enjoying a Christmas movie while gazing at the lights of the tree. I did make time to let the kids make a gingerbread house and some goodies, but it just wasn't what I want it to be. I have had a Christmas like I'm describing last year. It was wonderful! But this year, between my mom's surgery and taking care of her, all of us having parts in our church's Christmas play, and our CO scare, well, time just got away from us.

So next year I plan on using the Holiday Grand Plan, an 18-week program to clean and organize the entire home for the holiday season. Surely if I start in August and have someone telling me exactly what to do and when I'll be ready for Christmas and actually be able to enjoy it and focus on the REAL reason for the season by the time December rolls around! If 18 weeks is a bit too long or overwhelming for you, why not try out this 6-week Christmas Countdown plan?

..."What do you really want for Christmas? More time, more joy, and less stress? A calmer, more centered holiday celebration is easy with the Christmas Countdown!"

Here are some pictures from our Christmas fun and celebrations from this year. Enjoy!

The kids making their gingerbread house my Aunt Cindy sends them every year. Thanks Aunt Cindy! We love you!

Here the kids are making our yearly tradition, Pretzel Snaps. They are so easy and so very yummy. Just take square waffle pretzels, place a Hershey's Hug in the center of each one, stick the pan in the oven at 200 degrees long enough to JUST begin to melt the Hug, then place an M&M in the center and push it down to flatten out the Hug a bit. Chill in the refrigerator and eat cold. YUM!

My favorite picture from this Christmas. My heart just BURSTS with love for my babies!

The WHOLE family. This is Sweetie's family... mom & dad, 3 brothers and their wives, 1 sister and her husband, all 15 grandchildren, the oldest grandchild's wife and their new baby boy. I couldn't ask for a more wonderful, loving family. God has truly blessed me, taking me from being an only child growing up alone (all my cousins lived in other states) to this!

Santa had asked, "Who's been good?"

Santa handing out presents to the good girls and boys at Sweetie's mom & dad's house, a fun yearly family tradition.

Sweetie and the kids tracking Santa on Christmas Eve. Now, if we could just get them to bed this easy every night!

Being my mom's only child and our kids being her only grandchildren, Mamaw tends to really have fun Christmas shopping for us! This was our tree after she brought all her presents over and added them to ours. Notice the big empty wall? Remember that because on down you'll see what Sweetie got for Christmas that actually brought tears to his eyes.

And this was the kid's reaction to coming out and seeing the presents Mamaw brought.

Princess with her bike Santa brought her.

The only thing Reece Cup has wanted for the past two years has be a Game Boy DS, and this year Santa brought him one!

Mom's going to have to have a talk with Santa. What's he thinking, bringing 8-year-old Handsome a BB gun? Doesn't he know he'll shoot his eye out with that thing?!

And Baby Girl was beside herself with her new Ipod Shuffle.

Don't you just love reactions like this? (In case you noticed, his mouth is blue because he had just eaten some kind of blue candy).

And THIS was their reaction to the hidden and found present from Santa, a Nintendo Wii! Mom and dad had tried and tried everything we knew to try to find them one, but leave it to Santa to come through (or as Handsome said, he thinks it was Jesus). Both girls are SCREAMING, Handsome had already jumped up screaming, and Reece Cup had his back to me, but rest assured, he was screaming too.

Look at those smiles!

And here's what Sweetie got that brought tears to his eyes. This is his 'baby', a projector TV that uses a pretty expensive bulb. Well, his last bulb went out last Christmas and he wouldn't take the money to buy himself a new one, so I got him one this Christmas. Can you see what's on the screen? Oh man is it COOL to play the Wii on this baby!

And that's our Christmas in a nutshell. I hope you and your family also had a wonderful, memory-making Christmas season as well. God bless you all.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Heeding God's Voice

There was once a night when Sweetie and I stayed up much later than we usually do, scanning ebay for an item we thought we might actually be able to win since it was in the wee morning hours and fewer eyes might be viewing the same item.

That same night, my dear mother-in-law went to bed and tried to sleep but couldn't. She got up several times, bothered by something but not sure what it was. So, she prayed. She took something to help her sleep, but to no avail. She prayed some more, feeling like we were the ones needing prayer.

Meanwhile, Sweetie and I gave up on ebay and finally crawled into bed around 2:30 in the morning. No sooner had we began to drift off to sleep when Reece Cup came in and woke Sweetie up because he was feeling sick. After getting him back to bed and drifting off again, Princess came in and also went to her daddy to wake him up. Why she went to him we have no idea. He is on the far side of the bed from our door and she's a big mommy's girl and has always come to me when she wakes up during the night. This time I never knew she had came in.

While putting her back to bed Sweetie knew something wasn't right. After laying back down something just kept nagging at him, so he got up again at 3:30 a.m. and turned off our heat.

At 3:30 a.m. my mother-in-law finally felt peace and was able to drift off to sleep.

The night? This past Monday night. The night before we had to go to the hospital for carbon monoxide poisoning.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

It Was Worse Than What We Thought

First of all, have you bought your Carbon Monoxide detector yet? If you already had one, have you checked to make sure it's working correctly? On the advice of two trusted firemen, the brand 'Nighthawk' is the only brand of CO detector to go with. Naturally, it's the most expensive brand, but WELL worth the investment. Here's what one had to say...

"First Alert and other brands are not reliable in several ways including failing to alert you properly and, on the other extreme- going off accidentally when there isn't any danger."

I beg you, don't wait. Make this small investment for the safety of your family. Even if you don't have any gas lines coming into your home, There are many ways in which carbon monoxide can be released into your home and cause respiratory damage to your lungs, or worse, death. The following is a list of items that may cause CO to enter your home:



Hot Water Heaters

Gas Stoves / Ovens

Automobiles (Attached garages)

Grills; propane, gas or charcoal

Kerosene Heaters

Dryers with clogged ductwork

Nearby traffic

Anyway, a dear friend of ours that works at our gas company came out on his own time last night just to test the air in our home so we could have that peace of mind and our entire house tested at a 0!! He said that since our heat had been off for a while before it was tested Tuesday that it's very likely that our number could have actually been as much as double what it registered! We were already in the 'possible death' range! Phew.

The repair man came out today to check out our furnace and told Sweetie that from the looks of it this has probably been going on for quite some time and we just didn't know it. That means that we've most likely had long-term exposure to the Carbon Monoxide and had no idea.

And the cost to repair this problem? Anywhere from $2000-$3000. That's because the furnace is 14 years old and it all needs replaced, so we're contemplating going to all electric since the cost won't be much different. That is a steep cost for us, but I'm not worried. If God saved us from something we didn't even know was there, something nobody knew to even pray about, something that should have taken our lives, then I know He's MORE than able to provide a way for us to have heat! Oh ye of little faith. How much time have we wasted worrying about things that God is more than able to take care of? I'm telling you, this whole situation has really done something inside of me. Dh is concerned about how we're going to get the furnace fixed/replaced, and normally I would be worrying right along with him. But I told him today that he's going to have to walk that road by himself from now on 'cause I'm not walking it! My God is going to take care of us! Praise be to God on high!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

God's Miracle for US This Christmas

Back in November when we first had to turn our heat on we noticed it smelled like gas. We called our gas company and the girl who answered the phone just said, 'Oh yeah, mine does that too. Give it a couple days and it will be ok'. Well, I'm no dummy. We've lived here for 12 years and we know the difference between a 'heat' smell and a 'gas' smell. So we've only turned the heat on here and there, just enough to take the chill off when needed.

But the past couple of weeks we've had it on a bit more. We still smelled the gas smell but thought maybe it was because we needed to replace our filter or maybe we had the bookshelf in front of the vent too close, or, or, or...

But then the headaches started. All 6 of us. And sleeping until 9 and 10 o'clock in the mornings, which we never do. Then Sweetie and I, being so sleepy, would nap through the day. We just thought it was lack of good sleep and/or stress. A couple of days ago Princess slept until noon! Now, if I'd have only known...

A couple days ago Sweetie knew we had the heat on when he got home because he could smell it when he got to the front porch. Many nights we would turn it on just to get the chill off, then turn it off out of fear for the kids. Monday night Sweetie got up and smelled it so he turned it down to 65 degrees.

Why didn't we call about it again before now? I have no idea. But yesterday, with Handsome crying about his head hurting, Baby Girl on the couch saying she couldn't clean her room because she was so tired, me popping even more Excedrin, and Reece Cup running to the bathroom to throw up, I called the gas company. They sent someone out right away to check for carbon monoxide.

The guy, Joe, was so nice. He got his little tester out and it went crazy. I asked him what a 'normal' level was and he said, "Well, we don't like to see any, but the government says you can live with a level of 10." You guys, our carbon monoxide reading topped out at 176, and that was after the heat had been turned off for a little while!! (I've since found this statement on the Consumer Product Safety Comission website..."As CO levels increase above 150 to 200 ppm, disorientation, unconsciousness, and death are possible".) I couldn't help it, I lost it. I told him, "I'm not afraid to tell you that we're church-going, praying people and we pray with our children every night for God to put a hedge of protection around us..." and I couldn't finish because I was choked up. Joe said, "Well, we're God-fearing people too, and now you've got me crying." I saw him wipe tears from his eyes as we both realized what could have happened and what God had saved us from.

Reece Cup threw up again while he was here. He said that I needed to get him to the doctor, so I called our doctor's office. They said that we all needed to get to the emergency room ASAP. After Joe saw Reece Cup throw up he called in and 3 BIG WIGS from the gas company came to our house.

So after all the gas guys left and Sweetie got home we headed to the ER. They got us in right away, had several people working us all up at one time and took our blood to check our levels. And just a little extra praise thrown in here... NONE of the kids cried or even whimpered when they took their blood!

Anyway, my level was the highest, then Sweetie's, then Handsome's. So the three of us were put on 100% oxygen with the mask. The other three had those little tube-thingies in their noses. We were all on oxygen for 3 hours.

This picture, while not my favorite of myself by far, now haunts me because this is how we had been feeling lately. This was taken Monday afternoon before we were aware of what was haunting us.

And here are us girls at the ER with our Oxygen going. I couldn't get a picture of the boys because they were in another room getting their oxygen.

Please, please heed this warning parents. If you don't already have a carbon monoxide detector installed in your home, do so today! If you have one but it's not been checked recently, please do so now. You don't even have to have gas heat like we do. Carbon monoxide can come from different sources, and isn't it worth the small investment to have the peace of mind that your family is safe from this silent killer? You can read more about CO and CO detectors here.

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Wonderful Christmas Movie I Hope To Never See Again

I'm sure most of you have already seen it, I'm usually late on everything, and I myself had already read the book last Christmas, but while I remembered the 'gist' of the story I didn't really realize just how much watching the movie would affect me.

We watched The Christmas Shoes for the first time tonight and I cried like a baby. Nothing like a mom... oh wait, I don't want to spoil it for any out there that may not have watched it yet, but let's just say that it really gripped my heart and I couldn't stop crying.

Only those who have watched it before will understand when I say that it was a wonderful movie, but I hope I never have to watch it again... ever.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Whew! I'm back.

What a busy few weeks it has been around here! My mom had surgery on her shoulder and since she lives by herself, Baby Girl and I tried to do all we could to help her out that first week.

Then it was time to buckle down and get ready for our church's childrens Christmas play, which was tonight. Sweetie ran the sound, Princess had a solo and the rest of us had parts in the play. This was my first time being on stage, so I wasn't able to sit and take the hundreds of pictures I normally do! My mom did the best she could with one hand, so here's a few to show off my kiddo's.

Princess is in the front row, the second from the right, in the burgandy. When did she become one of the taller kids? Sigh...

Baby Girl played a reporter whose name was "Blonde... Jane Blonde"! She was writing a front page story for The Morning Star Newspaper for Christmas morning and wanted to find out about "this whole manger scene, wise men, baby Jesus story". Handsome is in the tan, as Joseph, and Reece Cup is in the red. He was the 'sound engineer' in the play. (And I played Mrs. Evans, the choir director, but I'm not in any picture that will showed here! LOL.)

In other news, here's some other things we've been staying busy with lately...

We went carolling at the nursing home with some others from our church. All but one of the little ones are ours and their cousins!

And this is what you do while waiting for the grown ups to finish at the nursing home. Can you see what they're playing?

This is silly Baby Girl on one of our trips to take my mom back to the doctor's. Guess where we stopped to eat.

This past Tuesday we took a road trip to the Kentucky Christmas Chorus where we listened to and sang along with the Lexington Singers and the Lexington Philharmonic orchestra. Do you remember about our trip to this last year? I'm happy to report that this year was injury free!

Of course we couldn't leave before we got a picture with Frosty!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Taking Care of Mom

As a stay-home homeschooling mom of four children, I totally understand the need to get away for some 'mom time'. Getting time away from the children and the demands of keeping your home, taking care of everyone else, and even the duties of homeschooling just brings refreshment to those weary bones, or should I say those weary brain cells?

Before we became wives and mothers we were adult women. Have we so easily forgotten? We had hobbies and passions and interestes. When all the conversation you get is to short people under 4 feet tall who, for some crazy reason, are not interested in the same interesting things that you, as an adult woman, are interested in, it becomes, well... just a bit 'trapping' sometimes. I don't know about you, but I have sometimes felt like I was trapped inside a never-ending kiddie world of Blue's Clues and sticky jelly faces and thought that if I didn't get away I would go stark-raving mad!

Now, I have to be honest here. As important as I know it is, I don't get time away by myself very often at all. (I don't count those trips to Wal-Mart for groceries. What's refreshing about that?!) But that's only because of it simply not being very easy or convenient for me to do for one reason or another.

However, my mom had surgery on her shoulder Friday and Baby Girl and I went with her while Honey stayed home with the three little ones. We left at 6:30 in the morning and didn't arrive back at my mom's house until around 7:30 in the evening. Honey had taken the three littles to his mom's house while he went with his dad to watch our nephew's basketball game, and I couldn't leave my mom by herself to go get them. So when Honey and the kiddos got back home around 11 pm I literally RAN home to grab some jammies for me and Baby Girl and to SQUEEZE my babies just as tightly as I could because I had missed them so much. I hadn't seen them since the night before when I tucked them into bed and my arms ached for them! They all just squealed 'MOMMY!' as soon as I walked in the door and ran to hug me. It was the BEST feeling in the world. I loved on them a little bit, tucked them in bed, and went back to my mom's to spend the night with her (and Baby Girl).

The reason I'm sharing this is because it is SO important for us moms to find time to just be women. To enjoy those things we enjoy, even if it's just strolling through Barnes & Noble and grabbing a cuppocino! Anything that will refresh us, revive us, and give our overworked brains a time of renewal. It's not selfish to take time for yourself, it's wisdom. Wisdom ladies! Because I promise you, you will come back home refreshed and ready for those little arms to wrap around you and those sticky jelly faces to cover you in kisses and you will be a better mommy, and wife, because of it.

Think it's simply impossible to find time for yourself? I challenge you on that. Sometimes when something isn't exactly 'easy' we tend to say it's 'impossible'. Maybe you could work on getting up an hour or so earlier than the kids in the morning. There's nothing more peaceful that those early morning hours by yourself. Or, have a fairly-early SET bedtime for the kids (and stick to it!) in order to allow you a couple of quiet hours in the evening. I'm sure your Honey would be more than happy to work out a planned schedule with you so you could get a little time of refreshment each week. If that's not possible, how about a grandparent or a good friend or neighbor. Maybe you could swap babysitting duties with another mom who's also in need of some weekly mommy-time.

The important thing is to find a way to do it. I love my children with a crazy PASSION! I swear, they are so yummy I could just eat them up! However, I know that sometimes we ALL need a break from each other and by getting some mommy-time every now and then helps me to be a calmer, nicer, and more patient mommy (and wife).

Try it. I PROMISE you'll like it!