Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I'm Not Judging...But I Am

In general, I consider myself to be a nice person. I do my best to be courteous to others, and reach out a helping hand to those who need it. I consider it my duty as a parent to teach my children to use manners, and basically make the world a little brighter because we're in it.

Something that I try really, really, hard not to do is judge other people, especially other parents. I know everyone struggles to get through sometimes, parenting isn't easy, I'm not perfect myself etc. etc. I love children (particularly my own) but I realize that they can be unreasonable and demanding beings. Raising kids can put you in the middle of situations that the parenting manuals just don't warn you about. My own children have provided my hubby and I with our fair share of embarrassing moments. Often a fellow parent needs a lifeline rather than an opinion. I get all of that.

Sometimes though, I just can't help myself...I judge. In my years as a mom, I've encountered situations that honestly make me shake my head and think, I would never do that! Barring a complete mental lapse, I never will.

Perhaps it might be helpful if I describe some situations that cause me to narrow my eyes and think mean thoughts about other parents. I know I'm not the only one who does.

-If you're sitting in a restaurant, church, the movies, or anyplace where quiet is expected and your child starts screaming for longer than a couple of minutes, and you do nothing...I judge. Every parent in the world has been through the baby/toddler/temper tantrum in public phase. Those of us who are considerate of our fellow man will take the screaming child out to calm them, instead of inflicting their antics on others. Is it fun for the parent? No, but it's a passing phase if you take the time to teach your little darling that they're not the center of the universe and that if they want to be allowed out of the house they need to behave.

-If my twelve year old invites your twelve year old over for a swim and you take the liberty of sending your seven and nine year old over too, even though they weren't invited and I've never met you... I judge. I get it, you want a break because your kids are annoying hooligans who chase cats, throw toys all over and act way younger than their ages. It can't be fun to live with them, but guess what? I have better things to do with my time than to provide free child care for you.

-If I tell the above children that it's not a good time for us, and they start whining, It's not fair! Our parents said to come over till 6:30....I judge.

-If your child does come over to my house and proceeds to nag my kid for snacks and then throws the wrappers on the floor...I judge. I realize that this situation is out of your control, but teach some manners already!

-If you take your child to the library, a place that was traditionally a sanctuary of silence, and proceed to allow the child to loudly play while you are loudly chatting yourself...I judge. I get it that standards in the children's section have slipped relaxed a bit in recent years. It's still not a playground. Some people actually go there to research and read. It's not that hard to teach a toddler a library voice.

-If you take your child to a party, knowing that they are sick and contagious...I judge. Yes, it's hard to disappoint your child if they've been looking forward to the cake and balloons, but hey that's life. There will be other parties. Of course your kid might not be invited to them if it becomes known that you're a family of germ spreaders. Just saying.

I've now been a parent for almost thirteen years, and have experienced these situations more times than I care to recall. I could make my list longer, but then I might start to sound like a whiny parent and be forced to judge myself. What about you? What makes you completely lose sympathy and judge other parents?

linking to:  Pour Your Heart Out

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Homeschooling Textbooks

I'm sorry that my posting has been a bit sporadic lately. I've been preoccupied with ordering textbooks and writing up IHIPs (Individualized Home Instruction Plans) for my three children. It's always a huge task during the summer, and one that I'm happy to finally have over with.

Here in New York state, we have to report to the local school district about certain required subjects, sharing each year what we plan to teach and submitting reports and assessments during the school year. My family, like many others, covers more academically than what the regulations require, but since I'm busy with the paperwork anyway it's a good time to get my book ordering done.

Selecting books stresses me out far more than the district paperwork. Although the cost is minimal compared to sending the kids to private school, textbooks are expensive - especially to a single income family like ours. I spend days poring over curriculum catalogues and websites, trying to choose the very best materials and track down the lowest prices. Whenever possible, I choose books that can be handed down from child to child to cut some of the overall cost. As we're now entering our fifth year of homeschooling, I've found some textbook series that work best for my children's learning styles. Still there's always some tweaking to be done and some trial and error involved.

So in case you've ever wondered what just over $500 worth of textbooks look like, wonder no more. These are just the new arrivals. I'll also be using books saved from other years, as well as some online curriculum and library resources. Still, at less than $200 per child for this year, I managed to get top quality materials.

After all of my stressing, it feels like Christmas when the boxes finally start arriving. I'll enjoy the rest of my summer more, knowing that I'm prepared with next year's materials. Now I've just got to get our schoolroom reorganized!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Little Kids Have More Fun

During the childhood years there's a lot to be said for getting older. With age, kids gain greater independence and control over their lives. They get to eat food that hasn't been pre-chopped into minuscule bites, drink out of a real cup, and even play out in the yard alone. Not to mention the freedom that comes with learning to read and riding a two-wheeled bike.

My six year old has obviously reached most of those milestones already, but being the youngest in our family is still height challenged, and working on the reading and bike riding thing. I sense his frustration at times as he watches his older siblings do things that he can't yet manage.

Watching him play the other day though made me realize something...little kids have more fun.

Yes, that's bubble wrap that he's walking in, because at six, he can still do that without feeling like he's too old. Simple pleasures are awesome!

linking to: Finding the Funny

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Jellybean Math

One thing that I've learned as a homeschooling mom, is that kids can't stop learning over the summer. At least my kids can't. If I let them spend the entire summer just ignoring their studies, they pretty much forget everything I've ever taught them by September. It's a royal pain to go through all of that review work in the fall, so in our house we do summer work.

It's not a full schedule by any means. I need a break! No, what my hubby and I expect our offspring to do amounts to just a couple of mornings a week of schoolwork, and a bit of reading. Just to keep their skills sharp. After their work and their chores are done they're free to run wild and and soak up summer.

Sounds reasonable right?

Yeah, they're not buying it. Somehow, even though we warn them the night before a school morning, they act shocked when I tell them that it's time to work. That's after I finally drag them out of bed. My six year old has been heard to grumble, "Whatever happened to summer vacation?"

Parenthood isn't for quitters, so I keep at it until I've corralled them all and set them up with work.

D-boy was particularly tough to settle the other day. He kept running away at the sight of me with his workbooks in my hands.

Then inspiration struck. I gathered up some math supplies, and then raided the pantry to find where I'd hidden the leftover Easter candy. Then I lured called D-boy to the table while waving the bag of stale jellybeans at him.

It worked like a charm. He was there in a flash. Of course his older siblings got a whiff of that candy and came over too, but no matter.

I got D-boy settled in to count, sort and divide candy, and just like that he was willing to work.

I was feeling pretty happy about my on-the-fly teaching technique, and starting to envision my own line of textbooks. Just then, D-boy realized that the candy was all gone...and then so was he.

Dang it! I wonder how he'd feel about Green Bean Math?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Manners Matter

There was a time when parents tried to teach manners to their offspring. Little things like, please and thank you, were emphasized at home in the hopes that once in public the children would remember the social niceties. Many of us parents of today, still struggle to pass on this increasingly archaic tradition of teaching our children to be...well, nice.

After reading another blogger's post about people who don't greet others in passing, I got to thinking. The problem today isn't just other people's children being rude. The problem is really that their are just so darn many rude adults roaming around out there. No wonder so many kids don't have a clue how to behave!

Yesterday I personally was the victim of two blatant cases of adult rudeness. Both of these were perpetrated by other parents in front of their children, which to me just makes it worse.

I was up at my daughter's dance school, minding my own business, while I waited for her ballet class to let out. While I was watching the class through the window, a little boy next to me kicked off his shoe. It landed at my feet, so I bent down to pick it up, and handed it to the boy's father, saying with a smile, "Here you go!"

I got nothing in acknowledgement. Not a thank you. Not even a smile. I was mildly irritated, but went back to focusing on my daughter's class.

Then, after class was over, M-girl and I were walking out of the studio through a set of double doors. There was a girl in her class walking with her father, just a couple of feet behind us. Being that I generally try to avoid letting doors slam in people's faces, I held the door for them. TWICE.

Again, not a word of thanks. I have to admit that after the first door I was a wee bit tempted to let the second one slam, but I have to set an example for my own daughter so I refrained from doing that.

Is it really asking too much for others to practice common courtesy? To invest a split second in saying "thank you" or even giving a quick smile of acknowledgement? Dare I suggest reminding the child to use their manners?

Perhaps, for some people today, that really is asking too much. It's just that for those of us who still strive to practice the manners of yesteryear (and I know there's plenty more of you out there), this can be a bit vexing.

Happily, I think I've come up with a solution that would work for everyone. If those people who choose not to use the manners that I know their mamas must have once taught them, would just kindly identify themselves to the rest of us, we'll leave you alone. I would suggest a badge that could be attached to shirts. It could proclaim something like, "I'm rude", or "Uncivilized". That would be a signal to all around them not to waste social niceties on them.

Think of all of the aggravation that would save! If only those gentlemen men had been wearing something to identify themselves as boors, I wouldn't have felt obligated to exert myself on their behalf. I would have left the shoe untouched (or perhaps even kicked it aside) and swept through the doors without a thought for those behind me.

Aaahh! What a thought! Even writing this has me cringing. I have to face facts. I am just not a rude person. I wasn't raised that way, nor am I bringing up my own children to act like that. Instead, maybe next time I am met with such rudeness, I will sweetly but loudly say, "You're welcome!"

Take that rude people!

linking to:  Pour Your Heart Out

Monday, July 16, 2012

Why I Shouldn't Go Out Alone

As a homeschooling mom of three, I don't often find myself alone. I'm either teaching my kids, in the house with my kids, driving my kids to activities, or running errands with my kids. My husband is often around too. Even when I'm in the shower, someone is likely to be banging on the door with a question or three.

So I've gotten quite used to always having someone there to chat with. The problem is that I'm sooo used to it, that I have problems going out by myself. Really I do.

This was brought home to me last week. I had a dentist appointment, and now that K-boy is old enough to babysit during the day, I didn't bring the kids with me.

I did just fine at the dentist office. Instead of entertaining bored children, I was actually able to read the ancient magazines in the waiting room. Having majored in history in college made me really appreciate their antiquity. Seriously.

I was the model patient once in the chair. I shone at making awkward small talk with the hygienist and dentist while my mouth was full of fingers and gadgets. When I was done I got to make my way to the receptionist without a five minute deliberation at the treasure chest about which penny toy to select.

It wasn't until I got back to my car that the problems began. I started the engine and the empty light came on for the gas gage. My hubby will drive for twenty miles with it on empty before he'll stop for gas. Personally I think it's just his attempt at being a suburban adventurer. With me the warning light serves as an urgent summons to fill up. I find my way immediately to the nearest gas station, sweating bullets the whole time for fear that the car will just die before I get there.

Fortunately the nearest gas station was just down the road from the dentist office, no more than a mile. Unfortunately a great song came on the radio during that short drive, and I just had to sing along. I love singing in the car, at the top of my lungs. My kids love for me to do it too. Well, my youngest still loves to hear me sing. The other two kind of....beg me to stop.

But on this day I was alone, so I was singing.

The real problem was that when I pulled into the gas station, the very crowded gas station, I was still singing. Loudly. And when I turned off the engine, and got out of the car to pump my gas, I was still singing the final few words of Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline". When I finally noticed people staring, I stopped, mortified.

My kids would have stopped me. If they had been there. They are embarrassed by love me enough to have stopped me. Sigh! This is why I shouldn't go out alone.

I finished pumping my gas with my face burning, and slunk home, happy to be surrounded by my family of music critics. I need them around me.

linking to:  Yeah Write, Finding the Funny

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Hunger Games at Our House

A few years ago, when K-boy was in third grade, he started getting more into chapter books. Like a good mom, I would listen to him read aloud and correct any mispronunciations. It was good, quality time spent together.

Eventually, around fourth grade, he went looking for more exciting books packed with action and drama. He found a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone at the library and quickly became engrossed in it. I wanted to make sure that he was comprehending what he read, so when he was done with a chapter, he would pass it on to me to read, and then we'd have lovely discussions about the plot and characters. We moved through the whole series this way. Soon it became an established pattern with us. Whenever he read something he wanted me to read it too, because he welcomed my opinion.

Fast forward a to the present time. K-boy is twelve, and still an avid reader. M-girl, at eight has discovered the wonders of chapter books too, and much of my time is spent reading with her. D-boy is entering first grade, and is in the early stages of literacy (again time-consuming for me).

I'll admit I haven't been able to keep up with K-boy's reading lists for me. I've got a stack of books on my nightstand that I've fallen behind on. To be honest, when he brought home, The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins I was less than enthusiastic. I'd heard the hype, and frankly the thoughts of reading about a futuristic, distopian society did nothing for me.

To give K-boy credit, he finished it in two days and urged me to read it. I procrastinated. It wasn't until I was renewing library books online the other day and I realized that I couldn't renew the book that I finally decided to read it. I figured I ought to talk to my adolescent son about any disturbing imagery in the book.

I was hooked by the end of the first chapter. I spent the last couple of days speed reading about the adventures of Katniss and Peeta, returned it on time, and now I want more.

Here's the thing. K-boy has managed to get into the good graces of a librarian (imagine that, a librarian who likes a kid who reads) and secured a highly in demand copy of the next book, Catching Fire. So I suggested to my sweet son that seeing how we've both read the first book now, wouldn't it be sooo much fun to read the second book like we used to? Share after every chapter?!

He said no with a smirk on his face. He knows how much I want to read it now.

Well, tonight he happens to be out of the house. While I was putting laundry away in his room I may have happened to glance around to see if I could find the book. You know, to see what page he's on. This is what I found.

When my hand accidentally knocked aside those papers on his desk...this was revealed.

Yes, he hid it! From me, his mother! It's like he doesn't trust me or something!

Well, heehee! Two can play at this game. I'm going to read the first chapter while he's gone. Then I'll leave it on my nightstand. Let the games begin, K-boy!

linking to:  Finding the Funny

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

This Is What Happens When...

This is what happens when you buy the super sized containers of baking soda and vinegar (because you're cheap frugal that way) and then do a volcano project with your kids. And then you leave the room.

At least they stopped before the baking pan overflowed! See kids, science is fun!

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Lie My Husband Told Me

On the whole my husband and I have a really good marriage. Great even. After almost 16 years the room still brightens for me when he walks in. I think I do the same for him.

Still one of the keys to a successful marriage is knowing when to forgive and move on. We are human after all. Everyone makes mistakes and errors in judgement. So when I tell you all about the time that my hubby lied to me, know that I am not holding a grudge. Not really. I'm just still living with the consequences.

You see, almost three years ago when he got a job transfer and we were looking for our current house, he told me something that affected our whole lives. He told me that you don't need central air conditioning in upstate New York. Since he grew up here, I believed him. It was winter when we were house-hunting, and I was more concerned with heat and fireplaces than warm weather comforts.

So we ended up buying our current house, a roomy four bedroom, with a large yard....and no air conditioning. I'm sure it will come as no surprise that his falsehood was revealed during the first heat wave of the following summer. Then he fancy-talked his way out of my righteous anger by promising to buy window air conditioners.

This is our third summer in the house, and so far he has purchased two. For a four bedroom home. Not to mention that we homeschool and are here a lot. Sigh!

We make do the best we can with lots of fans and plenty of cold beverages. It does a lot for the look of a room, don't you think?

As if to pour salt in my wounds, he waltzes off to his air-conditioned office every weekday, leaving us here to swelter and dream of winter.

Thank goodness we have a pool!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Dog Party

This morning at breakfast, M-girl asked me the date. At my reply, she gasped in dismay,"Oh no, we missed Trinket's birthday!"

Trinket is the dog. Somehow, I managed to contain my guilt.

D-boy quickly jumped on the bandwagon. "Poor Trinket needs a cake!"

Really? For a dog?

After consulting with Trinket, the kids decided that we needed to make a marble cake with chocolate frosting. We were out of sugar, so I added that to the shopping list and we headed off to the store. While we were there, they talked me into buying ice cream for the dog's birthday celebration. Yeah, I'm a pushover for ice cream. In my defense it was cookie dough!

We got home and made the cake. I let the kids help a lot with making it, including greasing and flouring the pans. I later came to regret that, when the cakes wouldn't come out of the pans in one piece. Luckily a double batch of frosting fixed everything. D-boy even made Trinket's profile out of pretzels. Super fancy stuff.

Finally after dinner, we all gathered to sing happy birthday to the birthday dog. Then we sent her away while we ate cake and ice cream, because well...she's a dog!

Happy 5th birthday little, dastardly dog!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookies

Sometimes when we're in the mood to bake something around here, we just can't agree on what to make. Recently M-girl wanted to make No Bake Cookies, D-boy emphatically did not, and K-boy just wanted something chocolaty and sweet. It was clear to me that the only solution was to wing it and invent something. Some of our best recipes are born this way. Our efforts that day turned into Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookies. One taste and all the complaining stopped. I just love cookies like that!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookies

1 cup chunky peanut butter
2/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup pasteurized egg product
2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1&1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp salt
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In large mixing bowl combine peanut butter, canola oil, eggs, vanilla and sugars. Mix until smooth.

Add dry ingredients, combining well.

Fold in chocolate chips.

Drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes.

Yields about 5 dozen cookies.

Linking to these parties: Share What You Did This Week, It's A Piece O'Cake Linky Party, Weekend Bloggy Reading, Earning My Cape

What Holiday?

Is it possible to get a 4th of July redo? Because I'd like one. Really, for our family the 4th was....just not celebratory.

First of all, it started out on the wrong foot this year by being on a Wednesday. BadDad only got one day off. He couldn't even use vacation time to make a long weekend, since too many people at his office already did just that. After all someone actually has to be there doing work.

I had resigned myself to having the best possible time with our one day holiday. Then, on the morning of the 4th, M-girl woke up at 6 am, sick to her stomach. Her nausea continued all day long. She also had a bit of a fever, made worse by the fact that it was 90 plus degrees, and we don't have central air.

Still, we didn't give up on the day. BadDad and D-boy worked on renovations to the powder room. I did my usual chores, and played nurse to M-girl. K-boy went swimming with a friend. We even had a steak dinner (which was really good by the way).

Then, after dinner, I noticed that our little dastardly dog didn't seem to be walking right. In fact she was not putting weight on one of her back paws at all. I don't know about you, but when an animal is sick, in the midst of my sympathy, I start seeing vet bills. Big ones. I did a bit of online research about her symptoms (always the best way to go, I know). What I found was enough to keep me up at night.

It turns out that I didn't need that worry to ensure a sleepless night. After watching fireworks on TV (there was no chance of getting to a live show) M-girl moaned and tossed until after midnight. When she was finally settled, I managed an hour or so of sleep before awaking to the sound of K-boy starting with the same virus as his sister.

My hubby left for work this morning with a grin on his face. He knows he's escaping a day of tending to sick kids and dogs.

Happily the dog seems to be on the mend this morning, and she's actually walking. So much for online symptom checking! I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the kids recover quickly. Then, if it's not to much to ask, I'd like a redo on the holiday. I seem to have missed this one.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Pure Water Flavoring

Grocery trips these days have me feeling like I've run a marathon. Not that I've ever run a marathon, but I did place first in the 400 yard dash in 4th grade...sooo.

I digress. With three growing children, my cart is full to overflowing. I'm the lady the cashiers groan to see coming. I got to thinking about how to lighten the load, both in the cart and on my wallet.

I realized last year that my kids were drinking far too much juice. If I brought home a bottle, that's all they would want to drink. They would consume far more than the daily recommendation, and then we would be completely out of juice until the next shopping trip.

Last year when Crystal Lite came out with their Pure Water Flavoring, I decided to give it a try. Rather than follow the package directions and pour a powder packet into a single serving water bottle, I filled up a two quart pitcher with ice-water and added one packet to that. The result was water with just enough flavor so that my kids would drink it, and it's budget friendly.

I feel better having my family drink more water. The Pure Flavorings are all natural, and low calorie, sweetened using the leaves of the stevia plant. Recently many stores have come out with their own brands of natural water flavoring, making them even more economical.

Now we save juice for special occasions (like weekends) and I've only got to toss a small box or two of water flavoring into my cart each week. If I could just find a smaller alternative to the gallons of milk and bushels of fruit that I buy, and I could switch to a little shopping cart!